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JPII and St. Nicholas

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

JPII, Papal Order of St. Sylvester, and Heraldry

Chivalry still exists in the Church. Over the years I have met knights and ladies from very diverse socioeconomic backgrounds: Knights and Ladies of Peter Clavier in Detroit and Columbus, Knights of Malta (philosopher Craig J.N. DePaulo), Knights of Columbus, and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

But I was unaware of the Papal Order of St. Sylvester, the likes of which JPII expanded to include ladies as well as knights in 1987. Pope St. Sylvester established the order during the rein of Constantine, following the persecution of Diocletian. Having endured both persecution and, for the first time, legal recognition of Christianity in Rome, Sylvester witnessed the blood of the martyrs' triumph over paganism in his day.

Members of the order wear the following:

"The cross of Saint Sylvester with white enamel, and the image of Saint Sylvester on a gold medallion surrounded by gold rays between the arms of the cross" (http://www.chivalricorders.org/vatican/papal.htm)

Pope St. Sylvester, ora pro nobis!

Another piece of evidence that chivalry is alive and well in Catholicism is the papal coat of arms. Below is the Vatican's write up on the arms of JPII (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/biography/documents/hf_jp-ii_bio_19781016):
The coat of arms of Pope John Paul II is intended as an act of homage to the central mystery of Christianity, the Redemption.

And so the main representation is a cross, whose form, however, does not correspond to the customary heraldic model. The reason for the unusual placement of the vertical section of the cross is readily apparent if one considers the second object inserted in the coat of arms the large and majestic capital M. This recalls the presence of Mary beneath the cross and her exceptional participation in the Redemption.

The great devotion of the Holy Father to the Virgin Mary is manifested in this manner, as it was also expressed in his motto as Cardinal Wojtyla: TOTUS TUUS (All yours). Nor can one forget that within the confines of the ecclesiastical province of Krakow, there is situated the celebrated Marian shrine of Czestochowa, where the Polish people for centuries fostered their filial devotion to the Mother of God.

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