Category Archives: Today in Catholic History

Today in Catholic History – Roger Maris hits his 61st home run

On 1 October 1961, Roger Maris hit is 61st home run during the fourth inning of a game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The stress of breaking Babe Ruth’s record was enormous and many baseball fans were not happy. Later, Maris wondered if he should have tried to break the record at all. When a reporter asked him why he was hitting so many home runs, he responded, “I don’t know. Why is the Pope Catholic?”

Still, he received the Catholic Athlete of the Year Award in 1961, which he appreciated more than any of his other honors. When Roger Maris died in December 1985, eight hundred people attended his funeral Mass in the largest Catholic Church in North Dakota. One of the pall bearers was Mickey Mantle.

Today in Catholic History – The founding of the Medical Mission Sisters

On 30 September 1925, Dr. Anna Dengel, Dr. Johanna Lyons, Evelyn Flieger, RN and Marie Ulbrich, R.N. the “First Four” founded the Medical Mission Sisters in Washington DC. The women were not yet professed sisters because the Catholic Church did not yet approve of sisters working in health care, that would not take place until 1935. Still, they lived as a community and grew as they worked to serve in the field of medicine and other related areas.

The Medical Mission Sisters was the inspiration of Dr. Anna Dengel who wanted to begin a religious community to meet the needs of the poor, who were “to live for God…to dedicate themselves to the service of the sick for the love of God and …to be properly trained according to the knowledge and standards of the time in order to practice medicine in its fill scope, to which the Sisters were to dedicate their lives.”

They will be the first Roman Catholic Congregation to provide surgeons and obstetricians for missionary work.

There is an earlier CUTH podcast on Anna Dengel

Today in Catholic History – Universalis Ecclesiae

On 29 September 1850, Pope Pius IX re-established the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in Britain with the bull Universalis Ecclesiae.

Ever since the death of the last Roman Catholic bishop during the reign of Elizabeth I, the Catholic hierarchy had gone underground and been replaced by Apostolic Vicars. With Universalis Ecclesiae, thirteen dioceses were established under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Westminister.

The new bishops in England did not occupy the traditional dioceses which had been taken over by the Anglican church but rather new dioceses were created. So, there was no Archbishop of Canterbury but rather the Archbishop of Westminster. However, the Archbishop of Westminster was seen as the successor of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In Scotland, where the established church did not have an episcopate, the earlier dioceses were re-established.

Today in Catholic History – The Obelisk before St. Peter’s is blessed

On 28 September 1586, the obelisk known as “The Witness” was blessed in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The obelisk, originally taken from Rome and erected at the Circus of Nero in 37 AD, was the second largest standing obelisk at 130 ft including the base and the cross and weighing 330 tons. Pope Sixtus V wanted the obelisk moved and so arranged a competition among three hundred architects, engineers and others. Domenico Fontana won the competition and spent seven months gathering supplies and building a ramp and on April 30, the project of transporting the obelisk began with 907 men, 70 winches and 145 horses. However, as the obelisk was being raised disaster almost struck when the ropes holding the obelisk started smoking from the friction. A voice cried out “Acqua alle funi!” or “Water the ropes!. Fontana followed the advice and the daylong process of raising the obelisk and lowering onto the platform for moving was completed successfully.

The man who cried out was a sailor from Bordighera and in gratitude Pope Sixtus granted Bordighera the perpetual privilege of providing the palms to St Peter’s for Palm Sunday.

Due to the summer heat of Rome, the obelisk remained on its side and on the morning of September 10th the obelisk was raised in St. Peter’s square. Domenico Fontana was made Cavalier della Guglia – or Knight of the Obelisk. On the 28th the scaffolding of the obelisk was removed and Pope Sixtus blessed the obelisk.

It is said that Fontana had horses prepared for a quick escape should the transport have failed.

Today in Catholic History – Death of Pope Urban VII

On 27 September 1590, Pope Urban VII died ending the shortest papacy in history of only thirteen days. He died from malaria before his coronation as pope.

At this time, Rome was plagued with the problem of malaria. Popes Damasus II, Leo X, Gregory V, and Sixtus V are also believed to have died from the “Roman fever”.

Despite his brief reign, Urban VII is known for instituting the first known ban on public smoking. He threatened to excommunicate anyone who “took tobacco in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose.” He gave his entire estate to the Archconfraternity of the Annunciation to be used as dowries for poor girls.

Today in Catholic History – The Peace of Augsburg

On 25 September 1555, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the Lutheran Schmalkaldic league agreed to the Peace of Augsburg.

The Peace of Augsburg brought at temporary end to the fighting between Lutherans and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire by establishing the principle Cuius regio, eius religio. Each German prince in the Empire could choose to practice either Lutheranism or Catholicism and those within each prince’s domain would be obliged to follow the faith of their liege. There was a brief period of time given for families of one denomination to move to a German state practicing their particular faith.

The Peace of Augsburg established a permanent division in the Holy Roman Empire between Lutherans and Catholics. Moreover, because other Protestant denominations such as Calvinism and the Anabaptists were not included in the Peace of Augsburg religious conflicts would again break out in the Thirty Years War and result in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

Today in Catholic History – The Second Council of Nicaea

On 24 September 787, 350 clergy met in Nicea at what would become the Second Council of Nicea and the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

The main objective of the council was to address the schism between East and West over Iconoclasm heresy. In 754, the Council of Hieria had condemned the veneration of icons but the council was not recognized by the Pope or any of the Eastern Patriarchs. As a result of the advocacy of Iconoclasm by Byzantine Emperors Leo VI and Constantine V, Rome had broken with Constantinople.

However after the death of Constantine V, Byzantine Empress Irene, and Patriarch of Constantinople Tarasius sought both to reunite Rome and Constantinople and to restore the veneration of icons. Pointing to support from the scriptures and the Church Fathers, the Second Council of Nicea proclaimed that it was fitting and praiseworthy to venerate icons as the honor given to an icon was truly offered to the saint, angel, or Christ represented by the icon.

Today in Catholic History – Concordat of Worms

On 23 September 1122, Pope Calixtus II and Holy Roman Emperor Henry V agreed to the Concordat of Worms or the Pactum Calixtinum which temporarily resolved the struggle between the papacy and the Holy Roman Emperors regarding the appointment and power of monks and bishops.

Prior to the Concordat, the secular ruler was seen as possessing the right to invest bishops with both secular and sacred authority. The ability of the secular ruler to appoint bishops was an important means of exercising political control. Bishops could be placed in charge of royal lands without worrying that those lands might fall into the hands the bishop’s descendants. However, it also meant that the Church’s liberties with respect to the secular rule were much curtailed.

As a result of the Concordat, the secular ruler continued to invest bishops with secular power but no longer with sacred authority. The Concordat was also instrumental as part of the Gregorian reforms which gained greater independence for the pope in his relations with the Holy Roman Emperor.

The Concordat did not end the struggle between secular and religious authority in regards to authority either in the Holy Roman Empire or in Europe as a whole, it was simply a temporary cessation of hostilities.

Today in Catholic History – Consecration of Boniface II and Dioscorus

On 22 September 530, Boniface II was consecrated to the papacy in the Lateran Palace in Rome and Dioscorus was consecrated in the Lateran Basilica.

Boniface II had been the candidate of Pope Felix IV. Dioscorus had been chosen by sixty of the sixty seven priests of Rome. The priests of Rome were concerned that Boniface, an Ostrogoth, would permit too much Ostrogothic influence in Rome. The Ostrogoths had earlier influenced the papal election of Felix IV.

The conflict between the two claimants would be resolved when Dioscorus died 22 days later and Boniface would be accepted by the Roman clergy as well. Boniface would later require those who had supported Dioscorus to condemn his memory. However Pope Agapetus I would later lift this condemnation.

The conflict between Boniface and Dioscorus was part of the increasing struggle between the Germanic Ostrogoths and the Byzantines for control of Rome.

Today in Catholic History – The Hobbit Is Published

On 21 September 1937, Allen & Unwin published J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. Tolkien had began writing The Hobbit in the 1930’s with the famous line, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”.

The Hobbit was extremely successful, leading the publishers to ask Tolkien for a sequel that would become The Lord of the Rings. The success of The Hobbit caught Tolkien by surprise, ““At the moment I am suffering like Mr. Baggins from a touch of ‘staggerment.’” A few years ago a signed first edition of the book was sold for £60,000 or approximately $93,500.

While Tolkien’s Catholicism is more readily apparent in The Lord of the Rings, he was clear to note its influence in The Hobbit as well. In describing his idea of the Euchatastrophe, “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears”, which was essential in all true fairy stories and which is reflective of the Resurrection – “the greatest ‘euchatastrophe’ possible”, Tolkien noted the “eucatastrophic” ending of The Hobbit.