The Islamic State threatens to conquer Rome

February 16, 2015

The Islamic State today released a video that purports to show the beheading of twenty one Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been kidnapped during December and January around the Libyan city of Sirte which is around 250 miles east southeast of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast.  An armed group who has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, in a strange echo of what took place in Mosul last June, seized control of government buildings in Sirte on Saturday. The executioners of the hostages vowed that the Islamic State will “conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet.”    The Egyptian government launched retaliatory airstrikes on the eastern Libyan city of Derna, a stronghold of Islamic State militants, on the Mediterranean coast about halfway between the Egyptian border and Benghazi.

So will the Islamic State launch an attack on Rome from its new base on the south shore of the Mediterranean?

I doubt that we will see armies flying the black flag marching up the Via della Conciliazione anytime soon.  The groups loyal to IS are one of a hodgepodge of armed militias fighting in the internecine warfare that makes up life in post Qaddafi Libya.  And they are far from the center of the Islamic State’s base of operations in the landlocked area surrounding the Syria Iraq border.  If these armed Libyan IS affiliates ever do manage to carve out some territory on the Libyan coast, hold it, and somehow maintain regular communication with IS central in Raqaa and Mosul they may use it to transport terrorist operatives to Italy and southern Europe or follow that tried and true ancient Muslim practice of launching assaults on Mediterranean shipping, but we are a long ways from that at the present moment.

However we should all note that the world is changing.  The current geopolitical chessboard that puts several obstacles in the path of the Islamic State is growing shakier by the day and the seemingly calm period that we have all lived through since the collapse of the USSR in 1991 is now likely over.  The divisions between Russia and NATO over Ukraine and Russia’s proper place in the world are daily hardening and growing deeper.  While the cease fire agreed to in Minsk may hold for a time it is already looking shaky and will certainly not bring a long term solution to this problem.  Catholics should prepare themselves for the fact that conditions are being created for something this generation has deemed unthinkable, a general war in Europe, to take place.  We shall see.

If that does come to pass, and even if the continent were to avoid the nuclear annihilation that would always be a looming prospect in such a conflict, Europe (and North America) will be changed forever.  Maybe the NATO alliance will fracture and since this seems to be Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal (add to that the abysmal qualities of the current leadership in NATO countries) we should not dismiss the possibility.  If this happened then southern Europe would be more open to Muslim harassment and attack than it has for several centuries.  And if the whole of Europe were weakened by some conflict with Russia then it would be exceedingly vulnerable to such threats.  Again we shall see.

The Muslims have always had the dream of conquering Rome.  They conquered the ancient Catholic Sees of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage in the first great wave of Islamic conquest in the seventh century.  They took Constantinople during the great explosion of Turkish power in the fifteenth and immediately after tried to move into Italy at Otranto but Rome was saved by the death of Sultan Mehmet II.  They have always wanted Rome but have never been able to lay a finger on it save for one raid in the dark ninth century where Arab marauders actually managed to accost the city and break into old Saint Peter’s basilica (then outside the city walls) before being driven off and never (yet) returning.

So now at least some Muslims are remembering who they are and what their religion is about.  What should Catholics do?  WE SHOULD REMEMBER THAT WE ARE CATHOLIC AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CATHOLIC.  We should learn the teachings of the Church and live them.  Participate in the Sacramental life of the Church.  Go to Confession.  Live your life in a state of grace.  If one is able he should learn Latin and pray the Divine Office in Latin.  Pope Benedict XVI reinstituted the Breviarium Romanum as an optional form for the prayer of the Church when he brought back the Tridentine Mass in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.  Use it. Those Latin words of the Psalter were translated by Saint Jerome before the end of the Roman Empire, when the Mediterranean was still a unified Catholic sea.  Learn them.  Pray them.  Those words are older than Islam.

And pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as a pillar of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

Shock and Awe 11 years on: a meditation

A personal moment here: I have been musing on Iraq a lot lately and, forgive me, I am a Catholic and Catholics who choose to study and learn the Faith and its history have an annoying habit of developing very long memories.  Looking at this video of the ferocious start to the United States’ military campaign in Iraq almost a dozen years ago now along with all of the hoohah that went along with it and pondering the state of Iraq and the entire Middle East today I cannot help but recall Polybius’ rendering of Scipio Aemilianus’ words in what should have been his moment of supreme triumph as he watched Rome’s great enemy Carthage being destroyed on his own order:


Scipio, when he looked upon the city as it was utterly perishing and in the last throes of its complete destruction, is said to have shed tears and wept openly for his enemies. 2 After being wrapped in thought for long, and realizing that all cities, nations, and authorities must, like men, meet their doom; that this happened to Ilium, once a prosperous city, to the empires of Assyria, Media, and Persia, the greatest of their time, and to Macedonia itself, the brilliance of which was so recent, either deliberately or the verses escaping him, he said:

A day will come when sacred Troy shall perish,

And Priam and his people shall be slain.1

3 And when Polybius speaking with freedom to him, for he was his teacher, asked him what he meant by the words, they say that without any attempt at concealment he named his own country, for which he feared when he reflected on the fate of all things human. Polybius actually heard him and recalls it in his history.

All nations and all peoples come to ruin, most by their own hand in some form or another.  Only the Catholic Church will still remain at the end.  Aemilianus’ thoughts about Rome’s future proved accurate enough in time, and I do not think that the authors of the attack on Baghdad will have to wait nearly so many centuries to have the same fate visited on our cities as this:

ἔσσεται ἧμαρ ὅτ’ ἄν ποτ’ ὀλώλῃ Ἴλιος ἱρὴ
καὶ Πρίαμος καὶ λαὸς ἐῠμμελίω Πριάμοιο

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Antioch, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient status as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

The Primacy of Peter

I had the chance not so long ago to visit the Church of the Primacy of Peter in Tabgha, Israel on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.


The Church of the Primacy of Peter at Tabgha.  It was here on the north shore of the Sea of Tiberias that the events recounted in John 21 took place: the second miraculous draught of fish, the meal by the lake, and the prophecy of Peter's destiny.

The Church of the Primacy of Peter at Tabgha. It was here on the north shore of the Sea of Tiberias that the events recounted in John 21 took place: the second miraculous draught of fish, the meal by the lake, and the prophecy of Peter’s destiny.  (Taken by me April 24, 2014)


Looking out from the shoreline at Tabgha. Roughly the same view our Lord would have had looking out from land to sea that early morning so long ago now as the Seven brought in the last miraculous draught of fishes.  (Taken by me April 24, 2014)



I will recount here the the 21st chapter, verses 1-19, of St. John’s Gospel in Greek, Latin, and English.  The Greek comes from 1904 text of the Orthodox Church issued by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the Latin from the Clementine Vulgate, and the English from the 1970 New American Bible (any typos or mistakes in the text of any of the languages are my own):

Μετα ταῦτα ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαυτὸν πάλιν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς μαθηταῖς ἐπὶ τῆς Θαλάσσης τῆς Τιβεριάδος ἐφανέρωσε δὲ οὕτως. ἦσαν ὁμοῦ Σίμων Πέτρος, καὶ Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμο, καὶ Ναθαναὴλ ὁ ἀπὸ Κανᾶ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ οἱ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου, καὶ ἄλλοι ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ δύο.  λέγει αὑτοῖς Σίμων Πέτρος ὑπάγω ἁλιεύειν. λέγουσιν αὐτῷ ἐρχόμεθα καὶ ἡμεῖς σὺν σοί. ἐξῆλθον καὶ ἐνέβησαν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον εὐθύς, καὶ ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἐπίασαν οὐδέν.  πρωΐας δὲ ἤδη γενομένης ἔστη ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς εἰς τὸν αἰγιαλόν· οὐ μέντοι ᾔδεισαν οἱ μαθηταὶ ὅτι ᾿Ιησοῦς ἐστι. λέγει οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· παιδία, μή τι προσφάγιον ἔχετε; ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ· οὔ. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· βάλετε εἰς τὰ δεξιὰ μέρη τοῦ πλοίου τὸ δίκτυον, καὶ εὑρήσετε. ἔβαλον οὖν, καὶ οὐκέτι αὐτὸ ἑλκύσαι ἴσχυσαν ἀπὸ τοῦ πλήθους τῶν ἰχθύων. λέγει οὖν ὁ μαθητὴς ἐκεῖνος, ὃν ἠγάπα ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς, τῷ Πέτρῳ· ὁ Κύριός ἐστι. Σίμων οὖν Πέτρος ἀκούσας ὅτι ὁ Κύριός ἐστι, τὸν ἐπενδύτην διεζώσατο· ἦν γὰρ γυμνός· καὶ ἔβαλεν ἑαυτὸν εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν· οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι μαθηταὶ τῷ πλοιαρίῳ ἦλθον· οὐ γὰρ ἦσαν μακρὰν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς, ἀλλ᾽ ὡς ἀπὸ πηχῶν διακοσίων, σύροντες τὸ δίκτυον τῶν ἰχθύων. ὡς οὖν ἀπέβησαν εἰς τὴν γῆν, βλέπουσιν ἀνθρακιὰν κειμένην καὶ ὀψάριον ἐπικείμενον καὶ ἄρτον. λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· ἐνέγκατε ἀπὸ τῶν ὀψαρίων ὧν ἐπιάσατε νῦν. ἀνέβη Σίμων Πέτρος καὶ εἵλκυσε τὸ δίκτυον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, μεστὸν ἰχθύων μεγάλων ἑκατὸν πεντήκοντα τριῶν· καὶ τοσούτων ὄντων οὐκ ἐσχίσθη τὸ δίκτυον. λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· δεῦτε ἀριστήσατε. οὐδεὶς δὲ ἐτόλμα τῶν μαθητῶν ἐξετάσαι αὐτὸν σὺ τίς εἶ, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ Κύριός ἐστιν. ἔρχεται οὖν ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς καὶ λαμβάνει τὸν ἄρτον καὶ δίδωσιν αὐτοῖς, καὶ τὸ ὀψάριον ὁμοίως. Τοῦτο ἤδη τρίτον ἐφανερώθη ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ἐγερθεὶς ἐκ νεκρῶν.

῞Οτε οὖν ἠρίστησαν, λέγει τῷ Σίμωνι Πέτρῳ ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· Σίμων ᾿Ιωνᾶ, ἀγαπᾷς με πλεῖον τούτων; λέγει αὐτῷ· ναί, Κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ· βόσκε τὰ ἀρνία μου. λέγει αὐτῷ πάλιν δεύτερον· Σίμων ᾿Ιωνᾶ, ἀγαπᾷς με; λέγει αὐτῷ· ναί, Κύριεο, σὺ ἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ· ποίμαινε τὰ πρόβατά μου. λέγει αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον· Σίμων ᾿Ιωνᾶ, φιλεῖς με; ἐλυπήθη ὁ Πέτρος ὅτι εἶπεν αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον, φιλεῖς με, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Κύριε, σὺ πάντα οἶδας, σὺ γινώσκεις ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· βόσκε τὰ πρόβατά μου. ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ὅτε ἦς νεώτερος, ἐζώννυες σεαυτὸν καὶ περιεπάτεις ὅπου ἤθελες· ὅταν δὲ γηράσῃς, ἐκτενεῖς τὰς χεῖράς σου, καὶ ἄλλος σε ζώσει, καὶ οἴσει ὅπου οὐ θέλεις. τοῦτο δὲ εἶπε σημαίνων ποίῳ θανάτῳ δοξάσει τὸν Θεόν. καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν λέγει αὐτῷ· ἀκολούθει μοι.

Postea manifestavit se iterum Jesus discipulis ad mare Tiberiadis.  Manifestavit autem sic: erant simul Simon Petrus, et Thomas, qui dicitur Didymus, et Nathanael, qui erat a Cana Galilaeae, et filii Zebadaei, et alii ex discipulis ejus duo.  Dicit eis Simon Petrus: Vado piscari.  Dicunt ei: Venimus et nos tecum.  Et exierunt, et ascenderunt in navim: et illa nocte nihil prendiderunt.  Mane autem facto stetit Jesus in littore: non tamen cognoverunt discipuli quia Jesus est.  Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Pueri, numquid pulmentarium habetis?  Responderunt ei: Non.  Dicit eis: Mittite in dexteram navigii rete, et invenietis.  Miserunt ero: et jam non valebant illud trahere prae multitudine piscium.

Dixit ergo discipulus ille, quem diligebat Jesus, Petro: Dominus est.  Simon Petrus cum audisset quia Dominus est, tunica succinxit se (erat enim nudus) et misit se in mare.  Alii autem discipuli navigio venerunt (non enim longe erant a terra, sed quasi cubitis ducentis), trahentes rete piscium.  Ut ergo descenderunt in terram, viderunt prunas positas, et piscem superpositum, et panem.  Dicit eis Jesus: Afferte de piscibus, quos prendidistis nunc.

Ascendit Simon Petrus et traxit rete in terram, plenum magnis piscibus centum quinquaginta tribus.  Et cum tanti essent, non est scissum rete.  Dicit eis Jesus: Venite, prandete.  Et nemo audebat discumbentium interrogare eum: Tu quis es? scientes, quia Dominus est.

Et venit Jesus, et accipit panem, et dat eis, et piscem similiter.

Hoc jam tertio manifestatus est Jesus discipulis suis cum resurrexit a mortuis.  Cum ero prandissent dicit Simoni Petro Jesus: Simon Joannis, diligis me plus his?  Dicit ei: Etiam Domine, tu scis quia amo te.  Dicit ei: Pasce agnos meos.

Dicit ei iterum: Simon Joannis, diligis me?  Ait illi: Etiam Domine, tu scis quia amo te.  Dixit ei: Pasce agnos meos.

Dicit ei tertio: Simon Joannis, amas me?  Constristatus est Petrus, quia dixit ei tertio: Amas me? et dixit ei: Domine, tu omnia nosti, tu scis quia amo te. Dixit ei: Pasce oves meas.

Amen, Amen dico tibi: cum esses junior, cingebas te, et amulabas ubi volebas: cum autem senueris, extendes manus tuas, et alius te cinget, et ducet quo tu non vis.

Hoc autem dixit significans qua morte clarificaturus esset Deum.  Et cum hoc dixisset, dicit ei: Sequere me.

After this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.  He revealed himself in this way.  Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of this disciples.  Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”  They said to him, “We also will come with you.”  So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”  They answered him, “No.”  So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.”  So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.  So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”  When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.  The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish.  When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”  So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.  Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.  Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”  And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized that it was the Lord.  Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them and in like manner the fish.  This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  He said to him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  Amen, Amen I say to you, when you were younger you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.  And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21 strikes me as being a Scripture passage that is deeper than the ocean and vaster than the expanse of the heavens.  All parts of Scripture contain their own deep hidden significances which can only be revealed by the Holy Spirit, but few can rival this particular passage (that seems to have been added by the human author St. John almost as an afterthought) in being pregnant with meaning.  Where does one start?

I have to say that the picture painted here seems in many ways to be one of the Church at the end of its journey, since the evangelist points out that it was already light and the boat was on the Lake of Galilee (or the Sea of Tiberias as he takes pains to call it right here) scarcely one hundred yards from shore.  This is a vision of the Church at the end of time.  A fascinating thing that St. John does at the very outset is to name five of the seven disciples present, but to leave the last two unnamed.  It is curious, because all eleven (Judas was gone and Matthias had not yet replace him) are not there and seven is generally a number associated with perfection by the ancients and the Apostle goes to great length and detail to name Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, and the (two) sons of Zebedee, but he leaves the last two unnamed and no identification is given; he merely says “two others of his disciples.”  Why should this be so?  It is a subject worth the time to meditate on in these dark times across the formerly Catholic world.

Simon Peter begins by saying “I’m going fishing,” or in the more archaic but strangely colloquial and heart warming Douay-Rheims translation “I go a fishing.”  So the apostles go fishing by themselves and fish throughout the night and of course they catch nothing.  The first light of dawn streaks across the sky and they see our Lord standing on the shore but don’t recognize him at first; another hint that this passage paints a picture of the Church far distant in time from the Incarnation.  He tells them to cast their net to the right which they do and the haul of fish is incredible.  Stop trusting in your own efforts Catholic Church!  Rely on the Lord alone and your haul of fish (men) will be more than you can possibly imagine.  St. John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) is still the only one able to publicly acknowledge that it is the Lord when he speaks those famous words to Simon Peter: “Dominus est!”  Upon hearing this Simon Peter wraps himself in a thin garment and jumps into the sea because he his naked, not lightly clad as the contemporary English version has it, but both the Greek and Latin agree that he was in fact naked.  Anyone who has been near the Lake of Galilee in the late spring or summer can relate to how hot it can get there and why a man would be running around in the buff on a fishing boat after working all night.  But of course this is Scripture and not just a short story so there is the deeper theological meaning.  Adam and Eve were naked in the garden and their first act after eating from the the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a rather pathetic attempt to cover their own nakedness.  Christ hung naked and uncovered on the Cross.  And here we have Simon Peter then also covering himself and his nakedness but, as opposed to what Adam and Eve ended up doing, he jumps into the sea and runs to meet our Lord on the shore.  What does this mean?  I don’t know exactly but there is something here worth meditating on.

Our Lord is already cooking bread and fish on the shore.  There is a curious correlation here with the Multiplication of the Loaves that I suppose shouldn’t surprise me since these two events occurred at almost the same spot; the Church of the Primacy of Peter is a short five minute walk from the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.  So there is something to this and, again it is worth meditating on but I do not have the answer.  Our Lord then tells them to bring in the fish they had caught and Simon Peter hauls in the entire catch of fish, numbering 153 large fish, and despite the large haul the net does not tear.  I confess that I do not know what the number 153 signifies; I am not certain that a satisfactory answer has ever been given except that it is a lot of fish and I also have heard some speculation that the ancients knew of 153 different species of fish in the waters of the world.  I am not sure but this whole passage seems to indicate that at the end of time many around the world and of all the races of man will be brought into the Church and before the Lord.  The reference to the net not tearing is an obvious reference to Luke 5 where at the beginning of the time of the Apostles with our Lord they make a large catch of fish and the net tears and many are saved but many also are lost.  Anyone with even the slightest understanding of the history of the Church over the last twenty centuries knows well the painful fulfillment of that prophecy, so we should have equal confidence that before the end of time all of the ruptures will be healed and that we will stand united with Peter before our Lord when he comes.  We have to do our part with prayer and sacrifices and not covering up the light of Christ, but it will all happen according to God’s own time and his own ways whenever that day comes.

Now we come to the famous reconciliation scene between Jesus and Simon Peter after the latter’s threefold denial of our Lord in the courtyard on the night of his trial.  This passage is rendered poorly in English, though it is not the fault of the modern translators alone (Douay-Rheims is equally bad on this score) but of the English language itself.  The language is simply inadequate to express what is really going on in this scene.  The endless repetitions of “Do you love me?” and “Yes I love you.” almost trivialize what is going on here.  In truth the word ‘love’ has been so bastardized in contemporary English that we really don’t have any real understanding of the concept anymore.  When our Lord asks Simon Peter the first time, as St. John rendered it into Greek, “ἀγᾷπας με πλεῖον τούτων” he is not just saying “do you love me more than these?”  The verb here expresses not just filial love or affection but the kind of love that was always rare and that the modern world has really lost any conception of: the kind of love where you pour out your very being for someone else, where you don’t just live for them or die for them but you both live and die for them and you do both every minute of the day,  the kind of love where you pour out your very being for your beloved.  And Simon Peter’s response is “σὺ ἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε.”  The verb that Simon Peter uses here, φιλῶ, is kind of a come down from the verb our Lord uses.  I think that a way of rendering the exchange into English for us to better understand it would be like this:

Jesus said to Simon Peter “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these, will you pour out your being for me?”  And he said to him: “Yes Lord you know that I love you.”…

He then said to him a second time “Simon son of John will you pour out your being for me?”  He said to him “You know that I love you.”

I will pause here and note that when our Lord asks the question the third time, and this will give us a hint as to why Peter suddenly gets so frustrated, he uses the same verb that Peter had been using, φιλῶ.  He asks Simon Peter this third time:

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

At this the first pope gets rather frustrated and annoyed and tells God who is sitting there right next to him and has just cooked for him a meal of bread and fish grilled on a charcoal fire, and he tells Him that He knows everything and of course He knows that Peter loves Him.  Our Lord would seem to know that Simon Peter loves Him but He also knows that he is still Peter and that he is not quite there yet, not yet where he needs to be, but that he will be.  My impression, and it is only that, is that our Lord’s unspoken response to Peter when he says the last time “You know everything, you know that I love you” would go something like this: “No, Simon, son of John, you do not yet love me, but you will.”

Hence the prophecy of Peter’s death: “When you were young…”  I have now had the immense privilege to stand both at Tabgha on the north shore of the Sea of Tiberias, where that prophecy was made, and in the place 50 feet under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican before the bones of the Apostle himself where that prophecy was fulfilled.  And I wonder sometimes whether this prophecy of our Lord’s does not apply only to the man Simon Peter himself, but also to the institution of the papacy and by extension to the whole Church.  If the Catholic Church is, as Saint Paul wrote, the Mystical Body of Christ then it would seem that she must be betrayed and handed over by her own to Godless men just as He was; she must be stripped naked and hung on a Cross before the world just as He was; and she must die and rise just as He did.  And despite it all those last words of our Lord in this sequence apply just as much to the current Holy Father, to his successors, and to us as they did to Saint Peter: “Follow me.”

The High Altar of St. Peter's Basilica (taken by me April 26, 2013)

The High Altar of St. Peter’s Basilica (taken by me April 26, 2013)

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

The Vexilla Regis in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The great ancient Latin hymn Vexilla Regis that exults in the Cross as the banner of Christ the King sung in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by the Magnificat Custody Choir at the close of the prayer service conducted by the Holy Father Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew:



Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

The Feast of the dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul-November 18

Today, November 18, is the Feast Day in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church of the dedication of the basilicas of the two illustrious patrons of the Church of Rome:  Saints Peter and Paul.  Two men who came out of the East (from lands now dominated by Islam), one a brilliant scholar and the other a humble fishermen whom Our Lord took from his boat on the Lake of Galilee and brought him to Rome to make him Prince of the Church.  These two men, by the power of the Holy Spirit the resided within them, utterly transformed the world in a way that men have found unfathomable ever since.  Sancti apostoli Petre et Paule, ora pro nobis!


St. Peter's Basilica-Rome

St. Peter’s Basilica-Rome (taken by me April 24, 2013)


The See of St. Andrew

St. Andrew was the older brother of St. Peter and the first called.  St. John’s Gospel records that both he and another unnamed disciple of John the Baptist (presumably the beloved disciple St. John himself) followed Christ on the word of John the Baptist and went to stay with him that day.  Tradition going back through Eusebius to Origen says that Andrew went north after Our Lord’s Ascension to preach the Gospel.  He is remembered as the first bishop of the Greek settlement of Byzantium on the Bosporus, which 300 years later when the emperor Constantine decided to make it his capital became the great urban metropolis of Constantinople: the mother of the Christian world.  Tradition also records that St. Andrew went beyond the Bosporus, into the regions that were then called Scythia but now form the Ukraine and European Russia.  Thus St. Andrew is also the patron of Russia and the Ukraine as well as Georgia.  He ended his life in martyrdom; crucified in the city of Patras, in the Peloponnese in modern Greece.  His feast day is celebrated November 30 in both the Eastern and Western Church.

St. Andrew is thus the first bishop of Constantinople and Greek Orthodox ecumenical patriarchs claim their apostolic authority from him, the first called and the older brother of the Prince of the Apostles.  The See of Constantinople is, to paraphrase Blessed John Paul II, the other lung with which the Church breathes.  It was a city great and powerful in its day, the master of the East though embroiled to a much further extent than Rome in the Christological disputes that erupted following the Edict of Milan.  After the rise of Islam in the seventh century the See of Constantinople lost much of its previous grandeur but persevered through the centuries and endured several political and military disasters, including the schism with Rome dating from 1054 and the occupation of the city by the Crusaders in the 13th century from which it never really recovered, before the Christian emperors finally succumbed to their Turkish conquerors in 1453.  Ever since that day the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the See of St. Andrew, has been politically and materially subject to foreign masters.  Offer the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary each Monday for this great See, for its liberty and its salvation, and the restoration of its ancient position as a pillar of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome, and for the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

Raison d’Etre of this Blog

This site exists to encourage people to pray the Rosary.  And to pray the Rosary for a very specific group of intentions.  For the five great Sees of the Catholic Church lost to Islam so long ago.  Fourteen centuries ago the Catholic Church covered the entire Mediterranean basin and the True Faith was spread and gaining adherents from Scotland to the Euphrates river and beyond.  Then Islam came out of the desert and shattered the old, if by that point strained, unity.  Immediately they took the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean and cast a veil between Rome and the great and ancient Christian Sees of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage while greatly weakening the power and influence of Constantinople which the Muslim armies continually preyed upon for the next eight centuries until it finally fell to the Turks in 1453.

While the Catholic Church has gained large numbers of adherents in the Americas, Asia, and sub Saharan Africa over the last half millennium it has not penetrated a jot into our ancient heartland in all of the centuries since this was lost to us.  A small number of Catholics remain there, and there are still a decent number of adherents to the ancient apostolic churches unfortunately separated from Rome by schism, but their number is rapidly shrinking due to the convulsions of the Middle East over the last century and particularly over this last decade.  Islam seeks now to cement its domination and control won first a millennium and a half ago and sees within its grasp a final victory over the Catholic Church in the land of its birth.

We must now call upon the Mother of God, the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Victory to come to our aid and to the aid of the Church founded by her son Our Lord Jesus Christ.  No weapon of war will return the Church to its birthplace; the Crusades failed because they were in the end only a military adventure.  Let us use then a far more powerful weapon than guns or bombs: the Rosary.  Pray the Rosary Monday for Constantinople, Tuesday for Antioch, Wednesday for Jerusalem, Thursday for Alexandria, and Friday for Carthage.  And along with this intention let us beseech the Lord God the conversion of the Jewish and the Muslim peoples: Jesus Christ shed his blood for them too.  All of the great accomplishments of the Church have begun with prayer.  The life of Our Lord as passed down to us by the Evangelists shows this to be the case.  Pray the Rosary and meditate on its Mysteries.  Our Lady has proclaimed at all of her apparitions that this will change the world.  The time is now.

In the fifth chapter of St. Luke’s (a native of Antioch) Gospel the Evangelist narrates an episode where Our Lord enters Peter’s boat to teach the multitude and, when finished, he tells St. Peter to “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. (Lk. 5: 4)”  After protesting that he had been fishing all night and catching nothing the Apostle does as commanded, and the haul of fish is so large that his net breaks and he has to call on the other boats for aid.  They are so full of fish that they almost sink before reaching the shore.  The prophetic aspects of these events, from the perspective of someone living 2,000 years after the fact, seems to refer to the first great conversion that brought the Roman Empire into the Church’s net.  The net was broken however by schism and discord which continues down to our own day.

But there is a second miraculous draught of fishes.  At the conclusion of the Gospel of St. John the beloved disciple relates to us an event which he himself took part in.  After Our Lord’s Resurrection some (not all) of the Apostles venture out on the Lake of Galilee with St. Peter to fish.  After fishing all night and again catching nothing they are approaching the shore at first light when they catch sight of Our Lord standing on the shoreline.  He tells them to cast their nets over the right side of the boat and the haul was the miraculous number of 153 (symbolic of all the species of fish known to the ancient world) fish.  The Prince of Apostles then himself hauls the net full of fish ashore and “although there were so many, the net was not broken. (Jn. 21: 11)”  This seems to indicate that near the end of time approaching the end of the Church’s journey there will be another and greater mass conversion that will not be broken apart as of old.  This must begin with the five great Sees.  This region forms the geographic heart of the world, and it was in the part of the world where Our Lord chose to reveal Himself.  I am no prophet and do not claim that the end is upon us, that is not the point of this effort, but we must begin to repair the saving net of the Church and should we not begin this task with prayer?

This site becomes active on Wednesday of the 30th week of Ordinary Time, October 30, the first year of Francis’ pontificate, and in the year MMXIII of the Incarnation.  I will attempt to post here with the greatest frequency I can muster some reminder of the lost world of the five great Sees.  I beg Our Lady of Victory her bountiful aid in attracting visitors to this site that we may together beseech her most powerful assistance in repairing the Church’s broken net.