On May 6, forty new Swiss Guards took a solemn oath to “faithfully, loyally and honorably serve” Pope Francis “with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life” in the pontiff’s defense. For over five hundred years such men have taken such an oath on the bloody day—May 6—when 147 did indeed sacrifice themselves on the steps of St. Peter to protect a pope fleeing the Sack of Rome in 1527.
Today the Swiss Guards carry a halberd, a lengthy steel axe-like weapon, and wear colorful clothing to please the tourists, but hidden away is a cache of more modern weapons. Every guard is trained to handle either and is quite capable of doing so. To be a guard, one must to be a practicing Roman Catholic, Swiss, single, between 19 and 30 years old and at least 1.74 meters tall.
On this day of initiation, each new guard also receives another weapon—a rosary—for, as practicing Catholics, these men believe that the pope may be protected with weapons and with faith. They are paid about $1,600 a year and get free room and board. About 95 percent of guards limit their enlistment to the required two years and then join a special group called Ex-Guardsmen Association staying in touch with former colleagues and getting together on special occasions, especially at the swearing-in ceremony of the new recruits on May 6th, for which they are invited every year.
I mention the Sack of Rome and the actions of the Swiss Guards in my latest novel, The Hidden Saint: The Sixteenth Century Church in Crisis. It’s loaded with such little tidbits of interesting history. Join my Facebook author page, like and share. goo.gl/2lWm2v
In 1579, the Spanish governor of Milan, Italy, Governor Ayamontem, ordered the carnival to continue through the first Sunday of Lent. The calendar of the Roman Rite that was used throughout the Church suggested that self-denial begins on Ash Wednesday, before the first Sunday of Lent. But the governor was right in that Milan didn’t follow the Roman Rite. Instead it used the Ambrosian Rite. According to the Ambrosian Rite, fasting and abstinence begins on the Monday following the first Sunday of Lent; the Sunday Mass is festive with vestments of white and a chanting of the Gloria and Alleluia. Carnival on the first Sunday of Lent would be consistent with the festive atmosphere then under the Ambrosian Rite.
Yet the Council of Trent asked for uniformity throughout the Catholic Church. Some asked whether the Church would break up into little segments, each having different rules and beliefs as the Protestants were beginning to do. Still, the council gave an exception to that rule of uniformity. It said that local rites that could show usage over two centuries might be retained. The Ambrosian Rite is named after St. Ambrose, who added hymns to the rite in the fourth century. It has always been used in the Archdiocese of Milan. In fact, some suggest that the Ambrosian Rite isn’t an ancient Roman liturgy at all, that the original was imported from Ephesus in Asia Minor in the second century by St. Irenaeus, who had received it through St. Polycarp from St. John the Apostle.
St. Charles Borromeo, as Archbishop of Milan, didn’t want to destroy the rite’s Ambrosian characteristics. After all, he was Milanese. He agreed that Mass wouldn’t be said during the Fridays of Lent, nor communion distributed. All that would stay the same. However, he proposed that when the rest of the Catholic Church was complying with the Council of Trent and fasting on the first Sunday of Lent, Melanese should not participate in a carnival. Governor Ayamonte disagreed for the income to Milan was substantial from carnival. Most of Milan supported the governor. The king of Spain said the pope should decide.
Pope Gregory supported Archbishop Borromeo and carnival ended on Ash Wednesday. However, other aspects of the Ambrosian Rite together with the Ambrosian Breviary continued to be used in spite of a new missal and breviary used in the universal Church after the Council of Trent. See The Hidden Saint: The 16th Century Church in Crisis for more like this.
In the 1560s two Dominican nuns refused to install a grill in their cloister alleging the requirement to be slur on their community. The instruction had been given to separate the public area of the convent parlors from the nun’s private area beyond which cloistered nuns could not pass without their bishop’s approval in accordance with directives from the Council of Trent. The nuns were aware of recent Protestant pamphlets alleging “secret tunnels” to rectories, but they still refused the order. It was thought at the time these nuns could “get away” with this insubordination because they were sisters to the pope. However Pope Pius IV, their brother, wrote them a letter saying quite simply that he would be most pleased if those related to him by ties of blood and affection set a good example for other convents. They weren’t brave enough to ignore the plea. Read more on this in my recently released novel The Hidden Saint: The 16th Century Church in Crisis.
Author Julian Bauer celebrates the release of his newest novel, The Hidden Saint, which tells the story of Saint Carlo Borromeo during the tumultuous decades after the Protestant Reformation. The release of this book is timely as we prepare for the 500th anniversary of this world-changing event.
In 16th century Europe, the Catholic Church is in danger of losing its authority over the faith of Christians while at the same time defending itself from Ottoman attack and the spread of Islam. In the Americas encomendaros also challenge the authority of the Church by enslaving the native population despite the threat of excommunication. But the challenges aren’t just external. Immoral priests, greedy bishops, and family feuds distract the mission of the Church and threaten to undo its very establishment.
One man, Carlo Borromeo, begins to stitch back together the frayed pieces of an unraveling Church by finalizing and implementing the decrees at the Council of Trent under the leadership of his uncle, Pope Pius IV. This is the story of an unassuming boy from an influential family in Milan, who calls to task immoral behavior in the Catholic Church and is one day named a saint.
The Hidden Saint is the author’s third novel covering a period in the Church’s history when its very existence was in danger: in the first century (Eugenios: Servant of Kings), in the third century (The Scholar’s Challenge), and in the sixteenth century (The Hidden Saint). He has written two other books: a historical novel revealing the importance of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (Ibrahim, the Turk), and contemporary novellas (The Lawyer’s Relic and A Grandfather’s Dilemma). Two nonfiction works are in the process of editing and publication.
In my book, The Scholar’s Challenge, Jerome, the author of the Vulgate Bible, traveled through two of the most important cities at the time of Christ searching for information with which to complete his work. Antioch was a city of one hundred thousand people. Antiochenes were as likely to speak Greek or Aramaic as Latin. It had been losing population for a century or more, and it needed constant restoration as a result of the seismic disturbances the area frequently felt. Two great colonnaded streets intersected Antioch’s center, and a granite artery connected it to the port of Seleucia where the fleets of Rome harbored. Numerous aqueducts, bearing the names of Caesars, supplied water to a seemingly unlimited number of baths.
Antioch was the center of early Gentile conversion activities. Of all the Christian centers, it stood supreme. For Christians, it was one of the three most important cities in the Eastern Roman Empire, together with Constantinople and Alexandria.
South of Antioch the port city of Caesarea was a garden spot well irrigated by aqueducts and drainage canals. It was a great place to study. It held the second finest public library in the world, second only to Alexandria. Origen collected many theological books for his school in Caesarea. He also wrote thousands of books himself, which he donated to the library in his will. Eusebius, the Father of Church History, and a prolific writer in his own right, added another collection to the library. As the bishop of Caesarea for almost twenty-five years and as adviser to the emperor Constantine for twenty of those years, Eusebius had ample opportunity to collect the books he loved so much.
While Alexandria held more books than Caesarea, the Christian library in Caesarea included Eusebius’s ten volumes on the history of the Christian church from New Testament times to just before the Council of Nicaea. There was no comparable work in Christendom. The second work, by Origen, attempted to find the true wording of the Old Testament by comparing six versions of these Scriptures virtually word for word. This work, called the Hexapla, had never been copied because of its size; it could only be found in the Caesarean library. Jerome spent a considerable amount of time here studying. More on this may be found in The Scholar’s Challenge.
The Palestinians who lived in Joppa loved the Maccabeans and their descendants the Hasmoneans. They despised Herod. The reasons began 150 years earlier when Alexander the Great died and left the area in Greek (Seleucid) hands. At the time, the Hebrews of Judea had two conflicting political and religious factions, and these factions were just as important as the Seleucids. One was composed of rural traditionalists under the Maccabees and the second of Hellenized Hebrews from Jerusalem.
The Seleucids brought their army to Jerusalem in support of the Hellenization of the city, but they went too far, even for the Hellenized Hebrews of Jerusalem. The foolish Seleucids banned Hebrew religious practices, outlawed circumcision, and put the idol Zeus on the altar in the temple.
The Seleucids then drowned two hundred Hebrews from Joppa by pretending they were taking them sailing and then killing them. After the drowning, the Maccabees took revenge on the Greeks in Joppa with their battle cry: “Who is like You among the heavenly powers, Hashem!” The word “Hashem” was Hebrew for “the Name” as found in Leviticus—a reference to God. The Maccabees then burned Joppa and killed many Greeks.
We find our heroine Kallisto still harboring ill will towards the Greeks, and especially towards Herod for he killed off many of the Hasmoneans, descendants of the Maccabeans, and sent her as a slave to Rome. When our story Eugenios: Servant of Kings opens, it had only been several decades since the Roman general Pompey, friend of Julius Caesar, had subjected Joppa to Roman rule. And now Augustus had put Herod over them.
In our upcoming novel The Hidden Saint we explore the difficulties that surrounded the split within the Christian Church in the 16th century. Those differences are especially important now that we are entering the 500th year of that split and the celebrations which will surround the event. Fortunately, we are more understanding of one another’s positions today in light of the attacks on Christianity as a whole.
The central issue between Martin Luther and the Catholic Church in the 16th century concerned the doctrine of justification. The condemnations hurled at one another in that century no longer apply due to a high level of consensus between the two faiths. (Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification; The Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church 25 June 1998) While all issues have not been resolved, there is a consensus on the fundamental truths of the doctrine of justification. Several remaining differences require further study; for example, the Catholic Church continues to believe that concupiscence is not a sin, and that baptism removes all sin.
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI set up a procedure to allow “groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world” to return en masse to the Catholic Church. Conservatives of the Anglican Communion, including conservative Episcopalians, took comfort in this procedure and the practice has proven workable. Several important issues remain unresolved: papal supremacy and ordination of women and openly homosexual priests. Other Christians, most noticeably the Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox faiths, have seen with interest, the fact that married Anglican priests may now receive Holy Orders and become Catholic priests.
After the Battle of Lepanto in the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire quickly rebuilt its fleet of ships to its former level. However, never again did Islam seriously challenge Europe. Currently, Muslims represent about 23.2 percent of the world’s population as compared to Christians which represent about 31.5 percent (PEW Research). Most of the Muslim population resides in such countries as Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
Just as it did in the mid 16th century, the current generation must find a way to mute the dual threats of terrorism and the lack of morality. These perpetual threats may never be eradicated only contained as long as humans are merely humans. As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (8:22) “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even unto now…”
On a hilltop in Arona, Italy stands a giant statue of Saint Charles Borromeo. For two hundred years, from the day of its completion in 1698, it stood proudly as the tallest statue in the world. Built of copper and granite, it had been commissioned by a collection of admirers. From within the statue one can climb to windows in the eyes and ears and see the surrounding countryside of Arona and the beautiful Lage Maggiore.
The Shrine of San Carlo lies a few meters away. Within the shrine St. Borromeo’s relics are conserved in a carved wooden showcase besides an altar. Behind the altar is a reconstruction of his original room—a room modest and unpretentious. He was a humble man; the only cardinal to have refused the papacy when it was offered to him. So revered even in his own day, he was quickly (for any age) canonized by Pope Paul V in 1610.
Evidence of the love Milanese felt for this man is evident in the statue and shrine. His continuing popularity can be found today in well over fifty schools, seminaries, cities, and counties that carry his name around the world.
The fact that Charles Borromeo was a cardinal before he was ordained a deacon, priest, and bishop was normal in the 16th century for a nephew of the pope. In those days the title “cardinal” was honorific in the Church although a salary often came with it. The last non-priest cardinal died in 1899. To ensure that lay cardinals did not return, the 1917 Code of Canon Law decreed that from then on only those who were priests or bishops could be chosen as cardinals.
It is difficult to judge people from another age. Yet, the nepotism of the middle 16th century which seems so strange is not so uncommon today: President John F. Kennedy made his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General.
Borromeo’s story is told in detail in my novel The Hidden Saint: The 16th Century Church in Crisis which will be released in March, 2017 by eLectio Publishing.
When the emperor Septimius Severus decided to launch a military campaign in the province of Africa in 202, Quintus Maecius Laetus, the prefect of the province of Egypt, supported the effort by demanding public worship of pagan gods by Christians on penalty of death. This action went well beyond the decree issued by the emperor five years earlier. Severus had forbidden conversions to Christianity or Judaism. The decree did not originally affect those already Christians or Jews or their offspring, only non-Christian catechumens.
In order to identify which Christians were actually obeying this demand, Laetus decided that Christians must worship Roman gods in public. This would calm the non-Christian population and reduce the number of riots in Alexandria. As a result, many Christians refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and were martyred. Among those martyred was Origen’s father, Leonides. This proved to be important because Origen became the director of the famous Catechetical School of Alexandria, the primary teacher of Christianity in the world. Origen would do more for the Living Tradition of the Church than any Christian theologian up to that time and some might say up to the present.
My upcoming text book, Rock of the Apostles: A Brief History of the Catholic Church, will have many instances such as this as to why the Church makes the decisions it does.
St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) is considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany. The founder and abbess of several monasteries, Hildegard had gained significant practical skills in diagnoses, prognosis, and treatment of patients in her infirmary. She described those skills in lengthy Latin books for general use. They included writings on the scientific and medicinal properties of various plants, fish, reptiles, and animals, the physiology of the human body, and the causes and cures of various diseases.
She also wrote an extensive number of musical compositions and three great volumes of visionary theology. St. Hildegard preached publicly in Germany about the Tradition of the Church, denouncing clerical corruption and calling for reform. A Doctor of the Church, she is one of only four women given that title by the Roman Catholic Church. Can you name the other three?
My latest manuscript Rock of the Apostles: A Brief History of Catholic Tradition is currently making the usual rounds of publishers. We expect it to be released in the coming year.