Monday 30th November 2015

Home » saints » Currently Reading:

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Nicephorus

March 10, 2014 saints No Comments


At the end of the patrician age, iconoclasm reared its ugly head in the Christian community. Iconoclasm “rejected as superstition the use of religious images and advocated their destruction . . .occasioned by the rise of Islam which considers all sacred images idolatrous” (Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr. John A. Hardon, p. 263). In defending the true teaching of the Church, St. John Damascene nearly lost his life.
However, some decades later, the iconoclasts gained more recognition and again sought to destroy the sacred images in use at the time. Eventually, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 clearly defined the teaching that sacred images were permissible and to be venerated. Largely through the efforts of St. Nicephorus, the heresy was again held in check.
The parents of St. Nicephorus set a good example for their son, defender of images, who was born around 758. His father held high office under the Emperor Constantine Copronymus (Constantine V) as secretary and commissioner. Yet when the emperor persecuted the orthodox faith, Nicephorus’ father held true to the honor of sacred images with such zeal that he was stripped of his office, tortured, and banished.
Despite the banishment, Nicephorus received an excellent education further developing his innate abilities fostered by his parents who loved the faith.  When Constantine VI and his mother, the Empress Irene, changed the restrictions on sacred images, Nicephorus came to their attention as he was brought to court.  In fact, Nicephorus attended the Second Council of Nicaea as the representative of the Empress Irene.
Despite all the honors and authority bestowed upon him, Nicephorus sought the quiet of the monastery he had founded on the Thracian Bosphorus on the Black Sea. Although still a layman, he greatly appreciated the quiet, religious life.
This life was not meant to be. When the patriarch of Constantinople, St. Tarasius, died, Nicephorus became the leading candidate to succeed him. Because of his lay status, many opposed his appointment and he himself turned away from it. However, at the formal request of the emperor, St. Nicephorus received Holy Orders and accepted the office.
At his installation, he took the treatise he had written defending the treatment of images and placed it behind the altar, pledging that he would defend the doctrine of the Church. You can imagine what happened next. Without much delay, the new patriarch was persecuted, suffering at the hands of hostile rigorists.
A priest named Joseph had been exiled for celebrating the nuptial Mass of Emperor Constantine VI and Theodata even though his first wife, Empress Mary, was still living. St. Nicephorus reinstated the priest. Common belief held that Nicephorus did this to avoid greater scandal among the Christians as well as to demonstrate the mercy to be shown to a repentant sinner.
A group known as the Theodore Studites refused to have anything to do with the new patriarch who seemed to support what the Studites called the “Adulterine Heresy.” They appealed to Pope Leo III who, although he sent them an encouraging reply, did nothing about the situation since he had heard nothing from St. Nicephorus about the situation.
The Church in the East did not answer so much to the Pope in Rome as it did to the emperor who acted with much authority on the operations of the Church and the installations of the bishops or patriarchs. Because of the opposition of the Studites, the emperor had imprisoned Theodore and the monks dispersed.
Finally, Nicephorus sent a letter to Pope Leo explaining the situation and vowing to keep Rome more informed of the events in Constantinople. Thus the factions were reconciled and Theodore was released. They worked together in improving morals, restoring discipline in the monasteries, and improving the behavior of the clergy. Once again the brief period of tranquility ended.
In 813 Leo the Armenian (Leo V) became the emperor in the East. Before his installation, Nicephorus sought to get a profession of faith from Leo, especially regarding iconoclasm, but the politician eluded the efforts of the patriarch to get a definitive statement from him.
As Leo V became more confident of his position, he expressed his views more freely. He urged Nicephorus to support him in the destruction of the images in the churches that had been replaced after being removed or destroyed during the last rampage of the iconoclasts. The emperor did this despite the approval given to the images by the Second Council of Nicaea.
St. Nicephorus held true to his vow taken on the day of his installation and defended the images, replying, “We cannot change the ancient traditions: We respect the holy images, as we do the cross and the book of the Gospels.”
Evil is restless and cunning. Emperor Leo made subtle movements, under the mask of reverence, to get a crucifix removed. By ordering a soldier to profane the corpus on the cross, Leo claimed that he would remove others to prevent further profanation of the images. Thus he shrewdly attempted to manufacture events to ensure he appeared to be respecting the images.
His plotting did not stop at this. He then called the bishops of the iconoclasts to his court and then ordered the patriarch and his sympathetic bishops and clergy to the palace. Their response, however, was to pointedly refuse, telling him that he must leave Church matters to the Church and not the court. Not surprisingly, Emperor Leo became enraged.
Next the iconoclast bishops summoned the patriarch to appear before them but again they were rebuffed as Nicephorus unequivocally challenged their authority to summon him. “In my diocese you have no jurisdiction,” he wrote to them. The iconoclasts were then excommunicated from the Church.
Having the support of the emperor, they continued to issues statements against Nicephorus. Even worse, they made several attempts on his life before he was forced into exile. He returned to the monastery he had founded.
Although Emperor Leo’s successor, Michael the Stammerer, invited Nicephorus to return to Constantinople, he could do so only under the condition that he remain silent about the issue of iconoclasm. Nicephorus refused, saying that silence was tantamount to endorsement which he could not in good conscience do. Thus he remained in the monastery on the Bosphorus for his remaining days, soundly writing in defense of the sacred images. His writings have been preserved to this day.
The Eastern Church celebrates his feast on June 2 while the Latin Church celebrates it on March 13. St. Nicephorus died in the year 828. On March 13, 846 his remains were transferred to Constantinople.
Dear St. Nicephorus, may we learn from your writings and lively defense of sacred images to explain this doctrine to our separated brethren in Christ. O Lord, by your cross and Resurrection you have set us free. Amen.

+    +    +

(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. Mrs. Breslin’s articles have appeared in Homiletic & Pastoral Review and in the Marian Catechist Newsletter. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Police officer killed at Planned Parenthood was pro-life, Christian pastor

Nov. 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Officer Garrett Swasey, the police officer killed during a standoff with a lone gunman at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs Friday, was reportedly a leading figure in his church who was also pro-life.…Continue Reading

In Australia, bishops face legal complaint for defending marriage

Sydney, Australia (CNA/EWTN News) — The Sydney archbishop has strongly defended the freedom of the Catholic Church in response to a legal complaint claiming the Australian bishops’ pastoral letter on marriage violated Tasmania’s strict anti-discrimination law. “Australia is party to…Continue Reading

Obama Just Sent MAJOR Threat To Every US State That Won’t Take Syrian Refugees

The Obama Administration is issuing a showdown with states that are refusing to accept Syrian refugees. The administration sent a letter telling states they would be subject to enforcement action if they do not comply with federal plans to import…Continue Reading

Pope at UN in Africa: We Have a Choice: Either Improve or Destroy the Environment

Says It Will Be ‘Catastrophic’ If Individual Interests Prevail Over the Common Good in Paris Meeting, and Information Is Manipulated to Protect ‘Plans and Projects’ Kenya, November 26, 2015 ( Staff Reporter Here is a Vatican translation of the address…Continue Reading

Cardinal Pell bets against the odds: insists Pope Francis will strongly reaffirm Catholic tradition

ROME, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — Contradicting the statements of some of the pope’s closest advisors, the Vatican’s financial chief Cardinal George Pell has declared that Pope Francis will re-assert and “clarify” longstanding Church teaching and discipline that prohibits Communion…Continue Reading

‘Bleeding host’ under investigation by SL Catholic diocese

(KUTV) The Salt Lake Catholic Diocese has started an investigation into what is being described as a ‘bleeding host’ at a local parish, St. Francis Xavier in Kearns. Images of the host, given to 2News, showed circles of deep red,…Continue Reading

How did heterodox prelates try to change doctrine at synod?

In this address delivered at the Catholic Voice conference Faith of Our Fathers, Matthew McCusker of Voice of the Family discusses three key elements of the “progressive” strategy deployed at the Ordinary Synod: arguing for changes in the Church’s language,…Continue Reading

Bishop Defends Against ‘Vicious’ Bill Donohue Attack

by Church Militant • • November 24, 2015 65 Comments Bishop Rene Henry Gracida is criticizing the Catholic League The bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas is defending against what he calls the “vicious attack” by Catholic League’s…Continue Reading

Pope Francis to German Bishops: Your Church is a mess! Fix it and … GO TO CONFESSION!

The German bishops are making their ad limina visit. Every few years diocesan bishops have to go to Rome to meet with offices of the Roman Curia and, usually, the Pope. Pope Francis gave an address to the German bishops…Continue Reading

Germany’s bishops discuss decentralizing the Church in meeting with Pope Francis

ROME, November 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — The German bishops, sixty-seven of them, recently visited Rome together for their obligatory Ad Limina visit with the pope from November 16-20. This Ad Limina visit, which is obligatory for all bishops of the…Continue Reading

In Australia, Catholic Bishops Face Court Action, Huge Fines Over Traditional Views on Marriage

Australians have always viewed America’s litigious culture with suspicion. Our “no worries mate” approach to life means we tend not to rush off to court at the drop of a hat. So last week when a state government commissioner ruled…Continue Reading

Cardinal Wuerl’s Embassy Row Penthouse

Walking through the posh neighborhood of Embassy Row in October, I stumbled across a scoop: that Washington, D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl lives in a penthouse atop a mansion priced north of $40 million. That Embassy Row mansion is the Our…Continue Reading


Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope celebrates closing Mass of African Journey

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday celebrated Mass at Bangui’s Barthélémy Boganda Stadium for thousands of the faithful from the Central African Republic. Speaking of Paul’s missionary zeal in the Letter to the Romans, Pope Francis in his final Mass in the Central African Republic reflected on the great missionary effort which first brought the Gospel to the people of Central Africa. Times of difficulty, trial and suffering remind all of the Lord’s call to…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Arrives in Central African Republic

Francis Will Open Holy Door in Bangui Before Inauguration of Jubilee of Mercy in Vatican Bangui, November 29, 2015 ( Deborah Castellano Lubov Pope Francis has arrived in the Central African Republic, the final leg of his first Apostolic Visit to Africa, after having visited Kenya and Uganda. The Pontiff arrived at the M’poko International Airport in the war-torn nation’s capital of Bangui around 10 a.m. local time, after a nearly three-hour flight from Uganda,…Continue Reading

Pope to young: Jesus can transform walls into a path


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged young people in Uganda to turn negative experiences into positive ones with the help of Jesus and his grace. In an address where the Pope ditched his prepared remarks and spoke off-the-cuff in Spanish, he urged the young people to open the door of their hearts to Jesus. More than 150,000 cheering and dancing young people had gathered at an airstrip near Kampala to hear the Pope and…Continue Reading

Pope Gives Youth Choice: Do You Want to Overcome Challenges or Be Overcome by Them?

Throwing Aside Script, Pope Francis Asks Kenya’s Young People If They’ll Allow Difficulties Destroy or Use Them As Opportunities Nairobi, November 27, 2015 ( Deborah Castellano Lubov Pope Francis has asked Kenya’s young people how they will respond to the challenges they face, including those of bad tribalism, corruption, and desperation, and challenged them to get out of vicious cycles. Speaking to tens of thousands gathered in Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium, this morning, the Pope listened…Continue Reading

The Catholic Origins of Thanksgiving

Did you know that Thanksgiving is a Catholic holiday? True, it’s not on the Church calendar. And it is celebrated only in America, whereas Church holidays are universal. Our national holiday is certainly an event that has taken on a life of its own, with an established tradition involving turkey and mashed potatoes, football, shopping, and a four-day weekend—which is fascinating since none of those things have anything to do with the original event that…Continue Reading

Notre Dame Professor . . . Forced To Leave Project Aimed At Faithful Catholic Education

By JUSTIN PETRISEK (Editor’s Note: Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of the Cardinal Newman Society, published this report on November 24. All rights reserved.) + + + In an unexpected turn of events, University of Notre Dame professor Fr. Bill Miscamble, CSC, has been forced to disassociate himself with a new project recommending Notre…Continue Reading

Conversion To Pro-Life

By DONALD DeMARCO Before Roe v. Wade, but when the abortion issue was being hotly contested, certain pro-life leaders in Canada, as well as in the United States, told me that once people realized what abortion entails, the controversy would be settled solidly in favor of life. The plausible assumption in the minds of these…Continue Reading

How An Americanist/Modernist Continued To Undermine Catholic Teaching

By JAMES LIKOUDIS The author of Pilgrim Church: A Popular History of Catholic Christianity (Revised & Expanded; Twenty-Third Publications, 1989) that continues to circulate in Catholic parishes is Fr. William J. Bausch, who may be remembered by veterans of the sex education battles of the 1970s for his book A Boy’s Sex Life when he…Continue Reading

The End Of Obamaworld

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN In denouncing Republicans as “scared of widows and orphans,” and castigating those who prefer Christian refugees to Muslims coming to America, Barack Obama has come off as petulant and unpresidential. Clearly, he is upset. And with good reason. He grossly, transparently underestimated the ability of ISIS, the “JV” team, to strike…Continue Reading

The Fictional Islamic State

By JUDE DOUGHERTY There is reason to believe that the so-called “Islamic State” is a fictional being rather than a reality. A state has borders, a central government, and a bureaucratic structure. None of this has been claimed for ISIS, although some have spoken of ISIS as a proto-state. What we have in fact is…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . Critique Of Church Art Is Not Comment On Sponsors’ Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK I recently received a phone call in which I was informed that a tweeted comment of mine on the Twitter social network about the interaction between some chapel visitors and sacred art recently installed therein had, in effect, called into question the faith of that chapel’s proprietors in the Real Presence. Although I did not…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course . . . The Rule Of Faith Is The Church’s Teaching Authority

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 30 In order to finish the discussion on the revolution caused by Martin Luther nearly 500 years ago, let us consider his first major dogma, namely, sola Scriptura. Any Catholic — especially The Wanderer readers — who want to take their faith seriously and apply the criteria laid down by John Paul II in…Continue Reading

The Communion Of Saints

By DON FIER For the past six weeks, we have examined and elaborated upon the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) on a state of life embraced by many loyal followers of Christ who have freely responded to a special call to follow with radical fidelity the way of life that the Lord Himself led. These generous…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I know the word “friend” appears many times in the Bible, but sometimes it is capitalized. For example, at daily Mass today there was a reading from 1st Maccabees which said that King Antiochus, who was about to die, “called in all his Friends” to tell them of his tribulations, and he chose Philip, “one of his Friends,” to…Continue Reading

The New Jerusalem

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday Of Advent (YR C) Readings: Baruch 5:1-9 Phil. 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6 In the Gospel reading today we hear about the preaching of St. John the Baptist. However, unlike what we read in the other Gospels, St. Luke does not record the Baptist as saying that he is the voice in the desert calling…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Maria Virgo

By CAROLE BRESLIN When I visited my aunt in St. Louis, Mo., we would visit the basilicas, the museums, and other places of interest. She had many sites near her that were particularly special to her, such as her parish, The Little Flower, in Richmond Heights. In addition, she described a place where she frequently went for eucharistic adoration at…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Raphael Kalinowski

By CAROLE BRESLIN There are many terms we use in our language which are clichés. We hear people say that somebody “kicked the bucket,” meaning that he has died, or “I’ll send you to outer Mongolia,” meaning that they will ship you so far away no one will find you. Fr. Kalinowski not only went to a place just north…Continue Reading