Monday, March 11, 2019

Islam in the Lex Orandi of the Old Roman Martyrology

As Catholics, the sacred liturgy is our theologia prima, our first and foundational knowledge of God and service of Him. That is why the axiom lex orandi, lex credendi is so basic to Catholicism: the “law of prayer” (how and what we pray) contains, expresses, and instills the “law of believing” (the faith we profess). It is true that creeds are drawn up outside of the liturgy at crisis moments, but those creeds formulate what is already received and venerated in the holy rites of the Church. [1]

The crisis of the modern Catholic Church has been fueled by massive changes to the lex orandi, the way we pray as a body. In the decade from about 1963 to 1973, the changes to the Mass, the other sacramental rites, the blessings, were immeasurably greater in quantity and quality than any others ever witnessed in the history of Christian liturgy. [2] Liturgy until the 20th century had generally developed slowly and in small steps, and almost always in the direction of augmentation or expansion. The 20th century reforms, on the other hand, were rapid and far-reaching, and almost always in the direction of abbreviation, simplification, or reduction. This was dictated by theories about how worship should be either restored to ancient “simplicity” or modernized to suit a new era. As a result, Catholics have been given a much less adequate, much smaller lex orandi on the basis of which to internalize the lex credendi; and, moreover, the intended lex credendi seems to be divergent, at least as regards systematic omissions.

Many Catholics in our days are aware of the kinds of changes that took place in connection with the Mass and who was the driving force behind them; some may be aware of the changes that were made to other sacramental rites, blessings, and the Divine Office. Rarer are those who know what was done to more specialized liturgical books, such as rites of profession for religious and the consecration of virgins, the rite of exorcism, and — my interest in this article — the Roman Martyrology.

The Roman Martyrology began as an ancient listing of the names of martyrs on their “dies natalis,” that is, their birthday into heavenly glory. It was added to, century after century, as confessors, doctors, monks, hermits, friars, virgins, widows, kings, queens, and others joined the procession of martyrs through the ages. This book is indeed a liturgical book because it is recited or chanted as part of the equally ancient office of Prime. (It is customary to read the following day’s list of saints, which mentally prepares us for First Vespers of any great feast that may be coming, and in general, puts us in mind ahead of time of the Saints we wish to remember.) It also transmits the Faith of the Church, and continues to be used by religious, clergy, and laity who adhere to the usus antiquior of the Roman Rite.

Regrettably, in spite of its antiquity and its integral role in the sevenfold daily praises of God, the office of Prime was summarily abolished, without explanation, at the Second Vatican Council — an astonishing decision about which Wolfram Schrems has written a fine article. The liturgical reform, which left no stone unturned, produced a new version of the Martyrology that bears about as much, or as little, connection with its predecessor of 1956 as the Novus Ordo Missae of 1969 does with its predecessor, the Missale Romanum of 1962. Due, moreover, to the abolition of Prime, the new Martyrology has never found a secure foothold, and is extremely rarely used today — one sign of which is the rarity of the Latin editio typica and the lack, even today, of an English translation. Ironically, the old Martyrology in its last edition from 1956 is widely available in multiple English editions (like this one, pictured here).

As a catalogue of victors, the Martyrology loudly proclaims the truth of the communion of Saints, exalts states of life lived with heroic virtue, and testifies to the prevalence of miracles in the life of the Church. Moreover, in a manner highly pertinent to the confusion in which we find ourselves today, the traditional Roman Martyrology bears witness to beliefs or attitudes that have become “forbidden” in the ecumenism and interreligious miasma of postconciliar ecclesiastical correctness. A notable example is the severe judgment on Islam found in its pages.

Today’s date, March 11, puts forward the following example of heroic virtue:
At Cordova in Spain, St Eulogius, Priest and Martyr. On account of his fearless and outstanding confession of Christ, he was scourged and beaten with rods, and finally beheaded in the Saracen persecution. He merited to have part with the martyrs of the city for he had written of their fight for the faith and wished to join them.
The most perfect of all such entries is that found under the date of February 21:
At Damascus, St Peter Mavimenus, who said to certain Arabs who came to him in his sickness: “Every man who does not embrace the Catholic Christian faith is damned as Mohammed, your false prophet, was.” and was slain by them. 
Unlike Pope Francis, who co-signed with a Moslem leader a declaration that asserts, inter alia, that God wills a plurality of religions, St Peter Mavimenus spoke the truth with simplicity and fortitude. In his words are condensed the only proper Christian attitude towards Islam: an unequivocal repudiation of its errors, which are all the more dangerous to the degree that some truths of natural religion and some fragmentary truths of revelation are mingled in with them. [3]

February 21’s entry is one among many entries that proclaim the necessary conflict between believing Catholics and Muslims committed to any standard form of Islam. [4] Indeed, every month of the year brings its reminders in the old Martyrology: Catholic Martyrs to Islam are commemorated on January 14, January 16, February 19, March 11, March 15, April 17, April 18, May 16, June 5, June 7, June 13, June 26, June 28, July 11, July 16, July 19, July 20, July 22, July 27, August 6, August 20, September 15, September 19, September 27, October 10, October 11, October 22, November 6, November 24, and December 17. Still other entries speak of Catholics who resisted the Saracens or the Arabs but did not lose their heads for it.

Here are the passages in order from January through December:
  • On Mount Sinai, thirty-eight holy monks, slain by the Saracens for the faith of Christ. (January 14)
  • In Morocco, Africa, the passion of five proto-martyrs of the Order of Friars Minor, namely, Berard, Peter and Otho, priests, and Accursius and Adjutus, lay-brethren; for preaching the Catholic faith and because of their rejection of Mohammedan Law, after divers torments and mockeries, were beheaded by the Saracen king. (January 16)
  • In the town of Amatrice, in the diocese of Rieti, the death of St Joseph of Leonissa, Priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, who, for his preaching of the faith, suffered patiently torments inflicted by the Mohammedans. (February 4)
  • In Palestine, the commemoration of the holy monks and other martyrs who were cruelly slain for the faith of Christ by the Saracens, under their duke Alamundar. (February 19)
St. Eulogius
  • At Cordova in Spain, St Eulogius, Priest and Martyr. On account of his fearless and outstanding confession of Christ, he was scourged and beaten with rods, and finally beheaded in the Saracen persecution. He merited to have part with the martyrs of the city for he had written of their fight for the faith and wished to join them. (March 11)
  • At Cordova in Spain, St Leocritia, Virgin and Martyr; she was subjected to different torments and beheaded in the Arabian persecution for the faith of Christ. (March 15)
  • At Cordova in Spain, the holy martyrs Elias, a priest, Paul and Isidore, monks, who were slain in the Arab persecution on account of their profession of the Christian faith. (April 17)
  • At Cordova in Spain, St Perfectus, Priest and Martyr, who was beheaded by the Moors for disputing against sect of Mohammed, and courageously professing his faith in Christ. (April 18)
  • In Palestine, the passion of the holy monks slain by the Saracens at the laura of St Sabbas. (May 16)
  • At Cordova in Spain, blessed Sancho, a youth who, although brought up at the royal court, yet hesitated not to undergo martyrdom for Christ’s faith in the Arab persecution. (June 5)
  • At Cordova in Spain, the holy martyr monks Peter, a priest, Wallabonsus, a deacon, Sabinian, Wistremund, Habentius and Jeremias, who for Christ’s sake were slain in the Arab persecution. (June 7)
  • At Cordova, St Fandila, Priest and monk, who underwent martyrdom for Christ’s faith in the Arab persecution by decapitation. (June 13)
  • At Cordova in Spain, the birthday of St Pelagius, a youth, who for his confession of the faith, at the command of Abderrahman, King of the Saracens, was torn limb from limb by iron pincers, and consummated his glorious martyrdom. (June 26)
  • At Cordova in Spain, St Argymirus, monk and Martyr, who was racked and slain by the sword for Christ’s faith in the Arab persecution. (June 28)
  • At Cordova in Spain, St Abundius, Priest, who was crowned with martyrdom in the Arab persecution for preaching against the sect of Mohammed. (July 11)
  • At Cordova in Spain, St Sisenand, Cleric and Martyr, whose throat was cut by the Saracens for the faith of Christ. (July 16)
  • At Cordova in Spain, St Aurea, Virgin, sister of the holy martyrs Adulf and John; for a while she apostatized through the persuasion of a Mohammedan judge, but, quickly repenting of what she had done, she overcame the enemy in a second contest by the shedding of her blood. (July 19)
  • At Cordova in Spain, St Paul, Deacon and Martyr, who rebuked the heathen princes for Mohammedan impiety and cruelty, and preached Christ with great courage: by their command he was slain, and passed to his reward in heaven. (July 20)
  • In Cyprus, St Theophilus, Praetor, who was taken by the Arabs, and as he could neither by gifts nor by threats be brought to deny Christ, was slain with the sword. (July 22)
  • At Cordova in Spain, the holy martyrs George, a Deacon, Aurelius and his wife, Natalia, Felix and his wife, Liliosa, in the Arab persecution. (July 27)
  • At Burgos in Spain, in the Benedictine monastery of St Peter of Cardegna, the passion of 200 monks and their Abbot, Stephen, who were slain by the Saracens for the faith of Jesus Christ, and buried there in the cloister by the Christians. (August 6)
  • At Cordova, Spain, the holy martyrs Leovigild and Christopher, monks, who were cast into prison for their belief in Christ during the Arab persecution, at once had their necks broken and were then burned and so obtained the crown of martyrdom. (August 20)
  • At Thessalonica, St Fantin, Confessor, who suffered much at the hands of the Saracens and was driven from the monastery where he had lived in amazing abstinence. After he had brought many to the way of salvation, at last he died at a good old age. (August 30)
  • At Cordova in Spain, the holy martyrs Emilas, Deacon, and Jeremy, who after long enfeeblement in prison suffered martyrdom for Christ’s sake in the Arab persecution. (September 15)
  • At Monte Cassino, blessed Pope Victor III, who as the successor of Pope St Gregory VII shed a fresh lustre on the Apostolic See, and with God’s help gained a famous victory over the Saracens. (September 16)
  • At Cordova in Spain, St Pomposa, Virgin and Martyr. In the Arab persecution she was beheaded because of her fearless witness to Christ and so obtained the palm of martyrdom. (September 19)
  • At Cordova in Spain, the holy martyrs Adulf and John, brothers, who were crowned with martyrdom for Christ’s sake in the Arab persecution. Their sister, the blessed Virgin Aurea, was inspired by their example to return to the faith, and later suffered martyrdom bravely on July 19. (September 27)
  • Near Ceuta in Morocco, the passion of the seven holy martyrs of the Order of Friars Minor, namely, Daniel, Samuel, Angelus, Leo, Nicholas, Ugolino and Domnus, all of whom were priests except Domnus. There they suffered insults, bonds and stripes from the Saracens because they preached the Gospel and put to silence the sect of Mahomet [Mohammed]; finally, they were beheaded and thus obtained the palm of martyrdom. (October 10)
  • In the Thebaid, St Sarmatus, a disciple of St Antony the Abbot, who was slain for Christ’s sake by the Saracens. (October 11)
  • At Huesca in Spain, the holy virgins Nunilo and Alodia, sisters, who were punished by death by the Saracens for confessing the faith, and consummated martyrdom. (October 22)
  • At Theopolis, that is Antioch, ten holy martyrs who are said to have suffered at the hands of the Saracens. (November 6)
  • At Cordova in Spain, the holy virgins and martyrs Flora and Mary, who after long imprisonment were slain by the sword in the Arab persecution. (November 24)
  • At Eleutheropolis in Palestine, the holy martyrs Florian, Calanicus, and their fifty-eight companions, who were slain by the Saracens on account of their faith in Christ in the reign of the Emperor Heraclius. (December 17)

Perhaps most haunting of all of the above, given current circumstances, is the entry for September 16:
At Monte Cassino, blessed Pope Victor III, who as the successor of Pope St Gregory VII shed a fresh lustre on the Apostolic See, and with God’s help gained a famous victory over the Saracens. 
Like St Pius V, Bl. Victor III fought the Moslems, rather than capitulating to them as his successor Francis does with his attitudes on European immigration and his willingness to enter into agreements that only cause more confuse to Catholics who are already pickled to the gills in religious indifferentism. [5]

In Robert Reilly’s The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis, we learn of the great struggle within Islam from the 9th to the 11th centuries between the Hellenized Muslims who valued the role of reason or Logos and the fundamentalists (as we would recognize them today) who held it in suspicion or denigrated it. The latter prevailed, and since then, the phrase en sha’Allah denotes everything in Islam — “if God wills it.” As Pope Benedict XVI argued in his Regensburg Address, God is reduced to nothing but pure will.

There is a curious and disturbing connection here, as we watch the same reductionism happening to the office and role of the Pope. Instead of being seen as a voice of the Logos, a witness to reason and revelation as they echo through time in the Church, the papacy becomes a sheer exercise of volition: authority reduced to will-power. As in Islam, God is reduced from loving wisdom to almighty will, so in the Vatican, the Pope is reduced from a servant of perennial doctrine to a domineering engineer of change. No one, then, should be surprised that this Pope was able to sign the document on human fraternity in Abu Dhabi: a papacy of will enters smoothly into agreement with a religion of voluntarism.

We enter into dangerous waters indeed when our faith, founded upon Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the confident use of reason, is made subject to the will of an individual with an agenda, and treated as a commodity that can be negotiated at the table of interreligious dialogue.

Here we have an obvious clash between the Faith of the Church, represented by the lex orandi of her  traditional Martyrology, and the novelties propounded by Pope Francis, who endeavors to introduce a new lex credendi on adultery, sacramental access, capital punishment, and religious pluralism — and who finds his triumphal march obstructed by a growing resistance that adheres to the older Roman liturgical books, which, like their Eastern Christian counterparts, faithfully inculcate the spirit of Catholicism.

(A condensed version of this article appeared at LifeSite News on Thursday, February 22. The present article adds a substantial introduction and many more examples.)


[1] Even when Pius XII in a moment of weakness tried to flip the axiom and say that the Church’s lex credendi determines her lex orandi, his argument fails to deliver the goods, since even the new feasts instituted by the Church — such as Corpus Christi, instituted in 1264 by Pope Urban IV and, in point of fact, the first feast instituted by papal fiat, or the Kingship of Christ, instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI — are merely giving added emphasis to dogmas universally held by the faithful and already present in the liturgy.

[2] It is true, as I have argued, in line with many others, that the Pius X revision of the Roman breviary was also a major change in the lex orandi and a rupture with tradition. Nevertheless, it retained four crucial features of the Roman tradition that were abandoned by Paul VI: the structure of seven day hours and one night office; the principle of the weekly cursus of 150 psalms; the retention of the Latin language (and of chant if the office is sung); and a high degree of textual overlap with the preceding breviary. The Liturgy of the Hours fails in regard to all four of these, and therefore, like the Novus Ordo, is a rupture in the lex orandi of an entirely different order of magnitude than Pius X’s reform.

[3] The assertion to which Francis placed his signature is erroneous and heretical, as Dr John Lamont and Bishop Athanasius Schneider have shown.

[4] As opposed to those who have modified the Islamic religion to the extent of muting or dissenting from passages in the Koran deemed no longer true or applicable. Among Catholics, of course, we have the same problem with people — including, again, the pope — who seem to think that certain teachings of Christ, such as the prohibition of divorce and remarriage, are no longer true or applicable.

[5] It might be objected to my argument that, inasmuch as Pope Francis has canonized the 800 martyrs of Otranto, he has explicitly confirmed the principle that it is better to die than to embrace Islam. It is, of course, true that he did so, and that this message may be inferred; but it is utterly characteristic of this pope, as of Modernists in general (as Pius X explains in Pascendi), to say and do contradictory things, in order to sow further confusion and make the path of doctrinal change easier. More to the point, the old Martyrology shaped the prayer and belief of the Church in a far more profound way than most of the enormous numbers of canonizations from recent decades, which, with a few exceptions, have minimal liturgical impact, as explained above.

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