Our Lady of Fatima

All of this angelic activity talked about so far was a prelude, of course, to the visits Our Lady would make the following year to the children, in which she would convey her requests of penance, prayer and devotion to her Immaculate Heart.

Most Catholics are familiar with the story of Our Lady of Fatima, or at least have heard of it. Here’s a quick refresher course on what happened:

On May 13, 1917, three children were tending a flock of sheep near the town of Fatima, Portugal. The children were Lucia dos Santos (age 10) and her cousins Francisco (age 9) and Jacinta Marto (age 7). The children had finished praying a rosary and were starting to play when they saw a brilliant light. Thinking it was lightning, they began to head toward home. Suddenly they saw another flash, this one illuminating the whole area, and that’s when they saw, standing over a small holmoak tree, “a lady brighter than the sun” with a white rosary hanging from her hands.

The beautiful lady asked the children to pray for peace and to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. She also requested that they return to this same spot on the 13th of each month for five consecutive months.

During these subsequent appearances, the Blessed Mother requested frequent recitation of the Rosary, increased devotion to her Immaculate Heart, daily acts of reparation and sacrifice, and prayers for the conversion of Russia. At the October 13th appearance, she revealed herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary.”

During Our Lady’s last appearance on October 13, 1917, over 70,000 people who had gathered at the now infamous apparition site witnessed a spectacular solar event, commonly called the “The Miracle of the Sun.” Witnesses described the sun as “spinning,” “dancing,” “trembling,” zig-zagging and even careening toward them at times. Reportedly, the phenomenon did not hurt anyone’s eyes, and the wet clothes and ground from previous rain showers quickly and inexplicably dried up in a matter of minutes. The Catholic Church officially recognized this occurrence as a miracle on October 13, 1930.

The final component of the Fatima story is “The Secret,” a message from Our Lady to the children that actually consisted of three parts. The first two were revealed in 1941 in a document written by Lucia, and consisted of (1) a terrifying vision of hell and (2) a prediction that while World War I would soon end, another, more devastating war would occur if mankind did not stop offending God and if Russia did not convert. The third secret remains more controversial in that while the Vatican officially made it public in the year 2000 and declared that it pointed to the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II, some believe that it is not the “real” secret or at least not the full secret and that the Vatican is hiding the true message, which they believe describes apostasy, satanic infiltration of the Church, and the end of the world.

As today is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, it would benefit all of us to reflect on the happenings at Fatima, their historical impact, and their relevance to us today. To that end, here are some helpful resources:

And be sure to check out this trailer for the 2009 movie, The 13th Day, a critically acclaimed film distributed by Ignatius Press that the National Catholic Register calls "the best film ever made about Fatima--the most beautiful and effective, as well as one of the most historically accurate."

Aquinas on the Angels

Thomas Aquinas was known as, among other things, the "Angelic Doctor.” He wrote extensively about the nature and mission of the angels in his masterpiece, The Summa Theologica, devoting a substantial part of his massive tome to them.

In keeping with the nature of this blog (i.e., easy to read and digest), I thought I'd post a "Top Ten List" of some of St. Thomas' points about the angels from the Summa.

These tidbits aren't arranged in any particular order, nor do they purport in any way to adequately represent the whole of St. Thomas's teachings on the angels. Nonetheless, I think there's enough here for us mere mortals to ponder and appreciate for quite some time And if the spirit should move you to further scholarship, you can read the good Doctor's entire discussion of celestial beings at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library

So, here we go:

1.  The angels were created in heaven. And it is fitting that creatures of the most perfect nature should be created in the most noble place.

2.  Angels were created in grace, and by using this grace in their first act of charity (which is the friendship and love of God) they merited the beatific vision and heavenly beatitude.

3.  God gives the angels their knowledge of things when he brings them into existence . . .Each receives what is fitting and necessary for its status and the service it is to render, and therefore some angels know more than others.

4.  Angels manifest knowledge to one another, and to this extent they "speak" to one another. But the speech of angels is not a matter of sounds or of uttered words. The speech of angels is a direct communication of knowledge from spirit to spirit.

5.  The faithful angels are a greater multitude than the fallen angels. For sin is contrary to the natural order.

6.  Angels, good or bad, can do wonderful things, but only such as lie within the power of angelic nature, and a miracle surpasses the powers of all created natures.

7.  Superior rules inferior; hence angels rule the bodily world. St. Gregory says that in this visible world nothing occurs without the agency of invisible creatures.

8.  God sends angels to minister to his purposes among bodily creatures . . . Angels sent in the external ministry are those whose names indicate some kind of administrative or executive office. These are, in descending rank, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels.

9.  Each human being, without exception, has a guardian angel . . . In heaven a man will have an angel companion to reign with him, but not a guardian; no guardian is needed when the guarded journey has been successfully completed. In hell, each man will have a fallen angel to punish him.

10.  An angel can illume the thought and mind of man by strengthening the power of vision, and by bringing within his reach some truth which the angel himself contemplates.

(The above translation and wording is courtesy of A Tour of the Summa by Msgr. Paul J. Glenn, Tan Books and Publishers.)

New Year's Resolutions

"People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway."

             - Mother Teresa

St. Francis's Christmas Miracle

Living nativities–those church-produced (predominantly Protestant) programs that recreate the birth of Jesus with live actors, animals and elaborate props–are wildly popular during the Christmas season, often moving audiences to tears as the birth of the God-Man plays forth in a reverent, tender, and visually-satisfying 3D manner.

We Catholics, however, can take credit for the first living nativity (excluding, of course, the Actual Event), and we owe it all to St. Francis of Assisi.

In 1223, a generous and spiritual landowner by the name of John Vellita donated a piece of land to Francis and his followers. Located on a rocky and windswept mountainside on the outskirts of the town of Greccio, the land afforded Francis and his brothers a grand view of the town below.

Inspired in part by his new surroundings, Francis made an unusual request of John Vellita that December. He wished to recreate the original Nativity scene of Bethlehem for the townspeople. What better way, Francis felt, to welcome the Christ Child than to actually see, hear, and feel the harsh and poor conditions that He was born into. Sentimental stories and artists' renditions were fine, but this "reenactment" would help people understand how God used the ordinary to bring about the most extraordinary happening in human history.

John Vellita eagerly agreed, and soon a manger was set up in a cave on the hill, fresh hay was scattered around, and a donkey and ox were brought up to complete the scene. A simple altar was erected, beneath which lay a wax figure of the Holy Infant.

At midnight that Christmas, Francis celebrated Mass surrounded by the curious townspeople, who had made the trek up the dark mountain with lit torches and faith-filled hearts. As Francis spoke the words of the Mass, emotion overtook him to the point that tears rolled down his face. The onlookers were awestruck at the love and joy and piety that engulfed the humble man at the altar.

Then the miracle happened.

Francis picked up the wax figure of the Baby Jesus, and to the spectators' wondrous delight, the Infant appeared to come to life. He smiled at Francis and stroked his wet cheeks. Francis sighed deeply and was manifestly overcome with joy.

St. Bonaventure, in his biography of St. Francis, reports that the hay used in that "living nativity" cured all sorts of diseases and pestilence in the cattle that ate it over the ensuing months.

Today there is a church on the site where the "Miracle of Greccio" took place. It continues to be a popular place of pilgrimage, especially during the Christmas season.


The Ouija Board: Just Say No

The movie Ouija has been tops at the box office now for the last couple of weeks. While interest in the movie itself isn’t necessarily of great concern (I happen to love horror movies myself), it’s the real-life obsession in the movie’s subject matter that is unsettling: the Ouija board.

Tens of millions of these “games” have been sold since their inception in the late 1800s. Modernized by Parker Brothers in the 1960s (and now sold under the Hasbro label), the board has been marketed as a harmless toy and party game. In fact, in 2008 Toys R Us even began selling a special pink edition just for little girls. How cute! Maybe the demons will wear tutus and ribbons when they come to the sleepover! (The board has since been removed from the store, but a glow-in-the-dark one is still available.)

Make no mistake: the Ouija board is no toy. It’s not a game. It’s not harmless.

Fr. Thomas Euteneurer, exorcist and author of Exorcism and the Church Militant, is on record as saying that as many as ninety percent of the possession cases he encounters began with a Ouija board.

The late Catholic demonologist Ed Warren once called the Ouija board a proven “notorious passkey to terror.”

And the late Jesuit author Malachi Martin, who wrote extensively about demonic possession, once explained that the individual does not even have to intentionally engage the demonic. Simply dabbling in the occult, he believed, whether it was playing with a Ouija board or attending a séance or practicing transcendental meditation, the enneagram, etc., can dispose a person to possession because he has made himself an "aspiring vacuum" to whatever happens along.

Something “happened along” one night many, many years ago in my own life, when a young female relative who was babysitting me thought it would be fun to show me her Ouija board. She was going to try to contact a long-dead family member known only to me as “Aunt Marie.” She started moving the pointer around the board until the word “H E R E” was spelled out. My babysitter was visibly shaken, I remember that, but whether or not she was faking, I don’t know. Nothing else dramatic happened right then. But later that night after I had gone to bed, I remember waking up and seeing a very scary-looking woman coming in my room through my window. She was smiling at me maniacally and I just knew–I could feel–that her intent toward me was evil. I screamed for my parents and the vision vanished. Maybe it was just a bad dream. Nevertheless, I never saw that Ouija board again.

The relative of whom I spoke I loved dearly. When she was around 30 years old, she disappeared under mysterious circumstances and has never been heard from again. She battled many demons during the short period of her life that I knew her, the addictive, destructive kinds that are on the natural plane. I’m sure, however, that her unfortunate interest in the occult only made things worse. I hope and pray I see her again one day.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear how we are to approach the occult:
2116: All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf offers this no-nonsense advice: “Avoid, avoid, avoid things that might open you up to oppression by the Enemy, such as Tarot cards and Ouija boards and other things that might be taken to be ‘games’.  If you have those things destroy them NOW, not later.”

* * * * *

Need more proof that the Ouija board is a channel for evil? This book has plenty of stories from people in all walks of life who have dabbled with the boards and have regretted it. There are some good quotes from Catholic professionals in the book as well.

St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God, 
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world 
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Angels and the Rosary

St. Alphonsus Liguori once said that each time we pray a Hail Mary we attract the angels and repel the devils. Now think about how many times we say the Hail Mary in the Rosary. Hmm. That’s a pretty effective pest repellent, I’d say.

As satisfying as it is to know we’re chasing away sulfurous little creeps when saying the Rosary, it might be more beneficial to focus on the real angels and unite our prayers with theirs, keeping in mind the important roles their kind played in the lives of Jesus and Mary. They were there for every event, major and minor, public and private. Indeed, the angels illuminate the very mysteries we meditate upon during this devotion.

In honor of this month's Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, I'd like to share this reflection from Pope Leo XIII:
The Angels revealed each of these mysteries [of the Rosary] in its due time; they played a great part in them; they were constantly present at them… Gabriel was sent to announce the Incarnation of the Eternal Word to the Virgin. In the cave of Bethlehem, Angels sang the glory of the new-born Savior. The Angel gave Joseph command to fly with the Child into Egypt. An Angel consoled, with his loving words, Jesus in His bloody sweat in the garden. Angels announced His resurrection, after He had triumphed over death, to the women. Angels carried Him up into Heaven; and foretold His second coming, surrounded by Angelic hosts . . .
What more divine, what more delightful, than to meditate and pray with the Angels? With what confidence may we not hope that those who on earth have united with the Angels in this ministry will one day enjoy their blessed company in Heaven?

(From the encyclical, On the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, promulgated on Sept. 12, 1897)

Feast of the Guardian Angels - A Short Reflection

Meditation for the Feast of the Guardian Angels

Pope John XXIII, October 2, 1959

According to the teaching of the Roman catechism, we must remember how admirable was the intention of divine Providence in entrusting to the angels the mission of watching over all mankind, and over individual human beings, lest they should fall victims to the grave dangers which they encounter. In this earthly life, when children have to make their way along a path beset with obstacles and snares, their fathers take care to call upon the help of those who can look after them and come to their aid in adversity. In the same way our Father in heaven has charged his angels to come to our assistance during our earthly journey which leads us to our blessed fatherland, so that, protected by the angels' help and care, we may avoid the snares upon our path, subdue our passions and, under this angelic guidance, follow always the straight and sure road which leads to Paradise...

Everyone of us is entrusted to the care of an angel.

That is why we must have a lively and profound devotion to our own Guardian Angel, and why we should often and trustfully repeat the dear prayer we were taught in the days of our childhood.

May we never fail in this devotion to the angels! During our earthly pilgrimage we may often run the risk of having to face the natural elements in turmoil, or the wrath of men who may seek to do us harm. But our Guardian Angel is always present. Let us never forget him and always remember to pray to him.

The Curé of Ars and the Angels

My previous post featuring St. John Vianney was short and sweet and seriously in need of a sequel considering the stature of the saint involved.

To that end, and in honor of the Feast of the Curé of Ars (August 4th), I’d like to reflect a bit on the life of this remarkable priest and share some of his more memorable quotes about the angels (including the fallen ones, with whom he had some up-close-and-personal dealings).

St. John Vianney was born on May 8, 1786, in the small French town of Dardilly. He was the oldest of six children born to his parents, Matthieu and Marie. The anti-religious and anti-clerical political atmosphere brought on by the French Revolution made it difficult at that time to practice Catholicism, but the Vianneys managed to keep their faith alive and thriving by opting to teach their children at home instead of sending them to the state-run public schools.

It was in this environment that John’s faith and piety developed. His zeal was such that he was horrified by the large numbers of priests that defected and signed oaths of loyalty to the state. He famously said in response, “Oh, if I were a priest, I should want to win ever so many souls for God.” That desire would soon be made a reality.

After his rise to power in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte liberated the Church from state power, allowing church doors to reopen and Mass to be celebrated publicly once again. The road to the priesthood had been cleared for John, and at age 19 he entered the seminary. Life as a seminarian was a challenge, however, as academics, particularly Latin, proved difficult for John. Making matters worse, his studies were interrupted by a forced two-year stint in Napoleon’s army.

Upon his return to the seminary, John struggled again with academics and was almost dismissed by his superiors. But there were others in authority who recognized the value of John’s other gifts–his piety, asceticism, modesty, and power of recollection, to name a few. Given another chance to take his exams–this time in French instead of Latin–St. John passed with flying colors and in 1815 was ordained a priest.

At age 31, St. John was sent to the remote backwater village of Ars. Confronted with a staggering amount of immorality, religious indifference, and frivolity among his parishioners, John labored unceasingly to turn the tide back toward God. His success was nothing short of miraculous. It took 25 years, but eventually all 200 villagers “converted,” that is, were observing the 10 Commandments, the Precepts of the Church, and living a daily Christian life. His preaching became so famous for its eloquence and ability to touch even the most hardened hearts that many priests and bishops traveled from great distances to hear him.

But what St. John became most famous for was his ability as a confessor. He would hear confessions for 13-17 hours a day, sometimes hearing as many as 400 confessions in a day. With unparalleled powers of discernment and the ability to read hearts, St. John was able to pinpoint a sinner’s source of trouble and prescribe the exact means to treat or remove it. He also shared extreme empathy with penitents and would sob at the thought of souls being lost forever due to sin.

His long hours in the confessional left him little time for anything else, including eating or sleeping, and he often got by on a few hours of sleep and a couple of boiled potatoes. These sacrifices were nothing to St. John, though, as he regularly performed acts of self-inflicted penances. In fact, if someone gave him a loaf of bread, he would trade it for a crust from a beggar. He was known for giving easy penances in the confessional, saying “I give them a light penance and perform the rest myself.”

St. John also obtained many graces for his beloved Ars through his great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Blessed Mother, and St. Philomena. One of the things the Curé soon became known for were miraculous cures, not only of the soul but the body as well. But his modesty made him uncomfortable with the attention these acts gained him, and so he made a pact with St. Philomena that he would send all healing requests to her and that he in turn would spread her devotion. St. Philomena reportedly appeared to St. John on occasion, as did the Blessed Virgin. He remarked, “With Our Lady and Saint Philomena we get on well together.”

St. John’s holiness and the good he did for the people of Ars caught the attention not only of Heaven, but (not surprisingly) of the other place as well. For 35 years, from 1824 to 1858, the Curé was subjected to an onslaught of spiritual and physical harassment from the devil, many instances of which were verified by witnesses. The attacks ranged from horrible manifestations, to pulling St. John out of bed by his ankles, to hideously screaming and/or singing in the middle of the night. One morning the Curé’s bed was set on fire while he was hearing confessions. St. John’s comment was, “Unable to catch the bird, he sets fire to the cage!”

The devil did all he could to prevent St. John from getting the rest he needed to do his miraculous work in the confessional. He would go on for hours producing harrowing, ear-wrenching noises, or he would sing, "with a very cracked voice," the Saint said, or whistle for hours on end. Sometimes he would produce a noise as of a horse chomping and prancing in the room. He would bleat like a sheep, growl like a bear, or meow like a cat. At times he would shout under the Curé's window: "Vianney! Vianney! potato-eater!" The Saint, for his part, developed a remarkable sense of humor about these supernatural assaults, saying, “Oh! the grappin’ [his nickname for the devil] and myself? We are almost chums.” In 1845 the devil ceased his physical attacks, but not before revealing that if there were three such priests as the Curé on earth, his (Satan’s) kingdom would be broken.

St. John’s life continued with days full of charity, austerity, and works of wonder. But finally at the age of 73, on July 29, 1859, his severe daily routine proved too much and he collapsed for the last time. The bishop presided over his funeral, which 300 priests and more than 6,000 people attended. In 1925 he was canonized by Pope Pius XI, who then in 1929 declared him “Patron Saint of Parish Priests.”

In 1904 St. John’s body was exhumed and found to be incorrupt. His body is on display above the main altar in the Basilica at Ars.

 The thoughts and sayings of the Curé of Ars are ever popular, and there are volumes upon volumes available containing his sermons and other words of wisdom. Below are some of St. John’s thoughts about the holy angels, to whom he had a great devotion. (There are a few thoughts on the devil as well.)


The first thing about the angels that we ought to imitate, is their consciousness of the Presence of God.
Ah! if we had the eyes of angels with which to see our Lord Jesus Christ present on the Altar and looking at us, how we should love Him!
With what humility should we assist at Mass, if we realized that our Guardian Angel was kneeling beside us, prostrate before the majesty of God! With what eagerness should we not ask him to offer our prayers to Jesus Christ!
Our Guardian Angels are our most faithful friends, because they are with us day and night, always and everywhere. We ought often to invoke them.
The Angels take great pleasure in helping us with our enterprises, when they are in accordance with God's will.
If you find it impossible to pray, hide behind your good Angel and charge him to pray in your stead.
We ought to ask the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and the saints to pray for us that we may receive the good God as worthily as it is possible for us to receive Him. (Sermon on Holy Communion)
The devil writes down our sins—our Guardian Angel all our merits. Labor that the Guardian Angel's book may be full, and the devil's empty.
Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the angels, and the saints—they are your public.
Like the saints, let us be very zealous in fulfilling all our duties; let the devil never find us doing nothing, lest we should yield to temptation.
God , the Blessed Virgin, the angels and saints are about our path; they are at our side and see all we do.
After thanking our Guardian Angel who has remained by our side during our sleep, we should ask him for his protection during the day.
How happy is that Guardian Angel who accompanies a soul to Holy Mass!
We must take great care never to do anything before having said our Morning Prayers.... The devil once declared...that if he could have the first moment of the day, he was sure of all the rest.
What a comfort to you it is to know that when we go out of the house, we are never alone en route.
When we are walking in the streets, let us fix our eyes on Our Lord bearing his Cross before us; on the Blessed Virgin who is looking at us; on our Guardian Angel who is by our side.
It is our angels who ask God to grant us a deep sorrow for our sins.
Offer your temptations for the conversion of sinners. When the devil sees you doing this, he is beside himself with rage and makes off, because then the temptation is turned against himself.
Blessed are they who are tempted! It is when the devil sees that a soul is tending towards union with God that he redoubles his efforts.
If we did like St. Remigius, we should never be angry. Being questioned by a Father of the desert as to how he managed to be always in an even temper, replied: "I often consider that my Guardian Angel is always by my side....."
If we could only see the JOY of our Guardian Angel when he sees us fighting our temptations!
In the Sacraments, it is God himself who comes to annihilate our enemy. The devil, seeing Him in our heart, throws himself despairingly into the bottomless pit; which explains why he does all he can to draw us away from them, or to make us receive them badly.
All the angels and saints are engaged in trying to prevent us from committing sins.
What happiness it is to a Guardian Angel to have the care of a pure soul. When the soul is pure, all the Court of Heaven looks upon it with joy.

Padre Pio: Guardian Angels and a Miracle

If there was ever an earthly authority on angels, it was Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio). He talked to them regularly as you and I talk with our family and friends. He sent them all over the world on “missions” to his spiritual children, and received messages back via the angels as often as we receive mail. Here are a few of his thoughts on these magnificent heavenly beings:

“When we die, our Guardian Angel will take our soul to heaven.”

“Our Guardian Angel  never leaves us, even when we are disgusting God with our behavior.”

“Oh if all men could understand this great gift that God assigned to us; this celestial spirit."

"For whoever is alone there is his Guardian Angel."

“The duty of the Guardian Angel is not only of spiritual guidance. He also prevents bodily harm for us.”

“Our Guardian Angel prays constantly for us.”

“Let’s confide to Our Guardian Angel our pains and sorrows. He is like a friend, like a brother.”

"Your Guardian Angel prays for you; offers to God all the good works you accomplish; your holy and pure desires."

"Do not forget this invisible companion, always present to listen to you; always ready to console you."

"Invoke often this Guardian Angel, and repeat the beautiful prayer: 'Oh Angel of God...'.”

"Often remember his presence; thank him; pray to him; Respect him; be in constant fear of offending the purity of his gaze."

"What consolation when, at the moment of death, you will see this Angel, who accompanied you through life and was so liberal in maternal care.”

Padre Pio's Daily Prayer to His Guardian Angel

Angel of God,
my guardian,
to whom the goodness
of the Heavenly Father entrusts me.
protect and guide me
Now and for ever.

Finally, I just had to share this story of a man named Paul Walsh and the astounding miracle that happened to him in 1983 through the intercession of St. Pio. Enjoy (and prepare to be amazed).


The Catholic Connection to Coffee

I wouldn't survive most mornings without coffee. I admit it, I'm an addict. I have been since my freshman year of college, when I decided that downing a cup or two of my parent's Maxwell House was better than sleeping through my 8:00 a.m. chemistry class. My grades soon thanked my wise choice, and I have ever since enjoyed a warm and comfy relationship with the dark and bitter brew. (I take mine black, thank you.)

 Several years back I came across an interesting tidbit of information about the Church's historical role in bringing coffee to the Western world. I did a little further digging and ended up writing a short article about it for Liguorian Magazine. I'm reprinting it here for all of my coffee drinking guests. Between all the latest research touting coffee's health benefits and this affirmation of coffee's, ahem, blessedness, all is good in java land. Enjoy!




Melaine Ryther

    He negotiated the Union of Brest in 1598, which brought the Ukrainian Church back in communion with Rome. He revised the breviary, forbade dueling, and promoted the forty hours devotion. Yet for many modern Catholics, the greatest achievement of Pope Clement VIII was allowing coffee to be introduced to the Western world.

    Long a part of Arab culture, coffee began finding its way into the West in the late 1500’s via Italian trade ships returning from Constantinople. The bitter elixir soon gained adherents among the populace in Venice and other port cities in Italy. Church officials in Rome, however, were wary of the dark drink. Fearing that coffee had been invented by Satan himself for the Muslim infidels, priests forbade the faithful to imbibe. They argued that if wine was the drink sanctified by Christ and used in Holy Communion, then coffee—the preferred beverage of the Muslims, who weren’t allowed to drink wine—must be the Antichrist’s brew.

    Into this ring of debate stepped Clement. Although known as a devout and spiritual Pope, Clement was not without his practical side. He spearheaded missionary efforts in the Far East, Persia, Mexico, and South America. He brought back into the Church schismatic Serbians and Ukranians. And, closer to home, he often visited hospitals, not only to comfort the sick, but to inspect the food that was being served.

    Having heard all the fuss about the devilish Turkish drink, Clement asked that a cup of it be brought to him. Onlookers held their breath as their beloved Pope first smelled, then sipped the exotic beverage. Would he die on the spot? Would the devil himself appear? Nothing quite so dramatic happened, of course. But after satisfying his palate, Clement did make a proclamation that was nonetheless surprising:

    “This Satan’s drink is so delicious,” Clement intoned, “that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall cheat Satan by baptizing it.” Clement further reasoned that it would be a larger sin to keep the drink from the Christian world.

    The on-the-spot blessing opened the floodgates for coffee imports to the West, paving the way for the first coffeehouses to open in Italy in 1645.

    It’s perhaps only fitting that the man to whom nine-to-fivers worldwide owe their gratitude started his career in a white collar setting himself—as a humble bank clerk in Fano, Italy.