J.N.D. Kelly's biography, Jerome, Hendrickson Publishers, 1975, 2000, says this about Jerome's sorrow over Alaric's invasion of Rome in 410 A.D., and his letter of 413 A.D. eulogizing his friend Marcella, who died in the wake of the invasion (pp. 304-305):
"It was Jerome's intention, once his commentary on Isaiah was out of the way, to produce one on Ezekial and thereby 'make good the promise' he 'had so often given to his zealous readers'. Hardly had he taken this fresh task in hand, however, when terrible, heart-rending news reached him: Rome had been seized and pillaged by Alaric. The disaster sent a shudder of horror through the Roman world, but its impact on Jerome was particularly cruel. By the same post, or shortly after, he learned that Pammachius and Marcella, as well as many other Christian friends, were dead. So benumbed was he that he had to suspend all work. 'For days and nights I could think of nothing but the universal safety; when my friends were captured, I could only imagine myself a captive too . . . When the brightest light of the world was extinguished, when the very head of the Roman empire was severed, the entire world perished in a single city.' . . .[To Augustine] he confessed that he had been so shattered by the devastation of the western provinces, and especially of Rome, that he almost forgot his own name. . . .
No account of Pammachius's death has come down, but Jerome allows us a glimpse of Marcella's in the dignified, unusually restrained epitaphium he dedicated to her memory in 413. His two years' silence, he brusquely explained to her much younger protégée Principia (who had been impatiently demanding the tribute), was not the result of negligence, as she wrongly supposed, but of his overwhelming sorrow. . . . When blood-stained barbarians broke into her mansion and she failed to convince them that she had already stripped herself of her riches, she had endured a brutal beating-up without any apparent sensation of pain. . . . A few months later, though apparently active and in good health, she had died peacefully in Principia's arms -- 'While you wept, she was smiling, conscious of having lived a good life, and confident of her future reward.'"
St. Jerome's Letter No. 127, written to Principia, eulogizing Marcella, is available online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library here. In the course of a long eulogy for St. Marcella, he gave the following account of how he met her and how she lived and learned:
"When the needs of the Church at length brought me to Rome in company with the reverend pontiffs, Paulinus and Epiphanius—the first of whom ruled the church of the Syrian Antioch while the second presided over that of Salamis in Cyprus,—I in my modesty was for avoiding the eyes of highborn ladies, yet she pleaded so earnestly, 'both in season and out of season' as the apostle says, that at last her perseverance overcame my reluctance. And, as in those days my name was held in some renown as that of a student of the scriptures, she never came to see me that she did not ask me some question concerning them, nor would she at once acquiesce in my explanations but on the contrary would dispute them; not, however, for argument’s sake but to learn the answers to those objections which might, as she saw, be made to my statements. How much virtue and ability, how much holiness and purity I found in her I am afraid to say; both lest I may exceed the bounds of men’s belief and lest I may increase your sorrow by reminding you of the blessings that you have lost. This much only will I say, that whatever in me was the fruit of long study and as such made by constant meditation a part of my nature, this she tasted, this she learned and made her own. Consequently after my departure from Rome, in case of a dispute arising as to the testimony of scripture on any subject, recourse was had to her to settle it. And so wise was she and so well did she understand what philosophers call τό
πρέπον, that is, the becoming, in what she did, that when she answered questions she gave her own opinion not as her own but as from me or some one else, thus admitting that what she taught she had herself learned from others. For she knew that the apostle had said: “I suffer not a woman to teach,” and she would not seem to inflict a wrong upon the male sex many of whom (including sometimes priests) questioned her concerning obscure and doubtful points."
I don't plan to add my own post giving general commentary on the Encyclical. There are too many other people whose views I think are more worth reading than mine would be, and too many other bloggers who have already posted their thoughts, for me to think it would be a good use of anyone's time to read mine too.
What I will do is reference the Encyclical over the coming months. God's love and the "Eros" imagery of the Song of Songs are already substantially represented in this blog in the postings saved in "The Dove" category (see category links in the right column). The Encyclical's analysis of Eros and Agape help to explain much of that symbolism. Benedict XVI even used that "dove" symbolism, referencing peace, when he and a child yesterday released two doves from the window of his study after praying the Angelus (following a tradition started by John Paul II). However, there is no real need for a separate posting right now dealing specifically with the Encyclical as interpretive of the dove symbolism in the Song of Songs or elsewhere in Scripture: that would be placing one small tangeant of the Encyclical at a higher priority than the overview being given already by others.
I am also curious to see what Carmelite scholars in particular will have to say about the Encyclical, and I have not yet found comments from the Teresianum in Rome or other Carmelite sources (Steven Riddle's third order Carmelite posting being the one exception). I am planning to read through St. Teresa of Avila's Meditations on the Song of Songs, which was probably her most controversial work, slowly over the next few weeks. Where her comments illustrate one of the Holy Father's points, or where they may differ, I will probably write postings on such specific points as those with comparative quotes -- that is more of the kind of post I write a lot anyway.
Later this year, the Institute of Carmelite Studies is planning a 40th anniversary lecture series mentioned in the "News" page of the ICS Publications website. One of the topics planned for presentation is said to be "True Peace: St. Teresa of Avila's Meditations on the Song of Songs." In between the Pope's major address titled In Truth, Peace, given on World Peace Day, and the new Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, whoever has the topic about Teresa of Avila, Peace, and the Song of Songs is probably a busy beaver right now trying to bring that together. I will be interested to hear how that presentation turns out later in the year. I just finished listening to the tapes from their 2004 Carmelite Forum on meditation, and have scarcely mentioned those online yet, but should.
In today's Angelus message, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the saints whose feast days were this past week, and those mentioned in his new encyclical "Deus Caritas Est". The P.I.M.E. Asia News - Italy article about that message is online here. Here is an excerpt from the article:
In referring to them, all consecrated persons, the Pope reaffirmed "the
importance of consecrated life as an expression and school of charity"
and the "imitation of Christ in chastity, poverty and
obedience....entirely geared to the attainment of perfect charity."
After praying the Angelus, he greeted a group of young people who have been at the Vatican for one month studying peace. He and a child each released a dove from the window of his study as symbols of peace.
January 28 is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Thomas was born in 1226, probably in his family’s castle known as Roccasecca, in Naples. His father was Lord Landulph d’Aquino, a knight, a judge, and a baron of the emperor. His mother was from the nobility. He had six older brothers, as well as sisters.
When he was five years old, Thomas was sent to the monastery of Monte Cassino for his education. His family had supported the Benedictine monastery, and it was the custom for noble families to present their youngest children as oblates who might one day become abbots. When he was around 12 years old, Monte Cassino was caught up in a conflict between pope and emperor. Frederick II converted it into a fortress, expelling monks. The monks advised Thomas’s family to send him to the University of Naples.
At thirteen, Thomas arrived at the university, slightly younger than most students. A local Dominican, John of S. Giuliano, became friends with Thomas and encouraged him to join the order, contrary to his powerful family’s wish that he become a Benedictine. Thomas became a Dominican in 1242 or 1243, around 16 years old.
His family refused to accept it. When his mother kept trying to visit him, suspicious Dominicans sent him to a convent in Rome. Nonetheless, his parents were sufficiently influential to persuade the Pope to promise Thomas a comfortable Benedictine future. Thomas refused. The Dominicans moved him again around 1244. Thomas was sent to the studium generale in Paris, accompanied by four other friars.
His mother then arranged to have two of Thomas’s brothers intercept the traveling friars, capturing Thomas. When captured, Thomas asked for a breviary and a Bible, and he was allowed to have those as his brothers led him away to a family castle. Unable to convince him to leave the Dominicans, his mother sent him home to Roccasecca.
While captive in his parents’ house, Thomas continued to wear the Dominican habit, and other Dominicans visited, especially John of S. Giuliano. Thomas read through the entire Bible and studied the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Then his brothers returned from the army and chose a new tactic: they sent into Thomas’s room a seductive girl, hoping to arouse his sensuality. Unaccustomed to such women, he used a burning log from the fire to drive her out of the room, burned the figure of a cross on the wall, and then fell to the ground and asked God for the gift of chastity.
He eventually escaped, and the Dominicans soon sent him to Cologne. Arriving there around 1245, he became the student of Albert the Great, who was lecturing there for that year. Studying for a time in Paris and for a time in Cologne, Thomas gained the nickname “the dumb ox.” He was so quiet that the other students assumed that he was not intelligent. However, Albert recognized his genius, and became his lifelong friend. The other students saw it too, when he politely began to explain an occasional passage that they had trouble explaining to him.
At twenty-five, Thomas returned to Paris to begin five years’ study to become a Master in Theology. There, he began to lecture, in an era when the place of the Dominicans and Franciscans was much disputed. In 1256, barely 30 years old, he was licensed to teach, younger than most others would be licensed. His inaugural lecture still survives.
Teaching in Paris, then Rome, then Paris, once lector of Orvieto, once lecturing in Bologna, returning to Naples, returning to Paris, returning to Naples -- the timing of Thomas’s moves from then on are not easily pinpointed. He was once even asked to be archbishop of Naples, but Thomas declined the invitation. Despite his share in the argument between Dominicans and Franciscans, Thomas accepted the friendship of the Franciscan friar Bonaventure, who was licensed to teach the same year as Thomas.
Thomas lived in the world of books. He said that he had understood every page he ever read, and he enjoyed making things understandable to others. Ideas and logic were his form of play, a complex game that he mastered ever more supremely for fun as much as work. Daily, he went to confessions, said Mass, attended another Mass, and spent the rest of each day reading, praying, writing and teaching until compline. He regularly prayed that he could understand whatever he was studying, and also prayed that his students would have understanding too.
He was unskilled at conversation, and he valued friends who supported him anyway. When he tried to converse, he was often “miles away”, and others brought him back to the conversation by tugging at him. He was tall, fat, and sedentary. His exercise was walking up and down the halls while deep in thought.
While his concept of “contemplation” was largely “thinking,” there remained an ambiguity in it that he never fully analyzed. It was not until after his time that people began to distinguish between contemplation and meditation, or to speak of “contemplative prayer”. He had a deep devotion to the Mass, so much so that in his later years, he would sometimes stop in the middle of the celebration, absorbed by it. Someone had to catch his attention and get him to resume. He had occasional visions, and was reported by contemporaries to have once levitated while in prayer.
On December 6, 1273, something even more strange happened to Thomas during the Eucharist, and he was never able to say what had happened. Not yet finished with the third part of the Summa, he stopped his writing altogether. When encouraged to write again, he said “I can’t.” Asked why, he said only, “Everything I have written seems like straw by comparison with what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.”
Despite his unfinished work and failing health, Thomas set out to comply with the Pope’s request that he attend a regional Council in Lyons in 1274. He did not complete the journey. Along the way, he fell too ill to continue. He was taken to Fossanova, where he remained for a month, treated as a saint, until his death on March 7, 1274. During a deathbed confession, he spoke of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist as if it had been, in his mind, the central focus and motivation in all that he had written.
While some of his ideas remained highly controversial after his death, his tomb became a pilgrimage for people seeking healing. A favorable view of his thinking prevailed. In1309 was “Thomism” adopted as the official doctrine of the Order of Preachers. He was officially canonized on July 18, 1323.
"O, Sisters, those of you who cannot engage in much discursive reflection with the intellect or keep your mind from distraction, get used to this practice! Get used to it! See, I know that you can do this; for I suffered many years from the trial -- and it is a very great one -- of not being able to quiet the mind in anything. But I know that the Lord does not leave us so abandoned; for if we humbly ask him for this friendship, he will not deny it to us. And if we cannot succeed in one year, we will succeed later. Let's not regret the time that is so well spent. Who's making us hurry? I am speaking of acquiring this habit and of striving to walk alongside this true Master."
- St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, 26:2, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD, ICS Publications, 1980, 2000.
"How are we to become friends of God? Teresa never defines friendship in general terms, for all her constant interest in the subject, but we can piece together from this work in particular [The Way of Perfection] what she thought essential to it. Friendship is not a relation in which one partner makes unilateral claims on the other from a position of superiority; so much is obvious from Teresa's picture of Carmel as a community of friends (and in this respect she is echoing, albeit no doubt unconsciously, Aristotle and St. Thomas). It is wanting the fulfilment of another human being's potential according to the law of God. . . . But how is it to be applied to our relations with God? We may honour God rightly, but how can God give us the equal honour necessary to friendship?
The fundamental answer is that we are adopted -- through the Holy Spirit -- into the relation of God to God, Father to Son: the Father treats us as deserving of the loving respect that is due to the Son. But the method of adoption is something that radicalizes the idea of friendship itself still further. To make us friends of God, God wholly abandons dignity and status: it is not that God simply brings us up to an acceptable standard and then deigns to treat us as friends. . . . God initiates this friendship by resolving to have no interest at heart but ours, and we appropriately respond by resolving to have no interest but God's."
- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Teresa of Avila, Outstanding Christian Thinkers Series, Morehouse Publishing, 1991, pp. 103-104,
Vatican Information Service has issued a press release with excerpts from Benedict XVI's homily last night at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In that homily, he discussed both his new encyclical released earlier that day and the importance of Christian unity. A full transcript will probably follow. Here is the press release:
VATICAN CITY, JAN 26, 2006 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the basilica of St.
Paul's Outside-the-Walls, Benedict XVI presided at the second Vespers of the
Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The ceremony marked the end of the Week
of Prayer for Christian Unity, the theme of which was: "Where two or three are
gathered in my name, I am there among them."
In his homily, the Pope affirmed that "the aspiration of all Christian
communities and of each individual faithful to unity, and the strength to
achieve it, are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and go hand in hand with an ever
more profound and radical faithfulness to the Gospel. We realize that
conversion of heart lies at the base of ecumenical commitment."
Recalling the title of his first Encyclical, "Deus caritas est," the Holy
Father stated: "God is Love. Upon this firm rock the entire faith of the
Church rests. ... Fixing our gaze on this truth, the peak of divine
revelation, divisions, while maintaining their painful magnitude, appear
surmountable and do not discourage us."
"True love," he went on, "does not cancel legitimate differences, but
harmonizes them into a higher unity, one that is not imposed from outside, but
that from within gives form, so to say, to the whole."
Benedict XVI then indicated that "the longed-for achievement of unity
depends, in the first instance, upon the will of God, Whose design and
generosity surpass man's understanding, even exceeding his requests and
expectations. By relying on divine goodness, we intensify our common prayer
for unity, which is a necessary and highly effective instrument."
"Unity is our shared mission; it is the condition necessary for the light of
Christ to spread more effectively all over the world, that men and women may
be converted and saved."
After highlighting the fact that much still remains to be done, Benedict XVI
concluded by saying: "Let us not lose faith, rather let us resume the journey
with greater energy. Christ goes before us and accompanies us. We rely upon
His unfailing presence; from Him we implore, humbly and tirelessly, the
precious gift of unity and peace."
HML/CHRISTIAN UNITY/ST. PAUL OUTSIDE-THE-WALLS VIS 060126 (370)
Another VIS press release discussed the Pope's remarks as he received members of the preparatory commission of the third European Ecumenical Assembly, including the following:
"Nonetheless, our presence as Christians will prove incisive and
enlightening only if we have the courage to continue decisively down the path
of reconciliation and unity. ... Everyone must show such strength, ... because
we all have a specific responsibility towards the ecumenical progress of
Christians on our continent and in the rest of the world."
January 26 is the feast day of St. Paula of Rome. She was one of St. Jerome's students in Rome. She and her daughter left Rome with him and founded a monastery for women in Bethlehem. She is mentioned in Jerome's letters. St. Jerome wrote to her in 384 A.D., while still in Rome:
"What honey is
sweeter than to know the wisdom of God? others, if they will, may
possess riches, drink from a jewelled cup, shine in silks, and try in
vain to exhaust their wealth in the most varied pleasures. Our riches
are to meditate in the law of the Lord day and night, to knock at the closed door, to receive the ‘three loaves’
of the Trinity, and, when the
Lord goes before us, to walk upon the water of the world.”
Vatican Information Service has a press release about the news conference where the Encyclical was released. The article quotes comments from those present at the press conference. The first paragraph mentions who was there:
At midday today in the Holy See Press
Office, the presentation took place of Benedict XVI's first Encyclical "Deus
caritas est." Participating in the press conference were Cardinal Renato
Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace,
Archbishop William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith, and Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical
Council "Cor Unum."
Catholic News Service has an article on Benedict XVI's message from today's general audience, catechesis on the last half of Psalm 144. The Vatican Information Service article on the general audience is here. A ZENIT transcript is here.