Monday, August 30, 2004

So folk like me are wacko, eh?

I take a look at my site meter a few days ago, and I see a great flock of referrals from this comment string. Apparently there are priests in a diocese near here who are a mite aggravated because their recently-transferred-away bishop invited to the diocese many consecrated virgins and widows, hermits, and tiny new religious societies. At least one priest was willing to speak attributed and on-the-record, to say that, though the newcomers agreed theologically with the former bishop, that they were wackos.

Are we? For real? Maybe it comes with the vocation? Look at our predecessors.....

The Desert Christians --- lots of things were said about them, good and bad, but "sane" and "normal" and "average" were never on the list. And they said embarrassing things often enough, when they deigned to talk at all .....

My name-saint Caterina Benincasa, alternately reading the riot act and whispering sweet nothings to popes, teaching priests and theologians, and having visions .....

Benedict Joseph Labre, Trappist dropout, Roman street person who wouldn't sleep in the same doorway twice lest he get too attached .....

Xenia the widow of St. Petersburg, living in the cemetery wearing her late husband's uniform jacket, praying for his poor unprepared soul and doing secret useful things .....

Rosa of Lima and Kateri Tekakwitha, the two scariest saints there are, innocent girls who penanced themselves into early graves for the sins of their peoples (the Conquistadors and the Mohawks, respectively; two groups I have to admit had plenty to repent for) .....

Charles Eugene, viscount de Foucauld, another Trappist dropout, the Trappists were not strict enough (!), who began a missionary order to evangelize the Muslims, moved to the middle of the Sahara, had exactly one convert who was a baby abandoned on his doorstep, and died the only member of his order .....

And then, how can I really defend myself on this one? Here in St. Blog's and at my Legion of Mary meeting I get told that I live in an alternate universe. Steven Riddle keeps saying I'm "daunting" and the ever-tolerant Abigail of FreeCatholic says this blog is "scary". Even my archives testify against me, since I wrote about the priest-friend who showed me how to enjoy being abnormal, or at least non-average, and about how much I'd like to live with the Pariahs.

So maybe the priests of LaCrosse have a point. We may be a bit wacko. But I hope we can grow in faith to be the holiest wackos we can be!

Friday, August 27, 2004

Blessed Dominic Barbieri

Today is the memorial day of Blessed Dominic Barbieri.

Littlemore, October 8th, 1845.
I am this night expecting Father Dominic, the Passionist, who, from his youth, has been led to have distinct and direct thoughts, first of the countries of the North, then of England. After thirty years' (almost) waiting, he was without his own act sent here. But he has had little to do with conversions. I saw him here for a few minutes on St. John Baptist's day last year. He is a simple, holy man; and withal gifted with remarkable powers. He does not know of my intention; but I mean to ask of him admission into the one Fold of Christ.

[Ven. John Henry Newman, from one of many near-identical letters he wrote to his friends and relatives that evening]

Dominic Barbieri was a ordinary pious Italian farm kid. Worked hard, played hard. Also prayed hard. His family sheltered a small group of Passionist fathers when their monastery was closed down by Napoleon, and Dominic served for them and gained an appreciation for the Passionist way of life.

He also had a nagging dream/vision/urge/premonition that he was supposed to re-evangelize northern Europe, and especially England. But he just sat on it.

When his name appeared on the local draft lottery list to go fight for Napoleon's army, he promised God he'd become a religious if only his number didn't come up. It didn't. He breathed a sigh of relief and tried to forget all about it. But he couldn't; his vision still bugged him. His parents arranged a fine marriage for him with a well-placed and pretty bride, and just before the wedding he ran off to join the Passionists. [My mom used to say this was why churches have transcept doors, so brides and grooms with third thoughts could escape their weddings! But Dominic wasn't quite that radical, he ran the day before, not out of church.]

Dominic grew in faith as a Passionist, eventually got ordained, had a good reputation. But that vision about England still haunted him, even though the Passionists were strictly an Italian community.

But, in due time, the Passionist superiors decided to open a house outside of Italy, in Belgium, and Father Dominic was sent to lead it. With lots of hard work, that community was firmly established, and extended itself to mission work --- in northern Europe and England. Father Dominic himself went to England as a missionary.

An Anglican gentleman from Oxford, JB Dalgairns, wrote a short article for a European newspaper, Father Dominic wrote a response, and they came to be good friends. They visited each other for long discussions, eventually Dalgairns became a Catholic, they stayed friends. One fateful October day, Father Dominic travelled to visit Dalgairns again.

Father Dominic arrived late at night, dripping-wet because he had been sitting on the top of the coach [the cheap seats] exposed to the continual rain. When he got to the house he went at once to the fireplace to dry himself. The door opened quietly and John Henry Newman entered. In a moment he was at Father Dominic's feet, praying for admission into the Catholic Church. That very night he began his confession.

"What a spectacle it was for me to see Newman at my feet! All that I have suffered since I left Italy has been well compensated by this event. I hope the effects of such a conversion may be great," Dominic wrote to his superior in Rome.

On the following Sunday Newman and four companions went to the Catholic Chapel of St. Clement's at Oxford for Mass. All England soon knew that they were now Roman Catholics.

This wasn't the end of Father Dominic's story, though, because he kept on working as a missionary in England until he died there, still working, at a ripe old age.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Morning Offering and the heart of worship

I'm not the only person high on the Morning Offering. I just found this fine article, Only Catholics Get an A+ on Worship, on the centrality of the Morning Offering as the heart and essence of worship.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Christian Carnival XXXII

Christian Carnival XXXII is up at Patriot Paradox. Lots of good things, particularly a piece by Elena of My Domestic Church on God's discipline, and a very interesting discussion on, of all things, purpose driven sex. Go and see!

Did you know God has a sense of humor?: St. Genesius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The performance of Genesius' life became the very life of Genesius' performance, by the grace of God.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

a pretty good shepherd?

Geoffrey Chaucer describes one:

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

Pray for your pastor!

Sunday, August 22, 2004

If only God would call on the phone......

The story of one young novice entering the School Sisters of St. Francis (the 27th street Franciscans). God calls; we need to answer.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Warrior against spiritual starvation: St. Pius X

Don't let schismatics steal our saint!

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

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

But his greatest contribution to us who come after him was the final overcoming of a rigorist heresy known as Jansenism, for which we should give thanks every time we receive the Eucharist.

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

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

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

Thursday, August 19, 2004

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!

I've checked my Bloglines today, and it seems that the Accuser of the Brethren is on the prowl again. Remember, he cannot succeed if we all refuse to play his foul game. Don't give him any jollies!

This blog has its beginnings in another attack by this sleaze, resurrecting long-ago-renounced, long-ago-absolved sins or stupidities to the purpose of strife, division, and destruction. [If you need details, use the archive links in the sidebar.] It was so bad that I even proposed the return to open public Reconciliation, so there would be no secrets --- which isn't a particularly good idea given our tendency to torture our wounded, and that the Church discontinued a thousand years ago for very good reasons.

In the about two and a half years I've been around St. Blog's, the Accuser has made periodic visits .... Baltimore's Scarlet List, and Cleveland's .... a traffic accident ..... a bankruptcy ..... we've been through it all so many times before. There is only one right answer: refuse to condemn, pray for everybody accused included, know that but for the grace of God I could do even worse.

The judgment I judge will be the judgment I am judged by.

Refuse to play that demon's foul game: we accuse no one but ourselves.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and may you, prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God
thrust into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.


I've been sitting on this one for a week

waiting for it to be given a url that will last [not just "current"]

Our Bishop Richard Sklba writes to us about how the Eucharist is so much more than certain small red interlinear notes in the Missal. It's true. It's why I make a horrid liturgy cop. I on-purpose go to a Mass to try to see and hear the things that folk gripe about --- who hits breast in the confiteor, who bows in the creed, does anyone drop the also out of "and also with you", etc., ad infinitum. And by the first kyrie I'm so busy praying the Mass that I don't even notice who's doing what, absorbed in those six movements of the Eucharist that have been the way we worship from the beginning --- St. Justin Martyr described them in one of his apologies --- and will be the way we worship until Christ comes again in glory.

Rubrics and liturgical regulations are important, yes. I'm a parishioner at the Cathedral, where the watchword has been for decades that we have to do things right, we are the Cathedral and have to set a good example. But they are not more important than the presence of Christ in all the ways He is present with us. Rubrics serve the People of God, not the People of God the rubrics.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Spirit of Vatican II dwells in the Documents of Vatican II

Since last summer I've been studying in a listserv known as VatII-doc, dedicated to the reading and systematic study of the entire documents of Vatican II. It has been quite interesting, and also challenging; not everybody on the list is necessarily Catholic or even Christian, and they all take the documents very seriously. The group, after about two years, has finally come to the last paragraph of the last document.

So, now I'm inviting my readers to join us. The list is now discussing a few summing-up questions, and in another week or two will be starting all over again with the first document. The more the merrier. And, how can one comprehend the spirit of the Council without a knowledge of the word of the Council?

Join up at the URL to our home page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/VaticanII-doc.

about two minutes after I hit the publish button word was out on VatII-doc --- the new cycle will begin on 13 September, with the Opening Address by Blessed Pope John XXIII, followed by Dei Verbum. So go to yahoo and sign up, so you can start right at the very beginning again with us. Study questions from our first time around are archived, in case you need something to do before the 13th!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

My archbishop's Assumption message

can be found here [Adobe reader required].

.... and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.

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

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

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

This is not so different than what has been promised to each one of us. Dormition, falling asleep in the Lord, will come for each of us. We are made "to be happy with Him forever and ever in heaven", as the first grade CCD book taught us. And just as His mother Mary has been resurrected to dwell in heaven body and soul together, the time will come when He will raise us up, and our soul will rejoin our resurrection body to the praise and glory of God.

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

Saturday, August 14, 2004

St. Maximilian Parish has an image

Here's the story of a very young artist entrusted to create the patronal image of her newly-established St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish. It is not only the elders who have gifts and inspirations.

Her image:

Jenny Halbman and her beloved


Some saints give themselves away: St. Maximilian Kolbe

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

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

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

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

The obedience of Jesus and our obedience

from a letter of St. Maximilian Kolbe in today's Office of Readings:

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

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

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


Thursday, August 12, 2004

Sometimes there is good news

Pray for priests!

One of our archdiocesan priests was restored to ministry this past weekend, after sexual misconduct accusations against him proved to be unsubstantiated. Father said,

“One of the hardest parts for me was the fact that it was so devastating that I found it very difficult to pray,” he said. “But I knew that the people of St. Bruno’s and all of my friends and family were praying for me. The people at St. Bruno’s prayed for me every single day, as well as having a prayer service every Thursday night for 15 weeks. Every day I received phone calls, letters, and e-mails of support and prayer.”

So keep on praying for priests --- including the ones you don't get along with and the accused. All the priests. And don't forget that your bishops are priests also. [even the ones you detest!]

from St. Isaac of Nineveh,

An elder was once asked, "What is a compassionate heart?" He replied: "It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for all that exists. At the recollection and at the sight of them such a person's eyes overflow with tears owing to the vehemence of the compassion which grips his heart. As a result of his deep mercy his heart shrinks and cannot bear to hear or look on any injury or the slightest suffering of anything in creation.

That is why he constantly offers up prayer full of tears, even for the irrational animals and for the enemies of truth, even for those who harm him, so that they may be protected and find mercy. He even prays for the reptiles as a result of the great compassion which is poured out beyond measure --- after the likeness of God --- in his heart."


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

It's Carnival time again

The thirtieth Christian Carnival is ready for visitors at Beyond the Rim. I just got finished reading all the contributions. I can hardly wait for another chance to host it here again.

Monday, August 09, 2004

All the Church's wealth

Some of the stories of the Faith are too good not to tell over and over again. This is one of them.

In the olden days of the Church, deacons had charge of the business aspects of the local churches, seven deacons for each bishop. The bishop taught and ruled, the presbyters helped the bishop to pastor outlying areas where the faithful couldn't travel regularly to assist at the bishop's Eucharist, and the deacons were responsible for all the other stuff: keeping the holy things safe, paying the bills, managing the money, relieving the poor in their necessities, and so on.

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

So he gathered all the Church's wealth and brought it to the appointed place.

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

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

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

August Ninth: the martyrs, confessors, and innocents of World War II

August 9 is one of those days when a lot of commemorations come together "by chance" that are related; it could be called the day of all the WWII era saints someday. Today is the anniversary of the deaths of St. Edith Stein (Teresia Benedicta a Cruce) in 1942, of the servant of God Franz Jagerstatter in 1943, and also the anniversary of the destruction of Nagasaki in 1945.

St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, aka St. Edith Stein

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

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

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

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

Franz Jagerstatter

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

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

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

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

crucifix of Catholic Cathedral in Nagasaki

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 06, 2004

Two Transfigurations

There was a Transfiguration of Glory

icon of the Transfiguration

and there was a transfiguration of horror

the Cathedral of Hiroshima after Transfiguration morning

Today, August 6, is the Feast of the Transfiguration, when Peter, James, and John saw Jesus as he truly was, glorious with uncreated Light, conversing with Moses and Elijah. Flabbergasted, they said dumb things about staying there always, but were told they all had to go back down the mountain, back to "real life" ---- though what was at the top of Tabor was more real than the "real life" down below.

Also today, August 6, is the Commemoration Day of the destruction of Hiroshima, when the first of two cities, chosen because they had no military significance (therefore had no previous bomb damage to complicate the before-and-after photos), was utterly destroyed by a single bomb, its people transformed in an instant from living embodied ones to etched shadows on the pavements, and others left to slowly die over weeks and months from radiation-related illnesses unknown before. Those two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were not chosen because they were the heart of Japanese Catholicism; _that_ was accidental.

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

May the perpetual Light, which we celebrate especially on this day, shine upon them all.

St. Ephrem on the Transfiguration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Chinese Transfiguration hymn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Just Hate theory?

I read today at Ut Unum Sint about a supposed "just hate theory" that has been parsed from sound bites of various bishops.

There is no Just Hate Theory. Comprehensible hate, yes. Instigated or provoked hate, possibly. But no just hate, not for "them" and especially not for us.

As we ponder on international relations and foreign affairs and national defense, there are many things that must be kept in mind, three of which are very important and mostly neglected:

1 --- Just because we are the ones who are hurting does not necessarily mean that we are the Totally Innocent Victims [tm].

2 --- There is no guarantee that God is on our side in all things. After all, He casts down the mighty from their thrones and sends the rich away empty.

3 --- Each of us bears responsibility for our own deeds. We also bear some responsibility for the deeds of our own nation, especially in a nation like our own, a representative democracy where we have both voice and vote to influence the actions of our government. We have no such responsibility for the actions of other people's rulers. "President Doe of Somewherestan is more awful than us" is no defense or excuse when we ourselves have been awful, even if not as awful as the rulers of Somewherestan.

It's Carnival time again (It's Wednesday, it must be the Christian Carnival!)

Christian Carnival XXIX is up and running, ready for customers, at Digitus, Finger, & Co. I haven't finished prowling it myself, but what I've read is very good, as always. Do join us all and indulge --- I'll promise it's not all cotton candy, there's plenty of substance!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A very Friendly critique

Lynn of Noli Irritare Leones, a member of the Society of Friends and St. Blog's most loyal dialogue partner, begins her take on this past weekend's document. She says it's only a beginning and there is more coming, but it is an insightful and very serious beginning.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Appearances are deceptive, trust your b***s*** meter: another Desert Christian story

I had a little adventure the end of last week. A parcel needed to get out, and the postal carrier isn't allowed to pick up parcels with stamps anymore, it might be a bomb. And I needed to go to the credit union and deposit some small checks. So I called a gentleman of the neighborhood who gives rides for short errands --- he'd helped my houseguest to bring groceries home once last month.

As I'm talking to him on the phone, suddenly my b***s*** detector starts going off. Now, I wasn't issued a particularly sensitive model by God; I tend to take folk at face value, for a long time. But _something_ was off, couldn't put a finger on it. He was just a little too sweet, and a tiny bit too curious about my banking errand. Didn't feel right. So I had him take the package, but found another way to take care of the banking and made him a polite excuse.

Good thing I did: I checked him out, turns out he's a bit of a lech with a history of ingratiating himself with lonely elders for their cash ..... thank you, Lord, for the b***s*** meter you gave me, that despite its low sensitivity, it does still work.

A desert story about one of the abbas and his b***s*** meter:

A monk of the Thebaid had received the gift of service from God so that he was able to provide all who came to him with what they needed. Now he happened to be giving alms one day in a village, and a woman wearing old clothes came towards him to receive something. Seeing that she was wearing old clothes, he opened his hand to give her a lot, but his hand closed, and he paid out only a little. Then a woman came to him wearing good clothes. Seeing her clothes, he sought to give her little, but his hand opened, and he gave away much. So he enquired concerning the two women, and they told him, "The one wearing good clothes belongs to the leading classes, and she has become poor; in memory of this she wears good clothes. But the other one wears old clothes so as to receive more.

More about "Collaboration of Men and Women..."

This "very lapsed Catholic" muses on this weekend's document, about just what our Church will do to make it happen. Pennies from heaven? Every rectory a day care center? and so on.

What she doesn't seem to realize (after all, she admits to being very lapsed) is that if we in our societies were actually living according to _all_ the teachings, instead of picking and choosing the most comfortable ones from the cafeteria line, a lot of the questions she raises would solve themselves.

In a Catholic world:

people don't have sex unless they are married
marriage is for life, through thick and thin
you can't divorce your children, or your parents, or your siblings
all honest and moral work is held in honor and dignity
all workers are paid sufficient to support themselves _and_their_families_ in a manner worthy of human beings, it is never necessary for both parents to work outside the home to survive.
and so on.

When reading "Collaboration of Men and Women", remember that it is only one of the elements of a total vision of the will of God on earth as in heaven, a single piece of a very large jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces need to be seen for any of them to make a lot of sense.