Saturday, August 30, 2003

Off the top of my head about families: from Mark Shea's comment boxes

Mark wrote on his blog yesterday:

It's amazing how social revolutionaries steeped in the Deep Thought of the 60s think that all of human history began in the 1950s. Someone needs to alert them to the fact that the concept of the family as one man and one woman with children is... gosh... decades older than that.

which triggered one of my particular convictions about the tribulations of this age, so I wrote back:

But not very many decades older than that.

The idea that a family is one man, one woman of approximately the same age, their children, and only their children, and nobody else is an extremely modern conception, dating from approximately the industrial revolution.

The family, as known for centuries and millennia, is much less atomistic. Of course, there's the couple, and their children. But also the parents of each of the spouses, the spouses' brothers and sisters and _their_ spouses and _their_ children, and the children from previous unions of any of the above, and maybe a maiden great-aunt or two and a few of the neighborhood stray children turned fosterlings......sometimes all living in a single household, or at least within holler-across-the-back yards distance. Family as basic and major social and economic unit, rather than legal convenience.

Mark replies:


It's a tough sell to get from there to gay marriage, gay adoption, polyamory, and the various polymorphous perversities which current redefinitions of marriage seek to impose.

and me:

And it's the atomistic, legal-convenience idea of family that's been taking us right there fast. I mean, if all that family is is an arrangement about pensions, real estate ownership rights, and the right to get legal help about child custody and support if things fall apart, then why shouldn't everyone be allowed to have those advantages for their life-partners and their children?

But at least recalcitrant traditionalists like me believe that family is meant to be so much more, even more than I wrote in the previous window. Not even just basic social and economic unit, but also the primary Icon of the Church.

There's an extra nag and suit of rusty armor over in the corner if you want to be my Sancho Panza....Maria Mater Ecclesiae can be our Dulcinea.....

thus endeth the comment-box colloquy, _but_......

I'm entirely serious. Our children are being deprived and stunted, our society is wandering all over the place, because the family has been degraded, and rootedness is derided and selected against. It is a perversion to see family as, at most, two adults and their preferably no more than two or three children, detached, isolated, and without support, which is called "being independent."

Due to the increased life expectancies, marriages are lasting much much longer before death does part, therefore they need much more support, but yet they are receiving much less --- elders out of communications, siblings scattered across the continent, neighbors only vaguely known. Children have always needed a wide variety of grown-ups in their lives that are not their parents: for unconditional care, for varying examples of how life can be lived, for someone safe to talk to, for a safe place to vent, to learn the stories and grow the roots, foundations if you choose, that will keep one from blowing away in the first storm front. Now that our world has become more confusing to grow up in than ever, the grown-ups available for our children has shrunk to only their parents, and often not even two of _them_. The African proverb is right, that a child requires a whole village to grow up strong and sane; but we have lost the family bonds, and the village with them. And we wonder why so many of our children suffer and wander and become lost.

We need our grandparents, our aunts and uncles and cousins, our neighbor ladies and best-friends'-dads and pious old gents and all the rest of those who used to be our societal ties-that-bound.

That's part of why this blog is. I'm a member of some families. My email boxes and my phone bill testify to the family I was born into, which has dispersed from coast (Uncle Bob's Chrissy who's a nun in New York City) to coast (two bachelor brothers in Long Beach). I've eight nieces and nephews scattered all over northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania. I have a parish family, actually two parish families, here in Milwaukee. And I have to tell the stories that I possess of the saints of old and the ways of faith, so they will not be lost. If the stories of holiness and faith are not told, the next generation will not know them, and to the generation after that they will be totally lost, unless some historian accidentally finds their mummified remains.

So I tell my stories here of the desert Christians, of the Fathers and Doctors, of the heroically virtuous of every era, of the new-martyrs in our own times, so they may set good example, that they may not be forgotten. And I talk about my own journeyings, in case something that has happened with me might be useful to somebody else, that I might serve, at least a little, despite my many inabilities.

Friday, August 29, 2003

The thrum-thrum-thrum of the V-twin.....

.....is the ambient sound of this weekend, and our Church's second order of business (after teachings on Rerum Novarum, Laborem Excercens, et al) is --- bike blessings!

Pray for the thousands of people who have brought their motorcycles "home" for this party, that they may party sanely and stay safe. And also pray for the workers who earn their living building the bikes that are this weekend the center of attention.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

More from the desert: Abba Moses the Ethiopian, robber, murderer, priest, martyr

Moses, a black Ethiopian, was a house servant to some official in the administration. His master discharged him for exasperating behavior and for stealing; he was thought even to have committed murder. He had been head of a robber gang, and the principal story of his stealing episodes 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 band. He was suddenly brought to his senses by some circumstance and he 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?"

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."

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.

When Abba Moses was instructing his disciple, 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 brigand 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.
the second most important mother-son team in all Christendom.....

.....I'll mostly leave for Gerard and Narwen and all the other usual suspects --- even Amy this time --- to write about. But I could not let pass this meditation from St. Augustine's Confessions, 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.


Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Some stories of Abba Poemen on his day

One day a brother sinned in a cenobium. In the same neighborhood was an anchorite who had not been out in a long time. The abba of the cenobium went to consult with the anchorite about the brother who had sinned. The anchorite said, "Drive him away!" So the brother left the cenobium, and he went into a cave and wept there.

There happened by the cave entrance some brothers going to see Abba Poemen, and they heard the weeping. They entered, and found the outcast brother in great misery, and invited him to go with them to see the elder, but he refused, saying "I am going to my death here."

So, when the travelling brothers arrived at Abba Poemen's hermitage, they told him about the poor outcast brother. Poemen gave them a word of exhortation, then sent them away, telling them, "Say to the brother, Abba Poemen sends for you." So commanded, the brother went to the Abba. Seeing that the brother was in such sorrowand distress, Abba Poemen stood up, embraced him and was kind to him, and invited him to eat. Then he sent one of the brethren to the anchorite, asking if they might see one another.

Now the man had never left his anchor hold since the day he had first entered it, but he said that Poemen must be inspired by God, or he would not have sent for him, so he left his anchor hold for the first time after many years and went to see Poemen. Poemen greeted him with joy upon his arrival, and embraced him.

When they had sat down, Abba Poemen said, "Two men dwelt in one place, and someone belonging to each of them died; the first one, leaving his own dead, went to weep over the other's dead." Hearing these words, the anchorite was full of compunction, remembering what he had done, and said, "Poemen, you have gone up to heaven and I am cast down to the earth."

And another story:

A brother who had grieveously sinned revealed his fault to Abba Poemen and inquired of him, saying, "I believe I should do penance for three years." The elder said, "That is quite a lot." The brother said, "for one year?" "That is still quite a lot," Abba Poemen replied. Those others who were present then said, "for forty days?" "That is still quite a lot," he said.

Then Abba Poemen added, "I myself say, that if someone repents with his whole heart, and does not intend to commit the sin any more, God will accept him after only three days."

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Albino Luciani: the pope who spoke to Pinocchio [and Mark Twain, and Benjamin Franklin, and Voltaire, and......]

This day twenty-five years ago, Albino Luciani, a joyous holy hard-working priest who became a joyous holy hard-working bishop, and who never saw himself as anything other than normal and ordinary, was elected pope, and named himself Gianpaolo, John Paul, after his two totally awesome predecessors.

He only got to stay with us as pope 33 days.

But before he was called, we all got a glinpse at the works, previously known only to the people of Venice and Vittorio Veneto, that would be his legacy to us: the letters he wrote to people living, deceased, and even fictional, then placed in the postal box called the diocesan newspaper.

Do remember him this day, and then, if you can, go to the public library or your favorite used book store and find a book called "Illustrissimi" ["Most Illustrious Ones"], and let this humble man's little letters lead you to the heights and depths of the love of God.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Even the Lord God has a sense of humor: St. Genesius the Actor

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 highly 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 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 hatred 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.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

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.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Our eutrapeliac Archbishop gives an interview.....

.....and you-all can find the text

right here until August 27th or 28th,

and over here after the 28th.

Enjoy reading it, but do not covet your neighbor's bishops.

Let's not let Rad-Trad schismatics steal our saint!

Giuseppe Sarto, Pope 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.

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 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 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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

To offer one's life: Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Today is the anniversary of the death of a martyr I can remember from my own youth --- a seminarian of the Episcopal church named Jon Daniels.

Jon grew up in Keene, New Hampshire, and wasn't at all serious about his Chrhistian faith, until an accident had him confined to bed for almost two months, where the long periods of pondering lured him to faith. (What is it, exactly, about conversions and bed rest, anyhow??? ) He graduated as valedictorian of his class from the Virginia Military institute. Soon after that his father died; Jon left graduate school to settle his father's estate, and also to ponder what he was going to do with his life. The death of his father had started him thinking on the final things. By the time the estate was settled, Jon had decided to pursue the ministry, and he enrolled at Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge MA.

In the Spring of 1965, people in Alabama had been murdered for attempting to register to vote, and Rev. Martin Luther King invited college students from all over the country to join him in Selma to protest the deaths. A busful of ETS seminarians went for the march. Jon, and another seminary student named Judy. missed the return bus, and saw it as a sign. Why should they come only for two days of marching, then go away and leave the people of Alabama to srtuggle on alone? Why not continue to be with them? Jon and Judy got permission to stay in Alabama for the rest of the term and through the summer, returning only to take their end-of-term exams. Jon settled in Ft. Deposit AL, tutoring the children and helping their parents register to vote, and incidentally integrating the local Episcopalian parish.

Jon wrote of this time:

I lost fear in the black belt [kmk notes: this is not a racial reference but a geographic one; the "black belt of Alabama" has black loamy soil, in contrast to the red clay soils of the rest of the state] when I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord's death and Resurrection, that in the only sense that really matters I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God. I began to lose self-righteousness when I discovered the extent to which my behavior was motivated by worldly desires and by the self-seeking messianism of Yankee deliverance! The point is simply, of course, that one's motives are usually mixed, and one had better know it. As Judy and I said the daily offices day by day, we became more and more aware of the living reality of the invisible "communion of saints" --- of the beloved comunity in Cambridge who were saying the offices too, of the ones gathered around a near-distant throne in heaven --- who blend with theirs our faltering songs of prayer and praise. With them, with black men and white men, with all of life, in Him Whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout, whose Name is Itself the Song Which fulfils and "ends" all songs, we are indelibly, unspeakably ONE.

Some local teenagers from Ft. Deposit decided to go downtown to picket some businesses that were behaving particularly badly toward their non-White customers; Jon accompanied them. That day, August 14, between twenty and thirty of them, including Jon, were arrested "for their own protection" and taken about 30 miles away to the county jail in Hayneville, where they were for nearly a week; they had all decided that none of them would post bail until all of them could. On the evening of August 20th, suddenly and without explanation, also without transportation back to Ft. Deposit, they were all released.

Some of the group went scouting to find pay phones, to call home and to roust up some transport. Four of them went to a nearby corner store to buy cold sodas: Richard Morrisroe, a Catholic priest from Chicago; Ruby Sales, a 17-year-old student from Tuskeegee Institute; another local teenager some sources identify as "Joyce"; and Jon. They were met at the door by a sherriff's deputy with a shotgun aimed at Ruby Sales. Jon leapt forward and shoved Ruby out of the line of fire just as the first shot was fired; he died immediately. A second shot critically wounded Father Morrisroe, leaving him permanently disabled.

In the 1990's. the Anglican Communion added the commemoration of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, seminarian to the Calendar of Lesser Feasts. His assigned gospel Reading is the Magnificat: The Lord has lifted up the lowly and filled the hungry with good things.

The confessor Father Morrisroe, who sheltered "Joyce" when Jon protected Ruby, a few years after his recovery, sought and received permission to live in the lay state, and now serves as a public interest attorney in the city of Chicago.

Ruby Sales ---here's a recent picture of her----

continued working for justice in Alabama, joining the SNCC in its work; eventually she finished college at Tuskeegee Institute, and received a Masters degree from ETS, Jon's seminary. She now runs a community outreach ministry named after Jonathan Daniels, the young man who gave his life to save hers.

The collect for Jonathan Myrick Daniels, from the Anglican Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts:

O God of justice and compassion, who dost put down the proud and the mighty from their place, and dost lift up the poor and afflicted: We give thee thanks for thy faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one: who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

He wagered and won his bet: Blaise Pascal

Today is the anniversary of the death of Blaise Pascal, philosopher, polymath genius, and utterly convinced and devoted Catholic believer (though unfortunately enmeshed in the Jansenist heresy....). He was most famous for his great wager about God --- if you loved and served God totally, and you were right about Him, you gained the greatest imaginable gain, life everlasting and joy forever. If you were wrong about God's existence, you only lost a few minor external pleasures, basically nothing at all. So, why would you not believe, the risk being so little and the potential reward so great??

He was also graced with a vision of the majesty of God, which he attempted to write down, and which writing he carried with him at all times after; this is known as his "Memorial."


In the year of grace, 1654,
On Monday, 23rd of November, Feast of St Clement, Pope and Martyr, and others in the Martyrology,
Vigil of St Chrysogonus, Martyr, and others,
From about half past ten in the evening until about half past twelve,


God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, (Ex 3:6; Mt 22:32)
not of the philosophers and scholars.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
God of Jesus Christ.
"Thy God and my God." (Jn 20:17)
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except God.
He is to be found only in the ways taught in the Gospel.
Greatness of the Human Soul.
"Righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee,
but I have known Thee." (Jn 17:25)
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have separated myself from Him.
"They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters." (Jn 2:13)
"My God, wilt Thou leave me?" (Mt 27:46)
Let me not be separated from Him eternally.
"This is eternal life,
that they might know Thee, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." (Jn 17:3)
Jesus Christ.


I have separated myself from Him:
I have fled from Him,
denied Him,
crucified Him.
Let me never be separated from Him.
We keep hold of Him only by the ways taught in the Gospel.

Renunciation, total and sweet.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day's training on earth.
"I will not forget thy words." (Ps 119:16) Amen.


Monday, August 18, 2003

At the request of Father Jim of Dappled Things

I'm posting my Myers-Briggs results. My personality type is.........INTJ........just barely, 50-50 scores are just so ambiguous..........

Introverted (I) 86% Exrtoverted (E) 14%
Intuitive (N) 50% Sensing (S) 50%
Thinking(T) 50% Feeling (F) 50%
Judging (J) 59% Perceiving (P) 41%

Father Jim, have fun, and I hope enough of us answer to see a few conclusions........
News about the Church and the Church's Social Teachings

A little bit of news from elsewhere that landed in my email box this morning. I think that it's probably good news; our Church has had as much trouble as any other employer when it comes to living out the Gospel in the employee-employer relationship, and can be humiliated because She continues to teach the truth even when She is failing at living that same truth. She is my Mother, even when She's behaving badly, and it grieves me to see Her thus, I prefer that She be raised up in joy.

The news report:

UFW and Brownsville diocese settle dispute over fired south Texas parish workers

An agreement between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville and the Cesar Chavez-founded United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO has resolved a two-month dispute over five south Texas parish workers who were fired from their jobs on June 18.

Terms of the settlement include:

---- The church and the UFW will negotiate a diocese-wide grievance procedure so parish workers cannot be terminated without having exhausting a procedure to protect their rights.

---- As part of the grievance procedure, no newly assigned pastor or parish administrator will be able to fire a parish worker during the first 90 days after assuming duties at a church except in cases involving "egregious conduct" by an employee.

---- The church agreed to implement the UFW contract signed in July 2002 covering the workers at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Mcallen. In the interim, the parties will continue efforts to find a resolution over the validity of all five union contracts from last year. They cover between 40 and 50 workers at five parishes in the Brownsville
diocese: Holy Spirit Catholic Church in McAllen, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hidalgo, St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in McAllen, St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in San Carlos and San Felipe de Jesus Catholic Church in Brownsville.

---- Back pay and lost medical benefits will be paid to two fired employees at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hidalgo, Bonifacio Quintero and Edna Cantu.

The dispute arose when five parish workers were fired after new pastors arrived at their churches: Holy Spirit employees Ann Cass, Edna Cantu, Martha Sanchez and Rosario Vaello from Holy Spirit; and Sacred Heart workers Quintero and Cantu (who also worked at Holy Spirit).

Rebecca Flores, Texas state director of the UFW, praised "the courage of these parish workers who in the face of mistreatment demanded respect for the important work they do on behalf of the church. As a result, parish workers across the diocese have won important protections through the terms of this settlement agreement."

Flores says, "this historic settlement reflects the spirit of what the church is all about. It mirrors the Catholic Church's most basic teachings on social justice and the right of workers to organize."

Those rights are contained in Pope Leo XIII's encyclical, Rerum Novarum, issued in 1891. As late as 1991, Pope John Paul II wrote in Centesimus Annus that Pope Leo's encyclical affirms as inalienable and proper to the human person the natural human right to form unions. The church's code of Canon Law also clearly affirms these rights.

- end -


Friday, August 15, 2003

Where She is, there we also may be: the Dormition/Assumption

Today we proclaim and remember that Mary, the Mother of God and our mother, does dwell in Heaven, taken there by her son, soul and glorified resurrection body together.

Now, holy Church never defines anything about Mary unless it either tells us something about Jesus or tells us something about us. And this time, it's telling us about us.

Dormition, falling asleep in the Lord, will come for each of us. We are made "to be happy with Him forever and ever in heaven", as the first grade CCD book taught us. And just as his mother Mary has been resurrected to dwell in heaven body and soul together, the time will come when we shall be raised, and our soul will rejoin our resurrection body 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.


Thursday, August 14, 2003

He gave himself away: St. Maximilian Kolbe

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 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 a 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.


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Is there anyone not worthy of being prayed for?

Is anyone irredeemable?

I've been pondering this one in the past days.

I was found in a google search last week by someone, who commented on the Prayer for Priest-penitents, implying that I should not pray for such as them, since they are not "nice" people. As I've written before during the Novena for Priests, the priest that helped me during my first true despair is now among those permanently enjoined from ministry. It offended my visitor that I would write anything good about "such as him," even though in my life he was the instrument of God.

Then Monday morning I awoke to The Fish having a call-in on who you'd invite to a dinner with Jesus and three other people. [I sleep with the radio on to mask the noise of the bipap respirator and the oxygen concentrator.] The first that came to me was to invite 1) the Youth for Christ leader who coerced me to commit apostacy those many years ago, 2) Russell Banner, the priest who helped put me back together again afterwards, and 3) my recent commenter, apparently a dear friend of Fr. Banner's accuser, or maybe the accuser himself/herself. The idea lingered, though I wasn't making much logical sense of it --- such a gathering in real-life would likely be explosive rather than peace-engendering. All I could think to do was to image that dinner table in my hands and offer the whole messy web to the Lord for His healing to take place in all of us.

The YFC leader and his sidekick brought many functionally-agnostic teenagers to a saving faith and the knowledge of the Truth --- they also made a shipwreck of my heart and soul.

Fr. Banner was the one who patiently and wisely drew me from despair and was God's instrument to put me back together again, and brought many other parishioners of St. Martha's in Akron to lively active faith --- he also, apparently, has at least one victim-survivor of his own bad acts, in addition to the ordinary stupidities of life.

I know only too well my own failures, not only being a redeemed and restored apostate, but a lifetime's worth of other wrongs and stupidities a lot more voluntary and willful than that horrid night. By the grace of God I have no victims but my own self, but that is _only_ by the grace of God.

I know my own faults. I believe in the plentious redemption, even when I am crying from the depths. If I believe in the plentious redemption for me, how can I not believe in the plentious redemption for others? How can I _not_ pray for all who cross over my path --- _all_ of them. Even those who are "not nice." Even those who have failed in great and public ways. _All_. No exceptions.

Today's saints, Pontian and Hippolytus, knew this. Pontian was the bishop of Rome immediately following a period of persecution, and he believed in the plentious redemption, allowing for the reconciliation and restoration of those poor people who had not remained faithful during the persecution, who ran away or who denied the faith in the trial. Hippolytus was one of his presbyters, and was utterly opposed to the reconciliation of those who had not stood during the trial, except, maybe, on their death-beds, if they'd been penitent enough by his lights. Hippolytus believed that Pontian was horribly lax and soft on sinning --- and was so sure of his rightness that he allowed himself to be invalidly elected bishop by the other priests who agreed with him, becoming the Church's first antipope. Yet, in the end, Hippolytus renounced his error and his supposed episcopacy, was arrested and exiled to hard labor along with Pontian, and they died as friends and martyrs together.

With God, all things are possible. All people are capable of redemption. No one, no matter how far fallen, is unworthy of our prayers, us who are also sinners. God can and will remake each one of us, if we only allow Him.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Heart Speaks to Heart: 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.


Sunday, August 10, 2003

small ecumenical prayer request

The Church-Wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church is taking place this week at the Midwest Express Center here in Milwaukee. For the safety of the delegates, peaceable productivity about the churchly business, and whatever else they may need, including that they all have a chance to have some good old Milwaukee fun. Maybe go to Irish Fest before they all go home?


Saturday, August 09, 2003

It's been a long time since I wrote doggerel....

.... but Bill at Summa Minutiae has inspired me. I don't think this one is too bad for fifteen minute's work.

On English-language Church Music
[to "Aurelia" D]

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

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

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

1. Who are you, sweet light, that fills me
And illumines the darkness of my heart?
You lead me like a mother's hand,
And should you let go of me,
I would not know how to take another step.
You are the space
That embraces my being and buries it in yourself.
Away from you it sinks into the abyss
Of nothingness, from which you raised it to the light.
You, nearer to me than I to myself
And more interior than my most interior
And still impalpable and intangible
And beyond any name:
Holy Spirit eternal love!

2. Are you not the sweet manna
That from the Son's heart
Overflows into my heart,
The food of angels and the blessed?
He who raised himself from death to life,
He has also awakened me to new life
From the sleep of death.
And he gives me new life from day to day,
And at some time his fullness is to stream through me,
Life of your life indeed, you yourself:
Holy Spirit eternal life!

3. Are you the ray
That flashes down from the eternal Judge's throne
And breaks into the night of the soul
That had never known itself?
Mercifully relentlessly
It penetrates hidden folds.
Alarmed at seeing itself,
The self makes space for holy fear,
The beginning of that wisdom
That comes from on high
And anchors us firmly in the heights,
Your action,
That creates us anew:
Holy Spirit ray that penetrates everything!

4. Are you the spirit's fullness and the power
By which the Lamb releases the seal
Of God's eternal decree?
Driven by you
The messengers of judgment ride through the world
And separate with a sharp sword
The kingdom of light from the kingdom of night.
Then heaven becomes new and new the earth,
And all finds its proper place
Through your breath:
Holy Spirit victorious power!

5. Are you the master who builds the eternal cathedral,
Which towers from the earth through the heavens?
Animated by you, the columns are raised high
And stand immovably firm.
Marked with the eternal name of God,
They stretch up to the light,
Bearing the dome,
Which crowns the holy cathedral,
Your work that encircles the world:
Holy Spirit God's molding hand!

6. Are you the one who created the unclouded mirror
Next to the Almighty's throne,
Like a crystal sea,
In which Divinity lovingly looks at itself?
You bend over the fairest work of your creation,
And radiantly your own gaze
Is illumined in return.
And of all creatures the pure beauty
Is joined in one in the dear form
Of the Virgin, your immaculate bride:
Holy Spirit Creator of all!

7. Are you the sweet song of love
And of holy awe
That eternally resounds around the triune throne,
That weds in itself the clear chimes of each and every being?
The harmony,
That joins together the members to the Head,
In which each one
Finds the mysterious meaning of his being blessed
And joyously surges forth,
Freely dissolved in your surging:
Holy Spirit eternal jubilation!

August Ninth: the day of the Martyrs, Confessors, and Innocents of the Second World War

......or, shall we say, 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 this will be the way our grandnieces and grandnephews will recall this day. For three remembrances coincide this day: the memorial of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, nee Edith Stein; the memorial of the Servant of God (or is he venerable already?) Franz Jagerstatter, umlauts over both a's in that last name; and the day when the second of two towns of no military significance was destroyed and its people murdered in a single instant.

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

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 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'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 men 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.


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

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 no 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.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

I'm HTML-literate! [well, kinda sorta....]

My website is up and running. Crafted my me, by myself, from scratch, no template, no HTML-writing program. I just had to get it up and running to give my Sacred Heart graphic a home! (Thank you, dear Gerard, for the motivational tool.) There isn't much there yet, but if you want to go and ogle it, the url is:


and to lure you, you can see the busy hands and well-formed left shoulder of your genial hostess.......

Someday there will be more content. Gotta find the command to make margins........

Wednesday, August 06, 2003


The plural is not a typo.

There is the transfiguration of glory that we celebrate this day

when the reality of the Lord Jesus was shown, was permitted to be seen, to Peter, James, and John on the mountain. Peter went so far to ask if they should set up tents so they could stay on the mountain always, but Jesus said no, they had to go back down the mountain, back to "real life." Yet what was seen on the mountain was a thousand times more real than the "real life" waiting for them down below. The day will come when we will all witness this reality in the beatific vision, when we each are Called to that great Day.

And then, there is the transfiguration of horror that we also remember this day.

There were two cities, chosen because they had no military significance and therefore no previous bombing damage to complicate the before-and-after photos, obliterated in a single instant on a single day, the first on this day, the second a few days later. Children of our same father changed in an instant from living breathing people to etched shadows on the pavements, or surviving to die by inches of illnesses never before seen. The above image is of the Cathedral of Hiroshima, which was at ground zero; the two cities were not chosen because they were the center of Catholicism in their country, that was accidental. Let us remember most especially the congregation in this Cathedral on that day, translated in an instant from the celebration of the Transfiguration at the Holy Eucharist to the awesome sight of the Lord in the life to come, which came for them that day.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

A daunting query for me: written for REBORN listserv

The gang at REBORN can often be the ones who ask the daunting questions. Someone there asked one today, that I was daring enough to answer.

Here it is:

Peace and good, y'all.

[Name] asks:

>Here's a question for the list. What's your greatest
>sin, and how has God been faithful to help you move
>beyond it?

I'm a packrat. I'm not talking about house-junk, I'm talking about heart-junk. I hang onto aggravation and frustration, mull them over, give myself a big case of the guilties over them, start working on a well-earned ulcer..... when I'm supposed to be forgiving and letting them fall from my hands, not stashing them. Forgiving others is easy, forgiving myself a monumental task. Others are sheltered in the mercies of God, but I'm supposed to know better, after all these years I'm supposed to be beyond this or that.....tying myself in knots with ought-to's and supposed-to's and you-dratted-idjit's and how-could-you-be-so-stupid's.

I've been in this battle for as long as I can remember. I've come to recognise the symptoms quicker, and now that I'm getting old I've got lots of experience at forcing myself to drop whatever it is this time that I didn't or couldn't or that was spectacularly stupid. And I've learned to run, not walk, to somewhere someone where it's safe to say it out loud; a good confessor if I can, an experienced 12-stepper if I can't get out. Secrets bind and kill; make the trial not a secret and it loses a lot of its power. Embarrassment liberates in the long term.

And, there always seem to be gifts about just when they're needed. The right person just when they're needed. A piece of the Scriptures wandering through. A testimony, a news story, even unlikely words like the Dear Paul Letter, become most precious gifts.

I'll likely be fighting this fight, perfectionistic determinedly independent creature that I am, all the way till on my deathbed. But I know who is fighting this one with me, and that he will make sure that I arrive at the finish line suitably empty of all that hoarded heart-junk, if I only keep cooperating with the plan.

karen marie
Truth and Love are wings that cannot be separated,
for Truth cannot fly without Love,
nor can Love soar aloft without Truth;
their yoke is one of amity.
-----St. Ephrem, Hymns on Faith

Monday, August 04, 2003

"See how those Christians.....": an essay from a friend

On one of the listserv groups I frequent, an acquaintance wrote this a few days ago, and I got his consent to bring this to you. As I continually harp to all you poor patient souls my readers, we have no business being in the amateur excommunication business, where the bishop there the Church, and the professionally outraged are to be avoided. Here's a to-weep-over example of all three.

I'm at the Oregon coast (specifically at the Adobe resort in Yachats), so that the closest Catholic church is about 8 miles away in Walport.

From the sermon I heard today, I'm afraid they would have to say of us "See how these Christians hate one another."

While one of the groups the priest spoke against was the Society of Saint Pius X, he spent most of the sermon not on the assigned readings (John's account of the multiplication of the loaves and fish) but in decrying how the Catholic church has fallen away. Some of his choice comments were "Have you ever heard of a holy theologian? Or of a holy bishop? --- Now THAT'S a contradiction." Then in the petitions following the sermon and creed he has such "petitions" as "that we remember when a politician says 'Let me make one thing clear' he is lying, let us pray to the Lord."

As I was driving back to the Adobe, I couldn't help thinking of a more appropriate petition:

That right doctrine be joined to a true spirit of Christian charity, let us earnestly pray to the Lord.

That last sentence, I think, can be the petition of every one of us. And, I'll have it be known that I am acquainted with many theologians striving after holiness, a couple of whom I'd not hesitate to name saints; and with four holy bishops. There are holy theologians and holy bishops, more than the professionally outraged will ever perceive or admit to. I wonder, does nurtured outrage cause sensory deprivation?

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Right relationship with the bishop: today's Office of Readings

In today's Office of Readings, the Church gives us a letter from St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, to St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. Both Ignatius and Polycarp were disciples of St. John the Evangelist; Ignatius had been arrested and was being taken to Rome for trial and martyrdom. During the journey, he wrote letters to various people and Churches; we still have seven of those letters, including this one to Polycarp. Do we in our local Churches wth our bishops behave this way?

St. Ignatius wrote:

Avoid evil practices; indeed, preach against them. Tell my sisters to love the Lord and be content with their husbands in the flesh and in the spirit, and in the same way bid my brothers in Christ’s name to love their wives as the Lord loves his Church. If anyone can remain chaste in honour of the Saviour’s flesh, then let him do so without boasting. For if he boasts of it, he is lost; and if he thinks himself for this reason better than the bishop, he is lost. Those who marry should be united with the bishop’s approval, so that the marriage may follow God’s will and not merely the prompting of the flesh. Let everything be done for God’s honour.

Hear your bishop, that God may hear you. My life is a sacrifice for those who are obedient to the bishop, the presbyters and the deacons; and may it be my lot to share with them in God. Work together in harmony,: struggle together, run together, suffer together, rest together, rise together, as stewards, advisors and servants of God. Seek to please him whose soldiers you are and from whom you draw your pay; let none of you prove a deserter. Let your baptism be your armour, your faith your helmet, your charity your spear, your patience your panoply. Let your good works be your deposits, so that you may draw out well-earned savings. So be patient and gentle with one another, as God is with you. May I have joy in you for ever!

Since I have heard that the church of Antioch in Syria is in peace through your prayers, I too am more tranquil in my reliance upon God. If only I may find my way to God through my passion and at the resurrection prove to be your disciple! My most blessed Polycarp, you should convene a godly council and appoint someone whom you consider dear and especially diligent to be called God’s courier and to have the honour of going into Syria and advancing God’s glory by speaking of your untiring charity. A Christian is not his own master; his time is God’s. This is God’s work, and it will be yours as well when you have performed it. I have trust in the grace of God that you are ready to act generously when it comes to God’s work. Since I knew so well your zeal for truth, I have limited my appeal to these few words.

I could not write to all the churches because I am sailing at once from Troas to Neapolis as is required of me. I want you, therefore, as one who knows God’s purpose, to write to the churches of the East and bid them to do the same. Those who can should send representatives, while the rest should send letters through your delegates. Thus your community will be honoured for a good work which will be remembered for ever, as their bishop deserves.

I wish all of you well for ever in Jesus Christ; through him may you all remain in God’s unity and in his care. Farewell in the Lord!