Category Archives: Columns

Written and other opinion pieces going into detail on a particular topic.


boatSeemingly irresistible forces, waves that cover you and want to sweep you off your feet. What are you to do? Make the conscious choice to move the attention of your anxious heart away from these waves and direct it to the One who walks on them and says, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”  Keep turning your eyes to him.


– Henri Nouwen


In The Garden of Charlemagne

Medieval Horticulture, Part 2: In The Garden of Charlemagne
A sequel to: Medieval Horticulture, Part 1: Monastic Herbalism

In 476 A.D. the Emperor Romulus Augustus was overthrown by the germanic hordes and any order that the Roman Empire had brought to Europe for centuries was finished.  The fall of Rome in the west would cast the former territories of the Empire into centuries of ignorance and squalor, we are told, particularly the areas farthest from it.  This is the accepted history, and it is an enormous oversimplification.

Landtag beraet ueber Klage des Freistaats gegen den Laenderfinanzausgleich

“Imperial Coronation of Charlemagne”  by Friedrich Kaulbach, 1861

Just a few decades later, after all, one of the germanic tribes, the Franks, were unified under one king, named Clovis I. Unlike the other tribes, which were mainly Arian, the Franks were Catholic due to Clovis’ wife insistence and his conversion on Christmas Day in 508 A.D.. The germanic tribes would continue their chaotic rule over much of the former Empire in the west, for a time, but in 768 A.D. a man named Charles rose to lead the Franks and re-establish order. Charles would go on to conquer the other tribes, and became Holy Roman Emperor. Even during his life he was referred to as “Charles the Great” which translates in French, of course, to Charlemagne.

Charlemagne was the oldest son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon.  In 771 A.D. he became the sole ruler of the Frankish Kingdom. Though the Franks were powerful, his particular military prowess grew the Frankish state into the vast Carolingian Empire (“Carol” being German for “Charles”), even Christianizing the Saxons to his east. Charlemagne continued his father’s friendly policy towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in northern Italy, from which they had threatened Rome, and he even led a strike into Muslim-occupied Spain. He reached the height of his power in 800 A.D. when he was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day at Rome’s Old St. Peter’s Basilica. His military prowess and his new title as Holy Roman Emperor began an era of peace, the Carolingian Renaissance, during which he promulgated regulations for the good of his empire, even pulling the wilds of western Europe back together for a time.

L.325, W.268, D.49

Cadamosto’s illustrated herbal explains that an angel advised Charlemagne to eat the thistle to be purged of poison.

The Capitulare de Villis was such an ordinance, issued around 802 A.D.. It had 120 chapters of laws regarding issues throughout his empire, including one intricately requiring and instructing all farmers on how to keep bees.  Having just inventoried two of his royal estates and finding their systems and management lacking, Charlemagne moved in the Capitulare to reform those royal estates, which stretched from Germany to Spain. He included a requirement that the estates all grow particular beneficial plants instead of the unsystemized gardens they had grown before in order to help the lands around them.

That list, in Chapter 70 of the Capitulare, has given scholars insight into what were considered the best medicinal and culinary plants of that time, most of which were actually mentioned by Pliny the Elder of Rome (23–79 A.D.) centuries before in his work Naturalis Historiae Libri. This is not shocking however, since Charlemagne’s empire was at the early end of the Middle Ages, meaning much of his information would still be from Greek and Roman sources. All of the medicinal herbs cited in the Plan of St. Gall, drafted within decades of the Capitulare and intended to be in a grand Benedictine garden in Switzerland, are also listed in the Capitulare, confirming his thoughts as those of others in the know in his time.


List from ch. 70 of the Capitulare

Chapter 70 of the Capitulare details the plants that were required to be grown, with fines and penalties if they were not. Some are still considered beneficial today, some are not. The list reads: “It is our wish that they shall have in their gardens all kinds of plants: lily, roses, fenugreek, costmary, sage, rue, southernwood, cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, kidney-bean, cumin, rosemary, caraway, chick-pea, squill, gladiolus, tarragon, anise, colocynth, chicory, ammi, sesili, lettuces, spider’s foot, rocket salad, garden cress, burdock, penny-royal, hemlock, parsley, celery, lovage, juniper, dill, sweet fennel, endive, dittany, white mustard, summer savory, water mint, garden mint, wild mint, tansy, catnip, centaury, garden poppy, beets, hazelwort, marshmallows, mallows, carrots, parsnip, orach, spinach, kohlrabi, cabbages, onions, chives, leeks, radishes, shallots, cibols, garlic, madder, teazles, broad beans, peas, coriander, chervil, capers, clary.  And the gardener shall have house-leeks growing on his house.” (Underlining added.)

Here we will examine three of the most prominent herbs of the time, which he required be grown at every manor house for the benefit of the empire: sage, rosemary and mint, and the important role they played from then until now.


Spikenard and saffron,
sweet cane and cinnamon,
with all the trees of Libanus,
myrrh and aloes with all the chief perfumes.
The fountain of gardens: the well of living waters,
which run with a strong stream from Libanus.
Arise, O north wind, and come, O south wind,
blow through my garden,
and let the aromatical spices thereof flow.

– The Song of Solomon 4:14

The desire of sage is to render man immortal”
– A late medieval treatise

sage2The name of Sage (its genus being salvia) is derived from the Latin word for salvation, a sure sign that it has been thought of as a beneficial herb for ages, indeed its species officinalis is derived from the name of the room in a monastery where the healing herbs were kept, and a number of herbs bear this species name, making clear their prominence which persisted for centuries.

Originating in the Mediterranean region and coming from the mint family, sage has been cultivated by mankind for millennia, and the ancient Greeks certainly knew of it, with Theophrastus and Dioscorides both writing about its benefits. Ancient Rome also certainly knew that sage had medicinal effects, and Pliny the Elder wrote of it on many occasions. Dioscorides was a military physician and Nero’s expert on herbalism, and he noted sage as one of the most appreciated and important herbs, using it as a decoction on wounds to stop bleeding, for ulcers, as a tea for sore throats and hoarseness, to help digest fatty foods and it had long been known as an aid in preserving meat.

The plant is normally a stunning grey-green, with a fragrance somewhere between the smell of pine and that of spearmint.  While there are over 750 varieties of sage, there is no question that simple garden sage was of the highest culinary and medicinal importance throughout history.  Southeastern Europe was always a predominant user of sage, and in the Middle Ages it was used to treat many maladies including fevers, liver disease, and epilepsy.  In the form of a tea it was widely considered a pleasant and healthful beverage. One common belief from history (that has proven true in modern times) was that sage strengthened the memory, hence a “sage,” or a wise man, was one who had a long memory.

sage1Around the 10th century, Arab physicians wrote that sage could even extend life to the point of immortality, a belief that stuck with the herb for the coming centuries. After the Crusades, with the mixing of cultural beliefs that resulted, the association between sage and immortality began showing up in Europe where the French referred to the herb as toute bonne, meaning “all’s well.” Every country’s herbals recommended sage: an Icelandic book from the year 1000 A.D., Hildegard of Bingen, Ayurvedic physicians, John Gerard and Nicholas Culpeper. Folk healers in colonial America used sage to treat insomnia, epilepsy, measles, seasickness and intestinal worms. As late as the 1920s, American medical texts recommended sage tea as a gargle for a sore throat and recommended sage leaf poultices for sprains and swelling.

Sage oil from the plant has a unique property from all other healing herbs–it reduces perspiration, which has been proven true in modern times.  Several studies have shown that sage cuts perspiration by as much as half with the maximum effect occurring 2 hours after taking it.  This explains how it got a reputation for treating fevers, with their accompanying sweating.

Like rosemary, sage contains strong antioxidants, which can slow spoilage, supporting its longest use as a preservative for meats.  Further, British researchers have confirmed that sage inhibits the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, which is important since it may be able to preserve the compound which helps prevent and treat Alzheimer’s Disease in the human body.

Sage is a tried-and-true digestive remedy.  The volatile oils have a relaxing effect on the smooth muscle of the digestive tract.  It relieves colic, gas, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, colitis, liver complaints, and worms, which were of course prevalent during the Middle Ages.  Sage also acts as a tonic to the nervous system and has long been used to enhance strength and vitality. Studies published by a team of scientists in Kamakura Japan concluded that powdered sage or sage tea helps the heart by slowing the forming of blood clots, and is thus useful in the prevention and treatment of myocardial infarction and general coronary pain.

It is the tendency of many moderns to look down upon the poor people who had to survive the “Dark Ages” and its backward beliefs, and instead celebrate how much more sophisticated we are these days.  Some basic study, though, would reveal that herbalism was in fact the beginnings of medicine, and that pharmaceutical corporations are looking for effective treatments with herbs to this very day.  Those who would slander the Middle Ages would likely be much better off and more healthy if they were to plant some sage in their gardens and on a later evening, sip a bit of the herb that their ancestors treasured.  (See also 1,000-year-old onion and garlic eye remedy kills MRSA, A 1,000-Year Old Antimicrobial Remedy with Antistaphylococcal Activity, Medieval Medical Books Could Hold The Recipe For New Antibiotics stating: “For a long time, medieval medicine has been dismissed as irrelevant. This time period is popularly referred to as the ‘Dark Ages,’ which erroneously suggests that it was unenlightened by science or reason.  However, some medievalists and scientists are now looking back to history for clues to inform the search for new antibiotics.”).


Then Jesus answered and said: O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out?

Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.

– Matthew 17:16 (DRB)

As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls,
not only because my bees love it but because
it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship.”
– St. Thomas More

rosemaryRosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a woody evergreen bush native to the Mediterranean and an ancient memory aid so well known that it became a symbol of remembrance over the centuries.  It had “practical uses” such as when ancient Greek students wearing sprigs of rosemary on their ears or putting a wreath of it around their head went into exams with them, to the more symbolic use of laying sprigs of rosemary across a coffin or tombstone to show you will remember the deceased.  The latter continued well into the medieval period and beyond.  It was prevalent as a symbol at weddings (put in the couples’ wine so they will remember their vows) and in romance generally with Shakespeare’s Ophelia explaining to Hamlet, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance, pray you love, remember.”

Rosemary likely takes its name from the Latin ros maris, meaning “dew of the sea.”  This is in reference to the herb’s preference for growing along the seashore.  It was carried from the Mediterranean by the ancient Roman troops and planted as a medicinal herb for their use as far away as England.  The Spanish believed that another Mediterranean native took refuge beneath a large rosemary bush to shelter herself and her young son as they fled to Egypt to escape King Herod.  In honor of this brave, young woman, they believed, the plant came to be known as Rose of Mary, which was eventually shortened to the modern name familiar to us today.  A similar story says that its flowers were white until the Virgin Mary spread a blue cloak over the plant, which turned its flowers blue.

On a more superstitious level, during the Middle Ages, rosemary was thought to be capable of dispelling negativity. As such, it was tucked under pillows to thwart nightmares and visits from evil spirits. It was also burned in the house to keep the black plague from entering. Perhaps this association with protection is why rosemary is still common in incense used to cleanse sacred spaces.  It was also used in the home as a symbol of family and for protection from disease, in addition to its pleasant scent.

rosemary bloomMedicinally, rosemary has uses old and new.  In one of the earliest herbals printed in England, Rycharde Banckes recommended that one take the leaves of rosemary and “boyle them in fayre water and drinke that water for it is much worthe against all manner of evils in the body.” Indeed, rosemary was once thought to be a cure for poor digestion, migraine, joint disorders, and muscle aches.  Queen Elizabeth of Hungary was reputedly cured of semi-paralysis when she sipped a concoction of rosemary to ease her paralytic joints (and in another version to restore her youthful appearance).  Hence, this rosemary and wine combination came to be known as the Queen of Hungary Water and was later used externally to treat skin problems, gout, dandruff, and for the prevention of baldness.

Nicholas Culpepper’s “Pharmacopeia Londoniensis” published in 1653 said that rosemary water was “an admirable cure-all remedy of all kinds of cold, loss of memory, headache, coma.  It receives and preserves natural heat, restores body function and capabilities, even at late age. There are not that many remedies producing that many good effects.”

Rosemary was also used as a preservative for meats and other foods.  We know now this was due to rosemary’s high anti-oxidant activity, but in medieval times people knew to wrap meats in crushed rosemary and sage leaves. The freshness was preserved and the smell and taste remained pleasant.  Rosemary was also used to control pests such as mosquitoes, fleas (which we now know as the carriers of the plague) and moths.  The uses were many.

Today, rosemary has proven to have many medicinal properties. For one, the plant contains salicylic acid, the forerunner of aspirin.  Indeed, rosemary was once thought to be a cure for poor digestion, migraine, joint disorders, and muscle aches.  This may explain why massaging the its oil into joints effectively eases arthritic or rheumatic pain. It also contains antibacterial and antimicrobial qualities, and is used by modern herbalists to treat a variety of skin disorders, including dandruff.  Rosemary is also being studied for potential anti-cancer effects and in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

What may be most amazing about rosemary is how much the people of the Middle Ages got right through the process of trial and error, coming up with uses moderns now must confirm. Indeed, French hospitals burned Juniper berries with rosemary to fight poor quality air and prevent infection–far from benighted ignorance in a “dark” age, rosemary and sage have vindicated the reputation of medieval people in many ways, leaving those who still slander the age as the ignorant ones.


Every year thou shalt set aside the tithes of all thy fruits that the earth bringeth forth.

– Deuteronomy 14:22 (DRB)

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint, and anise, and cumin, and have left the weightier things of the law; judgment, and mercy, and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not to leave those undone.

– Matthew 23:23 (DRB)

As for the garden of mint,
the very smell of it alone recovers and refreshes our spirits,
as the taste stirs up our appetite for meat.”
– Pliny the Elder, ancient Rome


Photo by Kham Tran – – own work, CC BY 3.0.

Mint has been around a long, long time.  It has been found at Egyptian burial sites dating to 1,000 B.C..  The ancient Hebrews would strew their synagogue floors with mint leaves so that their fragrance would scent and sanitize the air with each footstep.  The word we use for it descends from the Latin word mentha, which is rooted in the Greek word minthe, and experts believe it probably derives from a now extinct pre-Greek language.  Mint can mean one of over 18 species of the genus Mentha, or the entire, crowded family of Lamiaceae plants, which includes sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, savory and other species that likely all came from a common mint plant in the even more ancient past.

Known to have originated in Asia and the Mediterranean region, mint has been appreciated for its many benefits throughout history.  Greeks used to clean their banquet tables with the herb and added it to their baths, while Romans used it in sauces, as an aid to digestion and as a daily breath freshener.  And, as we know, “it” made it onto Charlemagne’s list of beneficial plants around 800 A.D..  But which mint was he referring to?

Charlemagne’s list actually says that the gardens at his royal estates must include both water mint and garden mint, which we know as spearmint.  It does not list peppermint, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have this mint that is considered the most flavorful and beneficial mint of them all.

Peppermint, history dutifully tells us, was discovered about 1700 A.D. when the English biologist, John Ray, discovered it in his garden.  He “discovered” it instead of “created” or “cultivated” it because it made itself.  When water mint (Menthae aquatica) and spearmint (Menthae spicata) are grown together, they often naturally cross-pollinate and the result is peppermint.  That is, if an insect brings the pollen from water mint and pollinates the spearmint’s flower, that flower’s seeds will be peppermint, not spearmint and not water mint (and vice versa).  Peppermint has likely been with us for much longer than three centuries, it simply didn’t have a name.  And Charlemagne required all of the royal gardens in his estates to have both–perhaps he more rightly deserves the credit for peppermint’s actual and unheralded creation.  There’s no telling now.

While both water mint and spearmint are less strong than peppermint in medicinal properties and culinary taste, they are nonetheless medicinal and tasty in the same ways as peppermint.

Medieval monks drew on the herb for its culinary and medicinal properties, using it to calm the stomach, freshen the air and even as a tooth polisher.  It quickly became a symbol of hospitality and welcome throughout Europe.

The strong aromatic nature of the mint family come from their high levels of oils uncluding menthol, thymol, citronellal, limonene and carvacrol, which also explain its rich flavors, long prized in cooking and also responsible for many of its relaxing and cleansing medical properties which have been set out into four categories over the centuries:

  • As a nervine for nervous system issues (anxiety, dementia, depression, headaches, insomnia).
  • As a digestive for digestive system issues (indigestion, gas, cramps, nausea, colic).
  • As an antimicrobial for the three types of infection issues (bacterial, viral, fungal).
  • As a cleanse for respiratory issues (infection, congestion, asthma).

In the Middle Ages, aromatic herbs such as those in the mint family were used as strewing herbs in homes, literally tossed around onto the floor during times of sickness and plague to combat the evil we now know as microorganisms.  Modern day research confirms the antimicrobial action of these plants for illnesses such as colds, influenza, pneumonia and bronchitis, just to name a few.

In the modern age it is still used for many things, perhaps as many as it was back then.  It is a soothing tea for stomach aches, indigestion or heartburn.  A breath freshener, a respiratory cleanse, and a treatment for headaches.  As with all of the plants in the mint genus it retains its anti-infection, and anti-microbial qualities and of course, is great in deserts.  Indeed, ancient Romans and Greeks used mint to flavor cordials and fruit compotes, and a nice mint julep sounds quite good right about now.


“And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they come to the sepulchre, the sun being now risen. And they said one to another: Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulchre?”

– Mark 16:1-3 (DRB)

“Charles was the keenest of all kings to seek out and support
wise men so that they might philosophize with all delight.
Almost all of the kingdom entrusted to him by God was so foggy
and almost blind, but he made it luminous with the new ray of knowledge,
almost unknown to this barbarous land, with God lighting the way so it could see.
But now studies are growing weak, and the light of wisdom,
because it is less loved, grows rarer among most people.”

– Walahfrid, preface to the Vita KaroliMagni, c. 817 A.D.


Illustration from a Thirteenth Century publication of the Vita Karoli Magni.  From St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Ms. Vad. 302 II, fol. 35v, 13th century manuscript.

From Einhard’s contemporary biography of Charlemagne, the Vita KaroliMagni (“Life of Charles the Great”), we know that Charlemagne died on January 28, 814 at the age of seventy.  He was buried on that same day in the basilica he had built in Aachen, a German town near the border of Belgium and the Netherlands.  A cultus of the people quickly rose and embraced his memory and under the rules of the time (which would change in the twelfth century) he has been accepted as “blessed” but was never canonized by a valid pontiff (all of Paschal III acts being deemed invalid) and thus the man who many have called the “Father of Europe” cannot be called a saint.

Nonetheless, the effects of Charlemagne’s actions still ripple through the ages, having effected politics, religion and, perhaps just as importantly in its own way, the plants people grow in their gardens.

For More See:
Dubin, Reese.
Miracle Food Cures from the Bible.
God. The Holy Bible, Douay Rheims edition.

Part One of the Medieval Horticulture series, Monastic Herbalism, is available here.

Part Three of the series, In the Garden of Hildegard, is expected in December of 2018.

A Choice Against Creation

The events in Ireland this week have been much discussed. While there are a thousand perspectives on it, though, one truth cannot be denied: Abortion is an unnatural act. That is to say, it is literally an act against creation, and writ large it exposes a terrible failure of humanity itself.  We have so distanced ourselves from the nature of God that we, collectively, think we can deny it, blind ourselves to it, overrule it.  But we cannot, and the evidence of that fact is everywhere, if we care to look for it.

creation2God is ever creating the universe and we are all a part of that.  Creation, after all, was not just In The Beginning but is also now, right now.  The unmoved mover by His stillness keeps everything in motion, alive, creating, being.  From atoms to the universe itself, everything is in movement.  It is ingredient in the nature of things, ingredient in the world we live in, clear from the simple observation of creation.

God’s infiniteness cannot be constrained by His stillness, for it is infinite, so instead it drives all that is around Him, all that He has created and is creating now.  God Is.  He Himself said to Moses: “I AM WHO AM.  Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you.” And that is the key point of the matter.  It is not central that He was Creator, it is central that His is Creating now.

In this whirlwind of motion, of being, of infinite infiniteness He created all of us, individually. Human beings are special. They are not like the animals, not even like the angels. We are a part of a great experiment called Free Will. Infused by God with a soul at the moment of our creation, we each represent a facet of the infiniteness of God. A unique sliver of the everything that God is, we were put into the world to cope, thrive, suffer and, eventually, exist forever. Every finite human being is connected to God in their soul, and by God to everyone else.

All of this is to say we are all children of God, he is the Father of Creation—not just the creation back then, but the creation of this moment. As such, in such a whirlwind of divine fecundity, how could we die?  Alas we cannot. We too are eternal, not infinite, but eternal.  We can return to our Maker during this life and recognize Him or we can freely reject Him.  All of our choices decide the matter. All of our attitudes. All of what we Will during this time we are given, this time we are tested.

It is in this perspective that the matter of taking an innocent life must be viewed. In the midst of a universe of creation, of motion, of love, of endless moments alive with life, it is a choice to end another’s earthly existence.  It is a choice to go against the movement of God, the instinct to create, to move, to dance, to live, to love.

The life ended, on this plane of existence, is violently treated but it is eternal.  But the simple fact that we can offer such a choice, given what we have been told and shown for so long, is even more unthinkable and unnatural.  It is a rejection of the God that Is. Nature is demonstrating to us how to be, hinting, prodding, revealing. To end an innocent human life is to reject these messages, to deny the nature of creation that moves like a wind around us.

The sad vote in Ireland last week shows we are much farther from where we are supposed to be than we can even imagine.

Prayers for the Battle

Put ye on the armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore take on the armor of God, that ye may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace: In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.

Ephesians 6:11-17

The passage above, from The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, seems on the surface to be comparing, in metaphor, aspects of the Christian faith to the various pieces of armor a warrior might wear.  Each item protecting or arming the faithful in the way that a breastplate or sword might.  As metaphor, and as spiritual truth, it is powerful.  However, it also speaks to a later tradition.

It speaks to the Lorica.


“Lorica” is the Latin word for armor worn on the torso, and developed from the word lori, referring to a leather strap, which no doubt was a part of early armor. The word is ancient and lent itself to many meanings over the centuries.  Lorica hamata, was a ring mail used by the Roman soldiers until the First Century A.D., which was followed by lorica segmentata, a body armor fashioned from strips of iron or steel attached to a leather interior, a cheaper alternative to mail.  This was replaced by more efficiently made mail armor at the end of the third century. The word lorica, over this time, generally came to mean the breastplate section of armor, and eventually became a more general reference to complete body armor.

The battles of the Middle Ages, though, were not all against other peoples, but were often against the forces of evil as well.  As such, the armor would receive a blessing.  Over time, the blessing of the armor became known as a lorica as well.  Over time, when entering a purely spiritual battle, the prayer itself was rightly considered the stronger protection.

Tradition has it that when St. Patrick went to confront and convert Irish King Leoghaire and his pagan subjects in 433 A.D. he wrote a particularly powerful lorica, invoking the divine protection of the Holy Trinity in a litany of petitions seeking to defend and strengthen him for the confrontation.  Naturally, there is evidence that the lorica attributed to him is of his time, and evidence to the contrary, but it is a prayer of protection that was respected and revered throughout the Middle Ages, usually recited in the morning each day to prepare for the day ahead.  And many with the wisdom say it today as well.

Prayer over actual instruments of battle, however lyrical, was not the work of poets and storytellers, it was very real.  Indeed, the blessing of armor was a part of the 1595 Pontificale Romanum of Clement VIII (a collection of religious rites for celebration by bishops).  These were only recently removed in the 1961 revision.  Until then the Pontificale Romanum allowed for the the blessing of armor, the blessing of a sword, and the blessing and consignment of a military banner.  One of the two blessings of armor went as follows:

Let us pray. May the blessing of Almighty God, the +Father, the +Son and the Holy +Spirit, descend upon this armor, and upon him that weareth it, that he may defend justice. We ask Thee, Lord God, that Thou protect and defend him, that livest and reignest, one God for ever and ever. R. Amen.

Pontificale Romanum, 1595 (see here and here).

While they were for real armor for real battles, there can be no doubt that prayers of this type were not necessarily always for physical battle, but also for spiritual warfare, the often unseen battle that surrounded them and us against the forces of evil.

While these are hardly the Middle Ages, there can be no doubt that exorcisms are on the rise, the culture has drifted from its Christian foundations and consideration of the holy is all but absent from popular discourse.  In other words, it is a time when those preparing for spiritual warfare might want to turn again to the lorica prayers.

The Lorica of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.



A Prayer

Prayer Trad Priests

God Is Life – The Via Fecunditatis

Life is springing up around you every moment of the day. The trees that surround us, the animals that make them home, the people of all ages passing under them. It is filling gardens, pushing through the cracks in the pavement, living and thriving in environments all around the globe, both urban and remote. All of this life abounds because God is growing, fecund, spouting, twisting life.

In this Age they say that we are made up of spinning atoms and maybe even twisting strings, ever in motion, bumping into each other, splitting and whirling about. If everything needs a cause, and everything was caused by something else, we still need the unmoved mover, the uncaused cause, God, and if the world is evidence, he is not only the Creator, He is ever creating, ever in motion, ever causing.

God is infinite they say, and we were all made by God. This then is an explanation for the incredible diversity of life, a God spinning out His infiniteness, one atom, one plant, one person at a time. They are all an expression of his ever expanding infinite nature. It is as if we are all in motion and He is at the other end of the gears, turning the dial, giving of Himself with the utmost energy. Life abounds.

Perhaps one of society’s ills as we move away from the greatness of God, is that our culture is not about life. From the beginning of life to the end, death is embraced and enshrined in law. A cold sterility is on offer for all to hear, life is blocked, prevented, denied, avoided. The priorities and pressures of our society are to protect the right to sterility, the choice of death, to celebrate the ways deliberately closed to life, and then we wonder why we feel cut off from our Maker. Our ancestors looked at nature and saw the relentless, enduring, energetic creation of life in all of its unending forms, forms almost as infinite as God, and they saw that it was of our Creator. Not in the past tense, not some watch wound up and left to go on its own, but everywhere you look, everywhere you go, right now. And now. And there again.

More than that, God is loving you into existence, spinning your atoms, causing you, moving you right this moment. He is in your soul, stirring you at times, whispering at times, conveying that through Him you are connected to all this that is around you, this present moment, this living energy, this glorious path. He makes clear in so many ways, as of course he would, that the life He offers is also infinite, not only in its diversity but eternally, the life He offers is undying. Simply look around you, breathe in this moment, feel the crazy energy of life and you will know that it could not be any other way.

To connect back to His fecund, ever-present energy requires being in the moment and leaving your anxieties for tomorrow. See the life teeming around you, breathe it in, pray to be in the thick of it. Buried under all of our complexes, rules and anxieties is an energy that puts the lie to so much of what we think is important. Like all the teeming life around you, connect back to the source, to Him, and walk the path of life again.

The Tridentine Fallacy

What most people call the “Latin Mass” seems to have a bewildering number of names and many of them are imprecise for one reason or another. Perhaps surprisingly ”Latin Mass” is the least precise of all. But another label, Tridentine, can be used by some naysayers in a way that is downright troublesome.

Among the many names for it, calling the liturgy conducted in Latin and pursuant to the 1962 Missal the “Extraordinary Form” is certainly accurate since Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum formalized the term, along with the term Ordinary Form for the form of the Mass commonly seen today. Pope Francis seems to prefer calling the Extraordinary Form the Vetus Ordo, or Old Form, which lines up nicely given that the Ordinary Form is also called the Novus Ordo, or New Form. So, regardless of any possible connotations, the benefit of the labels Extraordinary Form or Vetus Ordo for the so-called Latin Mass is that they are precise, accurate and used by popes. Many, though, prefer to call the Traditional Latin Mass/Old Form/Extraordinary Form the “Tridentine Mass,” which, historically speaking, can be both right and wrong, and which is often a springboard to an increasingly common and often deliberate fallacy.

Read the rest of this entry

Rebuild My Church

The words God spoke to St. Francis seem to be hanging in the air lately. It is obvious that the traditional Church, in the corners where it is still allowed to thrive, thrives.

The FSSP the ICKSP, the diocesan Traditional Latin Mass parishes, the orders that embrace the mystical aspects of the faith and reject the dangerous embrace of the values of the Age. All see increases in seminarians, in parishioners, in confessions, in the saving of souls.

Meanwhile, the Church of modernity withers and its leaders declare that it is because we do not cling to the Age tightly enough, that we do not adopt its progressive politics, that we do not flexibly shed the words of prior pontiffs and cast off timeless truths.

As things transform around us though, it becomes increasingly clear that a rebuilding will need to be done to turn the Faith back toward truth and growth.


St Francis Rebuild

Monastic Herbalism

Medieval Horticulture, Part 1: Monastic Herbalism
Also see the second part: In The Garden of Charlemagne

Some say the monastics of the Middle Ages merely kept good records of the classical era, preserved them, copied them, and made use of them. Others say they developed many skills and a great deal of information themselves through trial and error. What cannot be doubted, though, is that monks and nuns of medieval times had records, gardens and medicines for the practice of herbalism. Indeed, they were the masters of it, particularly the Benedictines, and they held and built this treasure of knowledge for over a millennium, with many continuing to do so to this day.


Sage, rue and rosemary.

Ancient Rome used herbs as part of its medical system. Indeed, the Roman Army took seeds with them along the way so they could plant and use them when they dug in at a particular location. The system itself came mainly from Greek discoveries, particularly Hippocrates and his followers, and it is well recorded that the Hippocratic humeral system was used by Ancient Rome. This system held that an excess or deficiency of any of four bodily fluids in a person, called humours, had a direct effect on their health and attitude. Herbs were among the things that they thought could restore balance to the humours. While the system was flawed in its foundational assumptions, the trial and error involved in it led to discovering many herbs and plants that helped the body to heal itself.

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You Are Right To Be Concerned

precious bloodTurn Your eyes to the most prominent place and there You will find the face of suffering. It is not hidden, not swept away, not tucked into a corner. There is pain, all of the pain, beaten and bloody. It is a tangible suffering You are quixotically invited to join with Your own. It is blood You are bizarrely asked not to turn away from but to wash Yourself in. It is anointed flesh and that same precious blood You are preposterously told to believe is eternally offered as sustenance. Imagine such a scene. Do not look away from it. And know one thing: Truth such as this will never submit to the times.

It is an age where the people’s seers wear labcoats, and all that can be seen can be measured and categorized, but You know that there are echoes at the very depths of Your being, parts of You that understand that all of the explanations They offer are not enough, parts of You that instinctively know that not everything can be measured, not everything can be seen, not everything can be explained. There is always a piece of You, a piece which They would deny even exists, an indispensable piece that looks at their explanations, smiles knowingly and says “there is more than just this.”

The efforts by many to explain the Faith in terms the current age will understand, these are valiant and necessary efforts, but to the degree the World considers them subversive efforts, They are precisely right. The Faith is not of this world, it is beyond the natural, it includes all that You admit and all that You deny. The dogma it declares, dimly here, loudly there, should be among the gravest of concerns to those who breathe deeply of the times. Because We are out to change this world, to make straight the path to the new one. As many times as needed, as difficult as it may be. Forever and ever.

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The Tridentine Fallacy

What most people call the “Latin Mass” seems to have a bewildering number of names and many of them are imprecise for one reason or another. Perhaps surprisingly ”Latin Mass” is the least precise of all. But another label, Tridentine, can be used by some naysayers in a way that is downright troublesome.

Among the many names for it, calling the liturgy conducted in Latin and pursuant to the 1962 Missal the “Extraordinary Form” is certainly accurate since Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum formalized the term, along with the term Ordinary Form for the form of the Mass commonly seen today. Pope Francis seems to prefer calling the Extraordinary Form the Vetus Ordo, or Old Form, which lines up nicely given that the Ordinary Form is also called the Novus Ordo, or New Form. So, regardless of any possible connotations, the benefit of the labels Extraordinary Form or Vetus Ordo for the so-called Latin Mass is that they are precise, accurate and used by popes. Many, though, prefer to call the Traditional Latin Mass/Old Form/Extraordinary Form the “Tridentine Mass,” which, historically speaking, can be both right and wrong, and which is often a springboard to an increasingly common and often deliberate fallacy.

Read the rest of this entry

Why is Latin the Language of the Church?

oldmassMany today do not understand the eternal link between the Church and the Latin language.  While it is true that Jesus did not speak it, he clearly founded the Church in the Book of Acts, and sent his disciples to the “ends of the Earth.”  In that age there was only place where all roads led, where a Church could be central and universal, and that was Rome.  Even the documents of Vatican II call for Latin’s preservation, though the foul “Spirit of Vatican II” that followed did its best to systematically dispense with it.  To the faithful, though, the idea of the Church actually abandoning Latin is unthinkable, and to return to it, even if only to hear it spoken in the Mass, is to come home to what your ancestors knew was the language of the saints.  Ten years after Summorum Pontificum, let’s take a look at this history, step-by-step:

Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Latina Lingua establishing the Pontifical Academy for Latin (2012).

Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum expanding access to the Traditional Latin Mass (2007).

Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the bishops accompanying the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (2007).

The formation of the Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri (FSSP) as a traditionalist Catholic society for priests interested in promoting and protecting the Traditional Latin Mass, which broke off from the SSPX and is in communion with the Holy See, occurs (1988).

Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Scripturarium Thesaurus promolgating the Nova Vulgata (1979).

The Nova Vulgata, or new Vulgate, the official modern version of St. Jerome’s Vulgate Bible, is published (1979).

The Ottaviani Intervention, a famous letter by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani to Pope Paul VI stressing that the Traditional Latin Mass should not be replaced by the new mass (1969).

Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, is promolgated by Pope Paul VI, allowing for Mass in the vernacular instead of Latin when a territorial decree permits the exception, see p. 36. (1963). (Permission for the change was obtained by U.S. bishops in May of 1964.)

Bl. Pope John XXIII’s Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia on the Promotion of the Study of Latin (1962).

Pope St. Pius X‘s Motu Propio Tra le Sollecitudini stresses the majesty and importance of Gregorian Chant as a part of the liturgy (1903).

Following the Council of Trent, Pope Clement VIII issues the Papal Bull Cum Sacrorum accompanying the issuance of the Clementine Vulgate (searchable text), the revision of St. Jerome’s Vulgate Bible, which stands until the 1979 revision (1592).

Pope St. Pius V‘s Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum is issued, implementing the decision of the Council of Trent to require the use of the historic Latin liturgy in perpetuity, and foregoing any other which did not have 200 years of consistent use by that date (1570).

Pope St. Gregory The Great formalizes the Mass in Latin and, tradition states, begins Gregorian Chant during his pontificate (c. 600).

St. Jerome writes a letter to Pope Damasus prefacing his translation of the Gospels into Latin (c. 377).

St. Irenaeus describes the “Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul” at Book 3 Chap. 3 Para. 2 of his work Against Heresies (c. 180).

St. Paul arrives in Rome, Acts 28:11, later martyred there (c. 64).


The Feast of St. Benedict

st benedict

July 11 is the Feast of St. Benedict.  Take a moment today to learn about this great man of history.  Chesterton says each age needs the saint that is its opposite, perhaps it is an age for word of him to rise back to prominence.

The Return


Enough said.