08 June 2006

Salamanca



I haven´t been very good in keeping up with the posts. Lo siento mucho. But I am now in Salamanca, and it is beautiful. I will post pictures of the cathedrals when I get back to the states, but wow. The history here is amazing. We went to the University of Salamanca, founded in 1218, yesterday. There we saw the classroom of Fray Luis de Leon. He was sent to prison for five years by the Inquisition, but the story goes that when he was released he went to his podium, opened the book to the same page and said "As we were saying..." Anywho, we also visited the chapel of the university. There we saw the diploma of St. Teresa of Avila from the university proclaiming her Doctor ecclesiae (Doctor of the Church, but not the title given by the Pope which came in 1970). It was fascinating to be standing in the chapel with a beautiful painting of the Immaculate Conception behind the altar, knowing that for hundreds of years, prominent theologians on staff stood in the same place to swear to defend the dogma.
Many famous people studied or lectured at the University. Miguel de Cervantes, Saint Ignatius Loyola, and Saint John of the Cross are among the most prominent.

The patron saint of Salamanca is Saint John of Sahagun. In Salamanca, his feast day is celebrated on June 12, so we will be here for it. Saint John was born in 1419, the oldest of seven children. He was very much devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, and at Mass he would often see the Host "resplendent in glory" and the bodily presence of the Lord. He was a great peacemaker and "in his sermons he, like another St. John the Baptist, fearlessly preached the word of God and scourged the crimes and vices of the day, though thereby the rich and noble were offended. He soon made many enemies, who even hired assassins, but these, awed by the serenity and angelic sweetness of his countenance, lost courage. Some women of Salamanca, embittered by the saint's strong sermon against extravagance in dress, openly insulted him in the streets and pelted him with stones until stopped by a patrol of guards. His scathing words on impurity produced salutary effects in a certain nobleman who had been living in open concubinage, but the woman swore vengeance, and it was popularly believed that she caused the saint's death by poison" (Catholic Encyclopedia).

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01 June 2006

Toledo

Nearly two months later, I start my little series of posts on the beautiful cities of Spain that I visited. Leave it to me. But don't worry... it is fresh in my mind and I have many pictures. The first city we stopped in was Toledo. The archdiocese of Toledo is the primatial see of Spain. That means that it is the seat of the Primate of Spain (the highest ranking bishop of several provinces... like a country). It is an honorary title, and they basically are different from other metropolitan bishops in that they have more prestige or honor in ceremonies or national councils. The current primate is Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera. The United States has no primate, by the way. The archdiocese of Baltimore, however, is the oldest see in the country. Back to Spain... Tarragona was once a primatial see, in the kingdom of Aragon. It is in modern day Catalunya. Sorry for all the background information- I just love the history (secular and ecclesial) of Spain.

Tradition has it that Saint James the Great founded the Church in Spain. As I said earlier, Saint Paul did want to go there, and Pope Saint Clement I said that he in fact did make it to Spain. As for Saint James, however, we have a big gap between the time of his death in AD 44 to the first mention of his being in Spain. Still, there are several traditions placing him there. One tradition of Saint James in Spain is the story of Our Lady Of Pilar. In the year 40, Saint James was preaching in Spain. On January 2, he was alongside the River Ebro when the Virgin Mary appeared to him, standing on a pillar carried by angels. She instructed him to return to Judaea, where he was beheaded in 44. The pillar is kept in the basilica of Pilar in Zaragoza. His relics are supposedly kept in a church in Santiago de Compostela. It is contested, but Pope Leo XIII argued for the authenticity of the relics in the bull Omnipotens Deus.

The see of Toledo claims Saint Eugenius as its first bishop. Saint Eugenius was a first century Roman. The information is a little sparse during the Roman persecution, but we know of many martyrs. Saint Leocadia was one of them. She lived during the persecutions of Diocletian which sent to heaven a multitude of Spanish martyrs. She was beaten and tortured and then thrown into prison, never giving in to apostasy. She died on December 9, 304. She is the patroness of Toledo. After the end of the state sponsored persecution, we have record of the bishops of Toledo until the 10th century. During this time, the Church in Toledo grew and helped keep the Spanish Church unified. This was done in a large part through several of the Councils of Toledo (400-700)- the twelth in 681 declaring that the diocese of Toledo was the primary see in Spain. The see was vacant from 926-1058 during the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. On May 25, 1085,
King Alfonso VI of Castile and Leon conquered Toledo, driving the Muslims out. With the Reconquest of Toledo, Bernard de Toledo became archbishop and in 1088 was declared Primate of Spain by Pope Urban II (who called for the first crusade). Following Bernard, there is an unbroken line of bishops of Toledo up to today.

One of the most interesting bishops and stories of the Church in Toledo is of San Ildefonso (Saint Ildephonsus). He was born in 607 and bishop from 657-667. He had great devotion to the Virgin Mary. In fact, his best known work is titled De virginitate perpetua sanctae Mariae adversus tres infideles. One day while he was in the cathedral of Toledo, the Blessed Mother descended to the floor in front of him. There she gave him a chasuble, the outermost liturgical vestment of a priest. The chasuble was a gift for his devotion and defense of her. The rock has been preserved and placed in the current cathedral of Toledo (cathedral photo above or see beautiful altar and retablo
here). I was privileged to be able to visit the cathedral and kiss the rock that the feet of the Virgin rested on. Above the place there is a sign that reads:

Cuando la reina del cielo / puso los pies en el suelo / en esta piedra los puso / de besadla tened uso para más vuestro consuelo.
(When the Queen of Heaven placed her feet on the ground, in this rock she placed them. Kiss it for your consolation.)

Tóquese la piedra diciendo con toda devoción: veneramos este lugar en que puso sus pies la Santísima Virgen.
(Touch the rock saying with all devotion: We venerate this place in which she put her feet, the Most Holy Virgin.)

Click here for a painting by my favorite- Bartolomé Esteban Murillo- of the descension of the Virgin.

Hopefully I will get more posts up soon... before school starts. Until then, God bless you all. Que Dios os bendiga!

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