A Sermon of Pope St Leo the Great on the Epiphany

The friend and mentor of many of us at VSI, Fr Reginald Foster, was a great admirer of the writings of Pope St Leo I, and liked to say that “all you need to know about theology, you can find in Leo’s glorious Latin!” This is a little bit of hyperbole (a rhetorical device at […]

Two Legends of St John the Evangelist

The very earliest sources of the Roman Rite attest to the custom by which the feast of the Lord’s Birth is followed immediately by three feasts of Saints of the New Testament. St Stephen the first martyr is celebrated on December 26th, followed by the apostle St John, the evangelist who speaks most clearly about […]

Believing Thomas

On the calendar of the usus antiquior, today is the feast of the Apostle St Thomas. This feast was instituted in the West in the 9th century; the reason for the choice of date is unknown, but it is likely not a coincidence that nine other months have the feast of an Apostle or Evangelist […]

The Pope Who Gave Us the Agnus Dei

On this day in the year 687, St Sergius I was elected to the papacy; he would reign for nearly 14 years. Like that of his contemporary St Theodore of Tarsus, his life and career show the endurance of the transnational culture created by the Roman Empire, and the role that culture played in spreading […]

The Feast of the Prophet Habakkuk

In the western Church, feasts of Old Testament Saints are not unheard-of, but they are extremely rare, and only one has ever been generally observed. (This is on August 1st, the feast of the scribe Eleazar and the mother and seven sons whose martyrdom is described in 2 Maccabees 6 and 7.) The Byzantine Rite, […]

St Catherine of Alexandria in the Liturgy of the Church of Milan

St John XXIII’s Constitution on the study of Latin Veterum Sapientia rightly reminds us that it is the key to exploring not only the literary riches of the ancient Roman world, but also those of the Church itself. Among these we may count innumerable treasures from its liturgical tradition, and especially those which through whatever […]

St John of Damascus on the Presentation of the Virgin Mary

The feast of the Virgin Mary’s Presentation the originated with the dedication of a new church which the emperor Justinian built to honor Her in Jerusalem in 543. In the Byzantine Rite, it is celebrated as one of the most important solemnities of the year, part of a group known as the Twelve Great Feasts […]

St Cyprian on the Communion of Saints

Although the feast of All Saints on November 1st became a universal custom of the Roman Rite in the mid-9th century, it was not until the later 15th century that it became common to celebrate it with an octave. When the Breviary of St Pius V was promulgated in 1568, a new selection of Matins […]

The Martyrs of the Theban Legion

September 22 is traditionally the feast of a group of soldiers martyred in 287 A.D, known as the “Theban Legion” from the Egyptian city of Thebes where they were recruited. The story recounts that the whole legion was Christian; sent to the area around Lake Geneva, they were placed under the command of the Emperor […]

Stabat Mater, the Hymn of the Sorrowful Virgin

Devotion to the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary first emerged in German-speaking lands in the early 15th-century, partly as a counterweight to the iconoclasm of the Hussite movement, and partly out of the universal popular devotion to every aspect of Christ’s Passion, including the presence of his Mother, and thence to her grief over his […]