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.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12 -- Feast of Pope Innocent I

Here's another questionable call by a saint, so once again, I should open by acknowledging the merit of Pope Innocent I.  It might have been tough to maintain the primacy of the papacy with notable contemporaries like John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, and especially Theophilus of Alexandria, the Coptic Pope.  Moreover, Rome was plainly in its twilight while the East was ascending.  Overall, I'd say he did well to keep everyone checking with him on doctrines and policies.

The Sack (?) of Rome
Adding to his woes, he happened to be the Pope when Alaric and his Visigoths sacked Rome. It might have been worse if he'd actually been in the City when the Visigoths looted the place, but to be fair, Alaric was himself a Christian and ordered his soldiers to take it easy on the church property.  Still, it was a tough time for the Romans, who had not actually suffered a foreign invasion within the urban walls for seven centuries.  As spiritual leader, Innocent was called on to get them through, and as he tried to do this, he resorted to a surprising measure.

Simply put, Innocent I offered permission to offer sacrifices to the old Roman gods.  I am not even sure this would have been legal since Emperor Theodosius had officially outlawed pagan sacrifice some thirty years earlier.   But he lifted the fatwa (to mix my religious sources) against polytheistic worship, which is as much as he could do.

There's always the chance that folks will turn on their god(s) in times of distress.  I prayed; where were you?   If they get really ugly, they can turn on God's servants on Earth as well as God in Heaven.  I'm not saying that His Holiness was afraid, but I'll go so far as to say I would have been.  I will go so far as to credit Pope Innocent with very cleverly preempting a religious revolt.  It seems to me that he said to them, more or less, 'If you think Jupiter Optimus Maximus can do better, go back to bull-slaughtering on the Capitoline." 

According to the historian Zosimus (different guy from the Zosimus who succeeded Innocent as Pope), the people did not flock back to their old faith.  With permission granted, they hung with the Trinity and muddled through.  There were tough times ahead, for sure, but in spite (or perhaps because) of Innocent's toleration, the Roman Church prevailed. 

If he doesn't have a patronage yet, I'd suggest chess players and other strategists.

No comments:

Post a Comment