Monday, July 31, 2006

Why we dedicate cathedrals

Today is also the feast of the (first) dedication of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist --- my parish.

In honor of today's little local feast, two wonderful links to a homily on how and why we dedicate churches ----- given at the third dedication of the Cathedral we celebrate the first dedication of today.

Adobe Acrobat text file (4 pages)
and
Real Audio file (19:00 minutes)

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Conversion by way of a poorly stocked library

Today is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus and author of the most difficult hymn in the hymnal.

And it all began with a lack of books!

Ignatius was a child of a notoriously hot-tempered noble family, who became a courtier and warrior with all the standard virtues and vices thereof. Then, he was fighting in a battle at Pamplona, caught a cannonball in the leg, and was discharged to home in a stretcher. The leg didn't heal right, had to have repeated suurgeries, poor Ignatius was confined to bed and utterly bored.

He begged his family for some good rip-roaring chivalric romances to pass the time and improve his spirits, but in all the family castle there were only two books --- a life of Christ, and a book of saint stories called the Golden Readings. Well, something to read, anything to read, was better than staring at the ceiling. And so he read.

And, to his shock, he discovered that the saints lived lives more interesting, challenging, and honorable than any hero of chivalry, and, as soon as he could manage to get out of bed, he would put aside court life and warfare and set his sights to become a saint himself. And so he did.

Take, Lord, receive
all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
my entire will.

Take. Lord, receive
all I have and possess.
You have given all to me;
now I return it.

Give me only Your love and Your grace;
that's enough for me.
Your love and Your grace
are enough for me.

Take, Lord, receive;
all is Yours now.
Dispose of it
wholly according to Your will.

Give me only Your love and Your grace;
that's enough for me.
Your love and Your grace
are enough for me.


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Friday, July 28, 2006

Father Stanley Rother: A Shepherd Cannot Run

If I have to die, I will die there. I want to be there with my people. -----Father Stanley Rother, martyr, holy helper of the poor.



Father Stanley Rother was a priest in Oklahoma. He'd barely made it through seminary, academics wasn't his strong point, but he was a wise, loving, and very competent pastor. When his diocese in Oklahoma began a mission in Guatemala, he volunteered to go there. So in 1968 he arrived in the parish of Santiago Atitlan. His new parishioners didn't recognise "Stanley" as a proper name, so his Spanish-speaking parishioners called him Francisco, and his Mayan parishioners Apla's.

He was doing the ordinary work of a missionary priest. He was not at all politically active, in either United States or Guatemalan politics, and the other priests of that district considered him the most conservative of them all. He just did what a priest does.

He offered Mass and preached the Gospel. He set out to master T'zutuhil, the native language of his Mayan parishioners, and at the time of his death was translating the New Testament into T'zutuhil. He taught his people to study the Scriptures. He expelled "Maximon," the local trickster spirit, from the parish church .....

He built a health clinic in the town and recruited a community of dedicated volunteers to run it, helping to reduce the child mortality rate from over 50 percent to 20 percent, and he worked with the community on public health awareness, like boiling drinking water and wearing shoes to avoid parasites. He was a skilled handyman and practical carpenter, and he tended his own garden plot, growing his own corn and vegetables. This last especially impressed the men of the Mayan community, for, among the Maya, growing corn is a sacred task.

He loved his people, and his people came to love him.

And then, in 1980, the army came to Santiago Atitlan.

The Catholic Church had become a target of the Guatemalan military. Because the Church upheld the dignity and human rights of all people, including laborers, the poor, and Mayans, the government accused her of supporting communism. The Bible was considered a subversive work, and villagers hid their Bibles out in the fields or buried under their houses, to keep the soldiers from finding them.

The death lists began, and the "disappearances." One of the first to be killed was the head of the local radio station, which broadcast Fr. Rother's Sunday Mass, and health and hygiene programs, and news. One evening on the news commentary show, the subject was U.S. president Jimmy Carter and the human rights policies of the United States. The radio station was ransacked, and its head kidnapped, tortured, and killed.

The terror, kidnappings, and murders continued. Dozens were killed. Diego Quic' Apuchan, Fr. Rother's lead catechist, appeared on a death list in late 1980, apparently because he had publicly called upon the police to protect people from the kidnappers. For a little protection, he moved into Fr. Rother's rectory. On the evening of January 5, 1981, as Diego approached the rectory door, he was accosted by 4 soldiers; he clung to the bannister and yelled for help. Fr. Rother and the other rectory staff arrived only in time to witness Diego's abduction.

It was only days after that Fr. Rother's own name appeared on the death lists. At the urging of his parish staff, he fled the country and returned to Oklahoma, but he was troubled in spirit. He felt like he had deserted his people under fire. For three months he struggled. He missed his parish dreadfully, and was pulled to return, to be with his people. With his bishop's blessing, he returned to Santiago Atitlan in April, in time for Holy Week.

Twenty-five years ago today, on the night of July 28, three masked soldiers broke into the rectory and forced the doorkeeper to take them to Fr. Rother's room. Defying orders to keep quiet, the doorkeeper shouted, "Father, they are here for you!" The soldiers burst into Fr. Rother's room. The doorkeeper heard Father cry out, "No, I will not go with you. You will have to kill me here." He was badly beaten, but continued to resist being taken away, and they finally did kill him right there, with two gunshots and a stab wound in the back.

Fr. Rother's family wanted the body returned to Oklahoma for burial. However, understanding that his people in Santiago Atitlan also wanted their martyred pastor to rest among them, the family allowed his heart and a vial of his blood to be removed from the body to remain in his parish; to the Mayans, the spirit of a person resides in the blood. So the heart of this courageous priest of God is enshrined in his parish church, forever with the people he served even to his own death.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it."

Today is the memorial of Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite priest and martyr.



Titus, whose birthname was Anno, was born to a Friesian family in the late 1800's. After secondary school, he entered the Carmelite community, became a priest. and earned a doctorate on philosophy in Rome. He then became a university professor, and was the president ("rector magnificus") of his university for a time. He also was very active in Catholic journalism, becoming, eventually, the head of Holland's Catholic journalists' guild. This is an image of his international press pass:



When the Nazis took over Holland, the Catholic Church was blatently and loudly in opposition to them. The bishops forbade communion to any Catholics known to support the National Socialists, and regularly denounced the Nazi perversions from their pulpits. In fact, in Holland, the Catholics were sent to the concentration camps first, before anybody else; St. Edith Stein was also martyred in this time. Fr. Brandsma was deeply involved in the resistance to the National Socialists, and was already feeling the heat, but the final straw that got him arrested was that the Nazis has issued a law that all newspapers must print the officially-issued Nazi propaganda. The bishops forbade any Catholic periodical from publishing any of that material, and Fr. Brandsma, as their messenger, was to personally deliver the ban to the Catholic press; he had visited fourteen journalists when the powers caught up with him and arrested him.

He was imprisoned in two penitentiaries in Holland that had been taken over by the Nazis, before being deported to Dachau. His chronically ill health forced him to the "hospital" of Dachau in mid-June of 1942, where he was subjected to medical experimentation before being killed by lethal injection on July 26.

A poem written by Fr. Brandsma during his imprisonment:

A new awareness of Thy love
Encompasses my heart:
Sweet Jesus, I in Thee and Thou
In me shall never part.

No grief shall fall my way but I
Shall see Thy grief-filled eyes;
The lonely way that Thou once walked
Has made me sorrow-wise.

All trouble is a white-lit joy
That lights my darkest day;
Thy love has turned to brightest light
This night-like way.

If I have Thee alone,
The hours will bless
With still, cold hands of love
My utter loneliness.

Stay with me, Jesus, only stay;
I shall not fear
If, reaching out my hand,
I feel Thee near.


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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mary Magdalen, Icon of Ministry

another meditation on the life of St. Mary Magdalen, which has been forwarded into my inbox five times in the last four days. One of the forwards credits it to "BenetVision", a Benedictine apostolate in Pennsylvania, which means that the author may be Sister Joan of Erie......

For want of a better word, it is at least interesting that one of the strongest women in the Christian Scripture is caught in an aura of confusion. What people think they know about her has for centuries overshadowed who she really is. What people expect to see when they look at her, in other words, is what keeps her from being fully seen for what she was in herself then, and what she means to us today.

To clear up the situation at the outset: Mary Magdalene is not "the repentant woman" of Scripture. She was not "the woman of the city who was a sinner." The evidence is clear: The same evangelist, Luke, introduces both figures, one in chapter 7 of his gospel, the other one immediately afterwards in chapter 8. For the first woman, the one "who was a sinner," he gives no name and no identification at all. She is simply a woman of the streets, a prostitute probably, who breaks into a male enclave to show them that she is not interested in them at all. She is intent only on the One among them who allows her to be a person rather than a thing.

In the chapter that follows the description of this incident though, in chapter 8, Luke is very specific. In this chapter, Luke is talking about the women disciples of Jesus. The woman introduced in these verses is Mary from the town of Magdala in the Galilee, or Mejdel as it is known today, and she is anything but a woman of the streets. She is important enough to be identified --- an uncommon thing for women in male documents to begin with --- and she is mentioned fourteen times. She is mentioned more times, in other words, than any other woman in the New Testament except Mary the mother of Jesus. The woman with the issue of blood, the Syrophoenician woman, the woman of the town, the woman who was bent over, the woman taken in adultery, not even the woman at the well is named. But Mary of Magdala is. And with good reason.

The confusion between the two women, the sinner and the disciple, is an early medieval one attributed to Gregory the Great but repudiated, at least in part, even then. Only in the Latin church was the misidentification widespread. The Greek church, on the other hand, following Origen in his treatment of the two figures in Scripture, never collapsed their identity. In the West, however, the teaching of Gregory was buttressed by the renditions of artists who repeatedly put Mary Magdalene into the role of the repentant sinner and the error was seldom, if ever, officially corrected.

In the popular mind, then, Mary Magdalene became the New Testament Eve whose sin had been forgiven but whose character was forever cast in question. As a result of the error, her strength and special calling have been regularly eclipsed. We are inclined to miss, therefore, the prominence given her by Jesus and so the prominence given to women in general, perhaps, in the New Dispensation.

But Scripture is very clear. Mary Magdalene is a new kind of woman completely. Mary Magdalene is the woman who becomes the first woman minister. Mary Magdalene is the woman who risks her status in both synagogue and society for the sake of her faith in a Jesus who had confounded both of them. Mary Magdalene is the witness who recognizes Jesus in his earliest moments and stays with him to the end. Mary Magdalene is a leader among the women and a person to be reckoned with by the men. Mary Magdalene is the woman who becomes companion and friend to Jesus and who stands beside him all the way to the cross, next to his mother and next to John, the other one "whom Jesus loved." Mary Magdalene is the woman who is sent to be the disciple of the Resurrection to the disciples who had missed it. Mary Magdalene is, indeed, "the apostle to the apostles."

Most tragic of all, perhaps, is that Mary Magdalene, even in the face of such data, is yet the icon of all women clearly called by Jesus to proclaim his resurrection but whose message is ignored. She stands abject in the midst of those who will not listen to the experiences of a woman and recognize in them a challenge to their own spiritual life. Indeed, Mary Magdalene is the woman who sees the Lord and summons others to see him, too. She is a strong woman who did what she had to do to become what she knew she was called to be, in the face of culture, in the face of tradition, in the face of downright scorn.

The situation was not an easy one. It took courage; it took faith; it took a sense of call.

Orthodox Judaism was very clear about the role of women in society. They were to confine themselves to the home or the synagogue except for the sake of domestic duty; they were to be invisible in the public presence of men; they were never to give testimony in a court of law. In public matters, in social relationships and in the professional world they were usually absent, at most ancillary. Mary of Magdala was a sign of contradiction in all three situations.

Scripture says that Mary Magdalene was cured by Jesus of "seven demons," a nervous ailment, perhaps, or epilepsy, diseases that were commonly attributed by ancient societies to demonic possession. She was healed by Jesus, in other words, of an inner weakness, of a kind of personal debility, of an inability to function in a balanced and credible way. Thanks to her faith in Jesus Mary Magdalene becomes strong.

The problem is that when the demons go, they all go. The demon of female fragility goes and the demon of invisibility goes and demon of low self-esteem goes and the demon of fear goes, too. The transformation is a total one. Not only does she become physically hale but she becomes spiritually strong and socially secure at the same time. Mary Magdalene comes face to face with the vision of Jesus and, thanks to him, becomes a new person.

The point is not that Mary Magdalene became a social misfit; the point is that Jesus himself called her to an entirely new role.

Her presentation in Scripture is a compelling one: She is called by name, identified by place, and described as a leader of a number of women who supported the work of Jesus "out of their own resources." (Luke, chapter 8) She not only "followed Jesus," in public, despite the public prescriptions against it; she made the ministry possible. She saw the truth and determined to set it free. She was not simply a passive listener, a hanger-on. She was a philanthropist of vision, an advocate of godly revolution, a creator of social change. She was part and parcel of the public life of Jesus.

Then, after drawing her profile with broad, bold lines, Scripture focuses in on the central reality of Mary Magdalene's ministry: she stayed with him to the end, she witnessed to him in public and she became the messenger of the resurrection, when his great, brave, bold male disciples, those who called themselves the apostles, were hiding someplace in the city in a locked up room.

It is a woman, it is Mary Magdalene, who contends with every system and prevails.

When the others run away from the crucifixion, when the crowds who had welcomed him to Jerusalem within the week had trickled away from the site of the cross, afraid of the authority of the Romans and the disapproval of the high priests as well, it is Mary Magdalene and John who stay with Mary the Mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross while the death of this rebel brings a brilliant three years to a slow and inglorious end.

It is Mary Magdalene who goes with other women to the tomb to do the customary anointing of the corpse when all the others around him had disassociated themselves from his life, his work, his vision.

She serves to the very end. She witnesses to the last moment. She stands up to face the system when there is no applause and there is no strong support for the movement and there is no protection from its enemies.

Finally, it is Mary Magdalene, the evangelist John details, to whom Jesus appears first after the resurrection. It is Mary Magdalene who is instructed to proclaim the Easter message to the others. It is Mary Magdalene whom Jesus commissions to "tell Peter and the others that I have gone before them into Galilee." It is Mary Magdalene who sees the Risen Christ.

And then, the Scripture says pathetically, "But Peter and John and the others did not believe her and they went to the tomb to see for themselves."

It is 2000 years later and little or nothing has changed. The voice of women proclaiming the presence of Christ goes largely unconfirmed. The call of women to minister goes largely unnoted. The commission of women to the church goes largely disdained.

Mary Magdalene is, no doubt about it, an important icon for the twenty-first century.

She calls women to listen for the call of the Christ over the call of the church.

She calls men to listen for the call of the Christ in the messages of women.

She calls women to courage and men to humility.

She calls all of us to faith and fortitude, to unity and universalism, to a Christianity that rises above sexism, a religion that transcends the idolatry of maleness and a commitment to the things of God that surmounts every obstacle and surpasses every system.

Mary Magdalene is a shining light of hope, a disciple of Christ, a model of the wholeness of life, in a world whose name is despair and in a church whose vision is yet, still, even now, partial.


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Chosen Apostle to the Eleven, First Witness to the Rusurrection

Mary Magdalen was one of those people who has an "interesting" life. She was one of Jesus' closest disciples, first named among those who travelled with Him and ministered to His needs, and also named as having been delivered from seven demons [Luke 8:2-3]. She has also been traditionally (mis)identified with "the woman who was a sinner" who crashed the party at the home of Simon the Pharasee [Luke 7:36 ff.]. [How could she be this utter stranger, and then only two sentences later be first-named among Jesus' well-to-do benefactors?] She was present with Mary the mother of Jesus and with John the Beloved at the crucifixion, assisted in Jesus' burial, and at dawn following the Sabbath day, was the first witness to Jesus resurrected, becoming the chosen apostle to the Eleven. She was at the Ascension, the Scripture states that she traveled back to Jerusalem after that event with Jesus' mother and the Eleven and others. She can be safely presumed to have been present at Pentecost.

After that, the Scriptures are silent, and the tradition diverges. Some, older, sources say she went to Ephesus with John the Beloved and Mary the mother of Jesus, had an adventure concerning the Emperor and a miraculous blood-red egg, and lived with Jesus' mother in contemplation to a quite old age. Other sources have her traveling with St. Lazarus of Bethany, his sisters, [with one of whom she's also been misidentified!] and others to France, where they evangelized Provence.

Whether she spent the rest of her life in Ephesus with Mary and John or in Provence with Lazarus and his sisters, her glory forever will be her faithfulness and her bold proclamation, "I have seen the Lord! He is not dead, but lives!"

Here's what Pope St. Gregory the Great had to say about her, as given in today's Office of Readings:

When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.

We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us:
Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says:
My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognised when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognise me as I recognise you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognises who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.
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Friday, July 21, 2006

A touch of doggerel today

I wrote back in 2003; the tune is "Aurelia" 7.6.7.6.D , aka "Church's one Foundation":

On English-language Church Music

The music of our people
was captive to Ray Repp.
Permitted four chords only
and sticky syrupy words.
Whom would God send to help us
lift up our stucken feet?
Who would expand our rhythms
and help us sing God's praise?

The Lord sent fine deliv'rance
throughout the Catholic world;
the Word of God Commun'ty
and Jebbies in Saint L.
And also many others
who sensed that self-same draw
to open up their Bibles
and sing the words they saw.

So now the Catholic People
do sing the Lord's own Word;
they hear His testimony
emit from their own lips.
They contemplate in wonder
the great gift God has giv'n,
to have more verses mem'rized
than all their Prot'stant friends.
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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

the weak and frail one in the desert

Today is also the memorial of Abba Arsenius, one of my favorite desert Christians. Arsenius was a wealthy, brilliant, and highly-placed man in the Roman Emperor's court, the chief tutor to the children of two different emperors. He came to conversion of life, abandoned his former life as a courtier, and went out to the desert to follow Jesus. He was faithful for many years, and was granted great wisdom and gifts of counsel. Here is one of the stories of Arsenius.

There was a monk from Rome called 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 was not usual in that district; much greater austerity was required.

Now the old man had the gift of insight, and he understood that his visitor 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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May families be filled with saints!

Today is the memorial of St. Macrina the younger. She's called the younger to distinguish her from her holy paternal grandmother, St. Macrina the elder.

But, they were not the only heroically virtuous ones in their family.

Both of the younger Macrina's parents are saints: St. Basil the Elder and St. Emmelia.

All three of her younger brothers are also saints: St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Peter of Sebastea. Some sources also say that St. Gregory Nazianzen was her cousin and foster-brother. Gregory may have been a popular name in the family because the elder Macrina was a disciple of St. Gregory the Wonderworker.

But back to today's member of the family, the younger Macrina. Born in about 327, she had as normal of a childhood as was possible when Mom, Dad, and Grandma are all certifiable Saints, growing up pretty, pious, and learned under the tutulege of her Mom and Grandma, both of whom beside being holy were also scholars. At age twelve, the standard age in those days, she was betrothed to a Christian lawyer, but the young gentleman died before the wedding, and she then refused all other suitors.

About this time, her Dad and then her Mom died, and she, with her Grandma's help, dedicated herself to the upbringing and education of her younger brothers and cousin, seeing them all safely launched into holy and learned adulthoods. Once this duty was done, she entered a cenobium for women (we'd say "monastery" these days, but monasteries hadn't been invented yet.....) that her Mom had founded after Dad died, where she lived a life of intense prayer as its amma until her death in 379. Her kid brother St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote her biography.
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Friday, July 14, 2006

Two saints for this day

Today is the memorial of two one-of-a-kind saints:

St. Camillus de Lellis --- lover of Christ, lover of the sick



Camillus was the son of a military officer, born in 1550. His mother died when he was still a toddler. Following his father's trade, Camillus became a soldier while still very young, fighting first for Venice and then for Naples.

Camillus also has an addiction to gambling, and lost so much that he had to take a second job working construction to repay his gambling debts. He was working on a building belonging to the Capuchin Franciscans when they brought him to conversion.

He left the military and entered the Capuchin novitiate three separate times, but injuries from his fighting days forced him to leave each time. He went to Rome seeking medical treatment, and there became a protege of St. Philip Neri (that God-bitten character!). Camillus moved into San Giacomo hospital for incurables to live, and, eventually, became its administrator.

Aware of his total lack of education, he began elementary school at the age of 32, studying with the local children, and after long study was ordianed a priest. He formed the Congregation of the Servants of the Sick, now commonly called the Camillans, dedicated entirely to the care of the sick. Camillus honored the sick as living images of Christ.

As it says in today's Office of Readings passage, a citation from a biography written by one of his companions:

.....The mere sight of the sick was enough to soften and melt his heart and make him utterly forget all the pleasures, enticements, and interests of this world. When he was taking care of his patients, he seemed to spend and exhaust himself completely, so great was his devotion and compassion. He would have loved to take upon himself all their illness, their every affliction, could he but ease their pain and relieve their weakness.

In the sick he saw the person of Christ. His imagination was so vivid that, while feeding them, he perceived his patients as other Christs. He would even beg of them the grace of forgiveness for his sins. His reverence in their presence was as great as if he were really and truly in the presence of his Lord. In his conversations he talked of nothing more often or with greater feeling than of holy charity. He would have liked to plant this virtue in every human heart. .....


After many years of selfless service, he died on this day in 1614.


"She pushes all before her" --- Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha

I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that may befall me if I do not marry does not frighten me. All I need is a little food and a few pieces of clothing. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary and what is left over I’ll give to my relatives and to the poor. If I should become sick and unable to work, then I shall be like the Lord on the cross. He will have mercy on me and help me, I am sure. ---- Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha



Tekakwitha was born in 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk chief, the head of the Turtle clan, and his wife, a captive Algonquian woman who was a Christian. When Tekakwitha was four, she lost mother, father, and her brother in a smallpox epidemic, and she was left badly scarred and nearly blind. Her name means "she pushes all before her," and most likely refers to her habit of feeling in front of herself so she wouldn't run into stuff, but that name was also appropriate because she seemed to have a gift from childhood for domestic management, for imposing order on chaos. This talent kept her tolerated by her surviving relatives, who otherwise considered her a burden and who were upset that she would not allow herself to be married off.

When the Jesuit missioners arrived in her village, she was one of the first converts, in 1676 when she was twenty, and was baptised with the name Kateri, Mohawk for Catherine. This was to the extreme displeasure of her relatives. When their treatment of her degraded from grudging neglect to outright abuse, she left, and moved to a settlement about 200 miles away that was entirely Christian, living a life of deep prayer and strict austerity. When on a visit to Montreal she met some religious sisters, she was drawn to their life, and set out to form a community of sisters in her village, but was discouraged from that by the pastor; however, she herself made the vow to the counsels in 1679, becoming the first consecrated person among the Mohawks, in fact among any of the original nations of North America.

Never strong or healthy, and weakened by her austerities, she died at the age of 24 in 1680.

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Getting back in gear

I'm getting my blogging back in gear again after some days of blogging temptation.

For some unknown reason, it seems all the ideas that have been popping up for posts the last week or so have been "Controversies R Us", and I've always tried to keep this blog oriented to those things that do not change, a quiet back cove of the parish. So, I haven't been posting. But, just for your entertainment, a topic list of the half-written passed-up posts:

1)"Let them drive automobiles"; coping with clueless socially isolated politicians
2)Wealth and poverty are relative terms
. . 2a)Just because they are relative does not make them insignificant or less a problem
. . 2b)Speaking honestly about these problems is not class warfare
3)What is up with St. Blog's Parish and disrespect for elders?
4)the Catechism and offenses against truth (and there isn't even a current blogstorm....)
5)the Second Vatican Council's only anathema (and it's not August sixth.....)
6)Sacramental Church without Sacraments --- curcuit riders, "viri probati", and the return of the "simplex priest"?

and there were some others I didn't start to write. Aren't you glad I've got some resistance [grin]
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Faction fighting, still!!

Well, humans have been doing it forever. Only one generation into Christianity, St. Clement of Rome, who was the third or fourth pope (I don't have my chart in front of me) had to send an apostolic letter to the Church in Corinth, because they had tied their church up in a tangle of faction fighting again.

The same thing that it was so important for Pope Clement to teach the fractious Church in Corinth is equally important for us to learn in the fractious Church in the United States of America.

from the Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians:

Why are there strife and passion, schisms and even war among you? Do we not possess the same Spirit of grace which was given to us and the same calling in Christ? Why do we tear apart and divide the body of Christ? Why do we revolt against our own body? Why do we reach such a degree of insanity that we forget that we are members of one another? Do not forget the words of Jesus our Lord: Woe to that man; it would be better for him if he had not been born rather than scandalise one of my chosen ones. Indeed it would be better for him to have a great millstone round his neck and to be drowned in the sea than that he lead astray one of my chosen ones. Your division has led many astray, has made many doubt, has made many despair, and has brought grief upon us all. And still your rebellion continues.

Pick up the letter of blessed Paul the apostle. What did he write to you at the beginning of his ministry? Even then you had developed factions. So Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote to you concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos. But that division involved you in less sin because you were supporting apostles of high reputation and a person approved by them.

We should put an end to this division immediately. Let us fall down before our master and implore his mercy with our tears. Then he will be reconciled to us and restore us to the practice of brotherly love that befits us. For this is the gate of justice that leads to life, as it is written:
Open to me the gates of justice. When I have entered there, I shall praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the just shall enter through it. There are many gates which stand open, but the gate of justice is the gateway of Christ. All who enter through this gate are blessed, pursuing their way in holiness and justice, performing all their tasks without discord. A person may be faithful; he may have the power to utter hidden mysteries; he may be discriminating in the evaluation of what is said and pure in his actions. But the greater he seems to be, the more humbly he ought to act, and the more zealous he should be for the common good rather than his own interest.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

What I've been up to......

my sisters decided that I needed a memorable 50th birthday party1

The four of them, all together, drove up from our old stomping grounds in NE Ohio on Friday. After they came by my place for a little plotting, they went to their hotel, and we reassenbled early on Saturday morning.

After some driving around making decisions, we had breakfast at Ma Fischers, a notorious 24-hour-breakfast restaurant, then pilgrimaged to several stores looking for a piece of medical hardware they wanted to make a present of without going to the internet --- but we didn't find it. So we shrugged shoulders and went to the Penzey's Spices store; I'd heard their fine reputation but never been there. All five of us indulged in spice purchases --- I got bellpepper flakes, orange peel, salt-free Italian herb blend, and salt-free California seasoned pepper.

Next stop was the [temporary] West Allis Farmer's market, where I did all kinds of ogling and bought some snap peas and pattypan squash. and my sisters decided that the Anchor Hold needed just a little something. A few purchases at the Market and a quick K-Mart stop, and back to my place. A big hanging plant with purple flowers now graces the old clothesline rack, and



here's two of my sisters planting my new herb garden with basil, thyme, rosemary, and tarragon. After a late lunch and talk at the Grand Avenue food court, I went home for an evening's rest, and they went to Summerfest with Julie of West Allis, who has been Susan's penpal for 30 years or so.

7:15 am, we are back out and running, to Mass at the Cathedral, then a stop in the Cathedral Treasury [the parish museum] and a few introductions, then breakfast at Mykono's Cafe, just two blocks from the cathedral. To the hotel for change of clothes and assorted phone calls to my brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews, then off to Summerfest for the day!



And this is us, the Five Sister Musketeers, enjoying the fine Lake Michigan shore. We wandered around the stages, then spent most of the afternoon at the gospel choir competition. One of the choirs was All Saints CATHOLIC Church --- the emphasis was theirs --- and they were so good that one of the sisters says that next time they do this we have to assist at Mass there, instead of Cathedral [raised eyebrow?]

For the evening, we went to the Big Backyard stage, where there was a young, quite handsome country singer who was quite good (but I don't recall his name). Only one sis was allowed to be with me on the access platform, but we could see the other three at a picnic table and they must have been enjoying themselves because they were dancing......

They went back to Ohio bright and early this morning, in order to have the holiday with husbands and children before work begins again on Wednesday. Wild and wonderful. And it's right that we really ought to see each othr more often than two or three times per decade!
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