Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Happy St. Clement's Day...

Linus, Cletus, Clement! Today we celebrate the feast of the 3rd successor of St. Peter, one who happily left behind his Epistle to the Corinthiahs. It dates to the end of the 1st Century, making it of an age with the later parts of the New Testament. Indeed, in some churches (including Corinth) it was accorded equal status with the Scriptures until univeral agreement was reached about the Canon of inspired writings. It is a rebuke to the church of Corinth and is seen as a significant indicator that the Roman church possessed some sort of authority (scholars argue whether this authority was of a moral or juridical nature) at a very early date.
The main Roman celebrations of the feast will be at the Irish Domincan church of San Clemente, just a stone's throw from the Colosseum. Last year, Matt of the Holy Whapping reported on the San Clemente celebrations in Rome, and this year I hope to experience them personally. Also interred in San Clemente are Ss. Ignatius of Antioch and Cyril, Apostle of the Slavs. Ignatius's body was brought there after his martyrdom at the Colosseum. The association between Cyril and Clement is more curious. It is said that Clement was banished from Rome and was thrown into the Black Sea with an anchor around his neck. Annually, the waters parted to allow pilgrims to venerate the remains until St Cyril returned them to San Clemente in Rome.
San Clemente is also one of the most important archeological sites in Rome. The upper church dates to the 11th Century, after the Norman sack of Rome. However, until the 19th Century it was believed that this was the original 4th Century church. However, an enterprising Irish Dominican and amateur archeologist spotted inconsistencies with this late date and began to dig. He uncovered the wonderfully preserved remains of the older church underneath the present building. His successors continuted to dig, revealing a 1st century pagan worship site and private dwelling place beneath that again. Some archeologists argue that this may well have been the home of Clement himself.
It's also worth remembering that today is also the feast of St Columbanus, an Irish missionary who established monasteries throughout Europe, before finally reaching Bobbio in the North of Italy. It is also the feast of Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J.

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