Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Riddles of Pope Leo XIII

What did the mayonnaise say to the mustard?*

Stories online.

A few blogs have celebrated the fact that Pope Leo XIII discreetly and anonymously penned riddles in Latin which were then published under a pseudonym in a Roman periodical at the turn of the 19th century.

Evidently there is documentation for the Pope's hobby, as the CNS article on the subject details here.
However, did you know there is no credible documentation on the more famous story of the vision of Pope Leo XIII?
The problems with the story connecting the institution of the St. Michael prayer and a supposed vision of Leo XIII may be summarized as follows: 
• Writings which promote the story give no references to sources.
• The various accounts contradict each other as to where the vision supposedly took place — after Mass at the foot of the altar, or in a conference with cardinals.
• The various accounts are inconsistent about the date of the vision.
• The dates the accounts give for the alleged vision (1880, 1884 and 1888) do not correspond with the date when the St. Michael prayer was actually instituted (1886).
• There appears to be no corroboration for the story in a contemporary account which one would expect to have mentioned the event, had it indeed taken place. 
These considerations all tend to support the conclusion Father Bers arrived at in the 1930s: “that the ‘vision’ had been invented in later times for some reason,” and that the story was simply feeding upon itself. - Source

Why do I mention this?  Because visions can be invented, and/or the original stories attached to old visions can be embellished - by enthusiastic devotees, sometimes innocently interpreting it according to their mode of understanding, maybe even for dramatic effect, or perhaps to support a specific agenda at a later date.  The story can take on a life of its own.  I'm thinking of the accounts of the 17th century apparition of Our Lady of Good Success in Quito, Ecuador.

Just a thought.

*Answer: Close the door, I'm dressing.

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