Tuesday, October 27, 2009


St. Jude as we all know is the patron of “hopeless cases.” It’s interesting that the eve of his feast, and the feast itself, contained an historical “hopeless case” that worked out.

In the year 312, outnumbered 4 to 1, the army of Constantine camped some miles north of Rome. Wondering what to do and how things would turn out, he had a vision on the 27th of October, repeated that night in a dream: the appearance of a Chi-Rho emblem in the sun, with the words (in Greek) en tautô nika (we are perhaps more familiar with it in its Latin form, In hoc signo vinces).

The next day, the 28th, even though out-numbered, Constantine’s army won a victory over his rival, Maxentius; the battle of Saxa Ruba is better known to us today as the battle of the Milvian Bridge.

Needless to say, it was a turning point in western history. It led to the legalization of Christianity (and all other cults), granting freedom of worship. It led to the Council of Nicaea, summoned by Constantine and presided by him (even though he was not yet baptized!) to resolve the theological issue of the nature of the person of Christ. It led to the building of the new capital of the Eastern Empire, Constantinople (leaving the Bishop of Rome de facto in charge of the Western Empire). It led to the building of the great basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Paul’s, St. Peter’s, and San Lorenzo in Rome, as well as the basilica of the Incarnation in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

All this, because a man chose to believe a vision.

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