Is there a reason why the name of Pontius Pilate was included in the second creed?
Pontius Pilate’s name is in the Creeds because it anchors the life of Christ into human history, specifically Roman history. If you interested in the redemptive meaning of Rome, the Roman Pontius Pilate, and the Roman cross of execution in the redemption of man by a Jewish Messiah, please see my book The Eternal City: Rome and the Origins of Catholicism.
There is a “tradition” that Pontius Pilate’s wife Claudia Procula had a dream of billions of people chanting “sub Pontio Pilato” over and over and over.
What she was hearing was the billions of Christians who recite “He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.”
Most woman would be honored to know that their husband’s name would be on the lips of billions over a period of 20 centuries. But in the case of this Prefect of Judaea, it is the notorious reputation of being the remote efficient cause of Christ’s crucifixion.
The dream of “Claudia” is referred to in Matthew 27:19:
While Pilate was sitting in the judgment hall, his wife sent him a message: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him.”
If the tradition is true, she dreamed of the countless recitations and liturgical chants of “under Pontius Pilate.”
Origen is the first to mention that she converted to Christianity. She is a saint. In art, she is depicted as whispering into the ear of Pontius. Mel Gibson’s Passion depicts Claudia giving linens to the Blessed Mother to collect the Blood of Christ from the scourging.
Saint Claudia, pray for us.
If you’d like to take our courses on Historical Theology, the Creeds, the Councils, and Catholic Tradition, please sign up with us at newsaintthomas.com.
Happy feast day of Saint Joseph. Here are 9 Facts about Saint Joseph for our edification:
The name “Joseph” in Hebrew means “he increases.” We get it from the Greek form of Ιωσηφ (Ioseph), which comes from the Hebrew name יוֹסֵף (Yoseph). Saint Bernard of Clairvaux taught Joseph was rightly named, because God “increased” the gifts and graces that were in the world through Saint Joseph (Hom. 2 super Missus est).
Saint Joseph is not mentioned in Mark’s Gospel, but he features in Matthew and Luke. He is only briefly mentioned by Saint John when he writes: “Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know” (John 6:41-51).
Saint Joseph is described in Greek as a τέκτων or “tekton,” which is translated as “carpenter,” but it is better translated as “artisan.” A tekton is anyone involved in physical construction and repair. Joseph may have worked with stone, wood, metal, cement, clay, and other substances. The words “technology” and “architecture” are related to the Indo-European root for tekton.
Joseph, while of the House of David in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth, which is only a 40 mile (65km) walk to Jerusalem. Nazareth was a suburb of the town of Sepphoris described as:”Rich, cosmopolitan, deeply influenced by Greek culture, and surrounded by a panoply of races and religions, the Jews of Sepphoris were the product of the Herodian social revolution – the nouveaux riches who rose to prominence after Herod’s massacre of the old priestly aristocracy.” (Aslan, Reza. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, 44)This places Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the proximity of a wealthy, Gentile culture. Most craftsmen in this region would likely have learned Greek and perhaps Latin to serve the economy of Sepphoris. This is why some speculated that Christ our Lord knew Hebrew (as a student of Scripture), Aramaic (as a native of Nazareth), Greek (Gentile language of politics and commerce), and Latin (language of Roman occupants).
History testifies to two traditions of Saint Joseph – the Old Joseph (widower) and the Young Joseph (virgin) traditions. I personally follow the Young Joseph tradition as I think it’s more historical and more biblical. I’ve detailed the debate here: ARTICLE the Old Joseph (widower) and the Young Joseph (virgin).
It is speculated that Saint Joseph never sinned (confirmed in grace) and that he was sanctified before birth – but not at conception like the Blessed Virgin. Francisco Suarez, Jean Gerson, and Saint Alphonsus Ligouri each teach that Saint Joseph was sanctified and regenerated in his mother’s womb prior to birth. Sacred Scripture teaches us that the Prophet Jeremiah and Saint John the Baptist received this honor of sanctification in the womb. The eminent theologians above, notably Saint Alphonsus – a doctor of the Holy Church, extend this privilege to Saint Joseph. They even teach that Saint Joseph was confirmed in the grace, which means that he was so filled with grace that he never committed a mortal sin or a deliberate venial sin.
Some also speculate that since there are no relics of Saint Joseph, he was assumed bodily into Heaven. Francis Suarez maintained St. Joseph was taken up into heaven bodily. St. Bernardino of Siena, Gerson, and St. Vincent Ferrer held the same. St. Francis de Sales points out the fact that nobody claims the tomb of St. Joseph and that there are no relics of this saint. Then he continues in Les Vrais Entretiens Spirituels:Surely, when Our Lord went down into Limbo, St. Joseph addressed Him in this wise: “Be pleased to remember, Lord, that when you came down from Heaven to earth I received you into my house and family, that I took you into my arms from the moment you were born. Now you are going back to Heaven, take me with you (body and soul). I received you into my family, receive me into yours; I took you in my arms; take me into yours; I looked after you and fed you and guided you during your life on earth; stretch forth your hand and lead me into life everlasting.”Some have speculated that Saint Joseph was among the “saints” who were resurrected shortly after the death of Christ on Good Friday: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Mt 27:51-53).
It’s common practice to bury a statue of Saint Joseph to sell one’s home. This comes from a condemned divination practiced called “Deprecation of the Saints,” whereby a person places a sack on a saint’s statue head or hides a statue in the closet or otherwise treats a saint statue disrespectfully until a request is granted. This is why folklore states that you’re supposed to dig up the Saint Joseph statue after the sale of the home to “reward” him for granting a request. It’s probably not a wholesome practice. Perhaps its better to place Saint Joseph’s statue in a place of honor in the home for intercession through Saint Joseph to our Lord Jesus Christ for the sale of one’s home. (Though feel free to debate this the comments box.)
Have a happy and holy Feast of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph pray for us.
Question: Do you think of Saint Joseph as an older widower or as a young guardian? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Here are 9 facts (including the Two Patrick Theory) about Saint Patrick of Ireland:
Saint Patrick was not Irish. He was born in in Roman Britain. His Latin name Patricius is Roman and in Latin it means “Patrician” or “noble.” Saint Augustine of Hippo’s father (Saint Monica’s husband) was also named Patricius.
Saint Patrick wrote an autobiography titled Confessio or “Confession.”
Saint Patrick was the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest, as he himself testifies: “My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon. His father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae (Confessio, 1).
At age 16, Saint Patrick was abducted by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland to serve as a slave for 6 years, until his 22nd year. He served as a slave shepherd and during his time in the fields, he returned to the Christian God that he had learned about as a child. Patrick speaks of God in this way: “This is the one we acknowledge and adore – one God in a trinity of the sacred name.”
At age 22, he heard the voice of God telling him to escape slavery and run to the ocean’s port…200 miles away.
Patrick was asked “suck the breasts” of the sailors who offered him a ride to Britain. Saint Patrick explains:I heard one of them shout aloud at me: “Come quickly – those men are calling you!” I turned back right away, and they began to say to me: “Come – we’ll trust you. Prove you’re our friend in any way you wish.” That day, I refused to suck their breasts, because of my reverence for God. They were pagans, and I hoped they might come to faith in Jesus Christ. This is how I got to go with them, and we set sail right away. (Confessio, 18)Literally sucking the breast of another signified the protection of one over the other. The practice was known in North Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, Turkey, Armenia, Caucasus region, Albania, as well as Ireland.
Saint Patrick studied Christianity on continental Europe: He studied at Auxerre and received the tonsure at Lérins Abbey. Saint Germanus of Auxerre consecrated him as a missionary bishop.
Saint Patrick is said to have driven all the serpents from the island of Ireland. However, post-glacial Ireland never had snakes. The tradition of driving snakes out of Ireland may be an allegory for Saint Patrick refuting and winning back the adherents of the Pelagian heresy (the false teaching that a person may be saved through the positive power of human nature without grace).
Irish documents seem to refer to “Two Patricks” and this has given rise to the “Two Patricks Theory.””Patrick the Elder” (Patraic Sen) is said to have died in AD 457. However, there is also a record for the death of the another Patrick in AD 493 (33 years later) who is called the “Patricius the Arch-apostle of the Scoti.” The Annals record annals record that in AD 553 “the relics of Patrick were placed sixty years after his death in a shrine by Colum Cille.” This would testify to his death in AD 493. It’s very likely that the “first Patrick” or “Patrick the Elder” is in fact Saint Palladius who was a Catholic missionary bishop to Ireland and died around AD 460. The missionary efforts of Saint Palladius were likely conflated into the life and memory of Saint Patrick who effectively succeeded Saint Palladius.
Happy feast of Saint Patrick’s Day. Please share and spread this post about Saint Patrick so that people come to know the historical Catholic bishop, theology, and missionary of Ireland: Saint Patricius!
One of our New Saint Thomas Institute students named Jana from Slovakia had a question about the translation of “descended into Hell” from the Apostles’ Creed:
I am from from Slovakia and in our language we do not use the word “hell” in the Creed, rather we use “he descended to those who died / departed”. We use “hell” only in the meaning of gehenna. Therefore I was a bit confused at first when I saw the title of this lesson: “he descended into hell” – I immediately associated hell with gehenna, but now I understand that hell is more like a collective term.
Jana, it’s so great to have members from Slovakia!
In English, we usually recite the Apostles’ Creed with the translation “He descended into hell.” To get to the bottom of this, let’s look at both the Greek and Latin versions of the Apostles’ Creed.
The glorious catalogue of the martyrs of Christ retell their macabre deaths as being roasted, boiled, decapitated, crucified, starved, strangled, and hung-draw-quartered.
Today’s saints received the crown of martyrdom through the pain of ice. Dante places punishment by cold and ice at the bottom of hell. He perceived it as the worst punishment, and he even describes Satan as frozen at the waist inside a block of ice, as in the illustration below:
The earliest account of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste is found in a sermon by Saint Basil of Caesarea (370–379). They were 40 Roman soldiers in AD 320 who refused to renounce Christ. They were stripped naked and tied down to a frozen lake near Sebaste (present-day Sivas in Turkey). They were instructed that if they renounced Christ, they would be freed and taken to a hot bath nearby in order to recover.
Consider for a moment, the feeling of your skin and body being overtaken by frost bite. All you need to say is, “I reject and renounce Jesus Christ,” and you’d be sitting in a warm hot tub.
The 40 soldiers persevered until one man relented. He renounced Christ and was taken to the hot baths to warm up, leaving 39 soldiers on the ice. However, one of the guards watching the 39 was allowed to see the supernatural glory resting on these 39 confessors of Christ. Desiring to receive that same glory, he stripped naked and joined them on the ice, thereby restoring the number to 40.
The traditional icon of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste always shows the apostate running away into warm bathhouse, while another man removes his clothes to join the 39. See the icon image below:
In the morning, the stiff bodies (some were still alive) were cast into fires and their bodies burned. The faithful collected their ashes as relics.
The 40 Martyrs of Sebaste were popular in the East and they symbolized for monastics the tight bond of brothers in co-suffering for Christ.
The 40 Martyrs of Sebaste Today: Iron Sharpening Iron
Proverbs 27:17 reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” These men were each blessed to know at least 30 friends who were willing to die for Christ. Every Christian suffers. How much sweeter it would be if we had friends with which to suffer. Pray for faithful and holy friends. Nobody goes to heaven alone. Nobody goes to hell alone. We travel as pilgrims in a collection. If you need advice or help on finding solid Catholic friends, please consider listening to this podcast I recorded: Finding Friends Like Samwise Gamgee.
On March 7 1274, the greatest Catholic mind died from brain trauma. Here’s a timeline of what happened brought you to by the New Saint Thomas Institute:
Sometime in 1273: The sacristan Domenic of Caserta observes Thomas Aquinas to be levitating in prayer with tears before an icon of the crucified Christ. Christ said to Thomas, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?” Thomas responded, “Nothing but you, Lord.”
Dec 6 1273: While celebrating the Mass of Saint Nicholas, Thomas went into ecstasy. Thomas’ friend and secretary Reginald later asks him: “Master, will you not return to your work?” Thomas Aquinas replied: “I can write no more. All that I have written seems like straw.” Thomas no longer works on the Summa theologiae.
Pope Gregory X asks Saint Thomas Aquinas to reconcile the Greek Orthodox bishops at the Second Council of Lyon in France to be held on 1 May 1274.
Early 1274, Thomas strikes his head on a tree branch along the Appian way near Monte Cassino. It’s not clear whether this happened while he was riding a horse or whether the branch or log was already on the ground.
Thomas recovers and continues his journey to the port. His health fails again and he is taken to the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova. While he was conscious, he gave a commentary on the Song of Songs, as had Saint Bernard.
March 7, 1274: His brain continued to swell. He received Last Rites and his last words were: “I receive Thee, ransom of my soul. For love of Thee have I studied and kept vigil, toiled, preached and taught….” and then he was received into Heaven by Jesus Christ.
From this timeline, you can perceive the deep mysticism of Thomas Aquinas. Many wrongly assume that Thomas was an aloof college professor or academician. Far from it. He was a mystic full in love with Christ and driven to preach in teach in the parish churches and in the universities.
I’d like to share two FREE resources for you to help you fall more in love with Saint Thomas Aquinas:
Here is a free book titled Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages. It is currently the most popular introduction to Thomas Aquinas available on amazon.com. You can have it free by clicking here.
If you’d like to try taking online classes on Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Mariology, Apologetics, Church History, and/or Medieval Theology, please explore the New Saint Thomas Institute: newsaintthomas.com.
I had the best Fish Friday of my entire life on the first Friday of Lent this year. I was blessed to lead a retreat for the Bishop’s Servers of the Diocese of Shreveport, and the bishop and I caught a couple of catfish whoppers (see pic below).
Fishing with a bishop (successor of the apostolic fishermen) and landing monster catfish: Thank you Lord!
But Louisiana catfish are not necessary for a great Fish Friday. Here are some great ideas on how to keep “meatless Fridays” in Lent, and how NOT to do meatless Fridays:
Before creating an intentional plan for “Friday fare” or “fish Fridays,” Joy and I would just sort of wing it: “Oh it’s Friday. Shucks. Mmmm. I guess we’ll have to order some cheese pizzas.” Even worse, we’d remember after the fact. I’d order a chicken sandwich at lunch and then suddenly remember.
This is playing defense. You want to plan offense. Defense reacts. Offense creates a clear strategy. You need to make a plan. Write it down and post it on the fridge.
Today’s post focuses on the practical aspect. How do you and/or your family keep meatless Fridays?
It seems like such a chore. However, with some creativity, it can become an act of penance and a family tradition. And when your conference of bishops restores the custom, you’ll already be accustomed to the laudable and ancient practice. I’ve listed some suggestions below.
Originally, cardinals were simply clergy “incardinated” within the Diocese of Rome. In the 6th century, the cardinals of Rome included the pastor presbyters of the titular churchs and the seven deacons of Rome so that there were “cardinal priests” and “cardinal deacons.” By the 8th century, the title was extended to the seven bishops of the seven “suburbicarian dioceses” surrounding Rome and thus there were also “cardinal bishops.”
This collection of cardinal deacons, cardinal priests, and the cardinal bishops established the “College of Cardinals” that elected the Bishop of Rome from amongst themselves.
Before the 1900s, it was possible for a man in minor orders to become a “lay” cardinal in the order of cardinal deacons.
For example, in the 16th century, the Englishman Reginald Pole was a cardinal for 18 years before he was ordained a priest.
In 1917 it was established that all cardinals, even cardinal deacons, had to be ordained priests.
In 1962, Pope John XXIII ruled that all cardinals must be ordained as bishops unless given a papal dispensation to remain as a priest. One might recall that John Henry Cardinal Newman (d. 1890) was a cardinal while being a priest and not a bishop.
For example, His Eminence Albert Cardinal Vanhoye is a cardinal who has not been ordained as a bishop.
A cardinal who is not a bishop does wear the pontificalia associated with the bishop (mitre, crozier, zucchetto, pectoral cross, ring).
Here’s the amazing thing about cardinals: even if not ordained as a bishop, any cardinal possesses ecclesial and liturgical precedence above a bishop, and even above an Archbishop or a Patriarch!
This is why Eastern Patriarchs are now usually made Cardinals.
In order to prepare for Lent, I was looking at the Lenten sermons of Pope Saint Leo the Great (died AD 461).
In his Sermon 46 on Lent, he exhorts the faithful to fast from food and luxury and vain thoughts. And then he goes further and exhorts them to give up heresy for Lent:
For the mind then only keeps holy and spiritual fast when it rejects the food of error and the poison of falsehood, which our crafty and wily foe plies us with more treacherously now, when by the very return of the venerable Festival, the whole church generally is admonished to understand the mysteries of its salvation.
What’s the historical background here? Pope Saint Leo the Great was battling a heresy called Monophystism in the Eastern Church that falsely taught that Christ’s human nature was absorbed or mixed into His divine nature so that Christ only had a single (mono) divine nature (physis). The human nature was no longer there. This essentially means that Christ is no longer human but only divine.
These heretics were backed by the Emperor, the political strongholds of the time, and by the Patriarch of Alexandria. It was a time of schism, infighting amongst bishops, and confusion among the laity. The temptation for Pope Leo and others was to compromise the Catholic Faith in order to keep the Empire and the Church united under a false theology. This Pope Leo refused to do. He called a council (Chalcedon in AD 451) and issued his orthodox “Tome of Leo” which explained how Christ’s divine nature and human nature were united in His one divine Person or in Greek, His divine hypostasis.
Pope Saint Leo labored to defend and explain the Truth because the truth sets us free from sadness, error, and sin. In order to live right, we need right morals and right thinking (which is one reason why the Catholic Tradition is rich in education and in the establishment of schools and universities.)
Christ our Lord and Savior taught that it was not food or drink entering the mouth that justifies or condemns a man, but rather the thoughts and words that come from his mouth (Matthew 15:16-20). We need to habituate right thinking.
The Greek word for “orthodox” is ὀρθοδοξία (orthodoxia) and it literally means “straight thoughts.” Similarly, an orthodontist provides you with “straight teeth,” and an orthopedic doctors are those that originally made sure that children (pedi-) developed straight (ortho-) bodies. Let’s go to the Doctors of the Church and acquire “straight thoughts” regarding God, salvation, and morality.
Giving Up Sinful Thoughts Against Morals and Against Faith
We often think of sinful thoughts as angry thoughts, lustful thoughts, and covetous thoughts. These are the kind of thoughts that we so often confess in the confessional. These are our thoughts against Catholic morals.
However, we might also serious thoughts against Catholic faith. We may even be repeatedly tempted to entertain these thoughts. This is what Pope Saint Leo warns us about in particular in his Sermon 46.
How do we combat these thoughts against faith and doctrine? Saint Leo provides the answer by exhorting us “to understand the mysteries of its salvation.” We must labor to understand the beautiful mysteries that Christ left for us within His Church.
Here are three ways that we can begin to grow in “understand[ing] the mysteries of salvation.”
Read the New Testament daily:
Read 1-3 chapter(s) every morning. The Catholic Church holds that Sacred Scripture is “the very soul of sacred theology” (Dei Verbum 24). Moreover, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” (Saint Jereome). And Pope Benedict XVI taught that “the normative theologians are the authors of Holy Scripture.” And if you’ve never read the New Testament, it’s time to read the whole thing. Lent is a perfect time to establish this goal. Right theology begins with a knowledge of the New Testament.
Read books by the Saints:
People ask me all the time about the best and latest books on theology. My rule of thumb is if you haven’t read the top ten classic works of Catholic Patristic Theology and the Summa theologiae, you probably shouldn’t be reading new theology. Build a foundation first. Here are some recommendations (most these books are under 200 pages):
St Augustine Confessions
St Athanasius On the Incarnation
St Basil On the Holy Spirit
St John Damascus Three Books on the Divine Images
St Ignatius of Antioch Epistles
St John Chrysostom On Marriage and Family Life
St Cyril of Alexandria On the Unity of Christ
St John Chrysostom On the Priesthood
St Gregory Nazianzus Sermons and Letters
St Leo the Great Letters and Sermons
Take a theology class or course:
Enroll in a theological class at your parish, at a trusted university, or somewhere else. Here’s a sample class from the New Saint Thomas Institute on Pope Saint Leo the Great in 10 Points. I hope you will be encouraged and filled with hope as you discover the Pope to be given the title “the Great.” We all need to foster a devotion to this great theologian and Pope: Saint Leo the Great.You’re always invited to watch video lessons on Philosophy, Historical Theology, etc: