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, July 7, 2012

July 7 -- Feast of Blessed Saint Benedict XI

Benedict XI Beatus
Benedict XI, born Niccolo Boccasino, was a gentle, scholarly Dominican who rose to the office of Master General of his Order in 1296. To understand his papacy, we must know a little about his predecessor, Boniface VIII. 

Popes declare doctrine in messages called Bulls.  Boniface issued an immodest Bull declaring that every living person must be a willing subject of the pope; in essence, as the Vicar of Christ, the pope should be the Supreme Emperor of the Whole World.  There probably ought to have been an alliance of all governments to get him out of office, but politics being what it is, the job fell to King Philip IV of France.  That's Conflict One. 

A stamp?  This guy gets a stamp?
Conflict Two was much more local.  Boniface VIII was born with the name Benedetto Gaetani.  The Gaetani were deep in a feud with the powerful Colonna family.  The feud had ample fault on both sides, but Boniface had ordered that the Colonna-controlled town of Palestrina to be razed and salted, even after it surrendered peacefully.  It is somewhat ironic that his name means "good deed" or "does good,"  but that probably would have been lost on him. 

Conflict Three was actually theological.  A deep rift had formed between those who felt that poverty is essential for salvation and those who felt that the Majesty of the Church was a glorification of God.  The conflict still has not been resolved, but in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it was especially bitter.  Boniface's predecessor, Celestine V, was tolerant of the poverty faction, if not downright encouraging to them.  See this post for a reminder.  But Celestine V, bless him, resigned under pressure from his cardinals, including most notably Benedetto, Cardinal Gaetani, who then got himself elected to the papacy in two ballots. 

Tough guys Nogaret and Colonna muscle the Pope
Phil of France and Boniface began to wrangle.  When the Pope sent the King a Bull entitled Ausculta Fili (literally, "Listen, son..."), the King burned it.  He in turn sent the Pope an invitation to France, the kind of invitation that is tough to refuse.  William of Nogaret went to Italy, recruited Giacomo "Sciarrillo" Colonna (Sciarrillo: Little Brawler) and his crew for the extraction.  In 1303, they took over the papal palace at Anagni and informed His Less-than-Holiness that he'd be standing trial in France soon.  He replied that he was going nowhere, and if they wanted to kill him, they could do it on the spot, while he was still Pope, if they dared.  Colonna was in favor of Boniface's suggestion, but William wanted to deliver him alive into Philip's custody.  While the two were debating, the townsfolk (good Gaetani stock) attacked and overwhelmed the handful of Colonna thugs.  Boniface was released, but died a month later. 

Major, five paragraphs and you still haven't talked about Benedict? 

The Slap! 
Sorry.  Benedict had been promoted to cardinal because he was one of the leaders in the post-election argument over Celestine's resignation and Boniface's election.  In tribute to the pope who promoted him, he selected Benedict (Benedetto) as his papal name.  Why you would choose to tie yourself to a pope that was ridiculed by Rabelais, Boccaccio, and Dante is beyond me, but he did.  He was, however, more of a peacemaker than a stalwart.  He lifted the excommunication of Philip IV, and upon request, offered general amnesty to those who had opposed Boniface's papacy.  The only exceptions were William of Nogaret and his thugs, who were excommunicated in the Bull, Flagitiosum Scelus (Heinous Crime).  Eight months later, when Pope Benedict XI suddenly and mysteriously died, Nogaret said it was evidence of the injustice of his excommunication.  Others said that the Pope had been poisoned by Nogaret's agents. 

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