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clergy, they would be almost as idle as the pop- occupations, and to interest themselves in the suculace themselves. But the dressings and un-cess of all their pursuits—good, bad, or indifferdressings, the genuflexions, and swinging of ent. When an accident occurs to man, beast, or censers, the marching and counter-marching, the vehicle, they do not hesitate to rate their patron collection of alms, bearing of images, carrying of saint, roundly and profanely, for his negligence. candles, ringing of bells, and all the complicated If, on the contrary, they escape an evil, they and ingenious inventions of ecclesiastical brains, hasten to offer a candle, or some gift in propor. to keep their hands from being in the service of tion to their means, to his or her shrine, as the the devil-all these find the clergy in some degree sex may be. of employment, while their flocks are left to idly Among the many ceremonies my curiosity has gape over their stereotyped displays, or find such prompted me to witness, none more wearisome amusements as they can; in short, to do any ever fell to my lot than the midnight mass of thing but conform to the Divine injunction of Christmas-eve. Prompted by the expectation of “Six days shalt thou labor.” The Church, how- good music, I went to the church of the “ Anever, discountenances irregular pleasures, and nunciata” at Florence, at the usual hour, about does its best, consistently with its own example, ten o'clock. The body of the church was crammed to keep the people in a moral vein. It endeavors with the unwashed multitude. Behind the choir to reconcile idleness with goodness, and supersti- were admitted the strangers and fashionables. tion with religion ; unions, like all unnatural During the dark and dismal service, gay conversaones, prolific only in imbecility and disorder. | tion, flirting, and promenading were going on.
The weightiest objection to the absurd specta- It was more like the saloon of a theatre than the cles of the church, sanctioned by the Pope and house of God. At midnight a gaudily-dressed high clergy, is, that they cultivate credulity and doll was held up for the devotion of the congregaignorance among the people, and teach them to tion, and the ceremony was concluded. • rely more upon the blessings and supernatural The Roman clergy assemble five times a year care of deceased saints than upon their own ex- in general processions. The different orders of ertions or enterprise in providing against the or- monks, being very properly of the least considerdinary contingencies of life. Hence human pru- ation in the church, march first. Thirty-seven dence is superseded by a puerile fatalism, equally communities appear under the banners of their remote from the dignified practice and sublime several saints, twenty march under the flag of the doctrine of Islamism. The Roman people, in Holy Sacrament, and eight others appear under particular, believe that the special business of the different ensigns, of which one is the banner of saints in Paradise is to watch over their daily Death. They turn out to the number of five or
ITALIAN MONKS. six thousand, when in full ranks, of priests, constitutes a congregation of relics, composed of monks, and clerks.
six cardinals and four prelates, whose functions The most splendid of these processions is that are to examine and classify the remains of ancient of Corpus Domini,” or the Fête of God. In martyrs found in the catacombs of Rome and elsethis, the Pope and all the civil and ecclesiastical where. Their quarry is a large one, for already dignitaries of Rome, and the military, take part. there have been taken from this necropolis the reEmbassadors, governors, senators, princes, and mains of one hundred and seventy thousand vicnobles of every degree, humbly carrying candles, tims-of death surely, if not of martyrdom--most appear in this colossal cortège. The Pope is borne of which have passed muster as genuine relics, comon his pontifical litter, high above the heads of all, forting to the faith of the living and profitable to the surrounded by his court, and carrying in his hands treasury of the Church. Unfortunately the science the holy sacrament, in vessels radiant with gold of the priestly inspectors has not always been equal and jewels, before which the spectators prostrate to their zeal, and the remains of animals have themselves humbly and uncovered, as the proces | been sometimes confounded with those of the early sion slowly passes through the different quarters Christians. But as a close inspection of relics is of Rome, on its way to and from St. Peter's. seldom allowed, distance would lend as much spir
The doctrine and abuses of relics are among itual efficacy to the bone of an ass as of a martyr, the worst corruptions of the Roman Church. As provided faith was equal to the sacred recognition. they are sources of incalculable pecuniary profit, St. Peter's boasts the possession of the most they will be among the slowest and most difficult precious of the sacred relics. These consist of a of reformation. Doubtless the Church of Rome piece of the true cross, a portion of the spearpossesses, among its hordes of false relics, some head which pierced the side of Christ, a bit of the true memorials of departed saints. It is even sponge, and the true imprint of the Saviour's face possible, though not probable, that St. Helena did | upon the handkerchief of St. Veronica, which, put her in possession of some of the genuine im according to Roman Catholic tradition, she lent to plements used at the crucifixion. Grant this Christ to wipe the sweat from his brow while much, even, but hold her to her own doctrine in staggering under the weight of the cross. No regard to them, viz., " That in religion relics are good Catholic presumes to doubt the authenticity to be held in veneration corresponding to that in of these relics. They are exhibited to the people which tokens of affection and memorials of endear- during Holy Week, all incased in gold and prement are preserved in well-regulated and virtuous cious stones, from one of the raised galleries above families.” This is right and proper. . the tomb of St. Peter, nearly one hundred feet
But what use does the Church of Rome make of above their heads, at which distance it is imposthem? That she considers them of primary import- sible to distinguish one object from another. Beance in her service is evident from the fact that she sides these, there are eleven columns from the temple of Jerusalem, and the one against which admitted to kiss the silver railing of the altar, for Jesus leaned when disputing with the doctors. the purpose of devoutly leaving a sum of money This is carefully concealed from general sight in with the priest for the edifying privilege. Ghastly one of the chapels, but I contrived to get in and heads and remains of martyrs, in silver or gold lean against the same spot-I must confess it, cases, are periodically exposed to similar adoration not without experiencing a sensation of pious in the principal churches, or brought out in solgratification altogether remote from skepticism- emn procession on the occasion of drought or 80 far as the iron grating with which it is jealous- some public calamity, to induce the defunct posly encircled would permit.
sessor to intercede with God, or more generally St. Peter's has also a chapel specially devoted the Virgin Mary, to arrest the evil. Who can to the arms, legs, fingers, heads, and other por- view these imbecilities and not hold the Roman tions of saints, the list of which hangs on the clergy accountable for withholding the bread of outside, and is not a very attractive invitation to life, and substituting pageantry and superstitions enter to sensitive stomachs.
not one whit superior to the classical paganism There is scarcely a Roman Catholic church in they supplanted ? It is true that the early popes, Europe that does not possess a Golgotha of relics despairing to abolish altogether the heathen cus- disgusting objects, mostly defeating their own toms of Rome, engrafted many of the ceremonies claims to authenticity by their impossible preten- of the expiring ritual into their own. But their sions and absurd traditions, the belief in which is successors have allowed fifteen centuries to pass far more diligently inculcated than in the saving without a single endeavor to purify their religion doctrines of Scripture. The latter would put an from the corrupting influences which their predeend to these stupid impostures, but the former ex- cessors deplored, and submitted to only from unalt the reputation of the several churches, and avoidable necessity. Forms and names have been bring much treasure into their coffers. In fact, changed, but Rome of the nineteenth century, they are ecclesiastical museums, for which heretics under a Christian pontiff and a learned clergy, in pay to gratify their curiosity, and the faithful to point of superstition and credulity, is as essentialadore, and gain the promised indulgences at the ex- ly pagan as in the days of Augustus. The mirapense of their gifts left upon the altars. I have seen cles of ancient Rome, so prolific in the pages of thousands flock around a miserable old Byzantine Livy, are every whit as credible as those which painting of the Virgin, of the twelfth century, scru- figure in the annals of the Church. When devopulously vailed in order to increase the mystery, tion flags, or money fails to pour abundantly in at except on certain holidays when the public are a certain shrine, a miracle is sure to ensue. Cu
THE MOST HOLY BABY. riosity is excited, superstition stimulated, and the for sanctity. Sixtus V. was the pope who needed excitement produced. My readers will, I brought it into notice. In rebuilding the palace trust, agree with me, when they have visited a he discovered that it was the same staircase on few of these idolatrous shrines, that the sooner which Christ descended when leaving the judgthey are swept from the earth the better will be- ment-seat of Pilate. Henceforth it became most come the temporal and eternal prospects for man- holy and endowed with incalculable virtues. kind.
Sixtus inclosed it in a building opposite the In the church of the “ Ara Cæli," which occu-church of St. John in Lateran, and provided pies the site of the temple of the Capitoline lateral staircases for descent and for profane feet. Jupiter, there is preserved a wretchedly-carved Several thousand years' indulgence were promwooden doll, loaded with an incalculable amount ised to every one who made the ascent on his of precious jewels. This doll belongs to the knees, repeating at each step Paternosters and monks, and brings them in yearly a revenue which Ava Marias. Go now when you will, and it will enriches them all. It is called the “ Most Holy be found occupied by sinners, male and female, Baby," and the most diligent exertions are made nobles and beggars, side by side, painfully winto keep alive faith in its sovereign virtues. Every ning their way to the promised indulgence. At stranger visits it, as a matter of course, and pays the bottom there is always on duty a monk who the accustomed fee. But its chief revenue is demands alms, and at the top, a contribution plate from the sick. It has a larger practice than any beside a crucifix, into which the pilgrims deposit physician in Rome. As soon as a Roman des- their offerings while reverently kissing and repairs of his life or his doctor, he sends for the peating a prayer over each wound of Christ. So “ Most Holy Baby,” which is brought to his bed- great is the concourse that wooden steps have side in great state. If he die, the baby has called been placed over the stones, to protect them from him, which is all right; if he get well, the baby the pious wear. After all, the pilgrims do not has cured him, which is right also. In either touch the veritable steps ; a fact which they case the monks receive their fee. It is so rich seem entirely to overlook, but which one would that it has a handsome carriage of its own. suppose would detract somewhat from the promSeveral times a year this idol is exposed to the ised blessings. In my forgetfulness of its sancadoration of the crowd, no other having so great tity I began to ascend it on my feet, but the a reputation in Rome.
attendant priest requested me to desist. While An old marble staircase which had seen much I paused some French soldiers went by with wonservice in the ancient Lateran Palace, has con- derful celerity on their knees, evidently in a protrived to gather to itself an astonising reputation fane race to see who would first arrive at the top.
Vol. IX.-No. 51.-X
The church contains a wonderful assortment of the Church of Rome exhibits instead of the simple relics; the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, as Word of God. They exist in such profusion usual, in jeweled cases of silver ; a lock of the wherever the Roman Catholic priesthood have Virgin Mary's hair, and a fragment of one of her sway, that it is really difficult to select a collecpetticoats; some blood of Christ; the table at tion which shall embrace the absurdities of all, as which he ate the last supper-a small affair, their number and variety are legion. One of suitable for a café tête-à-tête, but never intended the richest and most select, however, of these * for thirteen, an anomaly the relic manufacturers shrines is that of St. Mark's, at Venice. It is
impolitically overlooked. Then there are the open at certain hours to the public for a stated rods of Moses and Aaron, with a portion of the fee. The wealth in precious metals and jewels Ark of the Covenant, the pillar off which the | lavished upon the vessels and tabernacles which cock crew when Peter denied Christ, and other contain these ghastly remains is incalculable. wonders surpassing belief.
Were all the idle and idolatrous treasure of Italy The relics of the Virgin Mary in ecclesiastical actively employed for the benefit of the living, it museums are surprisingly numerous, while Joseph would give her schools throughout her territory, appears to have left no memorials behind him. or connect it by a network of railways; in either At Loretto, we have her entire house, transported case affording education or work to her starving by angels from the Holy Land. Were all her multitudes. property restored to it, one might get a tolerable. The sacristan of St. Mark's ushered me into insight into her domestic affairs; for we have the sanctuary where its treasures are kept. At quite a wardrobe of hers remaining, besides the the first glance one would suppose he had fallen cradle of the infant Jesus, preserved at the church into Aladdin's cave, so brightly shone the gold and of Santa Maria Maggiore, in total forgetfulness silver, gleaming with rare and costly stones. of the scriptural fact that the new-born babe was Closer inspection, however, betrayed the contents laid in a manger.
of the glass vials in which inost of them were I will give a list of some of the most noted preserved. There were arm and leg bones withrelics preserved at different shrines, to show what out number ; fragments of morbid humanity of
every shape and variety, labeled a piece of Saint” this, or Saintess that-precious to the faith of the believing, it was devoutly to be hoped, but repulsive to doubting eyes. The taste of Roman Catholics for the morbidly horrible in death's doings is strangely general, At Notre Dame, in Paris, they showed me the spine of the late archbishop, which had been dissected from his corpse to be exhibited to his late parishioners.
The relics at St. Mark's that I particularly noticed were as follows:
The thumb of St. Mark.
A lock of the Virgin's L.alr, bright auburn, looking as if recently cut from a child's head.
Some of the blood of Christ.
Some of the earth soaked with it.
A piece of his garment without a seam.
Four pieces of the True Cross, one of which belonged to the Empress Irene of Constantinople.
One Nail of the True Cross. —(There is another at Paris, one at Milan, one at Rome, and the iron crown of Lombardy is said also to have been made of them.)
Two of the Thorns of the