Mention the name "Sylvester" to a person of my own "baby-boom" generation and the first association that is likely to be made is with a cartoon cat of that name who was featured on the Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies "Tweety Bird" series. Tweety Bird, a yellow canary whose voice was provided by the late Mel Blanc, would look at his nemesis, Sylvester the Cat, and exclaim, "I tawt a taw a puddy tat!" Well, I hope to do a little bit to dispel the association of the name of a great pope, Saint Sylvester, whose feast we celebrate today, with a cartoon character.
Pope Saint Sylvester was ordained to the priesthood by Pope Saint Marcellinus when he was just about thirty years old, distinguishing himself by the exquisite perfection with which he offered the Sacred Mysteries. He succeeded to the Throne of Saint Peter following the death of Pope Saint Melchiades in the year 314 A.D. It was during his blessed reign that the Church was able to come up out of the catacombs following the end of the age of persecution with the issuance of the Edict of Milan by the Emperor Constantine in the year before his ascended to the papacy. Saint Sylvester thus oversaw the restoration of the Church buildings that had been seized by the state and persuaded Constantine to build basilicas. The emperor, grateful to Saint Sylvester for having given him the gift of the Faith in the baptismal font, endowed these churches and basilicas were marvelous statues and images. Constantine further ordered that the worship of the false idols cease once and for all. God had seen to it that Pope Saint Sylvester I, a priest at around thirty years of age, was to preside as the Supreme Pontiff as the era of Christendom dawned upon the world.
Saint Sylvester issued decrees on several important disciplinary matters. Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., quoting the Roman Breviary, cited but a few in The Liturgical Year:
"For example: That the Chrism should be blessed by a Bishop only; That the Priest should anoint the crown of the head of the person he baptized; That Deacons should wear Dalmatics in the church, and a linen ornament on the left arm; that the Sacrifice of the Altar should be celebrated excepting on a linen veil. He laid down the length of time during which they who received Orders should exercise the functions belong to each Order before passing to a higher grade. He made it illegal for layman to be a public accuser of a cleric, and forbade a cleric to plead before a civil tribunal. The names of of Saturday and Sunday were to be still used; but all the other days of the week were to be called Ferias (Second Feria, Third Feria, and the rest) as the Church had already begun to call them; hereby signifying that the clergy should put side all other cares, and spend every day in the undisturbed service of God. To this heavenly prudence wherewith he governed the Church he ever joined the most admirable holiness of life and charity towards the poor. For instance, he arranged that those among the clergy who had no means should live with wealthy members of the clergy; and again, that everything needed for their maintenance should be supplied to Virgins consecrated to God. He governed the Church twenty-one years, ten months and a day. He was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Salarian Way. He seven times held ordinations in the December month: the number of the ordained was forty-two Priests, twenty-five Deacons, and sixty-five Bishops for various places." (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year.)
Saint Sylvester, who was known for his prudence and charity, understood that it was both prudent and charitable to condemn error by its proper name. This is why he and Emperor Constantine, who was most eager to put defend orthodox doctrine, convoked in the year 325 the First Council of Nicea, at which over 300 bishops participated, to condemn Arius as a heretic and Arianism as a heresy, thereby demonstrating that popes have a solemn duty to condemn heresy and to discipline heretics severely. The Nicene Creed, which was elaborated upon by the Council of Constantinople fifty-six years later, is still recited by Catholics in the context of those offerings of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass of a solemn character (Sundays, Double Majors of the First Class, Feasts of Apostles and Doctors). The Council of Nicea was truly an extraordinary event as it reflected the concern of both the Sovereign Pontiff and a secular potentate that right doctrine was essential to the establishment and maintenance of civil peace.
Sadly, as we know only too well, the the counterfeit church of conciliarism is all too tolerant of unsound doctrine and outright heresy. It was in August of 2005 that the well-known critic of the doctrine of papal infallibility and a promoter of a one world religion, Father Hans Kung, who has remained, yes, even to his dying days at present, a priest in "canonical" good standing in the counterfeit church of conciliarism thirty-four years following his removal from a Chair of Theology at Tubingen University for his dissident writings, has spoken glowingly of Jorge Mario Bergolio and even spent four hours with Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI in the Apostolic Palace over dinner in 2005. Not a word of concern over Kung's lifelong warfare against the Faith was uttered. This quite a contrast to what happened at the Council of Nicea when Saint Nicholas rushed at the heretic Arius and slapped him across the face. Saint Nicholas knew the harm that Arius had been doing to the Faith. So did Pope Saint Sylvester.
The condemnation of Arius and Arianism also stands in very sharp contrast with the Opening Address of Angelo Roncalli/John XXIII to the "Second" Vatican Council on October 11, 1962, the Feast of the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Rejecting the admonitions of his predecessors about the dangers of Modernity, Roncalli, who forbade any criticism of Communism at the Council, said:
In the daily exercise of our pastoral office, we sometimes have to listen, much to ou r regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin. They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse, and they behave as though they had learned nothing from history, which is, none the less, the teacher of life. They behave as though at the time of former Councils everything was a full triumph for the Christian idea and life and for proper religious liberty.
We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.
In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by men's own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed toward the fulfilment of God's superior and inscrutable designs. And everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church. . . . .
At the outset of the Second Vatican Council, it is evident, as always, that the truth of the Lord will remain forever. We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations. (Angelo Roncalli/ John XXIII 's Opening Address)
This is why the now retired Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, who was a peritus at the "Second" Vatican Council, called Roncalli's council a "Counter-Syllabus of Errors." The condemnations of the past had to give way in favor of an allegedly more "enlightened" attitude of "dialogue" in a spirit of "opening up to the world." The result has been a widespread toleration of, if not open support for, dissident and heretical positions that have confused the faithful, caused many souls to leave the true Church altogether in favor of Protestant sects, and has silenced the authentic, perennial teaching of the Catholic Church in an effort to appear "sensitive to" the realities of contemporary life. Nowhere is this more evident than in the conciliar apostasies of ecumenism and religious liberty.
Jacobus de Voragine's The Golden Legend contains a description of how Saint Sylvester, at the invitation of Emperor Constantine, entered into debate, not "dialogue," with Jewish elders in Rome. Those elders had been sent to Rome by the emperor's mother, Saint Helena, who had yet to convert to the Faith, for the purposes of ascertaining whether her son had converted to the true religion. Here are a few brief excerpts:
Now the eighth master, Aroel, spoke, "It is certain that God is the summit of all perfection and that he needs no one. Of what use, then, could it be to him to be born in Christ? Secondly, how do you call Christ the Word, for this too is certain, that before he had a son, God could not be called Father; therefore, if afterwards he is called Christ's Father, he has become subject to change." Silvester replied: "The Son was begotten of the Father before all time, in order to create what did not yet exist., and he was born in time to remake those that had been lost. He could have remade them by his sole word, but he could not redeem them by his passion unless he became man, because he was not capable of suffering in his divinity. Nor was it an imperfection but a perfection, that in his divinity he could not suffer. Moreover, it is clear that the Son of God is called the Word, because the prophet says, 'My heart has uttered a good word.' God also was always Father because his Son always existed, for his Son is his Word and His Wisdom and his Power. The Son was always in the Father as his Word according to the text, 'My heart has uttered a Word.' He was always the Father's Wisdom: 'I came out of the mouth of the Most High, the firstborn before all creatures.' He was always the Power: 'Before the hills I was brought forth, nor had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out.' Since, therefore, the Father was never without his Word, his Wisdom, and his Power, how can you think that the name Father came to him in time?"
Aroel being dismissed, Jubal, the ninth doctor, said: "We know that God did not condemn nor curse marriage. Why therefore do you refuse to have the on your worship born of a marriage--unless it is your intention to denigrate marriage? Another question: how can one who is almighty be tempted, and how does one who is power suffer, or one who is life die? And lastly, you are forced to say that there are two sons, the one whom the Father begets, the other born of the virgin. And again, how can it be that the humanity which is assumed suffers without injury to the divinity which assumed the humanity?"
To all this, Silvester responded: "It is not to condemn marriage that we say Christ was born of a virgin and we have already stated the reasons for his virginal birth. Nor is marriage discredited by that assertion; on the contrary, it is honored, because this virgin who became Christ's mother was herself the child of a marriage. Christ was tempted in order to vanquish all the devil's temptations; he suffered in order to bring all suffering under subjection; he died to thwart the reign of death. In Christ there is the one and only Son of God: as Christ is truly God's invisible Son, the Son is the visible Christ. what is invisible in him is God, what is visible is man. We may show by an example that the man assumed can suffer what the godhead assuming does not suffer. Let us use the emperor's purple mantle as an example. it was wool, and blood was applied to the wool and gave it its purple color, but when the wool was held in the fingers and twisted into thread, what was twisted? The color that signifies the royal dignity, or the wool that was wool before it was dyed purple? So then, the wool stands for the man, the purple color for God. God was present in Christ's passion when Christ suffered on the cross, but was not subjected to suffering in any way."
The tenth master, Thara, said: "I am not pleased by this example, because the color is twisted with the wool!" All present disagreed, but Silvester said: "Very well, take another example! Imagine a tree filled with the splendor of the sunlight. when the tree is cut down, it feels the sharp bite of the ax, but the sunlight suffers nothing from the blow! So, when the man suffered, the divinity underwent no suffering!"
Sileon, the eleventh doctor, now spoke. "If the prophets foretold these things about your Christ," he said, "we would like to know the reasons for all this mockery and suffering and death!" Silvester: "Christ suffered hunger that he might feed us; he thirsted in order to quench our dryness with a life-giving draft; he was tempted to liberate us from temptation; he was taken captive to deliver us from capture by the demons; he was mocked to free us from the demons' mockery; he was bound in order to untie for us the knot of bondage and malediction he was humiliated in order to exalt us; he was stripped of his garments to clothe with his pardon the nakedness of our primal privation; he accepted the crown of thorns in order to give back to us the lost flowers of paradise; he was given gall and vinegar to drink in order to bring man into a land flowing with milk and honey and to open for us fountains running with honey; he took mortality upon himself to confer immortality upon us; he was buried to bless the tombs of the saints; he rose to restore life to the dead; he ascended into heaven to open heaven's graces; he is seated at God's right hand to hear and grant the prayers of the faithful." (Archbishop Jacobus de Voragine, O.P., The Golden Legend.)
Jacobus de Voragine wrote that even the Jews applauded Pope Saint Sylvester I after he finished that particular discourse in defense of the Faith. One elder, Zambri, though, was unconvinced and demanded that a sign be performed. Zambri uttered a word, probably that of a demon, into the ear of a bull and it died. Zambri then challenged Pope Saint Sylvester to awaken the bull in "name of Jesus, the Galilean, and we will believe in Jesus, for even if Silvester can sprout wings and fly, he cannot do this!" The narrative concludes as follows:
All the Jews then promised that they would believe if Silvester brought the bull to life. He therefore prayed and, bending down to the bull's ear said: "Bull, get up and go back nicely to your herd!" The bull got to its feet and went away gently and quietly. Thereupon the queen, the Jews, the judges, and everybody else were converted to the Faith. (Archbishop Jacobus de Voragine, O.P., The Golden Legend.)
Imagine if we had a true pope today who was concerned about converting the Jews to Catholicism so as to save the immortal souls. The false "popes" of the counterfeit church of conciliarism, however, have indeed been "puddy tats" who refuse to proclaim the Holy Name of Jesus, announced publicly for the first time at His Circumcision eight days after His Nativity, in front of Jews or Mohammedans or other non-Christians. Pope Saint Sylvester I knew that the Apostles themselves were unafraid to proclaim the Holy Name, that they went forth from the Sanhedrin on one occasion, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus" (Acts 5: 41).
We need to pray for the restoration of the Church Militant on earth so that we will have true popes who act once again in the pattern of Pope Saint Sylvester, men who will condemn, yes, condemn error at the same time as they proclaim the truths contained in the Deposit of Faith clearly and unambiguously and as they hold forth to the form of worship that Pope Saint Sylvester himself offered God when he was but thirteen years of age. We need true popes who will proclaim the Holy Name as fearlessly as Saint Sylvester did in front of the Jewish elders. And we need true popes who will seek to restore the glories of Christendom, a time when emperors knew that the good of their empires depended upon the good of souls, and that the good of souls depended upon their total subordination to the Catholic Faith without one iota of dissent.
May we make this prayer of a holy traditional bishop our own:
O Lord, grant us a true pope.
Our Lord has given us the path back to such heroic, clear-sighted leadership. That path runs through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, His Most Blessed Mother, Our Lady. May we, as we end the calendar year of Our Lord 2014 and commence the year of Our Lord 2015, continue to beseech Our Lady for the miracle that it will take to restore the Church Militant and to sweep away the conciliar revolution as we pray at the same time for the conversion of the conciliar revolutionaries themselves.
Her Most Holy Rosary has vanquished the enemies of the Church in the past.
It will do so again.
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?
A blessed and holy New Year of Our Lord 2010 to you all.
Viva Cristo Rey! Vivat Christus Rex!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!
Saint Joseph, Patron of Departing Souls, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
Pope Saint Sylvester I.
Isn't time to pray a Rosary now?