Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christian Carnival #154 --- Christmas Week Edition

Welcome to what was, in the olden days, the twelve days of Christmas. Goes to show how out of step Christians are if the secular world sets the tempo, and how scandalously at odds we sometimes are amongst ourselves. We've heard and believed the Announcement of Great Joy, as the shepherds did --- but things aren't all glory and light yet, since we are all bent (though redeemed) people in a fallen world tending to the chaos it was in the beginning. And --- some of us, like the secular world, have been celebrating since before Thanksgiving and just finished up on the 25th; some just started the celebrating and will keep singing Nativity songs for twelve days, or forty; and a lot of Christans east of Athens won't even get to Christmas until the 7th of January. So, not every post will be full of comfort and joy (can't really expect that until the Great Day comes, anyway), but they are all fine and worthy.

So, on with the show!

John talks about The Shame of Shame at Brain Cramps for God The differences between guilt, shame, and shaming, and how to behave toward each.

Patricia presents Let It Get To You posted at A Better You Blog. Listen when God speaks. Notice when others hurt. Appreciate kindness when you receive it. Let it get to you, the good and the bad.

Bryan McKenzie has a pastor to pray for as he writes of eternal damnation in To Deny Hell posted at THEOdyssey

In this season that's all about an irresistable Baby and His unsheltered and refugee family, the Part-Time Pundit looks at the consequences of easy abortion, namely it is easy for abused women to be pushed to have abortions, in his post, The Problem with the Culture of Drive-Thru Abortions

Rev Bill has found a story that gives a new twist to an old truth.

In Jesus the spy, Michael at Tantalizing if True exposes Christmas as a thrilling tale of international intrigue.

Jack Yoest presents Rocky Balboa: Courage, Integrity, Faith, Victory The Movie posted at Reasoned Audacity. The Yoests were in Philadelphia recently and wondered about the Rocky statue that was briefly at the top of the 72 steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since September, the statue is now at the base of the steps. So Jack decided to ask the man who might know, Sylvester Stallone.

Know your opposition, advises Stephen of Practical Quandary in his post Exploring the Secular Mindset. This article presents some arguments against religion and Christianity from the secular point of view. Understanding the viewpoint of a non-Christian is the first step to being able to connect with them and be able to effectively share the Christian's viewpoint on reality.

Hiyasmin Linatoc presents A Way to Meet God posted at Mind, Heart, and Mysteries. Drawing heavily on the insights of, among others, the Christian thinkers Timothy Radcliffe and Simone Weil, he write of how we can overcome being "fretful about many things" [that's Luke 10:21].

This old-time theology student, with notebooks full of "Xp" and "Xpian" and "Xp-ity" got a bit of a kick from Matt Jones' post Get the X out of X-mas! at Random Acts of Verbiage.

The Evangelical Ecologist is sharing the true meaning of Christmas with his green friends this year in a post called The Uniqueness of Christian Ecology -- The Messiah. Before we can truly address pollution in the air or water, we have to understand how a tiny baby came to rescue mankind from the pollution of sin in our hearts.

Catez of Allthings2all gives us Kiwi reflections on T.S. Eliot's Journey of the Magi during a downunder Christmas, in Travelling for Beauty

Brett at Seek Truth thinks that maybe it's time to reconsider our plan of attack in the war on Christmas.

Many churches seem to think everyone is in a family. But what about those who don't have families at Christmas time? Sadly, but fortunately, these "strays" can take care of each other, proposes Diane of Crossroads.

The Codex: Resources for Biblical Studies Blogspot offers us Christmas According to John (in two parts). [here's the link for part 2] This post looks at a couple of Bible passages that may at first glance be unlikely candidates for a Christmas message. Both are attributed to the Apostle John, and both also give accounts of the birth of Jesus, so to speak: The first Tyler dubs John’s “Apocalyptic Advent” (Revelation 12) and second is John’s “Metaphysical Manger” (the first chapter of John’s Gospel, which is one of the four assigned Gospel readings for Christmas in the Lectionaries used by some of the churches).

Kara of Everyday Liturgy reflects on how to look at the Holidays from outside of the American cultural experience in Traditions.

Brian at Real Meal Ministries has written a post on understanding Bible translation in order to help readers make informed decisions among some of the available English translations of the Scriptures.

Renovate Your Life with Craig sends the Carnival Multi-dimensional Health.... (I'm not a body; it's just where I live). Craig writes: Put up your hand if you think that we're all one-dimensional (i.e. physical) beings. Just as I thought; no-one. Now, put up your hand if you think we're amazing, complex, multi-dimensional, physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual beings. Knew it; a whole bunch of you. Except you up the back who's too important to put your hand up for anything. It's okay, the rest of us love you anyway. Here, have a cyber-hug... O

Mark Olson presents On Christmas ("something of a speed Limit for the holiday season") posted at Pseudo-Polymath.

Bego at A Cup of Coffee and a Random Thought shares with us her Seasonal Silliness.

Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God. In That immanent joy, John da Fiesole of Disputations discusses the relations of joy and gladness with the trials and tribulations of life, by way of prayer and fasting.

Ruth the Wheelie Catholic comments on an article about Spending Christmas alone.

Annette takes a brief look at some of the visions in Zechariah, the horsemen, craftsmen and a measuring line, at her blog Fish and Cans.

When a person struggles with a particular sin, it is important to remember what is at the root of both the problem and the solution: loving God. This week at Light Along the Journey John reminds us of this truth in his post More Than These.

Lynne Parsh reminds us all that Sharing the Gospel is Not a Fearful Event. Be not afraid. Be bold.

From Money Missions, Ben's visit to a Christmas concert by the Tijuana Choir and Opera reveals stark contrasts to some of the Holiday Ensembles found in Seattle (which I believe is Ben's home city). [Interesting comment thread follows the post]

Jeremy the Parableman looks at various responses to the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom, in his contribution Omniscience and Freedom

At Randomness, DawnXiana does the math to find out Why I Will Never Have a Boyfriend.

And from your Carnival host, with the assistance of "Jellybean" of the Rosary Army Forums, the unavoidable correspondence and conformity that's hinted at in the special carol for yesterday, the feast of Stephen --- "and all those who bless the poor, will themselves find blessing!"


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Carnivals, Carnivals, Carnivals!

The Catholic Carnival is posted and ready for visitors at Pondering the Word.

And, the Christian Carnival is being hosted tomorrow right here at my virtual Anchor Hold. So, don't forget, before midnight tonight, to send me the information on your best qualifying post of the past week, at ChristianCarnival@gmail.com or at kmknapp@execpc.com . Please put "Christian Carnival submission" in the subject line. Thanks!


An unavoidable correspondence and conformity

Jesus feeds hungry me (you, us).

I (You, We) feed hungry Jesus.

via Maria "Bego" Johnson, whom I met in the Rosary Army Forums as "Jellybean". She actually sent this as a possible entry to tomorrow's Christian Carnival ---- but it's too old for the Carnival rules but just right for the feast of Stephen when good King Wenceslaus went out.......

Speaks Maria:

600 Stories

But I can only share mine.

I joined a group of youth from our parish to feed the hungry and homeless at a soup kitchen.

A soup kitchen! It all sounded so bizarrely Cannery Row, or something.

We arrived sometime after 7 am at a beautiful church in downtown Atlanta, The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The church basement was already a busy beehive of activity, with people cooking, and setting up the makeshift parish hall (not what the new churches have--this is really a basement, painted in a gaudy green, but incredibly functional). Old pews line one of the walls, and well-used and battle-weary tables were set out in what later proved to be efficient and manageable dining sections.

The guy directing all that human traffic, Ted, is a delightful retired Government employee--let's call him an engineer because if he isn't I'm pretty surprised--this guy seemed to be disorganized and thinking as he was moving, but to my amazement, the day went off without a hitch. He is a phenomenal people-person, a cartoon, a stereotype, a gigantic heart in a regular man, and very very funny.

He spoke great truths in little bursts, and was in a perpetual state of catechesis, the kind my dear friend calls backdoor catechesis. We went there feeling magnanimous about our time and sacrifice to do something for the poor. He helped us understand that the poor were gracing us with the opportunity to serve them and learn something. That lesson was not lost on me at all.

He began by letting us know that we would see things that would surprise us, or confuse us...perhaps make us uncomfortable. He warned that there might be instances of rudeness and hostility. He told us to forgive and always be respectful--to address these folks as "Sir" and "Ma'am." In short, to give these people a meal, and more importantly, human dignity. I never saw so many kids smile and genuinely serve. It was beautiful.

After the set up period, we were dismissed to attend Mass in the beautiful historic church. Father Henry delivered a similar message to us, as my new friend Ted. He spoke at length about how the poor are harrassed, not in the ways that we are harrassed, but by things we don't experience. The cold. Hunger. Fear. They seemed to be preparing us for something that we couldn't yet comprehend.

They estimated that about 600 people were served today. The vast majority, and I do mean the vast majority, 99+% were happy to be served, happy to be there, and if not happy, certainly grateful for the warmth of the hall, and the warmth of the food. They had good table manners (why would one think that being poor equals being a rude pig? I've seen greater slobs at fine restaurants), and cordial behavior. They asked for what they needed without shame (and some--burning with shame), and we were happy to provide it. Truly, in over 200 people served in my section, we only had one person that seemed out of place with his behavior. I suspect that he was slick, not poor, yet we served him with the same respect.

A number of things stand out in my day, as snapshots, little mental polaroids because I can't yet process the whole experience.

* a man, dressed in his finest clothes, terribly outdated and in stark contrast to others, but he was clean and pressed and behaving as if he was attending the finest meal in the finest company. For him, it certainly was.

* a toothless, disheveled man in dirty clothes, shivering, shivering, and asking for anything hot. He drank his coffee and ate his soup, and stayed at his seat for a long time. No one asked him to move.

* a prostitute. She had to be a prostitute. And she sat with the group, and she was served with a smile.

* a mother and her two children, Anna and Daniel's ages. I wept at that one. Enough said there.

* a young couple with a lot of bags, clearly out of place, and yet, a part of the group.

* a woman wearing all kinds of mismatched clothes for warmth ate two bowls of soup and the sandwich that was also provided, and asked me, very humbly, if she might have another one to take with her. I came back with three, and she was so grateful that I had to excuse myself for the second time to compose myself. Later, as she was leaving, we sent over a another couple of handfuls. She was there with a man who was taking great pains to help her carry her possessions in a broken canvas bag.

Ninety minutes later, after everyone was fed and the hall was cleaned up, I walked out to the curb to wait for the parking lot to clear (we were blocked in). One of the other youth groups was gathering in the area where I stood, and so I started to make my way through them to get back to my group. One of the teens in the group came up to me and asked, "Are you in my group?"

I laughed and said no. And then he did something totally amazing. He said, "Well, I'll give you a hug anyway! It's a great day, isn't it?"

It certainly was.


Monday, December 25, 2006

A Nativity Hymn from St. Ephrem

Whom have we, Lord, like you? -
The Great One who became small, the Wakeful who slept,
The Pure One who was baptized, the Living One who died,
The King who abased himself to ensure honor for all.
Blessed is your honor!

It is right that man should acknowledge your divinity,
It is right for heavenly beings to worship your humanity.
The heavenly beings were amazed to see how small you became,
And earthly ones to see how exalted.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Christian Carnival

is ready for customers at Lux Venit.

Also, Christmas week, the Christian Carnival will be hosted right here! I know everybody will be joyously busy with the holy day, but still, sometime between now and midnight on the Feast of Stephen --- that's Tuesday the 26th --- do send me the information on your favorite qualifying blog post. That way, the holiday Carnival will be well-filled and befitting. Put "Christian Carnival Submission" in the subject line and send to christiancarnival@gmail.com , or if that address makes difficulty, to my personal email address at the link in the sidebar.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Caesar's Money and the Common Good

A few days ago I got the most reliable Christmas missive in this fair city; the blue envelope from "Wayne F. Whittow City Treasurer". The envelope that holds the bill for the property taxes on the little anchor hold. This year, $1008.45. Even with our fair city's EZ no-interest monthly payment plan, it's going to be a little bit rough. [Wasn't so bad when I was still working and the bill was only about $600...... but they say property has appreciated in value over the years..... I bought the anchor hold for $15,000 seventeen years ago and now the assessment is a bit higher....]

But I've never been one to seriously gripe about the blue envelope. I've always known that I, and this entire community, gets very good value for the money Caesar collects in the taxes, making the fair city a proper place to live.

I appreciate having the garbage collected. Having the streets repaired and plowed and salted, even when they sometimes forget mine it's so little (most alleys are bigger). Having the fires extinguished, the medical emergencies attended to, and the hazardous materials and heavy rescue teams ready for action. Having the crimes investigated, the criminals arrested, tried by courts, kept in jail, and supervised by probation agents. Having safe clean water coming out of the taps, and having the sewage properly treated before it ends up in the lake. Having the children educated, whether their parents can do it or not. Having people to check that the fumes and dust from the tannery and the automobile shredder and the other industries in the neighborhood aren't toxic or overly obnoxious. And to tell the grocery store they have to clean up their dumpster's grease slick in the alley or else. And it all costs money.

And the quality of life would sink precipitously if we didn't have transit and libraries and museums and public parkland. All of which costs money, also. And --- I'm a retired city employee, providing service for the public good of this city. My income when I was working, and my pension now, is financed in large part by the collection from that blue envelope.

So, I've never seen any reason to be offended by having to pay my proper share of the taxes that the government bodies use to finance the services for the common good. I understand that if I want the infrastructure and services that the government provides, they need to be paid for. I've even, on the occasions over the decades that I've bespoken my alderman about additions and changes in services --- extending the transit to Brookfield Square, and south of College Ave to the WalMart, library hours on weekends, affordable housing trust fund, and so on --- made sure he knew that I knew that it might mean a few pennies more on the tax bill, and that I wouldn't bellyache about that, that the service would be well worth the pennies.

After all, it's not God's image on the coinage, it's deceased presidents' images. We need Caesar's services and enjoy the benefits of Caesar's services, we have to give over some of the cash. After all, governments have bills, also.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Today is St. Lucy's Day, which means that......

first, it's the name day of the blogger at City of Steeples! Happy name-day, Lucy!

and, second, it means that this coming week Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday --- December 20, 22, & 23 --- are the winter Ember Days.

Our daily bread does not come from Cargill or from Archer Daniels Midland.
It doesn't come from General Foods, Kraft, or Nabisco,
or even from Brownberry or Natural Ovens of Manitowoc.

Our daily bread is given us by the Lord,
the creator of the heavens and the earth.
It comes from the fertility of the good earth;
it is nourished by the sunlight
and by the snows and the rains in the proper seasons;
it is nurtured and gathered and prepared
by our sisters and our brothers
who work very hard for very little
on our farms and ranches and in our gardens,
in our canneries and bakeries and dairies and slaughterhouses.

This we must remember:
Our food does not come from Pick 'n Save or from Sentry Foods or from Jewel-Osco.
Costco and Sam's Club cannot create a single green bean or tomato.
Only God can.

God created the earth, and He created the earthworms, and the soil microbes.
God created the plants, and also the trees that bear nuts and fruits.
God created the bees, the hummingbirds, and all the other little pollinating creatures.
God created us, and commanded us to nurture the plants and the animals, to care for His garden.
He told us to have dominion and to subdue them, shaping them to our needs.

We can plant seeds. We can tend animals.
Yet, only God can make a plant grow.
Only God can create calves, chicks, lambs, poults, ducklings, goslings, and piglets.
Only God has power over the often-chaotic patterns of the weather.

So, four times each year,
at the turning of the seasons,
Mother Church, being very wise,
gives us some days to fast and pray
that the earth may be fruitful,
that our plants and our livestock will stay healthy,
that the rains and the dry times and the snow cover come at the proper times,
that the cyclones and the floods and the insect swarms stay far away from us,
that our sisters and our brothers who do the hard work
that takes our food from a seed planted to a can on the grocery store shelf
will always be treated with respect and with justice.

These days, the Ember Days, are coming soon.
Let us not forget.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Patience, patience......

My street is still iced over from the blizzard 10 days ago, so I'm still stuck inside today. But the temperature is supposed to be well above freezing for the next four or five days, so the street should thaw out for me to get to Mass next week. I'm very eager; though I'm better off than some shut-ins because the Mass I normally attend is also broadcast, so I don't miss absolutely everything (but the radio's just not the same, or even sufficient).

My mind is already getting a bit dull and stultified from cabin-fever, and it's not even New Years yet. Just if my neighbors, who are all able-bodied and drive, could catch some excitement about having bare pavement --- mostly they're happy if they have a set of passible ruts for their cars, and percieve no need for more. And there's only so much shovelling I can arrange and so much cash I can spend on rocksalt to salt _the_city's_street_.

Oh, well, Advent is the season for training in patience, after all.......


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Celebrating the New Year in Heaven

Dorothy's family's world, which would be hers as well, was Journalism. She, as a grade school girl, had survived the Great San Francisco Earthquake --- but her nightmares afterwards sent her family to Chicago, and then to New York City, the city that would become her own. They weren't believers, particularly; and she wasn't either. She had an extremely short failed marriage (hubby abandoned her in Europe after only a month or two....), became an activist for the vote for women, got a job in journalism behind her father's back (he didn't want her in journalism, blackballed her at all the mainstream papers, but he didn't think she might apply at the Socialist Call), associated with the radical intelligentia of the age before finding the one she thought was her true love and entering a common-law union with him. Forster Batterham being an atheist and anarchist wasn't a problem since she very nearly was also. But then her life took a 180 degree turn.

Dorothy was pregnant. And God-haunted. She was starting to believe that she ought to be a Catholic, if she could with the two marriages and all. And she was certain that the baby had to be baptised and raised as a Catholic, and not spend so much time adrift as she had. When she told Forster, that was the end, She could have Forster, or God, said Forster; and of course God won.

So the baby Tamar was baptised, and Dorothy was baptised not long after. She found a small apartment, went looking for a new job since Catholicism was inconsistant with the Socialist Call, and wondered what she would do next.

But there was an apostolate waiting for her. A wandering Catholic philosopher from France wandered into her life and taught her to think like a Catholic. Her neighbors and people from her past life who were in trouble knew there was a listening ear and a hot cup of tea at her place. And, since she knew Newspapers, she started one of her own, a Catholic paper to compete with the Call and the Daily Worker. The Catholic Worker still sells for one penny, even now.

In time, especially with the Great Depression, her apostolate grew out of her little apartment to several apartments --- to a storefront --- to a little farm --- to other people in other cities --- all serving Christ by sharing one's own food with the hungry and one's own home with those who have no home. Living the fulness of the "explosive" Catholic social teachings, and writing about it in the paper.

In the 1970's, as Dorothy became frailer in her old age, she handed the headship of the house in the Bowery over to "the young folks" but continued to live and to serve there. Until 1980. It was Saturday of the 34th counted week, or in the Latlish often preferred by the Church the 34th week of Ordinary Time, the last day of the Church's year, November 29th. Dorothy was becoming weaker and weaker. Until, just before sunset, with her daughter Tamar, the deacon Tom Cornell, and several others of her old friends with her, she died, just in time to pray the first Evening Prayer of the New Year with the saints of heaven.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Haven't done quizzes for a while

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Which Positive Quality Are You?
Your Result: Charity

You are Charity. The spirit of giving has been promoted by every religion. Charity is kindness. It is compassion for our fellow man. Charity doesn't ask anything in return, and in this way it serves as the opposite of greed. "Be charitable with many."

Which Positive Quality Are You?


Thursday, November 23, 2006

there's always an Open Door

When I'm healthy and wealthy enough and the weather is safe enough for me to get to Mass, here is where you'll find me afterwards.

Actually, it's one of the big reasons I belong to the parish I belong to. In my former parish, which I still love, I could no longer serve but only be served; there one has to be endlessly rambunctious or drive in order to serve, since everything except worship happens somewhere else. But at my current parish, there are many things I can participate in and ways I can serve, even when I only have enough vanfare for Sunday Mass. (It doesn't cost any more to go home at 1:15 in the afternoon than to go home at 9:30). I do like to be both receiving and giving!

Happy Thanksgiving Feast!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"..... to pray for the City and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee."

A few days ago one of my favorite prayer tools arrived. Twenty tabliod pages of small-but-not-agate print, it's called the 2007 Archdiocesan Directory. It lists every priest of the archdiocese from "Acker, Rev. Karl H." and "Ackeret, Rev. Dennis R." all the way to "Zwaska, Rev. Victor L.", every parish from "Allenton, Resurrection" to "Woodland, St. Mary", and every deacon and deacon's wife, "Acosta, Carlos R. (Iris)" to "Zozakiewicz, Daniel T. (Barbara)".

As I prayed through the list of our priests last night, holding each one before the Lord, so many different thoughts ----

There are so many, still, who have remained able, and devoted, and faithful, and enduring. Some of whom are listed with multiple assignments. A few of whom were ordained before I was born. May the Lord sustain and strengthen them all.

and there are names who are missing now, who were there in previous years. Some have died; their souls are commended to God. A few have gone into the shadows as the after-effects of the Charter in Dallas; I pray the prayer for priest-penitents for them, that they may remain strong and faithful in this kenosis. One or two have been suspended about current bad acts, a few more may have just left; may the Lord be merciful to them.

Pray for your priests, and for all priests. We need them, it is by their hands that the Lord fulfills His promise to be our very food and drink, to life true and eternal, it is by their voice that we are assured of the forgiveness of our sins. And they need us, to plead for them, to give them strength to stay, for the task is so great, and their humanity so weak.

Pray for them. Hold them up, lest they crumple and fail under the load.
We have no Eucharist, and no absolution, without them.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Gerard Serafin lives

Yesterday was the second yahrzeit day of Gerard Serafin Bugge, the keeper of the Catholic Blog for Lovers and also of the now inaccessible most numinous site in all cyberspace, the Catholic Pages for Lovers, praiseofglory.com/ . Gerard was one of the pioneers of the Catholic internet, and his presence in the listservs and usenet was consistently uplifting and enlightening.

One of his very last public works of mercy was to beg for prayers for me, when I was hospitalized for my first bout with the MRSA.

Please pray for his twin and for the repose of his soul, as I am certain that he prays for us.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Henriette DeLille: "But, Mother, ...."


"...... I don't want to be a courtesan! I want to be a nun!"

Today is the anniversary of the death of Henriette DeLille.

Born in New Orleans in 1813, she was a "free person of color" and a pious Catholic child who was being raised to take her place under the social contract of the time as a courtesan. Her mother was a courtesan, her grandmother was a courtesan, her great-grandmother was a courtesan, and her great-great-grandmother was a slave. That's the way things were in New Orleans back then; young free coloured girls would attend the "quadroon balls" where, if they and their families were extremely fortunate, a wealthy white or passing gentleman would choose to be their "protector". In return for companionship and sexual favors, the protector would support the chosen one financially, keep her safe from the worst of the racialist degradations, sponsor the chosen one's education in literature, arts, and social graces, and, sometimes, acknowledge and shelter any offspring. Marriage, however, was out of the question; it was illegal for coloured people to marry whites.

Henriette met an immigrant French sister, Sister Marthe, and learned more about the faith from her as well as followed her in the performance of the works of mercy. And Henriette was very much impressed. When the time came for her to go to the ball and be chosen, she refused. She would be a nun. Her family was very displeased; her refusal endangered the future of the family, who would protect her if she were not chosen?

Once they got used to the idea that she wasn't going to let herself be chosen, her family proposed, for her own future, that she move to another city and, passing, work as a teacher. After all, her brother was already determined to improve his life by passing. But she refused to pass; she saw no reason to be ashamed of being coloured.

In 1836, she and some friends formed a community, dedicated to the works of mercy among the poor of the city, regardless of color or condition of servitude. This community fell afoul of the law and had to be disbanded, because the law said that white people were not allowed to live in the same household as coloured people. The sisters who were white emigrated to France, where they joined other religious communities. Some of the sisters who were coloured gave up the idea of being sisters. But Henriette still had the dream.

In 1842, Henriette and her companion Juliette tried again, establishing the Sisters of the Holy Family, and kept themselves out of trouble with the law by only accepting coloured sisters. Her attempts were successful, but only just so. The sisters were subject to ridicule, hard work, and extreme poverty. At times, the sisters had so little food that they drank sweetened water at night to dull their hunger. But they were happy, because they were making these sacrifices for God and were sharing in the Passion of Jesus Christ, to whom they had consecrated their lives.

Within a few years, Henriette had opened a home for the aged, the sick, and the poor who had nowhere else to go. She was later able to purchase a home, which she used as a community center where slaves and free black people came to socialize and learn the Christian faith. The religious community found creative ways to keep money coming in. That the Sisters of the Holy Family accomplished so much in a time of tremendous obstacles is even more impressive when one considers that for the first seven years there were only three of them.

Even though Henriette's health was never very good, she refused to slow down so long as there were people who needed her. Worn out by her work, Henriette died on November 17, 1862. In her obituary it was written, "The crowd gathered for her funeral testified by its sorrow how keenly felt was the loss of her who for the love of Christ had made herself the humble servant of slaves."

Henriette, holy helper of the poor, pray for us.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Template News

So far so good on the template tampering. I couldn't find another purple blog but I did find this one that's at least a little orange! Reference Links and blogroll H-Z are up, after I get some supper, or in the morning, I'll finish A-G. Have not yet found a way to restore the webrings, the sitemeter, or the button-style links that were below Mater Ecclesiae in the sidebar, but I'll keep trying.


Update, Tuesday 2:20 am cst: Hooray! Blogroll A-G is in and it is now complete. I also found the proper template html spell to load the webrings, badges and buttons, and they are all transferred also!
Now off to bed, I think.......


About Altars

Terrence and I were in a combox the other day, and he asked me, whether Catholics would ever remember altars, and it took me aback, since every single Catholic church and very nearly every Catholic chapel, shrine, and space for common prayer has one, and they have become much more prominent and central since the most recent Ecumenical Council. He asked, "Document it. please?" But I'll need your help, my dear commentariat.

The importance and centrality of the altar of God I learned as a small child, back at that tiny rural parish the Church of the Guardian Angels, Copley Township OH. About thirty years ago, back in graduate school, I studied some about altars. But I don't remember my sources any more...... so feel free to supply some in the combox or in the email (there's links in the sidebar, and please use a clear subject line so it doesn't get lost in the mass spam deletions)

Altars began as flat-topped rock formations, or flat-topped piles of rocks left just the way God made them (using tools on them was illicit), large enough to lay out a slaughtered full-grown bull. The Lord's Temple had several altars of various sizes for various sacrifices --- holocausts, sin offerings, thanksgiving offerings, offerings of incense and of cereal grains, and so on, and the rules for them are set out in the book of Leviticus.

When the Church was formed, it also had its own thanksgiving offering, established by Christ at His last supper, and its own altars. The "breaking of the bread", the re-presentation of the Lord's one only sacrifice, was the core of Christian worship. The altar of sacrifice and the table of the Lord's thanksgiving feast are one and the same.

The first generations of Christians gathered on the Lord's Day, the first day of the week, in various places, including the living rooms of St. Lydia and the Chosen Lady to whom the Johannine epistles are written, and the burial places of St Polycarp and other martyred saints, where the grave marker was itself the altar. In the vision of the Apocalypse, we see the great square altar in heaven, beneath which the glorified martyred saints praise the Lord and the Lamb and offer up the prayers of the saints on earth. Still to this very day, we place relics of the saints underneath or inside every consecrated altar.

Eventually, Christianity became legal, and then favored by the governing powers, and the Church took over the pagan temples, exorcised them and consecrated them to the worship of the true only God. And it needed more space to accomodate all the new converts, so began building large public churches, taking over the basilica floor plan used for the emperor's assemblies, but where the pagans would have the emperor's throne or the emperor's idol, the Christians placed the altar of the Lord.

Now, here's where I'm not entirely clear when it started or how or why, but it did --- the altar began shrinking and moving further and further away, until it became just a shelf or ledge in the far wall with a symbolic piece of stone in it (the "altar stone"), oftentimes dwarfed into utter insignificance by a huge and beautiful reredos. Now, don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a huge and beautiful reredos, especially one with many images of the glorified saints in heaven who worship with us --- except when it usurps the place and honor of the altar. It's just like gazing on the Lord in adoration, it is wonderful up until it supercedes and becomes more important than the actual reception of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

And then, starting early in the 20th century, predating the Council but I suspect about the same time as St Pius X's urging of frequent Communion and the beginnings of what was called the Liturgical Renewal Movement, altars began to become as architecturally central as they are central to our true worship. Solid, substantial, standing on their own, not a vestige or an afterthought.

So, my wise readers who get out to libraries or studied more recently than I did and still remember --- when did the shrinking of the altars start, and why?

Moved to BloggerBeta

and will be attempting a few minor template ajustments in the next day or so, in hopes of being able to use "comments in popup window" and other features not possible on my beloved, but very ancient, template. Wish me luck, that I don't foul things up entirely.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Offering up and dealing with pain

Mema commented a few days ago:

When I was little, the sisters used to say "offer it up". Now that I am grown, that doesn't work anymore. How do you handle chronic, unceasing pain.

It's a fair question. So, now that the pain is down to a low roar and the percocet is down to only 3-4 a day, I'll make a poor attempt at an answer.

I do truly hate pain. Even though I realize that pain has a purpose and is necessary to human survival and we'd be in really bad shape without it. Pain signals us that something's wrong, so we can take care of it; people with problems that cause lack of pain (like paraplegia and some forms of diabetes) have to inspect themselves carefully every day to be sure they haven't stubbed their toe or scraped their shin or got a blister, because otherwise they wouldn't know until they were infected and systemically sick.

But, when you've done everything you can do to take care of the problem, and the pain's still there, or the problem's something chronic and not particularly amenable to treatment, or some nerve's been damaged and is putting off untrustworthy sensations, making pain where there's no injury...... then you just have to deal with it. Doing what needs doing because it needs to be done, and there isn't much choice in the matter.

In my experience, there are four ways of dealing, and all four of them are useful together, and don't work very well just one at a time. Different kinds of pain and different situations call for different combinations. The four ways are:
1) behaviour modifications
2) distraction
3) medication
4) offering up

By behavour modifications, I mean any way one changes one's life to decrease pain, improve the underlying problems, or enhance coping. Elevating swollen legs, not walking more than absolutely necessary on the sprained ankle, doing one's physical therapy exercises to stay strong, using paper plates and plasticware instead of washing lots of dishes, hiring someone else to shovel the snow........

Distraction is having other things to do, to think about, instead of thinking about how much one hurts. reading, writing, hanging out with friends, crafts, puzzles, even television can be useful to take one's attention elsewhere. The hardest time for me with pain is at bedtime, bacause there's no distractions there once I'm tucked in with the lights out; if the pain's keeping me from falling asleep, there's little to be done about it.

Medication is a gift from God, and there's nothing wrong with it, used properly. It isn't always totally effective all by itself, not every kind of pain med works on every kind of problem or with every individual, and they do have side effects and can cause their own problems. But, when you need pain medications, you need them. The right medication can bring intractable pain to a managable level, even when it can't get rid of the pain completely. With the help of a good physician, one can find the kind and dosage of pain meds that alleviate some of the pain while avoiding the worst of the side effects. One has to decide how much drowsiness, alteration of consciousness, constipation, etc., one is willing to put up with to get rid of how much pain. I generally do not use pain medications with my chronic problems, but in the latest acute problems related to the torn ligament, the judicious use of a prescription pain medication has made it possible for me to get from bed to chair to bathroom without scaring the neighborhood with blood-curdling screams, which has been very good indeed.

And then, there's offering up. It's good to know that our trials, pain, and sufferings are not solely meaningless torture. We are invited --- nay, commanded --- to die with Christ. What else can "take up one's cross" mean, since crosses are for dying on? And St. Paul teaches us that we can make up in our own sufferings what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. By offering our pain to Jesus as a gift, he can use it with his own offering in the redemption of the world.

That's not to say that offering up is easy. It's like a puppy that has been taught to walk on the back legs only --- it's not a wonder that it is done badly, it is a wonder that it is done at all. Offering up doesn't come naturally; it's bitching and moaning and making other people as miserable as one's self that comes naturally. I'm supposed to offer God my pain as a gift, not throw it in His face. As the years go by, I get a little better at it, since I get more practice. Sometimes I have the grace to do it, other times I flop.

There's no need to always be strong and perfect. Don't be afraid to tell God exactly what you think. I've screamed and yelled at God enough times. He can take it, and it isn't as though He's going to be fooled by one's attempts to be polite --- He already knows, in any case; hiding from Him is futile. Honesty with God, and with one's self, is a conduit of grace and the strength to carry on.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

A quick update: keep the prayers coming!

It got so bad this evening that I could bear no weight at all, so I called the triage nurse and was sent to the emergency room. My excellent next-door neighbor helped me get out of the house, down the porch steps and into the cab.

The doctor there doesn't know what the problem is, but they eliminated a bunch of stuff. He says it is not neuropathy, the pattern of pain isn't right for that. If it's an infection, it isn't far enough along to show in the blood test. and they took x-rays, and the prelim reading says no busted bones. So he thinks I've torn a ligament, probably, and sent me back home with an orthopedic bootie and a prescription for really good pain pills. (and gave me two before I left the ER and two more to hold me until I can get the prescription filled in the morning) They don't get rid of all the pain, but getting from 8/10 to about 4/10 means I can grit my teeth and hobble to the bathroom without screaming, which is a very good thing indeed.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Updates, recommendation, and prayer request

First, the prayer request. I've got a doctor appointment on Tuesday, but I need the strength today. I have reason to believe that the major diabetic complications are beginning. I DO so hate pain! Since yesterday, one of my feet has been screaming at me (6/10 when I'm off it, 8/10 when I have to stand and hobble on it) with no accident, no wound or signs of injury, no bruising, redness, extra swelling, warmth or cold spots, and no fever, just pain, LOTS of pain. And the one over-the-counter pain medicine I'm allowed to use does not help even a little bit. I've got enough problems, I really do not need to add neuropathy to the litany, I really don't

I've had a few interesting encounters in forums and other bloggers' comboxes this week, and two ideas are trying to form themselves into full posts; 1) how we can trust the Church and her bishops to guide us in our life of faith, despite all the foibles thereof, and even on the occasions that they are wrong about something or other, and 2) how a barque of Peter that is all starboard stern or all port bow won't float, but we have to keep all of the Church --- starboard stern, port bow, the entire amidships, and the steerage and all the other humble necessary parts below the water line; Catholic meaning Everybody.

And, Archbishop Dolan has a really good article in yesterday's Catholic Herald. It isn't online quite yet, but when it is, it will be at this link for a week, then move to a permanent archive link accessable from this current page link. The title is: Bring civility, charity into campaign season, and it concerns the deluge of negative campaign activity that currently swamps our fair city and state.

Thanks for the prayers, and hang in there....


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Catholic Carnival 89

is open for visitors at Deo Omnis Gloria. Thanks, Jay, for your work keeping the Carnival going.

Monday, October 16, 2006

St. Gerard Majella: Credibly Accused of Sexual Abuse

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

[from the writings of St Gerard Majella]

St. Gerard Majella, from an old holy card

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

In 1748 he entered the Redemptorist community as a lay-brother after being refused several times because they didn't think he was physically strong enough; the founder of the community, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, received his profession in 1752. Gerard served as tailor and infirmarian in the community, and became known for great holiness and charity, and for charisms of prophesy and infused knowledge; his advice and spiritual direction were sought after, even though he was not a priest.

However, disaster was coming over the horizon.

In 1754, a woman whom Gerard had helped to enter the convent washed out of the convent, and to distract attention from her failure at religious life she accused Gerard of fornication and lechery, and that he had imposed himself upon the young daughter of a gentleman who regularly gave hospitality to travelling Redemptorists, believably. When confronted with the charges, Gerard made no answer at all to them, and, the charges being credible, he was placed under every penalty short of expulsion from the community: close confinement and surveillance, no contact with the outside world, exclusion from communion..... and this went on for months and months.

Finally, the accuser became gravely ill, and, believing herself to be dying, she admitted she had lied about Gerard. When St. Alphonsus asked Gerard why he had remained silent before the accusations, Gerard replied that he believed that was what was required in the face of unjust accusations; after all, Jesus did not answer Pilate, and the rule of the Redemptorists said that one was not to defend oneself from the charges of one's superior.

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

An interesting link to information on St. Gerard Majella is here
And another interesting link is here.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Terrence asked for it........

When I wrote on Blessed John XXIII's feast yesterday, about growing up Catholic before, during, and after a great Council of the Church, Terrence replied in the combox, and seemed a bit peeved that I loved learning the teachings of the Church and trying as best I could to live them, and also that I loved then, and still love, praying the Mass, and said that it was less than optimal to sit on a pew for the bare minimum amount of time in order to get the stay-out-of-hell card punched. Yet I cannot believe that he actually thinks it is better to remain ignorant of the holy faith, or to refuse to worship fully in the holy Eucharist.

So, I have to sit here at my home sweet anchor hold's virtual window and try to make myself a little clearer, trying not to rant too much.

Now, it is possible to have a minimum Catholicism, and it is really Catholic, though really minimum. This was taught to us way back when as the "Precepts of the Church":

1) Show up at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, at least from the Gospel until Father receives Communion, or else it's a mortal sin and you will go to hell.

2) Confess all mortal sinning within one year. [How can anyone stand to wait even a day after being convicted, I still don't know.]

3) Receive Communion once a year, near Easter; called the "Easter Duty" as though receiving Jesus Himself in Communion was a chore.

4) Fast and abstain when the Church says to, if you make a mistake here that's a mortal sin too.

5) Support the parish, put money in the collection basket and poorbox.

6) Only get married in church by Church rules, not just at the courthouse.

Minimum Practical Catholicism can, in the objective external forum, keep one out of hell. But it comes very much too close to that miserable piss-poor excuse for a question, "What is the least I can get away with to be saved?" Terrifying brinkmanship. This isn't going to sustain a life long-term, or attract anyone else. And, it's sad; crusts for food and rags for clothes compared to all the riches available to any child of God and child of Mother Church just for the asking. All the riches of two millennia of the holy faith, the entirely complete and purest Truth, the fullest holiness and virtue, is available to every Catholic, if they only open their eyes and reach out their hands! The Church doesn't keep any of this a secret.

And, it's a scandal besides, when Catholic people, with the whole Truth and all the sacramental means of grace, are, or at least seem, satisfied with a mediocre life of minimal holiness when we ought not be satisfied with anything less than continually growing holiness of life. Especially when so many of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, deprived of many Truths, without the sacraments to help them except baptism (and the Society of Friends and Salvation Army don't even have baptism), with only the vaguest awareness of the Communion of Saints, strive for and achieve such holiness of life with only such remnants of the riches as survived the Reformation or that we Catholics left laying around.

So, how do we bring the CAPE Catholics (Christmas, Ashes, Palms, Easter), the carried-in Catholics (in godparent's arms to get baptised, on daddy's arm to be married, by pallbearers to be buried), our non-Catholic siblings in faith, and the masses of never-evangelized secularized people, to the fullness of Catholic faith and life? We have to begin by living a fully Catholic life ourselves, a life that then will attract others who will want to have what we have.

We need to spend time with God, every day. How can we claim to love God or come to love God if we never spend any time with Him? So, pray every morning before doing anything else. Offer one's day to God. And look over the day with God, repent of any faults, and pray at the end of the day before bed. There's more about this in the Spiritual Fitness Program for Beginners and the Out-of-Shape, including some model morning offering prayers and helpful hints. Morning offering and night examination of conscience is how spiritual fitness has been achieved for at least the last 1700 years. And, pray with the Bible, the words of the Word. Spend some time, find out about the Lord, learn His likes and dislikes. One would do as much for one's earthly dear ones, why care less than that about God?

We need to develop habits of behaving like Catholics. The basic list of the things Catholics do is called the "Works of Mercy" and the way to form a habit is to do something over and over again. So, at least one merciful act every day, until mercy becomes a habitual way of life.

We need to learn what the Church teaches. Not what we think we heard somewhere or what the daily secular paper might have said or what we think we remember from our grade school CCD class, but what the Church actually teaches. For almost all of us most of the time, this will mean some amount of studying, and (Terrence, you may want to avert your eyes...) documents. It could also include lectures, guided retreats, hours listening to wise and holy elders, and paying attention to one's pastor and one's bishops when they give instruction. This study, if it is to be effectual, needs to be with a docile mind and a willingness to live out the teachings in life, no matter how inconvenient that might be. And yes, the teachings of the Church are sometimes quite inconvenient. Counter-cultural, even. This study will not be effectual if undertaken to obtain ammunition against one's pastors or bishops or anyone else, or to try to find ways out of the inconvenient parts.

The Church does not keep any of its teachings secret. They are all published, with as much depth as anyone would ever need or want. That's part of why I found growing up Catholic such a wonder, there was, and is, always more to learn and more ways to grow in faith. Even, Terrence, in the teaching documents of the Church. Good places to start are the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Compendium to the Catechism, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and Lumen gentium and Gaudium et Spes which are two documents from the Ecumenical Council on the nature of the Church. From them one can proceed all over, beginning by simply following the footnotes. The lives of the saints are very instructive also, and often fun to read; and many of the saints left writings behind, and they are not all hopelessly deep or horribly technical.
St. Augustine's Confessions, St. Cyril of Jerusalem's mystagogical sermons, or St. Therese's Story of a Soul, might be places to begin and just one's cup of tea.

We need to take advantage of all the sacraments and means of grace we have. The Lord gave them to us for a reason, and that's because we need them. We need nourished, we need healed, we need forgiven, we need strengthened. So, attend Eucharist every day you can, and receive regularly. Take advantage of Reconciliation and all of that confessional grace of forgiveness. With nightly examination of conscience, one will find those nagging sins and faults that can use that confessional grace, even when one isn't convicted of any mortal sins. When one is seriously ill, or frail from age, do be anointed. Take steps to be confirmed, if for some reason one hasn't been yet, and if one's marriage isn't proper with the Church, make it right. Have a crucifix and holy images as reminders in one's home, and make appropriate use of blessed things, like rosaries and holy water.

And, we need to learn, at least a little bit, not to be shy. As we pray, and study, and behave mercifully, and use the means of grace, it will change our lives, and people will ask us about the change. They will ask the reason for our hope, since they will want it too. Each of us must be ready to answer, to give a reason, to bring the one who questions to the love of the Lord Jesus that we are nurturing, so that they, also, may share our hope and our joy. Those of us with the charisms for it might even go out and about to bring in even those who are not yet asking, but every single one of us is responsible to answer the ones who come and ask us from whence our hope comes.


The blood of martyrs brings forth fruit

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the murder of Father Joao Bosco Burnier, SJ

Father Burnier

Joao Bosco Burnier was a Brazilian Jesuit of very well-to-do family, who, after long service --- faithful, diligent, obedient, but not very successful --- as a glorified file clerk in Rome, and then as vice-provincial and master of novices during the implementation of the Ecumenical Council, was assigned in the late 1960's as a pastor in Mato Grosso state, first in Cuiaba and later even deeper into the Brazilian wilderness at Diamantino, where he lived and worked as a very conventional missionary priest.

In the first week of October 1976, Father Joao attended a pastoral meeting at Santa Terezinha; he had treated himself to an airplane ride to get there, but he would do the return trip by outrigger canoe and bus, accompanying his bishop +Pedro on an episcopal visitation of the circuit.

On the afternoon of the eleventh of October, the bishop and Father Joao arrived in the settlement of Ribeirao Bonito. Father Joao spent his afternoon praying and pondering in the parish's little garden, then he, the bishop, and the local pastoral staff, gathered with the faithful at the river to gather the water needed for the next day's baptisms, take it to the church, and bless it. Towards the end of the service, someone came in panic with a report of two local women being tortured in the local jail, and could the bishop come and try to stop it. The bishop agreed, but did not allow any of the local pastoral staff to accompany him, for fear of reprisals after he left them. But he did allow Father Joao to go with him to the jail, since Father would leave when he did and not be an ongoing target. So the bishop, young, tall, scrawny, with all the appearance of a underage curate, and Father Joao, middle-aged, graying, of dignified bearing and the total physical stereotype of a bishop, went off to the jail.

At this point, I'll let Robert McAfee Brown tell the story, in Legenda Aurea style ["The Wondrous Mystery of the Efficacious Death of Father Joao", The Other Side, October 1986]:

And when, after a father resisted the taking captive of his two beloved sons by a most barbarous officer, killing the officer in self-defense, behold, the police took his sister and his daughter-in-law captive and beat them, inflicting all manner of cruel tortures upon them. And when their cries became ever louder and their pleadings more inportunate, a youth in the village, hearing their distress, went forthwith to the bishop, entreating him to intercede on their behalf. And straightway did the bishop go to the police station, taking with him the blessed Joao, a member of the Society of Jesus who pled to accompany his excellency on an errand of such justice and mercy.

So brutal were the police, who, without ceasing, were continuing to inflict cruel assaults on the women, that when Father Joao stated his intention to report the matter to the regional authorities, a soldier who was present smote him a blow on the face and shot him through the head straightway.

Father Joao made his peace with God and prepared to die. He assured those who sought in vain to assauge his wounds that he offered up his life and death for the people who had been wronged in that region and repeated several times, in recollection of his beloved Savior on the Cross, the words,
Consummatum est, "it is accomplished." After three hours, he lost consciousness. The next day, he died.

Father Joao's body was taken to his parish at Diamantino, where he was buried in the village cemetery, among the people whom he loved and who loved him. But, that's not quite the end of the story. For the people of Ribeirao Bonito were extremely disturbed; if they were abused and disdignified, if one of them had been pistolwhipped and shot, that was just the way life is, but to attack a priest of God, that was just too much to endure! So, returning to "The Wondrous Mystery....":

And the people, who until now had been fearful to speak their indignation at acts of perfidy against their kind, did now wax wondrously indignant at the death of Father Joao and were not accepting of it. And behold, at the seventh-day Mass to honor the memory of the slain priest, their indignation overflowed, and, lamenting the evil that had been their lot, they marched in great solidarity to the site of his murder and of the torture of the two women, and there they planted a cross as a memorial. Then some, no longer willing to accept their lot, shouted out their wrath. "This is not a place where justice has been done," some said. "This is not a place where justice can be done." And together they acted out their wrath, destroying with their hands and fists and shovels and axes the police station, after which they broke down the walls of the jail and freed the prisoners, responding to the mandate of the Lord to liberate the captives.

And when there was no longer stone upon stone in that place, only the cross remained --- a cross of suffering, of judgment, of triumph. [....]

And the governors of the realm did hear of these actions and the actions of divers others elsewhere. And it came to pass that they enacted laws that forbade torture. And thus it was that Father Joao's death was efficacious for the ongoing life of many others and remains so to this day.

Joao Bosco Burnier, priest, holy defender of the innocent, pray for us.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A History of a True Blue Conciliar Kid

shrine to Blessed John XXIII at my parish

Today is the memorial day of Blessed John XXIII; and it is also the forty-fourth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, of which I have only positive memories. I guess you could call me a true blue conciliar kid!

I am just old enough to remember the pre-conciliar days: the very first liturgical change happened the Sunday following my first communion, so we had to learn how to receive communion both ways, the way it would be on first communion day and the way it would be for the rest of our lives. The Latin Mass I remember and love is that "radical innovation" called the dialogue Mass, where the entire congregation answered and sang back in Latin. In preparation for a trip to see relatives in another diocese, my grandmother told me about the "old Mass," the one where the priest and the altar boy had Mass in the sanctuary and the congregation had rosary and devotions in the pews at the same time; as a kindergartener I thought that was really wierd, but Grandma assured me that it was ok, that their bishop hadn't taught them about praying the Mass yet the way our bishop had.

The Council was happening around me as I grew up. The various documents would come out, they would be read and preached on, Latin changed to English, the language got plainer and simpler, both for the good and for the bad. (Bring back the bees, the autumn and the spring rains, and the joy of our youth, but we can do without going all the way back to "the sublime words falling from the Holy Father's august lips" for "the Pope said.")

Most of my classmates dropped out of religious education after fifth grade (and Confirmation), as seemed to be the perpetual tradition, but those of us who stayed had a steady stream of fresh Church documents to ponder as the Council continued and then was implemented. I found it great fun, but then I was a nerd. By high school, there were only 5 or 6 of us in my religious education class, when there should have been at least 5 or 6 dozen, if all the 15-year-old Catholics were in religious ed.

My parish gave up on formal religious ed classes when we turned sixteen; the half-dozen of us who were still there were welcomed into adult study groups and put to work instead. By the rules then used in Cleveland Diocese, 16 years old + confirmed = adult. I ended up on the parish liturgy committee, learning about rubrics and appropriate music and illuminating my first manuscript (a scroll of the Christmas proclamation from the Roman Martyrology for the creche display). I also got my own paperback copy of the complete Documents of Vatican II as a present from my confessor! Of course I've worn it out and replaced it several times since 1973......

So, I'm a 100% true blue Conciliar Kid --- too old to fall for romantic tales of the good old days, too young to regret the passing of the good old days; remembering the excitement as each document of the Council and each post-conciliar encyclical and apostolic letter would be issued in those skinny little stapled booklets with the discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and how we would read them over and over again, and set out to live them.

And it all started 44 years ago today.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

St. Francis Borgia: Ancestry Is Not Destiny

If ancestry was destiny, we'd never have today's saint, since he suffered from extremely unfortunate ancestors. Francis was the illegitimate great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI of unfortunate memory, as well as the illegitimate grandson of King Ferdinand of Aragon. For all of Pope Alexander's many faults, he did not abandon his children, but acknowledged them and assured that they were securely placed in life, so he gave to Francis' grandfather his son the Duchy of Gandia.

So Francis grew up as a Spanish nobleman and heir. He loved learning, and received a quite creditable education, which he put to good use as a royal courtier. Eventually, he inherited the title from his father, and lived as a ordinarily upright and conventionally pious duke. He was successful in court politics, married a lady of the court, and had eight children. As Duke, he founded a university and several colleges, and imported Jesuits and Dominicans to run them.

Due to a series of personal reverses, including the death of his wife, he experienced a conversion, and became much more serious about his spiritual life, not that he was at all impious before. After concluding all of his outstanding political affairs, and seeing to the future provision of his children, he yielded his noble title to his heir and entered the Society of Jesus, where, besides growing in holiness, he eventually became the third General of the Society. Establishing the Jesuit missions in the Americas, and instrumental in regulating the internal functioning of the Society, he is often called the second founder of the Society.

So, ancestry and genetics are not all there is; they are very minor next to the graces and mercies of God.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Collar: Forming Priests Forever

The story of five not-so-young men --- Ron, Dean, Jim H, Jim P, and Don --- and their seminary classmates, being formed to, if they can, be priests. Two "new men", two partway through formation, one final-year seminarian nearly ready to petition for ordination. Real men, at a real seminary, our wonderful local Sacred Heart Seminary right here in Milwaukee. By the end of the academic year, one is ordained, two proceed to the next year of formation, two leave, one voluntarily, one not. Very real, doubts and fears and errors included; not Pollyanna and not M. Rose either.

The author, Jonathan Englert, spent the year embedded at the seminary, with wide-open access to all aspects of the seminary life, and even the personal lives of his five selected men. He writes clearly and well, and the narrative grabs one and brings one along; although entirely fact, it reads much like a novel.

I'm jumping the gun just a little, since I'm only 3/4 through the second, careful, reading, but this book, is most definitely worth reading. In fact, I think it's mandatory corrective reading for anyone who has been exposed to the M. Rose "expose" of seminary life. Those with book budgets can purchase the book through this link to Amazon or at your favorite bookstore, those without can bug your local public library for it (I do have to plug my former employer!)

Seminary is a very different, and some believe strange and mysterious, place. A place that produces (or at least is supposed to) ontologically different, self-giving, other-oriented priests. The priests the Church needs, without whom the sacramental life of the Church is terribly crippled. This book takes away the strangeness and the mystification, leaving just a wonderful appreciation of the differences that make seminaries what they are, and not just another graduate school.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Christian Carnival

this week's Christian Carnival is now available at the Nerd Family.

By the way, my next turn as host is scheduled for Christmas Week.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Transitus: how to go to the Father

On this night, many years ago, our brother Francis was Called to his Father.

It had been seen coming for a long time, Francis was never very strong, and he'd been ill and frail ever since he had come home from the Crusades with that eye disease. And, a few years before, he had become totally conformed to his Lord --- the holy brother Leo the priest had witnessed it --- and his suffering was extreme. But now the time had actually arrived.

Earlier in the day, Francis had asked one of his brothers to go, just as fast as he could, to Rome, and bring back to him the third most important lady in his life (after Lady Poverty and the Lady Clare), Jacopa Frangipani di Settesoli, and if she could please bring with her some fabric for his shroud and a batch of those almond cookies it would be such a goodness. [All the brothers were entirely hooked on Jacopa's almond cookies.] But before the brother could even leave the place, Jacopa and her entourage rode up; she said she'd had a vision to come. She even had with her the new shroud, everything necessary to prepare the body for burial, and even a triple batch of those almond cookies. A few of the brothers were upset about Jacopa's arrival, and wouldn't let her into the place; after all, she was a girl, and there were rules. But Francis told them to lighten up and let Brother Jacopa in.

Francis asked his brothers to take him out of bed and lay him on the ground. He took some bread, broke it and shared it with them each, then asked that Jesus' words at the Last Supper [John 14-17] be read for him. The community then sang the Canticle of the Creatures that Francis had composed, and then prayed some psalms. Francis died during Psalm 142, his last words were, "Bring my soul out of prison, and I shall praise Your name."

Thus did our brother Francis pass from this life to the life true and eternal; may he pray for us, that we may also be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Christian Carnival 141

A day late but extra good, the Christian Carnival is now available at A Penitent Blogger.


Banned Books Week

Bego at A Cup of Coffee and a Random Thought reminded me that it's Banned Books Week.

Free people:
write books
publish books
sell books
buy books
read books
lend books
borrow books
don't ban books.

I remember when Mom sat my oldest younger brother and me down for The Talk. No, not the sex talk, the book talk. I was in fourth or fifth grade and he was one year back, and we were both reading well beyond our ages, including novels written for adults. Mom had been valiently reading trying to read everything we did before we did, and had come to the conclusion that she wasn't going to be able to keep up, we were both so voracious. Therefore, The Talk.

1) Just because it's printed doesn't mean it's true or accurate. Lies can be told in books and magazines too.

2) Not every book is for everybody. Books one of you likes the other might not, and that's ok. And there are books you might enjoy that aren't good for reading out loud to younger siblings.

3) Just because you start reading a book doesn't mean you have to finish it. If you don't like it, or it's gross or too scary or just seems wierd, it's ok and really good to stop reading that one, no matter how many other people seem to like it. [I followed through on this one once, when a friend lent me The Boston Strangler in 7th grade, and I gave it back having only read to page three.... too strange.]

4) Any questions about what you're reading, come and ask! Anything!

Granted, the 1960's were somewhat more innocent, but not so much more so that the same guidance isn't sufficient for the reading of all the treasures of the public library and the full-service bookstore. More books, more reading, not less!


More Penance, More Prayer! (and another polite missive to the congresspeople)

Here's an update from the New York Times on that ghastly "anti-terrorism" bill in Congress. The part about explicitly redefining the Geneva Conventions out of existence has been removed from the bill since the administration believes it has found other ways around its inconvenient provisions, but the rest of the bill is as awful as it ever was. So, more penance, more prayer!


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

87th Catholic Carnival

is now available at Luminous Miseries.

Glad to see Luminous Miseries back in business again.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Matthew Levi and his coming-out party

Today is the feast of St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist, one of Jesus' more unique characters.

For, you see, Matthew had really sunk low in the world. He calls himself Matthew, but the other gospel writers call him Levi. This meant he had a hereditary job, serving the Lord in the holy temple; or at least that was what he was supposed to be doing. What he actually was doing was collecting taxes.

Back then, tax collecting wasn't an upright or honorable profession, this was long, long before the IRS. Tax collecting was one of the least honorable trades to be had, socially on a par with prostitution as a way of life. The occupiers didn't collect their own taxes; they hired out that job to independent contractors, who were paid a percentage of the take. So the less honest and more vicious one was, the richer one got. Not only was the tax collector collaborating with those rotten Roman occupation forces, he was (almost universally) fleecing his own people besides! And this life of well-to-do outcast collaborator, public sinner, was Matthew Levi's.

Jesus came to get him at the tax collector's office. Jesus called to Matthew, and Matthew wasted no time leaving the office not only for the day but for keeps. [When tough times came later, the fisher folk occasionally went back to fishing for their support, which could be done honorably and without sinning; but Matthew never went back to the office, the temptation levels were just too high.]

But, before he left town and went out on the road with Jesus, he had Jesus over to his house and threw a rip-roaring good party with Jesus the guest of honor and the rest of the guest list being Matthew's friends, the only sort of friends a tax collector could have: other tax collectors, Roman collaborators of other occupations, and other public sinners. Not a single respectable upstanding citizen in the lot of them. Yet, these were Matthew's friends. Matthew had been found by Jesus and was getting out; he wasn't going to go before all his friends got to meet Jesus also.

Here's how St. Bede preached about this party, in the passage in today's Office of Readings: This conversion of one tax collector gave many men, those from his own profession and other sinners, an example of repentance and pardon. Notice also the happy and true anticipation of his future status as apostle and teacher of the nations. No sooner was he converted than Matthew drew after him a whole crowd of sinners along the same road to salvation. He took up his appointed duties while still taking his first steps in the faith, and from that hour he fulfilled his obligations and thus grew in merit. ...

Matthew, apostle and evangelist, faithful friend, pray for us.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

[rant] What about On the Putative Faithful?

It's time for me to rant a little.

All this week and all next week, Holy Mother Church in the Office of Readings has us reading St. Augustine on pastors (from the sermon of that title) and the holy Prophet Ezechiel on (rotten) shepherds. These might as well be titled "All the Ways Your Bishop Can Screw Up" or "Fifty Ways to Condemn Your Pastor".

But, to listen to us in the Bloggsville comboxes, we don't need any help to condemn our pastors, we are already very efficient at that. And we already know all the ways that our bishops can screw up. Those of us who did not know it before had a crash course in that subject in 2002 with Boston's long Lent, Palm Beach's repeated bereavement, and all the rest of it.

Where, might I ask, is the document we really need? Where is "On Parishioners", or, maybe, "On the Putative Faithful? We screw up as followers, students, and sheep just as much, if not more, than the pastors and the bishops flub being leaders, teachers, and shepherds. And, plenty of the ways they fail are directly related to our refusals and misdoing and sheer stubbornness.

If I cultivate a teachable spirit, and hold out my hand to be taken and led, it is no surprise when I am taught and sheltered and led. If, on the other hand, I sit like a bump on a log and fight kicking and biting when anyone tries to pick me up, should I be very surprised when, after dozens of attempts to lure me or budge me, my caretaker succumbs to discouragement and gives up trying?

We have a duty to honor and care for our pastors, just as they have a duty to honor and care for us. When the newly-named bishop arrives, and the chancellor, the college of consultors, the papal nuncio, et alia sit him down in the big chair with the crozier in his hand, he takes on responsibilities and duties toward us --- and we take on reciprocal responsibilities and duties toward him.

Our bishop is to nurture and care for us.
We are to nurture and care for our bishop.

Our bishop is to teach us and to give us guidance in the way of the Lord.
We are to pay attention to the bishop's teachings and to be amenable to being guided.

Our bishop is to treat us with honor and care and respect, even when he has to correct us or rebuke us.
We are to treat the bishop with honor and care and respect, even when we have to respectfully disagree with him or even correct him.

Our bishop prays for us. We pray for our bishop(and not just in the Eucharistic Prayer on Sunday!).

I could continue....

As we continue praying "On Pastors" for the rest of this week, let us not gloat. Let us remember that we parishioners have duties and responsibilities to match every one of the duties that St Augustine is taking them pastors to task for, and in many ways we've been equal screw-ups with, or ever greater screw-ups than, our pastors and our bishops. Many of the problems of our pastors and our bishops in these days stem in some part, maybe large part, from our own failures at fulfilling our parts in our relationships with them.

We failed to pray for them, and picked at them instead. We expected to be deferred to, rather than to be taught; so we wouldn't pay attention to any teaching that we didn't like or that made us feel uncomfortable. When we disagreed with one or another prudential judgment of our pastor or our bishop, we tantrummed and made public shameful scenes, even when what was decided was well within the applicable norms and reasonable common-sense. When we were supposed to be gathered around our bishop as one holy people we insisted on dividing into factions and fighting internecine warfare in and over the Lord's Church.

It was never intended that all the holiness of the Church come from the priests, and maybe the sisters. The holiness of the Church is to come from all of us --- or more correctly, from our Lord through every single one of us. We cannot get away with or be satisfied with anything less than sanctity of life. Not only Prophet Ezechiel's and St Augustine's targets this fortnight, but me and you and all of us! Lord, have mercy; all saints of God, pray for us.


Christian Carnival CXL

This week's Carnival, chock full of good posts, is available at Lux Venit. Several commentaries about Pope Benedict's lecture at U of Regensberg are particularly interesting.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ember Days!

Tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday are this season's Ember Days. Rather than create yet another Ember Day easy essay (I think you've seen enough of those for now), here's a prosier essay by Ron Talley of the CatholicCafe listserv:

The Ember Days

A devotional invitation to fasting and abstinence, encouraging moderation in our use of the goods of creation.

One of the ancient traditional devotions of the church that isn't observed much anymore are the "Ember Days." In the fifth century AD, this observance was well known and was described as being of "apostolic origin". Ember Days were observed with prayer and fasting, according to the online edition of the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia, on "the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after13 December (S. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday, and after 14 September (Exaltation of the Cross). The purpose of these days of fasting and abstinence, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy."

As the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross falls on a Thursday this year (Sept. 14, 2006), the Ember days fall on the following Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, the 20th, 22nd, and 23rd of September.

Given the many complicated crises facing the world, we call upon Christians to observe the September Ember days of prayer and fasting for the traditional intentions.

The Ember Days are a devotion that should be revived. We need regular reminders of the importance of moderation in the use of material goods. We therefore encourage everybody to observe these days with fasting, abstinence, and works of reparation, mercy, justice, and peace.

There is an "anything goes" attitude these days, and that is as true in economics and business as it is in media and entertainment. We say we "need" something, when in reality we only "want" it, and we are disposed to think that our "wants" are mandates. Over consumption of material goods is a manifestation of the cardinal sins of greed and gluttony. It indicates a problem with disordered priorities. It is also fundamental to our economy, and that is one of our big problems. "In (this) God (money) We Trust."

We don't want to think about the costs, so we don't, often we try to ignore them until we are forced by our circumstances to do so. Even then, we will still try to stand apart from our own actions, denying our responsibility, and attempting to evade the consequences (or shift them over on someone else).

There is an ever present and very noisy propaganda crusade preaching that we should "spend, consume, waste", but God is not the author of that confusion, that comes from the demonic spirits that prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. If you buy that agenda, you're not building the Kingdom of God here on Earth "as it is in heaven."

Perhaps this is one reason why Mother Teresa advised the rich to "Live simply, so that others may simply live." Maybe that's also a clue as to what the Ember days can mean for us in these early days of the 21st century. The more abundance of "stuff" we have, the more we need reminders of the importance of moderation in the use of material things.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

A New Blessed

This is Sister Sara Salkahazi [the link goes to the memorial site of her religious order], who is being beatified today.

Quite the down-to-earth lady, yes?

A Sister of Social Service, she ran hostels for working women, and was summarily executed on December 27, 1944 when she was discovered hiding Jewish women in her hostel in Budapest.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Contrition and being out and owning up to one's own self

A couple weeks ago was the memorial of St. Gregory the Great. In the passage the Church offers us for his Office of Readings, he, from the most illustrious pulpit in all Christendom, states exactly where he stands:

How hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself. I cannot preach with any competence, and yet insofar as I do succeed, still I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching. I do not deny my responsibility; I recognize that I am slothful and negligent, but perhaps the acknowledgement of my fault will win me pardon from my just judge.

but yet he has hope:

Truly the all-powerful Creator and Redeemer of mankind can give me in spite of my weaknesses a higher life and effective speech; because I love him, I do not spare myself in speaking of him.

Another wise and holy bishop, this one still among us, wrote many many years ago, in words meant to be seen by only one other person in the whole world, but now belonging to us all:

During the last months I have come to know how strained I was, tense, pensive, without much joy. I couldn't pray at all. I just did not seem to be honest with God. I felt I was fleeing from Him, from facing Him. I know what the trouble was: I was letting your conscience take over for me and I couldn't live with it. I felt like the world's worst hypocrite. .....I was at a crossroads -- and I knew I had to get the courage to decide. There is no other way for me to live....... I failed you, I failed myself. I failed as a friend, I failed as priest. .....I did nothing but cry and try to pray....... I begged for forgiveness for having failed you and for the grace of standing up again and trying to be -- not a bishop -- just a Christian.

And we do not have to be holy and wise bishops to know that we do not always live up to our own standards. I definitely know that in my own life. One of my fellow Catholic bloggers has even named his blog "I see the right way and approve of it, then do the opposite".

And yet, there is hope for us. And it begins with conviction and contrition. I name myself hypocrite, so Jesus doesn't have to. I, the shy and timid, and highly embarrassed, do my best to be bold and confident as I place all my failures in Jesus' all-loving and all-merciful heart.

As I mentioned in the last post, what were the first symptoms that the fall had happened? First, Adam and Eve tried to hide from God, then they blamed someone else. But I am redeemed, born into a new life, and should have nothing to do with either one of these. [The hiding from God part just plain isn't possible, in any case!]

So every time I find myself a failure in following my own standards, I have to not hide from God, and not hide from myself, and say with honesty and humility and confidence: I have sinned through my own fault. For:

Ultimately I understand that the humanity God so loved and sought to redeem, including my own humanity, will be transformed by His loving embrace and grace.

as that wise and holy bishop said to the Church he gave up that friendship to serve with a single heart. It is as true of me as it is of him, and it is just as true for every one of us.

So let us not refuse to say: I, supposed Christian, hypocrite! And may I never flee the grace of God that answers, Welcome home!