A Brief (Catholic) History of Violence

7 09 2009

st-sebastian-andrea-mantegna

La Reja, Argentina, 2002

Around 6:45 a.m.

“Deus in adjutorium meum intende…”

In seminary, our day would always open with those words: “O God, come to my assistance”. In rapid succession, trying not to drag, we would chant the psalmody in recto tono. This was the office of Prime, the first office of the day for slackers who didn’t rise at three in the morning for Matins. After much back and forth, and after the last Gloria Patri, we would rapidly come to the part where we would finally be able to sit down on our cold, hard benches. A reader would come forth in the middle of the choir, and begin to read, in Spanish, from the Roman Martyrology. At this point, I would usually just space out. For even while trusting the wisdom of Holy Mother Church, the violence portrayed could be almost gratuitous. Yes, it is very edifying what the martyrs lived and suffered through, but there was only so much of stuff like the following that you could stomach before breakfast:

At Spoleto, in the days of Emperor Antoninus, the passion of St. Pontian, martyr, who was barbarously scourged for Christ by the command of the judge Fabian, and then compelled to walk barefoot on burning coals. As he was uninjured by the fire, he was put on the rack, was torn with iron hooks, then thrown into a dungeon, where he was comforted by the visit of an angel. He was afterwards exposed to the lions, had melted lead poured over him, and finally died by the sword.
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