Friday, December 31, 2004

A Christmas Tsunami

by Nathan Netherton of South Yarra Community Baptist Church, Melbourne, Australia. His own site is http://LaughingBird.net/. I found it on the liturgy-l list.

A sermon by Nathan Nettleton, 2 January 2004
preached in response to the South Asia Tsunami disaster
Texts: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:1-18

Nine nights ago we gathered here to sing and celebrate
We told stories about a baby
A baby who would save the world
A baby whose birth was greeted by angels
A baby whose birth meant tidings of joy for all people everywhere
We spoke of God-made-flesh
Cute chubby baby flesh

We sang familiar songs
We enjoyed familiar company
We smiled at baby Piper playing over here as we sang about the baby
We drank champagne and ate Christmas cake
God was in heaven and all was well with the world
Or so it seemed

But all was not well with the world
A pressure was building up deep beneath the surface
Two unyielding forces were pushing against each other
And we sang on, oblivious
And others partied on
And holidayed on
Walked along moonlit beaches hand in hand
Wrapped final presents as the kids fell asleep
But underneath, the pressure grew and grew

"All is calm, all is bright" we sang
"Sleep in heavenly peace"
"Now you here of endless bliss" we sang
"While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love"
"We will live forever more, because of Christmas Day", we sang
But the pressure grew and grew
knowing nothing of the bliss of our songs
or the angels' watch

Nothing gave way that night, or the next
But the pressure went right on building
And the next morning all hell broke loose
It was a simple thing really
Those two great forces pushing against one another
One slipped a bit
The earth shuddered
The pressure was released
All quite simple
The sudden movement caused a wave
Quite explainable

But as the churches went on singing that Sunday morning
Singing songs about that lovely baby again
That wave was tearing babies out of people's arms
Sucking beds out through hotel windows with people still in them
Dumping sharks in swimming pools
Turning idyllic beachside villages into churning soups
of angry water and broken glass and car parts and blood
and corrugated iron and dying children
and splintered wood

It was all over in minutes
The water ran back into the sea
taking with it whatever it wished
whatever it hadn't impaled or trapped or buried

We've all seen pictures of what it left behind
Haunting horrible pictures
Mud and ruins and corpses
Tens of thousands of corpses
Old, young, men, women
The life sucked out of them
Dead children strewn everywhere
Hundreds and hundreds of dead babies

What child is this who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping?
What child is this who laid to rest
in the mud and devastation of Aceh?
And what child is this?
And this?
And this?
Who knows?
Corpses everywhere
Battered lifeless unnamed corpses
Every now and then there is a scream
and one of the living gives a name to one of the dead
and grieves
and thousands more lay waste in the sun
some perhaps with no one left alive who knew their name

What can we say?
Who wants to sing of cute babies now?
Who wants to stand up and talk of the Word made flesh?
There's flesh strewn all over the streets
Broken lifeless flesh
Beginning to bloat in the sun

What do those songs we were singing mean now?
Do the angels' tidings of great joy mean anything in the face of this?
Can we stand in the mud and debris of Banda Aceh or Phuket or Galle
and speak of the one who is called Emmanuel
God with us?

Or would it sound obscene?
But that's the challenge isn't it?
Because if the Christmas gospel has nothing meaningful to say
in Tamil Nadu or the Maldives or Meuloboh
then it doesn't really have anything meaningful to say at all
Someone once said
- perhaps it was Athol Gill
I can't remember -
that any theology that can't be preached
in the presence of parents grieving over their slaughtered children
isn't worth preaching anywhere else either

But in the midst of the carnage and shock and horror
what can we say?
There are no words
The lovely lines of peace on earth and goodwill to all
sound impossibly trite and hollow

And worse still
we are afraid to even speak the name of God
aren't we?
For inside there is a horrible question
that we dare not face
that we don't know what to do with
It is not just that our faith seems to lack adequate words of comfort
It is that our faith is not sure that God is not to blame

What did our psalm say just a few minutes ago?
Our words of sacred scripture?
God sends the snow and frost and hail
God speaks, the ice melts
God breathes, the waters flow
That's what it said

And if we believe that
If we believe that that is not just poetic hyperbole
but fundamental doctrine
If we believe that God directs the weather
that God speaks and the earth shudders
that God can calm the waves with a word
then can we escape the awful conclusion
that the tsunami is God's doing?

And what did John say in our gospel reading?
All things came into being through him
and without him, not one thing came into being
The tsunami?
Through him?

Those who shake their fists at heaven
and say that either there is no God
or that God is a callous tyrant
have got irrefutable evidence on their side this week
Perhaps every week
Even if God didn't directly make the tsunami
doesn't God have to accept responsibility
for creating the things that create tsunami?
Or is God somehow exempt from manufacturer's liability questions?

Let us not speak too hastily in defence of God
lest we be guilty of simply trying to prop up our own shaky faith
and silence the doubts and fears that lurk within all of us
Let us allow God to speak for himself

Another preacher rang me up on Thursday
he needed to know that he wasn't the only one
with a head full of horror
wondering how to preach the gospel this week
It's lonely, he said,
being the one who has to find words to say
Impossibly daunting too
bearing the responsibility of preaching the gospel
in a week when the news of the world
seems to make a mockery of it
It struck me that we preachers should probably feel like that every week
charged with the responsibility to speak the word of God
to a desperate people
in a world that seems always capable
of proving our every word a lie

So my friend and I are stuck
As much as we might want to flee the wave of fear and uncertainty
that threatens to uproot us
and suck the life out of our faith
we have been called to preach the faith of the Church
in season and out of season
and preach it we must
So I cannot hide behind my own advise
to let God speak for himself
because when God speaks for himself
I am one of the ones God has called
to interpret to you the word God speaks

And at times like this
such a responsibility can feel a bit like some of those awful pictures
I can feel a bit like the man wading through the chaos
with his beloved child cradled in his arms
limp and lifeless
Here is the gospel
the faith of the Church
Is there life in it yet?
Or has it drowned in the angry wave of awful reality?
I'm not sure
but dead or alive I still love this child

I can't speak to you as one who has the answers
Like you I am looking for signs of life
amidst the chaos and devastation
But I can and must speak as one called by God
to interpret what God says in the face of all this
So what does God have to say?
What word am I to interpret?

There is a Word from God
And the Word became flesh
The Word became flesh and cast in his lot with us

Why do we call Jesus "the Word"?
We call him the Word because he is what God has to say
What God has to say is made flesh in the Word
All that God has to say is made flesh in the Word
What God has to say in the face of unspeakable suffering
is made flesh in the Word

There are all too many other words spoken about God
Everyone has an opinion
Some will say that God is absent, dead or doesn't care
Some will say that God is all-powerful
that nothing happens except at God's say-so
and that yes, tsunamis only happen if God wills them to
Some will say that the tsunami is God's judgment
words words words
there are no end of words about God
But what does God have to say?

God, are you all-powerful?
God, do you care?
The Word becomes flesh
God, did you make the tsunami?
The Word becomes flesh
God, where are you?
The Word becomes flesh

Of course there is always a temptation
to try to repackage the Word
to make it say what we wish it would say
We want a messiah who will protect us from every danger
and we can find words about God that will say that
We want a messiah who can calm the waves before they get us
and we can find a story of Jesus doing that
We want a messiah who will ride in triumphant
like the cavalry at the last minute
and vanquish all that would harm us
and bring us singing and weeping tears of joy
to the victory banquet
Our reading from Jeremiah speaks with such words
But if we make the words say whatever we want
we may miss the Word that God speaks altogether
the Word that takes flesh

Because God has spoken a Word
and it hasn't charged in like the cavalry
God has spoken a Word and it did make the world shudder
The Word became flesh
and the world shuddered
and a great wave of hostility and selfishness and bitterness rose up
and flung itself against the Word
devastating all in its path
killing even children in its rage
snarling, surging, seething, smashing
a great wave of darkness
furiously seeking to annihilate the light

And where was God as the wave hit?
Wasn't God right there bearing the brunt of it
Wasn't God there clinging to his beloved child
only to be overwhelmed by the wave
and have the child ripped from his arms
and torn away on that surging flood of hatred
and battered and smashed and pierced
and tossed limp and lifeless to the earth

As a father
I've been tormented by those images this week
Imagining myself trying to protect my child
as the wave hit
desperately clinging to her with every ounce of strength
only to feel her ripped from my arms
and torn away in the surging blackness
and then later hunting for her
in the chaos and ruins
checking body after body
desperately hoping that none of them are her
that somehow she will have been washed to safety
and then finding her crumpled and lifeless
and blindly carrying her limp body
looking for someone who could help
but knowing in the hollow depths of my guts
that nothing can help
and seeing in the eyes of everyone who passes
that to all but me she is just one more
of a hundred thousand corpses

It took three days of news footage before it really got to me
It finally broke me when I saw footage
of a mother in Australia
who had just got news that her daughter
who she thought had been lost
was safe
and she wept tears of joy and relief
and it struck me
that everyone of those hundred thousand corpses
represented a real person
over whom there would be no such tears of joy and relief
and I wanted to hold my daughter close and cry
but I couldn't
because ironically she was at the beach with her mother
so I broke down
and sobbed alone

Do I have any idea what it would really feel like?
I doubt it
It was bad enough just imagining it
I don't know how I'd cope if it was real
I certainly wouldn't want to be hearing any comfortable cliches
like all things working together for good
or they've gone to a better place

I doubt whether I have any idea what it would really feel like
but I reckon God does
because when we cried out for answers
for explanations
for deliverance
God spoke a Word
and the Word became flesh
as a beloved child
and the child was torn from the Father's arms
by a ruthless wave
and the waters of death closed over him
and spat him out as just another
of the hundreds and thousands and millions
of unnamed innocent victims
down through the ages

I reckon God knows
And I reckon that as hard as we might find it
to talk about flesh
while the nameless flesh of countless corpses
are necessarily treated as little more
than a threat to public health
and piled into mass graves
God is still not afraid to be identified as flesh
fragile flesh
brutalised flesh
limp and lifeless flesh

Because the promise of Christmas
is not just that the Word became cute and chubby baby flesh
but that the Word became flesh
and cast in his lot with us
hunted flesh
despised flesh
tortured flesh
dead and buried flesh
three days dead flesh stinking and a threat to public health

And although our story of the Word made flesh
does not stop with dead and buried
we will not really understand the rest of the story
if we think of resurrection as just some kind of miracle cure
which means that death is no longer part of Christ's reality
In the book of Revelation we see the vision
of the risen one on the throne
who still looks like one mortally wounded
The risen one is still the crucified one
The rising one is still the being-crucified one
The people who say all crosses must now be empty are wrong
because the risen Christ is still
the suffering and dying Christ
The risen Christ who promised we would meet him
in the least of these desperate and vulnerable ones
can be seen lying dead in the mud in Khao Lak and Meuloboh
The Word became flesh

If you want to see what God has to say in the face of this
go walk among the ruins of Banda Aceh
or just turn on your TV
for God is speaking
and the Word has become flesh

Perhaps as we begin to see what God is saying
we will begin to comprehend how blasphemous
so much of what we blithely say about God really is
and how chillingly we treat powerful and dangerous realities
and casual and comfortable little things

Perhaps when water is flung at us in a few minutes
to remind us of our identity
as those who have been buried
in the deep waters of death with Christ
perhaps this week we'll have
a little more sense of what a serious matter it is
to go under the deep waters of death

Perhaps when we hold out our empty hands
to receive the piece of bread we will be offered shortly
we will recognise something of our solidarity
with desperate hungry people
holding out empty hands
for the food aid the world is trying to muster
And perhaps we will see in those images
of the Father holding the limp body of his dead child
the image of the Father who spoke the Word that becomes flesh
and whose grief and suffering take flesh still
in body and blood
offered for the life of the world
and placed into our empty hands
that we might live
even in the face of death

And perhaps when we have heard that Christmas story
the story of God speaking a Word
which becomes human flesh
and falls victim to the full force
of the waves of horror that assail the earth and its inhabitants,
a Word which continues to take flesh
in all the suffering and grief and desperation
perhaps then we will be capable
of hearing the story of resurrection
and recognising that our songs of endless bliss
and our promises of sorrow turned into joy
are reduced to pious platitudes if they are not seen
in their contexts of unspeakable fear, death and anguish

I pray that we
and I
might have the courage and compassion
to recognise the Word that God speaks this week
and follow where the Word calls
into the places that terrify and horrify us
the places where we will know what it means
to cry out for salvation
the places
perhaps the only places
where we are capable of knowing
the Word of resurrection
the Word made flesh
the Christ born of Mary


Monday, December 27, 2004

The Incarnation, by St. John of the Cross

Now that the time had come
when it would be good
to ransom the bride
serving under the hard yoke

of that law
which Moses had given her,
the Father, with tender love,
spoke in this way:

Now You see, Son, that Your bride
was made in your image,
and so far as she is like You
she will suit You well;

yet she is different, in her flesh,
which Your simple being does not have.

In perfect love
this law holds:

that the lover become
like the one he loves;
for the greater their likeness,
the greater their delight.

Surely Your bride's delight
would greatly increase
were she to see You like her,
in her own flesh.

My will is Yours,
the Son replied,
and My glory is
that Your will be Mine.

This is fitting, Father,
what You, the Most High, say;
for in this way
Your goodness will be the more seen.

Your great power will be seen,
and Your justice and wisdom.
I will go and tell the world,
spreading the word
of Your beauty and sweetness,
and of Your sovereignty.

I will go seek My bride
and take upon Myself
her weariness and labors
in which she suffers so;

and that she may have life
I will die for her,
and, lifting her out of that deep,
I will restore her to You. ....

When the time had come
for Him to be born
He went forth like the bridegroom
from his bridal chamber,

embracing His bride,
holding her in His arms,
Whom the gracious Mother
laid in a manger

among some animals
that were there at that time.
Men sang songs
and angels melodies

celebrating the marriage
of Two such as these.
But God there in the manger
cried and moaned;

and those tears were jewels
the bride brought to the wedding.
The Mother gazed in sheer wonder
on such an exchange:

In God, man's weeping,
and in man, gladness;
to the one and the other
things usually so strange.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

A New Place for the info every Prayer Warrior needs

St. Blog's Prayer Network is online for the posting of the prayer requests of our little cyberparish. Please give it a visit soon, then often, and come together to make it a success. Since I have benefitted so greatly and often from the prayers of others, it's the least I can do!

St. Gregory Nazianzen's Sermon on the Birthday of Christ

via This is Life!: Revolutions Around the Cruciform Axis

"Christ is born, glorify Him! Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth; be exalted. Sing unto the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is. of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope. Christ of a Virgin; O you Matrons live as Virgins, that you may be Mothers of Christ. Who does not worship Him That is from the beginning? Who does, not glorify Him That is the Last?"

Again the darkness is past; again Light is made; again Egypt is punished with darkness; again Israel is enlightened by a pillar. The people that sat in the darkness of ignorance, let it see the Great Light of full knowledge. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. The letter gives way, the Spirit comes to the front. The shadows flee away, the Truth comes in upon them. The laws of nature are upset; the world above must be filled. Christ commands it, let us not set ourselves against Him. O clap your hands together all you people, because unto us a Child is born, and a Son given unto us, Whose government is upon His shoulder (for with the Cross it is raised up), and His name is called The Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father. Prepare the way of the Lord: I too will cry the power of this day. He Who is not carnal is Incarnate; the Son of God becomes the Son of Man, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. Let the Jews be offended, let the Greeks deride; let heretics talk till their tongues ache. Then shall they believe, when they see Him ascending up into heaven; and if not then, yet when they see Him coming out of heaven and sitting as Judge.

Of these on a future occasion; for the present the Festival is the Theophany or Birthday, for it is called both, two titles being given to the one thing. For God was manifested to man by birth. On the one hand Being, and eternally Being, of the Eternal Being, above cause and word, for there was not word before The Word; and on the other hand for our sakes also Becoming, that He Who gives us our being might also give us our Well-being, or rather might restore us by His Incarnation, when we had by wickedness fallen from well-being. The name Theophany is given to it in reference to the Manifestation, and that of Birthday in respect of His Birth.
Celebrating the birthday of Christ

This is our present Festival; it is this which we are celebrating, the Coming of God to Man, that we might go forth, or rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God -that putting off the old man, we might put on the New; and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him. For where sin abounded grace did much more abound; and if a taste condemned us, how much more does the Passion of Christ justify us? Therefore let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own, but as belonging to Him Who is ours, or rather as our Master's; not as of weakness, but as of healing; not as of creation, but of re-creation.

And how shall this be? Let us not adorn our porches; nor arrange dances, nor decorate the streets; let us not feast the eye, not enchant the ear with music, nor enervate the nostrils with perfume, not prostitute the taste, nor indulge the touch, those roads that are so prone to evil and entrances for sin; let us not be effeminate in clothing soft and flowing, whose beauty consists in its uselessness, nor with the glittering of gems or the sheen of gold or the tricks of colour, belying the beauty of nature, and invented to do despite unto the image of God. Not in rioting and drunkenness, with which are mingled, I know well, chambering and wantonness, since the lessons which evil teachers give are evil. Let us not appraise the bouquet of wines, the kickshaws of cooks, the great expense of unguents; and let us not strive to outdo each other in temperance, and this while others are hungry and in want, who are made of the same clay and in the same manner.

Let us leave all these to the Greeks and to the pomp and festivals of the Greeks. But we, the object of whose adoration is the Word, if we must in some way have luxury, let us seek it in word, and in the Divine Law, and in histories; especially such as are the origin of this Feast; that our luxury may be akin to and not far remove from Him Who has called us together. Or do you desire (for today I am your entertainer) that I should set before you, my good guests, the story of these things as abundantly and as nobly as I can, that you may know how a foreigner can feed the natives of the land, and a rustic the people of the town, and one who cares not for luxury those who delight in it, and one who is poor and homeless those who are eminent for wealth?

We will begin from this point; and let me ask of you who delight in such matters to cleanse your mind and your ears and your thoughts, since our discourse is to be of God and Divine; that when you depart, you may fade not away. And this same discourse shall be at once both very full and very concise, that you may neither be displeased at its deficiencies, nor find it unpleasant through wearisomeness.
The Divine nature of God

God always was, and always is, and always will be. Or rather, God always is. For was and will be are fragments of our time, and of changeable nature, but He is Eternal Being.

And this is the Name that He gives to Himself when giving the Oracle to Moses in the Mount. For in Himself He sums up and contains all Being, having neither beginning in the past nor end in the future; like some great Sea of Being, limitless and unbounded, transcending all conception of time and nature', only adumbrated by the mind, and that very dimly and scantily . . . not by His Essentials, but by His Environment; one image being gotten from one source and another from another, and combined into some sort of presentation of the truth, which escapes us before we have caught it, and takes to flight before we have conceived it, blazing forth upon our Master-part, even when that is cleansed, as the lighting flash which will not stay its course, does upon our sight . . . in order as I conceive by that part of it which we can comprehend to draw us to itself (for that which is altogether incomprehensible is outside the bounds of hope, an not within the compass of endeavour), and by that part of it which we cannot comprehend to move our wonder, to, become more an object of desire, and being desired to purify, and by purifying to make us like God.

The Divine Nature then is boundless and hard to understand; and all that we can comprehend of Him is His boundlessness; even though one may conceive that because He is of a simple nature He is therefore either wholly incomprehensible, or perfectly comprehensible. And when drawing a conclusion from the whole it calls Him Eternal. For Eternity is neither time nor part of time; for it cannot be measured. But what time, measured by the course of the sun, is to us, that Eternity is to the Everlasting, namely, a sort of time-like movement and interval co-existence with their existence. This, however, is all I must not say about God; as my present subject is of the Incarnation. But when I say God, I mean Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This then is the Holy of Holies, which is hidden even from the Seraphim, and is glorified with a thrice repeated Holy, meeting in one ascription of the Title Lord and God.

When His first creation was in good order, He conceives a second world, material and visible; and this a system and compound of earth and sky, and all that is in the midst of them an admirable creation indeed, when we look at the fair form of every part, but yet more worthy of admiration when we consider the harmony and the unison of the whole, and how each part fits in with every other, in fair order, and all with the whole, tending to the perfect completion of the world as a Unit. This was to show that He could call into being, not only a Nature akin to Himself, but also one altogether alien to Himself. For akin to Deity are those natures which are intellectual, and only to be comprehended by mind. Perhaps some one who is too festive and impetuous may say, What has all this to do with us? Talk to us about the Festival [the Birth of Christ], and the reasons for our being here today. Yes, this is what I am about to do, although I have begun at a somewhat previous point, being compelled to do so by love, and by the needs of my argument.
The fashioning of man

Mind, then, and sense, thus distinguished from each other, had remained within their own boundaries, and bore in themselves the magnificence of the Creator-Word, silent praisers and thrilling heralds of His mighty work. Not yet were the whole riches of Goodness made known. Now the Creator-Word, determine to exhibit this, and to produce a single living being out of both - the visible and the invisible creations, I mean - fashions Man; and taking a body from already existing matter, and placing in it a breath taken from Himself which - the Word knew to be an intelligent soul and the Image of God, as a sort of second world. He placed him, great in littleness on the earth; a new Angel, mingled worship- per, fully initiated into the visible creation, but only partially into the intellectual; king of all upon the earth, but subject to the King above; earthly and heavenly; temporal and yet immortal; visible and yet intellectual; half-way between greatness and lowliness; in one person combining spirit and flesh; spirit, because of the favour bestowed on him; flesh, because of the height to which he had been raised; one that he might continue to live and praise his Benefactor, the other that he might suffer, and by suffering be put in remembrance, and corrected if he became proud of his greatness. For to this, I think, tends that Light of Truth which we here possess but in measure, that we should both see and experience the Splendour of God, which is worthy of Him Who made us. and wilt remake us again after a loftier fashion.

This being (man) He placed in Paradise, having honoured him with the gift of free will (in order that God might belong to him as the result of choice); naked in his simplicity. Also He gave him a law, as a material for his Free Will to act upon. This Law was a commandment as to what plants he might partake of, and which one he might not touch. This latter was the Tree of Knowledge. But when the Devil's malice and the woman's caprice, to which she succumbed as the more tender, brought to bear on the man, he forgot the commandment which had been given him, he yielded; and for his sin he was banished, at once from the Tree of Life, and from Paradise. Yet here too he makes a gain, namely death, and the cutting off of sin, in order that evil may not be immortal. Thus punishment is changed into a mercy; for it is in mercy, I am persuaded, that God inflicts punishment.

And having been first chastened by many reasons (because his sins were many), by word, by law, by prophets, by benefits, by threats, by plagues, by waters, by fires, by wars, by victories, by defeats, by signs in heaven and signs in the air and in the earth and in the sea, by unexpected changes of men, of cities, of nations, at last he needed a stronger remedy, for his diseases were growing worse; mutual slaughters, adulteries, perjuries, unnatural crimes, and that first and last of all evils, idolatry and the transfer of Worship from the Creator to the creatures. As these required a greater aid, also they obtain a greater.
The Word Himself

And that was that the Word of God Himself - Who is before all worlds, the Invisible, the Beginning, the Light of Light, the Source of Life and Immortality, the Image of the Archetypal Beauty, the immoveable Seal, the unchangeable Image, the Father's Definition and Word, came to His own Image, and took on Him flesh for the sake of our flesh, and mingled Himself with an intelligent soul for my soul's sake, purifying like by like; and in all points except sin was made man. Conceived by the Virgin, who first in body and soul was purified by the Holy Spirit (for it was needful both that childbearing should be honoured, and that virginity should receive a higher honour, He (Christ) came forth then as God with that which He had assumed, One Person in two Natures, Flesh and Spirit, of which the latter defied the former.

O new commingling; O strange conjunction; the Self Existent comes into being, the Uncreated is created, that which cannot be contained is contained, by the intervention of an intellectual soul, mediating between the Deity and the corporeity of the flesh. And He Who give riches becomes poor, for He assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the richness of His Godhead. He that is in full empties Himself, for He empties Himself of His glory for a short while, that I may have a share in His fullness. What is the riches of His Goodness? What is this mystery that is around me? I had a share in the image; I did not keep it; He partakes of my flesh that He may both save the image and make the flesh immortal. This is more godlike than the former action, this is loftier in the eyes of all men of understanding.

To this what have those cavillers to say, those bitter reasoners about the Godhead, those detractors of all that is praiseworthy, those darkeners of light, uncultured in respect of wisdom, for whom Christ died in vain, those unthankful creatures, the work of the Evil One? Do you turn this benefit into a reproach to God? Will you deem Him little on this account, that He humbled Himself for you; because the God Shepherd, He who lays down His life for His sheep, came to seek for that which had strayed upon the mountains and the hills, on which you was then sacrificing, and found the wanderer; and having found it, took it upon His shoulders on which He also took the Wood of the Cross; and having taken it, brought it back to the higher life; and having carried it back, numbered it among those who have never strayed. Because He lighted a candle - His own Flesh - and swept the house, cleansing the world from sin. And He calls together His Angel friends on the findings of the coin, and makes them sharers in His joy, whom He had made to share also the secret of the Incarnation?

He (Christ) was sent, but as man, for He was of a twofold Nature; for He was wearied, and hungered, and was thirsty, and was in an agony, and shed tears, according to the nature of a corporeal being. And if the expression be also used of Him as God, the meaning is that the Father's good pleasure is to be considered a Mission, for to this He refers all that concerns Himself; both that He may honour the Eternal Principle, and because He will not be taken to be an antagonistic God. And whereas it is written both that He was betrayed, and also that He gave Himself up and that He was raised up by the Father, and taken up into heaven; and on the other hand, that He raised Himself and went up. Are you then to be allowed to dwell upon all that humiliates Him, while passing over all that exalts Him, and to count on your side the fact that He suffered, but to leave out of the account the fact that it was of His own will? See what even now the Word has to suffer. By one set He is honoured as God, but is confused with the Father, by another He is dishonoured as mere flesh and severed from the Godhead. With which of them will He be most angry, or rather, which shall He forgive, those who injuriously confound Him or those who divide Him? For the former ought to have distinguished, and the latter to have united Him; the one in number, the other in Godhead. Do you disbelieve in His Godhead? This did not even the demons, O you who are less believing than demons and more stupid than Jews.

A little later on you will see Jesus submitting to be purified in the River Jordan for my Purification, or rather, sanctifying the waters by His Purification (for indeed His had no need of purification Who takes away the sin of the world) and the heavens cleft asunder, and witness borne to him by the Spirit that is of one nature with Him; you shall see Him tempted and conquering and served by Angels, and healing every sickness and every disease, and giving life to the dead (O that He would give life to you who are dead because of your heresy), and driving out demons, sometimes Himself, sometimes by his disciples; and feeding vast multitudes with a few loaves; and walking dryshod upon seas; and being betrayed and crucified, and crucifying with Himself my sin; offered as a Lamb, and offering as a Priest; as a Man buried in the grave, and as God rising again; and then ascending, and to come again in His own glory. Why what a multitude of high festivals there are in each of the mysteries of the Christ; all of which have one completion, namely, my perfection and return to the first condition of Adam.
Christ's Conception

Now then I pray you accept His Conception, and leap before Him; if not like John from the womb, yet like David, because of the resting of the Ark. Revere the enrolment of account of which you were written in heaven, and adore the Birth by which you were loosed from the chains of your birth, and honour little Bethlehem, which has led you back to Paradise; and worship the manger through which you, being without sense, was fed by the Word . . . If you are one of those who are as yet unclean and uneatable and unfit for sacrifice, and of the gentile portion, run with the Star, and bear your Gifts with the Magi, gold and frankincense and myrrh, as to a King, and to God, and to One Who is dead for you. With Shepherds glorify Him; with Angels join in chorus; with Archangels sing hymns. Let this Festival be common to the powers in heaven and to the powers upon earth. For I am persuaded that the Heavenly Hosts join in our exultation and keep high Festival with us today . . . because they love men, and they love God ... just like those whom David introduces after the Passion ascending with Christ and coming to meet Him, and bidding one another to lift up the gates.

One thing connected with the Birth of Christ I would have you hate ... the murder of the infants by Herod. Or rather you must venerate this too, the Sacrifice of the same age as Christ, slain before the Offering of the New Victim. If He flees into Egypt, joyfully become a companion of His exile. It is a grand thing to share the exile of the persecuted Christ. If He tarry long in Egypt, call Him out of Egypt by a reverent worship of Him there. Travel without fault through every stage and faculty of the Life of Christ. Be purified; be circumcised; strip off the veil which has covered you from your birth.

After this teach in the Temple, and drive out the sacrilegious traders. Submit to be stoned if need be, for well I want you shall be hidden from those who cast the stones; you shall escape even through the midst of them, like God. If you be scourged, ask for what they leave out. Taste gall for the taste's sake; drink vinegar; accept blows, be crowned with thorns, that is, with the hardness of the godly life; put on the purple robe, take the reed in hand, and receive mock worship from those who mock at the truth; lastly, be crucified with Him, and share His Death and Burial gladly, that you may rise with Him, and be glorified with Him and reign with Him. Look at and be looked at by the Great God, Who in Trinity is worshipped and glorified, and Whom we declare to be now set forth as clearly before you as the chains of our flesh allow, in Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be the glory for ever. Amen.


Friday, December 24, 2004

Archbishop Romero on Christmas

In celebrating Christmas, many Christians do exactly the opposite of what the earliest Christians did. By celebrating Christmas, they succeeded in bringing Christ into the pagan feast of the sun. Today’s Christians’ neopaganism is managing to paganize Christmas.

Jesus was not born on December 25 exactly. The Christian liturgy chose that date in order to give a Christian meaning to the Roman feast of the unvanquished sun. The pagans of the Roman Empire celebrated the sun’s rebirth during the longest night of the year. That midnight was considered as the starting point of the sun’s march, which then began to overcome the darkness. It was easy for the Christians to substitute Jesus Christ for the sun and to make the birth of Christ, Sun of Justice, coincide liturgically with the pagan celebration of the birth of the sun. The centuries that followed have proved the church’s genius, for bit by bit the meaning of Christmas pushed into oblivion the jovial pagan celebration and filled the entire world with the joy of the Redeemer’s birth. Today even unbelievers sense that something divine entered history during that night without compare. We all feel that the child born that night is a child of our family, and that the brightness of God’s glory that the angels carol makes ofthat night the loveliest day, a day when God himself offers us his peace and invites us to be men and women of good will.

What a shame that all of that Christian inspiration with which our liturgy christened a pagan festival has been betrayed by many Christians, who today surrender that spiritual conquest to paganism. To make the values of commerce and of worldly gaiety prevail over the gospel meaning of Christmas is nothing short of a cowardly surrender on the part of Christians.

A return to the spirituality of a genuine Christmas will be a noble gesture of solidarity with Christianity’s spiritual victories in the world. A celebration of Christ’s birth with a sense of adoration, love, and gratitude toward the God who loved us even to the folly of giving us his own Son, will be to arrange our life so that the peace that only God can give may brighten it like a sun.

[+Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, December 15, 1978]

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sweet Liberation!

After two weeks at Columbia-St. Mary's and five weeks in Select Specialty Hospital, I was discharged to Home Sweet Anchor Hold yesterday afternoon. The pneumonia and the cellulitis are gone, the football-sized boil on my leg has been surgeried away and the incision is healing nicely, all stitches out, and every single little MRSA bug is dead, dead, dead! (Vancomycin is wonderful stuff!) However, I am now officially diabetic. Insulin and all......

Expect slow posting for a week or so through the holidays as I clean up 7 weeks' backed-up email and learn how to live the new diabetic life style. (food becoming medicine, extremely planned living, lancets and needles, etc.)

While incarcerated, I did manage to make eight quarts of rosaries.......

Thursday, November 04, 2004

I'm going to miss the All Saints Gospel Choir [rats!]

I'm not going to make it to any part of the Call to Action conference this weekend. I'm getting sicker rather than healthier. A new, very troubling symptom has joined the litany, my leg is still a lovely (if it wasn't my skin) shade of bright pink, my foot is too swollen to go into my largest, three-sizes-too-big, slippers ..... and if said new symptom is not made to go away by tomorrow morning, I'll have to have a serious talk with the triage nurse, or whatever-it-is they call her these days. And one of those Columbia-St. Mary vacations......

Terrence of the Provincial Emails (he's on Gerard's List; I don't have the link right now) posted about my little adventure among the self-defined reformers and professionally outraged, and suggested a dance card of a lot of the most bitter and the farthest off the beam. He missed Mother Mary Ramerman, though, who pastors one of those little schism-churches that live in the delusion that its pastor is Jesus Christ Himself.

Actually, I'd already filled out my dance card. Here's what I was going to be up to:

If arrival was on time [have to account for paratransit trouble], prayer session 4.04, Remembering Those Who Have Gone On Before Us. Otherwise, visit exhibits and talk to other stray people.

Presentation 5.05, Justice for All: The National Review Board & Clergy Sexual Abuse.. by Pamela Hayes of the Review Board.

Plenary Session: Margaret Farley, Contemporary Christian Sexual Ethics. If it ends up hopeless, slip out, see exhibits, talk to other strays.


Presentation 8.01, Harambee, come together! Praying the seven principles of Kwanzaa, by Celeste Anderson Byrne

Presentation 9.04, Sharing the Vision, by Mary Ann Garfold. about faith formation in parishes.

Presentation 10.03, In Trouble for Peace & Justice: Discipleship to the nonviolent Jesus, by Fr. John Dear, SJ

Supper, exhibits, chatter.......

Presentation 11.01, All Saints Gospel Choir. cleasing palate of any residual bitterness.

I think I would have had a lot to write about...... but I'm likely to be in a hospital bed instead. [frown]

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

No, I haven't died.

I've just been a bit more under-the-weather than usual. I hibernated my way through Saturday and Sunday, and didn't do very much more yesterday. Remembered to ask for the intercession of all the secret tzaddiks and undercover saints; also for a peaceable election.

It's probably a good thing that I didn't end up in the hospital --- over the weekend Dad's been hospitalized, and I try to be as little of a problem to my sibs as I can be. I was emailed on Sunday but only got it this morning .... I decided that nice recouperative rest was more important than reading email.

My next goal is to make it through the weekend, to my regularly-scheduled doctor's visit on Monday. Especially because of a special gift I've been given.

A Pass to the Call to Action Conference. Can you believe it!

I know I do not have the endurance for all three days, but I'm sure there will be plenty to write about if I only go on Saturday, and the All Saints' Gospel Choir in the last session should wipe away any stray bitter tastes.

So, have fun waiting in line for the polling place and nibbling your sugar skull......

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Christian Carnival 41 --- Salvation History

Thanks to all who submitted posts this week. In between creating oolie-ghoulie secularly traditional food, sewing like mad to turn the children into their favorite saints and heroes for the All saints' Day procession, and trying to figure out how and whether to vote, take a little time with me for the double-speed tour of salvation.

Of course, we must begin with the First Things --- creation, fall, promise of redemption. "And God created the human being in His own image. In the image of God He created them, male and female He created them" ".... and they hid themselves, for they realized they were naked ...."

The human nature as body, soul, and spirit is pondered by Douglas at Belief Seeking Understanding in his post, The Spiritual Man - Who Are You, And What Do You Have?

Diane of the Crossroads also posts on the basic nature of humanity in her CT Letters, a lot of which have to do with the meaning of masculinity and femininity. (and also on Christians in the secular world, and on marble monuments to the Commandments from Sinai...)

"You will be as God is, knowing good and evil," said the tempter. In I Know Good and Evil, Am I Arrogant?, a sermon by a recently consecrated Episcopalian bishop is analyzed by Jerry of Truth Be Told.

Eutychus Fell, who's one of my most favorite inquirers, has just learned in his RCIA Group about she whose seed crushes the serpent's head, the new Eve, and also about the communion of saints, and he blogs about it at Hail Mary, Full of Grace.

Abraham got reminded of God's fatherhood, we are reminded by Brad at the 21st Century Reformation,in Experiencing the Fatherhood of God --- the Foundation of Intimacy. Yet God does not only love and nurture Abraham, but he loves intimately every single one of us.

Eventually, the Lord brought us out of the house of slavery in Egypt, and brought us to His holy mountain, and delivered ten words to us, how we should live. "You shall have no other gods." "You shall not use the Name of the Lord to make incantations."

Incantations. Sometimes we come terribly close to that line. Joe Missionary writes of this in his Theology Thursday essay, injesusnameamen.

"Remember the Sabbath Day." "Honor your father and your mother."

Do we? Cindy rises up in defense of the stay-at-home mom at Notes in the Key of Life

"Do not kill." "Do not steal." "Do not commit adultery." "Do not covet your neighbor's wife."

The vocation of faithful lifelong marriage is tough. Julie Fidler on her Roof celebrates Four Years of Marriage --- and Counting by writing about the trials, and the blessings, and her thankfulness.

"Do not give false testimony." "Do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor."

But I want it! Really truly do! Mine! What to do when your Wanter's turned ON is explicated by Joy at karagraphy

And He promised us "if you hear My voice, and keep my covenant, you shall be My special possession, dearer to Me than all others, though all the earth is Mine."

At Another Man's Meat there are lessons learned on a rooftop about the wisdom of God and the vanity of man, actually, one man, in The Man Who Was Smarter than God.

Kathy of Imago Veritatis is looking back on the excitement of when she first met the Lord and is reveling in the joy of first love.

Brutally Honest brings us the recent work of a gifted poet in "This Talk of Sin is Not Productive!

A Contrite Heart You Will Not Scorn is a rewrite of Luke 18: 9-14 for the benefit of self-righteous POD ["pious and over devotional"] Catholics, by the gentleman of Ales Rarus.

Beyond the Rim's William hears the political season as a clarion call to prayer.

In Theology of Conversion, Matt Hall discusses just what it means to "become a Christian".

Many centuries passed, plenty of blessings, even more trials and tribulations. The Messiah came, our kinsman-redeemer, the Word Himself, and He gave us two words that took up all the ten. "Love God with everything you are. Love your neighbor as you love yourself." So we are called to live the works of mercy.

Mr. Standfast writes on forgiveness, and what further description can be given?

Ephesians seems very popular this week in Bloggsville. Humilis Penitens examines the condemnation of "silly talk" in Talk the Talk at his fine site, A Penitent Blogger.

Ray Pritchard also bears witness to the power of a few angry words, in If You Keep Your Cool.

Do we perceive the ill differently than we do the healthy? And does God? And, how about how we perceive ourselves when we're not healthy anymore? Allthings2all asks and tries to answer in In Sickness and in Health

Here's a View from the Pew about the place that faith must take in everyday life, Faith in Public. When I typed this, the permalink was refusing to load completely, so you may need to scroll for it......

LaShawn Barber's back in her Corner following her hiatus, proclaiming that we must engage the culture, but we must engage it in love. Elsewise we are but A Clanging Cymbal.

Giving mercy to others, we "work out our salvation in fear and trembling."

Viewpoint raises Nine objections to Christianity, and invites his readers to take them on.

A small smile is granted us by Intolerant Elle, in Good Works Down the Toilet, where she expresses her thankfulness that Martin Luther did not have a "squatty potty."

Our Crusty Curmudgeonexpounds on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

Persecution is real. Proverbial Wife knows a bit about it. Blogging on personal depths makes one vulnerable --- and she got clobbered. She lets us know in Just to Let You Know.

The Pseudo-Polymath gives us some thoughts on Leviticus to ponder, especially the "abominations" passages and how they apply to Christians.

Mark of CowPi Journal shows to us all the tracks of joy and sorrow. Joy and sorrow are like two rails of a train track. They are always present in every moment of our lives. We always have foot on both rails, although some times our weight seems to shift to one side or the other.

The newest blogger in the Carnival, the Unapologetic Catholic, gives an account of the life that is in him in his post Why Unapologetic Catholic?.

"Playing God." That's what's said. Jeremy the Parableman studies the reasoning underlying the "playing God" arguments about things moral. Do they hold water? Can a stronger argument be made without God-recourse --- maybe the claim of our ignorance of consequences, for an example?

Jay of Deo Omnis Gloria pursues the question Who has the best point of view about Christ? (instigated by an article by Karl Keating). Would it be the men who were discipled by the Apostles, who lived and worked with them in the first and second centuries? Or would it be one or more of the various reformers of centuries later?

And, being as this is the last Christian Carnival before the United States Presidential election, several bloggers are working out their salvation in the penitential purgatory of politics. The Midwestern Mugwump calls his fellow conservativeChristians to show their positive power (energized by the election) in areas other than politics --- and specifically, towards the poor and oppressed --- in a very tangible way, in New Money, New Time. In Majority Rules? the importance of the Electoral College system is expounded, as Travis of Quadrivium sees a threat to it in Colorado. Jay of Living Catholicism asks Are Catholics Obliged to Vote? And at The Great Separation they claim to have an exclusive memo from the Kerry campaign in Exclusive: Kerry's Nuisance Doctrine MEMO. [for those with impaired humor or b.s. meters, the memo's a satire].

Talk of purgatory leads us directly to the Last Things. Death. Judgment. Heaven. Hell. "He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead."

Fr. Jim Tucker preaches a homily on Christian Death, a consideration of what death means for a Christian, at Dappled Things

Thus we've traveled from the very first things to the very last. I hope you enjoy all the fine offerings, have excellent colloquies in the comment boxes, and come to the Carnival again next week!

Monday, October 25, 2004

an oolie-ghoulie recipe for the coming weekend

Fowl Flesh in Grimy Green Guts with Toadstools
by Thomas E. Knapp (my eldest younger brother --- he created this recipe last year)


5 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
1 lb Gemelli Pasta
2 7-oz containers Genova Pesto (Trader Joe’s)
1 8-oz box white mushrooms
2 medium size Portobello mushrooms
½ C grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbl garlic powder
White pepper, to taste


1) Get a 6-8 quart pot, and put 6 quarts of lightly salted water on to boil.

2) While the water’s getting hot, cut the white mushrooms into quarters, reserving 4-6 of the smallest, whole, for decoration.

3) Slice one of the Portobello mushrooms.

4) Slice the chicken breasts into strips. Think fajita, or stir-fry.

5) By now, the water should be boiling. Add the pasta, and cook according to the package instructions.

6) Drain the pasta. Put half a container of the pesto in the pot, while it’s still warm. As soon as the pasta is reasonably drained, put it back in the pot, add the rest of the first package of pesto, and stir it up until the pesto is evenly distributed. The oil in the pesto should keep the pasta from sticking together.

7) In a LARGE fry pan or sauterne, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Heat the pan, and sauté the chicken strips with the garlic powder and white pepper, to taste, cooking them all the way. Remove the chicken, and add another shot of olive oil. Sauté the sliced portobello and the white mushrooms, just til the Portobello slices are cooked. Reduce the heat to a very low simmer.

8) Add the chicken back into the fry pan. Stir it to mix with the mushrooms. Add most of the second container of pesto, and stir til everything is a pretty green.

9) Add the chicken and mushrooms to the pasta, in the big pot, stirring to make sure everything gets off the bottom. Add the grated Parmesan at this point, so it gets mixed in.

10) In a small sauté pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and put the seasoned whole Portobello mushroom in, gill side down, to cook. Turn down the heat so it doesn’t scorch.

11) Transfer the pasta mixture to your serving dish or crock pot. Place the whole cooked Portobello in the center, and the reserved whole white mushrooms along the edge for decoration.

12) Mangia!

Favorite posts here! Christian Carnival call for submissions

Here's the official notice I posted to the Christian-Carnival list and to a few folk from my blogroll for whom I had email addresses. All of you, my dear readers, are welcome to join in, if you have a blog.


Peace and good!

This coming Wednesday, October 27th, is the next Christian Carnival, which will be hosted at From the Anchor Hold. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read, and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Secondly please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival deadline, which was 10/19.

Then, do the following:

email Karen Marie at


and please put "Christian Carnival Submission" in the subject line, so it doesn't get dumped with the spam!

Provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the post

Cut off date is Tuesday October 26th at 10 pm Central time ---- that's Wednesday 0300 UTC/GMT, for those of you in far places.

Don't forget to encourage a friend to contribute, and have them stop by and join the Christian Carnival mailing list at

karen marie
"from the anchor hold" http://kmknapp.blogspot.com/

Top ten hymns

Courtesy of the Tablet, the list of the top ten hymns among Catholics in Great Britain, with a few comments from Daniel Schutte. Back when I was a healthy person singing in the Gesu choir, I was privileged to sing with him there, and learn to read his music handwriting ....... and was very thankful when he got a music processor!

How does the Tablet's list compare to the "top ten" of your parish?

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Queries for preparing for Confession

A few days ago I posted the goals and dreams of my archbishop +Timothy. One of them was ti increase the use of Confession. In the Spiritual Fitness Plan tract, one of the suggestions is to get to confession. But, how?, some might ask. Especially if they've been away awhile.

Here is an excellent [and short!] set of queries preparatory to Confession, courtest of Archpriest William DeBovik, an Orthodox pastor and a listserv acquaintance; first used in his parish bulletin, I believe:

Coming To Confession? Let's Prepare

We all by now should be following the teachings of the Church in
preparing to receive Communion. But, how do we prepare for Confession?

No one lives without sinning. It is sad, but true. Sin is anything
that separates us from God; the missing the mark of the teachings of the
Church, which seeks to united us to God. We may be so cold spiritually
that we are indifferent to sin. Some, even though sincere, may not
recognize sin to the delight of Satan. Others may be confused. It is
through God's Grace--and we must open ourselves to that Grace--that we
come to know our sins.

And, as in all things we do or try to accomplish, we need to pray
as we prepare for this Sacrament of Repentance. We benefit in our
preparation by using the Trisagion Prayers, as well as reading and
praying some of the Psalms, especially Psalm 51. (After Confession we
benefit from Psalms 23, 24 and 116 as well as others.), and the Canons.

We need to examine ourselves, which we should do each day, before
our participation in individual Confession. We need to ask God to open
us up to our weaknesses and guide us through His strength. We need to
look at our attitudes, words, thoughts, actions toward each others;
toward our Church and her clergy and hierarchs; and first and foremost
toward God. When we come to Confession we come to be forgiven by God of
our sins, the authority for which He exercises through His priests.

From there we can work on our repentance-that is the changing of
our minds and hearts, our directions, so that we may live a life more
closely united with God, and thus find true fulfillment in this world
that will carry us into eternity.

What are some areas in which we need to examine ourselves? Here are
some questions to assist us:

1. Do I pray mornings and evenings?

2. Do I attend, whenever possible, and am I attentive at Church
Services Sundays, evenings, Feasts?

3. Do I thank God for all things?

4. Do I use God's name in vain?

5. Do I wish anyone harm?

6. Do I judge persons, or harshly criticize others?

7. Do I envy others?

8. Do I rejoice in the good fortune of others?

9. Do I engage in gossip?

10. Do I respect my children and my parents?

11. Am I obedient to the Church? Her hierarchs? Her clergy?

12. Do I show respect toward the bishops, priests and deacons of the

13. Have I helped others in need?

14. Do I pray for those who need God's mercy?

15. Have I regularly read God's word in the Bible?

16. Do I give joyfully to the Church?

17. Is there anything or anyone that I would not give up for Christ?

18. Do I try to see Christ in each person that I meet?

19. If I had the opportunity, would I physically care for another?

20. Have I physically or mentally hurt my spouse?

21. Have I supported and shown love to my husband or wife?

22. Have I mistreated animals or anything living in God's Kingdom on

23. Have I been a good steward of the earth?

24. Have I forsaken my faith and the teachings of the Church to please
another or to fit in with others?

25. Have I participated in abortion or encouraged someone to do so?

26. Is God and His Church truly the priority in my life? Do I come to
Church to worship and to pray?

27. Have I hurt myself or another physically or spiritually?

28. Do I doubt God in any situation?

29. Am I sorry for my sins?

30. Do I truly desire to be a better Orthodox Christian?


Friday, October 22, 2004

Prayer Warriors unite!

because rabies has been confirmed in Fond du Lac County teen hurt by a bat. She removed a bat from Holy Trinity-St. Patrick's Church during Mass back in September, received a minor scratch doing it, washed the scratch well, and thought no more about it. Now she's in a Milwaukee hospital, and only one human in history has survived rabies after symptoms appeared.

Pray for her and her family in this great trial.

update 12:41 pm: Her name is Jenna Giese.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Christian Carnival 40

is now open for your enjoyment at the Proverbial Wife. I've only started reading the entries, but I know that, as usual, there will be many true gems.

Speaking of gems: next week is my turn, so all my regular readers who blog should be praying for inspiration now, so you will have a wonderful post to submit after the weekend! [Send it to me at the address in the sidebar email link, put "Christian Carnival submission" in the subject line. I'll post another reminder closer to deadline.]

Monday, October 18, 2004

A poor attempt at newsblogging.....

.....+Timothy's vision statement at Pius XI High School on Friday.

We were all there:
+Timothy, archbishop;
and priests and deacons;
and consecrated folk;
and various and sundry Church workers;
and a lot of regular old just plain Catholics;
and one canonically-incorrect anchor hold dweller.

And we (every single one of us and us all together) have to be the light of Christ to the world.

The Church is like the dawn, for there is both light and darkness together --- +Timothy said quoting some saint whose name I didn't catch --- and that is obvious both in the glory and in the pain.

There were words to say about the planning processes, both the parish one and the strategic one. +Timothy had written down his list at the beginning and stashed it away in his prayer-place. When the results of the processes --- the goals, the visions, the priorities --- had come out, he took his own little list out, and was pleased (and a little surprised) at how much his list and ours were alike.

It's not about maintenance, it's about mission!

The goals/priorities/vision of our Church in Milwaukee can be expressed in six points, he said.

(1) Seek ye first the Kingdom of God --- always, always first. (it's about interior conversion of heart: "The Kingdom of God is within you")

---- emphasis on the Sunday Eucharist
---- avoiding any parish or school scheduling that conflicts with Sunday Mass
---- promoting regular attendence at Sunday Mass
---- celebrating Sunday Mass with beauty, dignity, reverence, and the very best the parish has to offer, according to the General Instruction, etc., etc.
---- remember that the Eucharist is without and beyond the walls (the Pope spoke of that in this week's apostolic letter, though he did not use those words!)
---- return to frequent use of Reconciliation
---- promote retreat opportunities

(2) To strengthen the parishes.

all of the Archdiocese's/Central Office's/Chancery's activities exest to support the parishes, not the other way around.

---- be certain that chancery offices serve and assist the parishes. Look for the ways this can be best done. Examples include payroll services, land management, insurance pool, and suchlike services.
---- continuation of parish planning with building, expanding, and merging, and prudent assignment of priests.
---- relieve priests of the overwhelming administrative load to allow them to work as priests and do the things that only priests can do.
---- encourage priestly vocations. The number of seminarians is still rising but there is plenty of room (and need) for more. (Could every one of us, in the next, let's say, three years, raise up one vocation to the priesthood, the deaconate, or religious life?)
---- retrieve our "fallen aways"

(3) Foster a sense of vocation.

Every member of the Church, by reason of baptism, has a mission.

yet must promote vocations to (a) Marriage and (b) priesthood and religious life.

We absolutely must foster the sacred vocations of husband, wife, father, and mother. In many ways the priesthood/religious life vocations will take care of themselves if we have healthy faithful families.

---- Proposes the "Nazareth Institute on Marriage and Family Life".

(4)Strengthen Catholic education and faith formation.
(a) the Catholic K-12 school system
(b) religious education for children not in Catholic schools
(c) need for adult faith formation
(d) and for formation in the critical age group post-high-school, pre-marriage.

The Catholic schools have to be affordable to all Catholic students (and they definitely aren't at this time!). Every Catholic student who wants a Catholic school should be able to go (and this isn't right now either).

We may need to build more high schools [understatement?] and definitely need to strengthen the thirteen we already have. And not just academically, but spiritually --- these are not private prep schools, but Catholic schools first!

Adult faith formation has to be readily available --- some parishes do a great job, some not-so-hot --- and this formation could happen in coordination with the two seminaries and five Catholic colleges and universities.

We must train catechists. And support them in their ministry. Volunteer have been working very hard and with the best intent, but not always with the knowledge they should have to do the very best by our children.

And there have to be high-quality homilies at Sunday Mass --- those homilies may be the only "continuing religious ed" many adult Catholics get, for, after all, can't make them go to class......

(5) Emphasis on the mission of justice and peace

The poor and the needy and the alien have always looked to the Church. And we are always called beyond just ourselves and ours, even to the Church Universal.

Some ways:
---- St. Vincent de Paul societies
---- parish twinning
---- shelter work [like Cathedral Center]
---- meal programs
---- etc., etc., etc.

---- strengthen Church presence in the central cities
---- be in the forefront of welcoming immigrants from wherever. "Catholic immigrants are as much at home in the Church as any of us. It is their home, too."
---- defense of the lives of babies in the womb
---- support of Catholic hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, etc., as specifically Catholic institutions, not secular businesses or human warehouses.
---- ministry to prisoners, who must never be forgotten.
---- Mass and homilies form us as witnesses to the whole world.
---- Ecumenical and interfaith outreach

(6) ("and you all knew this was coming") Stewardship

We have to share our time, our talents, and our treasure. A lot of the stuff already mentioned is going to require money.

Some specific points:
---- central services to hold to a budget within the cathedraticum ("parish tax"), freeing other cash, such as the Stewardship Appeal, for other use.
---- an archdiocesan capital campaign for those parish expansions, new high schools, other capital improvements needed.
---- build an endowment for the support of central ministries.
---- increase Catholic Stewardship Appeal to intake $10 million/year.

Question time:
[first two from the email, others in person]

---- Guidelines for Catholic voters?
---- Why is it important for people to get involved in their parishes.
---- More queries about election issues
---- About the factions in the Church (yes, they are awful)
---- Issue of Confession for very young children, concern about insisting on the sacrament for children not yet capable of mortal sin, and for whom "sin" means "whatever made a grownup mad." ( from a woman who said "I'm probably what you'd call part of the darkness, but I am a godmother")
---- "When will we see the end of exclusive language in the Liturgy?" [the only question that seemed to startle +Timothy, but only for a moment.]
---- about children in faith formation --- could +Timothy visit sometimes? --- problems with CCD kids not being brought to Sunday Mass, so where would they ever see or hear a priest or bishop?
---- merging/closing parishes changing to building/growing parishes
---- when will Redemptionis sacramentum be implemented? [Both questioner and various clauses of +Timothy's answer were applauded --- but not by the same people.]
---- needs and desires of teenaged Catholics, high schools, CCD, etc.
---- what makes Catholic hospitals, SNFs, etc. distinctively different from their secular counterparts.

So, this is how our archbishop sees our future. There are still a few more of these meetings, including on Thursday at Messmer high, and a few out beyond where the transit goes whence dwell dragons [grin], with different folk to talk with afterwards and different people asking their own questions .... If you are Milwaukean, I highly recommend your attendance. Recall the arms of Moses ....

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Happy Name Day, Gerard Serafin!

My dear cyber-acquaintance Gerard Serafin is one of the pioneers and shining stars of St. Blog's, and also keeps the most numinous site in cyberspace. Please remember him especially today.

and now, the tale of his name-saint:

Credibly Accused of Sexual Abuse.....and he opened not his mouth

I wish to love God.
I wish always to be with God,
and to do everything for the love of God.
The center of all love for God
consists in giving ourselves entirely to God
by being in all things conformable to the divine will,
and remaining in this conformity for all eternity.

------ St. Gerard Majella

St. Gerard was a tailor, born in 1727 to a family in that trade. He was still an apprentice when his father died; he became a servant in the household of a cantankerous bishop for a while, then he went back to his hometown and opened his own tailor shop.

In 1748 he entered the Redemptorist community as a lay-brother; the founder of the community, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, received his profession in 1752. Gerard served as tailor and infirmarian in the community, and became known for great holiness and charity, and for charisms of prophesy and infused knowledge; his advice and spiritual direction was sought after even though he was not a priest.

However, disaster was coming over the horizon.

In 1754, a woman whom Gerard had helped to enter the convent washed out of the convent, and to distract attention from her failure at religious life she accused Gerard of fornication and lechery, and that he had imposed himself upon the young daughter of a gentleman who regularly gave hospitality to travelling Redemptorists, believably. When confronted with the charges, Gerard made no answer at all to them, and, the charges being credible, he was placed under every penalty short of expulsion from the community: close confinement and surveillance, no contact with the outside world, exclusion from communion..... and this went on for months and months. Finally, the accuser became gravely ill, and, believing herself to be dying, she admitted she had lied about Gerard. When St. Alphonsus asked Gerard why he had remained silent before the accusations, Gerard replied that he believed that was what was required in the face of unjust accusations; after all, Jesus did not answer Pilate, and the rule of the Redemptorists said that one was not to defend oneself from the charges of one's superior.

Not long after he was cleared of the charges, he died, of TB, in 1755 at the age of 29.

A Parish Examination

Does your parish measure up?

Here are the queries, as proposed by the Holy Father's chief liturgist early in October in preparation for this Year of the Holy Eucharist. [via John Allen of NCReporter]

1) Is the Sunday Mass a celebration of the entire parish community (no movement or sub-group excluded or isolated)?

2) Is the proclamation of the Word of God, and especially the homily, truly effective in opening up the Scriptures? (The pope makes a special point of calling for care in the preparation and delivery of homilies).

3) Are the reformed liturgical texts, and especially the Roman Missal, being applied in their integrity?

4) Are the tone of voice, the gestures, the movements, the sense of respect, the moments of silence, the whole constellation of modes of acting consistent with the dignity of the Eucharist?

5) Are people being educated in prayer, especially in the Liturgy of the Hours?

6) Are communities engaging in genuine Christian witness outside the liturgy, acting upon the commission at the end of the Mass?

Remember to offer up a thankgiving to God if your parish measures up, and don't forget to give thanks for your priests and your bishop(s).

And, if you don't think your parish measures up, it's no excuse to stop praying, and time to consider what you (not Father, not the DRE, not Sister, ......) are going to do to improve the situation. Remember that we become what we receive in the Eucharist, and each one of us may be the only Jesus someone ever meets.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Sound bites from "Mane nobiscum Domine"

Whoever learns to say ‘thanks’ in the manner of the crucified Christ can be a martyr, but never a petty dictator.

We must not deceive ourselves: it is from our reciprocal love and, in particular, from the concern we have for those in need that we will be recognized as true disciples of Christ [Jn 13:35; Mt 25:31-46]. This is the criterion on the basis of which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations will be confirmed.

I'm generally apathetic on the upcoming election

but this little Catholic Voter quiz was a bit enlightening. For me there were quite intriguing Bush v. Kerry results, but as I might have guessed, I'm 90-100% in the bishops's pockets.

Vespers and Visions

This coming evening I'm off to Vespers and the archbishop's regional gathering at Pius XI high school. This article about the first of the gatherings should give you a good idea about what's in store for me.

Sounds to me like "second verse, same as the first" or maybe "let's sing that again --- with feeling!" But we definitely can use the extra enthusiasm on the holiness front. On some of my more discourageded days, I'm tempted to think I was the onlyest one to actually listen and attempt to heed our last archbishop's exhortations to faithfulness and growth in holiness. Maybe dear +Timothy will be more successful at being heard and heeded ........

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Prayers in time of war

[from the Archbishop Oscar Romero House of Hospitality, Oklahoma City]

Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us according as we hope in thee.

Our Lady of Sorrows,
we pray for those who will die today
because of war, economic chaos, injustice, and exploitation,
especially the children.

Prepare them for the agony, despair,
and terror of the violence that is upon them.
Comfort them and hold them close to the
bosom of thy Wounded Heart as they drink deeply
of the bitter cup which is forced upon them.

Wipe their tears, calm their fears,
welcome them to peace and safety.
Eternal rest grant to them,
and may perpetual light shine upon them.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, help the helpless,
strengthen the fearful, comfort the sorrowful,
bring justice to the poor, peace to all nations,
and solidarity among all peoples.

Overturn the thrones of tyranny and scatter the unjust.
Cast down the bloody rulers who make the cry of
the widow and orphan rise to heaven.
Open our eyes to see the beauty, joy,
redemption, and goodness which comes
through obedience to the Gospel of your Son our Lord.

Teach us to be a refuge of hope for all
who are oppressed by injustice and violence.
Give us strength to stand against the
demonic powers which prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

Remember, St. Joseph, most humble and loving protector of the poor,
that no one ever had recourse to your protection
or asked your aid without obtaining relief.
Confiding therefore in your goodness,
we come before you and pray to you on behalf of all those at risk
today of war, economic catastrophe, and injustice..
Holy Joseph, help the helpless, comfort the dying,
bring justice to the poor, and peace to all nations.
Bless our enemies with reconciliation,
and bless our nation by removing from us the temptations of
empire, wealth, violence, and greed,
so that we might realize the promise of our ancestors and
be a blessing to all the peoples of this good earth.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our shield against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou,
O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God thrust into hell Satan
and all the evil spirits which prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

O Mary, bright dawn of the new world,
Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life:

Look down, O Mother,
upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son may
proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives
and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely,
in order to build, together with all people of good will,
the civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life. Amen.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

"Stay with us. Lord"

The new apostolic letter Mane nobiscum Domine is now available in English. The introduction to the upcoming Year of the Eucharist, it's been long-awaited by tabernacle addicts like me. More later, after I get a chance to noodle on it a bit.

A Litany of an Unbroken Heart

A new litany of prayer by my listserv acquaintance Dan'l can be found right here, at his site, Sturgeon's Lawyer.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Blessed John's Day

Today is the memorial of Blessed John XXIII. My parish is the home of one of the first public shrines in his honor.

the statue of Blessed John XXIII at my parish

from the Opening Address of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council:

Thus, venerable brethren in the episcopate, "our heart is wide open to you." Here we are assembled in this Vatican Basilica at a turning-point in the history of the Church; here at this meeting-place of earth and heaven, by St. Peter's tomb and the tomb of so many of Our predecessors, whose ashes in this solemn hour seem to thrill in mystic exultation.

For with the opening of this Council a new day is dawning on the Church, bathing her in radiant splendor. It is yet the dawn, but the sun in its rising has already set our hearts aglow. All around is the fragrance of holiness and joy. Yet there are stars to be seen in this temple, enhancing its magnificence with their brightness. You are those stars, as witness the Apostle John; the churches you represent are golden candlesticks shining round the tomb of the Prince of Apostles. With you We see other dignitaries come to Rome from the five continents to represent their various nations. Their attitude is one of respect and warm-hearted expectation.

Hence, it is true to say that the citizens of earth and heaven are united in the celebration of this Council. The role of the saints in heaven is to supervise our labors; the role of the faithful on earth, to offer concerted prayer to God; your role, to show prompt obedience to the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit and to do your utmost to answer the needs and expectations of every nation on earth. To do this you will need serenity of mind, a spirit of brotherly concord, moderation in your proposals, dignity in discussion, and wisdom in deliberation.

God grant that your zeal and your labors may abundantly fulfill these aspirations. The eyes of the world are upon you; and all its hopes.

Almighty God, we have no confidence in our own strength; all our trust is in you. Graciously look down on these Pastors of your Church. Aid their counsels and their legislation with the light of your divine grace. Be pleased to hear the prayers we offer you, united in faith, in voice, in mind.

Mary, help of Christians, help of bishops; recently in your church at Loreto, where We venerated the mystery of the Incarnation, you gave us a special token of your love. Prosper now this work of ours, and by your kindly aid bring it to a happy, successful conclusion. And do you, with St. Joseph your spouse, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, intercede for us before the throne of God.

To Jesus Christ, our most loving Redeemer, the immortal King of all peoples and all ages, be love, power and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

And, links to his two greatest encyclical letters, Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Standing up to apostate rulers: St. Publia

the story of one of today's saints, from the Ecclesiastical History of Theodoretus:

I will now include in my history the noble story of a right excellent woman, for even women, armed with divine zeal, despised the mad fury of Julian.

In those days there was a woman named Publia, of high reputation, and illustrious for deeds of virtue. For a short time she wore the yoke of marriage, and had offered its most goodly fruit to God, for from this fair soil sprang John, who for a long time was chief presbyter at Antioch, and was often elected to the apostolic see, but from time to time declined the dignity. She maintained a company of virgins vowed to virginity for life, and spent her time in praising God who had made and saved her. One day the emperor was passing by, and as they esteemed the Destroyer an object of contempt and derision, they struck up all the louder music, chiefly chanting those psalms which mock the helplessness of idols, and saying in the words of David "The idols of the nations are of silver and gold, the work of men's hands," and after describing their insensibility, they added "like them be they that make them and all those that trust in them."

Julian heard them, and was very angry, and told them to hold their peace while he was passing by. She did not however pay the least attention to his orders, but put still greater energy into their chaunt, and when the emperor passed by again told them to strike up "Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered." On this Julian in wrath ordered the choir mistress to be brought before him; and, though he saw that respect was due to her old age, he neither compassionated her gray hairs, nor respected her high character, but told some of his escort to box both her ears, and by their violence to make her cheeks red. She however took the outrage for honour, and returned home, where, as was her wont, she kept up her attack upon him with her spiritual songs, just as the composer and teacher of the song laid the wicked spirit that vexed Saul.

Glad to have missed the "debate"

because reading Exodus 19 with Bishop Sklba was so much fun! Wheras the "debate" would have been a total waste, given the lack of candidates. It's becoming more and more sure to me that Venerable Dorothy of New York City was right about elections, that if God wanted us to vote He would supply some candidates to vote for.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Christian Carnival XXXVIII, Part 1

is now available at Belief Seeking Understanding.

He's got so many contributions this week that a part two will be issued shortly!

Hope my own upcoming turn, in a few weeks, is as successful.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The struggle to be totally pro-life

from Newsweek Online, this column by Melinda Henneberger about being all the way pro-life. Not exactly politically correct in our latter days, but correct anyway.

We need to be concerned with right and wrong, not with right and left.

Monday, October 04, 2004

How St. Francis taught Brother Leo that perfect joy is only in the cross

One winter day St. Francis was coming to St. Mary of the Angels from Perugia with Brother Leo, and the bitter cold made them suffer keenly. St. Francis called to Brother Leo, who was walking a bit ahead of him, and he said: "Brother Leo, even if the Lesser Brothers in every country give a great example of holiness and integrity and good edification, nevertheless write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that."

And when he had walked on a bit, St. Francis called him again, saying: "Brother Leo, even if a Lesser Brother gives sight to the blind, heals the paralyzed, drives out devils, gives hearing back to the deaf, makes the lame walk, and restores speech to the mute, and what is still more, brings back to life a man who has been dead four days, write that perfect joy is not in that."

And going on a bit, St. Francis cried out again in a strong voice: "Brother Leo, if a Lesser Brother knew all languages and all fields of study and Scripture, if he also knew bow to prophesy and to reveal not only the future but also the secrets of the consciences and minds of others, write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that."

And as they walked on, after a while St. Francis called again forcefully: 'Brother Leo, Little Lamb of God, even if a Lesser Brother could speak with the voice of an angel, and knew the courses of the stars and the powers of herbs, and knew all about the treasures in the earth, and if be knew the qualities of birds and fishes, animals, humans, roots, trees, rocks, and waters, write down and note carefully that true joy is not in that."

And going on a bit farther, St. Francis called again strongly: "Brother Leo, even if a Lesser Brother could preach so well that be should convert all unbelievers to the faith of Christ, write that perfect joy is not there."

Now when he had been talking this way for a distance of two miles, Brother Leo in great amazement asked him: "Father, I beg you in God's name to tell me where perfect joy is."

And St. Francis replied; "When we come to St. Mary of the Angels, soaked by the rain and frozen by the cold, all soiled with mud and suffering from hunger, and we ring at the gate of the Place and the brother doorkeeper comes and says angrily: 'Who are you?' And we say: 'We are two of your brothers.' And he contradicts us, saying: 'You are not telling the truth. Rather you are two rascals who go around deceiving people and stealing what they give to the poor. Go away!' And he does not open for us, but makes us stand outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, until night falls --- then if we endure all those insults and cruel rebuffs patiently, without being troubled and without complaining, and if we reflect humbly and charitably that that doorkeeper really knows us and that God makes him speak against us, oh, Brother Leo, write that perfect joy is there!

And if we continue to knock, and the doorkeeper comes out in anger, and drives us away with curses and hard blows like bothersome scoundrels, saying; 'Get away from here, you dirty thieves --- go to the hostel! Who do you think you are? You certainly won't eat or sleep here' --- and if we bear it patiently and take the insults with joy and love in our hearts, Oh, Brother Leo, write that that is perfect joy!

And if later, suffering intensely from hunger and the painful cold, with night falling, we still knock and call, and crying loudly beg them to open for us and let us come in for the love of God, and he grows still more angry and says: 'Those fellows are bold and shameless ruffians. I'll give them what they deserve.' And he comes out with a knotty club, and grasping us by the cowl throws us onto the ground, rolling us in the mud and snow, and beats us with that club so much that he covers our bodies with wounds --- if we endure all those evils and insults and blows with joy and patience, reflecting that we must accept and bear the sufferings of the Blessed Christ patiently for love of Him, oh, Brother Leo, write: that is perfect joy!

'And now hear the conclusion, Brother Leo. Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ. For we cannot glory in all those other marvelous gifts of God, as they are not ours but God's, as the Apostle says: 'What have you that you have not received?' But we can glory in the cross of tribulations and afflictions, because that is ours, and so the Apostle says: 'I will not glory save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.'"

To whom be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

[from The Little Flowers of St Francis]