The Festival of Vulcan

On the ancient Roman calendar of religious festivals, August 23rd was the day of the Vulcanalia, a sacrifice offered to the god Vulcan at his principal shrine in the Forum. The location of this shrine is not precisely known, but it was certainly at the foot of the Capitoline, close to the later constructions of […]

Pius XII and the Dogma of the Assumption

The feast of the Assumption, which is celebrated today, was brought into the Roman Rite by Pope St Sergius I (687-701) at the end of the 7th century from the Byzantine tradition. However, the Church’s belief that the Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul at the end of Her earthly life certainly […]

The Dogs of August

One of the strangest aspects of ancient Roman religion was an annual sacrifice known as the “supplicia canum – the punishments of the dogs”, which an early Byzantine writer, John the Lydian (ca. 495-565), says took place on August 3rd. (Earlier sources give no specific date for it.) This consisted of suspending live dogs on […]

The Month of Quintilis and the Games of Apollo

Yesterday we marked the anniversary of Julius Caesar’s birth in 100 B.C. Following the Roman calendar then in use (which he would later significantly reform), Caesar himself would have said that he was born on the “fourth day before the Ides of Quintilis.” In the ancient Roman year that began with March, the first four […]

Semo Sancus, the God of Oaths

Yesterday, we mentioned the god Semo Sancus in connection with the legend of Simon Magus, since St Justin Martyr mistook a statue of the former on the Tiber Island for the latter. The cult of this god is believed to have been imported into the religion of Rome from Umbria, the region immediately to the […]

Lactantius’ “On the Deaths of the Persecutors”

Yesterday, we wrote about the writer Lactantius (AD 250-320 ca.), who is known as “the Christian Cicero,” and his general apologetic exposition of Christianity, the Divine Institutes. This book was very appealing to the sensibilities of the Renaissance for its use of pagan writings to prove the truth of the Christian Faith. Nowadays, however, he […]

St Justin Martyr at the Crossroads of the Roman Empire

On the calendar of the Novus Ordo and in the Byzantine Rite, today is the feast of the Church Father St Justin, who was martyred for the Faith at Rome around the year 165. Although his few surviving writings are in Greek, his career illustrates very well the providential role which the Latin-speaking Roman Empire […]

St Benedict, Patron of Europe (Part 2)

Yesterday, for the feast of St Benedict, we posted the first part of our translation of the Apostolic Letter Pacis Nuntius, by which Pope Paul VI declared him to be the Patron Saint of Europe. This decree shares many of the same concerns about the role of the Faith and of the Church in human […]

St Benedict, Patron of Europe (Part 1)

Today marks the anniversary of the death of St Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, and is the traditional date of his feast, still kept as such by many houses of his order. In 1964, Pope Paul VI, by the Apostolic Letter Pacis nuntius, declared him to be the patron Saint of Europe, in recognition […]

A Miracle of St John of God

Today is the feast of a Portuguese saint whose secular name was João Duarte Cidade, but is now known simply as St John of God. Born in 1495, and orphaned at the age of 8, in his youth he worked as a shepherd, a soldier and a bookseller. A sermon by the preacher St John […]