11 Unusual Facts about Constantine the First Christian Roman Emperor

Constantine gets a bad rap. He’s Saint Constantine in the Eastern Churches, but just plain ol’ “Constantine” in the West. Is he an apostolic saint or an opportunistic sinner?

In the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading up on Constantine. I’ve taught a course three times in Rome called “History and Theology of Rome,” which touches on Constantine and his legacy. I’ve written a book The Eternal City which also explores his impact on Christianity (I was much more pessimistic about him in the book than I am now). Moreover, Constantine is a major literary character in my historical fiction Trilogy: Sword and Serpent: Trilogy.

[PS: Book III in the Sword and Serpent Trilogy is now complete and in the final editing stages – and young Constantine heavily present in the final novel.]

Since we live in times of political and ecclesiastical ambiguity, here are 11 facts about Constantine to help you see that God can use imperfect politicians (and imperfect bishops) to bring about great good:

  1. He was divorced and remarried. His first wife was Minervina, and he divorced her to marry his second wife was Fausta.
  2. Constantine killed his second wife. In AD 326, he had his first son Crispus (from his first marriage) killed. He also had his second wife Fausta killed. Both names were removed from public documentation. After Constantine had his second wife killed, he never married again until his death at age 65. (It was rumored that his son Crispus had an affair with his stepmother Fausta and that this revelation and their ordered deaths haunted Constantine to the grave.)
  3. During his early life, the Roman Empire was divided into a Tetrarchy of four emperors: two senior emperors with the title “Augustus” and two junior emperors with the title “Caesar.” Constantine’s father Constantius was the “junior emperor” or “Caesar” of the Western half of the Empire.
  4. Constantine spent his early life held captive in the East (away from his father in the West) by the senior emperor Augustus Diocletian (a great persecutor of Christians). Constantine escaped the Eastern emperors by night and fled to his father. It is said that he hamstrung every horse along the way so that he would not be caught! Constantine joined his father Constantius in York in Britain. His father died in 306 and his son Constantine was acclaimed “Augustus” or senior emperor of the Western Roman Empire by his soldiers.
  5. But Constantine needed to prove his title. Before defeating Maxentius in AD 312, Constantine saw the cross in the sky above the sun with the words “in touto nika” or,  “In this sign, conquer.” Lactantius (who tutored his sons) says Constantine was instructed to conquer under the sign of the cross during a dream. Eusebius records that it happened during the day at noon and that all the troops saw it. Either way, Constantine is said to have placed the sign of the cross or a Chi Rho on the shields of his men. Scholar Peter Weiss suggests the public “sun miracle” happened in Gaul in AD 310 and the dream happened in AD 312 before the Battle at the Milvian Bridge. That in AD 310, Constantine began to shift to monotheism based on “Sol Invictus” and that by AD 312, this monotheism had become (or was becoming) Christian monotheism.
  6. Constantine legalized Christianity with the Edict of Milan in AD 313, but he began to remove pagan symbols from imperial coins beginning around the year AD 318. He gave the Lateran Palace to the bishop of Rome in AD 324. His conversion seems gradual and is in full display after about 10-12 years of rule.
  7. Constantine didn’t likely convert for political reasons as most high school history teachers will tell you. The demographics were against him. It is estimated that in AD 312, Christians composed only 10-15% of the Roman Empire’s population and fell into the lowest levels of education, wealth, and political power. The influence, wealth, and political power were still held by those checking the box labeled: “Jupiter, et al. Give me that old school Roman religion.”
  8. In AD 325, he called the first Catholic and Ecumenical Council of Nicea, which condemned the heresy of Arius falsely teaching that the Son of God was created and not eternally begotten of the Father.
  9. Constantine left three living sons (each born from Fausta):
    Constantine II (Catholic and anti-Arian). The first born.
    Constantius II (Semi-Arian). The most powerful and through his influence, Semi-Arian theology spread.
    Constans (Catholic and anti-Arian and anti-Donatist). Constans was rumored to be a man of unnatural vices.
  10. Constantine did not divide the Roman Empire into “East and West.” That had already been accomplished fully by Diocletian. Constantine, in a sense, re-united the entire Roman Empire under himself as one household or oecoumenos.
  11. Constantine fell ill and personally selected the Semi-Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia to baptize him just days before his death. He died on Pentecost AD 337.

Whatever your opinion of Constantine, it’s a historical fact that Christianity was spread to more souls by Constantine than by Saint Paul himself. This is why the Eastern Churches hail him as the “Thirteenth Apostle.” I’ll admit that this title is overly ambitious, but my opinion is that he was genuinely apostolic despite him being obviously imperfect.

Depending on your perspective: pray for Constantine’s soul or ask him to pray for you!

Photos from Pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, Florence, Venice

Plus Video of Cardinals and Bishops at Corpus Christi Procession in Rome

I’m sorry that I have not been posting articles for the last two weeks. I’ve been teaching a class in Rome to Seminarians called “The History and Theology of Rome” (based on The Eternal City) and it has been a rich blessing.

Since I have not been posting theology articles, I’ve been posting a stream of photos and videos. For example, here is a video of the bishops and cardinals processing with the Holy Eucharist for the feast of Corpus Christi:

If you’d like to see a constant stream of photos of Roman and Italian relics, saints, churches, architecture, sites, and food, please check out my daily photo posts on Instagram (DrTaylorMarshall): click here to see photos.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: I’ll be back in the US next week and will resume theological blog posts.

9 Facts about Saint Joseph (Plus Old vs Young Joseph Debate)

Happy feast day of Saint Joseph. Here are 9 Facts about Saint Joseph for our edification:
St Joseph

  1. 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).
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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).
  6. Saint Joseph was truly married to the Blessed Virgin. This was debated and settled in the early Church. Some people wrongly state that Mary was an “unwed mother” and this is blasphemy. See my article: “Thomas Aquinas 12 Reasons Why Joseph was Married to Mary.”
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.

Dr. Taylor Marshall

With whom would you eat dinner with from the Bible? (excepting Jesus and Mary)

So you’re praying one afternoon and Christ appears to you and says that you will be allowed to have dinner that night with one person from the Bible. He or she will be able to speak your language and discuss whatever you desire.

Who would you pick? Jesus and Mary are excepted and your pick must be human (ie, no angels).

Options include:

  • Adam
  • Eve
  • Moses
  • Ruth
  • David
  • Solomon
  • Esther
  • Isaiah
  • Malachi
  • Joseph
  • John the Baptist
  • Peter
  • Paul
  • John
  • Mary Magdalene
  • or anyone you choose.

Your choice could even be a villain, if you like, such as Pharaoh, Jezebel, or even Judas. But your choice must be from the Bible.

Question: Who would you choose and why? What would you ask them? I’ll reveal my answer after several people have left comments below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Saint Nicholas is smoking incense in our kitchen!

Check out this incense smoking Saint Nicholas “nutcracker” statue.

Mari Webber, New Saint Thomas Institute Member and Sword and Serpent Launch Team member (and Our Lady of Guadalupe NSTI Pilgrim) purchased in Germany this beautiful smoking Saint Nicholas for our family. Our children love it! Thanks Mari for your generosity!

You place incense inside of him and he blows the incense smoke out of his mouth, as if he is smoking his pipe:

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and here is Mari taking an “epic selfie” with a copy of Sword and Serpent in Germany:

Epic Selfie #1

Thank you Mari for our smoking German Saint Nick!

Happy Advent to everyone!

Godspeed,

Taylor Marshall

Catholic Halloween and the New Evangelization

Is Halloween the Devil’s Day? Let’s break it down and see how Satan is trying to steal our Catholic holidays. Ready?

As you know, Halloween is short for All-Hallows-Even. “Even” or “Eve” refers to the evening before the day.

halloween saint

Christmas Eve is the night before December 25. Similarly, Hallows Eve is the night before November 1, the Catholic festival of All Saints.

This holy day of obligation was once known as “All Hallows” since “hallow” is a more ancient form of “holy.” For example, “hallowed by thy name” means “holy is thy name.”

All Saints = All Hallows. In fact, November 1 was once called “Hallowmas.” For those linguists out there, hallowed comes from the Old English word haligra which fell out of use before AD 1500. Those who know German will recognize it’s similarity to heiliger.

Is Halloween the Devil’s Day? Is it Evil?

There are some Christians who have written off Halloween per se as some sort of diabolical black mass.  This interpretation usually includes a legend of how the Catholic Church conspired with druids to corrupt Europe, or some other nonsense.

To be clear, it’s the vigil of a Christian holy day: All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints Eve. Has it been corrupted by our culture and consumer market? You bet. But they have also attempted to redefine “marriage,” Easter, Christmas, St Valentines, and increasingly Ash Wednesday.

Yes, Christmas has also been derailed by the culture. Does that mean that we’re going hand over Christmas? No way! Same goes for Halloween. The Church does not surrender what rightfully belongs to her – she wins it back!

Hell is on defense since Jesus Christ came. It’s the “gates of hell.” Gates are defensive. We are supposed to be storming the gates of hell. The sacrament of Confirmation commissions us as soldiers.

Pandaemonium: Here’s your Greek word of the week

The word Pandaemonium derives from Greek “παν”, meaning “all” and “δαιμόνιον”, meaning “little devil.” Pandaemonium means “All Devils.”

John Milton imagined Pandaemonium as the capital city of Hell in Book I of his Paradise Lost (1667).

Milton was an Arian, but his Paradise Lost is a pretty cool book. If you’re a Member of NSTI, you should read it and let me know if you think his Arianism bleeds through the pages. Also, check out Milton’s Satan Trinity.

The Devil would love to take over the feast day “All Saints” and rebrand it as “All Devils” or “Pandaemonium.” Are we going to let him? Hell no [pun intended]. All the Saints are ready for battle.

Watch Dr. Taylor’s Youtube Video: Dracula vs. the Eucharist.
How do All the Saints hear us from Heaven? Free mp3 from Dr Taylor answering this question: Click here to listen (mp3).

Let’s take back the entire “Hallow Triduum” of:

  1. Halloween (Oct 31)
  2. All Saints Day (Hallowmas Nov 1)
  3. All Souls Day (Nov 2)

Celebrate Hallows Eve, but clarify “We don’t celebrate it by glorifying the demonic.” Dress your children as saints and be counter-cultural. Be leaven in the lump. Salt in the world. Be hallowed.

Oh, and don’t forget All Hallows (Nov 1) is a Holy Day of Obligation. It’s a mortal sin not to attend Holy Mass on this day (unless it is lawfully transferred by the bishops).

Don’t forget to read my 10 Tips for a Catholic Halloween by clicking here.

And share it on Facebook with all your friends by clicking here:

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You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please sign up for my daily email updates and get a FREE book on Thomas Aquinas by clicking here.

Get a free pre-release copy of Sword and Serpent Book 2!

It’s finally ready. The sequel to my best-selling Catholic historical fiction novel Sword and Serpent about Saint George, Saint Christopher, Saint Nicholas, and Constantine is ready for printing.

sword and serpent box shot cropped

Book 1 – Book 2 is on it’s way. Cover art coming soon.

The title of the new book is The Tenth Region of the Night: Sword and Serpent Book II. I’ll be sharing cover art soon.

The title refers to an Egyptian myth about a serpent that is killed just before the dawn of the day – at the tenth region of the night. Book II begins in Egypt with Jurian (Saint George) meeting Aikaterina (the historical Saint Catherine of Alexandria). The new book features Constantine (as in Sword and Serpent) and includes Saint Helen his mother and a number of newly included saints.

In my opinion, Book 2 is better than Sword and Serpent Book 1!

My publication team will be choosing 200 “Tenth Region Launch Team” readers who will receive an advanced free digital before the publication date and their name printed in the back of the book with a thank you message from me.

Here is who we are looking for in our Launch Team:

  1. Readers who have read Sword and Serpent Book 1 already
  2. Readers who can read the book in about 1 week
  3. Readers who are willing to promote the book with a tweet or Facebook or Instagram post
  4. Readers who are willing to write a review on Amazon.com
  5. Readers who won’t share or publish their advanced digital copy to the public

So if you’d like to get an advanced copy and read it before the book is published for the public (and have your name printed in the book), please apply using this form:

Click here to join the Sword and Serpent 2 Launch Team!

I look forward to sending out a free copy to you!

Godspeed,
Taylor Marshall

PS: Palabra press in Madrid Spain is about to release the Spanish translation of Sword and Serpent Book 1 – La Espada y La Serpient. If you know any Spanish speakers who love Catholic fiction, please tell them about this upcoming release!

spanish-sword-and-serpent

 

How St Francis differed from Martin Luther or Catholic Reform vs. Protestant Reform

How did Saint Francis’ reformation of the Catholic Church (“Francis, rebuild my Church”) differ from Martin Luther’s “reformation”?

For Audio Podcast version of: “My True Opinion of Martin Luther” click here.

Essentially, Francis teaches us that we cannot fight heresy by creating new heresies. Francis always submitted to the Church, the popes, and the bishops.

Whenever “reformation” begins to the buck against the institutional Church, more heresy arises. For example, in many regards the Monophysite heresy (i.e. “Christ has one nature”) was an over-reaction to the Nestorian heresy (i.e. “Christ is two persons”). The Catholic Church has always sought to aim directly at the truth, and not merely at the destruction of error. Too often the refutation of error crosses over into further error.

Similarly, Luther and Calvin sought to displace misunderstandings about grace and merit (i.e. the faulty nominalism spawned by William of Ockham) by creating an alternate vision of grace and merit (which ironically embraced Ockham’s nominalism and repackaged it). Luther’s “solution” was in fact heretical. A quick fix is often faulty. Duct tape can “fix” almost anything – but it eventually gives way to other problems.

The annals of Church history are filled with Catholic Reformers: Paul, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Maximus, John Damascene, Pope Gregory VII, Francis, Dominic, Catherine of Sienna, Ignatius, Teresa of Avila, et al. Each of these Catholic Reformers retained the unity of Christ’s Church, submitted to church leadership, and patiently brought about renewal. In many cases, each experienced active persecution from other Christians and even fell under the suspicion of heresy. However, their humility and silence eventually vindicated their cause as advocates for the evangelical truth of Christ’s doctrine.

Saint Francis of Assisi is perhaps one of the best examples of patience in the cause of reform. When St Francis went to Rome to seek recognition from the Pope, the Pope dismissed him impatiently and told him to go “lie down with the pigs.”

After a little while, Francis returned smeared with swine feces and stinking to high heaven. When the Pope objected, Francis answered, “I obeyed your words and merely did as you said. I lay down with the pigs.” Suddenly the Pope realized that this was a holy man who was willing to obey even in the face of humiliation. The Pope listened to Francis’ vision for renewal and the rest is history.

When rebuffed by the pope, Saint Francis could have appealed to Sacred Scripture, showing this his pattern of life was poor and lowly like that of Christ. He might even have contrasted his own “biblical life” against the extravagance of the Papal court. Francis may even have rightly rebuked the abbots, bishops, and cardinals for lacking evangelical witness. Instead, Francis followed the path of Christ. He allowed himself to be misunderstood and maligned, knowing that God would bring about his vindication…and God always does.

Contrast Saint Francis to Martin Luther. Luther did not visit Rome for confirmation of his cause, nor did he respect the structures of the Church. In fact, Cardinal Cajetan met privately with Luther and explained how Luther might modify his message so that Cajetan could have it approved by the Roman Curia. If Luther had moved more slowly and charitably, he may have become “Saint” Martin Luther.

Unfortunately, Luther was adamant and stiff-necked. He would not attempt compromise. If the Pope would not agree with him, then he would reject the papacy. Period. Luther would not tolerate any authority that failed to support him immediately and without question. Consequently, when the papal bull arrived, Luther burned it publicly and began to curse the pope as Antichrist.

Note the difference between Francis and Luther. The former moved slowly and humbly. The latter acted independently and rashly. Consequently, the history of Protestantism is marked by rash and hasty division – there are now 36,000 Protestant denominations.

As the Apostle James wrote: “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:20). History shows that God does not use “hot-heads” to guide His Church into righteousness. God chooses those who are little, meek, and humble – for such is the kingdom of Heaven.

Herein lies the mystery of Catholic Reform.

St Michael vs. Lucifer: Why St Michael Won!

Catholic Video Lesson

Saint Michael was one of the lower angels. Lucifer was the highest angel. How did Lucifer fall and how did Saint Michael get his name (Mi Cha El?).

Here’s a free video from the New Saint Thomas Institute on the subject of Satan and Michael. You’ll learn about the creation of the angels, the fall of Satan according to Saint Augustine, and the reason Saint Michael is called “Mi Cha El.”

Don’t see the video? Click here to watch it.

Are you not yet a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute? If not, Fall Enrollment is now open. Join well over 3,000 Members of the New Saint Thomas Institute from all over the world as we study Catholic theology together.

There are limited spots and our tuition sale is limited. We also have a bunch of great bonuses for this fall. Want to join? Learn by clicking here.

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Saint Hubert – Patron Saint of Bowhunters (and Jagermeister)

Whenever I talk about hunting, I get critics who think I’m a mean red-neck killer. Before the critics cast their stones, let it be know that I hunt because:

saint Hubertus taylor marshall bowhunting

  1. Hunting provides organic, grass-fed, hormone free meat for my family of 8 children.
  2. It feels exhilarating to serve food to your family that you trained for, hunted, butchered, prepared, and cooked.
  3. I like having a tangible connection with the food that I prepare and eat.
  4. Hunting is the #1 way to promote funding for wildlife conservation.
  5. I love the outdoors.
  6. It’s a craft or an art that requires practice and dedication.
  7. All of our ancestors did it.

We were recently discussing the Troops of Saint George achievement in “Hunting” and I suggested that we focus on Saint Hubert, the patron saint of hunting:

Saint Hubertus was born around the year AD 656. Saint Hubert’s wife (the daughter of a count) died giving birth to their son who would eventually become a bishop. Heartbroken by the death of his wife, Saint Hubert retreated from the court and gave himself up entirely to hunting.

On Good Friday morning, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert went hunting. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag, the animal turned and he beheld a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying:
St.Hubert Ottawa“Hubert, unless thou turn to the Lord, and lead an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into Hell”.

Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what would Thou have me do?” He received the answer, “Go and seek Lambert [bishop of Maastricht-Liège, Tongeren], and he will instruct you.”

He was condemned by God not for hunting but for withdrawing from the world and shirking his duties as a member of court and as a Christian (he was out hunting on Good Friday!).

Saint Hubertus is honored among hunters as the father of ethical hunting behavior. It is said that Saint Hubertus established the hunting principle of conserving wildlife, not killing a mother with its young, and preferring older bucks and bulls past their breeding prime. He also advocated only shooting an animal when a humane, clean and quick kill is assured.

After leaving the wilderness as a hunter, he became a priest and eventually the successor bishop to his master Saint Lambert of Maastricht. He was famous for his asceticism and preaching.

He is thus the patron saint of hunters, and bowhunters in particular.

For those interested, here’s a podcast I did about one of my hunts for Indian Nilgai.

Question: Share your thoughts about ethical hunting and/or Saint Hubert. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Fun facts:

  • Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died while on a hunt for the members of the International Order of St. Hubertus.
  • The Jägermeister logo is taken from the vision of Saint Hubertus. Jägermeister means “master hunter.”

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