A Capuchin Chronicle: The Origin and Early Years of the Capuchin reform

A Capuchin Chronicle
A Capuchin Chronicle

The Capuchin Chronicle is a translation of a 16th century account of the first Capuchin Franciscans: their trials, tribulations and holiness as they went on to become a great religious order in the Church. It is attributed to Fra Ruffino da Siena, with sections added from the chronicle of Fra Bernadino Colpetrazzo.

The Chronicle, though anonymous, is attributed to Fra Ruffino da Siena, and begins with a review of previous reforms, laying the ground for the turbulent period of the 1530s and the struggle with the regular Franciscans to establish their first houses. Students of the discalced Carmelite reform will see here similar attitudes and obstacles to overcome to establish reform. It also chronicles great figures who guided the reform at a critical time, such as Fra Bernadino d’Asti, and apostates who lurked within and caused great destruction, such as Ochino who abandoned the order and became a Protestant. It covers how the order was affected by the Council of Trent, and what it is to live the true spirit of a Capuchin Franciscan, embracing the primitive rule of St. Francis.

This chronicle, while near contemporary and a great source for information on the order, is also a spiritual treatise of first rank, on the virtues which the men of that age felt were necessary to not only wear the habit of St. Francis, but truly embrace the spirit of their founder. This should rank as a quintessential Franciscan work.

On Purgatory by St. Robert Bellarmine

On Purgatory: The Members of the Church suffering
On Purgatory: The Members of the Church suffering

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In the De Controversiis, St. Robert Bellarmine defends the doctrines and teaching of the Church against all comers, starting from Scripture, the Church Fathers and also reason. His work was widely read and commented on by both Catholics and Protestants and quickly became one of the standard texts in Catholic theology for centuries.
In On Purgatory, Bellarmine defends what is one of the more difficult doctrines to understand in his characteristic style beginning with Scripture and the Fathers, stopping at every step of the way to answer the objections of all the major Protestants of his day, not only Luther and Calvin, but also those less known to us such as Brenz and Peter Martyr.
Dividing his work into two books, Bellarmine shows that there is such a place as Purgatory by copious exegesis on Old and New Testament passages, and the clear consensus of the Church Fathers who witness the fact that prayer was made for the dead in the early Church.
Then, in book 2, he examines questions about the specifics of Purgatory, what souls there suffer, where it is located, how the faithful can assist the souls of Purgatory, and other questions.
This treatise, translated into English for the first time, is the best and most in depth treatise on this subject available, and is just as relevant today as when it was first penned.

Sample Chapter

Book II, ch. 9, How long will Purgatory Endure?

NOW on the time, in which Purgatory will remain, there are two extreme errors. The first error is that of Origen, who extended the times of Purgatory beyond the day of the resurrection, so that he has in homily 14 in Luke: “I think that even after the resurrection from the dead we need the sacrament to wash and cleanse us, for no man can rise again with filth.” Nevertheless, this error has been explored, for St. Augustine (lib. 21 de civitate Dei, cap. 16) says: “We suppose that there will be no Purgatorial punishments except before that last and tremendous judgment.” And the reason is, because the Lord says that in the judgment there will be only two ranks of men, one of the blessed, the other of the damned (Matth. 25).
But someone will say: The soul alone did not sin, but once with the body, therefore it should be purged then with the body, hence, after the resurrection men will be purged. I respond: if that would conclude the argument, it would also prove that the soul cannot be separated to be punished in hell, nor enjoy the delights of heaven, which is against the Gospel, “I am tortured in this flame” (Luke 16:24), and “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Therefore, I say the soul is duly punished even by itself, because it is the subject and efficient cause of sin; for there are certain human acts which cannot be done except from the whole composite, nor received except in the whole composite, such as all those which are done by organic potencies, e.g. to speak, see, hear, etc., and such things, after the dissolution of the composite, are no longer found. And if indeed such were a sin, it would clearly conclude the argument. But it is not so, for sin is an act of free will, and therefore properly said to come into being by the will alone and found formally in the will alone. Consequently, after the dissolution of man, the whole sin is only found in the will, and by that fact, in the soul, but not in dead flesh; moreover, it ought to be punished or purged in that place where it is found.

Add also, that the flesh is punished in its mode; for as the separated soul is punished with the penalty of loss, because it lacks the vision of God, and the punishment of sense, because it is tortured in fire, so the flesh is punished by the fire of loss, because it lacks life and the punishment of sense, although improperly, because it rots little by little and is reduced to ash; nevertheless, the first answer is better, for even the bodies of the saints that do not need purgation suffer this.

The second error is of Luther, who on the contrary makes Purgatory too short. He would have it that anyone who dies in faith has the remainder of his sins purged by the sorrow of death, and so there is no further Purgatory than death itself. This error can be easily refuted. By the remaining sins, either the fomes are understood, or bad habits that were contracted, or the undergoing of temporal punishments and venial sins. These alone, and all others can remain in a man that has been justified, which pertain to sin and hence can be said to be the remainder of one’s sins. First, the fomes is certainly abolished in death, because then sensuality is extinguished, but we do not constitute Purgatory due to the fomes, otherwise even baptized infants that die would need to suffer the punishments of Purgatory, since Baptism does not wash away the fomes. But Augustine, in the cited passage of City of God, teaches precisely that children of this sort do not suffer any purgatorial punishments. Now in regard to bad habits, those which exist in the will are not necessarily extinguished by death, seeing that they are in the powers that are not bound to an organ. Nevertheless, on account of habits of this sort we constitute Purgatory since otherwise it would follow that adults who are baptized after they have contracted bad habits, and immediately die, or certainly are killed for Christ, could not be saved except by Purgatory because neither Baptism nor Martyrdom dissolves habits of this kind. We see the baptized still have these same wicked inclinations which they had before, and it is necessary for them to abolish habits of this sort little by little with contrary acts.

Therefore, it is believable that all these habits are abolished by the first contrary act of the separated soul, which it elicits immediately from the separation. For, even if this habit, contracted in one act, cannot be destroyed by many acts nevertheless, there it will be able to be because that act will be much more forceful, seeing that then the soul will be more powerful in regard to spiritual acts and it will not have the contrary fomites and resistance as it has here.

Thus, it remains to speak of suffering punishment and venial sin, which can properly be called the remainder of sin, which is the reason why Purgatory exists. Moreover, it is certain that sometimes these remnants are purged in death, and at other times it is certain they are not, whereas, at other times there is a doubt as to whether this happened and it is very probable that it was partly purged and partly not.

I will prove these individually. For the first, a violent death received for Christ, which is called martyrdom, without a doubt cleanses all remnants of this sort. Cyprian clearly says that all sins are cleansed in passion (lib. 4 epist. 2); that he is not speaking about mortal sins is obvious because in the same place he says that without charity martyrdom is of no benefit whatsoever. St. Paul taught this before Cyprian in 1 Cor. 13. Therefore, the Church never prays for martyrs, because, as St. Augustine says on the words of the Apostle: “It is an injury to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought to be commended.”

I prove the second: Those who die against their will or without the use of reason, such as the insane, those who die in their sleep and those who die instantly cannot be purged by that death in any mode; for either death itself absolutely purges, or by reason of some voluntary concomitant act itself. Not the former because death is, according to what it is, natural, at least after the sin of our first parents. This is why it is common to both the good and the bad, nay more to men and beasts; but by natural things which necessarily must come about we do not merit or lose merit, nor can we dissolve debts contracted voluntarily, so if death purges, it happens by reason of a voluntary concomitant act. But we are speaking in this place about those men who die without any act of this sort. Besides, we often see the best men suffer a very hard death, and those that are not good suffer a very light one. But if in death the remnants of sin should be purged, then necessarily the contrary ought to happen.

I prove the third: There are many who bear death with equanimity, whose patience without a doubt helps to make satisfaction, but whether those sufferings are equivalent to the debts contracted from sin, nobody can know for certain.

Apart from these errors there was an opinion of Domingo de Soto that no one in Purgatory remains beyond ten years (4 Sent. dist. 19 quaest. 3, art. 2). His reasoning is that if here on earth we can be freed from all punishments in a short time by certain punishments, why not more quickly in Purgatory since those punishments are infinitely more serious punishments and more intense than the former? Besides, here punishments are extended because they cannot be very intense or they would destroy the subject; but after this life they can be as intense as possible, because the subject is incorruptible. Thus, it is believable that God purges those souls gasping for glory in the shortest time by the most intense punishments. But these reasons do not conclude the matter.

To the first it can be said that here is the time of mercy and there is the time of justice.
To the second I say, God can compensate extension with intension, but he refuses; otherwise it would follow that souls do not remain in Purgatory for one hour, because God can, by increasing the intensity, redirect the punishments of ten years to one hour.

Besides, his opinion is opposed to approved visions of the Saints. Bede writes that the punishments of Purgatory were shown to a certain man, and it was said to him that souls which abide in Purgatory are all going to be saved on the day of judgment, although some will be assisted with prayers and almsgiving of the living, and above all the sacrifice of the altar, so that they will be freed even before the day of judgment (lib. 5 hist. cap. 13). There, he clearly shows some men that already died will remain in Purgatory even to the day of judgment. We can advance many similar visions from Dennis the Carthusian and others.

The custom of the Church is also opposed to this opinion, which celebrates an anniversary Mass for the dead, even if it is certain they died a hundred or two-hundred years ago. Certainly the Church would not do that if she believed that souls are not punished beyond ten years. Consequently, the matter is still uncertain and cannot be defined without temerity.

New! The History of St. Norbert

History of St. Norbert
History of St. Norbert
History of St. Norbert Hardcover
History of St. Norbert Hardcover

St. Norbert is perhaps one of the greatest, yet today unknown, saints of the middle ages. Above all he was a great reformer.
Born of nobility, and living in luxury with royal favor, St. Norbert suddenly had a conversion, and embarked to be a new St. Paul, throwing away his rich garments, and preaching to the faithful as a beggar.
Led further, and provided with papal approval, Norbert makes a foundation in the valley of Prémontré, whence his order gets its name. The preaching of St. Norbert and his order restored faith in the Eucharist, badly shaken by heretics, and for this he was long remembered in northern European cities badly affected by heresy such as Antwerp. His life dominated the 12th century where, as a friend of St. Bernard, he worked to reform Church life and to defend the independence of the Papacy.
The great project of St. Norbert was to combine the active and the contemplative life, by establishing canons who lived by the maxims of monastic life, to both work in the world and retire for prayer. In this he anticipates Sts. Francis and Dominic by a century.
Premonstratensian abbeys dotted the landscape of Europe until the revolutions of the 16th-18th centuries.
Fr. Kirkfleet, relying on the best histories and the most accurate primary sources, provides the most complete biography of this great saint in English.
The Mediatrix Press edition has added numerous woodcuts of the life of Norbert to beautify the work. The reprint is unchanged from the original apart from font and page sizes.
This wonderful book shows that the Holy Spirit raises up saints to defend and build up the Church in every age when they are needed, and provides us with the enduring witness of the love of the Church and the love of the Holy Eucharist to be found in the saints.

NB: Hardcover and Kindle coming soon!

The Autobiography of St. Charles of Sezze

Autobiography of St. Charles of Sezze
Autobiography of St. Charles of Sezze

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St. Charles of Sezze was a Franciscan mystic and stigmatist of the 17th century.
Although he was quite unlettered, still, through the ever increasing influence of the Holy Spirit he wrote books that number in size, and content make him one of the greatest mystical writers of the Church, ranking with St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. In his own times this mystical doctrine, illustrated in this Autobiography, served as a powerful counterweight to fatal Quietism and Jansenism.
The canonization of St. Charles after his having remained unknown for several centuries should serve to indicate that his life and writings carry a message for modem man. His complete obedience rebukes the present-day lust for self-determination; his humility, its pride and boastfulness; his poverty, its precipitate rush after material pleasures. What he suffered at the hands of the demons also carries a lesson for modem times. It is that the devil is very much in existence, and deliberately to close our mind against the thought of him will only serve to give him greater power. St. Charles teaches us the way to oppose the devil and all the fallen angels in their incessant warfare against our souls. Very few will ever be asked to suffer bodily harm from the devil, but all must suffer, and overcome, his temptations to pride, lust and ambition.

St. Charles’ autobiography is more than just history, it is a spiritual treatise of development of the Holy Spirit in the soul through obedience, prayer and love. This is not a work to be missed!

Opera Omnia of St. Robert Bellarmine vol. 2: On the Church

De Controversiis Volume 2 On the Church
De Controversiis Volume 2 On the Church
Contains On Councils, On the Church Militant and On the Marks of the Church

The first volume on the Church is finally here! We have at last completed the first volume of Bellarmine’s treatise on the Church to accompany the one volume on the Roman Pontiff.
This volume contains Bellarmine’s treatise on Councils, on the Church Militant and on the Marks of the Church. These books constitute a marvelous treatise in Ecclesiology which lays down the principles made use of by all subsequent theologians. The first book is on the nature of Councils, which traces the history of Councils, who calls them, etc. The second book deals with the Authority of Councils, and treats that one essential question of whether a Council is above a Pope. In book three, Bellarmine takes up the question of who constitutes the Church Militant, whether the Church is visible, and whether evil members are still members? Lastly, he takes up the Marks of the Church, expanding the four marks of the Creed into 15 marks discernible in the Church throughout her history which prove the Catholic Church is true and the churches of the Protestants are false.
This tour de force is absolutely necessary for a proper understanding of Catholic ecclesiology. We have attached a sample chapter!

Sample Chapter:

Book 2 ch. 12: Whether the authority of a Council is greater than Scripture

WE spoke on the authority of Councils considered absolutely, now we must speak on the same by a comparison to other principles of faith, i.e. the written word of God (and for traditions the reasoning is the same), and the Pope. The heretics of this time everywhere cry out that we subject Scripture to Councils. Calvin, in the Institutes, book 4, cap. 9 §14, says: “To subject the oracle of God in this manner to the censure of men that it would be ratified because it pleases men is an unworthy blasphemy which is commemorated.” Similar things are discovered everywhere in the writings of the others. Moreover, this is not our blasphemy, but is their strawman. For Catholics do not subject the Sacred Scripture to Councils, but places it before them; nor is there any controversy on this point. But if some Catholics sometimes say scripture depends upon the Church, or a Council, they do not understand this in regard to its authority, or according to what it is, but in regard to the explanation and in regard to us.
Therefore, it must be observed that there is a manifold distinction between Sacred Scripture and the decrees of Councils, from which it is understood that Scripture is put before Councils. 1) Scripture is the true word of God, immediately revealed, and in a certain measure at God’s dictation according to what we read in 2 Peter 1:21 “Inspired by the Holy Spirit the holy men of God spoke,” and in 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is divinely inspired.” Nevertheless, it is not so understood to mean that all the sacred writers had new revelations and wrote things of which they were ignorant beforehand. It is certain that the Evangelists, Matthew and John, wrote those things which they saw while Mark and Luke wrote those things which they heard, as Luke himself declares at the beginning of his gospel: “Just as they handed it down to us who saw from the beginning.” (Luke 1:2).
Therefore, the Sacred Writers are said to have had immediate revelation, and wrote the words of God himself, because either some new and previously unknown things were revealed by God, according to that in Psalm 50 (51):8, “You have made known to me the uncertain and hidden matters of your wisdom”; God immediately inspired and moved the writers to write the things which they saw or heard and directed them so that they would not err in some matter. Just like an epistle may truly said to be of a prince and dictated by the prince, even if he that transcribed the dictation already knew what he was going to write, so it is said to be and really is the immediate word of God which was written by the Evangelists at God’s inspiration and direction, even if they wrote the things which they saw or heard. But Councils do not have, nor write immediate revelations, or the words of God, rather they only declare what indeed the word of God is, written or handed down, and how it ought to be understood; besides, they deduce conclusions from it by reasoning. Consequently, when Councils define what are the canonical and divine books, they do not cause them to be of infallible truth, but only declare that they are such.
So even the Council of Trent, in session 13, c. 1, when it defines that those words: “This is my body” must be understood properly, not figuratively, it did not publish but declared the word of God. And when the Council of Nicaea defined that Christ is homoousion (consubstantial) with the Father, it drew the conclusion from the Scriptures in which it is precisely contained that there is one God, and the Father is God, as well as the Son, from which it necessarily follows that the Father and the Son are of the same substance and divinity. Likewise, in the sixth Council, when it defines that Christ had two wills, divine and human, it drew the conclusion from Scripture in which it is contained that Christ is perfect God and perfect man.
The second distinction arises from this first, and is that the sacred writers ought not labor much in in producing these books; for it was enough if they would labor by writing or dictating if they were giving prophecies; or to the chief point by recalling to memory what they had seen or heard, and thought the words which they should write, if they were writing histories or epistles or something similar. But the Fathers in Councils ought to seek the matter itself, i.e. to investigate conclusions by disputation, reading and reflection. For that reason, we read in Acts 15 in the first Council that there was a great deal of questioning. Ruffinus witnesses about the Council of Nicaea in book 10, cap. 5, hist. Ecclesiasticae, in regards to Acts 15 the fathers of the Council say: “It has been seen by the Holy Spirit and us,” i.e. the Holy Spirit assists our industry and diligence. But the sacred writers only attribute the things which they write to God and this is why the prophets so often repeat: “Thus speaks the Lord.”
The third is that in the Scripture there is no error whether it is treated on faith or on morals, and whether some general thing is affirmed, even common to the whole Church, or some particular thing pertaining to one man. But it is both certain and of the faith that without the grace of the Holy Spirit no man is saved, and Peter, Paul, Stephan and certain others truly had the Holy Spirit and were saved, seeing that the same Scripture witnesses that both are most true, but Councils can err in particular judgments.
The fourth is that in Scripture not only teachings, but even each and every word pertains to faith. We believe no word in Scripture is in vain or not correctly placed, but in Councils the greater part of the acts does not pertain to faith. For disputations that are prefaced, or reasons which are added, or the things that are advanced to explain and illustrate matters are not de fide, rather only the bare decrees and not even all of these, but only those which are proposed as de fide. Sometimes Councils define something not as a decree but as probable, such as when the Council of Vienne decreed that it must be held as more probable that grace and the virtues are infused into infants at Baptism, as it is contained in Clem. uni. de Summa Trinitate et fide Catholica. But when a decree is proposed as de fide, it is easily discerned from the words of the Council because they usually say they explain the Catholic faith or they must be held as heretics who think the contrary; or what is most common, they say anathema and exclude anyone from the Church that thinks the contrary. But when they say none of these, the matter is not certain de fide.
Next, in the very decrees on faith, not the words but only the sense pertains to faith. It is not heretical to say that in canons of Councils some word is superfluous or not correctly placed, except perhaps the decree were formed from the word itself, such as when in the Council of Nicaea they decreed the word o`moou,sion must be received, and in Ephesus the word Qeoto,kon.
The fifth is, that Scripture does not need the approval of the Pope to be authentic, but only that its authority would be known; but Councils, even legitimate and general ones, are not ratified until they are confirmed by the Pope, as we showed in a previous question.
But certain men object. Gratian, in d. 19, can. In canonicis, affirms the decretal epistles of Popes ought to be numbered among the canonical Scriptures, and in d. 20, can. Decretales, says the canons of Councils are of the same authority with the decretal epistles, therefore even the canons of Councils are numbered among the canonical Scriptures; consequently the Scriptures are not placed before Councils. Besides, St. Gregory says that he venerates the first four Councils as the four books of the Gospels (lib. 1 epist. 24).
I respond twofold to Gratian.
Firstly, he was deceived from a corrupted codex which he held to be of St. Augustine, for he attributed that canon to Augustine (lib. 2 doct. Christiana, cap. 8); but the true and corrected codices of St. Augustine do not have what Gratian relates but differ by far. Augustine does not say that the epistles that the Apostolic See usually gives or receives are canonical Scripture, as Gratian read, but a judgment on holy writings that pertain to the Churches and chiefly to those which are Apostolic Sees or merit to receive epistles, such as are Rome, in which Peter sat and to which Paul wrote; Ephesus, in which John sat and to which the same Paul wrote, and certain others.
I say secondly, with this error posited, Gratian did not mean to say that decrees of the Popes are properly sacred and canonical Scriptures like the Gospels or the Psalms, but that they are holy writings so as to distinguish them from profane writings, and canonical so as to distinguish them from the sacred writings of the Fathers, which are not rules nor have the authority to oblige. Although the canons of Popes and Councils are distinguished and placed after the divine Scripture, nevertheless they may and must be called sacred writings as well as canonical, just as the seventh Council, in act. 3, calls decrees of Councils divinely inspired constitutions. Nay more, Innocent, cap Cum Marthae extra de celebratione Missarum, calls the teaching of St. Augustine a sacred writing: “He does a martyr an injury that prays for him,” serm. 17, from the words of the Apostle. Moreover, that Gratian felt the decrees of Councils must not be equated with the divine scriptures properly so called, is clear from 36 caussa, quaest. 2 can. Placuit, where he placed the opinion of Jerome, because it was fortified with the testimony of divine Scripture, ahead of a decree of a Council.
I respond to that of Gregory: it sounds like a similitude, not equating, as that of Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect just as your heavenly father is perfect.” Or if it would sound like equating, it will need to be said that Gregory does not compare the Councils with the Gospels in all things, but only in the same certitude whereby it is spoken of in the Scriptures as well as in the decrees of Councils. Since both are of infallible truth, they can be said to be equally certain; but just as Councils are not of a greater authority than the Scripture, it remains that we explain at least whether the authority of an ecumenical Council were greater than that of the Supreme Pontiff.

Preview: First ever translation of St. John Chrysostom’s homily on Galatians 2:11

[What follows is a preview of a few pages of the first translation ever made of Chrysostom’s sermon on Galatians 2:11, where St. Paul declares he “resisted Cephus [Peter] to the face.” The translation was made from Greek by the scholarly Johnathan Arrington, an excellent Classicist. We look forward to getting this into print! – Editor]


A note about the sort of English that you will read in this translation.

There is a movement afoot in the rarified air wherein the translators of classical works move and breathe.  We are encouraged by some to translate all Latin and Greek as if they were the colloquial speech of the latest Tweet, a Facebook post, or even an article in Reader’s Digest.  This is the twenty-first century, so we’re told.

I’m not convinced: I’m not talking about the century, of course; rather, about this mode of reasoning (there’s an undisclosed and barely apparent enthymeme in their sorites, if you prefer an Aristotelian charge).  There is a gradation in Latin and Greek style, and Saint John Chrysostom’s eponym (in one sense, a nick-name or a name given on account of one’s [de]merits) is derived from his literary prowess; so, we do him justice when we render his original with English that is at least somewhat befitting his name and even his chronographical and geographical placement: he flourished during what some call a Third Sophistic – in Antioch and Constantinople, no less! – a period and two places known to posterity for their many glorious orators and authors.

PG 51 Preface: Monitum ad Homiliam in illud “In faciem ei restiti”

An admonition in regard to the Homily “I resisted him to his face”

Hanc concionem post peractam lectionem epistolae ad Galatas Antiochiae habuit Chrysostomus. Veritus enim ne tantilla, quae hic apparet inter Petrum et Paulum Ecclesiae, ait ille, columnas, dissensio, piorum animos interturbaret, longa locum illum oratione explanare nititur. Multis statim explicat, quanta hinc incommoda sequantur, si vere et objurgandi animo, plurimis praesentibus, apostolorum coryphaeum Paulus sit adortus. Hinc duas circa hunc locum sententias aperit, statimque refutat: quarum prior est, Petrum de quo hic agitur, non apostolorum principem, sed alium esse cognominem: altera veram statuit esse reprehensionem, sed simulate factam. Deinde vero suam profert ille opinionem: nempe apostolos Petrum et Paulum ad hanc piam simulationem paratos meditatosque venisse; exque pacto et convento inter ambos inito, cum se a gentibus segregasse Petrum, ne in Judaeorum offensionem incurreret, tum Paulum ei in faciem restitisse, illo non reluctante, quia amborum ea mens erat, ut legis jugum gentibus non imponeretur. Caeterum Chrysostomi opinio, quae ab Origene manasse creditur, ab Hieronymo primum propugnata, ab Augustino refutata est, asserente veram nec simulatam fuisse Pauli reprehensionem, ita ut ejus argumentis cederet vel ipse Hieronymus. Non desunt tamen, qui priorem sententiam, quae Petrum ab apostolo alium asserit, nec qui posteriorem a Chrysostomo propugnatam hodieque defendant.

Chrysostom preached this sermon after a reading from the Letter to the Galatians. He feared lest the seemingly ever so slight disagreement between Peter and Paul – the Church’s pillars, Chrysostom would say – should disturb the devout souls; he makes efforts to explain this passage with a lengthy sermon. He straightway makes it abundantly evident, by means of what troubles would follow is Paul truly insulted the head of the Apostles in a spirit of reproach and with many present. Hence, he puts on display two interpretative approaches to the passage – which he quickly refutes – the first of which is that the Peter of whom we here speak was not the prince of the Apostles but an homonymous someone; secondly, that there was a true reprimand but that it was simulated. Yet then he offers his own opinion, to wit, that the Apostles Peter and Paul had come prepared with forethought for this holy simulation – and from a commonly agreed upon plan: once Peter had kept himself from the Gentiles, lest he should offend the Jews, then Paul would resist him to his face, and Peter would not fight back, because their common accord was that the onus of the Law should not be imposed upon the Gentiles. Besides this, Chrysostom’s opinion is believed to have come from Origen, and was first promoted by Jerome and then impugned by Augustine, the latter of whom said that Paul’s rebuke was true and not simulated, such that Jerome himself would have seemed to accede to Augustine’s argumentation. Still, there is no lack of those who – even today – defend that earlier hypothesis, which would understand all this of another Peter; there are also those who support the latter stance, Chrysostom’s own.



Τῇ προτέρᾳ συνάξει ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τῇ καινῇ συναχθεὶς μετὰ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου, ταύτην ἐν τῇ παλαιᾷ εἶπεν εἰς τὴν περικοπὴν τοῦ Ἀποστόλου- Ὅτε δὲ ἦλθε Πέτρος εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν, κατὰ πρόσωπον αὐτῷ ἀντέστην- καὶ δείκνυσιν, ὅτι οὐκ ἀντίστασις ἦν, ἀλλ’ οἰκονομία τὰ γινόμενα.
After a prior liturgical con-celebration with the bishop in the new church, he [Chrysostom] gave this homily in the old church, on the excerpt from the Apostle [Paul, Galatians 2:11ff.] “But when Peter came to Antioch, I resisted him to his face”, and he shows that what transpired was not an opposition but an (arranged) dispensation.

Captatio benevolentiae

α – 1

Μίαν ὑμῶν ἀπελείφθην ἡμέραν, καὶ ὡς ἐνιαυτὸν ὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν χωρισθεὶς, οὕτως ἀσχάλλων καὶ ἀλύων διετέλουν. Καὶ ὅτι ἀληθῆ ταῦτα, ἴστε ἐξ ὧν καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐπάθετε.

Καθάπερ γὰρ παῖς ὑπομάζιος τῆς μητρικῆς θηλῆς ἀποσπασθεὶς, ὅπουπερ ἂν ἀπενεχθῇ, πυκνὰ περιστρέφεται, περιβλεπόμενος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ μητέρα· οὕτω δὴ κἀγὼ τῶν κόλπων τῶν μητρικῶν ἀπενεχθεὶς ποῤῥωτέρω, πυκνὰ περιεσκόπουν, πανταχοῦ τὴν ἁγίαν ὑμῶν ἐπιζητῶν σύνοδον.

Πλὴν ἀλλ’ εἶχον ἱκανὴν τούτων παραμυθίαν, τῷ πατρὶ φιλοστόργῳ πειθόμενος ταῦτα πάσχειν, καὶ ὁ τῆς ὑπακοῆς μισθὸς τὴν ἀκηδίαν τὴν ἐπὶ τῷ ξενισμῷ γινομένην ἀπεῖργε.

I was away from you all for one day and I was so distressed and distraught that it was as if I had been separated from you for an entire year. You, too, know that this is an accurate account, based on what befell you yourselves.

For, just like a babe who is being weaned from his mother’s breast, who is ever turning around – no matter where he is carried – in search of his mother; so, too, I myself had been carried far away from the maternal bosom: I looked about here and there, in earnest search of your holy company.

Albeit, I nevertheless had sufficient relief from all this, trusting as I did that I suffered such things out of obedience to a dearly affectionate father; and, that the recompense for obedience warded off the weariness attached to stranger-hardship[1] (hardship due to travel, Lampe).


Τοῦτο γὰρ ἐμοὶ καὶ διαδήματος παντὸς λαμπρότερον, καὶ στεφάνου σεμνότερον, τὸ πανταχοῦ μετὰ τοῦ γεγεννηκότος περιάγεσθαι· τοῦτο ἐμοὶ καὶ κόσμος, καὶ ἀσφάλεια·κόσμος μὲν, ὅτι οὕτως αὐτὸν ἐχειρωσάμην, καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἔρωτα ἐπεσπασάμην τὸν ἐμὸν, ὡς μηδαμοῦ μηδέποτε ἀνέχεσθαι χωρὶς τοῦ παιδὸς φαίνεσθαι· ἀσφάλεια δὲ, ὅτι παρὼν καὶ ἀγωνιζόμενον βλέπων, πάντως καὶ τὴν παρὰ τῶν εὐχῶν συμμαχίαν ἡμῖν παρέξει.

Καὶ καθάπερ πλοῖον κυβερνητῶν χεῖρες, καὶ οἴακες, καὶ ζεφύρου πνοαὶ μετὰ ἀσφαλείας εἰς λιμένα παραπέμπουσιν·οὕτω δὴ καὶ ἡ εὔνοια τούτου, καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη, καὶ ἡ τῶν εὐχῶν βοήθεια, καὶ ζεφύρου καὶ κυβερνήτου κρεῖττον καὶ τῶν οἰάκων κατευθύνει τὸν λόγον ἡμῶν.

This, you see, is to me even more resplendent than any diadem, and more august than any crown: to travel around everywhere with the one who begot you; that is my adornment and my security. Adornment, I’ll explain: because I have so mastered him and caused him to love me, such that he never wishes to be seen without his child, anywhere; and then there’s security: because whenever he is present and sees [me] struggling in a contention, he especially offers to us his auxiliary forces from his prayers.

And just as the hands of the captain, the handle of the rudder, and the favorable westerly winds lead the ship to port with security; so, too, do his benevolence and charity, his aid by prayer – better than any westerly winds, helms, helmsman – guide and prosper our speech.

Ἐμὲ δὲ πρὸς τούτοις κἀκεῖνο παρεμυθεῖτο, τὸ λαμπρᾶς ὑμᾶς ἀπολαῦσαι τότε τραπέζης, καὶ φιλότιμον καὶ πολυτελῆ τὸν ἑστιάτορα σχεῖν.

Ἔγνωμεν δὲ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ἀκοῆς μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐξ αὐτῆς τῆς πείρας.

Καὶ γὰρ ἦσαν οἱ διακομίζοντες ἡμῖν τὰ εἰρημένα, καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν λειψάνων ὁλόκληρον τὴν εὐωχίαν ἐστοχασάμεθα.

Ἐπῄνεσα μὲν οὖν τὸν ἑστιάσαντα, καὶ ἐθαύμασα τῆς πολυτελείας καὶ τοῦ πλούτου·

ἐμακά ρισα δὲ καὶ ὑμᾶς τῆς εὐνοίας, καὶ τῆς ἀκριβείας, ὅτι μετὰ τοσαύτης φυλακῆς τὰ εἰρημένα κατέχετε, ὡς καὶ ἑτέρῳ διακομίσαι.

∆ιὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς πρὸς τὴν ὑμετέραν ἀγάπην προθύμως διαλεγόμεθα.

Ὁ γὰρ καταβάλλων ἐνταῦθα τὰ σπέρματα, οὐ ῥίπτει αὐτὰ παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν, οὐδὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας ἐκχεῖ, οὐδὲ ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν σπείρει·

οὕτω λιπαρὰ καὶ βαθύγειος ὑμῶν ἐστιν ἡ ἄρουρα, καὶ πάντα εἰς τοὺς οἰκείους δεχομένη κόλπους, πολυπλασιάζει τὰ σπέρματα.

Furthermore, it consoled me that you were then able to delight in such a sumptuous table and to enjoy such a munificent and honorable liturgical host.

And we know this not only from what we have heard, but also from experience itself: for, there were those who carried the words to us, and from those remnants we made a conjecture about the entire feast.

Therefore, I have certainly praised your entertainer, and I marveled at his magnificence and treasure; but I also called you blessed for your goodwill and diligence because with such care you retain what was said so as to report this to someone else, too.

On this account we too gladly converse in the presence of your charity.[2]

For, whoever throws his seeds here does not cast them beside the road, and neither does he pour them out among the thorns, nor is he seeding the rocks (cf. Lk. 8, Mk. 4, Mt. 13):  your tilled ground is so rich and productive, and all the seedlings that it welcomes into its bosom are multiplied many-fold!

Ἀλλ’ εἴπερ ποτὲ προθυμίαν μοι παρέσχετε καὶ πολλὴν σπουδὴν ἐπὶ τὴν ἀκρόασιν, ὥσπερ οὖν ἀεὶ παρεσχήκατε, ταύτην αἰτῶ καὶ τήμερον ἐμοὶ δοῦναι τὴν χάριν. Οὐδὲ μὲν ὑπὲρ τῶν τυχόντων ἡμῖν ἐστιν ὁ λόγος, ἀλλ’ ὑπὲρ μεγάλων πραγμάτων.

∆ιόπερ ὀφθαλμῶν δέομαι πανταχόθεν ὀξὺ βλεπόντων, διανοίας διεγηγερμένης, διανεστηκότος φρονήματος, συντεταμένων λογισμῶν, ψυχῆς ἀγρύπνου καὶ ἐγρηγορυίας. Καὶ γὰρ ἠκούσατε τοῦ ἀναγνώσματος πάντες τοῦ ἀποστολικοῦ καὶ εἴ τις ὀξέως προσέσχε τοῖς ἀναγνωσθεῖσιν, οἶδεν ὅτι μεγάλοι ἡμῖν ἀγῶνες καὶ ἱδρῶτες πρόκεινται τήμερον.

Ὅτε γὰρ ἦλθε Πέ τρος, φησὶν, εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν, κατὰ πρόσωπον αὐτῷ ἀντέστην.

Nevertheless, if you have ever shown me your studious alacrity of spirit to listen – as indeed you have shown perpetually – I ask that you grant me that same grace today as well.  And our discussion is not about some trifles, rather, about some weighty matters.

For this very reason, I have need of sharp eyes from all corners, an attentive intelligence, awakened senses, vigorous rational capacities, and roused and watchful souls.  Of course you too have listened to the reading from the Apostle, and if one paid close attention to what was read, he knows that a great contest confronts us and that what is prescribed for today will elicit the sweat of our brow.[3] The reading says: “For when Peter came to Antioch, I resisted him to his face”.


β – 2

Ἆρα οὖν οὐ θορυβεῖ ἕκαστον τῶν ἀκουόντων τοῦτο, ὅτι Παῦλος ἀντέστη τῷ Πέτρῳ, ὅτι οἱ στῦλοι τῆς Ἐκκλησίας συγκρούονται καὶ ἀλλήλοις προσπίπτουσι; Στῦλοι γὰρ ὄντως εἰσὶν οὗτοι, τὴν ὀροφὴν τῆς πίστεως ἀνέχοντες καὶ διαβαστάζοντες, καὶ στῦλοι, καὶ πρόβολοι, καὶ ὀφθαλμοὶ τοῦ σώματος τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, καὶ πηγαὶ τῶν ἀγαθῶν, καὶ θησαυροὶ, καὶ λιμένες, καὶ πᾶν ὅπερ ἂν εἴποι τις, οὐδέπω τῆς ἀξίας αὐτῶν ἐφίξεται· ἀλλ’ ὅσῳπερ ἂν ᾖ μεγάλα αὐτῶν τὰ ἐγκώμια, τοσούτῳ πλείων ἡμῖν ὁ ἀγών. ∆ιανάστητε τοίνυν· ὑπὲρ πατέρων γὰρ ἡμῖν ἐστιν ὁ λόγος, ὥστε ἀποκρούσασθαι τὰ κατ’ ἐκείνων φερόμενα ἐγκλήματα παρὰ τῶν ἔξωθεν, καὶ τῶν τῆς πίστεως ἀλλοτρίων.
Now, does it not trouble everyone who hears this, to wit, that Paul withstood Peter? that the Church’s columns collided and fell in with one other? That’s right, these two are truly columns which sustain and contain the summit of faith: columns, bulwarks, and the eyes of the Church’s body; of good things they are, too, founts, receptacles, and havens, and anything else one might say, he still won’t reach their merits; however, to the extent that their praises are lofty, so much greater then will our struggle be. Rouse your attention accordingly! You see, our reckoning is for the fathers’ sake, so that accusations brought against them by outsiders and those who are foreign to the faith might be refuted.[4]


Ὅτε δὲ ἦλθε Πέτρος εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν, κατὰ πρόσωπον αὐτῷ ἀντέστην, ὅτι κατεγνωσμένος ἦν. Εἶτα καὶ ἡ αἰτία τῆς καταγνώσεως· Πρὸ τοῦ γὰρ ἐλθεῖν τινας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου, μετὰ τῶν ἐθνῶν συνήσθιεν· ὅτε δὲ ἦλθον, ὑπέστελλε καὶ ἀφώριζεν ἑαυτὸν, φοβούμενος τοὺς ἐκ περιτομῆς. Καὶ συνανεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ Ἰουδαῖοι·

ὥστε καὶ Βαρνάβας συναπήχθη αὐτῶν τῇ ὑποκρίσει.

Ἀλλ’ ὅτε εἶδον, ὅτι οὐκ ὀρθοποδοῦσι πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου, εἶπον τῷ Πέτρῳ ἔμπροσθεν πάντων.

Καὶ ἄνω λέγει, ὅτι Κατὰ πρόσωπον·

καὶ ἐνταῦθα, Ἔμπροσθεν πάντων.

Παρατηρεῖτε τοῦτο, τὸ εἰπεῖν, Ἔμπροσθεν πάντων.

But when Peter came to Antioch, I withstood him openly to his face, because he was charged*.  And then what occasioned the accusation: because, before some people had come from James, he was eating with the gentiles; but when they had come, he started to withdraw and separate himself, fearing the circumcision-clan*. And the rest of the Jews even consented to the feigned show*,

so that Barnabas too was lead away by their outward show.

But when I saw that they were not proceeding in an upright way, in accord with Gospel’s truth, I said to Peter in the presence of everyone.

So, above he says, “openly, to his face”, and then, “in front of everyone”. Pay close attention to this statement: “in front of everyone”.


Εἰ σὺ, Ἰουδαῖος ὑπάρχων[5], ἐθνικῶς ζῇς, καὶ οὐχὶ Ἰουδαϊκῶς, τί καὶ τὰ ἔθνη ἀναγκάζεις ἰουδαΐζειν;
“If you – given that you are a Jew – live after the manner of the Gentiles – and not that of the Jews – why do you force the Gentiles too to live like Jews?”


Τάχα ἐπῃνέσατε τὸν Παῦλον τῆς παῤῥησίας, ὅτι οὐκ ᾐδέσθη τὸ ἀξίωμα τοῦ προσώπου, διὰ τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου οὐκ ἠρυθρίασε τοὺς παρόντας. Ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ Παύλου ἐγκώμιον τοῦτο, ἡμετέρα δὲ αἰσχύνη γίνεται. Τί γὰρ, εἰ Παῦλος καλῶς ἐποίησεν, ἀλλ’ ὁ Πέτρος κακῶς, εἴγε οὐκ ὠρθοπόδει; Τί οὖν ἐμοὶ τὸ ὄφελος, ὅταν τῆς ξυνωρίδος θάτερος ἵππος χωλεύῃ; Οὐ γὰρ πρὸς Παῦλόν μοι νῦν ὁ λόγος, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τοὺς ἔξωθεν. ∆ιὰ τοῦτο καὶ παρακαλῶ προσέχειν. Καὶ γὰρ αὔξω τὴν κατηγορίαν, καὶ μείζονα ποιῶ, ἵνα ἐπιτείνω ὑμῶν τὴν σπουδήν. Ὁ γὰρ ἀγωνιῶν νήφει, καὶ ὁ δεδοικὼς ὑπὲρ πατρὸς, προσέχει· ὁ ἀκούων τῆς κατηγορίας, ἐπιθυμεῖ δέξασθαι τὴν ἀπολογίαν.
Perhaps you sang Paul’s praises for his frankness*, since he was not timid when faced with the person’s rank and reputation, that for the sake of Gospel Truth, he did not blush before those present. If this is Paul’s honor, however, then it’s our dishonor. What does it serve if Paul did well but Peter acted badly – if he was not walking aright? So, how does it benefit me when either one of a chariot’s horse is lame? My inquisition is not aimed at Paul, but at those outside* [the Church]. And for that reason, I am begging you to pay close attention. I shall even augment the accusation and make it broader, to stretch your studiosity to its maximum, since the one who is anxious is awake, and the one who is alarmed for his father’s sake is attentive. Whoever hears this accusation longs to receive the defense.
Ἂν τοίνυν ἄρξωμαι αὔξειν τὴν κατηγορίαν, μὴ ἀπὸ γνώμης τῆς ἐμῆς νομίσητε εἶναι τὰ λεγόμενα. Βαθύνω γὰρ ὑμῶν τῷ λόγῳ τὴν διάνοιαν, διασκάπτω τὸν νοῦν, ἵνα ἐν τῷ βάθει τὰ νοήματα καταθέμενος, ἄσυλον αὐτῶν ἐργάσωμαι τὴν φυλακήν. Ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς πόλεως ὑμῶν ἐγκώμιον τὰ ῥηθησόμενα. Αὕτη γὰρ τὸν ἀγῶνα ἐδέξατο, αὕτη τὴν μάχην, μᾶλλον δὲ οὐ τὴν μάχην, ἀλλὰ τὴν δοκοῦσαν μὲν εἶναι μάχην, πάσης δὲ εἰρήνης γενομένην χρησιμωτέραν. Οὐ γὰρ οὕτως ἡμῶν τὰ μέλη πρὸς ἄλληλα συνέσφιγκται ταῖς τῶν νεύρων περιβολαῖς, ὡς οἱ ἀπόστολοι πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἦσαν συνδεδεμένοι τοῖς τῆς ἀγάπης δεσμοῖς.
Therefore, if I actually begin to raise the charges, do not begin thinking that these are my own thoughts on the matter!  Actually, I am raising your thoughts with my words, I am deepening your sentiments, so that once your understanding is deeply planted I may render it a guarded sanctuary. But what I am about to say is an encomium of your city, for the city herself received this action[6], she saw the combat – which, rather, was not combat, but what seemed to be a battle – a battle that became much more useful than any peace, because not even the members of our bodies are so intimately clothed with nerves as were the Apostles so strictly bound together by the bands of mutual charity.


[1] Bishop as Father of the Diocese/Eparchy: compare another Antiochian’s thoughts and words on the matter, viz., St. Ignatius of Antioch in Magn. 6:1; Smyrn. 8:2; Trall. 2:1-2; Eph. 3:2; Rom.

[2] Agape, or “charity”, is a word rich in meaning and with many connotations in regard to early Christian life and practice; it brings to mind the Eucharistic liturgy for love of which the congregants came together, from the time of the Apostles (cf. the few chapters of Acts; Jude 1:12; 1 Cor. 11), through St. Ignatius of Antioch (To the Smyrn. 8:2), Clement of Alexandria (Paedag. 2:1) and Origen (passim).

[3] Clearly, this is not primarily in regard to the legal sense of this idiom; however, there is, perhaps, a hint of the language characteristic of the Adamic curse.

[4] See in the following paragraph the clarification regarding the “aim” of this discourse.

[5] Τί οὖν Στωϊκὸν λέγεις σεαυτόν, τί ἐξαπατᾷς τοὺς πολλούς, τί ὑποκρίνῃ, [ Ἰουδαῖος ὤν, Ἕλληνας ] Ἰουδαῖον ὢν Ἕλλην; οὐχ ὁρᾷς, πῶς ἕκαστος λέγεται Ἰουδαῖος, πῶς Σύρος, πῶς Αἰγύπτιος; καὶ ὅταν τινὰ ἐπαμφοτερίζοντα ἴδωμεν, εἰώθαμεν λέγειν “οὐκ ἔστιν Ἰουδαῖος, ἀλλ’ὑποκρίνεται”.  Epicteti Ab Arriano Dissertationes ii, 9.19,20 ]

[6] In the sense of legal or military action.

St. John Fisher, Reformer, Humanist Martyr: Sample Chapter

The following is from St. John Fisher: Reformer, Humanist, Martyr by E.E. Reynolds, the only complete biography of St. John Fisher currently in print! View a glimpse of the excellent historical work that makes this book a must have! If you like what you see here don’t forget to order at the links below!



CAMBRIDGE affairs were only part of the business that occupied John Fisher’s days and thoughts. He was summoned to the Parliaments and Convocations of 1510, 1512 and 1515. Nothing is recorded of the part he played on those occasions. We get glimpses of him at great functions; thus on 15th November 1515 he was crosier to Archbishop Warham at Westminster Abbey when Wolsey received the Cardinal’s hat, “in so solemn wise,” wrote George Cavendish, “as I have not seen the like unless it had been at the coronation of a mighty prince or king.” In the following year, the Bishop of Rochester christened the son of Mary, the king’s sister, who was now Duchess of Suffolk after having been Queen of France.
Pope Leo X urged the princes of Europe to war against the Turks who were threatening to carry their power north of the Danube. He proposed in 1518 to send Cardinal Campeggio as his legate to England to advance this intention. Henry and Wolsey objected that it was contrary to English practice to receive a cardinal legate; this difficulty could be overcome, however, if Wolsey were granted the same powers as Campeggio. So on 17th May Wolsey became cardinal a latere, an exceptional appointment that he skillfully made permanent. Campeggio was kept waiting at Calais until further, and more profitable, concessions were granted to Wolsey. John Fisher was one of the prelates who received Campeggio at Canterbury on 23rd July 1518, and, no doubt, joined the cardinal’s train as far as Rochester.
Shortly afterwards, Wolsey called a synod of the clergy; in this way he demonstrated that his new powers were greater than those of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The early biographer of John Fisher gives an account of this synod which needs to be read with the caution that it does not report speeches verbatim, but as historical reconstructions. The words he puts into the mouth of John Fisher no doubt expressed the bishop’s real opinions though it may be questioned if he would have used some of the phrases given to him.

This council was called by my lord Cardinal rather to notify to the world his great authority and to be seen sitting in his pontifical seat, than for any great good that he meant to do, which this learned and wise prelate [Fisher] perceived quickly. Wherefore having now good occasion to speak against such enormities as he saw daily rising among the spirituality, and much the rather for that his words were among the clergy alone, without any commixture of the laity, which at that time began to hearken any speaking against the clergy. He there reproved very discreetly the ambition and incontinency of the clergy, utterly condemning their vanity in wearing of costly apparel, whereby he declared the goods of the Church to be sinfully wasted and scandal to be raised among the people seeing the tithes and other oblations given by the devotion of them and their ancestors to a good purpose so inordinately spent in indecent and superfluous raiment, delicate fare and other worldly vanity.
Which matter he debated so largely and framed his words after such sort that the Cardinal perceived himself to be touched to the very quick. For he affirmed this kind of disorder to proceed through the example of the head and thereupon reproved his pomp, putting him in mind that it stood better with the modesty of such a high pastor as he was, to eschew all worldly vanity, specially in this perilous time, and by humility to make himself conformable and like to the image of God. “For in this trade of life,” said he, “neither can there be any likelihood of perpetuity with safety of conscience, neither yet any security of the clergy to continue, but such plain and imminent dangers are like to ensue as never were tasted or heard of before our days.”
“For what should we,” said he, “exhort our flocks to eschew and shun worldly ambition, when we ourselves, that be bishops do wholely set our minds to the same things we forbid in them? What example of Christ our Saviour do we imitate, who first exercised doing and after fell to teaching? If we teach according to our doing, how absurd may our doctrine be accounted? If we teach one thing and do another, our labour in teaching shall never benefit our flock half so much as our examples in doing shall hurt them. Who can willingly suffer and bear with us in whom (preaching humility, sobriety and contempt of the world) they may evidently perceive haughtiness in mind, pride in gesture, sumptuousness in apparel and damnable excess in all worldly delicates? Truly, most reverend fathers, what this vanity in temporal things worketh in you I know not; but sure I am that in myself I perceive a great impediment to devotion and so have felt a long time, for sundry times when I have settled and fully bent myself to the care of my flock committed unto me, to visit my diocese, to govern my church, and to answer the enemies of Christ, straightways hath come a messenger for one cause or another sent from higher authority by whom I have been called to business and so left of my former purpose. And thus by tossing and going this way and that ways, time hath passed and in the meanwhile nothing done but attending after triumphs, receiving ambassadors, haunting of princes’ courts and such like, whereby great expenses rise that might better be spent many other ways.”

That last passage may well have been spoken from the heart of one who regarded himself first as a bishop and to a less degree as a statesman.
The early biographer went on to lament that “few were persuaded by his counsel. . . . So that (excuses never wanting to cover sin) this holy father’s words spoken with so good a zeal were all lost and came to nothing for that time.”

As Rochester lay on the road from Canterbury to London, visitors of distinction who were travelling from or to Dover would expect to be received by the Bishop of Rochester.
The letter he received from the Council in 1514 when the sword and cap presented by Leo X to Henry VIII arrived in England, is typical of others.

. . the prior of Christ’s Church of Canterbury shall meet with the said ambassador and . . . shall conduct him to some place convenient between Sittingbourne and Rochester, where the king hath appointed that your lordship, the Master of the Rolls, and Sir Thomas Bolyn shall meet with him and so conduct him to London.

So too in 1522 when Charles V came to England, the Bishop of Rochester had to be at Canterbury with the archbishop to meet him, and, on the way to London, to entertain the emperor at Rochester during a Sunday.

The early biographer said that “if any strangers came to him, he would entertain them according to their vocations with such mirth as stood with the gravity of his person, whose talk was always rather of learning or contemplation than of worldly matters.”
John Fisher could easily have allowed affairs of state and the prestige and allurements of court life to draw him more and more away from the care of his diocese, nor would anyone have thought this surprising; he was peculiar in that he never allowed secular matters to overwhelm his primary duty to the Church as a bishop. William Rastell recorded the opinion of a young contemporary.

He was in holiness, learning and diligence in his cure and in fulfilling his office of bishop such that of many hundred years England had not any bishop worthy to be compared unto him. And if all countries of Christendom were searched, there could not lightly among all other nations be found one that hath been in all things like unto him, so well used and fulfilled the office of bishop as he did. He was of such high perfection in holy life and strait and austere living as few were, I suppose, in all Christendom in his time, religious or other.

The diocese of Rochester, it has already been noted, was the smallest in the kingdom, but it was even smaller than a map suggests; there were thirty-four parishes belonging to Canterbury and forming the deanery of Shoreham; these therefore did not come under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rochester.
There were two episcopal palaces and several manors belonging to the bishop. In those days of horseback travel and of bad, and, in winter, sometimes impassable roads, it was necessary for the bishop to have several centres from which he could carry out his duties. This also met the problem of supplies as the produce of each manor could be used in turn. The palace of Rochester, which had been built during the previous century, was between the monastery (the present cathedral) and the river. The site today seems more removed from the Medway mud than Erasmus suggested, but the banks of the river have been built up and there may have been inlets up which the tide could wash. There are no substantial remains of the buildings.
The bishop’s London palace was by Lambeth Marsh adjoining the archbishop’s palace to the east, so it was simple for John Fisher to hurry off to show William Warham the complimentary passages in the Novum Instrumentum. From the Register we learn that John Fisher built a brick wall round the palace and repaired the buildings. It ceased to be a palace of the Bishops of Rochester in 1540; after many changes of use and occupation it was demolished in 1827.
There were manors at Hailing (between the church and the river), at Bromley, at Stone (near Dartford), and at Trottescliffe (near Wrotham), but John Fisher does not seem to have used the last two.
The Register for the period of John Fisher’s episcopate has been preserved; so too has the Act Book of his Consistory Court.
Unfortunately the records of his visitations have not survived. The first began on 15th May 1505. The early biographer gives us:

And first, because there is small hope of health in the members of that body where the head is sick, he began his visitation at his head church of Rochester, calling before him the priors and monks exhorting them to obedience, chastity and true observation of their monastical vows; and where any fault was tried, he caused it to be amended. After that he carefully visited the rest of the parish churches within his diocese in his own person; and sequestrating all such as he found unworthy to occupy that high function, he placed other fitter in their rooms; and all such as were accused of any crime, he put to their purgation, not sparing the punishment of simony and heresy with other crimes and abuses. And by the way he omitted neither preaching to the people, nor confirming of children, nor relieving of needy and indigent persons; so that by all means he observed a due comeliness in the house of God.

During the first half of his episcopate, he carried out visitations in 1508, 1511, 1514 and 1517. His archdeacon no doubt shared this important work but to what extent we cannot now determine.

From the Register we can follow the bishop’s movements about the diocese from year to year. Occasional intervals of a month or two indicate when he was away on state or university business but without giving information of what occupied him.
A survey of one year, 1513, will give a typical record of his official acts. There is much more we should like to know, but these bare facts add something to the picture.
The first entry is dated 5th March; it records an abjuration of heresy before the bishop in his chapel at Hailing. Henry Potter of West Mailing was accused of saying publicly that he would not believe in the Last Judgment “till I see it.” He promised to avoid suspect persons in the future, also books of Scripture in English, and to give information about them as soon as possible. The bishop absolved him from excommunication and ordered him as penance to walk in procession in his parish church with the faggot on his back, and to do so again in the cathedral on the following Sunday unless dispensed from this by the bishop. In addition he was to see that no harm came to those who had testified against him. Finally he was not to leave the diocese for two years, during each of which he must present himself to the bishop. Henry Potter made his cross on the record.
On 12th March, also at Hailing, the bishop ordained a deacon. He was at Rochester on 4th April when he collated one priest and admitted another to vicarages. On the same day he confirmed the election of the new abbot of Lesnes, William Ticehurst, formerly Prior of Bilsington. The bishop, vested in pontificals, received the profession of obedience of the abbot elect. There is a long account of the proceedings, including testimonies that William Ticehurst was of legitimate birth, and discreet and circumspect. On 27th June at Lambeth, the bishop admitted a cleric to a vacancy in Cobham College in conformity with the king’s wishes.
The bishop collated three priests to livings on 20th August at Bromley, and on 7th October, two others at the same place. There is then a copy of a letter from the bishop instituting Richard Clarke to the vicarage of Hailing vacant by the deprivation of John Cotton. Here the Acts of the Consistory Court explain the circumstances. On 17th September at Hailing the bishop had dealt with five cases of correction of his clergy. One of these was John Cotton who had again fallen into adultery; he said, “I would my lord had put me in prison when he commanded Joan Hubbard to prison.” The investigation took several sittings and was not concluded until 27th September.
There is also the copy of a letter dated 1st October. This is from the bishop to the Barons of the Exchequer stating what arrangements he was making to collect the four-tenths ordered by the king. The Augustinian canons of Tonbridge and of Lesnes, and the prior of Rochester were to be responsible for making the collection by stated dates. A list of nearly forty benefices follows which he described as too poor to be taxed.
This summary of one year of the Register shows the pattern of the normal diocesan business. A similar account could be given for any one of the other years of John Fisher’s long episcopate, the only noticeable variation being that in the later period he seems to have spent more time at Rochester; this may have been due to declining health.
Some particular entries may be noted from the other years for the first half of his rule. One instance of an abjuration has been given. Two earlier cases give other examples of heretical opinions before the onset of the full tide of Lutheranism.

The first is dated May 1505. John Mores (or Wener) of St. Nicholas Parish, Rochester, was accused of saying, in addition to expressing “divers doubts concerning Scripture”:

1. that Christ did not die in perfect charity on Good Friday because he did not die to redeem Lucifer as well as Adam and Eve;
2. that our Lady “is butt a sakk”, and the Son of God desired the Father to come to middle earth to take a sack upon his back.

It is impossible to make sense of the last statement. Mores made his cross to a document in which he promised to have no further dealings with heretics, nor to use any suspect books of Scripture in English, and to denounce such books and persons as soon as possible.
The abjuration was made in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral before the bishop. Mores was freed from excommunication and had to do penance in the usual form. He was not to leave the diocese for seven years. He made his cross on the record.
Another case of heresy was brought before the bishop in 1507. This concerned a Richard Gavell of Westerham who said that:

1. the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle [sic: of Canterbury?] should not be observed;
2. it was not necessary to take holy water “of the priest’s hand”;
3. offerings and offering days were only ordained by priests and curates “by their own covetous minds and singular avayles [advantages]”; on one such day he had caused Joan Harries to withhold her offering “to the evil example of the people”.

It was further stated that:

1. he often left church and went to the alehouse rather than hear a sermon;
2. he had spoken against the priest while he was in the pulpit, saying “Now the priest standeth in the pulpit and he doth nothing but chide and travail for I look more on his deeds than of his words whatsoever he saith”;
3. he despised the authority of the Church saying that the Church’s sentence had no effect, only that of God who was not in the power of priests and bishops;
4. after being accursed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and so openly by my curate demanded now of late in the church of Westerham”, he replied, in the presence of divers persons, “Sirs, though my lord of Canterbury has accursed me, I am, I trust, not yet accursed of God, and pray, sirs, fear ye not to company or eat and drink with me for all that.”;
5. he had a bad reputation for heresy.

The usual penance of going in procession was imposed; he was not to leave the diocese for four years, and during those years, he was to present himself annually to the bishop. Richard Gavell made his mark. The penance was to be carried out at Bromley and at Rochester, but he was dispensed by the bishop from appearing in the cathedral.
The problem of heresy must be dealt with more fully later in these pages; here it may be noted that the penances imposed by the bishop were of the customary character.
Some further examples from the Register will indicate the scope of the bishop’s activities.
On 17th July 1508 in the chapel of St. Blaise at Bromley, the bishop received the profession of William Temple, “singleman”, as a hermit. He gave him the eremetical habit with his blessing. The hermit promised before God and the Saints to direct his conduct and conversation according to the rule of St. Paul the first hermit; he was to live in the hermitage built in honour of St. Catherine at Dartford. All this was written down and the hermit made his cross.
There is one example of the bishop’s desire to have a better instructed clergy. On 29th November 1508, Hugh Taylor of Foot’s Cray came before the bishop with letters of presentation from the canons of St. Mary Overy, Southwark, to that benefice. The bishop examined him but was not satisfied with his attainments. Hugh Taylor was therefore told that he must spend a year in a grammar school, and if, after that, he had made sufficient progress, he would be admitted. Meanwhile a curate would be put in charge. Hugh Taylor made good use of his twelve months and was then able to satisfy the bishop.
On 21st April 1511, the bishop received the vow of chastity of Elizabeth Fitzwaren, a widow of Beckenham. She undertook “to be chaste of my body and truly and devoutly shall keep me chaste from this time forward as long as my life lasteth after the rule of St. Paul [the hermit].”
The bishop presided at a synod of his clergy on 6th October 1518. After a Mass of the Holy Ghost had been sung, he preached a sermon; this was followed by the reading of the constitutions, provincial and legatine, against concubinage.
The Acts of the Consistory Court do not add much to out knowledge of the bishop’s work. The court was held in the churches of parishes conveniently situated for the cases to be heard. Thus in December 1511 the itinerary was West Mailing, Strood, Gravesend, Dartford, Trottescliffe and Swanscombe, dealing with over a hundred cases in all. The bishop himself rarely presided, but from time to time he was present for more serious cases; thus on 17th March 1511 at Lambeth he absolved a priest from his contumacy (the nature of which is not stated), but suspended him from saying Mass in his parish or elsewhere in the diocese.
The Register records one royal intervention in the work of the court. A letter from the king, 13th February 1520, ordered the bishop not to proceed with the action brought by William Rogers, vicar of Plumstead, for tithes against William Goldwyn, gent. The vicar had denounced Goldwyn in the church at Woolwich and declared him excommunicate in defiance of the decision of the civil courts.
The Acts of the Consistory Court and the Register do little more than tell us of the normal duties of a bishop; the unusual feature for the times was that John Fisher carried out these duties himself as far as other responsibilities would allow.
The early biographer adds life to the bare facts of these records.

Wheresoever he lay, either at Rochester or elsewhere, his order was to inquire where any poor sick folks lay near him, which, after he once knew, he would diligently visit them. And where he saw any of them likely to die, he would preach to them, teaching them the way to die, with such good persuasions, that for the most part he never departed till the sick persons were well satisfied and contented with death. Many times it was his chance to come to such poor houses as for want of chimneys were very smoky and thereby so noisome that scant any man could abide in them. Nevertheless himself would there sit by the sick patient many times the space of three or four hours together in the smoke, when none of his servants were able to abide in the house, but were fain to tarry without till his coming abroad. And in some other poor houses where stairs were wanting, he would never disdain to climb up by a ladder for such a good purpose. And when he had given them such ghostly comfort as he thought expedient for their souls, he would at his departure leave behind him his charitable alms, giving charge to his steward or other officers daily to prepare meat convenient for them (if they were poor) and send it unto them. Besides he gave at his gate to divers poor people (which were commonly no small number) a daily alms of money, to some 2d., to some 4d., some 6d., and some more after the rate of their necessity. That being done, every one of them was rewarded likewise with meat, which was daily brought to the gate. And lest any fraud, partiality, or other disorder might rise in the distribution of the same, he provided himself a place whereunto immediately after dinner he would resort and there stand to see the division with his own eyes.

To this may be added William Rastell’s testimony:

He, like a good shepherd, would not go from his flock, but continually fed them with preaching of God’s word and example of good life. He, like a good shepherd, did what he could to reform his flock both of the spirituality and temporality, when he perceived any of them to range out of the right way, either in manners or doctrine.

The first half of John Fisher’s episcopate was a period of steady work and quiet achievement. He had regulated his diocese and had gathered round him like-minded men such as Nicholas Metcalfe. He knew his small diocese as only a diligent bishop could know it. By 1520 the priests must have known him as a person and as a pastor to whom they could turn in times of difficulty. The example of his austere and devout life would be a reproach to the easy-going and an inspiration to the faithful. “All pastors and curates used him for their lantern, as one of whom they might perfectly learn when to use action and when contemplation; for in these two things did he so far excel that hard it were to find one so well practised and expert in any one of them, apart, as he was in both of them together.”
His work for his university had prospered; Christ’s College was established, and, in spite of all the obstacles, St. John’s had been well founded. His encouragement of sound learning and preaching, and of the study of Greek and Hebrew had helped to lead Cambridge out of the lethargy of the past into the more vigorous world of the new scholarship.
The second half of his episcopate was to prove more and more discordant; the rapid spread of heresy, not least in his own beloved university, and the increasing bitterness of anti-clericism, of themselves would have brought sorrow enough, but to these was to be added “the king’s great matter” and his subsequent claim” to be “the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England.”

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St. John Fisher: Reformer, Humanist, Martyr
St. John Fisher: Reformer, Humanist, Martyr

St. John Fisher - Hardcover
St. John Fisher - Hardcover
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St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More
St. Thomas More
St. Thomas More Hardcover
St. Thomas More Hardcover

St. Thomas More, by E.E. Reynolds, is a complete life of the saint based on primary source accounts, state papers and contemporary registers. Reynolds leaves no written source uncovered in drawing together for us the man who became one of the most famous men not only in England, but even in Europe, who gave his life for the rights of the Church over the tyranny of the state.

Reynolds traces More’s life and environs, as well as More’s writings and poetry, to bring out the man and the hour in which he lived. There are lengthy studies of Richard III, Utopia, and The Dialogues which More wrote against heretics. Lastly, he concludes with a penetrating legal analysis of the reasons which brought More to the Tower and to beheading.

Throughout there are many crucial and important direct quotes from letters, speeches and of course, the words of More related by early authorities in court and at his trial. Thereby we see the warm relationship between More and great scholars like Colet and Erasmus, as well as his close relationship with his daughter Margaret (Meg) and his great strides to provide her an education which she took up brilliantly. This makes More come to life as a real person, with wit and joy and above all passion, not the plaster saint of a second nocturn variety. There is a reason why More is one of the few and best known laymen to be canonized and remembered through the ages.

This will be an excellent companion to Reynold’s Life of St. John Fisher, which is also available from Mediatrix Press.

Defense of the Catholic Priesthood against Martin Luther – St. John Fisher

Defence of the Priesthood - Fisher
Defence of the Priesthood - Fisher

To the extent that St. John Fisher is remembered at all, he is remembered as the one Bishop that refused to pinch incense to Henry VIII. Yet, he was also a holy Bishop and an expert Theologian. Those familiar with the Mediatrix Press reprint of the Life of St. John Fisher by E.E. Reynolds, will know that St. John Fisher was a model for all Bishops. Yet his theological writings, which are mostly in Latin, had not been translated at all until the 1930’s. Fr. Hallet translated the shortest but no less important of St. John Fisher’s works, his defense of the priesthood against Martin Luther.

In these pages we see that it is Fisher, not Luther, who is the true witness to the gospel, defending the Catholic priesthood by the Scriptures, the Fathers and reason, while quoting Luther directly in his refutation.

While responding to Luther, Fisher lays out several Axioms and proves them one by one in

order so that as the pages turn, it is abundantly clear that Fisher is following the Scripture completely, while Luther’s position is increasingly indefensible. It is no wonder that Fisher was the only opponent of Luther that that the latter did not and could not answer.

Given that it is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, what better work could be published, to help dispel some of the confusion engendered by those who wish to celebrate Luther in ignorance of what the great heresiarch had actually taught. Anyone seeing this will immediately see that it is Fisher who is the witness to the Gospel.

On Councils: Their Nature and Authority – Bellarmine

On Councils
On Councils

In On Councils: Their Nature and Authority, St. Robert Bellarmine answers the attack of the early Protestant Reformers on by treating on all matters pertaining to Councils. Beginning with definitions and terms, Bellarmine explores in summary all the Councils approved in his day, as well as those only partially approved and those not approved at all. Then he examines their purpose and foundations in Scripture, the Fathers, and history. In the second book, Bellarmine examines the authority of Councils according to the same standard, proving especially that the Pope is above Councils and is the one to summon and confirm them. To prove his case he musters his considerable scholarship and answers not only the arguments of Luther and Calvin, but of each early Protestant to show that approved Councils do not contradict each other, and the Church does not put Councils above the Word of God.

Sample chapter:

On the utility or even the necessity of celebrating Councils

Therefore, with all of this noted, we must explain in what things legitimate Councils consist, and these can be reduced to four: 1) the end; 2) efficiency; 3) matter and; 4) the form of Councils. Now let us begin with the end, which is the first of these reasons. It will be the first reason that must be briefly explained on account of which Councils are usually celebrated; then from those it will be determined whether a gathering of Councils is necessary or merely useful. Moreover, the particular reasons on account of which Councils are celebrated are usually numbered as six.
a) The first reason is a new heresy, i.e. something that had never been judged before, which is the very reason the first seven Councils were convened. The Church always so dealt with the danger of new heresies that she did not think it could be resisted otherwise than if all or certainly a great many leaders of the Churches, once their strength was joined as if it were made into a column of soldiers, would rush upon the enemies of the faith.
b) The second reason is schism among Roman Pontiffs; for a Council in the time of Pope Cornelius was celebrated for this very reason. Likewise, another in the time of Pope Damasus and again in the times of Symmachus, Innocent II and Alexander III, as well as Pisa and Constance in the times of Gregory XII and Benedict XIII, for there is no more powerful remedy than a Council as has so often been proved.
c) The third is resistance to a common enemy of the whole Church; in this manner Councils were convened by Urban II, Calixtus II, Eugene III, and other Popes, for war against the Saracens. Likewise, to depose an emperor, Gregory III celebrated Councils against Leo III the Iconoclast, as did Gregory VII against Henry IV, and Innocent IV against Frederick II.
d) The fourth reason is suspicion of heresy in the Roman Pontiff, if perhaps it might happen, or if he were an incorrigible tyrant; for then a general Council ought to be gathered either to depose the Pope if he should be found to be a heretic, or certainly to admonish him if he seemed incorrigible in morals. As it is related in the 8th Council, act. ult. can. 21, general Councils ought to impose judgment on controversies arising in regard to the Roman Pontiff—albeit not rashly. For this reason we read that the Council of Sinvessano in the case of St. Marcellinus, as well as Roman Councils in the cases of Pope Damasus, Sixtus III, and Symmachus, as well as Leo III and IV, none of whom were condemned by a Council; Marcellinus enjoined penance upon himself in the presence of the Council, and the rest purged themselves (See Platina and the volumes of Councils).
e) The fifth reason is doubt about the election of a Roman Pontiff. For if the cardinals could not or would not create a Pope, or certainly if they all died at the same time, or a true doubt should arise for another reason to whom an election of this sort would pertain, would look to a general Council to discern in regard to the election of a future Pope, although it does not seem to be realistic to expect this would ever happen.
f) The sixth reason is the general reformation of abuses and vices which crept into the Church; for even if the Pope alone can prescribe laws for the whole Church, nevertheless, it is by far more agreeable for matters to be done with the approval of a general Council when the Pope prescribes laws of this sort. Hence, we see nearly all general Councils published canons on reformation (See Juan Torquemada, lib. 3, cap. 9 &10).

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