Moscow, Russia, Jun 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
To mark the Year of Faith in Russia, lay-Catholic group Una Voce has organized a five-day pilgrimage in honor of 11th-century king Saint Olaf, including daily Mass and veneration of his icon.
The pilgrimage will last from July 25 to 29 – concluding in the northern city of Veliky Novgorod – and brings together Catholics devoted to both the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite and to the Byzantine rite.
“The idea was to do something traditional for the Year of Faith,” Oleg-Michael Martynov, a board member of Una Voce Russia, told CNA June 13.
“It's quite important for us because St. Olaf is one of the relatively few Catholic saints who have actually been to what is now the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Pilgrims will prepare for their journey on July 24 with a preparatory program of spiritual exercises. Martynov expects these will include a small retreat, a day of prayer, and recollections from the priest in Luga.
The pilgrimage will begin July 25 with a Mass in the extraordinary form at St. Nicholas parish in Luga, and a blessing of the pilgrims. The pilgrims will walk the 60 miles to Veliky Novgorod over the course of five days. The two cities are located between St. Petersburg and Moscow.
The following day, Divine Liturgy will be celebrated according to the Byzantine Rite, and will alternate each day with Mass. The pilgrimage concludes on July 29 at the parish of Ss. Peter and Paul, where the icon of St. Olaf will be venerated. That day, the priests will say a solemn Mass in the extraordinary form for the feast of St. Olaf.
Una Voce Russia reports that the St. Olaf pilgrimage is occurring with the blessing of both the Russian primate, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of the Mother of God at Moscow, and Bishop Joseph Werth of Transfiguration at Novosibirsk, who is also responsible for all Eastern Catholics in Russia.
Una Voce Russia is part of the international Una Voce movement, which is dedicated to ensuring that the extraordinary form of the Roman rite – how the liturgy was celebrated until after the Second Vatican Council – is maintained, and which promotes the use of Latin, Gregorian chant, and polyphony.
Among its early members were the composers Maurice Duruflé and Oliver Messiaen.
To celebrate the Year of Faith, the pilgrimage will feature three evening lectures on the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Attending at least three talks on the documents of the council, which began 50 years ago, are the first way to gain a plenary indulgence for the Year of Faith.
“The lectures are not about celebrating the council without any depth,” Martynov said. “We want people to know, and we ourselves to learn, what did this council really say; not what is the spirit of the council...but what it really was.”
The lectures will be about three different documents of Vatican II, Nostra aetate, Unitatis redintegratio, and Ad gentes. These are the documents on non-Christian religions, ecumenism, and missionary activity, respectively.
“I think it will be quite interesting lectures, maybe much more interesting than what an average Catholic usually hears about the council from the pulpit,” reflected Martynov.
He noted that St. Olaf was chosen as patron of the pilgrimage following Benedict XVI's “appeal for the fostering of devotion to local saints.”
“We started thinking, who are our local saints, because we venerate so many saints who lived in western Europe – St. Anthony of Padua, or St. Louis of France, St. Francis – but we don’t know much about those who actually walked the same lands we are walking now.”
St. Olaf was king of Norway from 1015 to 1028, and he was instrumental in the Christianization of his country. When he was deposed from this throne by pagans, he went into exile and stayed with the prince of Veliky Novgorod.
He later returned to Norway and was martyred at the battle of Stiklestad on July 29, 1030. He inspired his troops during the battle by exclaiming, “Forward, forward, people of Christ, people of the cross, people of the king.”
Martynov noted that “some of us have been to the Chartres pilgrimage and liked it much...and we decided to give it a try.”
The Chartres pilgrimage in France celebrates Pentecost and is an institution of 31 years. It attracts between eight and 10,000 pilgrims every year.
It has given rise to many other smaller pilgrimages throughout the world, now including the St. Olaf pilgrimage in Russia.
“We hope it will be a success and will be repeated later, maybe next year,” Martynov said.
“Everyone is welcome to take part in the pilgrimage,” he added, “but I don’t think many people from America will be able to come – it’s a long way.”
Denver, Colo., Jun 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church on June 28, and by Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine tradition on August 23, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons was a second-century bishop and writer in present-day France.
He is best known for defending Christian orthodoxy, especially the reality of Christ’s human incarnation, against the set of heresies known as Gnosticism.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke admiringly of St. Irenaeus in a 2007 general audience, recalling how this early Church Father “refuted the Gnostic dualism and pessimism which debased corporeal realities. He decisively claimed the original holiness of matter, of the body, of the flesh no less than of the spirit.”
“But his work went far beyond the confutation of heresy: in fact, one can say that he emerges as the first great Church theologian who created systematic theology; he himself speaks of the system of theology, that is, of the internal coherence of all faith.”
While some of St. Irenaeus’ most important writings have survived, the details of his life are not as well-preserved. He was born in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, likely in the Aegean coastal city of Smyrna, probably around the year 140. As a young man he heard the preaching of the early bishop (and eventual martyr) Saint Polycarp, who had been personally instructed by the Apostle John.
Irenaeus eventually became a priest, and served in the Church of Lyons (in the region of Gaul) during a difficult period in the late 170s. During this time of state persecution and doctrinal controversy, Irenaeus was sent to Rome to provide Pope St. Eleutherius with a letter about the heretical movement known as Montanism. After returning to Lyons, Irenaeus became the city’s second bishop, following the martyrdom of his predecessor Saint Pothinus.
In the course of his work as a pastor and evangelist, the second Bishop of Lyon came up against various heretical doctrines and movements, many of which sounded a common note in their insistence that the material world was evil and not part of God’s original plan. The proponents of these ideas often claimed to be more deeply “enlightened” or “spiritual” than ordinary Christians, on account of their supposed secret knowledge (or “gnosis”).
Irenaeus recognized this movement, in all its forms, as a direct attack on the Catholic faith. The Gnostics’ disdain for the physical world was irreconcilable with the Biblical doctrine of creation, which stated that God had made all things according to his good purpose. Gnostics, by contrast, saw the material world as the work of an evil power, crediting God only with the creation of a higher and purely spiritual realm.
In keeping with its false view of creation, Gnosticism also distorted the concept of redemption. The Church knew Christ as the savior of the world: redeeming believers’ bodies and souls, and investing creation with a sacramental holiness. Gnostics, meanwhile, saw Jesus merely as saving souls from the physical world in which they were trapped. Gnostic “redemption” was not liberation from sin, but a supposed promise of release from the material world.
Irenaeus refuted the Gnostic errors in his lengthy book “Against Heresies,” which is still studied today for its historical value and theological insights. A shorter work, the “Proof of the Apostolic Preaching,” contains Irenaeus’ presentation of the Gospel message, with a focus on Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Several of his other works are now lost, though a collection of fragments from them has been compiled and translated.
St. Irenaeus’ earthly life ended around 202 – possibly through martyrdom, though this is not definitively known.
Vatican City, Jun 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his June 23 Angelus reflection, Pope Francis said the faithful are called to follow the example of the martyrs in losing their lives for Christ, even if they do not suffer violence for their faith.
“Both in the past and today, in many parts of the world there are martyrs, both men and women, who are imprisoned or killed for the sole reason of being Christian,” he said, noting that there are more martyrs dying violent deaths in modern times than in the early centuries of the Church.
“But there is also the daily martyrdom, which does not result in death but is also a loss of life for Christ.”
This “daily martyrdom” consists of people “doing their duty with love, according to the logic of Jesus,” said the pontiff from the window of the Apostolic Palace to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
He delivered his Angelus comments reflecting on the day's Gospel reading, in which Jesus tells his disciples “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Pope Francis stressed that there are fathers and mothers who put their faith into practice concretely by devoting their lives to the good of their families each day.
“There are many priests, monks, nuns who give generously with their service to the kingdom of God and the young people who give up their interests to devote their time to children, the disabled and the elderly,” he stated.
“Those who serve the truth serve Christ,” he underscored.
The Pope also spoke of St. John the Baptist, whose feast day is June 24, and pointed to him as an example of a man who gave his life for the truth.
“John was chosen by God to prepare the way before Jesus,” he said, explaining that the saint “devoted himself entirely to God and his messenger” and ultimately died for the truth.
Pope Francis entreated everyone, particularly young people, to “have the courage to go against the tide of current values that do not conform to the path of Jesus.”