Ineffabilis Deus


Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied;
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature’s solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven’s blue coast;
Thy Image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in Thee
Of mother’s love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!

William Wordsworth








Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854.


God Ineffable — whose ways are mercy and truth, whose will is omnipotence itself, and whose wisdom “reaches from end to end mightily, and orders all things sweetly” — having foreseen from all eternity the lamentable wretchedness of the entire human race which would result from the sin of Adam, decreed, by a plan hidden from the centuries, to complete the first work of his goodness by a mystery yet more wondrously sublime through the Incarnation of the Word. This he decreed in order that man who, contrary to the plan of Divine Mercy had been led into sin by the cunning malice of Satan, should not perish; and in order that what had been lost in the first Adam would be gloriously restored in the Second Adam. From the very beginning, and before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for his only-begotten Son a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, he would be born into this world. Above all creatures did God so loved her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight. Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully. Continue Reading


Old Ironsides and Pio Nono


(Hattip to The American Catholic commenter Wayward Sailor who first alerted me to this incident.)

1849 was a banner year for Pius IX.  Chased out temporarily from the Papal States that year due to a revolution, he also became the first pope to set foot on US soil.  On June 7, 1849, the USS Constitution under Captain John Gwinn made a port call at Naples.  All of Italy was up in arms, revolutions raging throughout the peninsula and not just in the Papal States.  Throw in the Austrians and the French, and there was a great deal of politics and war for the Americans in the Mediterranean to worry about.  The USS Constitution was in Naples to make the point that American neutrals would be protected.  The commander of the American Mediterranean Squadron, Commodore Charles W. Morgan, arrived at Naples on July 25 in the ultra modern side steam frigate USS Mississippi.  He vetoed a proposal of US diplomats that the Constitution sail to Gaeta for a visit of the ship by the Pope and King Ferdinand II of Naples.  The US wished to stay neutral in the conflict between the Pope and King Ferdinand and the revolutionaries they were facing.  Instead, he ordered the Constitution to sail to Messina, Sardinia and then Northern Italy, to protect US neutrals in these locations.  He then steamed for Tunis.

On July 30, the US Charge John Rowan paid a courtesy call, along with the ship’s surgeon of the Constitution, on King Ferdinand to congratulate him on the birth of a child by his queen.  During the meeting he extended an invitation to the King to visit the Constitution.  It is unclear whether at this time he was aware of Commodore Morgan’s order against such a visit.  Captain Gwinn, apparently deciding to follow the instructions of Rowan rather than the orders of Morgan, sailed for Gaeta with Rowan on board on July 31 and arrived there early on August 1.  Going on to Rome, Rowan extended an invitation to Pius on August 1 to visit the Constitution. Continue Reading


Pio Nono: First Pope to be Photographed

A liberal pope, that’s the most egregious thing I can imagine!

Metternich’s reaction upon hearing of the election of Pius IX


Pio Nono is often regarded in secular histories as a hopeless reactionary.  That is as misguided as the Metternich quote above, when the Pope was regarded as a liberal at the beginning of his reign.  Pio Nono was Pio Nono, and it is mistaken to attempt to place him into a secular box.

In regard to technology, and the 19th century was in many ways a time period when technology was changing in a more revolutionary fashion than our own day, Pius tended to eagerly embrace it.  Photography was a prime example of this.  Before the reign of Pius, the pope to almost all Catholics outside of the hierarchy was a fairly shadowy and mysterious figure.  Most had little idea of what the pope looked like, and while his office was understood as important, the man behind the office was a question mark.



Pio Nono changed that.  He used the new science of photography to form a link between himself and the average Catholic.  The first Pope photographed, Pio Nono sent out many autographed photographs of himself.  It was a rare rectory by the end of the reign of Pio Nono that did not have a picture of the Pope.

Pio Nono understood the value of what we call public relations.  He once acknowledged that he was the number one attraction for tourists in Rome.  He also had a sharp sense of humor, telling the Anglican bishop of the Mediterranean that he found himself living in the bishop’s diocese!  We can see this understanding of the attraction of his personality in some of his photographs: Continue Reading


Jefferson Davis and Pio Nono

Jefferson Davis was always a friend to Catholics.  In his youth as a boy he studied at the Saint Thomas School at the Saint Rose Dominican Priory in Washington County Kentucky.  While there Davis, the only Protestant student, expressed a desire to convert.  One of the priests there advised the boy to wait until he was older and then decide. Davis never converted, but his early exposure to Catholicism left him with a life long respect for the Faith.

When the aptly named anti-Catholic movement the Know-Nothings arose in the 1840s and 1850s, Davis fought against it, as did his great future adversary Abraham Lincoln.

During the Civil War, Pope Pius wrote to the archbishops of New Orleans and New York, praying that peace would be restored to America.  Davis took this opportunity to write to the Pope:

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