Posted by: fvbcdm | July 10, 2013

Feast of Saint John of Cologne (9 July 2013)

Today some of the elements of the Church celebrate the martyrdoms of nineteen priests in Holland during the wars of religion in the 1500s. One of them was our Dominican brother, Saint John of Cologne, so we of the Dominican family proudly take part in the celebration today.

From our vantage point today, we realize how futile, how contradictory, it is to fight over religion when religion is supposed to be a source of peace, harmony, and unity within the human family. But this is an evolutionary idea which has becomes clearer as time goes on; it certainly was not evident to those who called themselves Christians in the 16th century.

Our Saint John was a native of Cologne in Germany; he joined the Dominicans who had been in his native city for three centuries, since the days of Saints Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. After his ordination he was sent to the small town of Gorkum in what is now Holland, to do parish work. Eighteen other priests had been captured and imprisoned by the Calvinists there, and Saint John tried to help them. He, too, was captured and imprisoned. The Dutch leader of the Calvinist and anti-Catholic forces was William of Orange who was the founder of the royal dynasty, the House of Orange, which still rules in Holland. Being a man of some humane-ness and mercy, he ordered the priests to be released. But down the chain of command, William’s order was amended to mean that they would be released if they would simply renounce two dogmas of the Catholic Church. One of them was that of the Real Presence of Our Divine Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar; the other was that of the supreme authority of the Popes over the entire Church. But of course, the priests knew very clearly that these are two of the absolute fundamentals of Catholicism which no one can renounce and still claim to be a Catholic. So they underwent about ten days of torture and gross mistreatment while steadfastly refusing to deny their faith. At the end of that period, they were hanged in a barn before a group of their Calvinist enemies who paid to watch the spectacle, and their bodies thrown into a common grave.

We are Catholics because we are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. And the very core and heart of our holy religion is our belief  in, devotion to, and reception of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. The sufferings, blood, and death of our martyrs simply adds greater luster to these elements of our faith. This morning, as I celebrated Mass and pronounced over the bread and the wine the words of consecration: This is my body . . . this is the cup of my blood, I was very conscious that this Sacrament that I was bringing into being on the altar was that for which Saint John and his companions willingly gave their lives, and which is made even more precious to us by the fact that down through the centuries, many other men and women have died in defense of that sacred doctrine given us by Christ. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God Bless you.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.


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