Category Archives: History

Frankfurt, a Day of Pilgrimage, Part 2

From there I went to the cathedral or Kaiserdom where the emperors from 1562 are consecrated and crowned at the crossing where the free standing altar stands.



When you walk in, the porch shelters the only piece left from the 18th century baroque interior. Today it is a lovely devotional chapel.




Then on entering the church to your left is a 1509 crucifixion by Hans Backoffen which makes a powerful statement of our hope in the Resurrection.






This scene is complimented by a beautiful 19th century Pieta in the chapel that houses the 18th century baptismal font.

Walking a little further I looked to the crossing on the right and saw the organ.


I planned to remain for the noon mass and thought I would hear the instrument. I was disappointed because it was not used however the congregation sang unaccompanied and it was stunningly beautiful. And the priest celebrated mass ad orientem at the magnificent high altar from the 15th century.

Frankfurt112243On the high altar is the Wahlkapelle where the the seven prince electors would elect the new emperor. I did not take a picture because today it is a chapel for eucharistic adoration. The church brochure requests that we pray before the Sacrament for justice and good politics in the world. The chapel is behind the Magdalene chapel.

There are many 19th century Neogothic altarpieces, however there is one from the 15th century that depicts the Dormition of Our Lady.





The cathedral was an invitation to linger and prayer through beauty to God and for me the crowning was Mass. The church can just be a beautiful museum however when you experience the Mass it becomes what is was built for: that is, a house for the worship of God.

From there I went back to Romerberg to visit Nikolaikirche from 1290. Today it is a Lutheran church that has many statues of Saint Nicholas.






Frankfurt131540From there I crossed the river to continue my pilgrimage to two more churches.  The first was the Church of the three kings from the 14th century.  In 1531 this church joined the Lutheran Reformation.



I had a strong determination to see the pulpit from which the pastor denounced the Nazi ideology and the church joined the Bekennende Kirche, that is the Confessional Church, a movement which opposed the national socialism of the Nazis. Such witness to the Gospel in the face of an evil that will murder you emboldens my faith in Jesus. Evil may murder the body but it cannot extinguish the freedom of the spirit of truth.

In the church I learned of Stolpersteine, that is stumbling stones, that are inserted into sidewalk pavement across Germany with the names of those Christians who were murdered by the Nazis. They are placed in front of their home. Over 40,000 in 800 cities have been placed over the past two or three years.

Rabbi Steiman prayed at the laying of one of these stones:

“People who were once violently driven from this place should be restored to where they belong by means of commemoration. Let us join hands and build a circle around these stones so the souls of those who once lived here may again be in our sight.”

The stumbling stones called to mind all the memorials to so many people that opposed the Nazis and were even murdered for their witness to the truth for the sake of the Gospel. Their witness demonstrates the power of the Resurrection of Jesus.

From there I walked to the Deutschordenskirche about I had read has the most beautiful nativity scene in Frankfurt. When I entered the church I turned around and the whole wall had been transformed into the nativity.




Frankfurt134454Frankfurt134933The scene is remarkable not to be out done by the festive high altar.







Frankfurt135026Frankfurt134422These were two altar pieces that united it all.  One of the Sorrowful Mother holding Jesus after his death and one of the Annunciation. These altars show the unity of cross and crib and the serious demands confessing faith in Jesus makes. My thoughts immediately went back to the “Stumbling stones.”



Frankfurt130659The day was a day of pilgrimage from church to church in a city where church towers once dominated but are now overshadowed by towering buildings dedicated to commerce.











As I was looking at all these impressive modern structures reaching into the sky my eyes just happen to look at the pavement and behold a stumbling stone.

My heart and soul were overwhelmed. Did I just happen to stumble upon a srumbling stone or was it the the Lord’s way to sum up the meaning of my Christmas pilgrimage in Frankfurt?

As we read in the Gospel of John, “No greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friends.” My thoughts turned to another stone set in pavement at Tyburn in London where men laid down their in resistance to the tyranny of state ideology. I stopped and looked at the stone again. The home of this faithful believer was leveled in the bombing of 1944; however in the words of Rabbi Steiman that this faithful believer who was driven from this place has been restored to this place. I looked up again at the towering financial and commercial structures reaching into the sky and then looked down again at the stumbling stone and heard a voice: “Blessed are the humble…. Blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake. Rejoice and be glad.”

Today was profound. It was more than admiring beautiful churches reconstructed after the horror of war; rather, today unexpectedly revealed to me a truth in the lives of these believers. In the face of the untold suffering unleashed by evil people often say, “Where is God?” The answer is powerfully given in all these stumbling stones.

St. James the Apostle – A Camino Reflection

Father Mattingly wrote the following Reflection.

Santiago is Spanish for St. James the Greater, apostle of Jesus and son of Zebedee. By tradition his remains are interred in the crypt of the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

There are three images of St. James on the camino and, indeed, in all of Spain: St. James as apostle, as pilgrim and a Matamoros (or killer of the Moors). It is this last image that is more controversial and the image I want to address.

St. James as Matamoros is portrayed in images with Santiago on a horse wielding a sword. Most time on the ground around him, taking the force of the sword, are Moors (adherents to Islam). The image has become distasteful to some people not only because it portrays a saint being violent but because it would seem to project Muslims in a negative light. In the cathedral in Santiago flowers have been placed around the statue so that you can see St. James and his horse but not the Moors below him.

The objection to this image seems to me to be a misunderstanding of the context. The action portrayed of is not one of aggression but defense. St. James arises under this title at a time when the Moors were conquering Spain. The Moors came as warriors, putting the Christians to the sword and decimating the churches and the Christian culture of the Spaniards. It is said that in a battle when Christian troops were greatly outnumbered, a heavenly warrior on a white horse fought the Moorish soldiers leading the outnumbered Christians to a decisive victory that turned the tide and lead to the reclaiming of Spain.

I would suggest that there is value in reclaiming St. James if not as “Matamoros” as Defender of Christians. The recent events around the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), their threats to bring their terror to other countries as well as other extremist groups that arise – often focusing on Christians – suggests to me the need to revive the notion of St. James as our heavenly defender. In no way do I want to see a stance of aggressive violence toward Muslims, yet it may come to a point where Christians will have to defend ourselves from attack, from any source. This image proves that we have a right to defend ourselves from such aggression, indeed a duty. We also have a saint to which we can appeal.

Through the intercession of St. James, may Christians be protected from all forms of violence against us.

Santiago, defender of Christians… Pray for us.

Reflection: An Artistic Jewel

The cathedral at Leon is an artistic jewel that captivated my imagination because of the play of light through the beautiful stained glass that brings one close to the celestial Jerusalem.

The construction of this magnificent cathedral is also a symbol of the flourishing of a new urban culture after the European crisis of the feudal period. With the development of a middle class, cities grew and contributed to a luminous culture full of vitality.

After the collapse of Muslim power in 1212, King Alfonso promoted science and the arts which made his court a cultural center.  This is truly an example of Spanish exceptionalism.  Oftentimes we think of the 13th century as a time of darkness and superstition but it was a time of a cultural fullness that far exceeds modern culture, in that in the 13th century the Catholic faith brought forth beauty in over 200 cathedrals in Europe. That is true exceptionalism!

The simplicity, elegance and purity of lines of this cathedral lifts the spirit to the heights and brings to earth the divine world and thus brings us to heaven during the sacred liturgy.

Spending hours in the cathedral helped me come to a profound understanding of how exceptional the 13th century was in the history of western culture. I was filled with wonder and awe as I explored this artistic jewel.

A Moment in History That Shapes Our Future

The First World War Begins

All of Europe protested the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie. Who could not sympathize with the aged Emperor Franz Josef, who had suffered so many tragedies in his life and now had to bear with the loss of his heir? Such an outrage demanded justice, and few European leaders would have blamed Austria-Hungary for seeking it.

But, besides the murderer himself and the Black Hand, who was responsible for the archduke’s assassination?


The Opening Campaign of the Spanish Civil War

The fall of the monarchy gave hope to socialists, anarchists, and other radicals that they could at last take revenge…

These brief insights into historical moments that continue to shape our history, are drawn from the Catholic Textbook Project . This history curriculum will be implemented in the parish school this fall (2014). They are written so well that they will interest even those who “aren’t interested” in history.

A Moment in History That Shapes Our Future

We must shoot them all tonight.”

At about midnight of July 16-17, 1918, Nikolai Romanov, the deposed tsar of Russia, and Aleksandra Feodorovna, his wife, were awakened and told to dress quickly…

These brief insights into historical moments that continue to shape our history, are drawn from the Catholic Textbook Project . This history curriculum will be implemented in the parish school this fall (2014). They are written so well that they will interest even those who “aren’t interested” in history.