8 July: Bl. Eugene III, Pope

The Vatican Basilica has another special today, for Bl. Pope Eugene, III.  Who was this fellow?

Bernardo dei Paganelli di Montemagno was from Pisa.  He was a pupil of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and the Abbot of a Cistercian monastery near Rome.  He was elected Pope in 1145.  Due to revolts in Rome, he was unable to live in the City.  He was for a time in Viterbo, where there is a fabulous papal palace you can visit (I know a good restaurant nearby) and then at Siena.  Then, alas, he went to France.

When Edessa fell to the Turks with the help of St. Bernard he called for a new Crusade.

Eugene was a reformer as well, focusing on the clerical life.  He approved the visionary works of the famous St. Hildegard of Bingen. Eventually, with the help of the King of Sicily, entered Rome for a time, but then had to flee again.  He died in Tivoli on 8 July 1153. 

While Eugene III always had political problems with the City of Rome, he didn’t not have difficulty with his spiritual rule in his role as Vicar of Christ.  Therefore, after his death, he was buried in the Vatican Basilica, and miraculous cures began at his tomb.  He was beatified by Bl. Pius IX in 1872.

Today in the Vatican Basilica his Mass is celebrated using the Common for Pastors – Visitabo with the following

Domine Deus noster,
qui Beatum Eugenium e coenobii solitudine
ad Petri Cathedram,
ut fratres suos in fide confirmaret, vocasti:
eius precibus concede,
ut Ecclesia tua firmiter supra Petram,
qui Christus est, solidata iugiter perseveret.

O Lord our God,
who called Blessed Eugene from the solitude of the monastery
to the Cathedra of Peter
in order that he strengthen his brethren,
grant by means of his prayers,
that Your Church, who is Christ, may always persevere
firmly established upon the Rock.

There are some interesting things going on here.  First, note the play between Petrus and Petra… Peter and "Rocky". 

Second, notice that there is a reference to Christ’s words to Peter that when he would come to his senses, after denying Him three times (cf. Luke 22:32).  This is the reference you will find in papal documents that contain definitive or infallible teachings.  "Confirming the brethren" is a specific Christ conferred and indispensbile dimension of the Petrine ministry and the very fabric of the Church.

Third, notice how the prayer identifies the Church with Christ.  It does not identify Christ with the Church!  Yes, the Church is Christ!  We must never reduce Christ to the Church.  Christ is much larger than His Church!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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