Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Ad Multos Annos Your Eminence


To His Eminence, Raymond Leo, Cardinal Burke,  Cardinal Patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Prefect Emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Deacon of S. Agata dei Goti, we wish a very happy birthday!

Monday, 22 June 2015

The Fall of Fort St. Elmo

The Fall of Fort St. Elmo

On this the 450th anniversary of the fall of Fort St. Elmo I am re-posting an article from 2009.

What these few knights, soldiers and civilians withstood for a horrifying month is nothing short of miraculous. Below is an excerpt of a talk given by Michael Davies in 2002 that was part of a conference given at the Dietrich von Hildebrand Institute 2002 Summer Symposia entitled “The 1st Through 8th Crusades; Military Orders; Catharist Crusade; and the Siege of Malta.” The full article can be read here, it describes some of what they went through during that month.

Mustapha finally acknowledged that St. Elmo could not be taken within that day and ordered the recall. St. Angelo's suddenly heard a burst of cheering from their brothers in St. Elmo. They had lost 200 men in the battle, in comparison to 2,000 Turks. But they knew the end was near, for there would be no more reinforcements.

St. Elmo's men readied themselves for a fight to the death. The two chaplains who had stayed with the defenders throughout the siege confessed the remaining knights and soldiers. Determined that the Mohammedans would not have the opportunity to mock or desecrate their holy relics, the knights and the chaplains hid the precious objects of the Faith beneath the stone floors of the chapel, and dragged the tapestries, pictures and wooden furniture outside and set them on fire
. They then tolled the bell of the small chapel to announce to their brethren in the nearby forts that they were ready for the end.

In the gray pre-dawn light of the 23rd of June, Piali's ships closed in for the kill. The galleys, pointing their lean bows at the ruined fort, opened up their bow chasers in unison with the first charge made by the entire Turkish army. To the astonishment of Mustapha and his council, Fort St. Elmo held for over an hour. Less than 100 men remained after that first onslaught, yet the Ottoman army was forced to draw back and re-form. The knights who were too wounded to stand placed themselves in chairs in the breach with swords in their hands.

There was something about the next attack that told the garrisons looking on from Birgu and Senglea that all was over. The white-robed troops poured down the slopes, hesitated like a curling roller above the wall, and then burst across the fort, spreading like an ocean over St. Elmo. One by one the defenders perished, some quickly and mercifully, others dying of wounds among the bodies of their friends.

The Italian Knight Francisco Lanfreducci, acting on orders received before the battle began, crossed to the wall opposite Bighi Bay and lit the signal fire. As the smoke curled up and eddied in the clear blue sky, La Valette knew that the heroic garrison and the fort they had defended to the end were lost.

It was now that Mustapha Pasha impatiently strode to view his conquest. A standard-bearer carrying the banner of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent stepped through the breach into St. Elmo. Standing victorious on the ruins of St. Elmo's walls, with the flag of St. John in the dust at his feet, Mustapha gazed at the massive bulk of Fort St. Angelo on the horizon. “Allah!” he cried. “If so small a son has cost us so dear, what price shall we have to pay for so large a father?”

In an offensive act of cruelty, he ordered the bodies of the knights to be set apart from the common soldiers. Their heads were struck from their bodies and fixed on stakes overlooking Grand Harbor. The beheaded corpses were then stripped of their mail, nailed to crossbeams of wood in mockery of the crucifixion, and launched onto the waters of Grand Harbor that night.

It was the eve of the Feast of St. John, the patron saint of the Order. Despite the loss of St. Elmo, the Grand Master had given orders for the normal celebrations to take place. Bonfires were lit and church bells were rung throughout Birgu and Senglea. The next morning the headless bodies of the knights washed up at the base of Fort St. Angelo.

Image  THE CAPTURE OF FORT ST. ELMO by Mateo Perez d’Aleccio

The Last Day Before the Fall of St. Elmo

From an account of the Great Siege of Malta from the Malta Heritage Site. On the day before the fall of Fort St. Elmo the remaining 100 defenders, without ammunition, their leaders dead and themselves half dead from exhaustion and their own wounds prepared themselves for the final battle.

As the hours passed and no relief came, the survivors in Fort St Elmo realized that no help was going to come to them. With this bitter recognition, they resigned themselves to their fate and they started to comfort each other through these agonizing moments. They were determined to die in the service of Jesus Christ and although they were half dead from fatigue, they never rested but worked to improve their defences.
This was surely a dreadful time for our men and to make things worse, the enemy spent the whole night bombarding them, sounding the alarm and skirmishing. Clearly, they did so in order to break down the defenders so that by morning, they would be completely worn out.
As their end seemed to get closer by the hour, the last defenders of Fort St Elmo confessed to each other and implored Our Lord to have mercy on their souls for the sake of the blood that He had shed for their redemption.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Archiepiscopal See of Dublin (1180 - 1294)(Walsh)


Medieval Walls of Dublin with St. Audoen's Tower

From Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy, 1854, c. xvi, p. 110 ff:

John Comyn succeeded and the English monarch who persecuted the holy prelate St Lawrence for his ardent attachment to the land of his birth no longer able to appropriate the revenues of the see resolved that an office of so much importance should not be entrusted to an Irishman who perhaps might be actuated by the same patriotic motives as St Lawrence and might more openly assume an hostility to the rule of the British monarch Accordingly on the monarch's earnest recommendation his chaplain John Comyn a native of England and a Benedictine monk of Evesham a man of eloquence and learning was elected on the 6th of September 1181 to the archbishopric of Dublin by some of the clergy who had assembled at Evesham for the purpose John was not then a priest but was in the following year ordained one at Velletri and on the 21st of March 1181 was consecrated by Pope Lucius III who took under his especial protection the see of Dublin and by bull dated the 13th of April 1182 and by virtue and authority of the holy canons ordered and decreed that no archbishop or bishop should without the assent of the prelate of Dublin presume to hold within the diocese of Dublin any conference or entertain any ecclesiastical causes or matters of the same diocese unless enjoined by the Roman Pontiff and his legate From this privilege which was introduced as appears against the claims of Canterbury arose the controversy regarding the primatial right of visitation which distracted both provinces for centuries afterwards The Primate of Armagh contended that he had notwithstanding this exemption the right of having his cross borne before him of holding appeals and visitations in the whole province of Leinster Though a bishop is bound to residence by the canons John was absent from his church three years and at length arrived in September 1184 having been despatched by the King to prepare for the reception of Prince John earl of Morton whom his royal parent had resolved to send into Ireland John as an English baron received the Prince at Waterford and obtained from him a grant of the bishopric of Glenda loch with all its appurtenances in lands manors churches tithes fisheries liberties to hold to him and his successors for ever but this union was not to take place during the life of William Piro then bishop of Glendaloch In the year 1186 archbishop Comyn held a provincial synod in Dublin in the church of the Holy Trinity The canons then enacted were confirmed under the leaden seal of Pope Urban III and are extant In 1189 this prelate rebuilt the cathedral of St Patrick erected it into a collegiate church and endowed it with suitable possessions plac in it thirteen prebendaries he also repaired and enlarged the choir of Christ church cathedral founded and endowed the nunnery of Grace Dieu in the county of Dublin for regular canonesses of St Augustine whom he removed from the more ancient convent of Lusk In 1197 Hamo de Valois justiciary of Ireland under Prince John finding the government embarrassed through the want of a treasury harassed John Comyn by seizing on several lands belonging to his see De Valois having enriched himself by plundering this see and also the laity was recalled from the government in consequence of a papal remonstrance in September 1198 Hamo de Valois struck with remorse for his spoliation made a grant of twenty ploughlands to the archbishop and his successors for ever The appeal to Rome having excited the anger of Prince John the prelate was not for some time received into favor John Comyn died on the 25th of October 1214 having survived the reconciliation about six years and was buried in Christ church where a noble monument was erected to his memory.

Henry de Loundres succeeded in the year 1213 He was archdeacon of Stafford and was consecrated in the beginning of 1214 in the following year he was cited to Rome to assist at a general council On his arrival there Pope Innocent HI ratified the union of Glendaloch with Dublin and in 1216 confirmed the possessions of this see in 1217 constituted legate of Ireland by the Pope he convened a synod at Dublin in which according to the annals of St Mary's abbey he established many things profitable to the Irish church In 1219 Henry de Loundres assumed the second time the administration of Ireland Jeoffrey de Marescis the governor having been recalled In 1228 by writ directed to the lords justices he received the custody of all vacant archbishoprics and bishoprics in Ireland the profits to be received by John de St John bishop of Ferns and treasurer of Ireland and by de Theurville archdeacon of Dublin and to be by them paid to the archbishop until the debts and obligations due by the crown to him should be satisfied This prelate erected the collegiate church of St Patrick into a cathedral united as Allen says with the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in one spouse saving to the other Church the prerogative of honor Having filled the see fifteen years he died about the beginning of July 1228 and was buried in Christ Church Of his tomb there is no trace This English prelate obtained the disgraceful epithet of Scorch villain Having summoned his tenants to give an account of the titles by which they held their lands they appeared and produced their deeds The bishop instantly possessed himself of them and consigned them to the fire to the injury of the unsuspecting farmers Whereupon they are said to have given him the opprobrious epithet alluded to.

Luke Dean of St Martin le Grand London treasurer of the king's wardrobe was through the influence of Hubert de Burgh Earl of Kent whose chaplain he had been elected in 1228 but his election had been declared null at Rome whereupon he was reelected though not confirmed by the Pope until the year 1230 when his patron the Earl of Kent incurred the king's displeasure and was cruelly persecuted and deserted by all his friends The Archbishop Luke mindful of the obligations of gratitude adhered to his interest and obtained by his perseverance in his cause milder terms from the sovereign than were originally intended In 1150 the archbishops bishops and clergy of Ireland who were of Irish birth had in a synod enacted a decree that no Englishman born should be admitted a canon in any of their churches A remonstrance being forwarded to the pope a bull was directed to them in which they were commanded to rescind the said decree within a month In 1258 a contest arose between the chapters of the two cathedrals concerning the election of the archbishops. Luke strove to adjust the matter by prescribing that the place of election should be only in the church of the Holy Trinity the dean and chapter of St Patrick's by joint votes assisting in the election but the latter not content with this adjustment the affair was brought before Innocent IV as a special injustice to the chapter of St Patrick's The pope empowered by bull dated the 20th of May the bishop of Emly the bishop and the dean of Limerick to settle the controversy About this time arose also the contest with Reyner archbishop of Armagh concerning the right of visitation In the latter part of his life Archbishop Luke suffered severely by a malady in his eyes which brought on a total loss of sight and eventually hastened his death in December 1225 He was buried in Christ church with his predecessor John Comyn.

Fulk de Sandford succeeded in 1256. Both chapters elected Ralph of Norwich canon of St Patrick's and treasurer of Ireland but he was betrayed at Rome by his agents as Matthew Paris states He was a witty pleasant companion and one who loved good cheer He was it seems too secular and worldly to be consecrated His election was therefore set aside and Fulk de Sandford archdeacon of Middlesex and treasurer of St Paul's London was by the pope's bull declared archbishop of Dublin In 1261. Fulk de Sandford took a journey to Rome on business connected with his see the management of it during his absence having been committed by the pope to the bishops of Lismore and Waterford On the 6th of May 1271 Archbishop Fulk died in his manor of Finglass his body was conveyed to St Patrick's church and deposited in the chapel of the Virgin Mary.

John de Derlington was declared the archbishop of Dublin by the pope who annulled the elections of William de la Corner by the prior and convent of the Holy Trinity and of Fromund le Brun by the dean and chapter of St Patrick's John was a doctor of divinity a Dominican friar and confessor to the late King Henry EH and had been his ambassador to Pope Nicholas in 1278 He was consecrated in Waltham Abbey on the 8th of September 1279 by John archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Paris describes him as a prelate of great authority because of his learning and wisdom Bale calls him a mercenary hireling and no shepherd and says that he died blasted by divine vengeance He was collector of the Peter pence both in England and Ireland to the pontiffs John XXI Nicholas HI and Martin IV His death took place suddenly in London on the 29th of March 1284 in the fifth year after his consecration in a Dominican convent and there buried John de Sandford was a native of England brother to Archbishop Fulk dean of St Patrick's a Franciscan friar and for some time es cheator of Ireland He was canonically elected by the chapter of St Patrick's and being confirmed by the king he was consecrated in the church of the Holy Trinity on palm Sunday 1286 In his early life he came to Ireland as vicar general to his brother and was presented by the baroness of Naas to the rectory of Maynooth John was a prelate in great reputation for learning wisdom and discretion He died in October 1294 having been seized with a grievous distemper His body was conveyed from England at the desire of the Canons of St Patrick's and buried there in his brother's monument.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Monthly Sodality of Our Lady Mass

Since 2003, the Sodality of Our Lady monthly Mass has been taking place in the Lady Chapel of Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman's University Church on St. Stephen's Green in central Dublin.  The meeting on 1st Saturdays at 10.30 a.m., begins with the Rosary and other prayers in Latin, followed by a Traditional Latin Mass.  Members of St. Laurence's Catholic Heritage Association take a full part in the Sodality's activities, including organising the serving of the Masses.  The 'Virgin blue' ribbons worn by some of those serving our Masses are the traditional ribbons and medals of this Sodality.  The Sodality meeting in University Church was founded on 1st May, 1853.  At its highest point, over 800 such Sodalities of Our Lady were operating all over Ireland.  Today only a few remain, tenaciously their traditions.


Friday, 5 June 2015

Defenders Repeat their Plea to Withdraw From St. Elmo

It has been a week since the bombardment of Fort St. Elmo began and nearly two weeks since Commander Eguaras sent the Spanish Captain Juan de la Cerda to inform La Vallette that the Fort could not be defended and seek his permission to withdraw. During this time the knights and the other defenders had fought bravely but the incessant bombardment that was only strengthening was having a demoralizing effect on them. Dracut's artillery was firing from multiple locations in such a way to prevent the troops in Fort St. Elmo from having any safe place of refuge.

The men met in the piazza to discuss their plight and this time agreed to send Captain Medrano to the Grand Master to again inform him of the desperate situation they faced and the fact that it would be soon impossible to defend the Fort. The failure of relief troops to appear as promised and the determined efforts of the enemy meant that time was running out before a full scale invasion. La Vallette realized that this was only too true but knew also that each hour that the attention of the Ottomans was on Fort St. Elmo it gave the other defenses of the Knights the time to strengthen themselves. He was unwilling to give away the Fort and encouraged Medrano to remind the defenders of their duty and to continue battling as they had always done. He promised to send more relief and recalled Fra Giovanni Vagnone and a hundred of his men from Mdina to reinforce the troops at St. Elmo.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

History Channel Documentary on the Great Siege of Malta

Here is an excellent documentary video from the History Channel describing the Great Siege of Malta from a warriors perspective of the history, tactics, weapons used. One of the highlights was the description of the medical care of the wounded and how to treat specific injuries. Presented by US Army Special Forces Terry Scahppert.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Arrival of Dragut at the Great Siege of Malta

On June 2nd, Admiral Dragut the legendary pirate and enemy of the Knights of St. John and all Christians in the Mediterranean arrived with his fleet at Malta. His appearance was undoubtedly a blow to the spirits of the knights who recognized the skill of their great adversary. As LaValette and Sir Oliver Starkey watched his arrival, Starkey muttered, "God help us." To which the Grand Master replied, "Yes, now the real battle begins."

Known as the "drawn sword of Islam" Dragut was to be equally feared on land and sea. A skilled tactician he immediately recognized the imprudent attack and siege of Fort St. Elmo but realized that once committed they could not change course. Until his arrival the knights had benefitted from the discord between the two Pasha's. Now they would regard his wisdom in making their decisions.

Ottoman Approach of Fort St. Elmo on May 27, 1565

Ottoman Approach of Fort St. Elmo on May 27, 1565

The Bombardment of Fort St. Elmo Begins

Fort St. Elmo was well placed to defend the Grand Harbor from attack by sea but its low lying position at the base of the penisula left it vulnerable to attack from Mt. Scibberas as the high ground at the top of the peninsula. As the commander of Ottoman naval forces, Piali Pasha wanted to secure his fleet in the Harbor he argued that Fort St. Elmo must be captured and the first point of attack. Mustafa Pasha opposed this plan but finally relented, assuming that it would only take a few days to destroy the fort. Mustafa began moving his cannons into position for the assault and the bombardment of Fort St. Elmo began on May 24th.

Initially St. Elmo was defended by a modest number of knights and several hundred soldiers and other Maltese citizens. But each night of the siege the wounded were evacuated and new knights were smuggled in to reinforce those who wereTo attack St. Elmo, the Turkish troops had to cross a moat under fire. The defenders had raised their drawbridges and broken down other bridges so the Turks had to construct portable bridges. Such massed attacks were costly in terms of casualties, but the Ottoman commanders had little regard for the lives of their men.

Fra Bartolomeo Faraone and Fra Adrien de la Riviere - The First Knights to Die During the Siege of Malta

On May 21st, two of the first heroes to die in the Siege of Malta were the Portuguese knight Fra Bartolomeo Faraone and the French knight Adrien de la Riviere.

After the initial arrival of the Turkish force on May 18th, the following day, the 19th, the Turks landed at Marsaxlokk and proceeded to the village of Zejtun and start robbing whatever crops and livestock they could find. They were met by a cavalry detachment, led by these two brave Knights, which had been dispatched by La Vallette to shadow the Turkish troop movements. Both were captured by the Turks and interrogated by Mustafa` Pasha` himself who wanted to know which was the weakest point in the local defence to attack Birgu. Finally after various methods of torture we employed without success molten silver was poured into their ears and they divulged that the weakest point in the knights defenses was at the Post of Castille. In fact the Post of Castille was the most strongly defended and it is a testament to the honor and bravery of these two knights who must have known that when the truth became known they would undoubtedly be put to death for their deception.

Trusting the information given up under severe torture, Mustafa Pasha sent a substantial force to attack Birgu. The advance troops outpaced the main body of soldiers and were met by a number of eager young knights who sallied forth from their fort much to the chagrin of the Grand Master watching from Fort St. Angelo. He later gave orders that no troops were to leave their positions without his express command. But on this first engagement the knights were victorious and what could have been a disaster for them instead became the first defeat for Mustafa's army and the loss of several hundred of his soldiers to twelve knights of St. John.

Mustafa Pasha was outraged at the trickery of Fra's Faraone and de la Riviere and he had them put to death. One account states that they were beheaded and another that they were bastinadoed to death. It would seem reasonable that they were first bastinadoed and finally beheaded.

*Bastinadoed is a form of corporal punishment where the feet are tied together and then the soles of the feet are whipped with a cane or similar object. This cause intense levels of pain.

The picture is of the Hornworks of the Post of Castille. Much work is being done to renovate the area including the removal of many structures added after the Siege such as those outside the wall at the bottom of the picture.

See also http://birgu.gov.mt/node/16

450th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Great Siege of Malta

On this day, May 18, 1565 the Ottoman Turkish Navy arrived at the island of Malta preparing to invade the island and secure a post from which to invade mainland Europe. The actual siege did not begin for a few days as the two Turkish leaders, the 4th Vizier Serdar Kizilahmedli Mustafa Pasha the leader of the land forces, and the supreme naval commander, Piyale Pasha debated over where to launch the attack. It was decided to attack Fort St. Elmo and secure the entrance to the harbor. Fort St. Elmo is the star shaped fort at the bottom of the picture.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Come, O Holy Ghost


Come, Thou Holy Spirit, come!
And from Thy celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Thou Father of the poor!
Come, Thou Source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine!

Thou, of comforters the best;
Thou, the soul's most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of Thine,
And our inmost being fill!
Where thou art not, man hath naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds; our strength renew;
On our dryness pour Thy dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess Thee, evermore
In Thy sevenfold gifts descend;
Give them virtue's sure reward;
Give them Thy salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.

Fr. Caswell, Cong. Orat.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Prayer for the Church in Ireland

God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation,
the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal,
the charity which purifies and opens our hearts
to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.
Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment
to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.
Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal
for the Church in Ireland.
May our sorrow and our tears,
our sincere effort to redress past wrongs,
and our firm purpose of amendment
bear an abundant harvest of grace
for the deepening of the faith
in our families, parishes, schools and communities,
for the spiritual progress of Irish society,
and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace
within the whole human family.
To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary,
Queen of Ireland, our Mother,
and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints,
do we entrust ourselves, our children,
and the needs of the Church in Ireland.
Amen.

Pope Benedict XVI
19th March, 2010
Solemnity of St. Joseph