Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pope Nicholas ~ Rooster and Pro-Life Thoughts

POPE NICHOLAS I required that all churches carry an image of the cockerel (rooster) somewhere on the church walls inside or out. The reason is debated: was he just pressing the authority of St. Peter and the Papacy? I don't know. Maybe he was honest enough to acknowledge that the Church, like Peter, often denies Jesus in practice. I say often because Peter denied knowing Jesus three times in quick succession and the history of the Church is filled with sad, Christ-denying stories.

As we see in this photograph there is a stylized crowing rooster perched on the steeple of the church which was built long after Pope Nicholas. In Europe, Protestant churches often have roosters instead of crosses atop steeples to distinguish them from Catholic Churches. That might seem a little silly. We might better consider humbly how often as Christians we act as if we don't even know Jesus: our arrogance, power abuse, greed, bad alliances, lies, even criminality. Father forgive.

But there is more, because to be real followers of Jesus, we need to learn again what mercy is. Mercy doesn't mean: "I could have you thrown in jail for your crime, but I'll spare you and have mercy." For all the talk about Divine Mercy in the Church today, I wonder if we know that mercy refers to God's kindness. It's kindness that's in short-supply. Often we meet Christians, even those who call themselves pro-life, who are death penalty advocates. That's a problem. Here's a pro-life message from 9th century Nicholas we might grow into:

So also you, having been called by God and illumined by His light, must not be eager to inflict death as before, but rather you should seize every opportunity to summon all to life both of body and soul; and as Christ has brought you to life from the death in which you were imprisoned, so you too must seek to snatch from death not only the innocent but even all the guilty.

Pro-life folks ought to be front-of-the-line advocates for prison reform. The United States comprises 5% of the world's population but 47% of the world's prisoners. Speaking with a man in jail recently he leaned over near my ear across the counter and said softly, "There's nothing happening in here to help people to reform." 

The Catholic Church in the United States once created its own massive and effective school system. Maybe we should have our own method and approach to prisoner rehabilitation, born of God's kindness. 


  1. "There's nothing happening in here to help people to reform." How sad! But it got me thinking. (Father Stephen's posts always do.) What if WE showed God's kindness from the OUTSIDE, IN? My little town in Pennsylvania has an Adult Literacy Program at our public library. Volunteers are paired up with prison inmates seeking to earn their GED's. But volunteers are always needed. Churches have prison ministries to bring the Word of God and His mercies inside jail walls. But volunteers are always needed. I have had conversations with friends about this very topic. We are inspired to help, but something holds us back. "It's outside my comfort zone!" or "I would be scared!" We need to break through our own prison walls of fear by trusting God. Then we can reach out to inmates with God's kindness. May WE step forward and be those volunteers!

    "I was in prison and you visited me." ~Jesus

  2. I agree with what you are saying. People look at prison as a punishment rather than a way to rehabilitate and facilitate reentry into the outside world. There are a large number of prisoners who could lead productive lives if given the chance. Instead, people are locked up and left to be. What becomes of them when they get out and have nowhere to turn, and no skill or desire to turn their lives around?

  3. You've made me think about this in a way I never would have. My eyes are opened to widespread problem that I never thought about. Sad to say, but, there must be many issues like this.

  4. Yes. There are. The term pro-life attends to many, many issues.