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.

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15 -- Feast of Pope Saint Zachary

Zach's papacy lasted from 741 to 752.  Wishing Pope Francis all the best on this, the second full day of his papacy, I hope he has at least as long a run as Zachary.  Of course Father Z was only 62 when he took the Chair -- fourteen years younger than our current Holy Father.  Then again, health care has improved a little since the eighth century, so perhaps it evens out.
Jesus' sandals -- size 7?

Zachary was a pope for his times, meaning he was a skilled diplomat.  Diplomacy is of course tricky work, and part of it involves knowing who counts and who doesn't.  Previous popes had to check with the Exarch in Ravenna, the representative of the Roman Emperor in Constantinople, before being invested with papal authority.  Zachary recognized that the Lombard king was the rising power in Italy and that the Exarch wasn't holding his ground very well.  Instead of kowtowing to the Exarch, Zachary used his influence with the Lombard Kings (Liutprand and then his son Ratchis) to get protection for both the papal territories and Ravenna.  Thus, rather than depending on the Exarch, he put the Emperor's man into debt with the Vatican.

When this diplomacy failed with Aistulf, Ratchis' successor, Zachary began to curry favor with Pepin the Short, the new king of the Franks.  In fact, Pope Zachary even sent Jesus' sandals to Pepin.  As relics go, few would be better than the Lord's own sandals.

A Pope should not be too canny, but he needs to know where the temporal power is.  Much has been said and more will be said about Pope Francis' activity during Argentina's Dirty War.  No doubt Francis learned much during that ugly, brutal time.  We should be pleased that he brings such knowledge to his papacy. 


  1. Occasionally I lose heart with your blog, but not today!
    Your hipness can prove irritating. I was expecting something like
    "Francis should have sung 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina' from the papal balcony." Instead you suggest the limitations and consequences of prudence in the world of power politics. A cautionary tale from history.
    You shall have to deal with the implications of a Jesuit choosing "Francis" for his papal name. (Hopkins, S.J. favoring Scotus as his philos-opher-theologian?)
    So much for matutinal reflections.

  2. I'm always glad to hear that I have exceeded expectations, even if only because I have allowed them to sink below the bar.

    In truth, I was pretty excited about both the name Francis and his Jesuit background. Like many, I had overlooked Cardinal Bergoglio, but even if I were inclined to second-guess the conclave's decision, I wouldn't argue with this choice.