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What is the historicity of the Roman Martyrology? In other words, how do we know the stories contained therein are true to the fact of history? Has anyone done a systematic study of the work's compilation and veracity?
(07-13-2010, 10:03 PM)Credo Wrote: [ -> ]What is the historicity of the Roman Martyrology? In other words, how do we know the stories contained therein are true to the fact of history?

I don't think we do, though I would definitely say that anyone mentioned as a saint therein is in heaven with God.
Does anyone then know how the work was complied?
Catholic Encyclopedia Wrote:Since the time when the commemorations  of martyrs, to which were added those of bishops, began to be celebrated, each Church had its special martyrology. Little by little these local lists were enriched by names borrowed from neighbouring Churches, and when the era of martyrs was definitively closed, those were introduced who had shone in the community by the sanctity  of their life and notably by the practice of asceticism. We still possess the martyrology, or ferial, of the Roman Church of the middle of the fourth century, comprising two distinct lists, the "Depositio martyrum" and the "Depositio episcoporum", lists which are elsewhere most frequently found united. Among the Roman  martyrs mention is already made in the "Ferial" of some African  martyrs (7 March, Perpetua and Felicitas; 14 September, Cyprian). The calendar of Carthage  which belongs to the sixth century contains a larger portion of foreign martyrs and even of confessors not belonging to that Church. Local martyrologies record exclusively the custom of a particular Church. The name of calendars is sometimes given to them, but this is a mere question of words. Besides special martyrologies, of which very few types  have reached us, there are general martyrologies which are of the nature of a compilation. They are formed by the combination of several local martyrologies, with or without borrowings from literary  sources. The most celebrated and important of the representatives of this class is the martyrology commonly called Hieronymian, because it is erroneously  attributed to St. Jerome. It was drawn up in Italy in the second half of the fifth century, and underwent recension in Gaul, probably at Auxerre, about A.D.  600. All the manuscripts  we possess of the "Hieronymian Martyrology" spring from this Gallican recension. Setting aside the additions which it then received, the chief sources of the "Hieronymian" are a general martyrology of the Churches  of the East, the local martyrology of the Church of Rome, a general martyrology of Italy, a general martyrology of Africa, and some literary sources, among them Eusebius. The manuscript tradition  of the document is in inexplicable confusion, and the idea of restoring the text in its integrity must be abandoned. Of course when any part of the text is restored, there arises the further problem of determining the origin of that portion before pronouncing on its documentary value.

(...)

The present Roman Martyrology is directly derived from the historical  martyrologies. It is in sum the martyrology of Usuard  completed by the "Dialogues" of St. Gregory and the works of some of the Fathers, and for the Greek saints by the catalogue which is known as the "Menologion" of Sirlet  (in H. Canisius, "Lectiones Antiquæ", III, Pt. ii, 412, Amsterdam, 1725). The editio princeps appeared at Rome in 1583, under the title: "Martyrologium romanum ad novam kalendarii rationem et ecclesiasticæ historiæ veritatem restitutum, Gregorii XIII pont. max. iussu editum". It bears no approbation. A second edition also appeared at Rome in the same year. This was soon replaced by the edition of 1584, which was approved and imposed on the entire Church by Gregory XIII. Baronius revised and corrected this work and republished it in 1586, with the "Notationes" and the "Tractatio de Martyrologio Romano". The Antwerp  edition of 1589 was corrected in some places by Baronius himself. A new edition of the text and the notes took place under Urban VIII and was published in 1630. Benedict XIV was also interested in the Roman Martyrology. The Bull addressed to John V, King of Portugal, dated 1748 (it is to be found at the beginning of the modern editions of the "Martyrology"), makes known the importance of the changes introduced in the new edition, which is in substance and except for the changes made necessary  by new canonizations, the one in use today.

You can read the whole article here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09741a.htm
Credo, I think we should approach this topic with child-like innocence.  I hear lots of modern Catholics question the historicity of stories from the lives of saints.  I see that as a form of modernism.  Some prominent Catholic apologists even apply the historico-critical method to the Sacred Scriptures.  This is a dangerous path, and it ought to be avoided.  Many of these same saints' stories are contained in the lives of saints found in the Roman Breviary.  If those stories are good enough for the official worship of the Church, they are good enough for me.

I believe there is more to be lost by casting skepticism on these stories than there is to be gained by a critical analysis of them.  When I go to my judgment, for example, I think God would be less disappointed with me for being slightly gullible for His sake than for being overly skeptical about events that did, in fact, happen.  I imagine it would make me very sad to meet the saints, someday, and know that I had denied them some glory that they rightfully deserved just because I didn't think that certain stories associated with their lives were historical.

Am I making sense?
rbjmartin Wrote:Am I making sense?

Yes, one can understand where you are coming from.

There are dangers in presenting particular areas of research to the public; greater still are the dangers of doing so across the board. The theory of Evolution is the outstanding example of this. What is a legitimate area of research is also an area which at its most flattering is only in the early stages of discovery. What should merit a passing reference in a sophomore science book has become the driving force, the great area of attention in popular biology. As a result, the faith of many has been put into doubt.

Likewise are the stories of the saints. The wholesale revision of popular hagiographies which explicitly doubt traditional tales of holy people has no doubt put the faith of the more simple into question.

However,

Quote:I see that as a form of modernism.

Please define modernism. History as an area of systematic research is a comparatively new field when compared to things like natural science. It only dates to the end of the nineteenth century, and only in Germany at that. As such, the discipline of history can be seen as riding the crest of Modernism (broadly speaking) which characterized the turn of the twentieth century.

We cannot deny the use of exploring history “as it was” (to use a famous phrase). To do so is a disservice to the mind God gave us. If dispelling actual myths which have crept into Christian hagiography is a manifestation of Modernism, then we cannot in conscience condemn this. The exercising of inaccuracies is a matter of truth. To do otherwise is to countenance falsehood.

To reiterate, if it is true St Thomas Aquinas did not fly around Norte Dame de Paris (for instance) it is not necessary that this be preached from every pulpit, nor is it necessary to publish this finding in every forthcoming popular book on the man. We need only to stop propagating such tales. For the sake of the simple we need only to let such stories die a quite death.

Quote: Many of these same saints' stories are contained in the lives of saints found in the Roman Breviary.  If those stories are good enough for the official worship of the Church, they are good enough for me.

This is a tenuous position. Sacrosanctum Concilium implies that there were historical errors in the old books. As it states,

Sacrosanctum Concilium; 92, c Wrote:The accounts of martyrdom or the lives of the saints are to accord with the facts of history.

The General Instruction of The Liturgy of the Hours developed this point in saying,

General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours; 167 Wrote:Those who compose particular propers for saints must ensure historical accuracy as well as genuine spiritual benefit for those who will read or hear the readings about the saints. Anything that merely excites amazement should be carefully avoided. Emphasis should be given to the individual spiritual characteristics of the saints, in a way suited to modern conditions; stress should also be laid on their contribution to the life and spirituality of the Church.

If one dismisses the development of the Church these past 50 years, the above citations do not matter (how convenient). However, I will not bring myself to endure such mental gymnastics. The powers that be have allowed that historical inaccuracies entered the Catholic worship over the years. (How the above statements can be reconciled with the use of Benedict XIV’s 1749 Martyrology in the 1962 ceremonies remains to be seen.)

Thank-you once again for your insights, rbjmartin.
I disagree with rbjmartin, and don't see the historical-critical method as necessarily a form of modernism (even when applied to Scriptures).  Sure it has its shortfalls and problems (especially when dating the texts and assuming that the prophecies recorded are post facto).  However, it can be useful, especially in determining the truth.

To answer your question, Credo.  I think the new Martyrology was revised in accordance with the directive of Sacrosanctum Concilium.  So I assume that any stories in the new Martyrology are worthy of belief.

And I think you hit the nail on the head in your explanation.  We are at the service of the Truth.  If the stories associated with the Saints didn't actually happen, then we have no business propagating them as if they did.  I don't think this is detrimental to the faith.  St. Thomas's sanctity and example should be evident to all regardless of whether he was able to fly.  Secondly, if these stories are false, then isn't it possible we can do more damage to the faith?  Is St. Thomas's authentic example of holiness obscured by a false story?  If we later happened across evidence that one of these stories was false, then wouldn't that undermine the faith?

The Truth should always win out.
(07-14-2010, 11:06 PM)MeaMaximaCulpa Wrote: [ -> ]I disagree with rbjmartin, and don't see the historical-critical method as necessarily a form of modernism (even when applied to Scriptures).  Sure it has its shortfalls and problems (especially when dating the texts and assuming that the prophecies recorded are post facto).  However, it can be useful, especially in determining the truth.

To answer your question, Credo.  I think the new Martyrology was revised in accordance with the directive of Sacrosanctum Concilium.  So I assume that any stories in the new Martyrology are worthy of belief.

And I think you hit the nail on the head in your explanation.  We are at the service of the Truth.  If the stories associated with the Saints didn't actually happen, then we have no business propagating them as if they did.  I don't think this is detrimental to the faith.  St. Thomas's sanctity and example should be evident to all regardless of whether he was able to fly.   Secondly, if these stories are false, then isn't it possible we can do more damage to the faith?  Is St. Thomas's authentic example of holiness obscured by a false story?  If we later happened across evidence that one of these stories was false, then wouldn't that undermine the faith?

The Truth should always win out.

But herein lies the problem.  What means do we have at our disposal to prove/disprove what has been handed down to us by tradition, aside from our trust in the voices of those Catholics who have gone before us and have given us these anecdotes?  True, we have our rationality, but that must act based on facts as their premises, and so much is unknown regarding the lives of ancient saints (particularly those contained in the martyrology).  When applying the historico-critical method, it is very easy to fall into a rationalist position, that says, "There is no scientific explanation for X. Therefore, X must be false."  I'm pointing out a danger in applying this method, not giving it a blanket condemnation in all circumstances.  I just don't see that it's profitable to bring this method into matters of Faith, because of the dangers to the faith of weaker brethren that this may present (as Credo pointed out).

Since you bring up the possibility of applying historico-critical method to the study of Sacred Scriptures, let me give an example of what I see as an unacceptable application of the historico-critical method. I was listening to Catholic Answers on the local Catholic radio station this week, and they talked about how the story of Jonas should not be taken literally, but as a literary device.  Yet Our Lord spoke of Jonas being in the belly of a whale for three days and three nights:

"An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was in the whale's belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." - Matthew 12:39-40

Our Lord spoke of His own descent into hell (an historical event) in the same mode as He spoke of Jonas being in the whale's belly.  Therefore, shouldn't we assume this to be an historical event, as well? Is it outside the realm of possibility?  Aren't we supposed to believe all things are possible with God?

The citation from Sacrosanctum Concilium, by the way, is hardly strong enough to consider a significant criticism of traditional hagiographies.  And it's very possible that modernist forces (which we know have been active in the Church over the last hundred years) could have influenced the wording of the text.  I really don't want to get into a discussion of V2 documents, because I always run into these passages that have ambiguous implications or interpretations.  Unless you can come up with stronger citations, I think we'll just run in circles.

Can you give some examples of traditional saint stories that have been contained in the martyrology or breviary that you believe to have been absolutely disproven?