Category Archives: Today in Catholic History

Today in Catholic History – The Syro-Malankara Church enters into communion with Rome

On 20 September 1930, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church/Malankara Syrian Catholic Church entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church comes from the tradition of Thomas Christians in India, as does the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church also in communion with Rome.

In 1930, the Syro-Malankara Church broke from the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church which had itself broke with the other Thomas Christians under the attempt of the Portuguese to Latinize them in the 16th century. While at the time of the union, the Syro-Malankara Church contained only Archbishop Mar Ivanios and five other members of the church – who left because of a decision giving the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch full administrative authority over the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, today there are 500,000 members of the Syro-Malankara Church. The Syro-Malankara Catholics were permitted to maintain their rite and traditions.

Today in Catholic History – The Siege of Rome

On 19 September 1870, the armies of the Kingdom of Italy laid siege to Rome in their desire to incorporate the city into a unified Italian state. On the 20th of September, the Italian armies will capture the city ending more than one thousand years of temporal rule by the papacy. Popes Pius IX through Pius XI will refuse to recognize the loss of Rome and call themselves the “Prisoner of the Vatican”.

With the defeat of Napoleon III at the Battle of Sedan, the French Government was no longer willing or able to prevent the desires of many Roman citizens as well as the Italian Government itself that Rome become part of the Kingdom of Italy. An attempt by King Victor Emmanuel III to get Pope Pius IX to acquiesce to Italian troops marching into Rome under the guise of protecting the Pope was rejected. The Italian government hoped that a peaceful surrender could be negotiated and as the Italian army approached Rome, Pius IX recognized that he could not defend the city but would put up a token resistance.

On 19th of September, the Italian army reached the Aurelian Walls of Rome. On 20th, Italian troops will enter Rome and after a brief struggle during which 68 soldiers were killed, Italy captured the city. On the 21st, the Italian forces will capture the Leonine City, including the Vatican. The Italian government had attempted to offer a deal to Pius IX to offer the Leonine City in return for his recognition of the loss of Rome but Pius IX refused.

For the next 59 years, the popes refused to give any sign that they recognized the authority of the Italian government. They would not appear in Saint Peter’s Square or leave the Vatican. Only when Pope Pius XII agreed to the Lateran Treaty in 1929 establishing an independent Vatican City did this situation change.

Today in Catholic History – The Last Episode of The Flying Nun

On 18 September 1970, the last episode of the The Flying Nun was broadcast. The sitcom, which began on 7 September 1967, lasted 82 episodes.

Based on the book “The Fifteenth Pilgrim” by Tere Rios, the series focused on the life of Sister Bertrille, a novice of the Daughters of Charity of the Convent San Tanco in Puerto Rico. Sister Bertrille was played by Sally Field. Due to the starched cornette of her habit and her weight of only 90 pounds, Sister Bertille was able to use the wind to fly – which could be both helpful and problematic. As Sister Bertille explained, “When lift plus thrust is greater than load plus drag, anything can fly.”

Tere Rios came upon the idea of a flying nun after a friend told her of seeing a nun with a large cornette almost fly away on a Paris street. Indeed, shortly after her book “The Fifteenth Pilgrim” was accepted for publication, the Daughters of Charity changed their habits for a much smaller veil. The publisher had decided to forgo publishing the book on the grounds that it was now dated. However, Rios persuaded the publisher to issue the book by suggesting that perhaps the reason why the Daughters of Charity changed their habits was because the events of her book really happened.

While, the novelty of a Flying Nun attracted viewers, it made it difficult for writers of the sitcom to come up with ever new plot lines involving flight every week.

The producers of the show did look for input from American Catholics. Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles wanted Sister Bertrille to be a novice because no vowed nun would behave so frivolously. He also wanted to make sure that there would be no romantic attraction between Sister Bertrille and one of the main lay characters. Sister Michael Marie, the vocations director of the diocese of Los Angeles and technical advisor for the show, wanted to make sure that the Mother Superior was not portrayed too sternly or authoritarian.

In addition to the support of Cardinal McIntyre, John Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York and Archbishop Philip Matthew Hannan of New Orleans also endorsed the program as did the National Catholic Office of Radio and Television. The NCORT hoped to use The Flying Nun as a means of encouraging vocations.

Today in Catholic History – Saint Clare and the Privilege of Poverty

On 17 September 1228, Pope Gregory IX answered Saint Clare’s request for the Privilegium Paupertatis. This was a modification of the 1219 Rule for the Poor Clares through which Gregory granted that the Poor Clares could not be forced to accept property.

For Clare, living the poverty of Christ as exemplified in the life of Saint Francis was a necessary element of her own community. However, the Catholic authorities greatly doubted that a community of women could survive without material wealth. Thus, there were many attempts to get Clare to accept property so as to provide her community with support. However, Clare believed that accepting property would mean a rejection of the total dependence that she and her sisters wanted to have upon Christ.

That Clare was able to obtain this privilege which had never been granted before or has been granted since is a testament to the authority and respect that Clare possessed.

Today in Catholic History – Grito de Dolores

On 16 September 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla uttered the Grito de Dolores, the Cry of Dolores, which would begin the Mexican War of Independence.

At 6:00 am, Fr. Hidalgo ordered the ringing of church bells to call the Mexican people to revolt against the Spanish authorities. He said, “My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen by three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once… Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the gachupines!”

Four days later, the first major battle of the revolution took place but Mexico would not obtain independence until 27 September 1821.

The people of Mexico continue to celebrate the 16th of September as Independence Day. Each year on the night of the 15th, the President of Mexico rings a bell and issues a cry of patriotism based on the Grito de Dolores. On the 16th, a parade in Mexico City passes a monument dedicated to Fr. Hidalgo.

Today in Catholic History – Tony Mélendez plays for Pope John Paul II

On 15 September 1987, Tony Meléndez sang his song “Never Be the Same” at a special performance for Pope John Paul II.

Tony Melendez was born without arms because his mother had taken Thalidomide while she was pregnant, Thalidomide had been prescribed for pregnant women to treat nausea but was later discovered to cause birth defects. Despite his disability, Tony learned how to play the guitar with his feet.

Tony’s performance before Pope John Paul II at the Universal Ampitheater in Los Angeles, deeply moved the Holy Father. Pope John Paul II would kiss Tony on the right cheek and tell him, “Tony–you are truly a courageous man. You are giving hope to all of us. My wish to you is to continue giving this hope to all the people.”

Tony would later say that it was the Holy Father’s words that would inspire him to continue his ministry and his music. His performance before the Holy Father would in turn lead to many appearances on TV and concerts throughout the United States and the world.

Video of Tony Melendez’s performance before Pope John Paul II

Today in Catholic History – The Beginning of Perpetual Adoration

On 14 September 1226, in celebration of a victory over the Albigensians, French King Louis VIII ordered that the Blessed Sacrament be exposed in the Chapel of the Holy Cross. So many faithful came to offer adoration that Bishop Pierre de Corbie of Avignon obtained the approval of Pope Honorius III for adoration to be continued day and night. This is the first recorded evidence of Perpetual Adoration of the Eucharist and would continue until the French Revolution.

Since the Albigensians/Cathars denied the Incarnation, they also denied the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. By promoting Perpetual Adoration, Louis VIII asserted that his victory over the Albingensians was proof of the truth of Catholic teaching regarding Christ. Indeed Louis VIII desired Perpetual Adoration as a means of promoting penance for the sacrileges committed against the Eucharist by the Albigensians.

In 1829, the Confraternity of the Grey Penitents returned Perpetual Adoration to the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

Today in Catholic History – Consecration of Pope Sabinian

On 13 September 604, Pope Sabinian was consecrated pope. Not much is known about his papacy which lasted only until 22 February 606.

Some records allege that he introduced the practice of ringing bells during the canonical hours and the celebration of the Eucharist.

There was a famine in Rome during his papacy, but Sabinian sold rather than give away the Vatican grain supplies. This caused some anger in Rome against him, especially since his predecessor, Gregory I, had given the grain away for free. Indeed, there is a legend that the spirit of Gregory would appear to Sabinus in his dreams condemning Sabinus and would eventually cause Sabinus’ early death.

He also returned secular clergy to the positions in the Vatican that his predecessor filled with monks.

Today in Catholic History – King John III Sobieski lifts the seige of Vienna

On 12 September 1683, the armies of the Holy Leaque commanded by King John III Sobieski of Poland lifted the two month siege of the city of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire.

The battle itself began early in the morning on the 12th at 4 AM. The Turkish commander, Mustafa Pasha, tried to attack the forces of the Holy League at the same time as he launched an attack on the city of Vienna. The Ottomans had been trying to use explosives to destroy the Viennese walls and hoped that one final explosion would open the city to their armies. However, the Viennese defenders were able to detect and disarm the explosive just before it detonated.

when the Polish cavalry charged, they broke through the Ottoman lines and the Ottoman forces, tired from the long siege and disillusioned after the failure of their attack on Vienna, fled. Sobieski was said to have paraphrased Julius Caesar’s famous quote – “Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit” or “We came, we saw, God conquered.”

The victory of the Holy League would in many ways mark a change in the fortunes of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires as the Habsburgs would begin a significant expansion into Ottoman territories. Pope Innocent XI would establish the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary on this date in honor of the victory.

Today in Catholic History – Colloquy of Worms

Between 11 September and 8 October 1557, Catholic and Protestant theologians met at Worms to discuss their theological differences. The Catholic theologians included Michael Helding, and St. Peter Canisius, SJ. The Protestant theologians included Philip Melanchthon, Johannes Brenz and Erhard Schnepf. Canesius had previously condemned these type of gatherings as “The experience of centuries gives
ample proof that at such meetings time is only frittered away with profitless talk. At the end, neither party
will ever allow itself to have been beaten ; each side claims the victory ; contradictory reports of the trans-
actions are spread about, and the result is not tranquillisation of minds and temper, but only worse division and embitterment.” Canesius’ words will be prophetic.

The discussions began with issues concerning the relationship of the Bible and tradition. When the doctrines of original sin and justification became the topics of concern, Canasius noted that difficulty in trying to find a common Protestant/Catholic understanding when the various Protestant movements did not have agreement amongst themselves – a particularly contentious issue was whether good works were necessary for salvation. Unable to come to agreement on these issues, the meeting was dissolved. The failure of the Colloquy/Conference of Worms will reveal for the first time the serious divisions growing within the Protestant movement.