The First City to Become
the “Official Headquarters” of the Catholic Church
Most Catholics have never had an opportunity to study the History of the Catholic Church. This fact helps to explain, at least in part, why most Catholics do not know that the first “official headquarters” of the Catholic Church was not located on Vatican hill in Rome, Italy, but rather in Capharnaum, a town in Galilee, identified with the modern Tell Hum, on the North shore of the Sea of Galilee, West of the Jordan River. It is 23 miles from Nazareth.
To put this distance into some perspective, and realizing that the only mode of transportation in those days for most people, including Christ and His Apostles, was walking, perhaps this brief example may help?
When I was in the Seminary, my fellow classmates and myself - as a group - were permitted to take rather long walks about once or twice a year. I recall how we were all able to walk, on an average, 3 ½ miles in one hour! This is a very brisk pace without stopping to rest! A 30- 40 year old person perhaps might be able to walk about 2 miles per one hour, walking at a more leisurely pace, and also resting periodically. So, if one calculates the rate of 2 miles per one hour, it would probably take Christ and His Apostles about 12 hours to walk the 23 miles from Nazareth to Capharnaum?
“And leaving the city Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capharnaum on the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim” (Matthew 4:13). Capharnaum became the geographical headquarters for Christ: “And entering into a boat, He passed over the water and came into his own city [Capharnaum]” (Matthew 9:1).
Christ officially began His public Messianic ministry by teaching in the synagogue of Capharnaum on the Jewish Sabbath: “And they entered into Capharnaum, and forthwith upon the Sabbath days going into the synagogue, He [Christ] taught them” (Mark 1:21).
“Most of the incidents and discourses of the part of the Synoptic Gospels occurred in or near Capharnaum, although the name of the city often is not mentioned” (John L. McKenzie, S.J., DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE, p. 121a).
Why Did Christ Choose Capharnaum
to be The First City to Become
the “Official Headquarters” of the Catholic Church?
Capharnaum had more to offer than the city of Nazareth because it provided Christ a twofold advantage insofar as his Messianic activity was concerned.
1) Capharnaum was a crossroad of primary importance since it was situated along the Beth-shan, i.e. the Damascus highway. Nazareth, on the other hand, was a mountainous and isolated place.
2) Capharnaum was far enough away from what were then considered “big cities”, e.g. from Tiberias, the capital city of Herod Antipas.
The geographical importance of Capharnaum is to be found in the fact that it was a more efficient location for Christ from which to spread his Messianic message to larger numbers of people, but, at the same time, it was also sufficiently remote to forestall the inevitable problems with the political and religious leaders of Israel in those days.
Unlike Nazareth, the population of Capharnaum was more diversified and included: fishermen, farmers, artisans, merchants, publicans, etc. These various groups all lived in Capharnaum, but apparently without any discordant economic inequality. The relationship between the people of Capharnaum and the Romans was surprisingly rather cordial. For example, it was a Roman Centurion who built the synagogue for the Jewish community, while the elders of Capharnaum reciprocated this Charity by pleading with Christ to heal the Centurion's servant:
The people of Capharnaum were hard workers, parsimonious and open-minded. It was these people that Christ addressed while in Capharnaum and it was from these people that Christ chose many of his Apostles, either from among fishermen (Saints Peter, Andrew, James, John as one reads in Mark 1:16-20) or from publicans (Saint Matthew).
“And passing by the sea of Galilee, He [Christ] saw Simon and Andrew his Brother, casting nets into the sea (for they were fishermen). And Jesus said to them: Come after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And immediately leaving their nets, they followed Him. And going on from thence a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were mending their nets in the ship: And forthwith He called them. And leaving their Father Zebedee in the ship with his hired men, they followed Him. And they entered into Capharnaum, and forthwith upon the sabbath days going into the synagogue, He taught them” (Mark 1:16-21).
“And when He [Christ] was passing by, he saw Levi [Matthew] the Son of Alpheus sitting at the receipt of custom; and He saith to him: Follow Me. And rising up, he followed Him” (Mark 2:14).
Some researchers are of the opinion that Christ used the house of Saint Peter as His “headquarters”.
The findings of archeologists indicate that a number of houses in Capharnaum consisted of several roofed rooms clustering around a spacious courtyard.
Archeologists claim to have discovered a large house in Capharnaum which has indications that it was the house of Saint Peter. Archeological findings seem to also indicate an unbroken sequence of occupation of this house. In addition, archeologists also claim that in the late 4th Century, A.D., this house was given a major renovation.
A large wall was built to totally enclose the property. Excavations have revealed that this large wall around the property was more or less square. The property had two points of entry/exit with two doorways, one being near the South West corner, and the other near the North West corner of the enclosure wall. An additional screen wall in a North South direction departed from the South West entrance.
The archeological discoveries have verified the description of the house of Saint Peter the Apostle in Capharnaum as a DOMUS ECCLESIÆ (HOUSE CHURCH) by Egeria, also known as Ætheria.
Egeria/Ætheria made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land which she visited for about three years, probably between 381 A.D. - 384 A.D. Although some authors think Egeria/Ætheria was a Nun who wrote her long letter to her community of Nuns who lived somewhere near the Rhône River, other scholars, with more cogent arguments, claim she was really a very wealthy, middle-aged Laywoman.
Her letter, sometimes classified as a “book”, is entitled ITINERARIUM EGERIÆ (The Travels of Egeria), a.k.a. PEREGRINATIO ÆTHERIÆ (Ætheria’s Pilgrimage). The middle portion of Egeria/Ætheria's writing survived and was copied into the CODEX ARETINUS, which was written at Monte Cassino in the eleventh century by Petrus Diaconus [b. at Rome, Italy c. 1107 A.D. - d. probably c. 1140 A.D.], a monk of Monte Cassino who is also called “the Librarian” (Bibliothecarius) and who was a descendant of the Counts of Tusculum.
The CODEX ARETINUS was discovered in 1884 A.D. by the Italian scholar Gian-Francesco Gamurrini, who found the manuscript in a monastic library in Arezzo, Italy - a city in central Italy on the Arno River South East of Florence, Italy. It was originally an Etruscan settlement and later a Roman military station and colony. Its present population is given as 93,700.
In the CODEX ARETINUS one finds that Egeria/Ætheria describes the monks, many holy places and geographical points in her travels in the Holy Land and even gives us the details of the early Liturgical practices of the Catholic Church at Jerusalem.
As for the missing parts of this work by Egeria/Ætheria, fortunately Valerius, a 7th Century monk, who wrote a work in which he praises Egeria/Ætheria, gives posterity a sketch of the missing first and last portions of this valuable writing of Egeria/Ætheria.
Concerning the house of Saint Peter the Apostle in Capharnaum in the 4th Century, A.D., Egeria/Ætheria writes in part: “In Capharnaum autem ex domo Apostolorum principis ecclesia facta est, cuius parietes usque hodie ita stant, sicut fuerunt”. (“The house of the prince of the Apostles [Saint Peter] in Capharnaum was changed into a church; the [original] walls, however, [of the house of Saint Peter] are still standing as they were [originally]”.
This invaluable segment of Egeria/Ætheria, which comes to posterity via the CODEX ARETINUS, is important for several reasons.
1) Egeria/Ætheria, who was an eye-witness and who wrote what she saw, does not speak of what today this modern generation would call a “church”, i.e. a church building, but rather she writes about a house which was made into a church. In order to emphasize this point, Egeria/Ætheria underlines the fact that the original walls of the old house were still standing, just as they had existed during the days of Saint Peter and his family.
2) This modification of a private house into a public place for Liturgical ceremonies took place at some point in time in the past - facta est (it is a fact).
3) The house about which she writes, which was converted into a church, was nothing less than the house of the Prince of the Apostles, i. e. Simon Peter.
4) The recent archaeological discoveries about the house of Saint Peter coincide with the eye-witness written account by Egeria/Ætheria.
The Original Meaning of
DOMUS ECCLESIÆ (HOUSE CHURCH)
But all of the wonderful exuberance and glee at the recent archaeological discoveries and a late 4th Century eye witness account that the house of Saint Peter was converted into a church and that, for this reason, some would call the house of Saint Peter a DOMUS ECCLESIÆ (HOUSE CHURCH), as vitally important as all of this is, nonetheless it overshadows the original meaning of a DOMUS ECCLESIÆ (HOUSE CHURCH).
Not only before the 4th Century, but even before the bloody persecutions against the Catholic Church had begun in full force by the pagan Roman Emperor Nero [54 A.D. - Saturday, June 9, 68 A.D.], a.k.a. Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, a.k.a. Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, which Neronian persecutions lasted from 64 A.D. to 68 A.D., the Domus Dei (House of God) was to be found in the Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church).
According to the early history of the Catholic Church, each Domus Dei (House of God) in the Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) was also the private home of the local Bishop. Thus, the venerated Domus Dei was inside the Domus Ecclesiæ of the local Bishop.
The Domus Dei, inside the Domus Ecclesiæ of the local Bishop, was the place where the Bishop of the Catholic Church offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, preached, catechized new converts, administered the Seven Sacraments, etc.
The historical basis for the Domus Dei, inside the Domus Ecclesiæ of the local Bishop, is most probably the fact that Christ had chosen the house of Saint Peter the Apostle in Capharnaum to be His residence during His public ministry. In this way, Christ gave the example, and perhaps verbal instructions, to His Apostles of what they should do after He had completed His ministry and ascended into Heaven. This would be especially the case after the Apostles left the Cenacle in Jerusalem after the First Pentecost Sunday.
The Scriptures bear witness to the fact that in the early days of the Catholic Church the precedent set by Christ was actually followed. Here are a few examples:
“The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the Church that is in their house, with whom I also lodge” (1 Corinthians 16:19). This means that Saint Paul was lodging, or renting a room, in the House Church of Aquila and Priscilla, at the time he wrote this Epistle.
“Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the Church that is in his house” (Colossians 4:15). Saint Paul obviously had some kind of knowledge about this House Church, either that he had also lodged there for a while or knew about it in some other way.
“And the Church which is in their house. Salute Epenetus, my beloved: who is the firstfruits of Asia in Christ” (Romans 16:5). Here again, Saint Paul obviously had some kind of knowledge about this House Church. Whether someone had told him about it or that he had also lodged there is not clear from the text.
“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy, a Brother: to Philemon, our beloved and fellow labourer; And to Appia, our dearest [Spiritual] Sister, and to Archippus, our fellow soldier [Philemon, and Archippus might have been Priests or Bishops?], and to the Church which is in thy house” (Philemon 1:1-2). Once more, Saint Paul obviously knew about these people and the House Church there and asks to be permitted to lodge there: “But withal prepare me also a lodging. For I hope that through your prayers I shall be given unto you” (Philemon 1:22). This passage seems to indicate how Saint Paul lodged in various House Churches on his later missionary travels?
For the first three centuries A.D., Catholics commonly went to the Domus Dei (House of God), inside the Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) of the local Bishop, or, as time went on, of the local Priest, except during times of persecutions when Catholics once more retreated down into the Catacombs.
An early Father of the Catholic Church wrote of worship in a Domus Ecclesiæ - House Church: “Woman and man are to go to church decently attired, with a natural step, embracing silence, possessing unfeigned love, pure in body, pure in heart, fit to pray to God” (Father Clement of Alexandria, a.k.a. Titus Flavius Clemens [b. at Alexandria or Athens c. 150 A.D. - d. probably between 215 A.D. - 220 A.D.], a Father of the Catholic Church, the illustrious head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria at the close of the second century], PÆDAGOGUS - The Instructor, a.k.a. The Tutor - Book III, Chapter XI, A Compendious View of the Christian Life. N.B. The Greek term “Pædagogus” refers to the slave in ancient times who had constant charge of a boy who was his companion at all times. On this tutor or pædagogus depended the formation of the boy’s character. Father Clement of Alexandria uses this as an analogy for the title of his treatise because Christ is the Divine Tutor or Pædagogus for each person. First, Christ calls a person to be HIS, and then Christ, as the Infinite Divine Logos, the anthropomorphic Tutor or Pædagogus, trains each person in His Divine and perfect ways. The ways of Christ are temperate, orderly, calm, and simple.)
A private house in Dura-Europos, near Baghdad, was excavated in the 1930’s. It was found to be used as a Domus Dei (House of God) inside a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) in 232 A.D. One small room was used for the Baptistery.
Throughout the History of the Catholic Church, Catholics have, from time to time, assisted at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (called the Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church) in a local Domus Dei (House of God) inside a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church), many times due to persecution by the official state or civil pagan or anti-Catholic religion or civil government as exampled in England during the days of Bloody Betty (Queen Elizabeth I of the Royal House of Tudor [b. at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London on Thursday, September 7, 1533 A.D. - d. at Richmond Palace, Richmond upon the Thames, England on Monday, March 24,1603 A.D.] was the Queen of England from Monday, November 17, 1558 A.D. - Monday, March 24,1603 A.D.).
Jesus Christ and His Apostles and their own Disciples
The Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, the Divine Logos, the Eternal Word of God, NEVER had a “church” according to modern mentality which thinks of a “church” as being only and exclusively some kind of a physical structure or a physical building in which various liturgical ceremonies take place, e.g. Masses, Benedictions, Baptisms, Confirmations, Funerals, etc.
Some may object on the basis that Christ Himself may have chosen the house of Saint Peter the Apostle in Capharnaum as the first official headquarters building of the Catholic Church. But, unlike the Vatican complex, which includes the Basilica of Saint Peter, along with its vast buildings which house apartments, offices, an art museum, a huge library, etc., the house of Saint Peter the Apostle in Capharnaum was never used as a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) by Christ, or by any of the Apostles, at least not until after they left the Cenacle after the first Pentecost Sunday.
But, even IF the house of Saint Peter the Apostle in Capharnaum was used as a Domus Dei (House of God) inside a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) after the Apostles had left the Cenacle in Jerusalem after that first Pentecost Sunday, it still remained a house. It was never used exclusively as only a church building per se because it continued to be the residence of Saint Peter and his family, until sometime later as the recent archeological discoveries have verified, along with the description of it by Egeria/Ætheria in the late 4th Century.
There is no evidence of any kind to even suggest that Christ and His Apostles ever had a church building, per se. Even some years after the Ascension of Christ, Saint Paul writes: “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the Church that is in their house, with whom I also lodge” (1 Corinthians 16:19). In other words, Saint Paul the Apostle was probably the house guest of Aquila and Priscilla.
But the same can be said of the Disciples of the Apostles, called the Apostolic Fathers. These include the Disciples of Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist such as:
1) Bishop Saint Polycarp of Smyrna [c. 69 A.D. - d. martyred on Saturday, February 23, 166 A.D.] whom Saint John made the Bishop of Smyrna;
2) Bishop Saint Papias [b. c. 96 A.D. - d. c. 140 A.D.], the Bishop of Hierapoli;
3) Patriarch Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a.k.a. Theophorus (ho Theophoros) [b. in Syria c. 50 A.D. - d. Martyred in the Flavian amphitheater at Rome, Italy on Tuesday, February 1, 107 A.D.], Patriarch of Antioch, Martyr, an Apostolic Father of the Catholic Church who had been appointed the Bishop of Antioch by Saint Peter the Apostle and Consecrated a Bishop by an Apostle, most probably either by Saint Peter the Apostle or by Saint John the Apostle of whom he had been a Disciple.
The first Domus Dei (House of God)
in a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church)
in the City of Rome
In order to try to prevent the shadow of any confusion in regard to the subject of a Domus Dei (House of God) inside of a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church), a brief consideration of the first Catholic Churches in Rome, Italy should help to bring more clarity to this subject by using specific historical facts.
Before the days of the bloody persecutions by the pagan Roman Emperors, the Catholic Churches in Rome could be classified into three groups:
1) The houses of private Roman citizens. Roman citizens who had been converted to the Catholic Faith by their Greek slaves hosted what today could be called prayer groups or prayer meetings for the primary purpose of praying together, although afterwards there was most probably some kind of sedate socializing. These private Roman houses are called oratories (oratoria, oracula).
Even today some Catholic families invite other Catholic families into their homes on a scheduled basis to join with them in praying together. The most popular are Rosary prayer groups in which the Holy Rosary is recited, usually with the participants kneeling before a Crucifix and/or a statue or picture of Our Lady of Fatima. Afterwards, sometimes refreshments are served and/or a social meeting takes place. Such a social atmosphere is conducive to a mutual strengthening of one’s Catholic Faith in these difficult days. The subjects can have a broad range, from discussing a particular Religious or Spiritual book to a particular Religious devotion or talking about the last Sunday Sermon, or whatever is of concern at that time to the adult participants. The Catholic children of the oratory have the advantage of playing with their guests, other Catholic children - something quite distinctly different and very refreshing in many cases from playing with pagan children.
2) Deaconaries. The Deaconries were places where charity distributions were given to the poor, and were under the control of a Deacon. As time went on. the size of the Deaconaries grew. Thus, the greatest Deaconries had many Deacons, and one of them was elected Archdeacon. This is definitely not a “church” in the modern sense of the word since no Liturgical ceremonies were used.
3) A Titulus. Other houses held what is called a “titulus” or “title”. Each of these places was known as a Domus Dei (House of God) in a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church).
For example, according to tradition, Saint Peter the Apostle was the house guest of Senator Pudens who, along with his four children, were converted to the Catholic Faith. Saint Peter the Apostle was the house guest of Senator Pudens on and off for about seven years - between 44 A.D. and 64 A.D. Saint Paul mentions Senator Pudens in his Epistle to Bishop Saint Timothy: “Make haste to come before winter. Eubulus and Pudens, and Linus and Claudia, and all the brethren, salute thee” (2 Timothy 4:21). It sounds as if Saint Paul had been or was currently lodging with, i.e. the house guest of, Senator Pudens at the time he wrote this Epistle?
The home of Senator Pudens was the first Domus Dei (House of God) in a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) in the city of Rome. The Domus Dei (House of God) in the Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) in the house of Senator Pudens was given the rank or title of “Titulus Pudentis”.
It was most probably in this “Titulus Pudentis”, the first Domus Dei (House of God) in a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) in the city of Rome, that the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Administered the Seven Sacraments, Preached, etc.
As time went on, there was more than just the “Titulus Pudentis”, the first Domus Dei (House of God) in a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) in the city of Rome. Others came into existence as the Catholic community in Rome grew.
It is important to realize and to understand that only a Domus Dei (House of God) in a Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) in Rome could get the proper rank, i.e. could receive a title - the “Titulus”.
Only the “Tituli” (plural of “Titulus”), the titled, were allowed to have Mass and to be aplace where the Seven Sacraments were administered. The most important Priest in a Titulus was given the ecclesiastical title “Cardinal”.
Pope Saint Marcellus I [Wednesday, May 27, 308 or Friday, June 26, 308 - Saturday, January 16, 309] confirmed that only the Tituli were centers of administration of the Church. In 499 A.D. a Synod was held by Pope Saint Symmachus I [Saturday, November 22, 498 - Saturday, July 19, 514]. At this Synod a list was made of all of the titled “Cardinals”, i.e. Priests, who attended this Synod.
Here is the list of those Tituli who attended the Synod of 499 A.D.:
1. Titulus Aemilianae (Santi Quattro Coronati)
2. Titulus Anastasiae (Santa Anastasia)
3. Titulus SS Apostolorum (Santi Apostoli)
4. Titulus Byzantis or Vizantis (unknown)
5. Titulus S Caeciliae (Santa Cecilia in Trastevere)
6. Titulus Clementis (San Clemente)
7. Titulus Crescentianae (San Sisto Vecchio)
8. Titulus Crysogoni (San Crisogono)
9. Titulus Cyriaci (Uncertain; theories include Santa Maria Antiqua and Santa Maria in Domnica)
10. Titulus Damasi (San Lorenzo in Damaso)
11. Titulus Equitii (San Martino ai Monti)
12. Titulus Eusebi (Sant'Eusebio)
13. Titulus Fasciolae (Santi Nereo e Achilleo)
14. Titulus Gaii (Santa Susanna)
15. Titulus Iulii (Santa Maria in Trastevere, identical with Titulus Callixti)
16. Titulus Lucinae (San Lorenzo in Lucina)
17. Titulus Marcelli (San Marcello al Corso)
18. Titulus Marci (San Marco)
19. Titulus Matthaei (in Via Merulana, destroyed in 1810)
20. Titulus Nicomedis (in Via Nomentana, destroyed)
21. Titulus Pammachii (Santi Giovanni e Paolo)
22. Titulus Praxedis (Santa Prassede)
23. Titulus Priscae (Santa Prisca)
24. Titulus Pudentis (Santa Pudenziana)
25. Titulus Romani (unknown)
26. Titulus S Sabinae (Santa Sabina)
27. Titulus Tigridae (uncertain, perhaps Santa Balbina)
28. Titulus Vestinae (San Vitale)
Generally speaking, it was not until after the following two major historical events that the Catholic Church came out of Catacombs I and began to convert pagan temples into Catholic Church buildings to accommodate the large numbers of pagans who were converting to the Catholic Faith.
1) the Edict of Toleration of 311 A.D., signed by:
a) the Roman Emperor Galerius [305 A.D. - 311 A.D.] on his death-bed;
and signed by the other two Triumvirate Emperors:
b) the Roman Emperor Constantine I, a.k.a. Constantine the Great, a.k.a. C. Flavius Valerius Constantinus [b. at Naissus, now Nisch in Servia sometime between 274 A.D. - 288 A.D. - d. after being Baptized by the heretical Arian Bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedia, in Nicomedia at the Villa Aquilo in May, 337 A.D.]; Roman Emperor [proclaimed Caesar by his troops on Wednesday, July 25, 306 A.D. - May, 337 A.D.];
c) the Roman Emperor Licinius [308 A.D. - 324 A.D.];
2) but most especially after the Edict of Milan of March, 313 A.D., signed by the co-Emperors, Constantine I, and Licinius - whom Constantine I later defeated in 323 A.D., had begun in full force with the Roman Emperor Nero [54 A.D. - Saturday, June 9, 68 A.D.], a.k.a. Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, a.k.a. Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, which Neronian persecutions lasted from 64 A.D. to 68 A.D.
Catholic Church Buildings Controlled by Heretics
But a Church BUILDING, in and of itself, is no guarantee of Catholic orthodoxy! Why? Historically, various church buildings of the Catholic Church have been burned, or otherwise destroyed, or controlled, or stolen, or taken over in different ways by various groups of heretics, and/or apostates, and/or schismatics.
4th Century and Catacombs II
In the 4th Century the Arian heretics confiscated many Catholic Church buildings. This was such a problem that Patriarch Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, Egypt, who had been forced into exile by the Arian heretics, wrote the following letter to his flock of Catholics who were faithful to the Apostolic Tradition which is found complete only in the Catholic Church:
“May God console you! ... What saddens you ... is the fact that others have occupied the Churches by violence, while during this time you are on the outside. It is a fact that they have the premises -- but you have the Apostolic Faith. They can occupy our churches, but they are outside the True Faith. You remain outside the places of worship, but the faith dwells within you. Let us consider: WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT, THE PLACE OR THE FAITH? THE TRUE FAITH, OBVIOUSLY. Who has lost and who has won in this struggle -- the one who keeps the premises or the one who keeps the Faith?
“True, the premises are good when the Apostolic Faith is preached there; they are holy if everything takes place there in a holy way ...
“You are the ones who are happy; you who remain within the Church by your Faith, who hold firmly to the foundations of the Faith which has come down to you from Apostolic Tradition, and if an execrable jealously has tried to shake it in a number of occasions, it has not succeeded. They are the ones who have broken away from it in the present crisis.
“No one, ever, will prevail against your Faith, beloved brothers, and we believe that God will give us our Churches back some day.
“Thus, the more violently they try to occupy the places of worship, the more they separate themselves from the Church. They claim that they represent the Church but in reality they are the ones who are expelling themselves from it and going astray.
“Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the True Church of Jesus Christ” (Patriarch Saint Athanasius [b. Alexandria, Egypt 296 A.D. - d. Alexandria, Egypt on Wednesday, May 2, 373A.D.], Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, Father of Orthodoxy in the Catholic Church, Coll. Selecta SS. Eccl. Patrum, Caillu and Guillou, Volume 32, pp 411-412).
16th Century and Catacombs II Continued
In the 16th Century, the Protestants took over many Roman Catholic Church buildings, monasteries, convents, schools, hospitals, etc., especially in Germany and in England, as well as Scotland, Whales, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, etc. Roman Catholic Bishops and Priests had to offer Mass, administer the Seven Sacraments, etc. in places other than in church buildings.
20th Century and Catacombs III
The 20th Century heard the cry of anguish by the Roman Catholic Patriarch, Cardinal Slipyj:
“...Catholic Ukrainians, who have sacrificed mountains of bodies and shed rivers of their blood for the Catholic Faith...even now are undergoing a very terrible persecution, but what is worse, they are defended by no one...Our Catholic Faithful, prohibited from celebrating the Liturgy and receiving the Sacraments, must descend into the Catacombs. Thousands and thousands of the Faithful, of Priests and Bishops have been thrown into prison and deported to the polar regions of Siberia. Now, however, because of negotiations and diplomacy, Ukrainian Catholics, who as martyrs and confessors suffered so much, are being thrown aside as inconvenient witnesses of past evils.”
His Beatitude continued: “In recent letters and communications which I have received, our Faithful lament: Why have we suffered so much? Where is justice to be found? Ecclesiastical diplomacy has labeled us as impediments. Cardinal Slipyj does nothing for his Church.”
“And I answer: What can I do?...When Pimen, the Patriarch of Moscow, in an electoral Synod openly declared that the Union of Brest was annulled, not one of the Vatican delegates present protested...One of the eminent Cardinals here expressed astonishment that the Ukrainians who have been treated so badly and unjustly have, nevertheless, remained Catholic...” (Patriarch Kyr Josyf Cardinal Slipyj [b. Zazdrist, Wednesday, February 17, 1892 - d. Rome, Friday, September 7, 1984], VISTI Y RYMU, Rik 9, nos. 16-17, Rome, December 1971.)
Traditionalist Roman Catholics
Catacombs III of the 20th Century is still alive and well now in the 21st Century for scattered groups of “Traditionalist Roman Catholics”. Why? Because the Vatican has effectively shut its doors against them because Traditionalist Roman Catholics consider the changes made by Synod Vatican 2 to be contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
This has forced Traditionalist Roman Catholic Bishops and Priests to offer Mass and administer the Seven Sacraments just as the Apostles did over 1,900 years ago! History is repeating itself with the re-birth of the Domus Dei (House of God) in the Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church) of the Catholic Church.
In following this historical precedent of making use of the Domus Dei (House of God) in the Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church), Traditionalist Roman Catholics are not doing anything “wrong”, they are not inventing anything “new”. Instead, they are in 100% full harmony with the traditions of the Catholic Church. Even when their Priests or Bishops rent a room, or lodge with, or are the house guest of, a family with the Domus Dei (House of God) in the Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church), they follow the precedent sent by the Apostles, e.g. Saint Peter and Saint Paul. A few Traditionalist Roman Catholics have an actual church building. So, it is in the the Domus Dei (House of God) in the Domus Ecclesiæ (House Church), or a church building, or in a rented hall, or in other places in Catacombs III, where Traditionalist Roman Catholic Priests and Bishops offer Mass, administer the Seven Sacraments, Preach, Teach, Catechize, Baptize, Confirm, etc.
The Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ
But the Catholic Church is NOT one or more church buildings or any other kind of physical structure! God the Holy Ghost, through the pen of Saint Paul the Apostle, clearly teaches what the “church” actually is: “Now you are the Body of Christ, and members of member” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
This is part of the basis for the teaching of the Mystery of the “Mystical Body of Christ” which Christ explained in this way: “I am the vine; you the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The analogy conveyed by any society of men to an organism is sufficiently obvious. In every society the various constituent individuals are united, as are also the members of a body, to produce a common end while the parts they individually play correspond to the functions of the bodily organs. They form a moral unity. This, of course, is also true of the Church.
However, the Catholic Church also has a unity of a much higher order. It is not merely a moral body, but a Mystical Body. This Truth, namely that the Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, in that all of her members are guided and directed by Christ, Who is the head of the Mystical Body, is taught by Saint Paul in various passages of the Bible, especially in Ephesians 4:4-13.
The Mystical Body of Christ
“The members of the Church are bound together by a
Supernatural life communicated to them by Christ through the Sacraments.
Christ is the centre and source of life to Whom all are united, and Who
endows each one with gifts fitting him for his position in the body. These
Graces, through which each is equipped for his work, form it into an organized
whole, whose parts are knit together as though by a system of ligaments
and joints (Col. 2:19).”
“Through them, too, the Church has its growth and increase, growing in extension as it spreads through the world, and intensively as the individual Christian develops in himself the likeness of Christ.”
“In virtue of this union the Church is the fulness or complement (pleroma) of Christ (Eph. 1:23). It forms one whole with Him; and the Apostle even speaks of the Church as ‘Christ’ (1 Cor. 12:12).”
“This union between head and members is conserved and nourished by the Holy Eucharist. Through this Sacrament our incorporation into the Body of Christ is alike outwardly symbolized and inwardly actualized; ‘We being many are one bread, one body; for we all partake of the one bread’ (1 Cor. 10:17).” (THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA, Volume X, Mystical Body of the Church, Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company).
The term: “The CATHOLIC Church”
“When Christianity came on the scene in this world, there was a word [Yes, words are important because words mean something!] which was to prove of the greatest importance awaiting it in the Greek language. That word was ‘Catholic’, meaning ‘Universal’. Polybius (205-223 B.C.) used it when writing of ‘universal history.’” (Father Leslie Rumble, M.S.C., S.T.D., ROMAN CATHOLIC: A PROTESTANT TERM, THE HOMILETIC AND PASTORAL REVIEW, June, 1961, p. 850; source: HIST., c. 8, sect. 2, n. II.). Therefore, Father Leslie Rumble, M.S.C., S.T.D. claims that it is “wrong” to call the “Catholic Church” the “Roman” Catholic Church! Again, according to Father Leslie Rumble, M.S.C., S.T.D., “Roman Catholic” is “a Protestant term” and the only correct designation is: the “Catholic Church”!
About 110 A.D., Saint Ignatius, the Patriarch of Antioch, in an Epistle used the term “the Catholic Church”: “Wherever the Bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Patriarch Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a.k.a. Theophorus (ho Theophoros) [b. in Syria c. 50 A.D. - d. Martyred in the Flavian amphitheater at Rome, Italy on Tuesday, February 1, 107 A.D.], Patriarch of Antioch, Martyr, an Apostolic Father of the Catholic Church who had been appointed the Bishop of Antioch by Saint Peter the Apostle and Consecrated a Bishop by an Apostle, most probably either by Saint Peter the Apostle or by Saint John the Apostle of whom he had been a Disciple, Epistle to the Smyraeans, Chapter VIII, Let Nothing Be Done Without the Bishop.)
The term “Catholic” became increasingly popular until it became the commonly accepted formal title, in the Third Century, of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic, i.e. the real or true Catholic, Church in contradistinction to those churches in heresy or schism from this true or real CATHOLIC Church.
“This is Holy Church, the One Church, the True Church, the Catholic Church, fighting against all heresies. She can fight, but she cannot be conquered. All heresies are expelled from her as if they were dead branches pruned from a vine. She, herself, however, remains fixed in her root, in her vine, in her charity. The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against her” (Saint Augustine, a.k.a. Aurelius Augustinus [b. Tagaste, Africa, Saturday, November 13, 354 A.D. - d. Hippo Regia, Africa, Wednesday, August 28, 430 A.D.], Bishop of Hippo Regia, Father and Doctor of the Catholic Church, Sermon to Catechumens, On the Creed, 6, ¶ 14, [395 A.D.].).
Copyright © 2006 A.D. by Cordi-Marian Fathers. All Rights Reserved under international copyright conventions. Nothing on this page or on any of the other pages linked by this web page or on this entire web site may be used or reproduced in any manner or by any mechanical or electronic means, which includes not only transferal to other web pages, but also copying by any method(s), recording, storage in a database or other information retrieval system, without the prior express and written permission of Cordi-Marian Fathers.