In the classical, traditional Roman liturgical calendar, this week brings us on January 22 to the feast of Ss Vincent of Saragosa and Anastasius the Persian. Vincent was a deacon and the proto-martyr of Spain, killed around 304 when Diocletian was emperor. St Augustine (d 430) preached about Vincent that he suffered torments beyond what any human could endure without the help of God. The more he suffered, the greater seemed his joy. Anastasius, a convert from Zoroastrianism, was tortured in an effort to force him to abandon his faith in Christ by strangulation and finally decapitation in 628. These were gutsy men who bore witness to the Faith in times of persecution.
Speaking of guts, when in Rome do visit their church, Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio, which faces the famous Trevi Fountain. This was once the parish church for the Quirinal Palace, which was the summer residence of popes from 1583 until 1870. The church has a beautiful Baroque façade which sports the coat of arms of its builder and patron, Cardinal Jules Mazarin (d 1661), the successor of Cardinal Richelieu as the French king’s chief minister and a major character in Twenty Years After, the sequel to Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.
In this church are deposited the praecordia, the viscera, of 22 popes. Beginning with Pope Sixtus V (d 1590), when pontiffs died their guts were extracted, jarred and placed there. Leo XIII (d 1903) is the last pope whose innards grace the place. His body is now venerated at the Basilica of St John Lateran.
Leo XIII, famous for his 1891 encyclical on social issues Rerum Novarum, was the first pope born in the 19th century and the first pope to die in the 20th. He advanced Thomistic theology, Mariology and consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart. Leo gave us the tradition of the commonly called “Leonine Prayers” or “Prayers after Mass”. We should have the guts to revive these prayers after Masses, and say often:
O God, our refuge and our strength, look down with favour upon Thy people who cry to Thee; and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of St Joseph her spouse, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, in mercy and kindness hear our prayers which we pour forth for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of Holy Mother Church. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.