Thursday, October 31, 2002

For All the Secret Tzaddiks and Undercover Saints

SAINTS (by Matthew R. Brown)

It is the glory
of the Church
that it cannot
name
all the saints.

It is the glory
of the Church
that it cannot
remember
all the saints.

It is the glory
of Christ
that we cannot
count
all the saints.

Saints are found
behind all the rocks
of the
mountain.

Saints are found
among the trees
of the wood.

Saints hide in
blossoms,
ride birds, top clouds;
follow passages
under the
earth.

They sweep the floors
of the universe.

They take out the garbage
of the cosmos.

The seeds they scatter
soften and green the hillsides;

leaves open
their hands;
joyful beasts
wander among trees,
cling to grassy
slopes.

The faithful
cling to the roots
of the saints,
growing up
from the ground.
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Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Am I being daunting again? Proposed exercises for flabby souls

[07/05/2003 note: this 10/30/2002 post somehow disappeared from my site during the Blogger transition. I'm going to try to restore it by posting to the past........]

I've been just a little suprised by some of the feedback I've gotten about yesterday's posting: so many have said that my proposal for living a Catholic life is "hard," is "difficult to implement," is "utterly unrealistic." Maybe I'm just hopelessly naive, but I've always thought it was addictive. The more you do, the more you want, and eventually the more you need.

Maybe the problem is that folk think everything has to happen immediately, or they don't know where to start. But Catholic living is more like weight training: one doesn't start with the big barbell, one starts with the little 2 lb handweights and some sit-ups; after some months of work, doing a little more at a time while one's getting strong, one can consider using the big barbell.

So, I'm going to propose a starter set of spiritual exercises for the out-of-shape, a place to begin. [My commenters: feel free to comment with improvements]

First: Pray before doing anything else in the morning. Thank God for another day and give it to Him to use. My grandparents had the "morning offering" prayer taped to the bathroom mirror so they wouldn't forget even if they weren't quite awake yet. A prayer like the morning offering, and maybe the Benedictus canticle and, on Fridays, Psalm 51, will start a day off on the right foot.

Second: Do at least one of the "things Catholics do" every day. Here is the list.
Feed the hungry.
Give drink to the thirsty.
Clothe the naked.
Visit the imprisoned.
Shelter the homeless.
Visit the sick.
Bury the dead.
Admonish the sinner (but themselves first).
Instruct the ignorant.
Counsel the doubtful.
Comfort the sorrowful.
Bear wrongs patiently.
Forgive all injuries.
Pray for both the living and the dead.
The first seven listed are called the "corporal works of mercy" and the other seven the "spiritual works of mercy." I'm going to suggest starting with the "corporal" list, they're simpler and more straightforward. (And if you're spiritually out of shape, you're probably not ready for some of the other ones yet.) What you do does not need to be a great act, even the little things count.

Third: Make prayer a part of getting ready for bed, also. Go over your day with God looking over your shoulder: what was right, what wasn't, where you need help and grace, what you're sorry for. A good Act of Contrition, or maybe Psalm 130, with possibly the Magnificat canticle and a Marian hymn or prayer, and tuck yourself in in peace.

Fourth: If you haven't been to Confession in a long time, go! Most priests will be happy to help you if it's been so long you've forgotten how. Larger downtown parishes run by religious orders tend to have more generous confession times, if that's a problem. And if your life's so screwey that you can't be absolved, go anyway, maybe you're wrong; and if there's really Church law tangles to be untangled, the sooner started, the sooner done.

Try the "exercises for out-of-shape souls" for a month or two, and see what happens. Building spiritual muscles the slow and easy way......
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Am I being daunting again? Proposed exercises for flabby souls

I've been just a little suprised by some of the feedback I've gotten about yesterday's posting: so many have said that my proposal for living a Catholic life is "hard," is "difficult to implement," is "utterly unrealistic." Maybe I'm just hopelessly naive, but I've always thought it was addictive. The more you do, the more you want, and eventually the more you need.

Maybe the problem is that folk think everything has to happen immediately, or they don't know where to start. But Catholic living is more like weight training: one doesn't start with the big barbell, one starts with the little 2 lb handweights and some sit-ups; after some months of work, doing a little more at a time while one's getting strong, one can consider using the big barbell.

So, I'm going to propose a starter set of spiritual exercises for the out-of-shape, a place to begin. [My commenters: feel free to comment with improvements]

First: Pray before doing anything else in the morning. Thank God for another day and give it to Him to use. My grandparents had the "morning offering" prayer taped to the bathroom mirror so they wouldn't forget even if they weren't quite awake yet. A prayer like the morning offering, and maybe the Benedictus canticle and, on Fridays, Psalm 51, will start a day off on the right foot.

Second: Do at least one of the "things Catholics do" every day. Here is the list.
Feed the hungry.
Give drink to the thirsty.
Clothe the naked.
Visit the imprisoned.
Shelter the homeless.
Visit the sick.
Bury the dead.
Admonish the sinner (but themselves first).
Instruct the ignorant.
Counsel the doubtful.
Comfort the sorrowful.
Bear wrongs patiently.
Forgive all injuries.
Pray for both the living and the dead.
The first seven listed are called the "corporal works of mercy" and the other seven the "spiritual works of mercy." I'm going to suggest starting with the "corporal" list, they're simpler and more straightforward. (And if you're spiritually out of shape, you're probably not ready for some of the other ones yet.) What you do does not need to be a great act, even the little things count.

Third: Make prayer a part of getting ready for bed, also. Go over your day with God looking over your shoulder: what was right, what wasn't, where you need help and grace, what you're sorry for. A good Act of Contrition, or maybe Psalm 130, with possibly the Magnificat canticle and a Marian hymn or prayer, and tuck yourself in in peace.

Fourth: If you haven't been to Confession in a long time, go! Most priests will be happy to help you if it's been so long you've forgotten how. Larger downtown parishes run by religious orders tend to have more generous confession times, if that's a problem. And if your life's so screwey that you can't be absolved, go anyway, maybe you're wrong; and if there's really Church law tangles to be untangled, the sooner started, the sooner done.

Try the "exercises for out-of-shape souls" for a month or two, and see what happens. Building spiritual muscles the slow and easy way....
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The Victory of Thais: from the desert

There once was a courtesan from Egypt, whose scandalous sinful life was so notorious that even the saintly elderly bishop Paphnutius heard about it. The courtesan's name was Thais.

Called by the Spirit to a daring attempt to bring this notorious courtesan to her senses, Bishop Paphnutius went to see her, and asked to speak to her in private; she answered, "there is no one here but God." The bishop was very surprised that Thais acknowledged God's existence; she explained that she had been brought up as a Christian and had learned and believed that truth.

The bishop continued the conversation with great gentleness, and Thais began to tremble with deep remorse for her previous way of life. Resolving to renounce her past, she threw into a bonfire her extravagant wardrobe and all the other luxurious possessions she had gained through her life as a courtesan. At the holy bishop's recommendation, she entered a convent where she embraced total solitude, prayer, and strict penance to expiate her sins.

Just a few years later, Paul the Simple, a disciple of the great Abba Anthony, had a vision of the angels preparing a grand and splendid place in heaven. Paul assumed it was the place of his father Abba Anthony, but a voice corrected him: "Not so: this place is for Thais, the penitent.
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Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Aequalis Omnibus Caritas: for Robin

Yesterday (or was it the night before?) I said something politically incorrect but true over in Amy Welborn's comment boxes. I said that, however much we disagreed with them, the CTA folk and the Wanderers who are coming to town this weekend are still Catholics. One of the more polite and merciful of the crowd that rose up, named Robin, challenged me to define what a Catholic is. And I did.

A Catholic (1) has been baptized in the Church, or has been received into the Church and chrismated/confirmed after having been baptized elsewhere, (2) does not publicly and stubbornly deny any of the truths in the Creed, and (3) hasn't left (gone to SSPX or Spiritus Christi or etc.) and hasn't been thrown out by the bishop.

Robin still wasn't very happy with me: this definition includes every cultural Catholic and cafeteria picker and "carried in." And it ought to, because they are all Catholics. They may be uninstructed Catholics or mistaken Catholics or Catholics who are bad examples, but they are still Catholic, and they are still our siblings.

Declaring anyone to be "not a Catholic" is way beyond my pay-grade as canonically-incorrect quasi-religious, dead bottom of the Church authority ladder by choice and calling. Only the bishop can define somebody or some group as "not Catholic" --- not any of us in Amy's comment boxes. Yet even bringing out the definition of Catholic is awfully close to that poor excuse of a question "what is the bare minimum I have to do to be saved?" and Robin is right to be a mite disappointed with the situation. What's to be done about it?

First, we admit that our brothers and sisters are our brothers and sisters; even the ones we scream at across the dinner table. (Dare I say, even those who've run away from home and are getting lost in the wilderness of places the bishop is not?) We have a duty to care, we don't get an easy out by defining "them" out of the family. They may be prodigals and problem children and pains in the posterior, but they are _our_ prodigals and problem children and pains.

Second, we ourselves set out to live a maximal, not a minimal, Catholic life. We have a rule of prayer we follow every day. We assist at Eucharist as often as we can. We take advantage of Reconciliation frequently. We pay attention when our pastor or our bishop attempts to teach us. We are obedient. We beg the saints to pray for us. We do those "things Catholics do," otherwise known as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We pray for mercy for ourselves, and we do not judge others. And we set out to do this with a joyful heart and all our strength.

Third, we invite others to share in our joy, and to be supported by the strength we are developing. Our lives should show to those we know and meet that the Lord's love is the one thing that really matters in the end, even if we never speak a word. That the Lord's mercy and covenant fidelity are forever, no matter how many times I fail. We bring others to love the same One we love, "who is all-good and deserving of all my love." Learning the ways of the One we love beyond all else and living in a way worthy of one who is loved by Him follow as surely as sunrise follows night.
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Saturday, October 26, 2002

Wisdom from three wise people

Something's nudging the back of my brain that these three gems go together, but I don't quite have that figured yet, watch this space, maybe, the next few days. They're just so good, though, I'll stick them up here now, and worry about the great synthesis later.

First, from Flannery O'Connor [the index card says I got this via Ut Unum Sint]:

Christ was crucified on earth and the Church is crucified by all of us, by her members most particularly, because she is a church of sinners. Christ never said that the Church would be operated in a sinless or intelligent way, but that it would not teach error. This does not mean that each and every priest won't teach error, but that the whole Church speaking through the Pope will not teach error in matters of faith. The Church is founded on Peter who denied Christ three times and couldn't walk on the water by himself. You are expecting his successors to walk on the water.

Second, from Venerable John Henry Newman in 1841:

....however great are the disorders of this present age, and though the unbelieving seek and find not, yet to the humble and lowly, the earnest-minded and pure in heart, the Lord God of Elijah still reveals Himself. The Presence of Christ is still among us, in spite of our many sins and the sins of our people.

Third, from Abraham Joshua Heschel:

A soul without regular prayer is a soul without a home. Weary, sobbing, the soul, after roaming through a world festering with aimlessness, falsehoods, and absurdities, seeks a moment in which to gather up its scattered life.....in which to call for help without being a coward. Such a home is prayer.
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Some help for stepping forward faithfully and being not afraid (and never losing heart)

Gerard Serafin has graced us with this essay, Some Steps in Dealing with Tragedy and Crisis. A word [as in, "Abba, give me a word, that I may live."] from the crucible of experience and the depths of the heart. Do not miss it.
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One week to go....

.....until the Weekend of the Wandering Actionites.

Next weekend, the Midwest Express Center will host the national conference of a purported "reform" group called A Call to Action, or CTA. This has happened pretty much annually for many years (but they skipped last year, it was a major anniversary for then so they had conferences in larger cities than Milwaukee).

By tradition, a second "reform" group, called Wanderer Forum, has its annual gathering on the same weekend, also here in Milwaukee. So there are demonstrators and counter-demonstrators and counter-counter-demonstrators and a public exposition of all the worst aspects of old-fashioned Catholic faction-fighting.

Forget basic edification. Abandon making "every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force."

So, pray for Milwaukee especially this coming week. As we all know and were reminded of in yesterday's lectionary reading, there is only "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all"; for CTA folk and Wanderers and all the rest of us together.

The Church is one body with Christ as the head. It is not for us to see how many pieces we can dismember her into!
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Thursday, October 24, 2002

A Story of Abba Macarius; from the desert

When Abba Macarius dwelt in the great desert, he was the only one living as an anchorite, but lower down there was another desert where several brothers dwelt. The old man was surveying the road when he saw Satan drawing near in the likeness of a man and he passed by his dwelling. He seemed to wearing some kind of cotton garment, full of holes, and a small flask hung at each hole. The old man said to him, "Where are you off to?" He said, "I am going to stir up the memories of the brethren." The old man said, "And what is the purpose of these small flasks?" He replied, "I am taking food for the brethren to taste." The old man said, "All those kinds?" He replied, "Yes, for if a brother does not like one sort of food, I offer him another, and if he does not like the second any better, I offer him the third, and of all these varieties he will like one at least." With these words he departed.

The old man remained watching the road until he saw him coming back again. When the old man saw him, he said to him, "Good health to you." The other replied, "How can I be in good health?" The old man asked him what he meant, and he replied, "Because they all opposed me, and no one received me." The old man said, "Ah, you did not find any friends down there?" He replied, "Yes, I have a monk who is a friend down there. He at least obeys me, and when he sees me he changes like the wind." The old man asked him the name of this monk. "Theopemtus," he replied. With these words he went away.

Then Abba Macarius got up and went to the desert below his own. When they heard of it the brothers took branches of palm to go to meet him. Each one got ready, thinking that it was to him that the old man was coming down. But he enquired which was the one on the mountain called Theopemtus, and when he had found out he went to his cell. Theopemtus received him with joy. When he was alone with him the old man asked him, "How are you getting on?" Theopemtus replied, "Thanks to your prayers, all goes well." The old man asked, "Do not your thoughts war against you?" He replied, "Up to now, it is all right," for he was afraid to admit anything. The old man said to him, "See how many years I have lived as an ascetic, and am praised by all, and though I am old, the spirit of fornication troubles me." Theopemtus said, "Believe me, Abba, it is the same with me." The old man went on admitting that other thoughts still warred against him, until he had brought him to admit them about himself. Then he said, "How do you fast?" He replied, "Till the ninth hour." "Practice fasting a little later, meditate on the Gospel and the other Scriptures, and if an alien thought arises within you, never look at it but always look upwards, and the Lord will come at once to your help." When he had given the brother this rule, the old man returned to his solitude.

He was watching the road once more when he saw the devil, to whom he said, "Where are you going this time?" He replied, "To arouse the memories of the brothers," and he went away. When he came back the saint asked him, "How are the brothers?" He replied that it had gone badly. They old man asked him why. He replied, "They are all obdurate, and the worst is the one friend I had who used to obey me. I do not know what has changed him, but not only does he not obey me any more, but he has become the most obdurate of them all. So I have promised myself not to go down there again, at least not for a long time from now." When he had said this, he went away leaving the old man, and the saint returned to his cell.
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Wednesday, October 23, 2002

How and why we pray: this week's Office of Readings

This week's Office of Readings readings are from a letter of St. Augustine to Proba, all about how and why we pray. Yesterday's passage was an exposition on the Lord's Prayer, and today's about how all rightly prayed prayers are in fact included in the petitions of the Our Father. Today's selection concludes:

We must search out the life of happiness, we must ask for it from the Lord our God. Many have discussed at great length the meaning of happiness, but surely we do not need to go to them and their long drawn out discussions. Holy Scripture says concisely and with truth: Happy is the people whose God is the Lord. We are meant to belong to that people, and to be able to see God and live with him for ever, and so the object of this command is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience and a sincere faith.

In these three qualities, "a good conscience" stands for "hope." Faith, hope, and love bring safely to God the person who prays, that is, the person who believes, who hopes, who desires, and who ponders what he is asking of the Lord in the Lord's Prayer.

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An Upside-Down Way of the Cross

Yesterday, browsing around some favorite websites, I discovered this gem in a crevice on Lisa Basarab's site, The Feast of All Saints. Thank you, Lisa B, for bringing such a unique perspective to prayer.
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A little adventure in consumerism....

For the first time last night, I bought some books from Amazon.com. I just couldn't do without some basic reference books any more.

I wasn't just a public library worker, I was a public library user, and I depended upon the library copies of so many things. But it has been more than a year since I've been able to go to the library. I also used to haunt used bookstores, where I'd buy the ugly-looking copies because they read the same as the pretty copies but didn't cost as much. But wheelchairs and used bookstores just don't mix: tall shelving, narrow aisles with piles, and so on .... so I took a new adventure, buying new books from a retail book supplier. Now the wait for the boxes to show up on the porch, and the bill to show up too .....
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Monday, October 21, 2002

from a REBORN listserv discussion: why are we obedient, and where is the joy?

this was written for REBORN this afternoon, where someone had asked the title question. Praise God for REBORN and all the other little gatherings where we can speak about God in relative peace and safety.

Dear [name], and the rest of the gang, peace and good.

You wrote three reasons for being obedient to the Lord. Summarized as 1) don't want to go to hell, 2) know God will make life miserable, and 3) God's the boss.

I'd like to add a fourth: God's my first love. He is all-good and deserves all my love. So I want to do all things to please him, and nothing that would displease him or that would be unworthy of being loved by him. I fail a lot, but fortunately he's a very forgiving lover, I refuse to give up reaching up for his embrace, and he refuses to give up on me.

That awful night in a strange neighborhood in the back seat of the Youth for Christ leaders' car was the first time I was truly aware of this --- though I knew and believed the words (no cradle-Catholic can avoid it, it's part of the standard prayer set memorized by small children). The folk who've been here at REBORN a while know the incident: as a young teenager carpooling home from a Jesus music concert, I was taken to a area I didn't know and was refused going home until I denied that Jesus was a part of my life and recited the "sinner's prayer" with them. So I'm inconsolably weeping in the back seat, having just been an absolute failure, denying the Lord had any place in my life, while the two grownups are singing praises in the front seat; and I just could not see how Jesus and I could ever be on decent terms again after this ---forgiven, yes, but truly restored, not really. Except it was, yes really! The Lord was still there for me as I wept, though it took a month's work with a really good confessor before I could forgive myself, Jesus was not so tardy about his forgiveness. All kinds of things are important, but the only thing that really matters in the end is that I love Jesus and Jesus loves me, everything he loves I must come to love, and everything that is disappointing or loathesome to him must be put far away from me, no matter how often I fail at that.

We fall down, and we get up. If we are fortunate, we get a brushing-off and a hug. And we keep going, until we fall down and get up again.

karen marie
http://kmknapp.blogspot.com/
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"O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power and idle talk; but give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins, and not to judge my brother, for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen." ---- Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian

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Saturday, October 19, 2002

More about our crosses

I wrote in Flos Carmeli's comment box a while ago:
"We accept and embrace our crosses
and offer up our sufferings as a gift,
as a sacrificial offering.
Elsewise we are bound to them
resisting and unwilling,
and we are crushed and broken by them.
Not having a cross is not one of the options."

In holy baptism we are anointed,
as Christ was anointed,
prophet, and king, and priest.

In the same way that the sons of Aaron were priests,
offering the sacrifices in the Lord's Temple;
yet the people Israel
(all of them, not only Aaron's sons)
were a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart;

there are the presbyters and the bishops,
priests forever,
at their hands offering our Eucharist;
yet all the baptized are truly priests,
offering gifts in sacrifice to God.

Set beside that one great Offering
that the Eucharist makes always present for us,
our offerings are so small, so imperfect;
but they are ours to give, nonetheless.

The Lord Jesus, when He took up His cross,
was totally and perfectly innocent.
We are not.
In fact, our crosses are in part constructed
from our own sins and stupidities and rotten choices.
And yet,
our Lord permits us to bear our burdens beside Him.
Actually, He commands us to do so.
"Take up your cross, and follow me."

We are allowed, actually invited,
to join our offering with His own:
it is what we are baptized to do,
to make our offering to God
along with that of His Son.

St. Paul said in one of his letters
that our own offerings
would make up what was lacking in the suffering of Christ.
How can the suffering of Christ be lacking?
Yet, we are invited; Christ knows Christ's business.

We embrace our crosses every day
and make of our suffering and our dying
(that's what crosses are for: for dying on)
a sacrificial offering to God,
and we become more and more conformed to Jesus,
and more and more empty of the trivia we collect,
then we can be filled with the Lord, Himself;
the One we claim for our prize, our pearl.
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Friday, October 18, 2002

Saying "Be not afraid" is easier than doing it....

Last week I received an email from a correspondent who knew our archbishop before he came to us. My correspondent wrote in his email that my name had come up in conversation, and that I must contact my archbishop.

Since then, I've been trying to figure out what in the world to say. It feels like getting called to the principal's office. I don't want to be a pest or a nuisance, and I know I am one of the more odd sheep in this flock of his; but my job is to keep him and this city and this archdiocese prayed for, so I know he has a right to know I exist.....

The transit van's taking me to the Cathedral very early on Sunday morning; I'll spend time before and after Eucharist sitting in front of the tabernacle with the Lord about this, and then, for weal or woe, I'll send an email to archbishopdolan@archmil.org.

Deep breath, another one;
hold hands and match stride with our Lady, Mother of the Church;
step forward faithfully, be not afraid.....
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What we know about St. Luke, evangelist

1) He faithfully served St. Paul on his journeys. Today's reading from 2 Timothy lists lots of folk who went somewhere, got sent elsewhere, fell in love with the world and ran off yonder, and so on, concluding with "only Luke is with me still."

2) He was, by profession, a physician. St. Paul mentions "my beloved physician" in passing in another one of his letters.

3) There is a very strong pious tradition that he was a portrait painter for a hobby, and that he was the first iconographer.

4) He was a writer, and a good one. He was the author of both the Gospel that bears his name and the Acts of the Apostles. He especially prided himself on his complete and accurate research, read the first paragraphs of his Gospel! And he had an ear for poetry: all three gospel canticles are from his Gospel.

5) He listened to and paid attention to women. In both his books, there is information he would never have known to write unless he attended to the women who knew that information; especially Mary the mother of Jesus, but others as well (....Dorcas, Rhoda, Prisca, Lydia.....).

St. Luke, pray with us and for us in the words you recorded for us:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel
for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

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Thursday, October 17, 2002

Where the bishop, there the Church: St. Ignatius of Antioch

When St. Peter left Antioch to move to Rome, St. Ignatius became the new bishop there, where the followers of the Lord were first called Christians. Ignatius served as bishop there in diligence and holiness, until he was arrested and sent to Rome for trial and for martyrdom. On his way to Rome, he wrote seven letters to individuals and to local Churches along the way, reminding them of the truths of the faith, seeking their prayers, and asking especially the Romans not to do anything to prevent the workings of "justice" in his case. These letters still lift us up in our days, and the Church gives us many opportunities to read them in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Some of the things St. Ignatius wrote:

[to the Magnesians:]
I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end was revealed. Do ye all then, imitating the same divine conduct, pay respect to one another, and let no one look upon his neighbour after the flesh, but do ye continually love each other in Jesus Christ. Let nothing exist among you that may divide you ; but be ye united with your bishop, and those that preside over you, as a type and evidence of your immortality.

As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent. Do ye therefore all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one.


[to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna:]

I entreat thee, by the grace with which thou art clothed, to press forward in thy course, and to exhort all that they may be saved. Maintain thy position with all care, both in the flesh and spirit. Have a regard to preserve unity, than which nothing is better. Bear with all even as the Lord does with thee. Support all in love, as also thou doest. Give thyself to prayer without ceasing. Implore additional understanding to what thou already hast. Be watchful, possessing a sleepless spirit. Speak to every man separately, as God enables thee. Bear the infirmities of all, as being a perfect athlete [in the Christian life], even as does the Lord of all. For says [the Scripture], "He Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." Where the labour is great, the gain is all the more.

If thou lovest the good disciples, no thanks are due to thee on that account; but rather seek by meekness to subdue the more troublesome. Every kind of wound is not healed with the same plaster. Mitigate violent attacks [of disease] by gentle applications. Be in all things "wise as a serpent, and harmless always as a dove." For this purpose thou art composed of both soul and body, art both fleshly and spiritual, that thou mayest correct those [evils] that present themselves visibly before thee; and as respects those that are not seen, mayest pray that these should be revealed to thee, so that thou mayest be wanting in nothing, but mayest abound in every gift. The times call upon thee to pray. For as the wind aids the pilot of a ship, and as havens are advantageous for safety to a tempest-tossed vessel, so is also prayer to thee, in order that thou mayest attain to God. Be sober as an athlete of God, whose will is immortality and eternal life; of which thou art also persuaded.


[to the Trallians:]

For, since ye are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, ye appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, ye may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as ye indeed do, so without the bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.

Do ye therefore, clothing yourselves with meekness, become the imitators of His sufferings, and of His love, wherewith He loved us when He gave Himself a ransom for us, that He might cleanse us by His blood from our old ungodliness, and bestow life on us when we were almost on the point of perishing through the depravity that was in us. Let no one of you, therefore, cherish any grudge against his neighbour. For says our Lord, "Forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you." Give no occasion to the Gentiles, lest "by means of a few foolish men the word and doctrine [of Christ.] be blasphemed." For says the prophet, as in the person of God, "Woe to him by whom my name is blasphemed among the Gentiles."


[to the Philadelphians:]

Wherefore, as children of light and truth, flee from division and wicked doctrines; but where the shepherd is, there do ye as sheep follow. For there are many wolves that appear worthy of credit, who, by means of a pernicious pleasure, carry captive those that are running towards God; but in your unity they shall have no place.

Keep yourselves from those evil plants which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I have found any division among you, but exceeding purity. For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ.].

Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to [the will of] God.

My brethren, I am greatly enlarged in loving you; and rejoicing exceedingly [over you], I seek to secure your safety. Yet it is not I, but Jesus Christ, for whose sake being bound I fear the more, inasmuch as I am not yet perfect. But your prayer to God shall make me perfect, that I may attain to that portion which through mercy has been allotted me, while I flee to the Gospel as to the flesh of Jesus, and to the apostles as to the presbytery of the Church. And let us also love the prophets, because they too have proclaimed the Gospel, and placed their hope in Him, and waited for Him; in whom also believing, they were saved, through union to Jesus Christ, being holy men, worthy of love and admiration, having had witness borne to them by Jesus Christ, and being reckoned along with [us] in the Gospel of the common hope.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002

St. Gerard Majella: the scarlet A is for accused, and he opened not his mouth [1727-1755]

I wish to love God.
I wish always to be with God,
and to do everything for the love of God.
The center of all love for God
consists in giving ourselves entirely to God
by being in all things conformable to the divine will,
and remaining in this conformity for all eternity.


St. Gerard was a tailor, born to a family in that trade. He was still an apprentice when his father died; he became a servant in the household of a cantankerous bishop for a while, then he went back to his hometown and opened his own tailor shop.

In 1748 he entered the Redemptorist community as a lay-brother; the founder of the community, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, received his profession in 1752. Gerard served as tailor and infirmarian in the community, and became known for great holiness and charity, and for charisms of prophesy and infused knowledge; his advice and spiritual direction was sought after even though he was not a priest.

However, disaster was coming over the horizon.

In 1754, a woman whom Gerard had helped to enter the convent washed out of the convent, and to distract attention from her failure at religious life she accused Gerard of fornication and lechery, believably. When confronted with the charges, Gerard made no answer at all to them, and, the charges being credible, he was placed under every penalty short of expulsion from the community: close confinement and surveillance, no contact with the outside world, exclusion from communion..... and this went on for months and months. Finally, the accuser became gravely ill, and, believing herself to be dying, she admitted she had lied about Gerard. When St. Alphonsus asked Gerard why he had remained silent before the accusations, Gerard replied that he believed that was what was required in the face of unjust accusations; after all, Jesus did not answer Pilate, and the rule of the Redemptorists said that one was not to defend oneself from the charges of one's superior.

Not long after he was cleared of the charges, he died, of TB, in 1755 at the age of 29.

An interesting link to information on St. Gerard Majella is here
And another interesting link here.
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Tuesday, October 15, 2002

One of St. Teresa's less-heralded Great Acts: "Purissima," pfui!

In the houses of the discalced Carmelite reform that La Madre founded, there was one topic that was completely off-limits: any person's personal or familial history and its correctness or lack of same. In the Spain of Teresa's time, this was called a person's "purissima," and the entire society was obsessed by the subject, especially whether one had any ancestors who had been converts. Bringing up the subject of anyone's "purissima" was enough to be expelled from the community permanently.

And she was and is right.

All of us have been rescued by Christ from being lost in stupidity and sin, and are being restored to fullness of life in Him. All of us, regardless of fortunate or unfortunate history. Even me.
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"This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it."

Pondering the call made by I. Shawn McElhinney and the good example set by him and by E. Lane Core and by William Cork and others; knowing that where the bishop is, there is the holy Church which Christ has promised to protect; sick and tired of being pressured to proof-text my bishop when I won't even proof-text the Bible, and even more sick of having my orthodoxy called into question because I won't play "parse the sound-bite" against a bishop; (and assured by honourable Mr. McElhinney that he's not trying to found a gentlemen-only society); I will happily join them in professing the faith we share:

I, Karen Marie Jochebed Knapp, with firm faith believe and profess everything that is contained in the symbol of faith: namely,

I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

With firm faith I believe as well everything contained in God's word, written or handed down in tradition and proposed by the church--whether in solemn judgment or in the ordinary and universal magisterium--as divinely revealed and called for faith.

I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing that is proposed by that same church definitively with regard to teaching concerning faith or morals.

What is more, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate when they exercise the authentic magisterium even if they proclaim those teachings in an act that is not definitive.
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An icon of the "new martyrs" of the 20th century

Click on the headline to go to a marvelous icon of the twentieth century martyrs both East and West.

If you can read Italian, there's a description of the icon here.
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"Let nothing disturb thee": the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, La Madre

Today is the feast day of the great Doctor of the Church, Teresa of Avila. Of course, Gerard Serafin has beaten me to posting all the great stuff, so do not hesitate to visit his site.

One of her poems:

Nada te turbe,
nada te espante;
todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda.
La pacientia
todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene
nada la falta:
solo Dios basta.

Let nothing disturb you,
Nothing frighten you;
all things are passing,
God never changes.
Patient endurance
attains to all things.
The one who has God
finds nothing is wanting:
God alone suffices.
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Monday, October 14, 2002

courtesy of my friends at the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City (who keep the wondrous website Access to Catholic Social Justice Teachings linked in the sidebar):

Daily Prayers in Time of War

Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us according as we hope in thee.

Our Lady of Sorrows,
we pray for those who will die today
because of war, economic chaos, injustice, and exploitation,
especially the children.

Prepare them for the agony, despair,
and terror of the violence that is upon them.
Comfort them and hold them close to the
bosom of thy Wounded Heart as they drink deeply
of the bitter cup which is forced upon them.

Wipe their tears, calm their fears,
welcome them to peace and safety.
Eternal rest grant to them,
and may perpetual light shine upon them.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, help the helpless,
strengthen the fearful, comfort the sorrowful,
bring justice to the poor, peace to all nations,
and solidarity among all peoples.

Overturn the thrones of tyranny and scatter the unjust.
Cast down the bloody rulers who make the cry of
the widow and orphan rise to heaven.
Open our eyes to see the beauty, joy,
redemption, and goodness which comes
through obedience to the Gospel of your Son our Lord.

Teach us to be a refuge of hope for all
who are oppressed by injustice and violence.
Give us strength to stand against the
demonic powers which prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

Remember, St. Joseph, most humble and loving protector of the poor,
that no one ever had recourse to your protection
or asked your aid without obtaining relief.
Confiding therefore in your goodness,
we come before you and pray to you on behalf of all those at risk
today of war, economic catastrophe, and injustice..
Holy Joseph, help the helpless, comfort the dying,
bring justice to the poor, and peace to all nations.
Bless our enemies with reconciliation,
and bless our nation by removing from us the temptations of
empire, wealth, violence, and greed,
so that we might realize the promise of our ancestors and
be a blessing to all the peoples of this good earth.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our shield against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou,
O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God thrust into hell Satan
and all the evil spirits which prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

O Mary, bright dawn of the new world,
Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life:

Look down, O Mother,
upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son may
proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives
and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely,
in order to build, together with all people of good will,
the civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life. Amen.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.
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Saturday, October 12, 2002

A Hymn of St Ephrem the Syrian

I fall in adoration at Your feet, Lord!
I thank You, God of goodness;
God of holiness, I invoke You,
on my knees, in Your sight.

For me, an unworthy sinner,
You have willed to undergo the death of the Cross,
setting me free from the bonds of evil.

What shall I offer You in return for Your generosity?

Glory to You, friend of man!
Glory to You, most merciful!
Glory to You, most patient!
Glory to You, Who forgive sin!
Glory to You, Who have come to save us!
Glory to You, Who have been made man in the womb of a Virgin!
Glory to You, Who have been bound!
Glory to You, Who have have been scourged!
Glory to You, Who have been derided!
Glory to You, Who have been nailed to the Cross!
Glory to You, laid in the sepulchre, but risen again!
Glory to You, Who have preached the Gospel to men and have been believed!
Glory to You, Who have ascended to Heaven!
Glory to You, seated at the right hand of the Father,
and Who will return with Him, in majesty, among the angels,
to judge those who have disregarded your Passion!

The powers of Heaven will be shaken;
all the angels and archangels, the cherubim and seraphim
will appear in fear and trembling before Your glory;
the foundations of the earth will quake
and all that has life will cry out before Your majesty.

In that hour, let Your hand draw me beneath Your wings,
and save me from the terrible fire, from the gnashing of teeth,
from the outer darkness and from despair without end.
That I may sing to Your glory:
Glory to Him Who through His merciful goodness
has designed to redeem the sinner.
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Friday, October 11, 2002

The history of a Conciliar Kid

Today is [at least if my archbishop in yesterday's Catholic Herald is correct] the memorial day of Blessed John XXIII; and it is also the fortieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, of which I have only positive memories. I guess you could call me a conciliar kid!

I am _just_ old enough to remember the pre-conciliar days: the very first liturgical change happened the Sunday following my first communion, so we had to learn how to receive communion both ways, the way it would be on first communion day and the way it would be for the rest of our lives. The Latin Mass I remember and love is that "radical innovation" called the dialogue Mass, where the entire congregation answered and sang back in Latin. In preparation for a trip to see relatives in another diocese, my grandmother told me about the "old Mass," the one where the priest and the altar boy had Mass in the sanctuary and the congregation had rosary and devotions in the pews at the same time; as a kindergartener I thought that was _really_wierd_.

The Council was happening around me as I grew up. The various documents would come out, they would be read and preached on, Latin changed to English, the language got plainer and simpler, both for the good and for the bad. (Bring back the dew, the autumn and the spring rains, and the joy of our youth, but we can do without going back to "the sublime words falling from the Holy Father's august lips" for "the Pope said.")

Most of my classmates dropped out of CCD after fifth grade (and Confirmation), but those of us who stayed had a steady stream of fresh Church documents to ponder as the Council continued and then was implemented. I found it great fun, but then I was a nerd. By high school, there were only 5 or 6 of us in my CCD class, when there should have been 5 or 6 dozen, if all the 15-year-old Catholics were in religious ed.

My parish gave up on CCD when we turned sixteen; the half-dozen of us who were still there were put to work instead. By the rules then used in Cleveland Diocese, 16 years old + confirmed = adult. I ended up on the parish liturgy committee, learning about rubrics and appropriate music and illuminating my first manuscript (a scroll of the Christmas proclamation from the Roman Martyrology for the creche display). I also got my own paperback copy of the complete Documents of Vatican II as a present from my pastor! Of course I've worn it out and replaced it several times since 1973......

So, I'm a 100% true blue Conciliar Kid --- too old to fall for romantic tales of the good old days, too young to regret the passing of the good old days; remembering the excitement as each document of the Council and each post-conciliar encyclical and apostolic letter would be issued in those skinny little stapled booklets with the discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and how we would read them over and over again, and set out to live them.

And it all started 40 years ago today.
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Wednesday, October 09, 2002

On October 9th in 1845, Venerable John Henry Newman, after a long search and after writing a masterpiece on the theory of development in doctrine, was received into the Holy Catholic Church. In his memory, one of his meditations.

The Power of the Cross
from John Henry Newman's Meditations and Devotions

1) 0 my God, who could have imagined, by any light of nature, that it was one of Thy attributes to lower Thyself, and to work out Thy purposes by Thy own humiliation and suffering?

Thou hadst lived from eternity in ineffable blessedness. My God, I might have understood as much as this, that, when Thou didst begin to create and surround Thyself with a world of creatures, that these attributes would show themselves in Thee which before had no exercise.

Then too, Thou didst begin to show Thy wonderful and tender providence, Thy faithfulness, Thy solicitous care for those whom Thou hadst created. But who could have fancied that Thy creation of the universe implied and involved in it Thy humiliation?

0 my great God, Thou hast humbled Thyself, Thou hast stooped to take our flesh and blood, and hast been lifted up upon the tree! I praise and glorify Thee tenfold the more, because Thou hast shown Thy power by means of Thy suffering, than hadst Thou carried on Thy work without it.
It is worthy of Thy infinitude thus to surpass and transcend all our thoughts.

2) 0 my Lord Jesu, I believe, and by Thy grace will ever believe and hold, and I know that it is true, and will be true to the end of the world, that nothing great is done without suffering, without humiliation, and that all things are possible by means of it.

I believe, 0 my God, that poverty is better than riches, pain better than pleasure, obscurity and contempt than name, and ignominy and reproach than honour.

My Lord, I do not ask Thee to bring these trials on me, for I know not if I could face them; but at least, 0 Lord, whether I be in prosperity or adversity, I will believe that it is as I have said. I will never have faith in riches, rank, power, or reputation. I will never set my heart on worldly success or on worldly advantages. I will never wish for what men call the prizes of life. I will ever, with Thy grace, make much of those who are despised or neglected, honour the poor, revere the suffering, and admire and venerate Thy saints and confessors, and take my part with them in spite of the world.

3) And lastly, 0 my dear Lord, though I am so very weak that I am not fit to ask Thee for suffering as a gift, and have not strength to do so, at least I will beg of Thee grace to meet suffering well, when Thou in Thy love and wisdom dost bring it upon me.

Let me bear pain, reproach, disappointment, slander, anxiety, suspense, as Thou wouldest have me, 0 my Jesu, and as Thou by Thy own suffering hast taught me, when it comes. And I promise too, with Thy grace, that I will never set myself up, never seek pre-eminence, never court any great thing of the world, never prefer myself to others. I wish to bear insult meekly, and to return good for evil.

I wish to humble myself in all things, and to be silent when I am ill-used, and to be patient when sorrow or pain is prolonged, and all for the love of Thee, and Thy Cross, knowing that in this way I shall gain the promise both of this life and of the next.
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Tuesday, October 08, 2002

On our crosses, a beginning, written for Flos Carmeli

I occasionally rail at God about how much I utterly detest my trials. I haven't learned how to like being in pain and probably never will --- pain wouldn't do its job of warning us if we could come to like it. I consider it a victory that I'm coming to terms with becoming more dependent in my life and coming to be a burden to my friends and my family, but only coming to terms with it, still not happy over it.

Our crosses will be with us whether we accept them or not; we embrace and bear them willingly and offer up our suffering as a gift, a sacrificial offering; or we are strapped to them resisting and unwilling and they crush and break us. Not having a cross is not one of the options.

Holler at God if needed, He is great enough and strong enough, and He knows, He has done it Himself.
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Monday, October 07, 2002

Lord, about the foster home....

O Lord,
let me stay with the pariahs, please.

They are more kind, and more gentle.
They know Who has saved them
and from where their help comes.

I can't pretend I've been perfect all the time.
When I'm with the respectable people
I'm expected to pretend,
and I just can't anymore.

With the pariahs I don't have to pretend.
I can say, right out loud,
I hurt. I need help.
I've done wrong. I made a mistake.
I am weak and clumsy.
I can't do that by myself anymore.
And they put out their hands,
and they do not laugh and point.
They welcome and they do not ridicule,
they do not add shaming to shame.

They know Who has saved them
and from where their help comes.

Please don't make me go back to the respectable people.
I can't do proper and respectable any more.
I know I've been lost, and stuck, and fallen down.
I know Who has saved me.
I know from where comes my help.

Let me stay with the ones who know and love you, Lord.
Let me stay with the pariahs, please.
I want to know and love you, as do they.
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Preliminary report on the weekend's adventures

First, the "Called and Gifted" workshop ---- if you get the opportunity in your neck of the woods, _go_. Mark Shea is very much right, the workshop is wonderful in teaching on the office and vocation of laity, and the nature and use of those gifts meant for giving away, the charisms. I did get to meet Sherry Weddell, and she is really sweet besides, Mark has really good taste in friends, for all his faults. [The stuff about faults is supposed to be a joke, ok?]

Second, breakfast with Dave Pawlak of the Pompous Ponderings website. We didn't get to start with yet another of Abp. Timothy Dolan's sermons, he's slipped away to Rome to ordain Todd Reitmeyer's classmates on Thursday, but Bp. Sklba isn't a slouch as a preacher himself, so we were not too deprived. Then we rolled up the street to a cafe called Mykonos, and had breakfast and three hours of great conversation before the van came to take me away. We have to do this more often than every three or four months! BTW, go to Dave's, he's posting on his funeral, in ways that trigger thought.
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Friday, October 04, 2002

Slow Posting ahead

Posting this weekend may be even slower than usual:

1) Tonight and tomorrow I get to attend one of the "Called and Gifted" workshops that Mark Shea rhapsodizes so about, sponsored by the St Catherine of Siena Institute. Fee, and two sets of vanfare, and two full E-tanks of portable oxygen, and having to sit up all day on Saturday with a pressure sore, is going to be worth it, I am assured.

2) Then, on Sunday, I've an appointment for brunch with Dave of the Pompous Ponderings site!

I'll probably be limp as a dishrag and roaring with pain by Sunday afternoon, but it will be worth it! Onward!
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A Way to Life for the weak and little ones in this world, from the Desert

There was a monk from Rome (probably Abba Arsenius) who lived at Scetis near the church. He had a slave to serve him. The priest, knowing his bad health and the comfort in which he used to live, sent him what he needed of whatever anyone brought to the church. Having lived twenty-five years at Scetis, he had acquired the gift of insight and became famous.

One of the great Egyptians heard about him and came to see him, thinking he would find him leading a life of great corporal austerity. He entered and greeted him. They said the prayer and sat down. Now the Egyptian saw he was wearing fine clothing, and that he possessed a bed with a coverlet and a small pillow. He saw that his feet were clean and shod in sandals. Noticing all this, he was shocked, because such a way of life is not usual in that district; much greater austerity is required.

Now the old man had the gift of insight, and he understood that he was shocked, and so he said to him who served him, "We will celebrate a feast today for the abba's sake." There were a few vegetables, and he cooked them and at the appointed hour, they rose and ate. The old man had a little wine also, because of his illness; so they drank some. When evening came, they recited the twelve psalms and went to sleep. They did the same during the night. On rising at dawn, the Egyptian said to him, "Pray for me," and he went away without being edified.

When he had gone a short distance, the old man, wishing to edify him, sent someone to bring him back. On his arrival he received him once again with joy and asked him, "Of what country are you?" He said, "Egypt." "And of what city?" "I am not a city-dweller at all." "And what was your work in the village?" "I was a herdsman." "Where did you sleep?" He replied, "In the field." "Did you have anything to lie upon?" He said, "Would I go and put a bed under myself in a field?" "But how did you sleep?" He said, "On the bare ground." The old man said next, "What was your food in the fields, and what wine did you drink?" He replied, "Is there food and drink in the the fields?" "But how did you live?" "I ate dry bread, and, if I found any, green herbs and water." The old man replied, "Great hardship! Was there a bath-house for washing in the village?" He replied, "No, only the river, when we wanted it."

After the old man had learnt all this and knew of the hardness of his former life, he told him his own former way of life when he was in the world, with the intention of helping him. "I, the poor man whom you see, am of the great city of Rome and I was a great man in the palace of the emperor." When the Egyptian heard the beginning of these words, he was filled with compunction and listened attentively to what the other was saying. He continued, "Then I left the city and came to this desert. I whom you see had great houses and many riches and having despised them I have come to this little cell. I whom you see had beds all of gold with coverings of silk, and in exchange for that, God has given me this little bed and this skin. Moreover, my clothes were the most expensive kind and in their stead I wear these garments of no value. Again, at my table there was much gold and abundance, and instead of that, God has given me this little dish of vegetables and a cup of wine. There were many slaves to serve me, and see how in exchange for that, God troubles this old man to serve me. Instead of the bath-house, I throw a little water over my feet and wear sandals because of my weakness. Instead of music and lyres, I say the twelve psalms and the same at night. Instead of the sins I used to commit, I now say my little rule prayer. So then, I beg you abba, do not be shocked at my weakness."

Hearing this, the Egyptian came to his senses and said, "Woe to me, for after so much hardship in the world, I have found ease; and what I did not have before, that I now possess. While after so great ease, you have come to humility and poverty." Greatly edified, he withdrew, and he became his friend and often went to him for help. For he was a man full of discernment and the good odour of the Holy Spirit.
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Thursday, October 03, 2002

How St. Francis Taught Brother Leo That Perfect Joy Is Only in the Cross

One winter day St. Francis was coming to St. Mary of the Angels from Perugia with Brother Leo, and the bitter cold made them suffer keenly. St. Francis called to Brother Leo, who was walking a bit ahead of him, and he said: "Brother Leo, even if the Friars Minor in every country give a great example of holiness and integrity and good edification, nevertheless write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that."

And when he had walked on a bit, St. Francis called him again, saying: "Brother Leo, even if a Friar Minor gives sight to the blind, heals the paralyzed, drives out devils, gives hearing back to the deaf, makes the lame walk, and restores speech to the dumb, and what is still more, brings back to life a man who has been dead four days, write that perfect joy is not in that."

And going on a bit, St. Francis cried out again in a strong voice: "Brother Leo, if a Friar Minor knew all languages and all sciences and Scripture, if he also knew bow to prophesy and to reveal not only the future but also the secrets of the consciences and minds of others, write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that."

And as they walked on, after a while St. Francis called again forcefully: 'Brother Leo, Little Lamb of God, even if a Friar minor could speak with the voice of an angel, and knew the courses of the stars and the powers of herbs, and knew all about the treasures in the earth, and if be knew the qualities of birds and fishes, animals, humans, roots, trees, rocks, and waters, write down and note carefully that true joy is not in that."

And going on a bit farther, St. Francis called again strongly: "Brother Leo, even if a Friar Minor could preach so well that be should convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that perfect joy is not there."

Now when he had been talking this way for a distance of two miles, Brother Leo in great amazement asked him: "Father, I beg you in God's name to tell me where perfect joy is."

And St. Francis replied; "When we come to St. Mary of the Angels, soaked by the rain and frozen by the cold, all soiled with mud and suffering from hunger, and we ring at the gate of the Place and the brother porter comes and says angrily: 'Who are you?' And we say: 'We are two of your brothers.' And he contradicts us, saying: 'You are not telling the truth. Rather you are two rascals who go around deceiving people and stealing what they give to the poor. Go away]' And he does not open for us, but makes us stand outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, until night falls-then if we endure all those insults and cruel rebuffs patiently, without being troubled and without complaining, and if we reflect humbly and charitably that that porter really knows us and that God makes him speak against us, oh, Brother Leo, write that perfect joy is there!

'And if we continue to knock, and the porter comes out in anger, and drives us away with curses and hard blows like bothersome scoundrels, saying; 'Get away from here, you dirty thieves-go to the hospital! Who do you think you are? You certainly won't eat or sleep here'--and if we bear it patiently and take the insults with joy and love in our hearts, Oh, Brother Leo, write that that is perfect joy!

And if later, suffering intensely from hunger and the painful cold, with night falling, we still knock and call, and crying loudly beg them to open for us and let us come in for the love of God, and he grows still more angry and says: 'Those fellows are bold and shameless ruffians. I'll give them what they deserve.' And he comes out with a knotty club, and grasping us by the cowl throws us onto the ground, rolling us in the mud and snow, and beats us with that club so much that he covers our bodies with wounds -- if we endure all those evils and insults and blows with joy and patience, reflecting that we must accept and bear the sufferings of the Blessed Christ patiently for love of Him, oh, Brother Leo, write: that is perfect joy!

'And now hear the conclusion, Brother Leo. Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ. For we cannot glory in all those other marvelous gifts of God, as they are not ours but God's, as the Apostle says: 'What have you that you have not received?' But we can glory in the cross of tribulations and afflictions, because that is ours, and so the Apostle says: 'I will not glory save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.'"

To whom be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

[from The Little Flowers of St Francis]
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Please do follow this link, to An Act of Confidence in God, by St Claude de la Columbiere. Thank you, Gerard, for continuing your invaluable ministry among us.
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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Recognizing Christ in everybody, by Dorothy Day

When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them. God sees Christ, his Son, in us, and loves us. And so we should see Christ in others, and nothing else, and love them. There can never be enough of it. There can never be enough thinking about it. Saint John of the Cross said that where there was no love, put love and you would take out love. The principle certainly works ...

And this is not easy. Everyone will try to kill that love in you, even your nearest and dearest; at least they will try to prune it. "Don't you know this, that, and the other thing about this person? He or she did this. If you do not want to hear it, you must hear. It is for your good to hear it. It is my duty to tell you, and it is your duty to take recognition of it. You must stop loving, modify your loving, show your disapproval. You cannot possibly love -- if you pretend you do, you are a hypocrite, and the truth is not in you. You are contributing to the delinquency of that person by your sentimental blindness. It is such people as you who would add to the sum of confusion, and wickedness, and soft appeasement, and compromise, and the policy of expediency in this world. You are to blame for communism, for industrial capitalism, and finally for hell on earth."

The antagonism often rises to a crescendo of vituperation, an intensification of the opposition on all sides. You are quite borne down by it. And the only Christian answer is love, to the very end, to the laying down of your life.
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