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The Catholic Connection: Part 3

The earliest Christian symbol: @1catholicsalmon

All my life have I been steeped in Catholic Tradition but I ‘ve taken it for granted, merrily assimilating them as part of the Catholic me.  I have always known the shepherd is symbolic of Christ. I can’t even remember when I acquired this knowledge. I never questioned why or where it originated. Well, on my trip to Rome I realised just how much Tradition is part of the Catholic Faith. It rests on it firmly and unequivocally, as far back as the times the time of our ancestors in the Old Testament!

I attended part of a course on Catechises (that of passing on of the Faith) at Maryvale College, in which the above symbol was presented as a matter of course during discussion.  It was pointed out as being the symbol present on the cover of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This changed my perception of the symbol: a simple picture of a shepherd with his sheep, used to grace the cover of the document outlining the Tradition of the Church? It must be of much significance then!

Well, it is.

On the inside cover of the CCC is this explanation for the use of the symbol:

‘The design of the logo on the cover is taken from a Christian tombstone in the catacombs of Domitilla, in Rome, which dates from the end of the third century A.D. This pastoral image, of pagan origin, was used by Christians to symbolize the rest and the happiness of that the soul of the departed finds in eternal life

This image also suggests certain characteristics aspects of the Catechism: Christ, the Good Shepherd who leads and protects his faithful (the lamb) by his authority (the Staff), draws them by the melodious symphony of the truth (the panpipes and makes them lie down in the shade of the ‘tree of life’, his redeeming Cross which opens paradise.’

Image@http://www.vatican.va

On this trip to Rome, I didn’t get to the catacombs of Domitilla, but did visit the catacombs of St Calistus. The photograph above,  is of this wonderful symbol used by the Christians of ancient Rome to communicate their affinity with Christ and with one another. As it was used as pagan symbol the adoption of it by the Christian communities in Rome ensured that they would meet safely to participate in the Eucharist without fear of reprisal or capture.

The objective of this post? To point out that the links to Catholic Connection Tradition runs deep and wide. It is far reaching and extensive. I experienced it in the garden and catacombs of fellow Christians who have gone before me.

Take a little time to unearth them  and see for yourself.

I give thanks and pray about this as written by St Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:3:

‘We are indebted to give thanks to God for you always, my brethren, as it is necessary, because your faith grows all the more and the love of each and every one of you increases toward his neighbour.’

The Catholic connection: Part 2.

Upon hearing of our impending trip to Rome, our parish priest suggested we purchase the CTS booklet on Rome. So we did.  It s available at any parish book store or alternatively, it can be ordered online here.  What a gem!  It recommends starting a trip to Rome by visiting the ancient burial sites of the early Christians. We visited on the third day of our stay, starting out after breakfast and walking down passed the Colosseum, and onwards to the Circus Maximus.

Scale model of the Circus Maximus in Ancient Rome

This arena was the largest stadium in ancient Rome. At one point the Circus could seat 250.000 people, one quarter of Rome’s population. Contrary to the popular misconception that places the  scene of early persecutions of Christians in the nearby Colosseum, it was in the Circus Maximus that most convicted early Christians perished. As the Circus Maximus had more seating than the Colosseum, this popular spectacle was staged there.

Cicus Maximus as it is today.

Records indicate that only once did Christians face wild beasts in the Colosseum. Looking at what remains today of the stadium, I found difficult to picture the scenes of persecution that occurred there so many centuries ago. What I did sense though was a strange connection with my fellow Christians that I know for sure, had died there. My mind wandered to and fro as I contemplated and later prayed for these brave martyrs and saints! The grandeur of this site is an awesome phenomenon, much like the rest of Rome, exposing them as formidable opponents- doing everything in grand style, to perfection, with  flair and no mercy.

It was from this site that we set off to the find the Via Appia Antica (the Appian Way), one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. It was on this long road that we were allowed to wonder about those that travelled the road daily to visit with fellow Christians at the catacombs of St. Callistus (Pope).

Porta San Sebastiano is the gate of the Appia in the Aurelian Walls.

About halfway to the Catacombs, we walked through the Gate of St. Sebastian and onwards for a further half an hour before coming upon

a seemingly insignificant little church on the left of the road.

The church is called Domine, Quo Vadis—an odd name for a church, until you hear the parable behind it.

Finding his way blocked by the specter of his Savior, a nervous and surprised Peter who had escaped his persecutors asked, “Domine, Quo Vadis?,” which is Latin for ‘Lord, where are you going?’

Christ replied, “To Rome, to be crucified a second time,” whereupon Jesus disappeared, leaving his footprints in the road’s flagstone as a sign (there’s a cast of them inside the church). A chastened Peter realized that Christ meant he was going to take the place of the weak-willed first pope and die, once again, for his faith. Peter turned around and returned to Rome to take his martyrdom like a man. (In fact, when it came to the moment, Peter gritted his teeth and told his executioners he was unworthy of being crucified in the same manner as his Lord and, in effect, asked them to “Do me upside down.” )

Image from 1catholicsalmon

In the stillness of this little chapel I contemplated the personality of a simple rough-shod, sunburned fisherman from Galilee facing a barbaric form of persecution for his love of Christ. For his belief in the importance of  perpetuating Christ’s message of Love;  The Church founded by Christ Himself.  What an immense sacrifice. Would I ever be able to do something this radical? I don’t know… I pray for the strength to carry the crosses put in my path with conviction and sincerity. St. Peter left his little town and all he loved and cherished for the one purpose given to him by our Lord Jesus: to build His Church. That took absolute of Faith. Absolute Trust. Enduring Love. St. Peter did this so that I may be blessed with Baptism and learn to love my God. Just too incredible for words. I am Blessed.

The preservation of the True Faith was uppermost in the early Christian Fathers‘ priorities. My link with them as a fellow Christian is tangible in Rome. It’s in the air, and this tangibility can be experienced through the Liturgy and in the Holy Eucharist  around the world on a daily basis without doubt.

My resolve as a Catholic was injected with a solid boost of understanding and conviction on the road to the resting place of hundreds of thousands of  Christians who died before me. The Catholic Connection welded firmly into time and space.

More than Gold

A Spiritual side to the olympics this Summer.