Category Archives: Today in Catholic History

Today in Catholic History – The Kicking of the Saint

On 12 October 1995, bishop Sérgio Von Helde of the Universal Church if the Kingdom of God [UCKG] kicked a statue of Our Lady of Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil, while on live TV in Brazil. Von Helde was attacking Catholic devotion to the saints and while verbally attacking the statue because it was unable “to see” and “to hear”, he kicked the statue so as to show that it was “unable to react, because it’s made of clay.” He also called the image of Our Lady a “horrible, disgraceful doll” and said that the “Catholic Church lies. This image can’t do anything for you.”

The broadcast caused a furor in the predominantly Catholic Brazil because it took place on the national holiday of Our Lady of Aparecida. Several of the churches of the UCKG were subject to protests and Von Helde had to be transferred to South Africa until the controversy ended.

Pope John Paul II urged Catholics not to “respond evil with evil” and the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro called for calm so as to avoid a “holy war”.

Today in Catholic History – Alexandrian Crusade

On 11 October 1365, Peter I of Cyprus and his army occupied the city of Alexandria.

While part of the crusades of the West against the Islamic world, the crusade of Peter I was motivated primarily by economic desires not by religious goals. He attacked Egypt both to preempt a planned Egyptian attack on Cyprus as well as to direct more of the Mediterranean trade through Cyprus with the destruction of its rival. Peter I occupied and looted Alexandria but did not remain there because he did not believe he had the strength to rule it.

While a primarily economically motivated attack, the Knights of St. John did accompany the armies of Peter I. But the lack of religious motivation showed the declining interest in the Crusades in Europe and when Peter I later sought to assemble another crusading army Pope Urban V advised Peter to make peace with the Egyptian sultan.

Today in Catholic History – John Henry Newman enters the Catholic Church

On 9 October 1845, John Henry Newman was received into the Catholic Church by the Passionist priest Dominic Barberi at the College in Littlemore, England.

John Henry Newman, known for his writings on Catholic Education, turned toward Catholicism based upon his readings of the writings of Saint Augustine against the Donatist heresy. Newman wondered, if Augustine was correct in calling the Donatists heretics because they were separated from Rome, what did that imply about the Anglican Church in his time? He writes, “Who can account for the impressions which are made on him? For a mere sentence, the words of St. Augustine, struck me with a power which I never had felt from any words before . . . they were like the ‘Tolle, lege, — Tolle, lege,’ of the child, which converted St Augustine himself. ‘Securus judicat orbis terrarum!’ By those great words of the ancient Father, interpreting and summing up the long and varied course of ecclesiastical history, the theology of the Via Media was absolutely pulverised.”

Newman would find confirmation his opinion about the need to enter the Catholic Church in the writings of other Church Fathers as well.

Newman’s decision to become Catholic would lead to breaks with family and friends. In October 1846, he was ordained to the priesthood in Rome. He was beatified on the 19th of September 2010.

Today in Catholic History – The Council of Chalcedon

From the 8 October to 1 November 451, the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon met to define the doctrine of the two natures of Jesus Christ as fully human and fully divine.

Those who did not accept the doctrine of the two natures [physis] of Christ would be called monophysites by the Chalcedonian Christians, though those who believe Christ had only one nature prefer to be called miaphysites. For both miaphysite and Chalcedonian Christians, Christ must be fully divine and fully human if he is to be the savior of humanity by reuniting God and Man after the fall of Adam. However, where the Chalcedonians express the union without confusion of divinity and humanity in Christ by using the terminology of two natures, the miaphysite Christians refer to two aspects of one nature. Unfortunately, historical misunderstandings and differences in theological language led to a split between the miaphysites who are represented today by the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Chalcedonians who are represented by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

The Council also passed a series of canons, including the 28th canon which sought to raise the status of the Patriarchy of Constantinople to the level of that in Rome. This 28th Canon would not be confirmed by Pope Leo in Rome.

Today in Catholic History – The Battle of Lepanto

On 7 October 1571, the fleet of the Holy League of Spain, Venice, Genoa, Savoy, the Papacy and others, with 206 galleys and 6 galleasses and commanded by Don Juan de Austria, defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire, 222 war galleys and 56 galliots, at the Battle of Lepanto. But the chief advantage of the Holy League was its superiority in the number of guns and cannon and the proficiency of the Spanish infantry.

During the battle, the Ottoman Janissaries ran out of weapons and threw oranges and lemons at the Holy League soldiers.

The decisive victory gave the Holy League control over the Mediterranean and stopped the Ottoman advance into Europe. The Holy League considered the victory as a sign of the future downfall of the Ottoman Empire and credited the victory to the Virgin Mary. Pope Pius V would institute the Feast of Our Lady of Victory to commemorate the battle, now known as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Conflicts among the Holy League’s membership prevented further attacks and six months later the Ottoman Empire again controlled the Mediterranean. Still, the Ottoman Empire was never able to regain the strength it had before the battle and its dominance at sea was at an end.

G. K. Chesterton’s Lepanto

Today in Catholic History – Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to visit the White House

On 6 October 1979, Pope John Paul became the first pope to visit the White House when he met with President Jimmy Carter. The Pope and President met privately for about an hour where they discussed the importance of human rights as the “compelling idea of our times”.

Pope John Paul II and President Carter discussed many issues and President Carter particularly wanted the pope to speak about the situation in Israel. For his part, Pope John Paul II asked the president to work to safeguard human rights, dignity and peace in the world. Pope John Paul II gave a silver sculpture with the words “Peace Unto Thee” to the president but a parchment copy of his first encyclical letter to the President’s mother, Lillian.

Photo of the meeting between President Carter and Pope John Paul II and President Carter’s notes about the meeting.

Today in Catholic History – The death of Teresa of Ávila and the Gregorian Calendar

Teresa of Ávila died just as the Gregorian Calendar was being adopted near midnight of 4th of October 1582 or early the next morning on the 15th of October 1582. Her feast day is presently celebrated on the 15th of October because there was no 5th of October 1582 in those countries which adopted the Gregorian calendar reform.

Her last words were: “My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O My Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another.”

Today in Catholic History – The Institution of the Gregorian Calendar

On 4 October 1582, the Gregorian Calendar reform took effect and the next day was 15 October 1582.

Pope Gregory XIII in his bull Inter Gravisimus on 24 February 1582 issued his decision to implement a calendar reform. He wanted a calendar that was more scientifically accurate and which placed the celebration of Easter more closely to the vernal equinox from which it had been drifting ever since the Council of Nicea in 325.

The decision to implement the new calendar on October 4 was because there were not as many days dedicated to saints in the period between the 4th and the 15th. Those saints whose days were skipped were celebrated after the 15th.

While most of the Catholic Countries adopted the new calendar, many Protestants objected believing that to accept the Gregorian calendar would be akin to accepting the authority of the papacy. Protestant countries would later use the calculations of Kepler to justify their change to the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is still not accepted by many Orthodox Christians who continue to use the Julian calendar.

Today in Catholic History – Sinéad O’Connor tears up picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live

On 3 October 1992, while appearing on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest and singing a version of Bob Marley’s “War”, Sinéad O’Connor tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II while saying “Fight the real enemy” and threw the pieces of the picture toward the camera. She intended her action as a sign of protest against the problem of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Saturday Night Live was not aware of O’Connor’s plan and continues to decline to rebroadcast the O’Connor’s protest with a few exceptions.

The audience reacted with amazement and NBC received 4,484 angry complaints. Frank Sinatra said he wanted to punch O’Connor “right in the mouth”. NBC was fined $2.5 million by the FCC. When O’Connor returned to the US to perform a concert for Bob Dylan, she was greeted with boos and would later permanently retire from the “pop” entertainment industry.

On 22 September 1997, in an interview with the Italian weekly newspaper Vita, O’Connor asked Pope John Paul II to forgive her, claiming that what she had done was “a ridiculous act, the gesture of a girl rebel.” However in 2002, Sinéad said that she wouldn’t have changed anything about what she had done. She has left the Catholic Church to join the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Today in Catholic History – Opus Dei begins

On 2 October 1928, while on a retreat, St. Josemaría Escrivá would receive what he called a divine inspiration to establish what would become the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei. He saw people of all types seeking God amidst their ordinary life – everyone living so as to become a saint. He said, “I was 26, had God’s grace and good humor and nothing else. And I had to do Opus Dei.” Opus Dei was approved in 1950 by Pope Pius XII and established as a personal prelature in 1982. It contains today almost 100,000 people in more than 90 countries.

There is an upcoming film about St. Josemaría Escrivá called There Be Dragons.


On October 2, 1928, the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels – by now nearly forty years have gone by – the Lord willed that Opus Dei might be, a mobilization of Christians disposed to sacrifice themselves with joy for others, to render divine all ways of man on earth, sanctifying every upright work, every honest labor, every earthly occupation.
– St. Josemaría Escrivá