Monday, February 27, 2006

The Servant of All: a Desert Story about a Bishop

specifically, St. John the Almsgiver, Patriarch of Alexandria:

After John ("the Almsgiver") had been elected and was to be enthroned in the Christ-loving capital of Alexandria (AD 610) most certainly by the will of God and not 'from men neither through man' [Cf. Gal 1:1] this was the first glorious deed and victory which he showed forth to all men. He immediately summoned the treasurers and the official who is styled 'the guardian of the peace', and said to them in the hearing of all in the Patriarch's council-chamber, "It is not right, brethren, that we should consider anyone in preference to Christ". The whole assembly which had gathered together was deeply moved at his words, and agreed thereto, and then the holy man continued, "Go therefore through the whole city, please, and make a list of all my masters down to the last."

But his hearers could not imagine who these could be, and besought him to tell them, as they were astonished that any could possibly be masters of the Patriarch; and he opened his angelic mouth again and said: "Those whom you call poor and beggars, these I proclaim my masters and helpers. For they, and they only, are really able to help us and bestow upon us the kingdom of heaven."


[Leontius of Neapolis, Life of John the Almsgiver, 2]

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

40 Ways to Improve One's Lent

from the Catholic Herald at this time last year, a very useful list:

1. Learn about your patron saint.

2. Pray for --- by name --- people you don’t like and for people that don’t like you.

3. Participate in a healing service.

4. Read a Catholic magazine every time you visit the library.

5. March 19, in honor of St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters and fathers, build or build upon a relationship with one of your children.

6. Buy two of everything on your grocery list, and give the duplicates to the local food pantry.

7. Find out why you should have fun on Laetare Sunday, and then do so.

8. Start a “cuss bowl.” For every unkind word you utter, put in a dollar — two dollars during Holy Week. After Easter, give the money to an English as a second language program.

9. Bring a “Baltimore Catechism” to a gathering of Catholic friends, and start asking each other questions.

10. Give away a material item you really value.

11. Pray for those, e.g., children, parents, spouse, siblings, who have left the church.

12. Talk to a neighbor you rarely or never talk to.

13. Keep a dish of ashes in a prominent place as a constant reminder of the season.

14. Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

15. Test your knowledge of Scripture.

16. Read a biography about Archbishop Oscar Romero and/or watch the video “Romero.”

17. Open a Christmas Club account with the intention of giving the money to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

18. Visit a church when you don’t have to.

19. Reserve a button on your car stereo for the Relevant Radio [or whatever the local Catholic network is] station in your area.

20. Pray the news — for the people whose stories of hardship are reported daily and weekly.

21. Read an entry from a Catholic encyclopedia.

22. Attend Mass at a parish other than your own

23. Tithe your tax return.

24. If Catholic schools get NCAA tournament bids, learn for whom those schools were named.

25. Observe five minutes of silence every day.

26. Instead of watching the Academy Awards [...], watch “The Passion of the Christ.”

27. Use a Lenten theme in decorating part of a room.

28. Memorize a Proverb.

29. Participate in a faith formation presentation.

30. Tell someone your story(ies) of faith, how God has made a difference in your life.

31. Disconnect the TV and/or the computer.

32. Identify your God-given gifts, how you use them, and how you could use them better.

33. Fast from gossip.

34. Pull the rosary out of your drawer and say it. Too boring? Say the Scriptural rosary.

35. Remove your watch before leaving for church on Palm Sunday.

36. Develop a prayer list.

37. Read a history of the papacy.

38. Find out who Raamah, Putiel, and Uzzah are.

39. Sacrifice your time in order to help others.

40. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A White Rose

Everywhere and at all times of greatest trial men have appeared, prophets and saints who cherished their freedom, who preached the One God and who with His help brought the people to a reversal of their downward course. We must attack evil where it is strongest, and it is strongest in the power of Hitler... We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace. [from one of the White Rose tracts]

Sophie and Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst, three of the White Rose martyrs

Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Sophie and Hans Scholl and their companions. Mostly college students with a professor and a couple of military medics, they published a series of tracts exposing the immorality of the National Socialist program in Germany. They were executed on this day in 1943.

Here's a link to more about the White Rose

and here's links to English translations of the White Rose tracts.

hat tip to Bob Waldrop of Oscar Romero CW of Oklahoma City for reminding me.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Nobody knew the name her parents called her --- not even her!

Today is the memorial day of St. Giuseppine Bakhita.

icon of Saint Giuseppine Bakhita

Today's saint, who would come to be called Giuseppine Bakhita, was born in a totally average loving family in rural Sudan in approximately 1869, and was kidnapped by slavers at about eight years old. Her kidnappers gave her the name Bakhita --- which means "fortunate, lucky." At the time that was a sick joke. She was sold repeatedly to various owners in the markets of El Obeid and Khartoum, and suffered all the standard evils, physical (beatings, malnutrition, neglect, scarification....), mental (forbidden to learn and "kept in her place"....), and moral (rape, molestation, coercion to service owner's sexual whims....).

Eventually, in her early teens, she was bought by an Italian diplomat and his wife to be an housemaid and cook. As owners go, this couple wasn't very bad at all. They did not use the whip when giving orders. They would show her how they wanted things to be done. Neither of them insisted on sexual services. About as good as one could expect an owner to be. When the diplomat was recalled to Italy, Bakhita begged not to be sold, but to go with them. (Who could tell how the next owner would be?) So she went to Italy with them.

The diplomat's wife's best friend had a baby, a little girl named Mimmina, and Bakhita was given to the friend to be a babysitter-companion for the newborn. That family wasn't bad either. When Mimmina got to be school aged, her parents placed her in a boarding school run by the Cannossian Daughters of Charity, and Bakhita, of course, went with her as a maidservant. Expected to stay with Mimmina at all times, she began to learn the lessons Mimmina was being taught, reading and writing and arithmetic --- and, the Christian Faith, the first that Bakhita had ever heard it. Bakhita came to believe almost immediately, and eagerly sought even more instruction in the faith, and she was enrolled in the catechumenate. She also began to sense the first glimmerings of a calling to the religious life.

After a time, Mimmina's parents received an overseas diplomatic posting, and went to the boarding school to withdraw their daughter and take her, and, they totally presumed, Bakhita also, to their new African posting. But, Bakhita refused to go. She wanted to stay, and get baptised, and keep learning. With the backing of the Sisters, some of the Sisters' benefactors, and the local Catholic authorities, Bakhita's case to disobey her owners went to court, and it was ruled that, since slavery was illegal in Italy, that as soon as Bakhita was brought to Italy she was made free. Soon after, in January of 1890, she was baptised with the new name Giuseppine, and she remained under instruction at the school for several more years.

After a period of prayer and discernment, Giuseppine Bakhita entered the community of the Cannossian Daughters, making her vows in 1896. She served in the community as a seamstress and cook, and as the doorkeeper, and became noted as an intercessor. After her memoirs of her slavery days were published, she spend years on tour speaking to raise money for her community's missions. Eventually, her health declined, and she died on this date in 1947.

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Saturday, February 04, 2006