Today in History of Catholic church

Resignation of Pope Celestine V -13th December 1294

1st Full Performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” – 13th December 1895

Earthly Remains of Lord Radstock laid to rest -13th December 1913


Resignation of Pope Celestine V -13th December 1294

The cardinals were deadlocked. They had been deadlocked for 27 months, since 1292 when Pope Nicholas V died. There were only twelve cardinals and they were evenly divided between two factions of the Roman nobility. Neither side would give way.

Each hoped for the perks that would accrue from having one of their number named pope. And then a message arrived from the mountains. Peter Murrone, the hermit founder of the Celestines, a strict branch of Benedictines, warned that God was angry with the cardinals. If they did not elect a pope within four months, the Lord would severely chastise the church.

Eager for a way out of their deadlock, the cardinals asked themselves, why not elect Peter himself? Finally the cardinals could agree. In a vote that they declared to be “miraculous” they unanimously chose Peter. When three of the cardinals climbed to his mountain roost to tell Peter he had been chosen, the hermit wasn’t happy. All of his life, he had tried to run away from people.

Dressed like John the Baptist, he subjected himself to fasts, heavy chains, and nights of prayer without sleep. But when the cardinals and his friend King Charles II of Naples insisted that he must accept the position for the good of the church, Peter reluctantly agreed.

Charles II prompted him to name a number of new cardinals–all of them from France and Naples, changing the consistency of the group which would elect future popes. Peter, who was too trusting, made many mistakes. A babe in political matters, he was used by everyone around him. The Vatican staff even sold blank bulls with his signature on them.

The business of the church slowed to a crawl because he took too much time making decisions.

Within weeks it became apparent he had to resign for the good of the church. But could a pope resign? Guided by one of the cardinals, Benedetto Caetani, Celestine as pope issued a constitution which gave himself the authority to resign.
All sorts of rumors followed this resignation.
Peter had built himself a hut in the Vatican where he could live like a hermit. Supposedly Caetani thrust a reed through the wall of the hut and pretended he was the voice of God ordering Celestine to resign.

Since his mind was undecided as to his proper course, this trick is said to have convinced him. Celestine stepped down on this day, December 13, 1294, having actually filled the position of pope only three months. He was replaced by Caetani who took the name Boniface VIII.

Afraid that Peter would become a rallying point for troublemakers, Boniface locked the old man up.

He destroyed most of the records of Celestine’s short time in office, but he could not unmake the cardinals.
Peter escaped and wandered through mountains and forests. He was recognized and recaptured when he tried to sail to Greece, his boat having been driven back by a storm.
The last nine months of his life he spent in prayer as a prisoner of Boniface, badly treated by his guards. When he died in 1296, rumor had it that Boniface had murdered him.
He was about 81- years-old. In 1313, Pope Clement V declared him a saint.


1st Full Performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” – 13th December 1895

“It was indescribable,” wrote Justine after the first complete performance of her brother’s “Resurrection” Symphony.

Gustav Mahler, staked his future as a composer on his second symphony, first performed in its entirety in Berlin on this day, December 13, 1895. The eighty-minute choral work, in five movements, demanded large forces and centered on the theme of death and resurrection.

Its musical chords clashed or were more unresolved (dissonant) than in works audiences were accustomed to hearing. Tempos changed rapidly. In places it was more oratorio than symphony. Critics had not liked the parts of the symphony that they had heard earlier. In fact, after Mahler played the part that became the first movement, Conductor Hans von Bulow declared, “If that is still music, then I do not understand a single thing about music.”

But today, those who love art music consider it one of the most thrilling masterpieces in the symphonic repertoire. Heresy does not always come by way of theology books. Resurrection is at the heart of the Gospel.

Mahler, who was no Christian, could not have written such a symphony had there not been centuries of Christianity underlying the culture into which he was born. But Mahler did not draw his text from the Gospel. In the first movement of Symphony #2, a heartbroken hero grapples with death.

The second movement reflects on happier times. By the third, the hero no longer believes in anything, but in the fourth finds peace. The fifth sweeps him into judgment with blaring trumpets.

But the singers reassure the audience with the words, “Rise again, my dust, after a brief rest–You were not born in vain.” O believe: You were not born in vain! You have not lived in vain, nor fought! What has come into being must perish, What has perished must rise again! Cease from trembling! Prepare to live! In his program notes, Mahler made it clear he did not really believe in judgment.

“The earth quakes, the graves burst open, the dead arise and stream on in endless procession…. The trumpets of the apocalypse ring out.. And behold, it is no judgment… There is no punishment and no reward. An overwhelming love illuminates our being.” This false hope was well received by the audience. “The triumph grew greater with every moment,” wrote Justine. “Such enthusiasm is seen only once in a lifetime! Afterwards, I saw grown men weeping and youths falling on each other’s necks.

And when the Bird of Death, hovering above the graves, utters his last, long drawn-out call — Mahler said he himself was afraid for a moment that the long unbroken silence, requiring, as it were, the whole audience to hold its breath, could not possibly come off — there was such a deathly silence in the hall that no one seemed able to bat so much as an eyelid.

And when the chorus entered, everyone gave a shuddering sigh of relief. It was indescribable!”

Earthly Remains of Lord Radstock laid to rest -13th December 1913

Family and friends gathered for a burial in the country churchyard of Weston, near Southampton on this day, December 13, 1913..

The memorial service was not sad but triumphant. “Great Captain of Salvation! We bless thy glorious name…” sang the assembly. “…O grave, where is thy victory, or death, where is thy sting?” It had been the man’s favorite hymn. Although he was a wealthy English lord, Granville Waldegrave, third Baron Radstock did not seem rich.

He dressed simply (to avoid undue respect), lived in second rate apartments (to cut ministry expenses), gave up shooting (because it distracted from Christ’s work), and went hungry (to have more to give to Christ). What made him act this way? He was reared in the church, it is true, but his piety had seemed average during his younger years.

As a young man, his interests were ordinary: science, music, history, sport. On the Crimean battlefield, he faced death with the assurance that he was covered by Christ, but on his return to England, he realized that something was lacking when a barrister challenged him with the question, what was he doing for Christ?

Reluctantly, Radstock began reading to the sick, even going so far as to read from a Spanish gospel although he himself did not speak a word of Spanish! The Spaniard was saved. Other people were converted. This exhilarated Radstock.

Overcoming his embarrassment, he passed out tracts to his fellow lords. Their response was cold, so he took his ministry to the poor, preaching in London’s rough districts and channeling his wealth toward practical projects such as building hostels for women and homes for emigrants. When he prayed for the ill, he witnessed dramatic cures–and revivals of the soul.

Fluent in French, Radstock led a revival among Russia’s French-speaking aristocrats. Several counts came to Christ. Alarmed by any hint of change, Russian aristocrats pleaded with Tsar Alexander II to squelch the faith. Leaders of the Orthodox Church joined the appeal, afraid of losing their grip on the nation. Consequently, Alexander arrested converts, exiling some and jailing others.

One exclaimed joyfully when he heard his sentence of imprisonment, “I have been praying that God would use me among prisoners and now my prayer has been answered.” Barred from Russia, Lord Radstock found plenty else to do. He visited India and returned to England to carry on his evangelical work there.

Little wonder, then, that Christians met to exalt the Lord and recall the deeds of the wealthy British Lord who, like Jesus, had moved among them as a servant.

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