Saturday, January 23, 2010

S. Emerentiana: Patroness of Feeneyites?

It is time again to wish a happy feast day to the Feeneyites! Today is the feast of St. Emerentiana. I think she should be made the Patroness of Feeneyism. The reason is evident from her official acta which form part of the Roman Liturgy (Divine Office at matins, second nocturn):

Emerentiána virgo Romána, collactánea beátæ Agnétis, adhuc catechúmena, fide et caritáte flagrans, furéntes in Christiános idolórum cultóres cum veheméntius accusáret, a concitáta multitúdine lapídibus óbruta est. Quæ in cruciátibus orans ad sepúlcrum sanctæ Agnétis, próprio sánguine, quem pro Christo constánter effúdit, baptizáta, ánimam Deo réddidit.

Emerentiana, a Roman virgin and the foster-sister of the blessed Agnes, while she was still a Catechumen, burning with faith and charity, rebuked the idol-worshippers who were full of fury against the Christians, whereupon a mob assembled and stoned her. Praying in her torment at the grave of Saint Agnes, and having been baptized in her own blood, so generously shed for Christ, she gave up her soul unto God.

Thus, the Universal Liturgy, that most certain and infallible witness of Sacred Tradition, proposes to us for our veneration a Saint who never received sacramental baptism!

Nor is she the only such saint whom the Church venerates. There is also St. Genesius of Arles, whose feast day is on August 25. His official acta read thus:

Genesius, native of Arles, at first a soldier became known for his proficiency in writing, and was made secretary to the magistrate of Arles. While performing the duties of his office the decree of persecution against the Christians was read in his presence. Outraged in his ideas of justice, the young catechumen cast his tablets at the feet of the magistrate and fled. He was captured and executed, and thus received baptism in his own blood.

The corresponding text from the Roman Martyrology (Aug. 25) suggests the same:

Areláte, in Gállia, beáti item Genésii, qui, cum ímpia edícta, quibus Christiáni puníri jubebántur, exceptóris offício fungens, nollet excípere, et, projéctis in públicum tábulis, se Christiánum esse testarétur, comprehénsus et decollátus est, atque ita martyrii glóriam, próprio cruóre baptizátus, accépit.

At Arles in France, another blessed Genesius, who, filling the office of notary, and refusing to record the impious edicts by which Christians were commanded to be punished, threw away his books publicly, and declared himself a Christian, was seized and beheaded, and thus attained the glory of martyrdom, having been baptized through his own blood.

Another martyr that we venerate in the Sacred Liturgy even though he did not receive sacramental baptism is St. Victor of Braga . Here is his entry in the Roman Martyrology (April 12):

Brácari, in Lusitánia, sancti Victóris Mártyris, qui, adhuc catechúmenus, cum noluísset idólum adoráre, et Christum Jesum magna constántia conféssus fuísset, ídeo, post multa torménta, cápite abscísso, méruit próprio sánguine baptizári.

At Braga in Portugal, the martyr St. Victor, who, still a catechumen, when he refused to adore an idol, and confessed Jesus Christ with great constancy, after suffering many tortures, having been beheaded, merited to be baptized through his own blood.

Another is St. Rogatian, who was martyred together with his brother St. Donatian. Their commemoration is on May 24. Donatian had been baptized when they were martyred, but Rogatian was still a catechumen.

Some of these examples are a bit more subtle than others, but everyone in Christendom has always known (until the Feenyites denied it) that they are examples of saints who were saved, not through sacramental baptism, but through martyrdom.

On a more serious note... If we were Protestant we could simply deny, as do the Feeneyites, the value of the texts of the Sacred Liturgy as a witness of Divine Revelation. But we are not. We must not limit our fidelity (as do the Feeneyites) only to Scripture and to the infallible pronouncements of the Magisterium. We must extend this fidelity to all of the witnesses of Sacred Tradition, including the texts of the Sacred Liturgy, the consensus of the Fathers, the consensus of the Theologians, the consensus of the faithful, etc. If the Fathers agree that there is such a thing as baptism of blood--and they undoubtedly do--then we must believe so. If the liturgy tells us that these saints received baptism of blood and that we must venerate them--and it is now evident that it does--then we must do so. Futher, if the Theologians tell us that these saints are indeed proof of the reality of baptism of blood (cf. Tanquerey, Sola, and many others), then by all means we must accept this.

I will be the first one to defend the necessity of baptism (with a necessity of means) for salvation. (I have already done so here and here.) The Church proposes this truth for our belief as an article of faith. However, She also proposes, through the testimony of the Fathers, Theologians, and the Sacred Liturgy, the reality of baptism of blood as a truth that, though not necessarily an article of faith, is nonetheless so certain (sententia theologice certa) and so connected with the articles of the faith, that its obstinate denial would amount to a great theological error worthy of censure (Cf. Bl. Pius IX, Tuas libenter (1863), in Denzinger no. 1684).

The fact that this doctrine of baptism through blood seems to be at odds with the dogma of the necessity of baptism should not make us hesitate in accepting its truth. The fact that our intellects cannot grasp the coherence of these two teachings should not make us rashly conclude that they are incompatible in themselves. Our faith is filled with mysteries that transcend human reason. We must learn this lesson from the early Church: at that time, the great theological syntheses of the Fathers and Scholastics had not yet explained the profound harmony between the mysteries of faith, and most doctrines were believed despite the fact that they seemed paradoxical to the first Christians. The Unity of God seemed to be at odds with his being Triune; the humanity of Christ seemed to be at odds with his Divinity; the duality of wills in Christ seemed to be at odds with His conformity to the will of the Father. However, none of this prevented the early Fathers from assenting to all of these truths. Their minds did not grasp the harmony of the mysteries, but their faith forced them to trust that, since it all was part of the same Divine Revelation, and truth cannot contradict truth, it must all harmonize in the mind of God.

Let us prove ourselves faithful Catholics in doing the same: baptism is necessary for salvation, and yet there are some saints in heaven who never received sacramental baptism, but rather "were baptized in their own blood."

Sancta Emerentiana, ora pro nobis et pro feeneyitis.
Sancte Genesie, ora pro nobis et pro feeneyitis.
Sancte Victor, ora pro nobis et pro feeneyitis.
Sancte Rogatiane, ora pro nobis et pro feeneyitis.
Post a Comment