Lectio Divina: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Sabbath of Christ: to Pray, to Heal, to Preach and to Pray Again

Paris, February 06, 2015 (Zenit.org) Monsignor Francesco Follo

1) The day of Christ

Today’s Gospel describes a Saturday spent by Jesus in Capernaum that can be regarded as the paradigm of how Jesus lived the Jewish day of rest, and may be a paradigm for our Sundays and for the other days of the week if we live our work as the way to build a world healed and redeemed.

This day of Jesus is marked by his three primary occupations: to immerse himself in prayer with the Father, to be with the family and among the people, and to heal the sick. Jesus speaks to man, and with His hand, which is the hand of the Infinite, touches the hand of the finite person, in this case that of the mother-in-law of Peter, but all this is “imbued” with God. It starts from prayer and ends in prayer.

Today’s Gospel tells us of a Saturday begun in the synagogue that continues in Simon’s house, where Jesus heals his mother-in-law, and out of this house where the Messiah heals many sick and demon-possessed people. Let’s pay attention to the fact that the story does not end with the evening of Saturday, but with the narrative of Jesus who before dawn goes to a solitary place where He, the Son, speaks with God, the Father.

By the lake, in a synagogue, in a house, in a square and in a desolate place: every place is good for the encounter between us and the Lord, who calls us. Every hour may be the right one, and every place is convenient for the encounter with God: the synagogue, the house of the people, the solitary place.

Let us try to imagine the scene described in the Gospel: Jesus, after he left the synagogue and between two wings of people, goes to the home of Simon Peter, where the mother-in-law lays in bed with fever. Immediately He heals her, taking her hand in his hand. Hand in hand as force transmitted to those who are tired or sick, as the hand of a brother and a friend that gives confidence to the brother and the friend weak or ill. Jesus raises (the Greek word is the one used by the Gospel even to speak of the resurrection) the mother-in-law of Peter. Jesus raises, straightens up (resurrects) this woman and brings her back to her upright posture and to the pride of doing and taking care of others. The woman gets up and starts serving.

The Lord also takes us by hand. Let us do the same, let us take the hand that is extended towards us. How many things a hand holds! An act like that can raise a life. This, according to the Gospel of Mark, is the first miracle of Jesus, the smallest in appearance, but it tells the meaning of all the others: Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, frees us from physical and spiritual evil and makes us free so that we can do good. Then let’s do at least like the mother-in-law of Peter, healed from the fever, who mimics immediately Jesus who came to serve because he loves us. To serve means to love not with words, but with deeds.

I think the sense of all the miracles that Jesus does is to change the life of men, to return them to themselves and to God. According to the Gospel of Mark, the first miracle of Christ is the healing of the mother-in-law of Peter, then during his public life He

  • heals also the blinds so that they may have eyes that see,
  • heals the deaf so that they may have ears that hear,
  • heals the mute so that their mouth may tell the truth,
  • heals the lames so that they may have feet to follow him,
  • heals the hands so that a man with open and stretched hands may piously touch his neighbor and help his brothers and sisters in humanity,
  • heals the hands of the heart so that they may be joined in prayer and man may enter into communion with God. Jesus himself, at night and until dawn, even if “tired” of healing, goes into a solitary place to pray.

2) Day and evening to think of man, night and dawn to think of God.

Jesus besieged by pain, in a whirlwind surge (the night, outside the house of Simon Peter, the people with his pain hurries to Jesus, delivers his pain and finds life) knows how to find space and time to be with the Father. Jesus teaches us how to create those secret places that give health to the soul; spaces for prayer, where nothing is more important than God, where to tell Him “I’m in front of you. For a time that I know to be short, I will not put anything ahead of you; nothing in these few minutes will come ahead of you.” It is our declaration of love.

In the narrative of the Gospel, the setting of Jesus’ prayer is at the crossroads between the insertion in the tradition of his people and the novelty of a unique personal relationship with God. “The desert place” (cf. Mk 1:35) where He retires and “the night” that allows him solitude (cf. Mk 1.35; 6.46 to 47; Lk 6:12) recall events in the journey of God’s revelation in the Old Testament, indicating the continuity of his saving plan. At the same time they mark moments of particular importance to Jesus, who knowingly fits into this plan, fully faithful to the will of the Father.

Even in our prayer we must learn, more and more, to enter into this history of salvation of which Jesus is the summit, to renew before God our personal decision to open ourselves to his will and to ask him the strength to conform our will to his, in the totality of our lives, in obedience to his plan of love for us.

The prayer of Jesus touches all stages of his ministry and all his days. Labors do not block it. The Gospels, indeed, reveal the custom of Jesus to spend part of the night in prayer.

Looking to Jesus’ prayer, let us ask ourselves: how do I pray? What and how much time do I devote to a relationship with God? Who can be my master?

The first Master is Jesus, who teaches us the Our Father and reveals the novelty of our dialogue with God through the filial prayer that the Father expects from his children. And we learn from Jesus how a constant prayer helps us to interpret our life, to operate our choices, to recognize and accept our vocation.

Then we, small disciples of this great Master, are called to be witnesses of prayer because our world is often closed to the divine horizon and to the hope that an encounter with God brings. In friendship with Jesus and living in him and with him the filial relationship with the Father, we can open the windows to the Heaven of God through our faithful and constant prayer.

To the ones that do not have the time and the opportunity to pray with the Liturgy of the Hours, I suggest to pray the Angelus in the morning to commemorate the resurrection of Christ, at noon to celebrate his crucifixion and in the evening to remember his birth. Or to start the day with these two prayers: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one“, taken from Deuteronomy 6.4, and “Our Father, who art in heaven …” The first prayer is the listening, the second the answer. In listening I learn that God is One, and in response I say now: “My Father …” (see Divo Barsotti).

The fact that prayer is the most important “job” can be understood by the fact that the first and indispensable commitment of the consecrated Virgins in the world is prayer, as it is specifically requested to them during the rite of consecration (See Rite of the Consecration of the Virgins). In fact, handing the book of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Bishop turns to the consecrated with these words: “Receive the book of the liturgy of the hours, the prayer of the Church; may the praise of our heavenly Father be always on your lips; pray without ceasing for the salvation of the world.

With special affection and devotion the Virgins cultivate with the Virgin Mary, model of all discipleship and every consecration, humble filial confidence, intercessory prayer and contemplation of the mysteries of her Son Jesus.

Each virgin belonging to the Ordo Virginum keeps constantly in mind that prayer is not only a personal and generous answer to the voice of the Bridegroom and humble request for help to maintain loyalty to the holy commitment and to the gift received, but it is intimate participation to the life of the mystical body of Christ, unceasing intercession for the church and for the world.

Patristic Reading – Golden Chain

6129 Mc 1,29-31

Bede, in Marc., 1, 7: First, it was right that the serpent’s tongue should be shut up, that it might not spread any more venom; then that the woman, who was first seduced, should be healed from the fever of carnal concupiscence.

Wherefore it is said, “And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, &c.”

Theophylact: He retired then as the custom was on the sabbath-day about evening to eat in His disciples’ house. But she who ought to have ministered was prevented by a fever.

Wherefore it goes on, “But Simon’s wife’s mother was lying sick of a fever.”

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc., 1, 32: But the disciples, knowing that they were to receive a benefit by that means, without waiting for the evening prayed that Peter’s mother should be healed.

Wherefore there follows, “who immediately tell Him of her.”

,b>Bede: But in the Gospel of Luke it is written that “they besought Him for her.” (Lc 4,38) For the Saviour sometimes after being asked, sometimes of His own accord, heals the sick, shewing that He always assents to the prayers of the faithful, when they pray also against bad passions, and sometimes gives them to understand things which they do not understand at all, or else, when they pray unto Him dutifully, forgives their want of understanding; as the Psalmist begs of God, “Cleanse me, O Lord, from my secret faults.” (Ps 19,12)

Wherefore He heals her at their request; for there follows, “And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up.”

Theophylact: By this it is signified, that God will heal a sick man, if he ministers to the Saints, through love to Christ.

Bede, in Marc., 1, 6: But in that He gives most profusely His gifts of healing and doctrine on the sabbath day, He teaches, that He is not under the Law, but above the Law, and does not choose the Jewish sabbath, but the true sabbath, and our rest is pleasing to the Lord, if, in order to attend to the health of our souls, we abstain from slavish work, that is, from all unlawful things.

It goes on, “And immediately the fever left her, &c.”

Bede, in Marc., 1, 8: The health which is conferred at the command of the Lord, returns at once entire, accompanied with such strength that she is able to [p. 29] minister to those of whose help she had before stood in need.

Again, if we suppose that the man delivered from the devil means, in the moral way of interpretation, the soul purged from unclean thoughts, fitly does the woman cured of a fever by the command of God mean the flesh, restrained from the heat of it concupiscence by the precepts of continence.

Pseudo-Jerome: For the fever means intemperance, from which, we the sons of the synagogue [ed. note: See St. Augustine on Ps 72, no. 4, 5, “Ecclesia Socrus Synagogue.” The Church is called the daughter of the Synagogue in the spurious ‘Altercatio Eccles. et Synagog.’ (Aug. Opp t. viii, p. 19.) They word ‘synagogue’ is applied to the Church by Justin M. Dial, see Tryph, p. 160 (Ben.) Clem. Alex. Str. vi, 633.], by the hand of discipline, and by the lifting up of our desires, are healed, and minister to the will of Him who heals us.

Theophylact: But he has a fever who is angry, and in the unruliness of his anger stretches forth his hands to do hurt; but if reason restrains his hands, he will arise, and so serve reason.

6132 Mc 1,32-34

Theophylact: Because the multitude thought that it was not lawful to heal on the sabbath day, they waited for the evening, to bring those who were to be healed to Jesus.

Wherefore it is said, “And at even, when the sun had set.”

There follows, “and He healed many that were vexed with divers diseases.”

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Now in that he says “many”, all are to be understood according to the Scripture mode of expression.

Theophylact: Or he says, “many”, because there were some faithless persons, who could not at all be cured on account of their unfaithfulness. Therefore He healed many of those who were brought, that is, all who had faith.

It goes on, “and cast out many devils.”

Pseudo-Augustine, Quaest. e Vet. et Nov. Test. 16: For the devils knew that He was the Christ, who had been promised by the Law: for they saw in Him all (p. 30) the signs which had been foretold by the Prophets; but they were ignorant of His divinity, as also were “their princes, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1Co 2,8)

Bede: For, Him whom the devil had known as a man, wearied by His forty days’ fast, without being able by tempting Him to prove whether He was the Son of God, he now by the power of His miracles understood or rather suspected to be the Son of God. The reason therefore why he persuaded the Jews to crucify Him, was not because he did not think that He was the Son of God, but because he did not foresee that he himself was to be condemned by Christ’s death.

Theophylact: Furthermore, the reason that He forbade the devils to speak, was to teach us not to believe them, even if they say true. For if once they find persons to believe them, they mingle truth with falsehood.

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: And Luke does not contradict this, when he says, that “devils came out of many, crying out and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God:” (Lc 4,41) for he subjoins, “And He rebuking them, suffered them not to speak;” for Mark, who passes over many things for the sake of brevity, speaks about what happened subsequently to the abovementioned words.

Bede: Again, in a mystical sense, the setting of the sun signifies the passion of Him, who said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (Jn 9,5) And when the sun was going down, more demoniacs and sick persons were healed than before: because He who living in the flesh for a time taught a few Jews, has transmitted the gifts of faith and health to all the Gentiles throughout the world.

Pseudo-Jerome: But the door of the kingdom, morally, is repentance and faith, which works health for various diseases; for divers are the vices with which the city of this world is sick.

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29 Responses to Lectio Divina: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

  1. toadspittle says:

    This is a bit off topic (OK, quite a lot off topic) – so sorry.
    …But I was reading about the antecedents of Paradise Lost* yesterday, and had this thought:
    When God created Satan, did He know Satan was going to rebel against Him?
    There surely can only be two answers: Yes or No.
    Either raises interesting theological issues, it seems to me.
    But someone on here will put Toad right, no doubt.

    *“Adamo Caduto,” Serafino della Salandra, Cosenza, 1647, proposes Norman Douglas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. johnhenrycn says:

    God knew you before you were conceived, Toad (Jeremiah 1:5); so there’s no question He knew you would attend Ealing Art School, work as a newspaper editor in the USA and marry three times. We must conclude on the basis of biblical authority, therefore, that Satan’s destiny was also known to Him from the beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. toadspittle says:

    Four times, JH.
    So, if God knew that, through Satan, He, God ,would be the instrument of bringing sin into the world. “If I do this, sin will result.”
    …So sin is all God’s fault.
    I can see no other interpretation to put on the situation. Considering this, it seems a little harsh of God to then condemn sinners to Hell (also His invention) for eternity.
    Or has Toad got this wrong, as well?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Raven says:

    Knowing someone will react to a stimulus in a certain way does not take away their free choice to choose their response – even if their response is foreseeable.

    God made us to have free will; He didn’t want automata or slaves, he wanted to create beings like Himself, that means that there is always going to be a strong possibility that humanity is going to use that free will to do things that go against God’s own will (with or without the assistance of Satan).

    Can God be said to have created sin? No; that is something that we ourselves have created. Did God know that we would sin? Yes; that is why He has tried so hard to steer us away from sin and to save us.

    And Hell is a place that we condemn ourselves to: God desperately wants to save us. We deny ourselves the beatific vision. What God evaluates when He sits in the judgment seat is whether we, ourselves wish to be with Him; if, instead, we are attached to things other than God, He cannot force us to turn to Him instead.

    The situation is like that of the protagonist in Lord Jim, who is offered a version of heaven at the end of the book, but his attachments to other things lead him to choose those instead of love.


  5. toadspittle says:

    A very measured and reasonable response, which is no more than we expect from Raven, unrelenting hound of the helpless, hopeless, hapless, Habsburgs.
    I’m unconvinced by it, but will need to mull it over.
    However, as I brood and dogwalk:
    “Can God be said to have created sin? No; that is something that we ourselves have created. “ I was under the impression that the devil was the original sinner, and tempted us to first do wrong in the garden of Eden. But maybe I’m wrong.

    “Did God know that we would sin? Yes; that is why He has tried so hard to steer us away from sin and to save us.” I detect some sort of fatalism here, If I knew for certain my dogs were going to do something bad and/or stupid and dangerous, I would prevent them, whether they had free will, or not. Same as I did with my children. I know you will reject the analogy, but I believe it is absolutely valid. Honestly.
    How can God with infinite powers “…try so hard”? It is an absurd concept. Anthropomorphism, perhaps?
    And then, of course there’s Hell. OK Toad, cracked record. Except that even those people who burned a man alive in a cage don’t logically deserve to be punished eternally. Though, it’s not hard to get emotional about it, and say it would serve them bloody well right to burn forever.

    Jester Toad is not being funny enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. toadspittle says:

    Another thought: As Christ is reputed to have said. “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do,” how can anyone be punished eternally – because none of us know what we’re doing, do we?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JabbaPapa says:

    When God created Satan, did He know Satan was going to rebel against Him?
    There surely can only be two answers: Yes or No.

    We’ve done this one before, though to be fair it was a different case, and especially it’s something quite hard to understand logically, and therefore very hard to make sense of.

    We and the Angels have several things in common — amongst them, Free Will.

    Where we and the Angels differ from God, as far as this case is concerned, is that we reside within Causality and Time, whereas God transcends both, so that He is both inside and outside both Time and Causality.

    When we commit an action within Causality and Time, God is perfectly aware of that action — and because he transcends Causality and Time, from our own points of view within these things, His knowledge of our action must be viewed as always having existed — even though His knowledge of the action is consequential to the performance of that action from our Free Will.

    So you see — both answers “yes” and “no” are incorrect ; the first because it denies Free Will, the second because it denies God’s omniscience, and both because they each deny God’s transcendental Nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JabbaPapa says:

    I suppose, in a sense, it’s the question that’s wrong :

    When God created Satan, did He know

    God as Creator is not within Time in the first place, so that your “when” does not exist, and your “did” falsely presents God as being subjected to Time, but He isn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. toadspittle says:

    But if God isn’t “in” time – a concept which I think I very vaguely comprehend – how can He “want, or “try,” or “plan,” ? Surely they all involve dimensions – time, space, extension, etc.?
    This rather poncey line of talk is better than the Habsburgs, anyway.
    …,Virtually anything is.

    (Jabba, do you personally believe any human can possibly deserve eternal damnation?)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The Raven says:


    It isn’t a a case of a human deserving eternal punishment, but rather of a human choosing to cut themselves off from God for eternity.


  11. JabbaPapa says:

    But if God isn’t “in” time

    I did point out that these concepts are not easy.

    God is both immanent and transcendental, so that He is both within time and without.

    But you asked a specific (difficult) question about a specific case involving the relationship between Free Will and God’s omniscience. My answer to that specific question should not be read as if it were directly pertinent to all other closely or distantly related questions.

    Jabba, do you personally believe any human can possibly deserve eternal damnation?

    Although not human, Satan seems to have deserved it — so that if an Angel can deserve it, it’s hard to see that a human couldn’t.

    So yes.


  12. kathleen says:

    “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do”.

    Toad, when Our Lord Jesus Christ pronounced those words to the Father, He was referring to the men who had crucified Him – both the Roman soldiers and, I think we may assume, the Jewish leaders who had handed Him over to the Romans to be crucified. These moving words spoken by Our Saviour as He hung on the Cross, were (of course) spoken before His Glorious Resurrected from the Dead; therefore He was saying that these men had not seen the Miracle (that was later witnessed by the Apostles and thousands of Our Lord’s disciples that thus demonstrated that He was truly Who He had said He was) and they did not know, presumably, that they were crucifying the Son of God.

    How much they were to blame for this crime of Deicide, we cannot know, for only God can fathom the depths of the human heart. But it is a vivid proof that Our Blessed Lord, Who gave Himself to such a cruel death to save us from our sins and Hell, desires that “all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth”. All we have to do is to desire it too, and to mean it. 🙂
    (No good just crying out “Lord, Lord”, and then willfully disobeying all the commandments!)


  13. toadspittle says:

    “It isn’t a a case of a human deserving eternal punishment, but rather of a human choosing to cut themselves off from God for eternity.”

    @ The Raven: Would any sane person, who understood fully what they were doing, and what the consequences would be – choose to do such a thing? I wouldn’t. It would be one thing to “cut'” yourself off from God and choose, say, oblivion – but another to deserve being burned and prodded by demons’ pitchforks for ever and ever?
    ….Which is what Lucia of Fatima told us is literally the case. Is that reasonable, Raven?

    Jabba: “Satan seems to have deserved damnation — so that if an Angel can deserve it, it’s hard to see that a human couldn’t.”
    …Humans and angels being totally interchangeable. They don’t know any more than us.
    I see. I have no wings. I think.
    Maybe metaphysical ones, though.


  14. JabbaPapa says:

    Maybe metaphysical ones, though

    I hope and pray that we shall both be among the saved in Heaven, and I look forward to comparing your metaphorical feathers to my own … 🙂


  15. johnhenrycn says:

    I think Jabba’s penultimate paragraph at 11:21 is as good starting point to understanding the riddle. Not saying I understand it completely – and I doubt he does either – since we are speaking of the mind of God and transendence, but it’s likely the best we can manage this side of the grave.


  16. toadspittle says:

    The other side of the grave is going to be a hoot.
    I’ll let you know.
    If possible.


  17. The Raven says:

    Well, Toad, people in this life choose willingly to turn away from God and to make the world a foretaste of Hell: why should death change that?

    And think for a minute of that vision of Hell: demons tormenting the damned. Think on Islamic State, the USSR, China under Mao or the Khmer Rouge; they all believed that they were in an earthly paradise, while they were, in fact making Hell – do you think that the damned are merely passive recipients of torment or, more likely in my experience of humanity, active collaborators in their own suffering?

    And do you think that everyone’s Hell will be the same? The libertine who turns away from God to pursue an itch that he can never adequately scratch will have a different experience of Hell to a monster like “Jihadi John”.

    Perhaps the worst aspect of Hell may be that it’s denizens believe that they are in heaven, as they harm, oppress and brutalise one the other.


  18. Tom Fisher says:

    The Raven is a fan of The Great Divorce, me too!


  19. johnhenrycn says:

    …and The Divine Comedy too, Tom.


  20. Tom Fisher says:

    …and The Divine Comedy too, Tom.



  21. Tribunus says:

    Dear Raven,

    Dear Raven,

    Thank you for your reply on the Habsburg Empire issue (“rotten to the core”, “Franz Ferdinand…held vile anti-Semitic views”, ruling family included significant numbers of “utter rotters” and Austria wrongly “chose” to wage war against Christians instead of Muslims and secularists, etc).

    I apologise for not getting back to you sooner but I’ve been having a few tussles with the Moderator about whether or not he would let me post replies.

    Also I have been responding to Jabba over the Imperial prayers.

    I should preface my reply by saying that you did temper your earlier remarks by acknowledging that “even in its death-throws, there was much to admire in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but I’m not going to pretend that it was anything like a paragon of a well governed Catholic state” which I recognise is a change from saying it was “rotten to the core” etc.

    I should also apologise for my first blast which was written late at night after a gruelling day and posted without proper editing and in haste. I was (rightly) taken to task by Kathleen for it and amended it upon re-reading it. Please accept my apologies for any offence caused.

    I continue our numbering:

    (1) The newspaper article was intended as an example, not a source; and I would have thought that an interview with Franz Ferdinand’s own grand-daughter would have merited more than a bland dismissal.

    As you well know, I did not dismiss any comments by Franz Ferdinand’s own grand-daughter, especially as I happen to know her. She certainly would not describe her ancestor as anti-Semitic.

    It was the journalist who – casually and without any evidence – parenthetically added the all too facile anti-Semitic slur. He might as well have added “well, he spoke German, didn’t he? Must have been anti-Semitic then – and all the more so since the blighter was one of those d–n Catholics, as well. Harrumph!”.

    An American Jewess friend of mine said once, very percipiently “Anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the English”.

    As you seem to believe that you have access to information that disproves the widely held view of the man, perhaps you would be good enough to share it?

    The view is not, I believe, widely-held, except among Left Wing English historians and their acolytes. I think that, since it is your claim, you need to prove it rather than asking me to prove a negative. He who asserts must prove.

    (2) I acknowledge that my characterisation of Leopold I was unduly harsh and makes the mistake of applying the mores of our own age to the seventeenth century.

    An easy mistake for anyone to make. I have on numerous occasions made the same sort of mistake.

    However, the civic rights granted in the mid-nineteenth century were hardly at the cutting edge of emancipation – they compare favourably with Russia and parts of the German Confederation, but that is not setting a particularly high standard.

    Well, I am not sure about that. What civil rights do you mean? There was no slavery or serfdom in the Habsburg Empire, as there still was in Eastern Orthodox Russia, and had not been for centuries.

    Indeed, in the “Laws of Burgos”, the Spanish Habsburgs famously outlawed enslaving the natives as early as 1512, only 5 years after the discovery of the New World by Columbus. It was not their fault that this was hard to police in the days before hi-tech travel.

    The Habsburg monarchy was, in fact, a surprisingly modern monarchy, open to new ideas, science, technology, new artistic trends and Vienna was notably cosmopolitan – perhaps too much so.

    (3) I think that, with regard to Hungary, your comments are an over-simplification and that the freedoms aspired to when they laboured under the Soviet tyranny were rather greater than to suffer a lesser vassalage (your account of the Horthy regime is entirely inaccurate).

    I didn’t actually give an “account of the Horthy regime” so I’m not sure what you mean there.

    But I really don’t see how one can begin to compare the slavery of living under the heel of Soviet Communism to living in pre-First World War Hungary which was a warmly Catholic state.

    (4) It is not a historical fact that stability was only achieved in the interwar period by letting in fascist rule: after initial communist uprisings in Austria and Hungary, stable parliamentary rule was the norm throughout the bulk of the former empire; there was a growth in authoritarian rule in Poland, Hungary and Jugoslavia, but this was mainly in response to external pressure – often originating in Germany.

    I am surprised that you so easily dismiss the fact of runaway inflation and the massive depression. These ruined whole countries. Can you so easily over look this?

    Other than Austria, which seems to have whole-heartedly embraced Nazism, Hungary was the only state to “voluntarily” side with Germany and, even there, it wasn’t until the German occupation in 1944 that the state could be called a fascist state.

    I don’t agree that Austria “whole-heartedly embraced Nazism”. Dolfuss had been a popular leader but he opposed the Nazis and was murdered by them.

    But I agree that Admiral Horthy’s regime cannot be characterised as Fascist. He was left high and dry by the Allies and had to choose between Hitler and Stalin, a very unappetising choice.

    Indeed, I do not consider that the regimes of Dolfuss and Salazar were Fascist, either, although English Left-Wingers howl at such a suggestion. Dolfuss and Salazar were both Catholic monarchists. Even Franco was a monarchist, albeit his Catholicism took some time to emerge (I prefer the Carlists to Franco’s rather militaristic Rightism, albeit I recognise that the real enemy in Spain was Communism).

    The point that you are missing is that I do not think that the constituent parts of the empire were any better off after the fall of the Empire; in fact, I doubt that the fall of the Empire advanced human happiness or the material wealth of the populace by an iota.


    However, the same points could be made about the situation in many of the successor states of the USSR; the fact that the USSR provided stability and a measure of prosperity to its populace does not ameliorate its many other vices.

    This I really cannot agree with.

    The USSR lead to widespread starvation, slavery, oppression and horror, as Malcolm Muggeridge, an eye-witness in the 30s, so graphically and harrowingly described.

    (5) Joseph II was wholly typical of the rest of the Habsburg dynasty insofar as he believed that his own opinions should trump those of the populace as a whole

    I really do think that you will have to provide proof for these far too sweeping statements if you are going to continue to make them.

    That Joseph II, a free-thinking, un-Catholic Freemason, was highly atypical of the otherwise very Catholic, devout and papally loyal Habsburgs, is virtually a truism to most historians.

    I am intrigued to see that your defence of Rudolph II is based entirely on his virtues as a secular patron of the arts and sciences and rather surprised by your defence of Freemasonry, which was barred to Catholics as early as 1738.

    Rudolf II was no paragon but he was not some occult Devil-worshipper, either. Kings and emperors are not required to be perfect but merely good enough – and he was. And he was much better than many of our modern political leaders! It is perhaps understandable that an emperor ruling after the 30 years war would be cautious about upsetting any “side” in the war.

    True, Freemasonry was condemned in 1738, but early Catholic Jacobites were members before then.

    Your point on the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire is just silly: Buonaparte had already crowned himself “Emperor”, his project was focussed on building his own new empire and destroying the structures of the past; and your assertions miss the point that Buonaparte would have called himself Holy Roman Emperor if he wished to, irrespective of the de jure actions of Francis II.

    Not so.

    Bonaparte wanted to be recognised by the Pope and the Church as Emperor so that the rest of Europe would do so and not merely laugh at his pretensions. He wanted to re-store the spirit of Charlemagne, but in his own image.

    He divorced Josephine so that he could marry the Emperor’s daughter, the Archduchess Maria Ludwiga, so as to position himself for the imperial crown.

    Viscount Bryce, one of the English-speaking experts on the Empire and writing in the 19th century closer to the time, is of the same view – see his Holy Roman Empire, MacMillan, London, 1925, pp.404-7.

    He says;

    “Napoléon began by invoking the memories of Charlemagne to serve his purposes: the memories of Charlemagne ended by dominating him . It was in this belief that he to the ancient capital of the Frankish Emperors to receive there the Austrian recognition of his imperial title…the same desire to be regarded as lawful Emperor of the West shewed itself in his assumption of the Lombard crown at Milan…and as he had brought within his dominions not only parts of north-western Germany but also Rome and the Papal states, ‘the Empire’ had plainly become more than French…it was at one time his intention to eject the Hapsburgs, and be chosen Roman emperor in their stead…Napoléon found that the protectorship of the Church strengthened his position in France, and gave him dignity in the eyes of Christendom…”

    I do not think that you can call Lord Bryce’s view “just silly”, although you are, of course, at liberty to reject it.

    You are right to say that I went too far in suggesting that Franz Joseph supported the Anschluß movement.

    Thank you.

    Are you able to quote statistics to demonstrate your claim that railway building, telegraph and telephone construction were as well advanced in comparable powers?

    Yes, but will you forgive me if I research them when I have more time?

    And Austria-Hungary’s war-readiness was put to the proof in 1914 and emphatically found wanting – on most fronts it was only the support of ‘Reich Germans’ that prevented total collapse. Even at Caporetto, the army was a combined German and Austrian army and the Italians more than had their revenge at the battles of the Piave and Vittorio Veneto.

    Piave was a purely defensive battle for the Italians and nothing like the utter rout of Caopretto. Moreover, both battles were near the end of the war – Vittorio Veneto literally right at the end and, indeed, after – when the nationalist-separatists were using the war to rebel and withdraw from the Empire, e.g. on 28 October the Czechs declared independence, next day the South Slavs followed suit, and Hungary withdrew on 31 October. It was for these reasons that the Austrian army had to withdraw, not the superior military capability of the Italians.

    Notoriously, the Italians waited until the Austrians had formally agreed an armistice (3 November 1918) and then jumped onto their horses and into their vehicles and drove for 2 days until they reached the Brenner Pass and beyond, unchecked and unhindered, seizing the German-speaking South Tyrol which has resented it ever since. There they then gave themselves medals for their glorious battle against nobody except a force that had already surrendered and disarmed itself!

    Of course, at Caporetto, the Austrians were re-informed by German Divisions – they were allies. Likewise, the Italians were re-inforced by British and French Divisions.

    In 1914, the Austrians had to divide their forces in order to fight on two fronts, the Serbian and the Russian and the Serbs were being supplied by the French and the Greeks. Although the war in Serbia was a bloody affair, with the Serbs putting up a tremendous fight which certainly set back the Austria advance on Belgrade, in the end the Serb army, despite being re-inforced by British and French troops, was forced out of Serbia, into exile. However, to be fair, the Austrian were re-inforced by Germans and were allied with an invading Buglarian force.

    But none of this points to a chaotic, disorganised, unready Austrian force. The Austrians were less militaristic than the Germans, it is true, and their soldiers less well-trained and equipped, but they more than held their own.

    (6) I am not characterising Austria’s fight to the end at Austerlitz as collusion, I am characterising the actions of Francis II as being more about keeping a crown (any crown) on his own head than any high moral principle.

    It is all too easy to criticise a defeated leader’s moral principle when he has just been roundly trounced in a major and devastating battle.

    There was not “any” crown to put on his head. It was the Austrian or nothing. You cannot blame him for tending to prefer the former. Indeed, such was far better for his people, than nothing.

    (7) There is a fair amount of evidence that Austrian court officials had been tipped off about Princip and his chums, but chose to do nothing about it and, ironically, the main obstacle to renewed hostilities against Serbia had been Franz Ferdinand, who really wanted a war with Russia instead of a distraction in the south.

    You may be right but I’d like to see the evidence. In the works I have read about the July crisis, the position is highly complex with Austria generally being a mixture of bellicose and pacific, Count Tisza against war, the Germans champing at the bit for a war (and then, at the last minute, when they realised both France and Britain would be against them, backing off far too late) and Russia being (as you rightly said) ill-prepared.

    I think that you are right to say that the assassination was largely planned in Serbia and Serb officials were complicit, albeit that they were acting on their own initiative

    I tend to agree. Interestingly, however, the Austrian officials sent to prove this came back with a report saying that the Serbian government were not involved and unaware!

    (much in the way that many of the attacks on the UK mounted by the IRA were planned in the Republic and had the tacit backing of members of the political establishment and the Gardai)

    That is much more controversial. Yes, the attacks were often planned in the Republic but, personally, I doubt that Eire politicians and the Gardai were even aware, let alone backing such attacks. Even the gun-running Charlie Haughey would have baulked at that.

    but the ultimatum was clearly couched in terms that would be impossible for the Serbs to meet (not least because it involved producing persons who were already in Austrian custody).

    The Russians did not think so and urged acceptance of the terms. And, in the end, the Serbs did accept these “impossible” terms – but the message of acceptance was delayed at the border by agents of the Black Hand.

    Whilst I am cautious about Max Hastings, his account seems fair enough.

    What is left out here is that the Serbs did, in the end, accept all the terms. But the message never reached Austria, thanks to the Black Hand, who wanted war more than the Austrian hawks.

    Your reflections on the most recent Balkan wars are not relevant to this conversation.

    Not so.

    The ultimatum issued to Milosevic at Rambouillet is highly relevant since it was far, far more impossible to accept than the Austrian ultimatum of July 1914 and the quote from Henry Kissinger is highly apt.

    This fact is simply ignored by those complaining about Austria in 1914.

    (8) The Turk was guilty of the widespread murder, rape and desecration of Christians and Christian lives during this period, their troops, especially the irregular Bashi-Bezooks.

    You can hardly blame the actions of the Bashi-Bazouks upon Austria, really.

    And let’s not forget that “the sick man of Europe” was still able to inflict a comprehensive defeat on us at Gallipoli.

    Only because the allied troops landed at the wrong place – that’s why Churchill resigned!

    While I would be the last one to describe Clemenceau as a “Christian”, many of those in arms for the French were Christians and Catholics.

    France was not a Christian nation. Austria was, and Catholic at that.

    You cannot blame Austria for being outraged at the murder of the heir to the throne. The real villains were the Serbs, the Germans, the Italians and the French who were all itching for a war. Absent the murder, Austria would certainly not have been in favour – why would it? It had everything to lose and nothing to gain.

    (9) Your point is a nonsense – no-one in Czech, Slovakia, Poland or Ruthenia voluntarily threw their lot in with the Germans in WWII.

    Not so.

    The Sudeten Germans did, the Ruthenians saw the Germans as their liberators from Soviet Russia, the Croats did, the Slovaks did and the Hungarians, as you say, dreamt of ruling Trans-Leithia, either in or out of the old Empire.

    By the way, the Serbs were no less vile and brutal than the Croats and had gone on a savage campaign of murder of Croats ever before the Croats did. Don’t let anyone pretend otherwise.

    (10) the Imperial plans were designed to service one front or the other and ended supplying neither in the first crucial weeks of the war.

    True but that was not your original point. And I still say that the primary assertion that “the Empire and Monarchy was rotten from its very heart” is unsustainable.

    Shorter supply lines in the South meant that they the Austro-Hungarian forces had a good deal of initial success against the Serbs, but in the East the war degenerated into a rolling retreat against the Russians; only reinforcement and supply by Germany allowed them to stop the Russian advance and start to turn the tide against Russia.

    (11) We will have to agree to disagree on the quality of my evidence.

    Well, as you wish but I think you’ll agree that some evidence is need before one calls someone an “utter rotter”.

    Even the father of the Blessed Emperor Karl, whilst clearly a pretty unimpressive playboy, couldn’t be called an “utter rotter”.

    As for the Hussite affair, you are making the same mistake as Kathleen – I’m referring to the late nineteenth century movement, not to Jan Huss and his followers.

    Ok, fine. But that wasn’t made clear.

    (12) I entirely accept that you seek to present the truth as you see it, but I have pointed out that you have made a number of errors of fact and I disagree with a number of the interpretations that you put on other facts on which we agree.

    I accept, of course, your right to disagree but, with great respect, where are the errors of fact?

    I doubt very much that the Habsburg empire was “in the plan of God”, His message had very little to do with Earthly realms and monarchies.

    I am surprised that you make such an assertion.

    By this statement you sweep away, with gay abandon and insouciance, the whole of Catholic Social Teaching which, as the popes have made abundantly clear, is a vital part of the Catholic faith and life.

    There can be no doubt, for the reason which I have stated elsewhere to Jabba and others, and will not again rehearse here, that the Roman Empire was especially blessed, supported, sanctified and embraced by the Catholic Church throughout most of its 2,000 history.

    It was also the cornerstone of Christendom, with the full blessing of the Church.

    To say that this was merely an accident and not in the plan of God is a pretty extraordinary statement. If not, then what is?

    It is precisely the Church which is the mediator of the plans of God and we cannot ignore the significant position of the one polity that it consistently supported before all others.

    To suggest that the Kingdom of Poland, or England or the Republic of Venice enjoyed anything like a similar position as the Christian Roman empire is ahistorical, particularly as all three (until the Polish Reformation) recognised the Roman Emperor as the doyen of the sovereigns and the primary ruler in Christendom.

    Moreover, the rulers in those states are every bit as much open to your criticism that their state was “simply a vehicle for one family to rule in the same way as any other potentate”.

    Catholics do the devil’s work when they ignore the shabbier truths that afflict our institutions/i>

    Indeed, but they also do the Devil’s work when they either expect perfection in human institutions and will not tolerate anything less, or, at the other extreme, pretend that politics do not matter, that the Church has little nothing to say about how we should governed or, worse, that we should simply ignore the significance of the polity the Church historically preferred, sanctified and specially blessed, in favour of some non-existent dream state that no-one has ever seen or ever will.

    Nothing in this world will be perfect because we are fallen creatures, we should not close our eyes to our faults, but confess them and pray for grace to do better. This applies to institutions as much as it does to individuals.

    I agree.

    But equally, we should not do so when it comes to the one polity that, for so long, had a special position at the heart of Christendom, blessed and sanctified by the Church, Scripture, the Doctors of the Church and the theologians of the Church.

    That is virtually to say “I know better than the Church” which, in turn, is a bit like saying “I know better than God”.

    And that, of course, is not a view appropriate to any Christian.


    (with apologies for the length – again)


  22. toadspittle says:

    “Perhaps the worst aspect of Hell may be that it’s denizens believe that they are in heaven, as they harm, oppress and brutalise one the other.”
    Do I detect a soupçon of Sartre there, Raven? Huis Clos? Non?

    Anyway, we are getting nowhere on this issue – as ever. Must move on.
    To anywhere except the Habsburgs, I hope.


  23. kathleen says:

    @ Tribunus

    Thank you for your excellent reply to the Raven. I shall alert him to it, for he may not have seen it yet. Like all your comments now – through no one’s fault, except WordPress – it came in late last night and went straight into the ‘spam’ folder… until I noticed it just after 8 a.m. this morning and released it. I am sorry about this annoying glitch that makes on-line conversation for you greatly hindered.

    Early on you say:
    “An American Jewess friend of mine said once, very percipiently “Anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the English”.”

    A very interesting observation! It may not be quite so appropriate nowadays perhaps, when so many “English” could not give two hoots one way or the other about such things, but it most certainly used to be the case. And it was precisely this ingrained, anti-Catholic bigotry that prompted the ruthless and harsh measures meted out by the Protestant nations’ victors, to the once flourishing Austro-Hungarian [Catholic] Empire after the Great War.


  24. Tribunus says:

    Quite so, Kathleen.

    Unfortunately, speaking from personal experience of the primary institutions in Britain, anti-Catholicism is still strong. But now it comes from amongst the secularists and atheists who dominate our society, rather than Protestants who are, by and large, not particularly hostile to us any more.


  25. Tribunus says:

    Actually, Toadspit, I think the responses you have received, at least on this issue, have been accurate, informative and rational.

    Perhaps you should go back and consider them more carefully?


  26. toadspittle says:

    “Anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the English”.”

    Oh, really? As an obvious Catholic, I’ve never encountered any anti-Catholicism in England. Ever. I would have thought anti-Semitism was the anti-Semitism of England. And there is plenty of that.


  27. kathleen says:

    “As an obvious Catholic, I’ve never encountered any anti-Catholicism in England.”

    Haven’t you Toad? I have occasionally.. but then there were not many Catholics in my part of England, unlike for instance in some parts of the north. Not of the aggressive type certainly, or even very out in the open mostly… but alive nonetheless, in spite of the centuries of ‘Catholic emancipation’.

    I think Tribunus is right, that it comes more from the atheists and secularists rather than from practicing Protestants.


  28. JabbaPapa says:

    I think Tribunus is right, that it comes more from the atheists and secularists rather than from practicing Protestants.

    Cromwell was neither an atheist nor a secularist, kathleen.

    The English anti-Catholicism is, in my experience, of Protestant origin — though yes you’re quite right in pointing out that the atheists and secularists have joined that ghastly bandwagon …

    But really, the only acts of genocide perpetrated in England against Catholics have been from Protestants.


  29. kathleen says:

    Oh yes Jabba, in Cromwell’s time the virulent anti-Catholicism in England most certainly came from the Protestant body. No doubt about that. And the real figure of those put to death under Protestant persecution will never be known. (This mainly because many of the murdered never had their names registered on any list, especially in remote areas and in Ireland.)

    Even today one occasionally gets a whiff of the old anti-Catholicism blowing in our direction, though the Anglican attitude towards us has definitely improved than say, in our grandparents’ time, and on the whole they are even generally well disposed towards us.
    I think most Christians realise that we have a far greater common enemy out there to worry about nowadays. 😉


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