Wednesday, August 30, 2006

and, the 137th Christian Carnival

is ready for guests at Brain Cramps for God. I only skimmed it so far, I'll give it a thorough read in the morning, but it looks to be qyite full of good articles.

The 138th Carnival, next week, will be hosted right here at the anchor hold, so do be thinking about your submissions and send them, by Tuesday night September 5th, to ChristianCarnival@gmail.com . I'd love to see an excellent turnout!

Remember, one submission per blog or blogger, from today or after. Put "Christian Carnival" in the subject line, and let me know
........Blog name
........Blog URL
........Post Title
........Post permalink URL
........a brief description of the post's content

Thanks to all, in advance.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

Abba Moses the Ethiopian, gang leader, robber, priest, martyr ---- a desert story

Today, among all the memorials, it's also the day of the desert abba Moses.

Moses, a black Ethiopian, had been a house servant to some official in the administration. His master discharged him for exasperating behavior and for stealing. He then became the head of a robber gang, and was generally believed to have been a murderer as well as a robber. The principal tale about his stealing days was one in which he bore a grudge against a shepherd who one night stood between him and his objective with his dogs.

Desiring to kill the shepherd, he searched for the place where the sheep were kept. He was notified that it was across the Nile. The river was then in full flood and at least a mile across, so he put his sword between his teeth, placed his cloak on his head, plunged into the river, and swam to the other side. While he was swimming across the river, the shepherd was able to escape by burying himself in the sand. Moses killed four rams, tied them together with rope, and swam back again. He came to a small slaughtering place and skinned them. Then he ate the best part of the meat and sold the sheepskins to buy some wine. He then drank off a measure of wine, equal to eighteen Italian pints, and went off fifty miles to where he had his gangsters waiting. [Definitely no wimp he!]

He was suddenly brought to his senses by some unknown circumstance and he abandoned his band of gangsters and betook himself to a monastic place.

=====
When Moses was still quite young in the life of grace, four robbers, not knowing who he was, fell upon him in his monastic cell. He tied them all together like a package, put them on his back like a bundle of sticks, and took them to the church where the other brothers had gathered. He asked, "Since I may not hurt anyone, what do you want me to do with these?"

The robbers confessed, and found out then that he was Moses, the onetime notorious robber. They glorified God and spurned the world because of his conversion. For they reasoned thus, "If he who was such a strong and powerful thief fears God, why should we put off our own salvation?"

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The demons attacked Moses, trying to draw him back into his old ways of intemperance and impurity. He was tempted to such an extent, that he nearly failed in his resolution. So he went to his abba Isidore, and revealed all the details of the contest to him.

Isidore said, "Do not be discouraged. These were the beginnings, and for this reason they were the more severe as they attacked, since they were testing your character. A dog does not by nature stay away from a meat market, but only if the market is closed up and no one gives him anything does he stop coming by. So also in your case. If you stand firm, the demon will have to leave you in discouragement."

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Moses continued to grow in faith, and in due time was considered a wise and holy abba himself, with disciples looking to him just as he had looked to abba Isadore......

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A brother at Scetis commited a fault. A council was called to judge him, to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. So the priest sent another messenger to Moses, urging him to come, since all the brothers were waiting for him. So Moses took his oldest, worn-out, leaky basket. filled it with sand. placed it on his back, and went to join the council of judgment. When the brothers saw him arriving, they went out to great him, asking him why he had arrived so burdened. Abba Moses said, "My many sins run out behind me, and I do not even see them, and yet today I have come to judge the sins of someone else." The brothers relented, called off the council, and forgave their erring brother.

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When Abba Moses was instructing one of his disciples, who was to become the great abba Poemen, he taught: "The monk must die to his neighbor and never judge him at all, in any way whatever. The monk must die to everything before leaving the body, in order not to harm anyone. If the monk does not think in his heart that he is a sinner, God will not hear him." Young Poemen asked, "What does this mean, to think in his heart that he is a sinner?" Abba Moses answered him, "When a person is occupied with his own sins, he does not see the sins of his neighbor."

=====
The brothers were told to disperse and head into the hills, for the barbarian hordes were coming. But Abba Moses chose to stay there until the end came, saying that it was the day he had been expecting and awaiting, that the Lord's word would be fulfilled, that he who takes up the sword (as Abba Moses had when he was a gangster and murderer) would also perish by the sword. A few other brothers stayed with him when the rest fled. One of the brothers, who hid in a pile of rope and was not killed, saw the angels descend with crowns for the Abba and the other brothers with him.

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The second-most-famous Mother-son team in all Christendom

were Saints Monica and Augustine. I'll leave their story to be told by Humilis Penitens and the other usual suspects (since I've got another fine saint to brag on today), except that I can't pass up posting this, from today's Office of Readings:

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new,
late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong --- I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped;
and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.


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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Another meditation on today's readings,

a longer, more exegetical one than mine, can be found at Thoughts of Apolonio Latar III.
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Domine, ad quem ibimus?

Lord, to whom can we go? (John 6:67-69)


My Lord, my Love:
You are impossible sometimes.
Elusive, incomprehensible, outrageous.

I do not comprehend.
I even, sometimes, do not even sense Your presence.
Are You playing hide-and seek?
Or maybe tag?

You've a reputation for asking outrageous things:
to give everything away and follow,
to accept and take up the instrument of my own execution,
to gnaw on Your flesh and drink Your blood for food.

You still command audatious things,
frightening confusing things,
things never before conceived of;
then ask one question:

Will you also go away?

But, there is only one answer.

In the confusion, in the incomprehension,
even in the apparent abandonment.
There is only one place to be.
I know Who has saved me
and from Whence comes my help.
Even in the darkness.

Lord, to whom can we go?
You have the word of life;
everywhere else is death.
You are the Holy One of God,
my Kinsman-Redeemer.

I am staying.
I cannot accept any lover but You,
the all-good, the all-deserving,
no matter what may be.

I have to trust You,
that in time You will make it all make sense.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Join the Steward Party!

So you thought you had no other choice but the Demlicans and the Republicrats, did you? Or as dear Mark Shea says, the Evils and the Stupids? Well, maybe it is time for a real change and a real choice!

St. JimBob of the Apokalypse and his commentariat are working on the planks of a new party; one that believers don't have to hold their noses to vote for. So, if you've an interest, head on over to his place and offer your tuppence to the cause.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

God has an odd sense of humor.....

One of the saints remembered today is a most unlikely one: a comic who spent his entire life making crass fun out of any and all available targets. Genesius was a renowned comic actor and playwright --- if he couldn't make something to be crude, lewd, and funny, then nobody could.

His reputation continued to grow with every audience he left rolling in the aisles, until in due time he and his theatrical company, all of them utterly convinced pagans, were hired for a command performance before the Emperor Diocletian. Genesius had to create an entertainment worthy of an Emperor, and he thought he had a wonderful idea.

Diocletian's despising of Christians, Christianity, and all related things was notorious. So, just for the Emperor, Genesius decided to write a melodrama about Christians, focusing on the foibles and perils of a Joe-Blow-Catechumen, featuring a baptism parody. He himself would take the lead role. His company agreed that the concept was brilliant, and they went into rehearsal.

As the rehearsals went on, the attitude of Genesius started to change --- he got somber for a while, then more and more serious. His performance was no longer full of comic exaggeration, but instead full of pathos, and then developing to a realism disturbing to the others of his theatrical company. Would they bomb in their most important performance yet?

Then, finally, came opening night in the presence of the Emperor. Despite their director and lead actor's strange behavior and emotional state, things seemed to be going pretty well, the audience was obviously enjoying the performance. The "bishop" and the "priest" and the "deacons" put Catechumen through his paces, then very enthusiastically performed the baptism-parody scene, practically drowning their director in the doing; then more members of the company playing "praetorian guardsmen" took Genesius' character, now not Catechumen but Newly-Illumined, into custody, bound him, and took him before the real-life Emperor.

This was when Genesius was to deliver the comic monologue about the great evil and just plain silliness of the Christians --- but he could not. God had turned the impious parody into reality; Genesius, standing there in his baptismal white garment costume, was in fact, not in role, the Newly-Illumined. He declared himself a true believer in Christ, testifying to his minutes-old faith. "There is no other Lord besides Him whom I have seen. Him I worship and serve, and to Him I will cling, though I suffer a thousand deaths."

Diocletian stopped laughing. The "praetorian guardsmen" stepped aside to be replaced by the real-life ones, who carried out the Emperor's command to scourge Genesius. All Genesius would say was "No torments shall remove Jesus Christ from my heart and my mouth. Bitterly do I regret that I detested His holy name, and came so very late to His service." Finally, Genesius was beheaded.

The performance of Genesius' life became the very life of Genesius' performance, by the grace of God.
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Some times and places

are just magnets for the heroically holy. And Lima, Peru in 1600 was one of those places.

Saints sometimes come in clusters, and Lima was the home of one of the most famous saint-clusters. Many very bright lights of holiness still shine from that place: Turibius of Mogroveio, who was the archbishop there; Francis Solano, a wonder-working missionary preacher; Martin de Porres, a rejected child who became an unmercenary barber-surgeon; and the brightest and scariest light of them all, a reclusive intercession-warrior whose name was Isabel and who everyone called Rose, whose memorial we celebrate today.

Raised relatively well-to-do and somewhat pampered, she realized very early in her life that she had One True Love and he wasn't any of the fine young gents her family kept trying to pair her up with. Once she finally convinced her parents that she wasn't going to get married off, no matter what --- and it took some pretty drastic actions to convince them --- she made a little shed in the garden into her anchor hold and got to work, praying, interceding, doing penance for the sins of her people [have to admit the conquistadors had plenty to repent about!] and growing vegetables and doing needlework to support herself and to be able to give alms. People came to her garden for spiritual advice, and her friend Martin (see above!) was her connection to get her sewing and vegetables where they needed to be. She was also graced with visionary knowledge and suffered with the stigmata in addition to her ordinarily extreme penances.

From the writings of St. Rose of Lima:

Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: "Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven."

When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemd to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: "Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from his own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep aprticipation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul."

"If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! No one would complain about his cross or about troubles that may happen to him, if he would come to know the scales on which they are weighed when they are distributed to men."


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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival is open for business at To Jesus Through Mary, a fine blog by a very very young Wisconsinite. Do go pay Eddy a visit, and not necessarily just for the Carnival. Very very young Catholic gentlemen need to be encouraged!

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Don't let the schismatics steal our saint! : St. Pius X, warrior against spiritual starvation

Your new bishop, the poorest of all, has but one ambition --- to see all the children under his care united in one large, happy family, in the shelter of which their souls shall be safe. For the well-being of souls I shall consider no sacrifice too great, and have nothing more at heart than your salvation. I know that for the salvation of my little flock, I shall have to bear great difficulties, encounter dangers, bear insults, and struggle against the foe who seeks its ruin. But my people will find me ever at my post, always meek and full of charity.
(Giuseppe Sarto at his installation as Bishop of Mantua)



He was a man of prayer, a loving and diligent priest and bishop (of Mantua, then of Venice) and eventually pope, and one of that subspecies of fool-for-Christ saints known as "giveaway" saints --- who could not be trusted to not give away everything he touched, the exasperation of his bishop as a priest because he would pawn the candlesticks and thurible, the terror of his valet as bishop and pope because he would give away his last pair of socks. And it isn't easy living with a saint, especially a giveaway one!

And, in addition, there were lots of people who would take advantage of his sanctity to play church-politics, dividing the church up into parties to define all parties but one's own as heretical and propagating networks of snoops and gossip-mongers and tattletales and amateur heresy-hunters. ("Mommy,mommy!~Jimmy's picking his nose!" is as much of a pain in the Church as in the backyard.) One of the first chores of his successor, Benedict XV, was to make it perfectly clear that Catholic was Catholic and the shenanigans were unwelcome.

Pope Pius X faced down many challenges to the Church while he was pope. But his greatest contribution to us who come after him was the final overcoming of a rigorist heresy known as Jansenism, for which we should give thanks every time we receive the Eucharist.

Before Pius X, under Jansenist influence, lay people actually receiving communion was very rare. Although first confession was at age 6 or 7, first communion was delayed into the mid-to-late teenaged years, and it would be a full year before second communion. The Church had to have a law to command people to receive communion as often as once a year! (and some pastors resisted the law, not wanting their parishioners to receive that often; dissenters are not a new phenomena.)

But Pius X saw this dire situation and set out to do some things about it. He urged frequent communion for the faithful, communion every week or even every day. He set the requirements to be admitted to communion as the ability to tell the difference between the Eucharist and ordinary food, and the ability to show reverence appropriate to one's age; he regularly admitted children as young as 3 and 4 to first communion. And he issued a regulation that children who were regularly confessing were absolutely not to be excluded from communion --- no more confession at 6 or 7 and first communion at 15 or 16 anymore!

So, whenever you go to daily Mass and Father comes to the altar rail or communion station presuming that at least some of you will want to receive communion, thank St. Pius X, the warrior against spiritual starvation.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Two short pieces of business

First, this week's Christian Carnival is available for viewing at the Wittenberg Gate. Thanks, Dory, for all your hard work keeping the Carnival going. Besides the Dormition posts by both the Penitent Bolgger and me, there's lots of other goodies there --- especially check out the one about "bigger faith or bigger bumper stickers" by a preacher currently in medical durance vile. I can definitely sympathise; I've been locked up in a nursing home too.

Second, today is the one-year anniversary of the murder of Roger of Taize. Please pray for him and the community he founded.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

....and the Lord will raise us up.....

Today is the Solemnity of the Dormition, also called the Assumption, of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As we all know perfectly well, holy Mother Church never defines anything about the Blessed Virgin Mary unless it tells us something about Jesus, or tells us something about us. This is why, short of a new heresy arising about why we cannot pray for each other, the folk pushing for a new Marian definition about "Mediatrix Coredemptrix" are going to be greatly disappointed. So, what is Holy Mother Church setting out to teach us by defining the content of this feast as doctrine? What does the Dormition, alias the Assumption, mean for us believers?

First, a proper definition of this feast: Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, at the end of her life on earth, was taken up to heaven by her Son, both soul and body together. There she lives forever in the glory of the Presence of God in her resurrection body.

Note that she did not not die --- though that would not have been out of line, since Enoch did not die, nor Elijah, and maybe not Moses either, and some even claim not Arthur the King. She did die, and her Son resurrected her, and took her to Heaven.

This is not so very different than what has been promised to each one of us. Dormition, falling asleep in the Lord, will come for each of us. (Nobody gets out of this world alive!) We are made "to be happy with Him forever and ever in heaven", as the first grade religious education book taught us. And just as His mother Mary has already been resurrected to dwell in heaven body and soul together, the time will come when He will raise each of us up, and each of our souls will rejoin our resurrection bodies to the praise and glory of God.

Mary is the first-fruit of the general resurrection. Where and as she is, so shall we come to be, whole people, body and soul together, happy with God our Creator and Father in His eternal presence.
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Monday, August 14, 2006

St. Maximillian Kolbe: he gave himself away

Today is the memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Remarkable in so many ways, even before we get to the part he's famous about. As a child he has a vision/dream of Our Lady offering him either of two crowns to be his, one representing perfect holy chastity, the other the blessing of martyrdom; in his 11-year-old's somewhat greedy innocence he asks if he can have them both, please. And, as it turned out, he did have them both.



After successful university studies in mathematics and physics, he joined the Conventual Franciscans, earned two doctorate degrees, and taught seminary for a while, then launched out into an apostolate evangelizing by the press and radio, in both Poland and Japan. At the outbreak of hostilities, he was the superior of a very large community in Poland; and because he was a priest, and Polish, and intellectual, and outspoken in the press, he was a prime target of the Nazi occupiers. He was arrested and released several times, the final straw for the Nazis was his sheltering between 3 and 4 thousand Polish refugees in his friary, at least a third of them Jewish. This earned him the one-way pass to Auschwitz. Where he continued to minister and evangelize despite extreme hardships.

Then came a particular day in the last week of July, 1941. Someone had escaped from Block 14A, and according to the rules, 10 prisoners from the same block were to be killed by starvation for every escapee. So 10 men from 14A were selected to be killed, one of them cried out in mourning for his wife and children. Fr. Kolbe stepped out and petitioned the commander to take the place of one of the selected, the one who cried out. Asked who he thought he was, he said he was a priest. Then he offered the officer a reason on the officer's level ---- "I am old and frail, he is young and strong and has a family." And his offer was accepted. He was locked away in the starvation bunker with the other nine from 14A and twenty others from the blocks of two other escapees. He ministered to his 29 fellow victims, leading them in prayers and hymns and offering meditations on the passion and last things, and helping each one to die in peace with God. After two weeks or so, the camp personnel were getting impatient; five of the prisoners were still alive and one, Fr. Kolbe, was still conscious. They needed the room for a new set of victims, so on August 14th they killed Fr. Kolbe and the others still alive by lethal injection.

Most loving Father, whose Son Jesus Christ came to give his life as a ransom for many: Grant to us the grace, as you did grant it to your servant and priest Maximilian Kolbe, to be always ready to come to the aid of those in need or distress, not counting the cost; so that we may follow in the footsteps of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Here is a excerpt from a letter of St. Maximilian on Jesus' obedience and our own, that our Church gives to us in today's Office of Readings:

Dear brothers, see the greatness of man's dignity conferred by God's mercy. By obedience we surmount, so to speak, the limits imposed upon us by our weakness, we are made conformable to God's will which in his infinite wisdom and prudence guides us to act correctly. As a matter of fact by clinging to God's will ---- and no creature can resist it ---- we surpass everything in power.

This is the way of wisdom and prudence, this is the only way we can render the greatest glory to God. If there were another and more suitable way Christ surely would have showed it to us by his own words and example. But Sacred Scripture described his long sojourn in Nazareth in these words: He was subject to them and painted the picture of the rest of his life for us in the colors of obedience thus showing that he had come upon earth to do the will of his Father.

Therefore, my brothers, let us love our most loving Father in heaven with the greatest love and let our obedience be the proof of our perfect love which we put into practice especially when we are asked to give up our own will. There is no more authoritative book to teach us how to grow in God's love than the book of Jesus crucified.


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Friday, August 11, 2006

"Flee women and bishops!", counselled the desert abbas.

"lest one fall into fornication or ordination."

But sometimes there is just no escape.

Today is the memorial of St. Alexander the Charcoal-Maker, bishop of Comana.....

Alexander was a bright upper-class pagan who became a philosopher in the schools. When in due time he became a Christian, in order to get out of philosophy and away from his pagan connections, he quit his teaching position, moved halfway across the known world, and set up shop as a maker of charcoal --- the grungiest, least favored honest work possible. Nobody in Asia Minor knew anything at all about his past life.

In due time, the bishop of that place died, and the metropolitan of Asia Minor, St. Gregory the Wonderworker, came and assembled the synod of the place to elect a new bishop. Gregory preached to the assembly that they were to pay no attention to social station or wealth or outward appearance, but were to choose the most spiritual man. A bit peeved, some members of the synod went and grabbed Alexander, wearing his work rags and covered with soot, and presented him to St. Gregory, apparently as a joke.

But Gregory did not see it as a joke. He started asking pointed questions. Alexander tried to play stupid. It didn't work; eventually Alexander confessed to his respectable and learned past. Gregory got Alexander a bath and a decent robe, then ordained him bishop.

Alexander became well-beloved as bishop, and was martyred under Diocletian in about 275.
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Heart Speaks to Heart

Today is the yahrzeit day of Venerable John Henry Newman.



From his Meditations on Christian Doctrine:

1. God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory --- we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.

2. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission --- I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his --- if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

3. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me --- still He knows what He is about.

O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I --- more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfil Thy high purposes in me whatever they be --- work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see --- I ask not to know --- I ask simply to be used.


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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Deacon Lawrence and the Treasures of the Church

Some of the stories of the Faith are too good not to tell over and over again. My father's name-day story is one of them. [Happy name day, Dad!]

In the early days of the Church, deacons had charge of the business aspects of the local churches, seven deacons for each bishop. The bishop taught and ruled, the presbyters helped the bishop to pastor outlying areas where the faithful couldn't travel regularly to assist at the bishop's Eucharist, and the deacons were responsible for all the other stuff: keeping the holy things safe, paying the bills, managing the money, assisting the poor with their necessities, and so on. [This is why is was so often that a deacon would be elected as bishop, back then.....]

Lawrence was the last surviving deacon of the Church in Rome --- the bishop Sixtus II, all the other deacons, and the vast majority of the presbyters having been executed a few days before. Yet the powers-that-were knew where Lawrence was and who he was, that he was responsible for all the material goods of the Church, and he was ordered to appear before the rulers at a assigned time and place, bearing all the treasures of the Church.

So he gathered all of the Church's treasures and brought them to the appointed place.

He gathered together every widow, every orphan, every beggar and street kid, all the blind and deaf and lame and lunatic --- all the riches of Christ's Church --- and presented the treasures to the emperor's representative, as he had been commanded.

But the treasures of the Church were not the treasures that the rulers were seeking; they were seeking jewels and vessels of precious metals and manuscripts of forbidden writings. So Lawrence was condemned to death --- death by torture, by being cooked on a grill. According to the tradition, Lawrence kept his good humor even in dying. After some time, he informed his executioners that it was time to turn him over, since he was done on that side!

Holy St. Lawrence, help us to remember what and where the Church's treasures really are, and pray for us that we may truly cherish them and never ever lose heart.
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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

09Aug: the martyrs, confessors, and innocents of WWII

......or, maybe we can call it, the memorial of the Desecration of the Temples? After all, it does coincide with the mourning day Tisha b'Av often enough, and the temple of the Lord which is each one of us is as truly a holy place as the one built of rocks and mortar in Jerusalem.

No human planned it, but our grandnieces and grandnephews will recall this day especially for the witnesses of the era of the Second World War. For three remembrances coincide this day: the memorial of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, nee Edith Stein; the memorial of the Servant of God Franz Jagerstatter, umlauts over both a's in that last name; and the day when the second of two towns of minimal military significance was destroyed and its people murdered in a single instant.

Edith Stein, Teresia Benedicta a Cruce

portrait of Edith Stein, Teresia Benedicta a Cruce

Edith Stein was the atheist daughter of non-practicing Jewish parents. Brilliant and eager to learn, she excelled academically, and eventually became a disciple and protege of one of the most brilliant philosophers of her day. She came to Christianity and the Catholic Church by way of her philosophical explorations and her study of the writings of St Teresa of Avila. She eventually gave up her professorship at the university to enter Carmel.

When the National Socialists came to power in Germany, they began to impose their ideas of "racial purity," and life became more and more difficult. Eventually, her superiors judged that things were getting too dangerous and were only likely to get worse, so they sent Edith out of the country to another Carmel in the Netherlands, where it was believed she'd be safe. Edith had already offered up her life for and with her people, but she wasn't courting death. Then the Nazis conquered the Netherlands.

The Catholic Church in the Netherlands was, from the beginning, in active opposition to the National Socialists and all their pomps and works; the bishops ordered their preists to refuse communion to known Nazi sympathizers, and the Church was very heavily involved in the resistance to the occupation. In June of 1942, the bishops preached the absolute condemnation of National Socialism, with emphasis on its racial policies, and had the condemnation read from every pulpit in the country, published in every Catholic periodical.

In retaliation, the Nazi occupiers arrested every "non-Aryan" Catholic priest and religious in the country, including Edith, first imprisoning them in Holland, then deporting them to extermination camps further east. The Catholics were the first to be taken from the Netherlands. Edith Stein, Sister Teresis Benedicta a Cruce, was killed in Auschwitz on this day in 1942.

Franz Jagerstatter

photo of Franz Jagerstatter

Franz Jagerstatter was a farmer, the child of farmers, in a back-of-beyond part of Austria called St. Radegund, a town too little to have a post office or even appear on a map. He was an extremely rowdy young man, noted in his youth mostly for 1) having gotten a young lady pregnant and not marrying her, for which he was exiled from the village for a few years, and 2) bringing the first motorcycle to the village when he returned. He got married to a seriously Catholic woman, and they went to Rome for their honeymoon, where Franz came to the love of Jesus and the conversion of his life while visiting the holy places.

Franz and his wife returned to St. Radegund, took up the operations of the Jagerstatter family farm, joined the Secular Franciscan Order, and had three daughters. Franz also took the unpaid second job of sexton at the parish church, where he's remembered for turning down the customary gratuities of that job. The other men of the village thought he was "a little too Catholic," but also noticed that his duties to his wife, his children, and the farm were always well fulfilled.

Then came National Socialism. In the supposed vote, he voted "no." His was the only "no" vote in the village; the parish priest deliberately spoiled his ballot, everybody else voted "yes." He wouldn't say "Heil Hitler" to anybody, but maintained the traditional greeting, "Bless God." Although not a teetotaller, he stopped going to the tavern; he was getting in too many fights about Nazism. The only one of the ubiquitous Nazi charitable collections he'd donate to was the police pension fund; he said that he'd made the police work too hard during his wild youth. When he was called up for a few weeks of mandatory reserve training (there's a picture of him in his army reserve uniform), what he saw and heard confirmed in him the need to cooperate no further.

Eventually, the draft came even for married farmers with children. Franz went to the induction station as ordered, but refused to be inducted; he could not join an army fighting an unjust war to establish evil. He was beheaded for this refusal, this day in 1943.

Nagasaki

This is the crucifix of the cathedral in Nagasaki, very near the hypocenter, laying amid the radioactive ruins and the dust of the congregation.

the altar crucifix of the Catholic Cathedral of Nagasaki

Nagasaki was the second of two cities, chosen for their lack of military significance, to be destroyed by a new kind of weapon, where with a single bomb one could wipe out an entire population. That's why cities with minimal military significance were chosen, such cities would have no previous bombing damage to complicate the analysis of the before-and-after pictures. Tens of thousands of civilians killed instantly, more thousands left to die slowly as involuntary human subjects in this new military experimentation and testing. The very image of God destroyed, dishonored, defaced thousands of times.

Twenty-some years later, there would be an Ecumenical Council. That Council would issue only one anathema:
Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and against man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation. [Gaudium et spes, 80].

St. Edith, holy Franz, holy innocents of the Church in Nagasaki, pray for us, help us to remember, and give us strength to stand.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Just because someone's excommunicated doesn't mean she's the bad guy

Today is the memorial of Blessed Mary MacKillop, one of that exclusive club of excommunicated saints. Yes, sometimes the Good Guys run afoul of their badly mistaken bishops or a particularly foul glob of church-politics....

picture of Blessed Mary MacKillop

Mary was the eldest child of poor Scottish immigrants to Australia, but she was well-educated, mostly by her father who had been a seminarian back in Scotland. To help support her family, she became a schoolteacher, teaching in the local state school and also running a small private school in the family home. She couldn't answer her call to religious life because her family needed her income. But eventually, a scandal caused by a corrupt school board official gave her an excuse to leave her teaching job in the state school without alienating her family.

Mary moved to a town called Penola; there she met a supportive priest and opened a free Catholic school for the poor. This school was the beginnings of the first religious order in Australia, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, with a community charism to educate poor children in remote areas. Her order grew, and soon had 17 free Catholic schools under her care.

Her independence, her preferential care for the poor, and her insistence on the human rights of the Aborigines aggravated her bishop, who ordered her to turn over the order and the schools to him so he could turn them into proper tuition-paying schools for the deserving well-to-do. She couldn't do that, and was excommunicated in 1871. Mary prayed and patiently put up with the situation, refusing to let it separate her from God or God's beloved poor. About a year and a half later, the bishop repented, apologized, and restored her to communion.

Mary spent the rest of her life travelling from house to house of her growing community, working for the education of the poor and the rights of the Aboriginal people, until her death in 1909.
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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Transfigurations

We remember a Transfiguration in glory

icon of the Transfiguration

when Peter, James, and John saw Jesus as he truly was, glorious with uncreated Light, conversing with Moses and Elijah. Flabbergasted, the threesome said some really silly things about pitching tents for all of them and staying there always, but were told they all had to go back down the mountain, back to "real life" ---- though what was at the top of the mountain was more real than any of the "real life" down below.

And we also remember a transfiguration in horror

the Cathedral of Hiroshima after Transfiguration morning

when the first of two cities, chosen because they had minimal military significance (therefore they had no previous bomb damage to complicate the analysis of the before-and-after photos), was utterly destroyed by a single bomb, its people transformed in an instant from living embodied ones to etched shadows on the pavements, and others left to slowly die over weeks and months from radiation-related illnesses unknown before. Those two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were not chosen because they were the heart of Japanese Catholicism; that was accidental.

So, we celebrate this feast of our Lord, and remember our brothers and sisters who were doing the same in the Hiroshima Cathedral, and all the people of that city, when they themselves were transformed in a single instant, to see the Lord for eternity as he truly is.

May the perpetual Light, which we celebrate especially on this solemnity of Transfiguration, shine upon them all.
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St. Ephrem's teaching on the Transfiguration

1. From the land comes the joy of harvest, from the vineyard fruits that give food, and from the Scriptures teaching that gives life. The land has one season for the harvest, and the vineyard has one season for the vintage, but the Scripture when read always overflows with teaching that gives life. The land when it has been harvested lies fallow and the vineyard when the grapes have been picked is unproductive, but when Scripture is harvested the grapes of those who expound it are not lacking in it. It is picked every day and the grape clusters of the hope in it are never exhausted. Let us then draw near to this land and enjoy its life-giving furrows; and let us harvest from it grapes of life, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said to his Disciples, ‘There are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of man coming in his glory’.

2. ‘And after six days he took Simon Peter and James and John his brother to a very high mountain and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white like light’. Men whom he said would not taste death until they saw the image of his coming, are those whom he took and led up the mountain and showed them how he was going to come on the last day in the glory of his divinity and in the body of his humanity.

3. He led them up the mountain to show them who the Son is and whose he is. Because when he asked them, ‘Whom do men say the Son of man is?’ They said to him, some Elias, others Jeremias, or one of the Prophets. This is why he leads them up the mountain and shows them that he is not Elias, but the God of Elias; again, that he is not Jeremias, but the one who sanctified Jeremias in his mother’s womb; not one of the Prophets, but the Lord of the Prophets, who also sent them. And he shows them that he is the maker of heaven and earth, and that he is Lord of living and dead. For he gave orders to heaven and brought down Elias, and made a sign to the earth and raised up Moses.

4. He led them up the mountain to show them that he is the Son of God, born from the Father before the ages and in the last times incarnate from the Virgin, as he knows how, born ineffably and without seed, preserving her virginity incorrupt; for wherever God wills it, the order of nature is overcome. For God the Word dwelt in the Virgin’s womb, and the fire of his divinity did not consume the members of the Virgin’s body, but protected them carefully by its nine month presence. He dwelt in the Virgin’s womb, not abhorring the unpleasant smell of nature, and God incarnate came forth from her to save us.

5. He led them up the mountain to show them the glory of the godhead and to make known to them that he is the redeemer of Israel, as he had shown through the Prophets, and they should not be scandalized in him when they saw his voluntary sufferings, which as man he was about to suffer for us. For they knew him as a man, but did not know that he was God. They knew him as son of Mary, going about with them in the world, and he made known to them on the mountain that he was Son of God and God. They saw that he ate and drank, toiled and rested, dozed and slept, things which did not accord with his divine nature, but only with his humanity, and so he took them to the mountain that the Father might call him Son and show that he is truly his Son and that he is God.

6. He led them up the mountain and showed them his kingship before his passion, and his power before his death, and his glory before his disgrace, and his honor before his dishonor, so that, when he was arrested and crucified by the Jews, they might know that he was not crucified through weakness, but willingly by his good pleasure for the salvation of the world.

7. He led them up the mountain and showed the glory of his divinity before the resurrection, so that when he rose from the dead in the glory of his divine nature, they might know that it was not because of his harsh toil that he accepted glory, as if he lacked it, but it was his before the ages with the Father and together with the Father, as he said as he was coming to his voluntary passion, ‘Father, glorify me with the glory which I had with you before the world existed’.

8. And so on the mountain he showed his Apostles the glory of his divinity, concealed and hidden by his humanity. For they saw his face bright as lightning and his garments white as light. They saw two suns; one in the sky, as usual, and one unusually; one visible in the firmament and lighting the world, and one, his face, visible to them alone. His garments white as light showed that the glory of his divinity flooded from his whole body, and his light shone from all his members. For his flesh did not shine with splendor from without, like Moses, but the glory of his divinity flooded from him. His light dawned and was drawn together in him. Nor did depart somewhere else and leave him, because it did come from another place and adorn him, nor was it for his use. And he did not display the whole depth of his glory, but only as much as the limits of their eyes could encompass.

9. ‘And there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him’. And the words that they said to him were such as these: they were thanking him that their words and those of all their fellow Prophets had been fulfilled by his coming. They offered him worship for the salvation which he had wrought for the world for the human race; and that he had fulfilled in reality the mystery they had only sketched. There was joy for the Prophets and the Apostles by this ascent of the mountain. The Prophets rejoiced when they saw his humanity, which they had not known. The Apostles also rejoiced when they saw the glory of his divinity, which they had not known, and heard the voice of the Father bearing witness to his Son; and through this they recognized his incarnation, which was concealed from them. And the witness of the three was sealed by the Father’s voice and by Moses and Elias, who stood by him like servants, and they looked to one another: the Prophets to the Apostles and the Apostles to the Prophets. There the authors of the old covenant saw the authors of the new. Holy Moses saw Simon the sanctified; the steward of the Father saw the administrator of the Son. The former divided the sea for the people to walk in the middle of the waves; the latter raised a tent for the building of the Church. The virgin of the old covenant saw the virgin of the new: [Elias and John;] the one who mounted on the chariot of fire and the one who leaned on the breast of the flame. And the mountain became a type of the Church, and on it Jesus united the two covenants, which the Church received, and made known to us that he is the giver of the two. The one received his mysteries; the other revealed the glory of his works.

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A Chinese Transfiguration hymn

attributed to Ching-ching (Adam), Bishop of Chang'an (Xi'an), capital of T'ang China, c. AD 780:

The Ta-ch'in (Syrian) Luminous Religion's Eulogy on the Transfiguration of the Holy One-equal-to-God's Leading People to the Truth.

We all adore Thee! O Saviour! Thou art the Holy One equal to God!
Thou art the Merciful Father, the Aloha (God), Himself!

Thy raiment is like the Precious Gem glorified in the Radiance of the Sun and the brightness of the Moon!
Thy virtues, lofty and majestic, ever excel those of all the Saints and Sages.

The Glad-tidings of Thine! Oh, Thy Teachings of Wonderful Love!
These are sounding throughout the world like the Golden Bell!

The gracious influences of the Merciful Laws of Thine!
These are spread throughout the world, lest all the souls be lost Forever!

Being in the dark, these piteous souls are to be lost,
Were it not for Thy Great Mercy!
For they have already lost their true nature
In consequence of all the poisonous evils they received.

Thou alone art the Holy One who is equal to God Almighty!
Thou art our King and Redeemer!
Dwelling in the Divine Light of peerless effluence, visible only to the Saints.
Thou reignest over us all from on high!

In the form of the sacred streaks of Light, Thy Mercy shines forth far and near,
Rendering all kinds of iniquities to ashes in order to purge all the evil ones from the world!

Thus Thou showest to us clearly and distinctly that Thou art the real Protector of Thy people!
And by many excellent methods and ways Thou governest all the nations,
Keeping Thine own people from going astray!
And thus for them Thou preservest Thy merciful Way of Benevolent life.


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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Just a Little Portion Christian Carnival (#133)

Today is one of those minor Christian holidays where the name says it all --- the memorial of the dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Angels of the Little Portion. "Of the Angels" because some local herdsmen heard the angels sing there back in the 900s. "Of the Little Portion" because this tiny humble chapel, originally not much more than a wayside shrine, was on a tiny piece of land that had been gifted to God and the region's monastery. But the monastery didn't have much interest in the place, being tiny and far from the rest of the land they were responsible for. Eventually, in the 1300s, the monks rented it out to a upstart group of poor wandering preachers who still to this day call it home sweet home: annual rent, two buckets of fish. One little chapel on a tiny plot not really good for much of anything, that became a place for the grace of God to shine forth. The dozen upstarts who rented the place are now thousands of poor wandering preachers and servants of the poor; the chapel on the Little Portion, a place of pilgrimage.

So maybe this little Christian Carnival offering can become a place for the grace of God to shine forth, just as that little piece of land in the Italian mountains that is remembered today.

Ganheim at Ponderings on the Workings of the Universe ponders on why bad things happen to good people.

Chris Alexion at Welcome to the Fallout reviews C.S.Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in Learning from Lewis.

David Ker's Lingamish reminds us of some not-very-comfortable realities in Sleep Well. [and to be aware that here in the USA the rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air and the roar of the jet fighters overhead is all just good clean fun....whereas in a dozen lands any of us could name.....]

Professor Steve Bainbridge presents a review of some principles of justly fighting ("jus in bello") in The Aburdity of Proportionality.

At Li'l Duck Duck, Mama Duck ponders the ways of her toddler, Li'l Duck, in Cheerful, friendly, sweet and mostly innocent.

The Bible Archivecontinues its tradition of Bible exposition with A Literary View of John 3:14-16.

Lawyers and Good Books for the Middle Kingdom chronicles some adventures of Charmaine ay the National Religious Broadcasters' trade show, at Jack Yoest.

You know those nasty sins detraction, calumny, rash judgment, gossip? A Man of Understanding Holds His Tongue, insists the author of the Proverbs, and also Dave Lorenzo of the Career Intensity Blog.

Laurie Bluedorn of Trivium Pursuit presentsan essay by Dave Kidd on the dress and comportment of Christian teenagers in Ashes for Beauty.

Here's another fine post about nasty sin; simony, which is the attempt to buy and sell the grace of God by trading in real or fake "holy things". Jesus junk comes in for special attention in Cracking the Whip at Rodney Olsen's Journey.

Tyler Williams of Codex continues his series on the textual criticism of the Hebrew Scriptures with The Practice of Textual Criticism. Please think kindly of and pray for those hard-working professional Scripture scholars who make it possible for us to have all the study bibles with the wonderful footnotes and cross-references.

This week at Light Along the Journey, John takes a look at Psalm 47 and the unexpected reason the Psalmist gave for his shouting for joy.

Monica Brand of Books Are Our Friends has submitted a post called Undressing the Church about the dress of women at church. Unfortunately your hostess hasn't been able to read it due to technical glitches, but I've been told it is there, if you don't use Internet Explorer.....

At Fallible.com, Katy McKenna Raymond insists that the inspiration and influence of a caring teacher can last a lifetime as she reminiscences about her days in Christian elementary school in Teach Your Children Well.

The Renaissance Blogger asks --- do my beloved Desert Christians, and the other people who have strived after holiness in the past, have anything to offer to 21st century Christianity (of course, I believe they do!) in Does the Modern Church Have a Use for the Past.

Veracity of The Way writes in Forced Detention of a current child protection case and what it might bode for the future of the country.

The Golden Hour of the day inspires Karen of Scottsdale as she is reminded of God's presence while taking her evening stroll, she writes at The View from My Chair.

The Thinking Christian expounds on Ecclesiastes and Joy. Yes, joy!

Inmani Peterson at AmericanInventorSpot writes of the hazards and dark side of the internet and presents a new free version of Parental Control Software.

In Time and Omnipotent Designers, the Parableman probes the various arguments for the creation of the world and the length of time for the creation to be complete.

Rev Bill relates how he is discovering that the times in his life that are not so easy are making him more Christlike!, in Becoming Like Christ.

Humilis Penitens knows that no matter what, our faith and our worship must be Real, in a meditation upon the assigned Scripture of the day, at A Penitent Blogger.

At Attention Span, Reverend Ed realizes that no matter how well he covers up his Farmer Tan, Someone knows what lies beneath.

Leslie Carbone lambastes rash judgment toward a Christian radical-adoptionist couple who feared that too many trees on their house-lot would be hazardous to their four blind adoptive children, in Enviro-Judges.

Mark Olson at Pseudo-Polymath offers us On Emergent Life: Considered Yet Again, part three of a series in which he attempts to present (at a request) some arguments why we might want to place a high value on the unborn life. In this part, he does not restrict himself to the secular arguments.

The blogger at Brain Cramps for God has posted a three part series starting with "SHEEP! WE ARE ALL SHEEP!", which all center around our need, as humans, to find a source of Truth and Authority in our lives, and, of course, what he thinks that source is.

The Alabama Brands encourage us with Scripture with God Thinks about Me.

Michele from Life Under the Sun completes her ongoing study of Samson and Delilah.

Nehring presents 30 Movies That Matter, that inform and support the Christian worldview, along with some thoughts on how Christians can approach watching film, at Nehring The Edge.

The Evangelical Ecologist is live-blogging "Let's Tend the Garden", a Christian environmental conference in Boise, Idaho, this week.

And, it was really hard to decide. but your humble hostess offers the story of a very recent martyr for Christ and His people in A Shepherd Cannot Run.

Sorry about those of you who requested "trackbacks" and "pings", but I do not know how to do either of those. Thanks to Dory for letting my host the Carnival again (I hosted it twice in 2004), and I pray you all enjoy and are enlightened by it.

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