Monthly Archives: January 2013

20120114 Rights of Church Upheld 捍衛教會神權

The Middle Ages was the period of European history from the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 to the invasion of Italy by the French in 1494.
Charlemagne or “Charles the Great” was King of all Franks. Charlemagne protected Pope St. Leo III and rescued him from his enemies.
Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day, 800, by Leo III. It was the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire. Though a soldier, Charlemagne’s interested was not only in war. He encouraged his people to become successful farmers; he was also a patron of learning and of arts.
Lay investiture
After the death of Charlemagne, the empire was governed by weak men and was divided. The raids by invaders such as the Vikings and the Saracens with no central authority to protect the people gave rise to the feudal system.
In the feudal system, common villagers would pay the landowner in labor or services in return for the landowner’s military protection against foreign or domestic enemies.
Some princes and kings, using their feudal authority, interfered with the appointment of bishops and abbots. “Lay investiture” is the appointment of bishops and abbots by secular rulers, often in exchange for temporal protection. This practice opened to the door of unworthy and worldly men being appointed to Church positions.
From the death of Pope Stephen IV in 817 to the accession of Pope Gregory VII in 1073, there was a dark period for the papacy. Aside from Pope St. Nicholas I (858-867), the popes of this period were either too weak or too corrupt to resist the emperor and the nobles. As a result of rival factions seeking control of the papacy, weak and unworthy men were often placed on the throne of St. Peter, and many of the popes were assassinated only after serving for a handful of days or months.
Gregorian Reform
Hildebrand (the future Gregory VII) was a monk. He carried out important tasks for different popes. In 1073, at the age of 53, he became Pope Gregory VII, and was the key figure in the “Gregorian Reform”—a seventy-five year struggle to recover the church her essential freedom in papal elections and appointments of Church offices.
Upon taking office, Gregory VII declared war on the three great evils of lay investiture, simony and concubinage. Emperor Henry IV opposed to the reform of Gregory VII against lay investiture.
Gregory excommunicated Henry and declared that his subjects no longer owed him obedience. It was the first time that an emperor was deposed by the pope. Henry came to Canossa to beg the pope for pardon. The pope granted him absolution.
However, Henry did not persevere and kept defying the laws of the Church. Gregory excommunicated him again in 1080. In 1084 Henry took Rome, and the aged pontiff was obliged to flee. On May 25, 1085, Pope Gregory VII died in exile. As he was dying, he said, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.”
About forty years later, the Concordat of Worms was called in 1122 under Pope Calixtus II and King Henry V to settle the matter of lay investiture. This first concordat in history established for all time Gregory VII’s principle that ecclesiastical jurisdiction does not derive from secular power.
Another hero during the struggle against lay investiture is St. Thomas Becket. At first he was a worldly and ambitious man, but with his episcopal ordination at forty-four, he was transformed.
Thomas Becket opposed Henry II’s attempt to gain control of the Church. In 1170 he was killed by the knights of the king at the foot of the altar. As he was dying, Thomas murmured, “I accept death for the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church.”







自教宗斯德望四世在公元817年死後,到公元1073年教宗國瑞七世開始,這段期間確實是教宗權力的黑暗期。除教宗聖尼閣一世(858-867) 外,當時在位的教宗,因軟弱或腐敗,無力與眾權貴抗衡;甚至因為不同的權貴角力,很多在位只有數月或數天的教宗被弒殺。






20120107 Evangelizing nations 傳道眾邦

Fifty years before the birth of Christ, the Chinese Empire expelled the Huns, who turned to the West. The Huns conquered and scattered nations along the way. The scattered nations in turn conquered other nations.

In 475 the Roman Empire of the West fell before the invading nations. The entire Western world was composed of new nations. The leaders of the Church defended the people and strove to convert the invading barbarians.

In 452, as the Huns drew close to Rome, Pope Leo I went to meet Attila, the king of the Huns, and persuaded him not to invade Rome. Again in 455 Pope Leo went to meet Genseric, the leader of the Vandals, and convinced him to not burn Rome and to spare the lives of the people.

The Church sent missionaries to work among the new nations, and established churches and schools in the midst of the new people.

Even before the fall of the Roman Empire, St. Patrick (387-493) was already working tirelessly for the conversion of the Irish. He landed at Wicklow in 433, and laboured among the Irish for 60 years. On Easter Sunday in 433, St. Patrick preached to King Leoghaire and told him about heaven, a place more beautiful than the Irish lakes and hills. St. Patrick showed the people a shamrock: one stem with three leaves, and explained the mystery of the Trinity. St. Patrick built up a native clergy and established monasteries. Later, missionaries were sent forth from these monasteries to different parts of Europe to evangelize and to establish new monasteries and schools.

Among the English, St. Gregory the Great (540-604) became a Benedictine monk at the age of 34 and became Pope in 590. He selected 40 Benedictine monks and placed them under the leadership of a monk named Augustine, who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Within 50 years of the coming of the missionaries, the English had become Catholics.

Among the French, King Clovis was influenced by his Christian wife St. Clotilda, because in the battle with the Allemanni, Clovis had called on the God of Clotilda and had gained victory. Clovis was baptized by St. Remigius in 496. The conversion and victory of Clovis made France a united Catholic kingdom.

The monks from what is now Ireland, England, and Scotland evangelized the pagan tribes of central Europe in what is now Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The middle and northern parts of Germany were converted by St. Boniface. The Germans were great lovers of nature and practised nature worship. They held a great oak tree as sacred and called it the Tree of Thor. St. Boniface cut down the oak tree with an ax and out of it built the first Christian church. When nothing happened to St. Boniface, the faith of the pagans in Thor was shaken, and many people were converted to the Catholic faith.

St. Ansgar (died 865), a Benedictine monk from the Abbey of Corbie, evangelized Denmark and Sweden and baptized the King of Denmark in 826. He was the first Archbishop in Hamburg and Bremen and was the papal legate for the Scandinavian missions. St. Cyril (+869) and St. Methodius (+885) were brothers. In 863 they were sent as missionaries among the Slavs. St. Cyril became a monk in Rome and died there. St. Methodius was made Archbishop of the Slavs and received permission to use the Slavonic language in the liturgy. Both Sts. Cyril and Methodius translated the Gospels into Slavonic.

“The ultimate purpose of mission is none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love” (Pope John Paul II).











20121231 Conquering paganism 基督聖教征服異教

Constantine the Great became Roman Emperor after the battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. Before the battle, Constantine saw a cross on the sky with the words: “In this sign you shall conquer”. In 313, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which allowed religion freedom, abolished all laws against Christianity, entitled the Church to own properties, and made Sunday a day of rest.
Christianity attracted all people by the truth of its doctrine, the purity of its morals, and the beauty of its ceremonies. It eventually became the chief religion of the Roman Empire. In 391 Emperor Theodosius I declared Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Christianity, the religion of faith, hope, and love conquered paganism, a religion of doubt, despair, and hatred.
Teachings defined
After winning her freedom, the Catholic Church had to combat internal conflicts of heresies. The chief heresies from the fourth to the eighth centuries were Arianism (denied the divinity of Christ), Macedonianism (denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit), Pelagianism (denied original sin and the necessity of grace), Nestorianism (taught the existence of two persons in Christ and denied Mary as Mother of God), Monophysites (denied the humanity of Christ), Monothelites (taught that Christ has only one will), and Iconoclasts (attacked the veneration of holy images).
The struggles with heresies caused Church to define her teachings through ecumenical councils. The Council of Nicaea (325) drew up a profession of faith—the Nicene Creed—- proclaiming Jesus Christ as true God and true man. The Council of Constantinople (381) affirmed the divinity of the Holy Spirit. The Council of Ephesus (431) defined the true personal unity of Christ and declared Mary the Mother of God. Under Pope Leo I, the Council of Chalcedon (451) defined the two natures (Divine and human) in Christ. The Second Council of Constantinople (553) confirmed the decisions of the first four ecumenical councils. The Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) defined the two wills in Christ, the Divine and the human, as two distinct principles of operation. The Second Council of Nicaea (787) regulated the veneration of holy images.
Shining witnesses
The chief opponents of heresies were the Fathers of the Church. The most noteworthy among the Greek Fathers are St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzum, and St. John Chrysostom. Among the Latin Fathers are St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Gregory the Great.
While the Fathers of the Church acted as defenders of the true Faith, the hermits and monks shone as models of penance. The hermits were pious Christians who fled from the seductive pleasures of the world, to prepare themselves in solitude, by prayer and self-denial, for a happy death. St. Paul of Thebes (+340) was the first hermit who had fled a persecution under Emperor Decius (249-251). St. Anthony (+356) built the first monastery, and was called the Patriarch of Monks. After the death of St. Anthony, one of his disciples, St. Athanasius, wrote his life. The biography of St. Anthony projected the ascetic ideal and peopled the desert with monks. Through St. Anthony, the solitary life gave rise to the monastic life.
There were two kinds of monastic life: the eremitical or hermit life and the cenobitical or common life. St. Anthony and his disciples formed a community of eremitical life: they lived on their own and came together mainly to partake in the Sunday liturgy. St. Pachomius (+345) was one of the principal founders of cenobitic monasticism. The monks lived in community, kept scheduled times of prayer together, and took weekly turns at various tasks. The cenobitic form of monasticism was perpetuated in the East by St. Basil (+379), and in the West by St. Benedict (+547).
同一時期,教會有很多棄俗潛修、克己行苦的聖賢,樹立祈禱修德、棄絕自我、獨隱避世,以求善終的表樣。當中首先獨修聖保祿 (公元+340年),為逃避羅馬皇帝戴西于迫害聖教,跑到曠野獨居隱修。與前者惺惺相惜的,是聖安當(公元+356年),他修建了第一座隱修院,被譽為「隱修士的祖宗」,而他的弟子聖亞大納削記下他的生平,昭示了在曠野的苦行靜修的實況,彰顯了獨居隱修的隱士生活。

20121217 Martyrs held firm to Faith 殉道者堅守信德

After the resurrection and ascension of Our Lord, the Roman Empire persecuted the Church for 300 years. There were ten official persecutions by the following Roman emperors: Nero (64-68), Domitian (94-96), Trajan (98-117), Marcus Aurelius (166-180), Septimius Severus (202-211), Maximinus Thrax (235-238), Decius (249-251), Valerian (247-259), Aurelian (270-275), and Diocletian (284-305).
The Romans considered the state divine and the emperor was looked upon as a god. The Christians did not accept these teachings, and thus embracing Christianity was regarded as treason. With ignorance, hatred and mob spirit, the pagans falsely accused Christians of immorality and of killing children in sacrifice. When problems arose in society, the pagans would blame the Christians, saying that the gods were angry because the Christians refused to worship them.
It was during the persecution under Nero that St. Peter and St. Paul martyred in Rome. Peter was crucified and was buried at the foot of Vatican Hill. St. Paul was beheaded. Nero set Rome afire and blamed the Christians for it. He killed the Christians by the thousands with great cruelty.
Under Domitian, St. John of apostle was plunged into a caldron of boiling oil but miraculously escaped. He was then banished to the island of Patmos, where he received divine revelations and wrote the Book of Revelation.
Pope St. Clement was martyred under Trajan. St. Ignatius of Antioch was devoured by lions in the Roman amphitheater around 110. While he was on his way to martyrdom at Rome, Ignatius wrote seven beautiful epistles to various churches.
According to legend, St. Cecilia suffered under Marcus Aurelius. Cecilia made a vow of virginity. Her parents arranged a marriage for her. Cecilia converted her husband Valerian to the Faith and they agreed to live in continence. Cecilia was condemned to be suffocated by steam, but was miraculously preserved. She was then killed with the sword.
During the reign of Septimius Severus, five catechumens (including Sts. Perpetua and Felicity) were arrested at Carthage. St. Saturus, their teacher, voluntarily joined them in prison. The catechumens were baptized in prison. They were martyred at the Arena.
Popes Pontian and Anterus suffered martyrdom under Maximus Thrax. The pagans blamed the Christians for repeated earthquakes and cried: “The Christians to the lions!”
For fifty years after Septimius Severus, the Christians were left more or less at peace. Due to unrest and discontent throughout the Empire, the emperor was occupied with other concerns. The Christians were allowed to own properties and to build churches. However, some Christians also became worldly and less fervent and their faith was weakened. Hence, during the persecution under Decius many Christians were wanting in courage. Some offered sacrifices to pagan gods and others, through bribery or political influence, obtained certificates saying they had done so. After the persecution, the Church received the apostates back into the fold, but also imposed severe penance on them.
Before the reign of Decius, persecutions were only limited to certain provinces. But under Decius there was general and systematic persecution against the Christians. Decius targeted especially the bishops and priests of the Church. St. Agatha was martyred under Decius.
Pope Sixtus II and his deacon, St. Lawrence, suffered martyrdom under Valerian. The persecution under Aurelian did not last long, for the emperor soon met a violent death.
The persecution under Diocletian was the most violent. Some of the martyrs under this persecution are best known to us: St. Sebastian, the Roman soldier whose body was shot with arrows but who survived and was killed by the sword; St. Tarcisius, the acolyte who died defending the Blessed Sacrament; St. Lucy, St. Agnes, and many others were martyred who had consecrated their virginity to Christ.
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”— Tertullian

耶穌升天後,羅馬帝國迫害了聖教會三百年。十個皇帝發動了十次官方的迫害: 尼祿(64-68)、多米提安(94-96)、圖拉真(98-117)、馬可.奧勒留(166-180)、西弗勒斯(202-211)、馬克西勉.朱肋斯(235-238)、德西烏斯(249-251)、維利安(247-259)、奧留利安(270-275)和戴克里先(284-305)。
聖伯多祿和聖保祿,均在尼祿皇帝統治下殉道 —— 聖伯多祿被反倒釘死在十字架上,死後葬在梵蒂崗崗下;聖保祿則被斬首致命。尼祿縱火燒毀羅馬,竟嫁禍基督徒,他把數以千計的基督徒,殘酷地處死。