133: Saint Joseph in 9 Points Podcast (Should You Bury His Statue?)

In today’s audio lesson podcast I cover 9 questions on Saint Joseph:

  1. What does the name “Joseph” mean?
  2. Where is he mentioned in the 4 Gospels?
  3. Was Joseph really a “carpenter” or something more?
  4. What languages would he have spoken? Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin?
  5. Was Joseph young or old when he married Mary?
  6. Was he truly married to Mary even those it was a Josephite marriage?
  7. Did Joseph ever commit sins?
  8. Why are there no relics of Joseph?
  9. Should you bury his statue to sell your home?

Listen to this brief podcast as I tackle each of these questions:

Or download the mp3 directly by clicking here.


132: St Patrick in 9 Bullet Points and the “Two Patrick Theory” [Podcast]

Who was the historical Saint Patrick? In this 8 minute podcast, I give you an overview of his person, theology, and tradition based primarily on his own autobiography: St Patrick’s Confessio. Click on the triangle player below to get started:

PARENTAL WARNING: I discuss a strange episode in Patrick’s life where sailors ask him to “suck their breasts” and explain what that meant in ancient Ireland (Hint: it symbolized as oath of coming under another person’s protection.)

If the audio player does not show up in your email or browser, please click here to listen.

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6 Facts about the Fatal Brain Injury of St Thomas Aquinas

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:

Aquinas Cropped 470 wide

  • 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.

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I’d like to share two FREE resources for you to help you fall more in love with Saint Thomas Aquinas:

  1. 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.Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages
  2. Here’s a free podcast: “The Secret Life of Thomas Aquinas” in which I discuss the unknown mystical elements from the life of Thomas Aquinas. Click here to listen.
  3. Here is a free video called “7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas”. This video will help you see the various levels of the spirituality and theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas in only a few short minutes. Watch it here.
    Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 2.31.52 PM

If you’re a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, you can explore the dozens of video lessons on Saint Thomas Aquinas in our Philosophy and Thomistic Studies online curriculum 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.

Intro to Thomas Module

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Dr. Taylor Marshall

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You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Saint Agatha in 7 Points (Patroness of Breast Cancer Patients)

In our sexually obsessed culture, the virgin martyrs are our “cloud of witnesses” for sexual purity and chastity. Today is the feast of Saint Agatha who is famous for her iconographical depiction of her breasts – sometimes euphemistically referred to as “Saint Agatha’s Bells.”

I’ve assembled her life and story (along with the legendary significance of her breasts) below in seven points:

  1. Dates. Saint Agatha (not be be confused with the virgin martyr Saint Agnes) was murdered as a consecrated virgin during the persecution of Decius (250–253) in Catania, Sicily.
  2. Her Passion and Martyrdom. According to legend, Agatha was the daughter of a rich and noble family. She consecrated her virginity to our Lord Jesus at age 15. The Roman prefect Quintianus sought to either rape her or marry her and she refused his advances. In retaliation, he sent Agatha to a whorehouse under a madame named Aphrodisia. Agatha refused to serve as a prostitute and was sent back to Quintianus who had both of her breasts cut off (the so-called “bells of Agatha”) and sentenced her to be burned at the stake. An earthquake prevented this fate. Saint Peter appeared to her and healed her breasts. She died in at peace in prison.
    Painting: St Peter healing the breasts of Saint Agatha.
  3. An Early Legend featuring Saint Peter. The legend is ancient because by AD 325, male bishops would not touch Christian females – so that deaconesses were employed for the baptism by immersion of females. This legend describes Saint Peter not only touching Agatha’s body, but touching her breasts to heal her – something quite scandalous by the fourth century. The story also reveals that Christians in the 200s had a deep understanding of the Communion of the Saints and believed that saints can and did intervene miraculously in the lives of Christians.
  4. Her Relics. Agatha’s body is buried at the Badia di Sant’Agata in Catania, Sicily.
  5. Agatha’s Church in Rome. Church of Saint Agnes of the Goths. The Church of Sant’Agata dei Goti (of the Goths) adapted to Arian Church of the Goths, hence its name “Saint Agatha of Goths.” It was re-consecrated as a Catholic Church by Saint Gregory the Great.
  6. Agatha’s Iconography. Agatha is almost always depicted carrying her breasts on a tray as in the painting by Zurbarán (below). It is difficult to find a traditional image, statue, or icon that does not depict her breasts. The removal of her breasts is a sign of consecrated virginity. For centuries, this depiction of Agatha visibly depicted how Agatha sacrificed the ability to nurse children. The breasts are a sign of motherhood.
    Saint Agatha by Zurbarán
  7. Her Patronage for Breast Cancer Patients. She is the first recorded woman to experience a full and radical mastectomy, and she naturally became the patroness of breast cancer patients. Traditionally, she is also the patroness of Sicily, wet nurses, bell-founders, bakers, earthquakes, and eruptions of Mount Etna.

Please share this with you friends on this feast of Saint Agatha on Facebook by clicking here. May she pray for us and inspire to prefer chastity and love for Christ above all the temptations of this life.

Saint Agatha, pray for us,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Concerning the Death of Unbaptized Infants by St Gregory Nazianzus

Two of the most rewarding practices for a Christian are 1) reading the Bible from beginning to end, and 2) reading the sermons of the Church Fathers. One of the greatest theologians and orators of the Church Fathers is Saint Gregory Nazianzus. He is simply called Saint Gregory “the Theologian” in the East because of his precise and excellent presentation of theology.

Since the Apostles and Church Fathers universally recognized that baptism was the instrumental means by which Jesus Christ removes sin and infuses grace, they also received the pastoral question of what happens to unbaptized babies. Before we look St Gregory the Theologian, let that sink in. The presumption is that infants should be baptized.

Not only that, but we know from the Eastern Fathers and from Western Fathers like Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine that baptized infants were confirmed and received the Holy Eucharist. We Roman Catholics would do well to request that the Apostolic and Patristic practice of paedo-communion (infant communion) be rightfully restored to our children.

Here is Saint Gregory “the Theologian” Nazianzus on the death of unbaptized children:

Pope Zachary (d. 752) in 7 Points

Pope Zachary is one of the top 10 Popes of the early medieval periods. Let’s take a look at some high points in his pontificate:

  1. Pope Zachary appointed Saint Boniface (Apostle of Germany) in AD 742 as Papal Legate to the German dioceses.
  2. Pope Zachary condemned the practice of worshipping angels in AD 745.
  3. He is the Pope known for deposing the Merovingian King of the Franks, Childeric III and then granting the crown to Pepin the Short, the father of Charlemagne. Saint Boniface crowned Pepin King of the Franks at Soissons in 752.
  4. Pope Zachary accused the court of Constantinople, along with its Patriarch, and its Emperor Constantine V of heresy. They promoted iconoclasm: the destruction of images of Christ and the saints and banned their production. (Here’s my podcast on iconoclasm in its Byzantine context.)
  5. Pope Zachary built the original church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (“over Minerva”) over an ancient temple to Minerva near the Pantheon. This church would later become a setting for the Dominican Order. It’s (revised) interior is stunning.
  6. Pope Zachary forbade the selling of slaves to Muslims in the city of Rome.
  7. But here is why I really like Pope Zachary: While restoring the Lateran Palace, he relocated the relic of the skull of Saint George to the church of San Giorgio al Velabro (a church I visit annually in Rome).

Here’s a photo of me in San Giorgio al Velabro kneeling by the altar that holds the skull of Saint George.

It looks empty now but a cleric in the church told me that the skull is still in there. Just not visible (if I understood his Italian).

If you’d like to read my bestselling historical fictional account of Saint George’s life, please check out my novel: Sword and Serpent at amazon.com.

Are Catholic Canonizations of Saints Infallible? Yes

On the interwebs you sometimes bump into a few Catholics that assert that canonizations are not infallible or are reversible. They will cite saints who are allegedly un-sainted (eg. St George, St Christopher, St Philomena – I explain why they are NOT un-sainted in this podcast) or they will object to canonized saints that they don’t like (eg, St John XIII or St Josemaria).

Canonizations are Infallible. Here’s why:

Concerning the Potential Problem of “Damned Saints”:

When a person is damned, he hates and curses God forever in Hell. That’s what damnation is. It’s a decision to reject God and His love. The damned person lacks all charity toward God. As Thomas Aquinas, would say, he belongs to the Kingdom of Satan. He is officially anti-Christ.

If the Church mistakingly were to canonize a damned man, then that means monks and nuns would be praying the Liturgy of the Hours and commemorating a man who currently curses God – and doing so annually in the liturgical cycle. Moreover, this would entail that priests are celebrating Masses in honor of a man who is literally diabolical. Even more so, churches, chapels, and cathedrals would be erected and consecrated in honor a man who hates God. No doubt, the devil would love all of this. So canonizations are infallible.

Concerning the Potential Problem of “Make-Believe Saints”

The same goes saints who are claimed to not have existed. If someone were to say that St George or St Christopher were make-believe people, then you have the Liturgy of Hours and Holy Mass celebrated to what amount to cartoon characters. It would be like celebrating Mass in honor of Luke Skywalker. It’s a mockery of true religion.

[Shameless plug: Check out my #1 Bestselling Historical Novel Sword and Serpent for a plausible biography of Saint George (and the “Dragon”) along with Saint Christopher by clicking here.]

We can grant that the legends and hagiography about certain saints are exaggerated or embellished, but we cannot say that the Church formally venerates imaginary people, celebrated Mass in honor of imaginary people, or that there are Churches dedicated to imaginary people.

If so, the devil would love all of this. So canonizations are infallible. It’s also worth noting that when a Pope canonizes a saint he invokes his authority as Vicar of Christ and successor to Saints Peter and Paul in a way similar to declaring dogmas infallible.

I recently wrote a history of the process of canonizations. You can read it here: “How Saints are Canonized: from Local to Papal Canonizations over Time.”

Holy Innocents: Why does God allow so many babies to die?

How do Christians account for child martyrdom, child death, original sin and the fact that the majority of Homo sapiens have died before birth?

The feast of the Holy Innocents marks the martyrdom of an unnumbered group of boys aged 2 and under during the reign of King Herod and fulfills the prophecy of St Jeremias:

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.’ (Jer 31:15)

How can children become martyrs if they cannot speak or affirm faith?

These holy innocents are martyrs because they were murdered in odium fidei (in hatred of the Faith). If someone kills a child on accident or even through malice, that child is not a martyr. However, if the murderer kills the child out of hatred for Christ or the Christian faith, then the child is a martyr. Same goes for adults. If a robber shoots a father in his home, he is not a martyr. If an Islamic State terrorists shoots because a man because he won’t renounce Christ, then that victim is a martyr.

Children can become martyrs for the same reason that children are baptized. Other persons can effect persecution (or sacramental grace) upon them. Babies have personal relationships. My babies had “personal relationships” with their mother at the breast immediately (and even before birth). It’s a unique non-verbal relationship. And if that “personal relationship” between mother and baby exists, then a “personal relationship” can exist between a baby and our Triune God.

Parents usher their babies into the eternal life and energy of the Holy Trinity at the baptismal font and so also did Herod’s soldiers baptize the Holy Innocents with their own blood.

Our family asks for the intercession of the boy Holy Innocents every evening and their presence in Scripture and the Catholic Calendar remind us that children die. But why?

Why do children die?

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202) explained how the sin of Adam and Eve passed down to all generations and deprived even infants of the supernatural blessing of Eden.

The Eastern Fathers such as Saint Gregory Nazianzus noted the theological problem of children dying. Children are not guilty of personal sins. Why would God allow them to die. And when they die, where do they go? Heaven? Hell? Perhaps a special place reserved for them?

Saint Gregory and others noted that children die not through their own fault, but on account of being born outside Eden – that is being born under the sin of Adam and Eve. The Eastern Churched calls this προπατορικὸν ἁμάρτημα (propatorikon harmatema) or “ancestral sin.”

The Western Church calls it peccatum originale or “original sin.” Without getting into Eastern vs. Western distinctions, all Christians agree that the penalty of death has spread to all human persons, even children. And we all agree (even the Jansenist or Calvinist) that children die not on account of their own personal misdeeds.

Why do they die? We don’t know, but we trust that their eternal life is better than any life they had here. Whether it is postulated as natural paradise, limbo, or a hope for supernatural Heaven itself, their life is one of peace, rest, happiness, and beatitude.

Do most humans die in infancy?

It’s patently obvious that more than 51+% of members of the race of homo sapiens died before the age of 7. We might even dare to say that 51+% of every homo sapiens died before being born. This is a starting fact to consider from a theological perspective. Most humans in God’s image died prior breathing.

Why is this?

There are a few optional explanations:

  1. Predestination Option: God predestines most humans to die in utero or in infancy because he likes the idea of Heaven (or limbo) being populated with people who have never committed a personal sin against him or another – despite them having been conceived without habitual grace. This theory would posit that every human child receives habitual or sacramental grace prior to death to Heaven OR that they don’t receive habitual grace and so end up in perfect natural (but not supernatural) paradise. And this natural paradise is often known off the cuff as limbo. (Pun intended. The Latin limbus means “cuff”.)

    [NOTE: I should add here that the heretic John Calvin used this argument above (that all deceased babies go to Heaven) in favor of unconditional election. He noted that so many babies die before and after birth (including his own dead children), and so this confirms the fact that God chooses them for Heaven without any faith or merit.]

  2. Pre-Existence Option: The Church Father (but not saint) Origen posited that every human pre-existed in a celestial realm prior to conception in a mother’s womb. Each of these minds erred or sinned in this celestial realm and thus were consigned to a carnal life on earth suiting the measure of their rebellion. So a pre-existent mind that rebelled greatly against the Trinity would be given a very tedious life on earth so that they could merit salvation through Christ. However, a pre-existent mind that only slightly rebelled against the Trinity would be given a very brief life on earth by which they would turn back to God. And these, then, are the little children that die before and after birth. They are the ones who sinned in a lesser degree before being conceived on earth.

    [NOTE: This opinion of Origen is not held by many today – except in a corrupted form by Mormons.]

  3. We don’t really know. I think this is the theological position of most Christians. There is no easily packaged explanation for a pair of parents standing over their child’s tiny grave. There is no easy answer for a woman after miscarriage. It’s never been the position of Christians to dogmatically describe the afterlife for children other than saying: “they do not suffer and they are at peace.” We don’t know much because the Bible says nothing about it. We can only rest on the conviction that God desires all men to be saved and that He is fully aware that 51+% die before attaining the age of reason or before professing faith.

PS: If you’re interested in reading more of my posts on the topic of infant death, limbo, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas etc., check out this series of posts: Unbaptized babies that die: 5 Theories.

What was St Nicholas like as a Young Priest: Sword and Serpent Book 3 released!

Happy feast day of Saint Nicholas!

What was Saint Nicholas like as a young priest? Could he bi-locate? Could he read souls?

These are topics that I explored in my bestselling historical novel Sword and Serpent, in which I imagined a young and clairvoyant Saint Nicholas meeting a traveling pair of young future saints: Saint George and the recently baptized Saint Christopher.

These novels explore the historical martyrdoms of Christians under the Emperor Diocletian from the point of view of St George, St Christopher, St Nicholas, St Catherine of Alexandria, St Helena, Constantine, and dozens of other men and women who will go on to be known as Catholic saints. The novels are “clean” but contain gruesome and detailed accounts of martyrdoms, Roman battles, and gladiatorial bouts. If you mixed together Catholic Saint stories, The Princess Bride, and Lord of the Rings – you’d get the Sword and Serpent Trilogy.

Sword and Serpent Book 3: released today!

The first 2 novels were Amazon best-sellers in their categories – and on the feast of Saint Nicholas, we are announcing the print version of the third and final novel in the Sword and Serpent Trilogy is released: Storm of Fire and Blood.

The consensus from the reader reviews from the ebook version is that this third novel is exhilarating, well-researched, and the best of the three in the trilogy. Some have said it is the best book that they’ve read all year:

Here are the three novels in the Sword and Serpent Trilogy:

Just like first two novels in the series: we are having a Launch Party to get the word out with prizes.

How To Join the Party and Get FREE Books (hashtag: #SwordAndSerpent #TenthRegion #StormofFireandBlood)

Here are 8 epic ways you can do epic things and win epic stuff:

1. Take an Epic #Selfie with the Book
(Prize: a Free signed copy of Storm of Fire and Blood)

HOW TO ENTER: Take a photo with the book Storm of Fire and Blood. Extra points will be awarded for costumes or exotic places. We once had one taken in front of the Colosseum in Rome! The more epic, the more likely you are to win. Take a photo, post it on Facebook and then send an email to swordandserpent+selfie@gmail.com with a link to your picture.


  • This is not a random drawing. This is a performance-based contest that will be judged. Be epic. Get the family to dress up as Jurian, Sabra, Aikaterina, Menas, Helena, et al. and snap a selfie with the book. Or maybe take a photo of yourself holding the book in someplace amazing. If you get a photo of yourself standing next to Pope Francis holding the book, you win hands down!
  • Selfies with any version of the Storm of Fire and Blood count (printed, ebook).

2. Just Get the Book Contest (Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card)

HOW TO ENTER: Buy just one copy of Storm of Fire and Blood and then send an email to swordandserpent+boughtbook@gmail.com simply stating “I bought a copy.” If you buy more than one copy, please send one email for each copy you bought. *If you already reviewed the novel before today and emailed me about it, you’re already entered into this contest.

You can get a copy of Storm of Fire and Blood by clicking here.


  • You can enter for each copy purchased. (For example, if you buy four copies, send an email saying “I bought 4” in the subject line.)
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

3. St Nicholas Gift Contest (Prize: an iPad Mini mailed to your house! AND a free signed copy of Storm of Fire and Blood)

HOW TO ENTER: Several reviewers on amazon.com said that Sword and Serpent would be a perfect Christmas gift. This contest honors Saint Nicholas who is an important character in the book – it’s also his feast day this week. To win this prize, purchase at least 4 copies (1 for yourself and 3 as gifts to give away at Christmas) and send an email to swordandserpent+gifts@gmail.com. You can order copies by clicking here.


  • You must purchase at least 4 copies to enter.
  • If you purchase multiples of 4, you can enter that many times (8 copies = 2 entries; 12 copies = 3 entries; 80 copies = 20 entries – enter how many copies you got in the subject line: “I got 8 copies as Christmas gifts” – that’s 2 entries in this prize)
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24 and will receive an iPad for free.

4. Review the Novel at Amazon.com (Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card AND a free signed copy of Storm of Fire and Blood)

HOW TO ENTER: Read the book and leave a friendly review at amazon.com. Next, send an email to swordandserpent+reviewed@gmail.com with a link to your review.


  • Please leave a review at amazon.com before December 24.
  • Even though GoodReads is not a retailer, we’ll count GoodReads reviews too. So if you review at Amazon and goodreads, that’s two entries. Way to go! Click here for GoodReeds reviews.
  • Send an email to swordandserpent+reviewed@gmail.com with a link to your review.
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

5. Write a Blog Post about Storm of Fire and Blood
(Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card + a promo link to your blog from my blog)

HOW TO ENTER: Write a blog post about Storm of Fire and Blood with the amazon link to the book in your review. Next, send an email to swordandserpent+blog@gmail.com with a link to your review.


  • The post does not have to be a “book review.” It can be a theological reflection or an interview with me about the book.
  • Please include this exact amazon.com link: http://amzn.to/2BFTyWh
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

6. Facebook The Book (Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card)

HOW TO ENTER: Write an update on your Facebook wall about Sword and Serpent and include a link to the amazon link and the link to the book trailer. Next send an email to swordandserpent+facebook@gmail.com.

Please use this photo and this link to the book: http://amzn.to/2BFTyWhRULES:

Okay, there are the contests. They all end on Dec 24 2016. Get busy taking epic selfies. By the way the easiest contest to win is #3 – Just Get the Book: Storm of Fire and Blood.

To everyone who already made Storm of Fire and Blood possible and helped it get to #1, THANK YOU!

Happy winnings and Happy Advent!

Saint George, pray for us!

Epic Book Trailer for Sword and Serpent, Book I:

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 9.49.35 AM

Saint George pray for us,
Taylor Marshall

Top 10 Catholic Halloween Ideas!

Do you believe in Christian Halloween? Be ready. All week long you’ll be having the “Halloween or no Halloween?” conversation with all of your friends, be they Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise.

For Protestants without a tradition of All Saints Day, it sometimes becomes “Halloween vs. Reformation Day,” the latter being the celebration of the Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on Oct 31 (click here for recorded thoughts on the evil Martin Luther). Even some Catholics are concerned that Halloween has become “evil.”

Well, here are ten ways to keep good ol’ Halloween fun and sacred.

Top 10 Christian Halloween Ideas

Christian Halloween 1950s

Halloween Party circa 1950