Top 10 Reasons Catholics should think about the Roman Empire...
There’s a Tik Tok trend happening right now where women film themselves asking their husbands or boyfriends how often they think about the Roman Empire. To their astonishment, women are finding that many men, when asked how often they think of the Roman Empire, respond ‘every day’ or ‘at least once a week’.
Given that God made us different, that men are more interested in the Roman Empire than women is not a surprise. But would it make a difference if those men and women were Roman Catholics? It should.
Here are the top 10 reasons why all Catholic men and women should think about the Roman Empire…
1. Crucifixion, Jesus and Roman Pontiffs:
Crucifixion was perfected by the Romans to kill criminals and anyone who presented a challenge to their rule. We are Roman Catholics because Peter went to Rome and was crucified there. Everytime we see a crucifix we are reminded of Jesus, Peter and of the cruelty of the Romans. When we think about Peter we think about the pope or the Vatican. Because we are ROMAN Catholic, we think of the Roman Empire.
2. The Danger of Decadence and Cultural Decline:
Nero and Caligula stand out as the two emperors whose corruption reached a level of evil that one can only describe as satanic. Caligula is known for his sexual proclivity for incestuous perversion and it was Nero who set Rome ablaze only to blame and condemn the Christians to death. Catholics think about these Romans because they see the parallel to our own culture and blatant political corruption. When we fret over the direction our country is heading, we think of the fall of the Roman Empire.
3. Moral Courage and Sacrifice:
The Coliseum, the martyrs and gladiators are still fresh in our Catholic minds. Every Holy Week the stations of the cross are led at the Coliseum by the Holy Father. For Christians it stands as a consecrated monument to the martyrs who were fed to the lions and forced to engage in gladiatorial violence to quench the blood thirst of the Roman ruling class. When we think of these martyrs we think of their blood as the seed of the church and how it grew so fast, throughout the Roman Empire.
4. Discipline, Hierarchy and Organization:
The Roman roads, the aqueducts, the architecture and city planning alone set a precedent to meet which even modern city planners have fallen short. For the idea of a diocesian, hierarchical structure of church governance we have the Romans to thank. When Catholics value meticulous planning and attention to detail in how we worship and organize our parishes and schools, we should think of the Roman Empire.
5. The Danger of Moral Relativism and Political Cowardice:
Every Sunday, in the creed, we hear and proclaim that Jesus ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate’. Pilate represents the archetypal cruelty that weak men perpetuate. He saved his own skin by sentencing Jesus. The real lesson is not so much the cowardice as the cruelty that is born from a morally relativistic worldview. It was Pilate who asked Jesus ‘what is truth?’. In an age when people elevate feelings over truth we should remember Pontius Pilate. This is why Catholics think of the Roman Empire when we think of the necessity of objective truth as our moral pillar.
6. Conversion and Second Chances:
Cornelius and Longinus were the original 'Roman Catholics'. The Romans were not all anti-Christian. They were human beings and non-Jewish Gentiles like us. Some were moved by their encounter with Jesus. Longinus who pierced our Lord's side and saw the sky change and the earth shake, said, “Truly this was the Son of God”. The first Roman to be baptized, Cornelius was also a centurion. Without that key precedent being set we may never have had a ‘catholic’ (universal) church.Catholics think of these Romans when we think of our need for spiritual conversion and the possibility of getting a second chance with God. .
7. Stoicism and Ancient Wisdom:
Marcus Aurelius, more than any other ancient thinker, gave us a system of thought and a lifestyle that embraced suffering and pain as potentially beneficial. Combined with the ancient Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, Aurelius contributed to the philosophical foundation of Catholic Faith. When we need to just suck it up with more action and less words, we Catholics should think of stoicism and the Roman Empire.
8. Leadership and Valor:
Julius Caesar stands out as the greatest leader of men in the ancient world. No one who studies leadership or military history skips his story. His autobiography teaches us how to manage our lives with the discipline and precision of a military campaign. His love of his men and his willingness to be an example demonstrate true leadership by showing us that sometimes in life we must cross the Rubicon. When we are called to be leaders in the face of adversity we think of Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire that he helped spawn.
9. St. Paul and the Letter to the Romans:
Many weekday and Sunday readings at Mass begin with the words, “A reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans”. His letter to the Romans was his longest and some argue his most theologically rich as it relates to sin and grace. When we think of Saint Paul walking the stone-paved Roman roads and how he poured himself until the end to convert the Gentiles in cities like Corinth and Ephesus, we think of the Roman Empire.
10. Latin, Symbolism and Insignia:
The power and mystery of the Latin language against the backdrop of symbolic color combinations has remained a sign of authentic Catholic liturgy. Our Catholic basilicas, vestments, prayers and Latin language all have a Roman character. When we see the Roman letters, numbers, words, and symbolism etched into the marble and sandstone of the catacombs, such as the fish and the anchor, we Catholics think of the Roman Empire.