This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

March 3 -- Feast of Blessed Liberatus Weiss et fratres

You've heard that timing is everything.  Beati Michael Pius Fasoli, Liberatus Weiss, and Samuel Marzorati had perfect timing... for martyrdom.  [How was that?  Did I pause long enough for dramatic effect?  Too long?]

The ancient Ethiopian Church had embraced Monophysitism (considered a heresy after the Council of Chalcedon) and then drifted away from Mediterranean Christianity. Attempts to evangelize Ethiopia usually resulted in the deaths of missionaries.  That, plus the miserable journey across hostile terrain filled with even more hostile people, led the Eastern and Western Churches to give up on their southern brethren (and sistren).

Iyasu V:  I find no images for Iyasu the Great
Then King Iyasu (aka Joshua) the First, inherited his ancestor King Solomon's title, negusa nagast -- King of Kings.  Iyasu the Great, as he is known, was a mild-mannered, liberal-minded reformer who sought to open relations with a number of European countries.  He fought battles and wars when necessary (often, really) but he also strove for peace, prosperity, and understanding.  In this spirit, he invited Pope Clement XI to send representatives to his capital city, Gondar.  A Franciscan named Joseph had made some inroads and the Pope had high hopes for reconciliation between the churches.

Liberatus Weiss was nominated by Joseph of Jerusalem to be the vice prefect of Ethiopia; Joseph, who was the prefect for the region (a meaningless title, since the Church had no footing there) died shortly after.  Liberatus set out for his new prefecture in 1704 with seven priests and three laymen.  In Khartoum (Sennan), they were detained, robbed, and sent away.  Everyone except Michael Pius and Liberatus starved to death on the arduous journey back to Egypt.  Once safely there, Liberatus reported his failure and suggested that he be relieved of the title of Vice Prefect of Ethiopia.  Instead, he was promoted to Prefect and told to try again.  He set out again in 1711, unaware that Iyasu the Great had been killed in 1706.

Sets the standard for coats of arms, doesn't it?
Apparently the King of Kings had retired to an island in Lake Tana in despair following the death of his favorite concubine.  However, he may not have approved of his son, Tekle Haymanot, succeeding him as he started to return to the capital.  He was killed en route, as if he were leading a rebellion (perhaps he was).

Tekle Haymanot didn't last long either.  Two years later, Tewoflos (brother of Iyasu) was on the throne and nephew Tekle was in his grave.  Tewoflos nominated Iyasu for canonization, though it is unclear to me whether the nomination was to Rome or the Coptic Church.  Tewoflos lasted three years, and was probably dying under suspicious circumstances just as Michael Pius, Liberatus Weiss, and the FNG (Samuel Marzorati) were packing their toothbrushes.

Iyasu's grandson Yostos (Justos) sat himself down on Solomon's throne, ordered the construction of two new churches, began defending himself against conspiracies, and led a very successful slave raid against the Baasa, wiping out the adults and seizing all the children.  n short, he was a very successful emperor until January 1716, when he fell ill.  Suspecting that his palace had been cursed somehow, he moved into a tent and ordered the demons smudged out with gunpowder.  The shaman burned the whole palace down instead.  Bad omen.  By the end of the month, the Imperial Guards had overthrown him and proclaimed Dawit (David) III the new negusa nagast.

The Blessed Martyrs, foreskins intact
Our Capuchin Friars, meanwhile, had opened a hospice in Gondar and were offering medical treatment without charge.  They were discouraged from preaching, but were free to preach by example.  However, as Yostos' fortunes fell, malicious tongues began to wag.  For the Friars' own safety, they were relocated to Tigre.  Apparently out of sight was not out of mind, since Dawit's courtiers pressed him to recall and question them.

Monophysitism (an assertion that Jesus did not have a dual nature but rather a single blended nature) had been the schismatic catalyst between Rome and Gondar, but the trial of these three beati turned on something simpler and easier to prove: circumcision.  Being Solomonic, the Ethiopian Church demanded circumcision, but Saint Paul had spared the Romans (and Orthodox) that cut.  The three friars refused circumcision (which was not forbidden by the Church), proving themselves heretics, and were stoned to death by order of Dawit III.

I am left wondering whether they declined because acceptance was in some way tied into conceding Monophysitism, a heresy they could not brook, or they just didn't like the johnson being disrobed so late in life.  Cut my John Thomas?  Or throw rocks at my head until I die?  Yeah, I'll take the rocks, thanks.

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