Saturday, May 31, 2003

Two powerful homilies on being called to priesthood

[real audio is required for links]

First, by Archbishop Timothy Dolan last weekend: Mother Church Rejoices! [5:09] When called to ordination, you say "present." Not "ready" or "prepared" or "capable"; just "present."

Second, by Bishop Richard Sklba last May: The Tasks God Gives Us [11:27] What God calls one to do, God also gives the grace necessary to fulfill it.
The Novena for Priests: We must pray!

This is a picture of the three bishops who belong to us in Milwaukee. Replace this picture in your mind with the picture of the bishops where you are, and offer that image to God, and ask God to give to them courage and strength, and any special gifts and graces they may need. Repeat liberally and regularly.

This is an image from one year ago today, of a priest of God at a public chapter of faults. We, every one of us, have sinned and have done some incredibly stupid things; very few of us have been subjected to public confession and penance over them. Do not just pray for the perfect priests, for there are no such, since they are chosen from among us. Pray for them all, even the ones who aggravate you, even the ones who have failed.

Today is the first day of a nation-wide novena for our priests. More information is at the site www.novenaforpriests.com. Here is the novena prayer they suggest:

Jesus, Good Shepherd,
You sent us the Holy Spirit to guide Your Church
and lead her faithful to You through the ministry of Your priests.

Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, grant to Your priests
wisdom in leading,
faithfulness in teaching,
and holiness in guarding Your sacred Mysteries.

As they cry out with all the faithful, "Abba, Father!"
may Your priests be ever more closely identified with You
in Your divine Sonship
and offer their own lives with You, the one saving Victim.

Make them helpful brothers of one another,
and understanding fathers of all Your people.

On this Pentecost Sunday, renew in Your priests deeper faith,
greater trust in You,
childlike reliance on our Mother Mary,
and unwavering fidelity to the Holy Father and his bishops.

Holy Mary, intercede for your priests.
St. Joseph, protect them.
St. Michael, defend them.
St. John Vianney, pray for them.

and I'd like to suggest personally that the Prayer for Preist-penitents also be added to this, since we so often neglect to pray for those who have ever failed us, and so many who had served their penalties for their sins and had been restored and redeemed have been sent away to exile in this past year, and they need our prayers also and especially.

Lord, we pray for your priests who must now go away from us. They have reformed their lives, they have been penitent, they have been restored and have given us your word and your sacraments faithfully. Yet now, for the good of the whole Church, they must go into anonymous exile.

Lord, you know them, every one. Give them the courage and strength and grace to bear this for you and your holy Church. Support and heal them, as you did Miriam in her leprous shame, and as you did David the King after his great crimes. Let your light shine in and through them, as it did in Margaret of Cortona and Mary of Egypt, in your anonymous one of Sachsenhausen, and in so many of your holy penitents through all ages.

We, who are also sinners, beg this of you, our all-good Lord. Amen.


Friday, May 30, 2003

In honor of the BlogDay, the lessons of this blog's beginnings, the major facts of faith and of life that were learned, or reinforced, in the first few wild months of this site, and that remain true:

1) The details of our long-ago-confessed and long-ago-forgiven sins and stupidities are the business only of God. They are not the business of those who would turn them into cudgels.

2) The details of the sins of other people are none of my business; I've enough troubles with my own.

3) Sins and stupidities do not negate goodness, wisdom, love, or generosity.

4) The Accuser of the Brethren can have no foothold among us if we refuse to play his foul game. We must not accuse others, only ourselves. We cannot defend ourselves, even justly, by accusing anybody else of anything; not if we seek to live truly submitted lives.

5) The Church has wisely declared that the Lord can and does use imperfect instruments to build his Kingdom, and that the sacraments are not dependent on the perfection of their ministers. If we insist on having only perfect bishops who have only perfect priests, we will have neither bishops nor priests; for all of us have sinned, every single one of us has done spectacularly stupid things, and even the strongest and most faithful of us come equipped with two clay feet.

6) Where the bishop is, there is the Catholic Church, which the Lord has promised to protect and sustain, and there is no other place where one can be certain of that.

7) When chaos is breaking out all over and the world is spinning and shaking, you reach deep down inside, down to the foundation, and find one of those things that are known to be true and will not change, and you cling tightly to that until the chaos subsides. Two of those unchanging true things are "God made me to know Him, and to love Him, and to serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever and ever in Heaven" and "God is all-good and deserving of all my love."

8) I have sinned and have done some incredibly dumb things; I have no right to ridicule anybody, ever.

9) The judgment I judge is the judgment I will be judged by; the forgiveness I offer will be the forgiveness I receive. So how dare I even think of stringent judgment or withholding my forgiveness.

and 10) from the last teaching of my gentle and devoted retired archbishop, who was the designated pariah when this site was birthed one year ago: I have learned how frail my own human nature is, how in need of God’s loving embrace I am. Empty-handed for me now means a willingness to accept my humanity totally, just as Christ accepted that same human nature out of love. But for me it also means to be fully receptive to whatever God wants to place in those hands, to be ready with empty hands to receive new life.
But I am also aware much self-pity and pride remain. I must leave that pride behind. Each day I will try to leave room for God to enter into my life more and more. Ultimately I understand that the humanity God so loved and sought to redeem, including my own humanity, will be transformed by his loving embrace and grace.

These lessons will always remain the same, no matter the name of the current pariah, or even if the current pariah should come to be me. The truth endures.
Today is this site's BlogDay! (thanks to Bene Diction for that word)

Very late in the evening, one year ago today, this web-log was launched into the world. This was the very first post here (I've taken the liberty of fixing my typos):

( 11:13 PM ) Karen Marie Knapp
Thanks to Michael Shirley and Gerard Serafin (and Mark and Amy) for introducing me to the world of the blog.

For a little introduction:

I'm a retired library worker in my mid-40's. More to the point, I have as my primary occupation praying for this city and this diocese. And recently, that's been two armsful.

I was not raised up here in Milwaukee. In my youth I had a special talent for those tests with the dots to fill in with the #2 pencil, ended up in Milwaukee, and settled in to stay when the scholarship money ran out. So I never met Fr. Groppi, except in newsreel footage, but I live at the end of his bridge. The bridge over which he and his parishioners would have processions, to defend the right of all Milwaukeans to use any of the public parks, and to buy or rent homes in any Milwaukee neighborhood they chose and could afford. They were not welcomed in peace, not then. But now there are two large signs: "Groppi Unity Bridge." And about 1/2 block from the end, hidden between and behind the factories and businesses, is my little anchor hold; tiny house, tinier porch, a peony and two rhubarb plants, a lawn of some viney weed that blooms blue in May (but no grass), a few antennas. Home sweet anchor hold.

Also before going to bed that night, I had an article in response to some questions from Sean of Nota Bene, a posting of "the scariest prayer in the hymnal," and a prayer request for a devoted and beloved shepherd who was facing a public chapter of faults (with international media in attendance) the next day.

I do not regret at all launching the Anchor Hold into the world, and hope to be here for a long time to come.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

From the desert: No matter what, you never give up and never lose hope

A brother asked Abba Sisoes, "What shall I do, abba, for I have fallen?" The old man said to him, "Get up again." The brother said, "I have got up again, but I have fallen again." The old man said, "Get up again and again." So the brother said, "How many times?" The old man said, "Until you are taken up either in virtue or in sin. For a man presents himself to judgment in the state in which he is found."
Tradition is democracy extended through time.

Today would be G.K.Chesterton's 129th birthday. In his memory, one of his best-known theological statements:

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

prayer requests update

first, on the Dad front: to review, the same day I got put in hospital, he went to see about _his_ chronic open wound. It was discovered that his leg arteries were too clogged for angioplasty and would need bypassed, but he'd need to pass a cardiac stress test first (He's almost 70 and diabetic...). Well, he had the cardiac stress test a couple of weeks ago, and flunked it gloriously. "What do you mean, you don't have a cardiologist; according to these results, you've already had a half-dozen heart attacks!" "I haven't even had one heart attack ever...." Off to see a cardiologist, lots more tests, the results are in: every single artery in his heart is clogged. On Wednesday next week (6/4) he'll be in hospital where they will attempt angioplasty and clean them all out, if they can. If they can't, he'll have to have major open-chest surgery for multiple bypasses. So keep on praying.

And a new one: Near to me, in Waukesha WI, there is the motherhouse of a contemplative community known as the Order of Julian of Norwich. According to their newsletter that arrived yesterday, their guardian, Sr. Scholastica Marie, has stepped down because she has terminal cancer. She has requested that only palliative care be given her. Pray for her for the grace of a happy death, for her community, and for their newly elected guardian, Fr. Gregory. And, if you are a member of the Anglican Communion and think you might be called to the contemplative religious life, you may want to check out the OJN's.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Who (or what) dominates us? Who (or what) is our Lord?
[dominate, from Latin dominus = lord.]

This is fron the introduction to the book Quotations from Chairman Jesus (1969, Templegate Publishers; 1971, Bantam Books).

"Christ is Lord," the first Christians shouted in a counter-accamation to the insistence of the Roman state that "Caesar is Lord." This was their way of proclaiming that Jesus Christ, not the current emperor in Rome or colonial governor in Palestine, was the only source and criterion of the christian's life. To make the same point today we use another phrase with a twist --- "Chairman Jesus" --- to say that Jesus alone, expressed in the actions of conscience and a life which seeks brotherly community, has our final and total commitment. Anything given to Nixon (or whoever is president or chairman where we live) is given provisionally, always subject to the condition that what his power asks or demands does not contradict our conscience, our humanity.

In the end, of course, the best presentation of the gospels is one's own life. But we must do this "translation" together. QUOTATIONS FROM CHAIRMAN JESUS has come from the attempt of one group, Emmaus House in New York City, to answer the question always before us: what is the meaning of Jesus for our lives now, for men in general?

We have many questions, not many answers. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we are searching: we risk the unknown, putting everything to the test. These are the notes of fellow searchers, travelling with the rest of men, sharing what we have experienced and discovered so far, "like one beggar who tells another beggar where to find bread."

from the desert: About Anger

Amma Syncletica said: It is good not to get angry, but if this should happen, the Apostle does not allow you a whole day for this passion, for he says, "Let not the sun go down on your anger". Will you wait till all your time is ended? Why hate the man who has grieved you? It is not he who has done the wrong, but the devil. Hate sickness but not the sick person.

Monday, May 26, 2003

a few one-sentence stories of St. Philip Neri

A member of Philip's household (who later became a cardinal) was much too serious, to the point of gloominess ---- Philip sent him to a wedding breakfast to sing the Miserere.

One young man sought permission to use a hairshirt, and Philip consented ---- as long as the gentleman wore it over his other clothes. The gentleman did so, and learned humility in the razzing he got from his chums.

The more people talked about Philip's alleged holiness, the zanier he behaved ---- he would rather be reputed for his insanity than for his sanctity.

Philip was so attuned to the interior reality of the Eucharist that before he celebrated, instead of recollecting himself, he had to deliberately distract himself with the reading of joke books or the pulling of a prank in order to fulfill the external rite. [He was also known to occasionally levitate and often spend time in ecstasy while celebrating Eucharist, so celebrated privately to avoid making a scene.]
The care and nurture of rowdy young people

St. Philip attracted groups of young men, who came to see him at all hours. When other priests in Philip's house griped about the noise and general ruckus, he replied: They can chop wood on my back if they want to, as long as they do not sin.

Philip believed, seemed to know instictively, that it wasn't good enough to tell young people what not to do; in addition, you had to give them something to do in its place. So at Carnival time, when the worst excesses went on, Philip organized a pilgrimage to the Seven Churches with a plentious picnic lunch and musicians. After walking twelve miles during the day, they were too tired to carouse at night.
The proper place of cardinals

St. Philip Neri came to have some very well-placed friends. One of them was the pope, who, back when he was a lowly cardinal, had Philip for a spiritual director. By dint of persistent refusals and some zany behavior, Philip succeeded in getting the Pope not to stick a red hat on his head. However, the pope later did put a red hat on another member of Philip's household, the newborn Oratory: Cesare Baronius, a brilliant historian and the cook of the community. To celebrate, Philip made a sign for the kitchen door: the cardinal's coat of arms with the caption "Cesare, Cardinal Baronius, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer."
"I cannot gather them, they have blown to all places on the winds"

One day not long after Philip Neri was ordained, a penitent came to him, a society woman with a major problem --- she loved to gossip, the more shocking or scandalous the better, and she wanted to stop but didn't know how.

Philip told her: Go to the market and buy a good plump fresh-killed chicken, and pluck it when you bring it to me. So she did; she bought a plump chicken, and plucked it as she was taking it back to Philip.

Philip thanked her for the chicken, then continued: Now, gather up the feathers and bring them all here also. The society woman was totally dismayed, saying: I cannot gather them, they have blown to all places on the wind.

Philip replied: Precisely. This is the same as what happens to the tales you tell; they fly away all over, and you cannot take them back or unsay them, and others can pick them up and use them as they would. Now go, and commit no more slander. She left him, and was freed of her problems with sins of speech.
St. Augustine on Joy: a fitting selection for today's saint, the patron of joy addicts

From the Office of Readings for today, the memorial of St. Philip Neri. I'll be trying to post St Philip stories throughout the day; Narwen by rights ought to have the honor, but today is also, unfortunately, a major national holiday, so the public libraries are closed and Narwen's incommunicado.........

The Apostle commands us to rejoice, but in the Lord, not in the world. For, you see, as Scripture says, whoever wishes to be a friend of this world will be counted as God’s enemy. Just as a man cannot serve two masters, so too no one can rejoice both in the world and in the Lord.

Let joy in the Lord win and go on winning, until people take no more joy in the world. Let joy in the Lord always go on growing, and joy in the world always go on shrinking until it is reduced to nothing. I do not mean that we should not rejoice as long as we are in this world, but that even while we do find ourselves in this world, we should already be rejoicing in the Lord.

Someone may argue, “I am in the world; so obviously, if I rejoice, I rejoice where I am”. What of it? Because you are in the world, does it mean that you are not in the Lord? Listen to the same Apostle in the Acts of the Apostles, speaking to the Athenians, and saying about God and about the Lord, our Creator,
In him we live, and move, and are. Since he is everywhere, there is nowhere that he is not. Is it not precisely this that he is emphasising to encourage us? The Lord is very near; do not be anxious about anything.

This is something tremendous, that he ascended above all the heavens but is still very near to those who dwell on earth, wherever they may be. Who can this be that is both far away and close at hand, except the one who became our near neighbour out of mercy?

The whole of the human race, you see, is that man who was lying in the road, left there by robbers, half dead, who was ignored by the passing priest and Levite, while the passing Samaritan stopped by him to take care of him and help him; and when the Immortal, the Just, was far away from us mortals and sinners, he came down to us to become –-- that far distant being -–- our near neighbour.

He has not treated us according to our sins. For we are his children. How do we prove this? The only Son died for us so that he would not remain the only child. He did not want to be alone, who died alone. The only Son of God made many children for God. He bought himself brothers and sisters with his blood; rejected, he accepted us; sold, he bought us back; dishonoured, he honoured us; killed, he brought us life.

So then, my brethren,
rejoice in the Lord, not in the world; that is, rejoice in faithfulness and not in iniquity; rejoice in the hope of eternity and not the brief flower of vanity. Rejoice thus, and wherever you are here, as long as you are here, the Lord is very near: do not be anxious about anything.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

"Catholic-Jewish Relations in the Vision of John Paul II"

Click on the headline to be taken to the text of the first Pallium Lecture, by William Cardinal Keeler, that I blogged about a couple weeks ago.

There are two more Pallium Lectures still to come, and I'm hoping that they get printed on the web also in their turn:
June 2nd ----- George Weigel
June 11th ----- Avery Cardinal Dulles

Saturday, May 24, 2003

The Virtue of Eutrapelia in full flower: today's ordinations in Milwaukee

The joy in our faith that we used to cherish around and despite all the workings of the Wandering Actionites, and that was so rudely taken from us last year at this time, has returned in full force. If the evidences aren't lying, no one will so easily rob it away again, not any Wanderers, nor any Actionites, nor any theological poseurs with tall tales, nor anybody else. This noontime two young men, Carlos Florez and Ricardo Martin, were ordained to the presbyterate, and we rejoiced loudly and continually in it.

For the hour before the ordinations began, a prayerful prelude was led by the Central City Catholic Youth Choir, with precision and enthusiasm and piety (and, it must be admitted, the offering to God of several clap offerings). When the actual Liturgy began, they were joined by the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Choir, who were equally enthusiastic and precise and devout, even though the processional was the tooth-on-edging "Sing a New Church." For those who watch EWTN, this is the same choir that sang at +Timothy's installation Mass that was broadcast there. For the music people, besides that processional, the music was:

Rite of Sprinkling Holy Water: Water of Life/Agua de Vida [J. Cortez]
Responsorial: Salmo 22: Tu Vas Conmigo [Hurd]
Alleluia: [J. Chepponis]
Litany of Saints: Roman Missal (in English)
Laying on of Hands: Veni Creator Spiritus [B. Bridge] and L'Esperit del Senyor [trad.]
Sanctus, Acclamation, Great Amen: Misa Bi-Lingual: Echo [J. Honore]
Agnus Dei: [J. Schiavone] (this is a Latin language setting)
Communion: Lord. when You Came/Pescador de Hombres [C. Gabarain/Jabusch] and I Love the Lord [trad.]
Recessional: Forth in the Peace of Christ [J. Quinn]

I was seated in the middle of a flock of photographers and videographers and was busy praying, but I caught our notoriously eutrapeliac archbishop bouncing in his cathedra wiggly with overflow joy twice, there may have been more I did not see. And, +Timothy has followed through on his installation resolution to learn Spanish, during his homily he paid tribute to the parents of the ordinands in Spanish, about two paragraphs worth, well-pronounced. And during the vesting of the two newly-ordained, the dressers got one of the chasubles very tangled around the head of their victim, and set off a round of blessed giggles. Seems there are unforeseen hazards to trying to dress someone else --- especially in public.......

There were, of course, many people stopping at the Eucharist Chapel and the shrine to Mary, Mother of the Church either as they arrived or afterwards before proceding to the reception; which was crowded, extraordinarily joyous, plenty of food and beverage, and very much appreciated mariachi band. After first Masses (one of them in Columbia, the other in Milwaukee's central city north, the first in two decades there) one of them will become the associate at the parish in this neighborhood just south of Fr. Groppi's bridge.

Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Friday, May 23, 2003

in preparation for the ordinations tomorrow, a meditation on the altar's honor canopy, which has a habit of calling me to contrition.

On the Pomodoro Corona and Crucifix

The altar of God:
square, as the heavenly Jerusalem is square;
erected over the relics of the saints of God;
the center of the Church;
the center of life.
Stone, permanent, not to be moved.
Above it, a corona,
"a form of honor canopy suspended from the ceiling, without pillars."
And, in this case, truly a corona, a crown.
A crown of thorns to acknowledge our King,
our crucified Lord and Redeemer.
I look up and see
those golden nails that hold Him fast
as He gives His very spirit to His Father.
"Into Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit."
It flies away like a dove.
And those thorns, first meant for degradation,
yet becoming glory;
for He is the King, the Lord.
On the cross, and on the altar.
In the tabernacle, and in our own hearts.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

St. Serapion the Sindonite: Seller of his own self

A sindon is a linen wrapping sheet. Abba Serapion was called the Sindonite because a wrapping sheet was, most of the time, all of the clothing he possessed. He saw no need to have any more. He was a wanderer, but wherever he was, he lived the poverty, humility, and recollection standard for the desert Christians.

His special giftedness, however, was in giving himself away.

It started with a comic actor, a pagan who was vehemently anti-Christian. Serapion, having pity on the actor's spiritual blindness, sold himself to this actor and became his slave. Subsisting on only water and bread, he served diligently and faithfully, and over the course of several years, he brought his master and the master's entire family to the faith, and also convinced this actor to find a new profession. In gratitude, Serapion was freed.

Very soon he sold himself a second time, to raise money to assist a widow in distress. After a time this new master, in return for graces received, also released Serapion, and gave him a cloak, a tunic, and a Book of Gospels.

Within the hour he had disposed of the cloak and the tunic, giving them to two poor shivering beggars, so he was back to his wrapping sheet. When a stranger came by and asked who had taken his clothes and left him so poorly covered, he showed the stranger the Book of Gospels, saying: This is what has stripped me. Before the end of the week, the Book of Gospels was also gone, sold to relieve a family in desperate need. A friend asked what had happened to the Book ---- "Can you believe it? This Gospel seemed continually to cry to me: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give it to the poor. Therefore I have also sold it and given the money to destitute members of Christ."

Owning nothing but his own self, he sold himself repeatedly through the rest of his life, whenever the bodily or the spiritual needs of others seemed to require it. He died, having lived to an old age, sometime before the year 388.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

To remain with their people: the Monks of Tibhirine

On this day or very near it, seven years ago, seven Trappist brothers, who had been prisoners of the "Armed Islamist Group of Algeria" for two months, were executed. A few days later, their captors issued a communique, and their heads were found on a heap at the side of the road. The remains were returned to their monastery, where both Christian and Muslim neighbors mourned.

For years before their abduction, they had been repeatedly offered military protection by the Algerian government and refused it, because it would separate them from the trials of the other people of their village of Tibhirine, and because it would mean them taking sides in the ongoing conflicts. They had also been urged to close the monastery and flee to safety in France, and refused. Tibhirine needed them.

During the increasing hostilities, the prior, Dom Christian de Cherge, wrote his final testament and mailed it to his family, to be opened in the case of his death.

For those of my readers who can read French, the original text can be found at this link.

The Testament of Dom Christian

Facing a GOODBYE......

If it should happen one day --- and it could be today --- that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church and my family to remember that my life was GIVEN to God and to this country. I ask them to accept the fact that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I would ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones which are forgotten through indifference or anonymity. My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil which seems to prevail so terribly in the world, even in the evil which might blindly strike me down. I should like, when the time comes, to have a moment of spiritual clarity which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down. I could not desire such a death. It seems to me important to state this.

I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder. It would be too high a price to pay for what will perhaps be called, the "grace of martyrdom," to owe it to an Algerian, whoever he might be, especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam. I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on the Algerians indiscriminately. I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain Islamism fosters. It is too easy to soothe one's conscience by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists. For me, Algeria and Islam are something different: it is a body and a soul. I have proclaimed this often enough, I think, in the light of what I have received from it. I so often find there that true strand of the Gospel which I learned at my mother's knee, my very first Church, precisely in Algeria, and already inspired with respect for Muslim believers. Obviously, my death will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic: "Let him tell us now what he thinks of his ideals!" But these persons should know that finally my most avid curiosity will be set free. This is what I shall be able to do, God willing: immerse my gaze in that of the Father to contemplate with him His children of Islam just as He sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, the fruit of His Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and restore the likeness, playing with the differences.

For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God, who seems to have willed it entirely for the sake of that JOY in everything and in spite of everything. In this THANK YOU, which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, my friends of this place, along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families. You are the hundredfold granted as was promised!

And also you, my last-minute friend, who will not have known what you were doing: Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this GOODBYE to be a "GOD-BLESS" for you, too, because in God's face I see yours. May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.


Algiers, 1st December 1993
Tibhirine, 1st January 1994

Christian +


Monday, May 19, 2003

One of this earth's most unfortunate hermits: Pietro di Morone

Today we celebrate a saint who may have been the most unlucky hermit in history. Pietro di Morone, born in about 1209, grew up pious but poor, got a rudimentary education, and when he was 20 years old he went into the mountains to live as a hermit. Word got around about his wisdom and people kept going out to his hermitage to receive his counsel. Eventually, he was persuaded to accept ordination, and became the head of a community of hermits on Mt. Morone. Pietro lived a holy life of prayer in (relative) peace and obscurity, until 1294.

Now, in 1292, Pope Nicholas IV had died. For 27 months, the cardinals had met in conclave --- but political intrigue and family rivalries kept them from electing Nicholas' successor. The faithful were getting antsy. So Pietro the hermit sent a message to the cardinals, calling the wrath of God down upon them unless they did their duty and elected _somebody_ to be the next pope. The cardinals did settle down and do their duty, and elected a pope: Pietro., now renamed Celestine V.

This selection delighted the faithful, who wildly welcomed their new pope. It was also beguiling to the power-hungry and the job seekers and the lovers of intrigue, who saw in this simple other-worldly outsider an opportunity for advancing their various interests by manipulation. For Pietro/Celestine himself, it was just bewildering.

Pietro endured being "Celestine V pp" for 5 months. Tired, bewildered, and homesick for his solitary life, he became convinced that the duties of being the pope were beyond his capabilities, and on December 13, 1294, he abdicated, put off the pontifical vestments, and went back to his hermitage in the mountains.

The conclave met again, and it didn't take very long this time to elect Boniface VIII, the total opposite of Celestine. Boniface was arrogant and cruel and contemptuous, and gifted in political intrigue, whereas Pietro/Celestine was self-effacing and an innocent, politically naive. Boniface had few friends, and made many enemies. Afraid that Pietro/Celestine, whom the faithful still loved, would become the center of active opposition to him, Boniface had Pietro arrested and imprisoned in a fortress. Pietro's reaction to this: "I wanted nothing in this world but a cell, and a cell they have given me." After 10 months in prison, Pietro died, still imprisoned, on this day in 1296. There were reasonably-founded public suspicions that he was assassinated by or at the order of Boniface.

Boniface, in due time, died himself, and Boniface's successor, Clement V, canonized Pietro di Morone, Celestine V, in 1313.
Another find for developing humility in us Catholics

Here is an article, by a non-Catholic, an Evangelical Protestant, about (now hold on tight......)
the absolute necessity of auricular Confession!
How very often do we, who have Confession as a gift from our youth, so neglect putting it to use.

[I got the link from Lynn of Noli Irritare Leones, who isn't Catholic either, but a Friend.]
What does it say about us when Evangelicals and Quakers pay more attention to confession than we ourselves sometimes do?

Saturday, May 17, 2003

A story I've found that puts my faith to shame

is right here, in the realm of Real Live Preacher.

Friday, May 16, 2003

St. Basil the Great on Reconciliation, from today's Office of Readings

When someone falls does he not rise again? If he goes astray does he not return? You can find many safeguards against evil in Sacred Scripture and many remedies that bring salvation out of ruin. Consider the mysteries of death and resurrection, the words of dreadful judgment and eternal punishment, the teachings about repentance and remission of sin, the countless examples of change in mind and heart, the lost silver piece, the lost sheep, the prodigal son who squandered his substance with harlots, who was dead and returned to life again. Let us make use of these safeguards against evil and thereby heal our souls.

Let us raise ourselves from our fall and not give up hope as long as we free ourselves from sin. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.
Come, let us adore and prostrate ourselves and weep before him. The Word calls us to repentance, crying out: Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you. There is, then, a way to salvation if we are willing to follow it. Death overpowered us and swallowed us up, but God has wiped away the tears from the face of everyone who repents. The Lord is faithful in all his words. He does not deceive us when he says: Though your sins be like scarlet they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red they may become white as wool.

The great physician of souls is ready to cure your illness; he is prepared to liberate every soul enslaved by sin. These are the words his sweet and saving lips have spoken:
People who are in good health do not need a doctor; sick people do. I have not come to call the self-righteous but sinners to repentance. When Jesus gives this reassurance, what excuse is left to you or to anyone else? He wishes to free you of the pain of your wound and to show you light after darkness. The Good Shepherd who left the sheep that have not wandered away is in search of you. Place yourself in his care, and in his mercy he will not hesitate nor disdain to carry you on his own shoulders. Indeed he will rejoice that he has found his sheep that was lost.

Your Father stands and waits for you to return from your wandering. Come back! And while you are still far off he will hasten toward you to embrace you lovingly who are already cleansed by your repentance. He will put the finest robe on you, who have laid aside your former way of life and your old self. He will place a ring on the finger of the hands that are cleansed of grievous sin. He will put shoes on the feet that turn from the way of evil to the path of the Gospel of peace. And he will proclaim a day of happiness and joy for his own, both men and angels, and in every way celebrate the festival of your salvation.
For I tell you there is joy in heaven over one repentant sinner. Should anyone who thinks himself to stand find fault that you have been quickly received, the good Father himself will speak in your defense and say: We had to celebrate and rejoice for this my daughter was dead and has come back to life again; she was lost and is found.
How to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
How to live the works of mercy and peace and justice? Dare to take the first step, and then another, and another.

From Bob Waldrop [the keeper of the Access to Catholic Social Justice Teachings site linked in my sidebar], this essay of stepping out in faith to live in a merciful. peaceful, and just way.
That pearl we seek is God Himself, and no thing other; it is not too late to turn to Him

Some words from a wise cyber-aquaintance, Fr. Shawn O'Neil, that are fitting for today's memorial:

I thank God that I have had the opportunity especially during the past few weeks to bring people back to God after they have been away for many years. I have been inspired by their humility. I hope that they have happily left the confessional; I do not see the faces of many of these people. So many of them have been filled with deep remorse as they confessed their sins. I ask all of you to pray for the people who have received the Sacrament of Reconciliation after many years away from it. Pray that they feel joy within their hearts. Angels sing with joy when one sinner repents and turns back toward God.

I have told you about these people because they have said in implicit terms that they thought that they could achieve happiness by doing anything and everything, but they discovered that all that they thought was happiness was an illusion. I hope that they feel as Saint Paul felt when he wrote with joy that all that he thought mattered no longer mattered. Jesus had him. He had Jesus. He had everything that anyone could ever want.

Margaret of Cortona --- her story sounds awfully contemporary considering she was born in 1247 ----

Today we celebrate one of the Church's great penitents, those who wandered or ran away from the faith and returned to it with contrition and gratitude and strength.

Margaret was a normal happy little girl, until her mother died and her father married again. Then her life and her faith began to fall apart. Her stepmother couldn't stand her, and Margaret returned aggravation and hatred in kind. Soon Margaret ran away or was pushed out of the household; a disaster in those days, when women had next to no recognition except as somebody's daughter, or somebody's wife, or somebody's mother. This also sounds a lot like the stories of half the teenagers at the Walker's Point Shelter up the street from my place. It wasn't too long, though, until Margaret was off the streets --- as the live-in concubine of a local young noble. She came to actually love the guy, and she lived with him without benefit of matrimony for nine years, and bore him a son. He was in the habit of going out riding each day, and one day his dog came back home alone, and led Margaret to the mutilated body of her nobleman, who had been assassinated. Margaret was brought by this to think on the last things, and on the judgment of God, who may call one to Himself at the least expected time, and to see her own miserable spiritual condition.

She tried to go back to her father's household, but her stepmother was still there and would not allow it. So she left town and went to Cortona, where there was a community of Franciscan brothers that had a reputation for their gentleness and kindness toward former notorious sinners and other pariahs. She placed herself under the direction of the good brothers, did massive amounts of corporal penance (from which the brothers often needed to restrain her), taught herself nursing and established a hospital, caring for the patients herself, and lived in humility and poverty and the works of mercy until her death in 1297. And so she joined the litany of the great penitents, with Miriam the prophet and David the king, with Mary of Egypt and Thais and the anonymous one of Sachsenhausen, and all the others who know Who has saved them and from whence their help comes. May we all come to be in their company in the fullness of time.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

St. Pachomius' Day --- you don't have to be a solitary hermit to be a religious!

Abba Pachomius, a former army draftee who converted to Christianity and went out to the desert, established a large monastic establishment at Tabannissi, one of the first of its kind; and he wrote the first ever rule for monks to live in community. Before his days, the norm of monastic life was the solitary hermit or anchorite, or a particularly wise abba or amma with two or three younger monks in what was called a laura. The Rule of Pachomius became the basis for the later rules of both St. Basil and St. Benedict. A story from the life of Abba Pachomius --- who eventually led 9 monasteries of men and two of women......

Once some brothers from the monastery of Chenoboskion came and told Abba Pachomius, "A brother is sick and he wants to see you and to be blessed before he dies." When the man of God heard this, he rose up and followed them. When he was about two miles from the monastery, he heard a holy voice in the air. He lifted up his eyes and saw the soul of the sick brother with the holy angels, singing psalms and being taken to the blessed life of God. Now the brothers who were following him neither heard nor saw anything. As he stood and gazed a long time to the east, they said to him, "Why are you standing, O Father? Let us go quickly, that we may find him alive." He answered them, "We shall not find him, for I am right now seeing him being taken up to eternal life. Return, then, to your monastery, children." As the brothers entreated him to tell them how he saw the soul of the dead brother, he told them the manner. After they had heard it, the departed to their monastery. They verified very exactly from the brothers in the monastery the hour which the Great Man had told them, and then they knew that what the holy man had told about the dead brother was true.

As Pachomius was journeying to his own monastery, and had come near the desert called Amnon, legions of demons rose both on his right hand and on his left, some following him and others running in front of him, saying, "Behold the blessed man of God." They were doing this, wishing to sow vainglory in him. But he knew their cunning, and the more they shouted, the more he cried out to God, confessing his sins.

And undoing the demons' cunning, he spoke out to them saying, "O wicked ones! You cannot carry me away into vainglory, for I know my failures, for which I ought to weep constantly over eternal punishment. I have therefore no need of your false speech and guileful deceit, for your word is the destruction of the soul. And I am not carried away by your praises, for I know the cunning of your unholy minds." And although Abba Pachomius said these things to them, they did not stop their
shamelessness. They followed alongside the blessed man until he drew near to his monastery.


Wednesday, May 14, 2003

How Abba Macarius came to become an elder at Scetis: the scarlet A for Accused is not only of our days, or of St. Gerard Majella's day, but from much, much earlier.

Abba Macarius said this about himself: "When I was young and was living in a cell in Egypt, they took me to make me a cleric in the village. Because I did not wish to receive this dignity, I fled to another place. Then a devout layman joined me; he sold my munual work for me and served me. Now it happened that a virgin in the village, under the weight of temptation, committed sin. When she became pregnant, they asked her who was to blame. She said, 'the anchorite.' Then they came to seize me, led me to the village and hung pots black with soot and various other things round my neck and led me through the village in all directions, beating me and saying, 'This monk has defiled our virgin, catch him, catch him!' and they beat me almost to death. Then one of the old men came and said, 'What are you doing, how long will you go on beating this strange monk?' The man who served me was walking behind me, full of shame, for they covered him with insults also, saying, 'Look at this anchorite, for whom you stood surety; what has he done?' The girl's parents said, 'Do not let him go till he has given a pledge that he will keep her.' I spoke to my servant and he vouched for me. Going to my cell, I gave him all the baskets I had, saying, 'Sell them, and give my wife something to eat.' Then I said to myself, 'Macarius, you have found yourself a wife, you must work a little more in order to keep her.' So I worked night and day and sent my work to her. But when it came time for the wretch to give birth, she remained in labor many days without bringing forth, and they asked her, 'What is the matter?' She said, 'I know what it is; it is because I slandered the anchorite, and accused him unjustly; it is not he who is to blame, but such and such a young man.' Then the man who served me came to me full of joy, saying, 'The virgin could not give birth until she had said "The anchorite had nothing to do with it, but I have lied about him." The whole village wants to come here solemnly and do penance before you.' But when I heard this, for fear people would disturb me, I got up and fled here to Scetis. That is the original reason why I came here."

[Sayings of the Desert Fathers(alpabetical collection)]

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

One of my honored predecessors is remembered today.

Today, according to Kathy R's For all the Saints [see link list], is the memorial day of St. Julian of Norwich, one of my honored predecessors in the full time occupation of intercession. In her day, when both the workings of the Church and the workings of the economy were much different, the anchor hold dwellers lived in tiny houses attached to the walls of churches. Most even had a window through the church wall so the anchorite could even assist at Eucharist without having to go out into society.

Julian had her little rooms on the side of St. Julian's Church in Norwich. With a maidservant (to do the selling of Julian's handiwork and the other things that had to be done outside) and a pet cat (which appears in her icon), she took up the anchorite's duties --- to pray for the good of her world. One one particular day, she had a series of visions and insights, which she wrote down in a book called Showings. After the visions, her life did not change, but she continued in her anchor hold, praying for the town and the Church of Norwich, and listening to all who came to her to talk; we know quite a few took advantage of her counsel in part because she appears in the journals of Marjorie Kempe, the top guide book writer of the day.

Julian, pray for us who follow in your footsteps.
Template revisions in progress to make this blog more compatable for Blogs4God. Hope they work the first time! Will return later.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

John 14 --- He prepares a dwelling place for us, and we are to be a dwelling place for Him

This article in the most recent The Other Side is well worth the read. You may want to parallel this with the essay by our beloved Steven of Flos Carmeli on the same subject (written back in early September).

from the article:
In the same passage where Jesus speaks of preparing a heavenly home for us, he later turns the homecoming image around. To those who love God, he tells his disciples, he will send an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will live with us, and in us (14:16-17). And a few verses later, Jesus takes it even further: "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Heavenly Parent will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them" (14:23).

This is radical stuff. What does it mean for us to make a home for God --- here and now?

First, if we make in our lives a home for God, it's going to change us. Jesus isn't a delicate houseguest who leaves everything just the way he found it. Jesus moves in and renovates. Think of Zacchaeus, the "wee little man" who climbs up in a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus. But Jesus stops the parade under Zacchaeus's tree and says, "Hey Zak, come down out of that sycamore, because tonight I'm coming to your house. Tonight, your home is going to become my home." And to the great chagrin of the religious leaders surrounding Jesus, he goes and has dinner with this despised tax collector (Luke 19:1-10).

Zacchaeus had been a collaborator with the Romans, exploiting his own people and making a nice living off of it. But before he knows it, after having made a home for Jesus in his life, Zacchaeus is giving half of what he has to the poor, and offering to repay four times the amount that he has defrauded anyone. If we make a home for God, God's going to do some remodeling.

Second, if our lives and our churches are serious about making a home for God, that will also mean making room at the table for all people --- including some folks we might not expect. The Letter to the Ephesians describes a faith community that has become a dwelling place for God's Spirit (2:11-22). The images are of reconciliation, peace, inclusion. In a community where God dwells, those who were once far away are brought near, the dividing walls of hostility, misunderstanding, and fear are broken down. Divisions of race, class, sexual orientation, nationality, economics, or even theology are breached by God's unconditional love for us all. The church which makes a home for Christ also makes room for the hungry, the homeless, the imprisoned --- the "least of these" in whom Jesus said we would meet him. Those who once were considered foreigners and aliens, to use Paul's language, will have a place at the table next to us. And it will change us.

Finally, if we make in our lives a home for God, we become partners with God in shaping this world. We take responsibility for our future, recognizing that the decisions we make every day are of great importance, for they either allow God's reign to be made real on earth as in heaven, or they prevent it.

In an article in The Other Side a few years back, Dorothee Sölle recounted growing up in Germany in the 1940s, and how her faith was shaped by the tremendous acts of courageous resistance that she witnessed as a child during World War II. She was part of a community that sheltered many Jewish families during the war. At a very early age, Dorothee learned that the way we live matters. The fates of innumerable persons during the Holocaust were determined largely by the decisions and actions of individual persons. For each family that responded courageously to the need, lives were saved.

It's been said that "God has no hands in this world but ours." When we make a home for God in our lives, our hands become God's hands, our lives an instrument for bringing about God's reign, here and now.

Do use the link and read it all!
from today's Office of Readings: St. Gregory the Great on trying to be good sheep

I am the good shepherd. I know my own --- by which I mean, I love them --- and my own know me. In plain words: those who love me are willing to follow me, for anyone who does not love the truth has not yet come to know it.

My dear brethren, you have heard the test we pastors have to undergo. Turn now to consider how these words of our Lord imply a test for yourselves also. Ask yourselves whether you belong to his flock, whether you know him, whether the light of his truth shines in your minds. I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know him, but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action. John the evangelist is my authority for this statement. He tells us that anyone who claims to know God without keeping his commandments is a liar.

Consequently, the Lord immediately adds: As the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. Clearly he means that laying down his life for his sheep gives evidence of his knowledge of the Father and the Father’s knowledge of him. In other words, by the love with which he dies for his sheep he shows how greatly he loves his Father.

Again he says: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; they follow me, and I give them eternal life. Shortly before this he had declared: If anyone enters the sheepfold through me he shall be saved; he shall go freely in and out and shall find good pasture. He will enter into a life of faith; from faith he will go out to vision, from belief to contemplation, and will graze in the good pastures of everlasting life.

So our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground where all who follow him in simplicity of heart will feed on the green pastures of eternity. These pastures are the spiritual joys of heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved brothers, let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our way. No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast. Anyone who is determined to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it. Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us, or we shall be like a foolish traveller who is so distracted by the pleasant meadows through which he is passing that he forgets where he is going.
to begin Good Shepherd Sunday: Chaucer's description of a pretty good one

A good man was there of religioun,
And was a povre Parson of a town;
But rich he was of holy thought and work.
He was also a learned man, a clerk,
That Christes gospel truly woulde preach;
His parishfolk devoutly would he teach.
Benign he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversity full patient;
And such he was y-proved often times.
Full loth were him to cursen for his tythes,
But rather would he give, out of doubt,
Un-to his povre parishfolk about
Of his offering, and eke of his substance.
He could in little thing have suffisance.
Wide was his parish, and houses far a-sunder,
But he neglected not, for rain or thunder,
In sickness or in mischief, to visit
The furthest in his parish, great and little,
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff.
This noble example to his sheep he gave,
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
Out of the gospel he these wordes caught;
And this figure he added eke there-to,
That if gold ruste, what shall iron do?
For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lewed man to rust;
And shame it is, if a priest take keep,
A dirty shepherd and a cleane sheep.
Well ought a priest example for to give,
By his cleanness, how that his sheep should live.
He did not set his benefice to hire,
Nor left his sheep encumbered in the mire,
And ran to London, un-to Sainte Paul's,
To seeken him a chantery for souls,
Or with a brotherhed to be enrolled;
But dwelt at home, and kepte well his fold,
So that the wolf might make it not miscarry;
He was a shepherd and no mercenary.
And though he holy were, and virtuous,
He was to sinful man not despitous,
Not of his speeche dangerous nor digne,
But in his teaching discreet and benign.
To draw his fold to heaven by fairness
By good example, was his business.
But if were any person obstinate,
What-so he were, of high or low estate,
Him would be snibben sharply for the nonce.
A better priest, I trow that nowhere none is.
He waited for no pomp and reverence,
Nor maked him a spiced conscience,
But Christes lore, and his apostles twelve,
He taught, and first he followed it himself.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

An idea to chew upon from a blog I just discovered

A blogger named Macker at a place called Pray Naked Experience posts wisdom to ponder:

.....this is how I have heard mercy defined: having something withheld from us that we deserve.

I believe you cannot dispense mercy without first understanding the true mechanics of grace: humility.

if we cannot be humble, we cannot know God's grace. if we cannot accept His grace, we cannot recognize the penalty He withheld by offering us eternal life.

and if we cannot grasp what he did for us, there is no way we will ever give in to the unnatural act of forgiving someone else.

He's earned a spot in the blogroll.....even though his title will increase my violations-of-sixth-commandment spam.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

The great lesson of the Pallium Lecture

Last night I attended the first of the Pallium Lectures (there will be two more, in early June); the topic was the relations between Catholics and Jews, the speaker was William Cardinal Keeler. There were a lot of facts and theological reflection, and a dozen or so good stories, but there was a single overall lesson:

The Lord God's covenant fidelity is forever; God never reclaims His gifts or repents of His promises. Therefore, the covenant God has made with the people Israel still stands. This is as true as any of the other truths of the faith, and is a great Mystery, since we also know that only by the Lord Jesus are we saved, yet the Lord has promised to Israel to be forever a priestly people and a royal nation and a people set apart for Him.

The Lord's fidelity is forever.... (even when, perchance, ours is not.....)

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The Parole, by Pavel Chichikov

Behind the rail the tabernacle
In the precinct of the dead
Another lives who vanquished hell
Flesh unfleshed and bloodless bled

Above the door a candle lit
Key turned leftward in the lock
So anyone can open it
It is no house, you need not knock

A key no key, a door no door
For all may enter it who will
The love of Love you may ignore
The Lord of life whom you may kill

No one goes there but the broken
Whose desperation is unspoken
None but these know the parole
Open, Love, and take my soul

Pavel Chichikov
April 11, 2003
Update on familial prayer requests: Tom's verdict is in!

An email fron eldest younger brother Tom this morning:

Family, Friends and Brother Knights:

A Month ago I celebrated with you freedom from the hospital, after a rather major surgery, and thanked you for your prayers, especially those for my surgeon.

After seeing the Oncologist for the first time today, the news is

Come back in three months for blood tests. Keep getting healthier.

No glow-in-the-dark treatments. No Toxic chemicals to infuse. Just blood tests every quarter for a year, colonoscopy within year, to repeat annually/biennially/triennially depending on results.

Again I thank you all for your prayers. Let me know whenever I can reciprocate.

Hugs and kisses to all the kin out there. Love and Blessings to EVERYBODY!


Tom Knapp
Uncle, Brother, Cook and Bottle Washer

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

from a homily of Abba Macarius

When God wishes, He becomes fire, burning up every coarse passion that has taken root in the soul. "For our God is a consuming fire" (Dt. 4:24; Heb. 12:29). When He wishes, He becomes an inexpressible and mysterious rest so that the soul may find rest in God's rest. When He wishes, he becomes joy and peace, cherishing and protecting the soul.

Monday, May 05, 2003

The Accuser of the Brethren is up to his old tricks again.....

.....except that he's going after Christian book authors instead of bishops this time. As a commentary on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2477-2479, I offer today the example of Abba Moses:

A brother in the community at Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses had been summoned, but he refused to go to it. So a messenger was sent to urge him, "Do come, everyone is waiting for you." So he found a very worn basket, filled it full of sand, and carried it, leaking, as he went to the council. When he arrived, the brothers went out to meet him, and asked, "What is this all about?" Abba Moses replied, "My sins run out behind me, and I do not even see them, and yet I am come here to judge the errors of someone else." On hearing this, the community called off the council and forgave their brother.

and also this small haiku from the blogkeeper known as Dylan Tenelux:

Accounting for each
idle word
--- the verse shocks us
into brief silence.


Saturday, May 03, 2003

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Extreme
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)Very Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Very Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Test
St. Philip and St. James, apostles, and their shocking teaching

Today is the feast day of SS. Philip and James. Philip was chosen to be one of the Twelve on the second day Jesus was selecting, and he almost immediately celebrated by getting Nathaniel and Jesus together. {Nathaniel asks, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" and Philip replies, "Come and see!"] In the Gospel of John, Philip is the one to ask all of the questions the other apostles are too scared or too embarrassed to speak.. Early in the book of Acts, he evangelizes the Ethiopean official. And he had four daughters, all of whom were acknowledged prophets in the Church. He took the good news to Greece and was martyred there.

James (the Younger) became the bishop of Jerusalem, chaired the Council of Jerusalem [which solved many difficulties regarding non-Jewish believers and the Church], and was martyred by being thrown from the Temple's pinnacle. One of his letters is in the Bible: here is some of its shocking, some even say scandalous, teaching:

My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, "Come this way to the best seats"; then you tell the poor man, "Stand over there" or "You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest." Can't you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?

Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him. In spite of this, you have no respect for anybody who is poor. Isn't it always the rich who are against you? Isn't it always their doing when you are dragged before the court? Aren't they the ones who insult the honourable name to which you have been dedicated? Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme law of scripture:
you must love your neighbor as yourself; but as soon as you make distinctions between classes of people, you are committing sin, and under condemnation for breaking the Law.

You see, if a man keeps the whole of the Law, except for one small point at which he fails, he is still guilty of breaking it all. It was the same person who said, "You must not commit adultery" and "You must not kill." Now if you commit murder, you do not have to commit adultery as well to become a breaker of the Law. Talk and behave like people who are going to be judged by the law of freedom, because there will be judgment without mercy for those who have not been merciful themselves; but the merciful need have no fear of judgment.

If you dare, read the entire Letter of James today; it is not long. It is only challenging.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

for those who work

Today is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and it is so because, just about everywhere except the United States, today is Labor Day. So today I indulge in prayers, meditations, maxims from holy people more well-known for their hard work for equity and justice than for their piety.

A prayer by W.E.B. DuBois [via Sursum Corda]:

Give us grace, O God, to dare to do the deed which we well know cries to be done.
Let us not hesitate because of ease, or the words of men's mouths, or our own lives.
Mighty causes are calling us--the freeing of women, the training of children, the putting down of hate and murder and poverty--all these and more.
But they call with voices that mean work and sacrifice and death.
Mercifully grant us, O God, the spirit of Esther, that we may say: I will go unto the King and if I perish, I perish.

The valiant Mary Harris Jones said, when she was informed about a mass killing by her opponents:

We must pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.

And, an easy essay by Peter Maurin, who co-founded the Catholic Worker communities. Seventy years ago today, the very first Catholic Worker was sold for a penny a copy.

Better Or Better Off

1. The world would be better off,
if people tried to become better.

2. And people would become better
if they stopped trying to be better off.

3. For when everybody tries to become better off,
nobody is better off.

4. But when everybody tries to become better,
everybody is better off.

5. Everybody would be rich if nobody tried
to be richer.

6. And nobody would be poor if everybody tried
to be the poorest.

7. And everybody would be what he ought to be
if everybody tried to be what he wants the other fellow to be.