THE ORIGIN OF THE MONTH OF AUGUST
The Month of August contains within itself the memory of the glories of Ancient Rome. In the Year 27 B.C. the Roman Senate bestowed upon Julius Caesar’s nephew Octavian the title of “Augustus”, acknowledging his supreme power as the first Emperor of Rome. The fifth month of the Roman Year had already been re-named for Julius Caesar, the Month of July, so Julius Caesar Octavian Augustus had the next month, the sixth month of the Roman Year, re-named for him under his new title, hence we have the Month of August. After all these centuries this relic of Emperor Caesar Augustus’s self-exaltation remains with us still.
When Christ Our Lord was born in Bethlehem, Caesar Augustus was at the height of his power in Rome. Augustus died on the 19th day of his own month (August 19th) in the Year A.D. 14, succeeded by his step-son Tiberius. With great pomp his funeral procession made its way to Rome along the Appian Way. The last act of his reign was a formal decree by the Roman Senate which declared Augustus to be now added to the number of gods recognized by the Roman state.
The Roman Catholic Church has not been unmindful of the association of this Month of August with the Roman Emperor-god Augustus in the development of her liturgical life. On August 1st she consecrated the day to a special feast in honor of the Apostle St. Peter who was martyred in Rome under the Emperor Nero. This is the Feast of St. Peter’s Chains, which commemorates Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison in Jerusalem, as we read in the Twelfth Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Historically, Peter’s special deliverance from death about 12 years after the Ascension occurred at Eastertime.
But the Church placed her Feast of Peter at the beginning of Augustus’ month as a “statement”, shall we say, against the pagan pride of Rome. It is not the man-who-makes-himself-God who has the last word: rather, it is the religion of the God-made-Man, Jesus Christ Our Lord, who will come again in glory at His Second Advent.
The most important feast of the Church in August is, of course, this week’s coming feast: the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven, body and soul, celebrated at the very mid-point of August, August 15th. Mary Immaculate, the “handmaid of the Lord”, whose most pure Heart so full of grace always freely chose to do the will of God – Mary Immaculate is the most emphatic rebuke to the human pride exemplified by Caesar Augustus and the whole line of Rome’s emperor-gods.