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Pope Benedict XVI and the History of Papal Resignations—Part IV

 . . . continued from Part III

The Schism in the Church was first and foremost a schism in the College of Cardinals, a schism that lined up generally with the sides of the contemporary Hundred Years War between England and France. Once there were two lines of popes established, however, it became very difficult to conceive of a solution. One theory that was advanced was that a council—dominated of course by the cardinals—was in fact the highest authority in the Church. What this meant was that a council could depose both popes and elect a new one. In 1409, during a period of peace in the Hundred Years War, when the belligerent countries had less interest in “winning” the schism, cardinals from both popes defected and met in council in Pisa. They deposed the rival popes and elected a third. Of course, neither the Roman nor the Avignon pope recognized the depositions as valid, and so the Church was left with three popes. This situation was totally unacceptable and whatever support the rival popes could maintain began to erode in favor of the conciliar solution. Gregory XII, the legitimate pope of the Roman line, was not willing to allow the power of the papacy to be completely gutted by a council, and so he agreed that if a council deposed the two anti-popes, he would approve its acts and then resign himself, leaving the council to elect a new pope for the whole Church. This is exactly what happened at the Council of Constance in 1415. Gregory XII resigned and became the Dean of the newly re-united College of Cardinals. The council, however, did not proceed to the election of the next pope, Martin V, until 1417, after Gregory had died. So, the potentially problematic situation of having two popes alive at the same time was avoided.

With the election of Martin V, the papacy entered a new phase in its history. The strength of the Church as an institution had been severely weakened by the schism. Not only had the papacy’s prestige been hurt immensely, but over the course of the conflict, both papal lines had traded away a great deal of their governmental powers to the various princes of Europe. By the time the schism ended, the papacy had a fraction of the institutional power in the Church that it had in the mid-14th century. In fact, it is not too much of a conceptual stretch to start seeing Europe as a collection of national churches, led by their monarchs, yet united in doctrine. The constellation of circumstances that had led to the immense power of the cardinals and to the problems of papal vacancies and ultimately schism had largely faded away, and the papacy began facing a new problem, that of how to retain its independence from powerful monarchs who had near absolute control over the churches in their kingdoms. The solution was for the popes to construct their own church/kingdom in central Italy, which became the major project of the Renaissance papacy.


As we have seen, there have been three periods in which papal resignations have occurred. In each one the resignations were an aspect of the Church’s attempts at dealing with some crisis. In the ancient period, the problem was that of persecution; in the eleventh century it was the problem of corruption and irregular elections; in the High and Late Middle Ages the problem had to do with the power of the cardinals and the interference of increasingly powerful kingdoms in the election of popes, leading to long papal vacancies. In each case, though, the resignations themselves were largely incidental to the solution to the problem at hand. What Benedict XVI is doing is, therefore, novel. Because the Holy Father seems to be suggesting papal resignation itself as the solution to the problem of aged pontiffs in the fast-paced modern world. Benedict is suggesting that the Church requires a pontiff of a certain vigor and that when he is no longer capable of performing at this level, it is appropriate for him to step down. If this is the case and if papal resignations become a viable, even a normal, way for pontificates to come to an end, it will be a development in the papal office of the same magnitude as the eleventh-century constitution of the cardinals as papal electors or the thirteenth-century establishment of the Conclave. For this reason, it is a mistake to view the primary historical interest of Benedict’s resignation to be simply that papal resignations are rare and haven’t happened in a long time. Rather, we are potentially witnessing major development in the papal office. As with so many things in the Catholic Church, only time will tell.

Pope Benedict XVI and the History of Papal Resignations—Part III

. . . continued from Part II

III. The Crisis of the Late Middle Ages—the Resignations of Celestine V and Gregory XII

The High and Late Middle Ages, from about 1140 to about 1378, are sometimes called the period of papal monarchy. During this time, the Roman Church was constructed as a centralized power, headed by the pope, and with a hand in affairs throughout Europe. The pope had universal jurisdiction both in theory and in practice; a vast judicial system was constructed, with the papal curia as the court of last appeal, and with an intricate legal code of statute and procedure, known as canon law, that would become the model for all modern legal systems. Apostolic power was interwoven into the governing systems of local churches and princes, penetrating all aspects of the social life of Europe. Christendom-wide institutions of remarkable scale, like the Crusades and the inquisitions against heresy, relied on apostolic power and were to a certain extent directed by the papacy. All this was built, ultimately, to extend the reform movement throughout Christian society. During this period, the Roman Church became not just the spiritual but the legal and institutional head of Christendom.

A part of this process was the strengthening of the cardinals. The cardinals were crucial for a number of reasons: a) the vast administration of the Church required officials. The pope could not run it himself; b) the pope needed guidance, and the cardinals, drawn from throughout Europe, were his counsel; c) power in the Middle Ages was ultimately always local, and the cardinals were integrated into the families and religious institutions of the regions from which they came, allowing the pope to make his will felt; d) the cardinals elected the pope, who was by the thirteenth century the most powerful man in Europe. For all these reasons, the relative power of the cardinals increased.

At the same time, their importance in the ecclesiology of the Church began to be constructed. Rather than simply being important members of the pope’s household, or important clergy in Rome, the cardinals were increasingly viewed as an integral part of the papacy. We start to see references to them as the pope’s body, as “sharing the secret counsel of the pope” and so sharing in his mind. We see canonists arguing that the cardinals have a sort of pre-legal power, knowing what the pope meant in his actions, of understanding the intentions of the pope at a level that conceptually trumped anything that may or may not have been put into law. Arguments begin to be advanced that when the papal see is vacant, the cardinals as a body held the plenitudo potestatis, the fullness of power.

Now, as the papacy became more powerful and the cardinals more powerful within it, the various princes of Europe became more and more concerned with the makeup of the College and the choice of the next pope. At the same time, there were increasing “national” loyalties among the cardinals—who sometimes acted as if they were representing the interests of their home kingdoms—and so the politics of the College often came to mirror that of the secular kingdoms. One of the consequences of all these developments was extremely long papal vacancies. The institutional coherence of the Church could function for a long time without a head, and the cardinals had a hard time finding candidates they could agree on. Between 1241 and 1316, the Apostolic See was vacant for over thirteen years. The longest vacancy was 38 months, from 1268 through 1269, 1270, and into 1271; but vacancies of ten months, three months, six months, became common. The laity got so desperate for a pope in 1271 that they locked the cardinals in a church, slowly started cutting their rations, and even took the roof off to expose the prelates to the elements—all to force them into a decision. The vacancies were a major pastoral and, indeed, governmental problem. Without a pope, the Church was unable to respond to changing circumstances, and the extensive judicial system slowly ground to a halt. This problem was the context for the election and abdication of Celestine V.

In 1294, the cardinals tried to break the gridlock of a two-year-nine-month vacancy by electing an outsider. They chose Pietro Di Murrone, a famous monk and hermit. Pietro reluctantly agreed and became Celestine V. Celestine was not right for the office. The papacy was an extremely powerful institution, engaged directly in international politics with such powerful personalities as King Philip the Fair of France and King Edward I (Longshanks) of England. He also had to run a massive ecclesiastical structure that was itself full of factions and political difficulties. The holy hermit was neither interested in nor capable of filling this position. The cardinals’ attempt at finding a solution to their problem through the election of a total outsider was a failure, and they began to pressure Celestine to resign, a suggestion that it seems Celestine welcomed. But before the pope abdicated, he did a number of very important things. First, he named a bunch of French cardinals—upsetting the balance of power in the College in favor of France. Second, he reinstated Gregory X’s 1274 decree Ubi Periculum, which was a formalization of the tactics used by the townspeople in 1271 and which established the conclave as the procedure by which popes were elected (it had been revoked quickly after Gregory X’s death). This time the law stuck, and we have had Conclaves ever since. Finally, Celestine stated plainly that a pope could abdicate, a statement that was quickly enshrined in canon law by his successor, Boniface VIII, in the face of opponents who were using Celestine to argue that Boniface was not a valid pope.

Boniface’s situation was tricky. The funeral of the previous pope was an integral part of the whole ritual nexus that surrounded the coronation of a pope. There was a ritual handoff from the body of the deceased pope, to the cardinals, and then to the new pope. They tried to maintain this by using the relics of previous, saintly popes in the place of Boniface’s immediate predecessor. The continued life of Celestine created a space for opposition to the new pope, even though he wanted nothing to do with it. The fear was that he would become a focus of the opposition. Because of this, Celestine was kept in the castle Fumone for the rest of his life (there is no evidence that he was mistreated).

The central problem that Celestine’s election had been an attempt to solve remained, however, and after another deadlocked conclave in 1305, Clement V was elected. Clement was from Southern France and moved the papal court to Avignon in 1309, where it stayed until 1376. During this period the papacy grew very close to the French monarchy, and many of the French cardinals felt a deep loyalty to their kingdom. When the papacy finally moved back to Rome, in the conclave of 1378, an attempt was made to regain the approval of the Romans through the election of an Italian pope, Urban VI. Urban quickly made enemies with a certain French faction of the cardinals. They claimed that his election had never been valid and held another conclave, electing one of their number and moving back to Avignon. This was the start of the Western Schism that would last 40 years and which is the context for the resignation of pope Gregory XII in 1415.

Continue to Part IV…

Pope Benedict XVI and the History of Papal Resignations—Part II

 . . . continued from Part I

II. The Crisis of the Eleventh Century—the Resignations of Benedict IX and Gregory VI

The second period in which we see papal resignations is the mid–eleventh century. In the ninth century, the papacy had separated itself from the then heretical Byzantine empire and had looked north to the Franks, crowning their king, Charlemagne, emperor of the west in 800. But Charlemagne’s empire did not long endure the monarch’s death, and by the year 900 it had virtually no presence in Rome. The papacy, therefore, entered a period of extremely local focus. The office had little jurisdictional or governmental authority outside the city of Rome, and had become an object of petty struggles between Roman aristocratic families. In 1032, one of these families managed to place a boy of about 17 on the papal throne, Pope Benedict IX.

Benedict was not a good pope. By all accounts he was immoral and irresponsible, living a dissolute life (he was, nevertheless, orthodox in all his pronouncements). In 1044, a rival family overthrew Benedict and installed Sylvester III. Benedict’s faction, however, regrouped and re-took the city from Sylvester. There were now two papal claimants. Benedict’s uncle, Gratian, was so distressed by the scandal that he tried to persuade Benedict to step down. Apparently, the only form of persuasion that Benedict responded to was money, and so Gratian “bought” the papacy from him, becoming Pope Gregory VI. A short time later, Benedict decided that this sale had been a mistake and reclaimed his throne.

Now there were three claimants. By this time the power of the Western Empire, headed by Henry III, had re-established itself in the North and was in the process of major secular and ecclesiastical reforms. Outraged by the affairs in Rome, Henry intervened by calling a council. The council declared Benedict IX and Sylvester III deposed, while Gregory VI resigned on account of his simoniacal election. Pope Clement II, a favorite of the emperor, was then elevated to the papacy. But this was not the end of Benedict IX. When Clement II died in 1047, Benedict IX returned to the papal throne for a short time before being driven from Rome by the emperor and replaced with Damasus II. In all this mess, it is impossible to sort out valid resignations and valid elections. But we can certainly say that there were at least two papal resignations—both of which occurred under pressure and toward the end of eliminating corruption.

There were several interconnected problems that the Church was facing. First was the procedure for electing a new pope. The College of Cardinals didn’t exist yet, and the cardinals themselves were simply important members of the Roman clergy. The election of the pope proceeded in a largely ad hoc manner. A candidate was basically acclaimed by the clergy and people of Rome. In reality, of course, this lack of procedure opened the door for the corruption of secular politics to penetrate the whole electoral process. Furthermore, if the clergy and people acclaimed the pope, what happened when two groups of clergy and people acclaimed two different men? If this happened, when there were rivals for the throne, who was the judge? The emperor?

The reforming popes—starting with St. Leo IX (1049–54), who came in on the heels of the scandalous events of the mid–eleventh century—had been brought in from the North, from well outside the Roman milieu, by the German Emperor. They were to clean up Rome, and they set about doing so. But as much as they owed their position to the emperor’s power and agreed with him about ecclesiastical reform, they were extremely uncomfortable with his role in deposing and electing popes. The introduction of a power capable of judging the pope was not the solution to the Church’s problem.

And so, in 1059, Pope Nicholas II issued an edict that established the cardinals of Rome as the papal electors. Their choice still had to be acclaimed by the clergy and people, and confirmed by the emperor, but only a candidate of their choice could become pope. This was rejected by the Germans as prejudicial to the rights of the emperor, and the Germans, attempting to operate according to the old “rules,” tried to depose Nicholas and replace him with another. This ushered a long period of conflict between the emperors and the Roman popes. Seven out of the next ten popes faced anti-popes.

By the 1140s, this conflict ended with the victory of the reform party. Not only did the papacy retain control of itself; it could definitively assert control over the spiritual dimensions of the clergy throughout the Church, including the bishops. This was crucial to extending the reform movement out of Rome and throughout the Church, which became the program for the next 160 years. The resignations that occurred in this period were a part of the process of ending one way of doing things that was no longer congruent with the social reality and replacing it with another. This was a painful experience that resulted in decades of schism and even outright war.

Continue to Part III…

Lenten Feature from Steve Ray

Today’s guest post is by Steve Ray, author, apologist, and leader of Catholic pilgrimages.

Forty days in the wilderness; forty days of Lent. We are now embarking on the adventure we’ve called Lent since the early centuries of the Church. It may not be fun, but if our spirit is right, it can be exciting and rewarding. We may even lose a few pounds.

Jesus left the opulence and religiosity of Jerusalem and the Jewish community in Galilee to embark on a Lent of his own. He suffered the rugged harshness of the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. He gave up the comforts of societal life and walked among the rocks. I’ve been in that Judean wilderness more times than I can count, and I know the environment he subjected himself to.

Moses had been tending sheep for forty years in the wilderness of Sinai before he encountered the burning bush and heard the word of God. By the way, that is why Our Blessed Mother is referred to as the fulfillment of the Burning Bush—the word of God came out from her. Those years in the wilderness prepared Moses for the tough task awaiting him. He was pushed to his limit, he talked with God, and his character was formed by the desert.

Even today, the Bedouins and religious monks that take up habitation in the solitary, austere deserts have an inner serenity lacking in those busting through the streets of the city. The desert is the place to meet God, to discover our smallness and dependence. The wilderness is where God can reach us in the silence, where we are not assaulted by the cacophony of sounds and demands of modern life.

The Devil knew about the loneliness of the desert, too. That is why he purposely tempted Jesus when he was hungry, thirsty, tired and alone. When I take my pilgrims to the Holy Land, I show them the places the Devil appeared. He came at the point Jesus was the weakest. He even came quoting Scripture. He does that, you know—he is known to appear as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He will not fail to whisper in our ears at the moment of weakness.

How did Jesus respond? All three times Jesus refuted Satan with the words, “It is written!” He quoted from Scripture. It was his weapon, his two-edged sword. Jesus knew Scripture.

We are embarking on our own forty days of denying ourselves, but not denying only. We should also be adding things to our life to deepen our knowledge of God and his Word. Adding a few extra Masses during the week, being more generous with our time and treasures. We should spend a bit more time in prayer and spiritual reading. We should be prepared for temptation and be well armed with the Word of God.

This is also the Year of Faith. I’ve made it my goal to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church from cover to cover this year. I’m also reading the Bible through in two years. I’ve tried it before, but fell flat on my proverbial face. This time I have a plan. I’m using Logos Bible Software, specifically the Catholic version, called Verbum. There is a marvelous program embedded in Verbum to assist in the daily reading of not only the Bible, but also the Catechism and any other book in the Verbum software library.

Just choose the book you want to read, set the parameters (for me it was the Catechism in one year), and it will automatically organize it for you with daily reminders, jumping right to place for today’s reading. Ah, but what if I don’t have time at my computer every day? No problem; Verbum synchronizes across platforms, so I can whip out my iPhone (or any such device) and instantly read today’s paragraphs while waiting at the dentist, during lunch, while taking a walk, in a taxi, or after I turn out the lights at night.

Scripture in my hand! What would Sts. Jerome, Augustine, and Aquinas have thought of that? They tugged around great tomes and scrolls. I have 6,000 books and resources in the palm of my hand. Verbum is on my computer, laptop, iPad and iPhone. I want the Word of God to be like a sword I can draw at a moment’s notice.

People have joked, “Steve probably never opens his Bible anymore, now that he is a Catholic!” I chuckle and say, “You are correct. I haven’t opened a Bible in a long time.”

But I have opened Verbum across my platforms, and I study the Bible more—and more efficiently than ever before. Actually, I thought I loved the Bible as a Baptist, but I love it a hundred times more now that I’ve discovered that it is a Catholic book.

Enjoy Lent! Dive into the adventure and keep Verbum at the heart of it all—not just for forty days, but for the rest of your life.

Steve Ray

Editor’s note: Pre-order Steve Ray’s books in Logos format here.

Pope Benedict XVI and the History of Papal Resignations—Part I

Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement that he intends to resign from the Chair of Saint Peter has rightfully sent shock waves through the Church. It is an epochal development. This is so not just because papal resignations are rare, but because this time things are different. We are potentially witnessing a development as significant as the medieval emergence of the cardinals as the sole papal electors. The way pontificates end has never been problematic for the Catholic Church—they have ended with the natural death of the pope. Rather, it has been the election of popes that has been the focus of institutional development. With Benedict’s announcement, however, he seems to be acknowledging that it is necessary for the Church to develop a new “normal” way in which a pontificate might come to an end.

This is a very big deal. It’s not that there haven’t been papal resignations before. In fact, it has happened somewhere between five and nine times in Church history. In each case, however, the resignations have occurred within the context of a greater crisis in the Church, and have involved issues surrounding papal legitimacy and papal succession. Also, in each case, the pope was under great pressure to resign. Things are different with Benedict.

The best way to see these differences is by a detailed look at past resignations. These can easily be fit into three distinct periods in Church history: the Early Church, the eleventh century, and the late Middle Ages. In each period, the resignations occurred in the context of very different crises, but there are certain threads that tie all of them together. This is the first in a series of posts that will go through these three periods, exploring what was happening in the Church that led to the exceedingly rare papal resignations. By the end, we will hopefully be able to place Benedict XVI’s resignation in enough historical context to begin to understand its significance.

I. The Crisis of the Early Church—the Possible Resignation of Martin I

In the first period of resignations, the Church faced the crisis of persecution at the hands of the Roman emperors. We have three popes that are sometimes said to have abdicated between 235 and 366. St. Pontian (230–235) and Liberius (352–366) were both sent into exile by the emperor and may have abdicated the papal throne in order to allow for a new papal election. The evidence that these events happened, however, is extremely weak, and as good a case can be made that the resignations never happened.

It is sometimes asserted, based on thin evidence, that under torture St. Marcellinus (296–304) offered sacrifice to the Roman idols and resigned from his office before he repented and was martyred. While St. Augustine argued that this was not true of Marcellinus, the truth is that the extant evidence is inadequate to piece together the events.

The one clear but odd case is that of St. Martin I (649–655), the last of the martyr popes. St. Martin refused to accept the Byzantine emperor’s Monothelite heresy, and so was sent into exile as a slave laborer. After several years, the Romans elected Eugenius I pope. Sometime later Martin wrote a letter in which he makes reference to Eugenius approvingly. The details are unclear, but it does not seem to be the case that Martin resigned in any sort of formal manner. Rather, he seems to have retroactively acknowledged Eugenius. There is not enough clear evidence to make strong conclusions about this period. Nevertheless, the central problem in play is popes who were incapable of performing their office because of persecution—a problem that would not be ultimately solved until the papacy was no longer subject to the secular power of the emperors.

Continue to Part II…

Blessed Fra Angelico’s Feast Day

Guido di Pietro was born circa 1395 and became a Dominican friar in 1417, taking the name Fra Giovanni da Fiesole. He earned the nicknames il Beato Angelico, “Blessed Angelic One,” and his common English name: Fra Angelico, which means “Angelic Brother.”

Even before he became a friar, Fra Angelico was a talented painter; after he entered the religious order, he traveled to and from Rome painting altarpieces and frescoes in papal chapels and his own respective friaries.

His range of audiences can be detected in the different colors used. The frescoes in the convent of Fiesole encourage meditation in simple colors, while the papal paintings tend toward brilliance and gold. Throughout his works, however, one finds a theme of humility and piety. His paintings consistently depict sincerity and gentleness.

Giorgio Vasari, famous for his biographies of Renaissance artists, declares, “In their bearing and expression, the saints painted by Fra Angelico come nearer to the truth than the figures done by any other artist.”

He died in Rome in 1455. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 3, 1982, and declared patron of Catholic artists in 1984.

William Michael Rossetti, a major contributor to the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, wrote of Fra Angelico,

From various accounts of Fra Angelico’s life, it is possible to gain some sense of why he was deserving of canonization. He led the devout and ascetic life of a Dominican friar, and never rose above that rank; he followed the dictates of the order in caring for the poor; he was always good-humored. All of his many paintings were of divine subjects, and it seems that he never altered or retouched them, perhaps from a religious conviction that, because his paintings were divinely inspired, they should retain their original form. He was wont to say that he who illustrates the acts of Christ should be with Christ. It is averred that he never handled a brush without fervent prayer and he wept when he painted a Crucifixion.

Ashes to Ashes

Today’s guest post is by Brandon Rappuhn, a Logos marketing copywriter.

For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. (Ecclesiastes 3:19–20)

It is prudent to remember that we are only made of flesh and blood. The flesh and blood of Adam was formed out of the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7), and when we die, our bodies go back into the ground and become dust again. How often do we consider our own inevitable death? I confess that I keep myself too busy in my daily life to slow down and really consider life, death, heaven, and hell.[i] In a very clever and symbolic way, the Church has developed Ash Wednesday and Lent to reorient ourselves toward our eternal goal.

Repentance is the key to the proper orientation of the heart and the first step on the long road to heaven. Turning away from the ways of sin and toward Jesus and the Cross is the aim of the season—and so from repentance (the attitude of the heart) we get penance (the physical practice of repentance). Lent is a season of penance, which we enter through the doors of Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday began as a public penance some 14 centuries ago. Originally, the penitent would appear barefoot and humbly dressed at the doors to the church. The penitent would then be clad in sackcloth and brought before the bishop, who would make their penances known publicly and would put ashes upon his head. As the centuries went by, the practice gradually became more universal to all Catholics.

Today, we use the ashes from the burned remains of the palm branches from Palm Sunday. Jesus was glorified by the use of palm branches in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem in the days leading up to his crucifixion. The ashes of the palms show us that we cannot gain victory over sin and death except by repentance and humility. Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris . . .

May we all remember on this somber day our origins and our destination. Today we begin Lent—40 days that represent a tenth (or a tithe) of our calendar year, which we offer up in repentance for our sins and penance that we may never sin again. This season, I encourage you to daily consider to what end sin leads, and to what end faith brings you—and to pray with me that Christ brings us there.

[i] I may have to eat my own words. At the time I am writing this, my morning readings from St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life directed me to contemplate the final judgment, heaven, and hell.

Persist in faith this Lent

Lent is coming. If you haven’t read Andrew’s stellar Mardi Gras post, check it out, and notice (at the bottom) that we are having a Mardi Gras sale: 15% off resources that will help you dive into the Gospels. (Coupon expires at midnight, PST)

We will be very focused on training and devotionals this Lent. Our posts will revolve around how to use the software and grow in faith as we prepare for Easter.

Every Friday we will share a “Lenten Feature” post (index below), focused on how you can use your base package or the Mardi Gras sale items more effectively. We will also feature “mini-Easter” sales every Sunday, as a chance to focus on Christ and the saints in a new light each week.

I strongly encourage you to download our free app for your Android or iOS device so that you can carry Christ with you this Lent. Challenge yourself to use the mobile app in lieu of Facebook on your phone, to reflect on the day’s Gospel as you ride the bus, or to discuss the Catechism as a daily devotion and continued Year of Faith goal.

Share the app with your friends, get a Faithlife reading plan going, or just encourage each other to uphold your Lenten promises. Post this to your Facebook wall or share it to your Twitter followers (before you give either of those up for Lent).

Do you already have the app? Be sure to rate it and tell your friends. Let’s spend this Lent building community among Catholics around the world with free Faithlife accounts and free mobile apps. Who are you going to share this with?

Lenten Posts:

Ashes to Ashes
Lenten feature: customize your daily reflection
Lenten feature from Steve Ray

Pope Benedict XVI announces resignation

As many of you are likely already aware, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will resign on February 28, 2013, citing deteriorating strength. Below is the full statement from Pope Benedict XVI.

I implore you to pray for Pope Benedict XVI and our future pope in this trying time, and to support each other as the media’s speculation turns, as always, to sensationalism. Study the Faith, stand up for the truth, and let us all join in prayer for the future of the Catholic Church.

Dear brothers,

I have convoked you to this consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which, in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on April 19, 2005, in such a way, that as from Feb. 28, 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter, will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry, and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the holy Church to the care of our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the cardinal fathers with her maternal solicitude in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, February 10, 2013


Anne Catherine Emmerich

Today’s guest post is by Brandon Rappuhn, a Logos marketing copywriter.

 Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, born in Germany in 1774, was a mystic and visionary. She had poor health and lived in poverty most of her life, but was ecstatic to join the convent and take vows as a nun when the opportunity presented itself to her. Ten years later, she was bedridden with stigmata.

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s mysterious visions have been a subject of interesting discussion in the Catholic Church. When she was beatified in 2004 by Pope John Paul II, the authenticity of the transcriptions of her visions was brought into investigation, but her beatification was based on grounds completely apart from the writings associated with her.

The poet Clemens Brentano wrote down all the visions and stories Emmerich told him. Although these visions may or may not be authentic, they are incredibly inspiring. It is said that Emmerich, as a child, had visions of Purgatory and of the core of the Trinity, and that she had conversations with Jesus. Most notable were her visions of the Passion of Jesus, which are recorded in The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the life of Mary, which were allegedly revealed to her in her spiritual visions.

These visions have gone on to inspire generations—even the 2003 film The Passion of the Christ was inspired by Emmerich’s vivid visions of Jesus’ crucifixion. Authentic or not, these accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and Mary’s life are powerful stories that will inspire you to a closer devotion to the Holy family.

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