Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Scarlet "A" is for Accused,

and Cardinal Avery Dulles is on the case with this article, Rights of Accused Priests: Toward a revision of the Dallas charter and the "Essential Norms".

Human rights and dignity and the requirements of justice do not go away just because one gets ordained. Little niceties such as due process, evidence, and so forth are not optional.

Pray for priests. Pray for bishops. If you don't agree with your priest or your bishop, pray more.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Thanks for those who prayed

While I was at Cousins Center for the Pallium Lecture, Terry my unexpected houseguest and her significant other were at a meeting to do the paperwork for emergency housing ---- and they were accepted, and will be moving in tomorrow! Thanks again to all who were praying, and remember that affordable housing is a need, not a luxury.

Cheap Thrills

I know that, by the left-coast standards of Eldest Younger Brother Tom and Alicia the Midwife, it was nothing, but considering that this is rock-steady (???) Wisconsin, land of the twister, this wee-hours earthquake was quite the startle.

Yes, I was awake for it. The house shook like when the automobile shredding concern in the next block has an explosion, but there was no boom to go with.

If this keeps up, maybe Tom will spot a tornado, or shovel snow, in Long Beach.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Mary Higgins Clark tonight!

for my Milwaukee-area readers: continuing adult faith formation at the right price.

The third and last of this year's Pallium Lectures is tonight: "Catholic Imagination and the Renewal of Culture" by Mary Higgins Clark. At the Archbishop Cousins Center, 3500 South Lake Drive in Milwaukee --- well, actually in St. Francis. Vespers at 6:30, lecture immediately following, cookies and coffee after. And, affordable by everyone, because it is absolutely free!

Maybe I'll see some of you there. Don't hesitate to say hi. You'll recognize me......


Friday, June 25, 2004

Father Groppi's Bridge House of Hospitality??

I'm a bit distracted from having great and pious thoughts to write about because God has seen fit to send me a guest for the room I'm not using.

Terry, the lady who has been helping me with groceries and laundry, was in the hospital last weekend. When they let her out on Tuesday, she found herself bolted out of her apartment. The manager and the owner were having a disagreement over which one her significant other (who is my tree-chopper, lawn mower, and snow shoveller) should be working for first, and the manager was peeved, so sealed her out .... and she needed to be somewhere inside, out of the elements, immediately. So, for the next few days, until she and her s.o. finish jumping through the bureaucratic hoops to get into emergency housing, she's in my spare room, staying warm and dry and trying to recover, and I'll be a little busy in real life being a decent hostess. Don't worry, I'm okay. St. John Chrysostom said that the extra coat in one's wardrobe belonged by right to the person without any coat; seems the same applies, at least on a temporary basis, to unused rooms in one's house. Do pray for Terry, that she can get into emergency housing quickly and back on her feet.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Words of wisdom on true friendship (not acquaintancehood!)

When Jesus said that He calls us His friends, He meant something more than we do most of the time. Too often, "friend" just means someone we recognise to wave at across the street, without muttering cuss words under the breath.

True friendship is so much beyond that, as we are taught in today's Office of Readings with the scriptural passage about the faithfulness of Jonathan, son and heir of King Saul, to David, the anointed of God.

St. Aelred commented on this in his treatise on Spiritual Friendship:

That outstanding youth, Jonathan, son of King Saul, made an alliance with David, but it was not in the hope of obtaining the royal crown or winning the kingdom. For the sake of their friendship, he set David above himself as if he had been his master and not his own father’s servant, expelled, hiding in the desert, sentenced to death, destined for execution --- he abased himself and raised David up: You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.

What an excellent example of true friendship! What a wonder! The king was raging against his servant and stirring up the whole country as if against a pretender to the throne. He accuses priests of treachery and has them killed on the mere suspicion --- he has the forests and the valleys searched --- he posts armed guards on cliffs and mountains. Everyone swears to punish the object of the king’s anger; but Jonathan, who alone has the right to envy the designated successor to the throne --- Jonathan chose to resist his father, keep his friend supplied with news, give him counsel in his adversity. Thinking it better to be a friend than a king:
You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.

See how the father tried to make the young man envy his friend, how he goaded him with insults, threatened him with dispossession, and warned him of the honours he would lose. But even when Saul had condemned David to death, Jonathan did not fail his friend. “Why should David die? What has he done wrong? What has he done? It was he who took his life in his hands and struck down the Philistine --- you rejoiced, then. So why should he die?”

At these words the king was beside himself with rage and tried to pin Jonathan to the wall with his spear, pouring out new insults and threats. “Son of a wanton and lascivious woman! I know that you love him, to your own shame and the shame of your shameless mother!” Then he poured out on the young man all the venom he had in him. He tried to stir up ambition and envy, bitterness and jealousy in Jonathan’s breast:
As long as the son of Jesse lives, your kingdom cannot be established.

Who would not have been moved to jealousy by these words? Whose love would not have been corrupted, grace diminished, friendship wiped out? But this most loving youth held fast to the oaths of friendship he had sworn, stood up to the threats, endured the insults, and disdained the kingdom for the sake of friendship, careless of the glory he would miss but mindful of the integrity he would keep.
You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.

Here is a true and perfect friendship, solid and eternal: a friendship that envy does not corrupt, suspicion does not diminish or ambition wipe out. It does not cease even under such a trial; even under such a battering it does not collapse. Assailed with abuse, it stands firm; beaten with insults, it does not bend.
Go thou, and do likewise.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The King's good servant, but God's first

painting of Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor by, if memory serves, Holbein

Thomas More was born in London, the son of a judge. Educated as a page in the household of Cardinal Morton, his intelligence was noted, and the cardinal sponsored his entrance to university, where he excelled, but after only a year or two, his father ordered him to leave university and study law, where he also excelled. He came to the attention of the king when, as a member of Parliment, his argumentation kept the king from obtaining a tax increase; he kept the attention of the king by being discrete and wise in counsel, and jolly good company besides. Thomas entered the service of the court, and began a steady stream of promotions, eventually becoming Lord Chancellor of England --- maximum promotion! His personal life was well-ordered and also joyous; with his first wife Jane he had four children; when she died the oldest child was only five. He remarried quickly, a local widow with children of her own. This marriage was stormy but solid, and Alice was a wonderful second mother to the children. Thomas was what we'd call these days a "radical adoptionist", who gathered many stray children of his acquaintance into his own household to be raised and educated as his own.

The King, Henry VIII, had ascended the throne unexpectedly, upon the death of his older brother, and married Catherine of Aragon, the espoused but unconsummated widow of his deceased brother. Henry's stated goal was to be a just and Christian king, and it seemed he actually started out trying just that. He was so determined in defending the Faith against certain challenges being brought into England from Europe that he was awarded the title "Defender of the Faith" by the Pope. But his personal problems began to catch up with him. He was in dire need of an unchallengeable male heir; England has just recovered from a nasty dynastic war, and could not be allowed to descend there again. Catherine had been repeatedly pregnant, but only one child survived the neonate period, and that child a girl. Henry just knew it could not be his fault, since he had had a male illegitimate child. He came to the conclusion that he had to get a new, younger, more fertile queen. Anne Boleyn, the younger sister of his last mistress, had caught his eye as a possibility for the role.

When the Church refused to declare Henry's marriage to Catherine null, he got the Parliment to make his new marriage legal. Since one of the Lord Chancellor's jobs was to introduce the king's bills in Parliment, Thomas More had to resign the Chancellorship, and being seriously out of favor, could not reestablish a law practice. He spent the next several years without income, while the king became more and more insistent that Thomas, and all the other great people of the realm, be seen to approve and support his new queen.

Eventually, the Parliament passed a law mandating an oath, that Anne was queen, that Anne's children would be in the line od succession to the throne, and, the impossible clause, that Henry, and not Christ through Peter's successor, was the head of the Church in England. Thomas More refused to take the oath, he also refused to state why he would not take the oath. He knew that, because he would not swear, that they could imprison him until he died or changed his mind, and confiscate his property, but they could not execute him unless he actually stated his unacceptable "traitorous" opinions. In due time he was convicted of treason, by the perjured testimony of Sir Richard Rich, and he was beheaded, and his head displayed on London Bridge. [Eventually his eldest child, Margaret, stole the head from the bridge, and it is now entombed with her and her husband. The body was buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds of the Tower of London, traditionally underneath the chapel of St. Peter in Chains.]

this is a letter from St. Thomas to Margaret written during his imprisonment, today's passage from the Office of Readings:

Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.

By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.

I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.

And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.


Monday, June 21, 2004

"So YOU are the Sanctum Sanctorum"

There's an excellent reflection on the Holy Eucharist here, when the blogger, Fr. Thomas Dowd, has a little talk with a devout Hindu lady during a tour of her temple.

Where's my AWOL blogroll?

Y'all might have noticed that for the last few weeks I have had the Blogdom of God Alliance blogroll at the base of my sidebar --- but it has been AWOL for several days now. I checked TTLB and the Blogdom agregator, and am still snooping around the blogosphere, but can't figure out where it went or when/if it'll come back. Any of my readers who happen to know please tell me in my comments box. I'll keep the disclaimer for another week, just in case the list reappears......

And the disclaimer is to be taken seriously. I've never quite understood how a particular gentleman could name his blog with a title of the Theotokos from the Loretto litany and then wonder why us Catholics come over to disagree with him, when he claims we're sub-Christian. :)

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Archbishop Timothy's Pentecost message

[sorry it's a little late --- remember, I got stood up by Laidlaw on Pentecost, therefore no church, and no bulletin --- but it's still good!]

Happy Birthday!

I learned in second grade --- so I know it has to be true --- that Pentecost is the “birthday of the Church.” This is the day Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and His mother, giving them the courage, wisdom, and zeal to carry out the last command He had given them nine days earlier when He had ascended into heaven, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). The work of the Church began.

You and I are the grateful heirs. We prize belonging to the Church. Our Catholic faith is that “pearl of great price” to which we cling, passed on to us, often at the cost of great sacrifice, by our parents and grandparents. This great Catholic landscape of southeastern Wisconsin is spiced with churches, parishes, and communities founded by our great-grandparents who came to this country poor in the eyes of the world, but rich in the eyes of faith. They brought with them the treasure of their Catholic faith. Along with family, their Church was of supreme importance.

On her deathbed in 1821, our first native-born American saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton, whispered her last words to her sisters: “Be daughters of the Church!” On this Pentecost Sunday, I shout out to all of you, “Be sons and daughters of the Church!”

My file of “favorite quotes from Pope John Paul II” is a thick one, but at the top is this one: “Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives.”

We Catholics passionately love our Church. Like our family, we are “born into it” at baptism; like a mother, our Church strengthens us in Confirmation, forgives us in Reconciliation, feeds us in the Eucharist, consoles us with the Anointing of the Sick, and gives us away in Matrimony or Holy Orders. Like our family, our Church is there at birth, maturity, sickness, death. Like a family, we might quarrel at times and complain about one another, but, like a family, we rarely leave, can always return, and carry our family name, traits, and pride forever. The Church is our spiritual family.

Many people spend a lot of time asking, “What is the Church?” Before long, they discover that the answer can only be found if we re-word the question: “Who is the Church?” Because, simply put, as St. Paul teaches, the Church is Christ, a lesson he learned on the road to Damascus, when the Lord told him that, in persecuting the Church, Paul was in fact persecuting Jesus Himself (Acts 9:4-5).

When I was a new priest, my first pastor, Monsignor Cornelius Flavin, had a great reputation for winning converts. He started every set of instructions with three simple definitions: a theist is one who believes in God; a Christian is a theist who believes Jesus Christ is God; a Catholic is a Christian who believes that the Church is Jesus Christ.

That is a crucial lesson for today. Ronald Rolheiser, a priest whose column appears in our Catholic Herald, observes that people today want “Christ without the Church, a King without His Kingdom.” We as Catholics say, sorry, but you cannot split them. Jesus remains alive, powerful, accessible, and active in His Church! The Church is Christ. As the French theologian de Lubac asked, “For what could I know of Him [Jesus] without her [the Church]?”

Now, let’s face it, at times it is very difficult to love the Church. Again, the Church is like our family. At times it is hard to love our family, as we recall hurts, dysfunction, and sad episodes. The Church is Christ, and since Christ was true God and true man, the Church is divine and human, too. In her divine order, she is beautiful, holy, spotless; on the human side, she can be sinful, ugly, and clumsy. That’s because her members are; that’s because I am; that’s because you are.

A couple wrote me a letter tearing the Church apart. They concluded, “We’re going to leave the Catholic Church and find a perfect one.” “Good luck,” I replied. “But, if you find one, don’t join it, because then it won’t be perfect anymore.”

Listen to what Pope John Paul II spoke to a million young people at a World Youth Day:

I should like to ask you, dear young people, a favor: be patient with the Church! The Church is always a community of weak and imperfect individuals. God has placed His work of salvation, His plans and His desires, in human hands. This is a great risk, but there is no other Church than the one founded by Christ. He wants us to be His collaborators in the world and in the Church, with all our deficiencies and shortcomings.

Flannery O’Connor, the renowned southern writer, who loved and cherished her Catholic faith, knew the imperfection of the Church. “It’s not so much suffering for the Church that I mind,” she commented, “but suffering from it!” She was right: there is a lot in our Church that tempts us to give up, to get cynical, to leave. Jesus asks us, as He asked His apostles when people abandoned Him, “Are you going to leave me, too?” With St. Peter all speak up, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone” --- and, we add, Your Church --- “have the words of everlasting life.”

We love the Church, warts and all. We stick with her. We pass on the faith to our children. We fight the “choice” fallacy that holds up the pagan gods of privacy, convenience, and freedom, with its chant of “leave me alone.” The Church is at odds with this contemporary pantheon. Listen again to Father Rolheiser:

What we must challenge is the pathological individualism and excessive sense of privacy within culture. Especially must we challenge the fallacy, as omni-present as the air we breathe, that our lives are all our own, that we owe nothing to anyone besides ourselves, and that we can buy into family, neighborhood, and Church how and when we like it.

We are Catholics; we belong to the
Church at the core of our being. We did not choose Jesus and His Church; they chose us. And we are eternally grateful they did.

This Pentecost “birthday” greeting comes to you from Rome. Bishop Richard Sklba and I, along with our seminarians and other pilgrims from the archdiocese, are here for our
ad limina visit. Church law requires us bishops to come to the Eternal City, the City of Peter and Paul, every five years to report on the condition of our dioceses. It is a joy “to be with Peter on Pentecost.”

Highlights abound on our pilgrimage: the magnificent basilicas, the rich history, the time spent with the Holy Father, the sense of universality of the Church in the crowds and languages, the return to the foundations of our faith, this Roman soil “purpled with the blood of martyrs.”

Yet what moved me to tears was a very simple act, required of me as a bishop: to go
ad limina --- literally, to the threshold --- of the tombs of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul and pray out loud the Apostles Creed.

Our faith, our Church, goes back to them! It is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

“Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!”

A blessed Pentecost!

–--- The Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of Milwaukee

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Happy Fathers' Day!

Please, along with all the rest of the holiday doings,

the three bishops who belong to Milwaukee: +Timothy, +Richard, +Rembert

remember to pray for our priests and our bishops, our fathers in the faith.

[BTW, I've been studying that html book my kind reader sent me, and think I've learned how to use the "alt" tag, and am trying it as a test on this picture. Hope it works.....]

Friday, June 18, 2004

The power of intercession: a story

A siory about my name-saint, via John da Fiesole.

There's a story of a worldly Sienese friar who out of curiosity visited one Catherine Benincasa, that week's talk of the town. She wasn't the fraud or hysteric he had expected, and after a decent interval he excused himself, tossing out his habitual, "And pray for me," as he left.

She answered that she would.

He went back to his richly appointed cell and tried to do some work, but as the day wore on he got more and more disgusted by all the luxurious things he -- he, a son of St. Francis! -- had surrounded himself with.

At last, he couldn't bear it any longer. He went into the friary's church, made a vow to God to return to the asceticism of his Rule, then hurried back to the Benincasa household. When he found Catherine, he said, "You did pray for me, didn't you?"

She smiled at him and repled, "Yes."


St. Bonaventure on the Heart of Jesus

from today's Office of Readings:

Take thought now, redeemed man, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder.

It was a divine decree that permitted one of the soldiers to open his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’. The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.

Arise, then, beloved of Christ! Imitate the dove ‘that nests in a hole in the cliff’, keeping watch at the entrance ‘like the sparrow that finds a home’. There like the turtledove hide your little ones, the fruit of your chaste love. Press your lips to the fountain, ‘draw water from the wells of your Saviour; for this is the spring flowing out of the middle of paradise, dividing into four rivers’, inundating devout hearts, watering the whole earth and making it fertile.

Run with eager desire to this source of life and light, all you who are vowed to God’s service. Come, whoever you may be, and cry out to him with all the strength of your heart. “O indescribable beauty of the most high God and purest radiance of eternal light! Life that gives all life, light that is the source of every other light, preserving in everlasting splendour the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your divinity from the dawn of time! Eternal and inaccessible fountain, clear and sweet stream flowing from a hidden spring, unseen by mortal eye! None can fathom your depths nor survey your boundaries, none can measure your breadth, nothing can sully your purity. From you flows ‘the river which gladdens the city of God’ and makes us cry out with joy and thanksgiving in hymns of praise to you, for we know by our own experience that ‘with you is the source of life, and in your light we see light’.


Wednesday, June 16, 2004

There once were trees, and will be again,

growing around the foundations of the little anchor hold, including one just outside my bedroom window that was growing up into the gutters. They've all been chopped down several times before --- tree roots are not good for cream-city-brick foundations. But, the driving force of life is just too strong to be held back [for life is the true thing and the union, death the absence and the division] by mere axes, loppers, and saws. There's a kind friend in the neighborhood who's been coming over the last couple of months and chopping at my unwanted forest. He knows I can't pay him in more than koolade but he doesn't care; he says he'd rather fight my ailanthus and boxelder for cold koolade than go do stuff for folk who say they'll pay and then stiff him. It's a losing proposition. The one next to the front porch that was obscuring the house number sign he cut down to the earth in Easter week, and now it's back, about 18 inches tall and healthier than ever. But he persists. Today he got the one outside my bedroom window, that was chopped down in 2001, and in 1998, and was sprayed with roundup in 1996 after being chopped in 1995, and so on. Now it's gone again, and the sun shines into the window again. Until 2006 or so......

We continue to labor, because we have hope.
Unfortunately for us, the trees have hope too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

On ethics in investing

On Pilgrimage in Oklahoma City's latest post [June 6, scroll down, he doesn't have permalinks] is an excellent response to a Capitalist on the morality of investment choices. I think it would be best read with a Rerum novarum chaser. [grin]

Is there anything worth killing for? NOTHING!

Not "cures," not "stopping inconvenience," not "natural resources." Not "avoiding pain," not "averting risk." Not anything. I can give up my own life, but I cannot be a part of taking someone else's.

vehemance courtesy of the comment boxes at Ut Unum Sint, where we're hashing it out over one of the many bishops with spine......

Monday, June 14, 2004

Have you accepted Jesus Christ?

Here can be found an excellent article by Bishop Sklba on accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, instigated by the reading of letters from confirmands. [We didn't write to the bishop asking to be confirmed back in my days......]

Sunday, June 13, 2004

An ancient Eucharistic hymn: for Corpus Christi

Gathered together in the love of Christ
Let us rejoice in him, exultantly,
Let us adore and fear the living God,
Loving each other in our love of him,
Where there is true love, there is God.

The loveless heart abides in darkness still,
The shadowy walls of death around him stand.
In daytime we, the loving ones, shall walk
In sushine, as becomes the sons of light.
Where there is true love, there is God.

The clear voice of the Lord rings in our ears
Saying, when two or three together come
For his name's sake, there will he ever be
With them, according to his spoken word.
Where there is true love, there is God.

We must, while we are gathered here as one,
Be on our guard against divided minds.
When malice falls away and quarrels cease,
Then will the Christ be truly in our midst.
Where there is true love, there is God.

Love joins together all who are afar
As discord severs those who should be one.
We must unite in heart and thought and mind
Lest we who are together fall apart.
Where there is true love, there is God.

Love is the sum of goodness, greatest gift,
On which the ten Commandments all depend.
Through love the old and new laws are fulfilled,
A love-filled heart reaches the highest heaven.
Where there is true love, there is God.

Love represented in the ancient law
Was clothed in vivid scarlet, double-dyed.
This love continues in a double law
That as our God is love, so loved is man.
Where there is true love, there is God.

Let us then love our God with our whole mind,
Hold nothing greater than our love of him,
And, in this, love our neighbour as ourselves,
And our worst enemy for Jesus' sake.
Where there is true love, there is God.

He who will strive to keep this double law
Of charity with loving, humble mind,
Shall truly live in Christ who, driving out
Sin of the blackest dye, will live in him.
Where there is true love, there is God.

Narrow and steep the path that leads above,
Broad and downhill the road that leads to hell;
Brotherly love leads to eternal life,
But sinful discord leads to endless woe.
Where there is true love, there is God.

Let us with single heart beseech our God
To grant in mercy peace throughout our days;
To faith and hope may he add works of love,
That we may join his company on high.
Where there is true love, there is God.

Let us sing "Glory to the eternal King!"
Pray for the lives of those who rule us now,
So that for many years we may rejoice
With those for love of whom we gather here.
Where there is true love, there is God.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Be kind to strangers for you may be entertaining angels unaware

In contrast to the last Tablet article, this one about the care of strangers on the pilgrimage to Santiago Compostella is more like what ought to be.

Thou shalt not abuse the alien.

In this article in the Tablet, a report of activities of the type that cry to the Lord for vengeance, in Great Brittain.

Do not harass or abuse the alien, nor the widow, nor the orphan, for I listen to them when they cry to Me; lest I cause thee to die, and thy wife will be a widow, and thy children orphans.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Overheard in the cyberworld

Everything is anonymized to protect all perpetrators; myself included.

[in a discussion of the Protestant tendency to splinter]
Catholics, near as I can tell, do their utmost to keep everyone in the family, but it's a big, loud family that argues vigorously, angrily, noisily and endlessly.

[from someone who had gone church-shopping]
So back I went to the Catholic Church where everyone was welcome from the poorest janitor to the richest doctor. Inclusion of all sends a powerful message. And although this may seem frivolous, we often thought of Hillaire Belloc's, "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there is laughter & good red wine." Did you know that Catholics laugh more than Protestants? I'm convinced they do & often find Protestant congregations & churches pretty grim.

[a discussion on some recent statements from bishops]
I really don't understand why anyone would leave the Church because of the stupidities or the sins of bishops.

[in a discussion of behaviour on Usenet groups]
Instead of responding to shameful acts or inaccurate teaching by going to your spiritual father for guidance (and counsel to keep you on the road of repentance and humility) what we're tempted to do is either refute or bemoan "heresy" and scandal in a public forum where we can get lots of positive feedback for our eloquence in defense of truth --- or we can feel like persecuted martyrs when everyone rejects our arguments. Pride can raise us up and throw us down into hell without the social stigma of other sins like fornication or drug abuse --- but it's just as harmful to the soul. "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble."

[response to bickering over who the real Catholics are]
We are all "practicing" Catholics....practice practice practice in the hope that one day we will get it right.

Another bold bishop to pray for

Remember Bishop Carlos Belo, Bishop of Dili, confessor of the faith, Nobel laureate? He resigned his see in November 2002 because of illness?

Well, his cancer's in remission and his health has been restored --- but he's not settling in for a leisurely retirement, he's going back to work, as a missionary pastor in Mozambique, not exactly the most peaceable quiet place on earth. So keep him in prayer. Given Mozambique's turbulence, he could end up confessing the faith a second time!

Groping for God

At Tower of Babble, an enlightening exposition of our striving for God.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

"Lord, grant me to see my own sins, and not to judge my brother"

Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings, you have power over life and death. You know even things that are uncertain and obscure, and our very thoughts and feelings are not hidden from you. Cleanse me from my secret faults, and I have done wrong and you saw it. You know how weak I am, both in soul and in body. Give me strength, O Lord, in my frailty and sustain me in my sufferings. Grant me a prudent judgement, dear Lord, and let me always be mindful of your blessings. Let me retain until the end your grace that has protected me till now. ---- St Ephrem's prayer for strength in weakness

Today the Church also celebrates the deacon and doctor, the desert Christian Ephrem the Syrian. He wrote great volumes of prayers, devotional poetry, and works of theology. He was one of the periti at the Council of Nicea, having accompanied his bishop, +James of Nisibis, there. Post-conciliarly, he dedicated much of his writings to the defense and propagation of the rulings of the Council. He also worked against the Gnostics; they were propagating their heresy by writing popular music, Ephrem countered by writing orthodox pop tunes of his own, becoming known as "the harp of the Holy Spirit."

He retired to a cave hermitage in the vicinity of Edessa, continuing to write, and occasionally going to the city to preach. During a famine in 372-3 he coordinated the food distribution, operated a string of soup kitchens, and also opened and ran several hospitals for the ill, until he fell ill, probably a result of overwork, and died in 373.

St. Ephrem's most well-known work, known as his "Great Prayer", isa treasure in my life and I believe it will be fruitful in the lives of all of us.

St. Ephrem's Great Prayer

[Making a prostration]

O LORD, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the spirit of slothfulness and inquisitiveness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking.

[Making a prostration]

Grant instead to me, your servant, the spirit of purity and of humility, the spirit of patience and neighborly love.

[Making a prostration]

O Lord and King, grant me the grace of being aware of my sins and of not thinking evil of those of my brethren.

For you are blessed, now and ever, and forever.


Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings, You have power over life and death. You know what is secret and hidden, and neither our thoughts nor our feelings are concealed from You. Cure me of duplicity; I have done evil before You.

Now my life declines from day to day and my sins increase. O Lord, God of souls and bodies, You know the extreme frailty of my soul and my flesh. Grant me strength in my weakness, O Lord, and sustain me in my misery.

Give me a grateful soul that I may never cease to recall Your benefits, O Lord most bountiful. Be not mindful of my many sins, but forgive me all my misdeeds.

O Lord, disdain not my prayer - the prayer of a wretched sinner; sustain me with Your grace until the end, that it may protect me as in the paSaint It is Your grace which has taught me wisdom; blessed are they who follow her ways, for they shall receive the crown of glory.

In spite of my unworthiness, I praise You and I glorify You, O Lord, for Your mercy to me is without limit. You have been my help and my protection. May the name of Your majesty be praised forever. To you, our God, be glory. Amen.


Great sinner, greater saint: Columba, the one who loved books

O Lord, grant us that love which can never die, which will enkindle our lamps but not extinguish them, so that they may shine in us and bring light to others. Most dear Savior, enkindle our lamps that they may shine forever in your temple. May we receive unquenchable light from yo so that our darkness will be illuminated and the darkness of the world will be made less. Amen. --- a prayer of St. Columba

Today the Church remembers Columba, bard, monk, missioner, and penitent, and just plain interesting character.

He was born in Ireland, at about the same time that the young Patrick was a slave there, to a noble family, direct descendants of the great Niall. He had a great love for all kinds of learning from childhood. The legendary version of his life attributes this to the toddler Columba having eaten a cake with the alphabet letters baked inside it. He studied the bardic arts, and then, after he became a Christian, apprenticed in the monastic life under two hermits who also became saints, both of them named Finian. Then, he took up the life of a wandering bard, monastic variety, going all over Ireland wherever there were souls to be saved and new books to be read, priorities not necessarily in that order.

Now word came to Columba that a new book had arrived at the hermitage of Finian (who may have been one of the two he apprenticed under --- but Finian was a extremely common name at that time). So he went to the place where Finian, and his new book, dwelled; publically preaching and praying and reading the new book during the day, and secretly copying the book at night, against the command of Finian, who was very attached to having an only copy. On the night Columba finished copying the last page of the book, he was discovered, and Finian claimed the copy for himself, since there was no permission to copy. After much arguing, the case was appealed to the High King of all Ireland, who ruled in favor of Finian in this very first copyright case --- "To every cow its calf, and to every book its child book."

Columba lost his temper entirely, and called down the wrath of the O'Neills (his ancestral clan) against the High King and his armies. There was a great battle, which was won by the O'Neill forces, but at the cost of a thousand dead. Every soul of whom was a millstone on the soul of Columba. One thousand souls killed, for the sake of a book and bruised pride. In penitence, he vowed to never look upon his beloved land again.

With a few companions, he sailed away; and kept sailing until they came to an island where, even at the top of the highest hill on the clearest day, there was no sight of Ireland --- Iona. There, he did penance, and he established a monastic community. From there, he sent missionaries to spread the Christian faith among the Picts and the Angles in the place now called Scotland.

And, he did once visit Ireland again, blindfolded. Many years after his exile, messengers came to him, informing him that the High King was attempting to outlaw the bardic arrts, upset at certain bards' misbehavior and also peeved at the bards' parodies of his exalted self. After much pleading, Columba agreed to be taken back to his land, to defend its stories and songs and the people who created and preserved them before the throne of the High King. Having successfully defended the bards, and having read the riot act to those individual bards who had triggered the trouble, never having looked upon the land he still loved, he returned to his exile, and lived in holiness and penitence to a revered old age.

For a book on this, go to your local public library, to the children's section, and borrow The Man Who Loved Books, by Jean Fritz. And remember that great sinners can be redeemed and restored, and become even greater saints.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

"My monastery blog"

One of the most interesting places I've found recently is My monastery blog, by a Baptist seminarian from Perkins School of Theology on study retreat at a Benedictine monastery. The post here, on individualism, illustrates a problem that, although extremely common among Protestant Evangelicals, we are not exempt from as Catholics ---- witness our tendency toward faction fighting. So, I highly recommend following David Whidden on his journey. This is the second year he has done this, so if you have time, read his June 2003 archive also, I doubt you will be disappointed!

Sunday, June 06, 2004

"There are some things so Beautiful

that one can only gaze in awe" (+Timothy Dolan this morning)

This icon, in Toronto, Ontario, is titled, if my memory serves, "Holy Theologian Bernard in the Processions of the Holy Trinity." The three holy visitors to Abraham, the iconic representation of the Trinity, are those three angel figures. The tiny guy in the righthand corner, who's prostrating after dropping his book and pen, is the indomitable Bernard Lonergan. I myself suspect that Karl and Hugo Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar are just out-frame right in the same state of awe.

A glorious Trinity Sunday to you!

Friday, June 04, 2004

a prayer/meditation "in time of need"

written several years ago by our archbishop for us but still helpful. I doubt it will ever be unuseful or unneeded as long as there are wars, conflicts, and deliberate man-made disasters.

God of Peace, Love, Justice and Mercy,
Father of all on this earth,
we come before you as a people troubled and in need;
we acknowledge our weakness, sinfulness, and faults of the past,
our lack of concern for others and our selfishness.
Fill us now with signs of hope and light.

You created a world in which people of all nations, races, and religious beliefs
are called to live in peace and harmony –
as brothers and sisters, children of one Father,
as people all equal in dignity and all worthy of respect and love.
Show us how to create such a world now in these unsettled times.

When we were lost and without a sense of purpose,
You showed your love for us by sending us Your Son, Jesus Christ;
he taught us by word and example to love You and one another.
He showed his love for us by becoming one with us in our misery.
Through his death and resurrection he taught us to hope.

We believe that he continues to be present among us in these troubled times,
in the Eucharist – the great sign of his love –
and in acts of kindness and concern for others.
Show us how to find him in that Eucharist and those in need.
Let us be signs of his presence to others.

You sent Your Holy Spirit upon us to guide us, to inspire us, to comfort us.
May we now experience, as never before in our lives,
the presence and power of that same Spirit of love among us.
Make us strong and courageous, but loving and compassionate.
Give us the Spirit of courage, but a strong desire for peace.

As we seek a just response to acts of evil in our midst,
we beg the gifts of wisdom and prudence,
a sense of justice, but tempered with your gift for peace.

Shower now on all who make decisions that touch our lives
wisdom and understanding from that same Spirit.
Help them – and us – see that our ultimate goal must be one of peace and harmony.

Bless, Lord, those who must be concerned about our safety and security –
about the safety and security of all on this globe.
Keep them and us all safe from harm.

Remember our dead, especially the unsung heroes of that horrendous event.
Remember the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives.

Root out any sense of vengeance or hatred from our hearts
and from the hearts of all called to serve our nation;
lest we or they, through passion and uncontrolled zeal,
fall into the same kind of evil acts against innocent people
that we set out to combat.

At this decisive moment, loving and just God,
keep us focused on Your will:
namely, that evil must not triumph,
that we can all live on this globe as one human family without fear,
and that goodness, peace, freedom, and justice for all will reign on this earth.

Free us all from worry, anxiety, and fear.
Help us root out the causes of dissension, hatred, and hopelessness.

In our grief, let us not forget those who have so little in life,
who live in conditions that foster despair and loss of hope.
Give us rightful indignation about those conditions
in our society and in the world
that force others to live in poverty, surrounded by violence.
Help us root out all sense of hopelessness that spawns irrational deeds.

Then, as we heal our grief and calm our fears,
give us the courage to ask yet deeper questions about ourselves,
about how we live out your gospel in our daily lives;
how we relate to others, those near and far away from us;
how we can share more justly the gifts you have given us.

Give us a deeper understanding of those who differ from us;
help us to understand their hopes and desires, their fears and anxieties.

We ask that the presence of Your Son, Jesus, our Savior,
the power of your Spirit of peace,
continue to be our support and our challenge
now and into the future.



Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad

Today is the birthday of one of the lesser-known holy ones with United States connections, Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad. Born in Sweden, she emigrated to New York City as a teenager, studied nursing, then worked as a nurse in a Manhattan hospital and later in home health care. It was during this time that she came into the Catholic Church. After some wandering and some pilgrimaging, she received permission to revive the Brigittine Order and worked diligently at this in Rome and in Sweden in the 1920's and 30's, and established foundations in India in 1937. As superior of the Brigittine house in Rome, she gave refuge to Jewish and other persecuted people during the Nazi occupation of that city. She continued her work in revitalizing the Brigittine charism until her death in 1957.

a prayer of Blessed Mary Elizabeth:

Dear Lord, I do not ask to see the path. In darkness, in anguish and in fear, I will hang on tightly to your hand, and I will close my eyes, so that you know how much trust I place in you, Spouse of my soul.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Twenty Ways to Share Your Faith

Actually, jcecil gives us twenty-five ways in his essay at the link. Maybe I should get him to make it into a New Tract for the Times for me!

Geography Note

Somebody needs to tell The Blog from the Core that Milwaukee, Wisconsin is not Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Milwaukeans love the Eucharist too much to play political games with it; therefore, no Rainbow Sashes, and no "Ushers" either.

Martyrdom: What do you do.....

...... when you are a eager shining new Christian, you are a member of the court of an absolute monarch, and your king is an absolute mess?

Sometimes you have to die.

Mwanga II came to the throne following the unexpected death of his father, Mutesa I. He had an older brother, but that brother was determined unfit to be king. Mutesa had declared religious liberty in Buganda, but had himself remained a traditionalist --- he refused to be circumcised, a requirement to become a Muslim, and he would not abandon his wives, required by both varieties of Christian.

Mwanga II was not nearly so tolerant, however. Not that he had any real beliefs at all, except in the superiority of his royal self. He'd study Islam with the Arabs, or Anglican Christianity with the British, or Catholic Christianity with the French, or consult the shamen, whatever looked to be most advantageous economically and politically to his royal self. And, he considered it his right to be pampered in every imaginable way by the pages of his court --- including service as his boy-toys.

When pages became Christians, they became extremely resistant to immediate blind obedience, and would hide, run away, or outright refuse to relieve the king's sexual tensions. Higher-ranking court Christians would actually tell the king that he was wrong!

There were sporadic executions --- such as three Anglican pages killed for going to catechism class after Anglican lessons had been forbidden. But the persecution began in earnest when James Hannington, first Anglican bishop of Uganda, was approaching the kingdom, from a direction that the local traditionalist shamen considered inauspicious, and Mwanga sent soldiers to massacre Bishop Hannington and his entire party. Mwanga's majordomo, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, a Catholic, told him that the killing of Bishop Hannington was evil and wrong, and Mwanga had him executed.

So, in mid-May, 1886, Denis Ssebuggwawo snuck out to Catholic catechism class, and took one of the traditionalist pages withn him, who had shown an interest in Christianity. Unfortunately, this page was Mwanga's current favorite boy-toy, and Mwanga wanted him, now!, and was furious to find out that he'd gone to catechism class --- and was likely to tell the king to buzz off, like all those miserable Christians did sooner or later.

So the king gathered all his pages. The head pages, who were both Christians, gathered their believers around them, and gave them strength. Charles Lwanga, a Catholic and in charge of pages of the inner court, baptised those who had not yet been baptised. Moses Mukasa, an Anglican and in charge of the outer court, had not received permission to baptise, so the newest Anglican converts went to their trial as catechumens.

In the assembly hall, after a long harrangue about the duties of pages to obey their rightful king, Mwanga called out of the assembly "all of you who pray." And all of the Christians, Anglicans and Catholics alike, stepped out, as did a few of the Muslim pages. Another member of the court weeded out the Muslims, and the Christians were condemned to death, marched, with a few casualties along the way, to the traditional royal site of Namugongo, and burned alive.

The persecutions continued at a lower level for a few years more, until the death of Mwanga and the enthronement of his successor, who was an Anglican Christian.

The entire list of the martyrs whose names are documented can be found at this link.

The Catholic martyrs were canonized in the early 1960's, and to the best of my knowledge this was the first time the Catholic Church had dealt with a mixed group of martyr-companions. Though it will not be the last --- just two examples: Sophie Scholl and companions, known as the "White Rose" martyrs, are a mixed group, Catholics and Lutherans; and the martyrs of the Guatemalan persecutions, though mostly Catholics, include also Lutherans and Mennonites.

All holy martyrs, pray for us.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The nature of the God Who makes sense of my life

This week (today through next wednesday) at my favorite homily connection, an excellent sermon on the Holy Trinity. [Real Audio needed]

For the lovers of good preaching among us, the entire homily collection is available on the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist website, all proceeds support tha Cathedral Parish's outreach ministries.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

St. Justin's day

St Justin, today's saint, was a philosopher who became a Christian in the early second century. He founded a school of philosophy in Rome, and used his philosophical skills in the defense of Christianity, writing several "apologies", or defenses, of the Faith --- here's a representative excerpt, from his first defense, writen to the emperor Antoninus Pius:

When you hear that we look for a kingdom, you rashly suppose that we mean something merely human. But we speak of a kingdom with God, as is clear from our confessing Christ when you bring us to trial, though we know that death is the penalty for this confession. For if we looked for a human kingdom we would deny it in order to save our lives, and would try to remain in hiding in order to obtain the things we look for. But since we do not place our hopes on the present order, we are not troubled by being put to death, since we will have to die somehow in any case

For most of Justin's life, things were pretty calm for the Christians; the Faith was illegal, but the powers-that-be weren't doing much about it, unless someone was specifically denounced or was a special problem to the state (disobedient daughters who wouldn't marry, sons of veterans who wouldn't be drafted....). Then, in Justin's extreme old age, the reforming emperor Marcus Aurelius set out to shape up his empire, including getting rid of all those unpatriotic, atheistic, disloyal Christians --- who won't even properly worship and pray for the good of the empire!

The transcript of Justin's trial still exists, and is the reading the Church gives to us in today's Office of Readings.

The saints were seized and brought before the prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus. As they stood before the judgement seat, Rusticus the prefect said to Justin: “Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors”. Justin said: “We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Saviour, Jesus Christ”.

Rusticus said: “What system of teaching do you profess?” Justin said: “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error”.

The prefect Rusticus said: “Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?” Justin said: “Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching”.

The prefect Rusticus said: “What sort of teaching is that?” Justin said: “Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He was foretold by the prophets as the future herald of salvation for the human race and the teacher of distinguished disciples. For myself, since I am a human being, I consider that what I say is insignificant in comparison with his infinite godhead. I acknowledge the existence of a prophetic power, for the one I have just spoken of as the Son of God was the subject of prophecy. I know that the prophets were inspired from above when they spoke of his coming among men”.

Rusticus said: “You are a Christian, then?” Justin said: “Yes, I am a Christian”.

The prefect said to Justin: “You are called a learned man and think that you know what is true teaching. Listen: if you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?” Justin said: “I hope that I shall God’s house if I suffer that way. For I know that God’s favour is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives”.

The prefect Rusticus said: “Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?” Justin said: “It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain”.

The prefect Rusticus said: “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods”. Justin said: “No one who is right thinking stoops from true worship to false worship”.

The prefect Rusticus said: “If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy”. Justin said: “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved. For this will bring us salvation and confidence as we stand before the more terrible and universal judgement-seat of our Lord and Saviour”.

In the same way the other martyrs also said: “Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols”.

The prefect Rusticus pronounced sentence, saying: “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws”. Glorifying God, the holy martyrs went out to the accustomed place. They were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Saviour.