Tuesday, May 30, 2006

the virtual anchor hold is 4 years old today

Today is May 30th. Four years ago this day, the virtual Anchor Hold was born, out of the internecine warfare that mars the face of our holy Church.

Only about ten days before, two of my dearest listserv acquaintances, Mark Shea from the REBORN listserv, and the late Gerard Serafin of FreeCatholic and a few other places (Gerard pray for us!) had written to the lists about their shiny new blogs, and I went over to give them an ogle. On May 23rd, one of my graduate-school classmates delivered a nasty retirement present to my retiring archbishop, and the early long Dormition Fast of 2002 began, and the Catholic portions of the internet seemed to explode, often with statements that appeared to have little correspondence with reality. There was so much that needed said, by someone who actually belonged to this local church, so, less than two weeks after I read my first blog, I was writing my own.

I didn't know how to bold or italic or make a link that actually worked, so the first few days were painfully and embarrassingly plain. My first-day posts were an introduction, a reply to Sean of Nota Bene about what had happened here, and a prayer request for our archbishop.

There are ten lessons, truths of faith and life, that were learned, or painfully and powerfully reinforced, in the first few turbulent months of this site, which will remain true no matter what the current troubles are or who might be the current pariah. Or even if the current pariah should come to be me. The site's anniversary is an excellent time to review them:

1) The details of our long-ago-confessed and long-ago-absolved sins and stupidities are the business only of God. They are most definitely not the business of those who would turn them into cudgels.

2) The details of the sins of other people are none of my business; I've enough troubles with my own.

3) Sins and stupidities do not negate goodness, wisdom, love, or generosity.

4) The Accuser of the Brethren can have no foothold among us if we refuse to play his foul game. We must not accuse others, only ourselves. We cannot defend ourselves, even justly, by accusing anybody else of anything; not if we seek to live truly submitted lives.

5) The Church has wisely declared that the Lord can and does use imperfect instruments to build his Kingdom, and that the sacraments are not dependent on the perfection of their ministers. If we insist on having only perfect bishops who have only perfect priests, we will have neither bishops nor priests; for all of us have sinned, every single one of us has done spectacularly stupid things, and even the strongest and most faithful of us come equipped with two clay feet.

6) Where the bishop is, there is the Catholic Church, which the Lord has promised to protect and sustain, and there is no other place where one can be certain of that.

7) When chaos is breaking out all over and the world is spinning and shaking, one reaches deep down inside, down to the foundations of the soul, and finds one of those things that are known to be true and will not change, and one clings tightly to that until the chaos subsides. Two of those unchanging true things are "God made me to know Him, and to love Him, and to serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever and ever in Heaven" and "God is all-good and deserving of all my love."

8) I have myself sinned and have done some incredibly dumb things; I have no right to ridicule anybody, ever.

9) The judgment I judge is the judgment I will be judged by; the forgiveness I offer will be the forgiveness I receive. So how dare I even think of stringent judgment or withholding my forgiveness?

and 10) from the public chapter of faults, the last formal teaching, of my gentle and devoted retired archbishop, who was the designated pariah when this site was brought into being four years ago: I have learned how frail my own human nature is, how in need of God’s loving embrace I am. Empty-handed for me now means a willingness to accept my humanity totally, just as Christ accepted that same human nature out of love. But for me it also means to be fully receptive to whatever God wants to place in those hands, to be ready with empty hands to receive new life.
But I am also aware much self-pity and pride remain. I must leave that pride behind. Each day I will try to leave room for God to enter into my life more and more. 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.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

A little pondering on Offering Up

this was written for a wild-and-wooly listserv called "freecatholic" today.

At 09:31 AM 5/27/2006, [Somebody] wrote:
>Karen Marie Knapp wrote:
> > "Handling it" and "offering it up" are
> > like a trick dog walking on two legs
> > only ---- it's not a wonder that it does
> > it badly; it's a wonder it manages
> > it at all.
>I do wish that someone could explain
>to me fully and clearly about this
>"Offer it up" principle. I've learned
>a pretty fair amount about the RCC
>and its unique traditions, and I keep
>seeing references to this, in cases
>of intractable pain or even minor pain,
>but I never quite "get" it.

OK, I'll give it a try. Please be patient with me.

As we both know, Jesus Christ of His own will was crucified, dying,and conquering sin, death, and alienation from God for each and every human in his self-oblation and resurrection. He also instructed each of us to take up one's cross and follow Him --- to death, since crosses are for dying on. And St. Paul taught that he (and each of us) could make up in our own suffering what was lacking in the suffering of Christ. Wha? Jesus is God, what could be lacking? But it is still revealed that our trials and sufferings can make a difference.

I've come to believe, from sheer observation, that not having a cross is not one of the options for any human being. The only option each of us have is what each of us does about it. The cross can be accepted, carried freely, embraced, and offered to God as gift and sacrifice --- or one can be bound to it unwillingly, fighting and struggling, and be crushed and broken by it.

It's also, the difference between slaughter and sacrifice. Both involve slitting the throat of a really tasty animal, but it only brings the values of sacrifice if it is offered as gift. Otherwise, it is just dinner.

>One of the moe puzzling references to me
>was fiction, indeed, a murder
>mystery in which a very intense young
>priest poisoned his mother, who was
>dying of terminal, very painful, cancer,
>because he saw that she wasn't
>taking all her morphine on schedule, and
>thought that she was saving up the
>pills to have enough for suicide, and he
>wanted to save her soul from the
>sin of suicide, while taking that of
>murder onto his own soul. One plot
>twist was that his priest friend told
>him after he'd done it that she was
>not taking the meds, not for saving them
>up, but because she was "offering
>it up", deliberately. I did get that that
>was a _good_ thing, and a heroic
>sort of thing for the mother to be doing,
>but there's still something (a
>lot) lacking in my understanding of the
>whole principle of deliberately
>suffering unnecessary pain. Is it
>supposed to be a living penance, giving
>you less time in purgatory, or "adding
>to Christ's suffering" in some way,
>for a penance for all the world's sins,
>or something else entirely?

I have, a few times, had the kind of pain where the types or amounts of pain meds necessary to get rid of the pain also fog the mind or induce lethargy. At the end of life, pain relief can even mean drugging into unconsciousness. And choices have to be made, how much of the pain to alleviate over against how much ability to reason, to understand, and (important to this discussion) to pray and to make gifts, one wants to retain. Sometimes, one can't have them both. Some choose, sometimes heroically, not to alleviate as much of the pain as they could, in order to be able to function mentally and spiritually, including making the offering gift. For pain beyond the physical warning function is by itself just torturous suffering; it can only be an offering unified with Christ's and efficacious in the redemption ---- remember St. Paul's "making up what is lacking in Christ's suffering"? --- if it is given as gift. A slaughter is only a slaughter, but a sacrifice is given.

>And if it's pain that you _can't_ get out
>of, how is "offering it up" done,
>and how is it virtuous, since you
>don't have choice?

Granted that there is very little choice about the pain (or the bereavement, or the destitution, or the whatever), but there are choices about what one does with it or about it. One doesn't have to offer it to God, live as well as possible in the present, and so on. One can, and more than some do, rant and rave at all and sundry, stubbornly deny there's anything wrong, use it as a reason that the whole universe should revolve around oneself, and/or curl up and become an inert lump without putting up a fight. Happenings are just happenings, but what one does concerning happenings can be virtuous, or not, or even evil.

I'm glad that St. Paul wrote that how we handle suffering and affliction can actually make a difference. I think it would drive me to despair if the afflictions of this life had no meaning but torture, no use in hope.

I hope I've made some sense.

karen marie

"They have the Holy Spirit; how can we NOT baptize them?"

Last Sunday, while everybody everywhere (including +Timothy) were preaching on "God is Love", according to the two readings by St. John, there actually was a first reading, from the tenth chapter of Acts.

In that reading, St. Peter is confronted with a dilemma. He's been summoned to the home of a Gentile. Not just any Gentile but a Roman, and not just any Roman but an officer of the occupation forces. A believer. One on whom God's Spirit has descended in power. It took some doing by God, including a prophetic dream that is described just before the passage assigned Sunday, but St. Peter did give the only right answer --- "How can't we baptize these people, they have the Holy Spirit same as us?"

Even after this, it took a while for the universality of salvation to really sink into St. Peter. St. Paul has to call him out about it at least once. Yet it is true that there are those among all the nations whose God is the LORD.

Of course, now that we all know that, we can look back with perfect 20/20 hindsight and see that it is not that much of a surprise.

Yes, the LORD chose a people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet Abraham had two sons, and the LORD made promises to both of them. This is the LORD who always keeps His promises.

When His people were captive in Egypt, He brought them forth with His outstretched arm and pillar of fire --- and a mixed multitude with them who threw in their lot with the LORD and his people. Rahab, from Jericho, and Ruth, a Moabite, are admitted to the LORD's people and are the ancestors of David the King, and this even though Moabites were to be excluded from the people for 40 generations, and even though Rahab had been a sex worker. They claimed the LORD, and the LORD claimed them.

When God gave the instructions for constructing the Tent of Meeting (and later, the Temple), it was arranged in areas that were progressively more protected and set apart, more and more holy. At the very center was the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and where the pillar of fire would descend, where only the high priest would enter, and only once each year after great preparation. Then there was the court of the priests, where the incense and the "show-bread" were offered (remember, St, Zechariah was chosen one day to make the incense-offering and....), then the court of the Levites, then the courts for the men and the women of Israel, ans a court where those of every and all nations could enter and worship the LORD. The LORD was the God not only of Israel, though He chose them, but is the one only God in all the world.

Jesus defended the rights of all people of any nation to worship the LORD His Father in the Temple. The one place in all the world set aside for those of all nations to worship the one true God, the temple service providers had taken over for a marketplace, leaving no place in the Holy Place for non-Israelites to worship the true God. Jesus drove out the animals and chased away the currency exchanges from the Court of Gentiles. For the Temple is a house of prayer for all peoples, not just the one people. For all of us whose mothers' mothers weren't Jewish, as those whose mothers' mothers were.

So, looking back, is it really any suprise that the Spirit of the Lord fell on the household of a Roman non-commissioned officer? The LORD chose all sorts of people to be His own ---including public sinners like Rahab, and people from notoriously irredeemable nations like Ruth --- and He reserved a great court of the Temple for them. A surprise?


Thursday, May 25, 2006

"A Son becomes a Father" returns to the Father

Father Todd Reitmeyer, one of the early Catholic bloggers and the keeper of the blog A Son becomes a Father, died yesterday afternoon in a boating accident while vacationing with his family in Texas.

Eternal rest grant to Him, O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon him. May the soul of Father Todd, and those of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Reminder: Rogation Days, May 22-24

Before I leave for the ordinations this morning, a small public service reminder. The Rogation Days are Monday through Wednesday of this coming week (unless your bishop has moved them because you are in the southern hemisphere...). Remember to check your holy water supply and refill it if nrcessary when you attend Liturgy tomorrow. And, during the Rogation Days, do bless your vegetable garden and your faithful stands of rhubarb and asperagus, and sing the litanies over them, as our Catholic ancestors have done generation after generation. Our food does not originate in the grocery store; it originates with God.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Lord will send us shepherds

On Saturday, five men will be ordained as priests here in Milwaukee. Do follow the linked names to their testimonies.

Richard Wendell

James Jaeger

Nathan Reesman

Jason Lavann

Robert Kacalo

Pray for them, and those being ordained this season where you are, and for all the Lord calls to ordained service to His Body, the Church.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Praise and Worship in the Beauty of Holiness

to continue with my contributions to the discussions over at Gerald Augustinus' place, it's time to recite some of the wonders and glories of my pretty good parish.

the baptistry

We are buried with Christ in baptism, and rise up again with Him to fullness of life. We remind ourselves of this each time we come, signing ourselves with the holy waters of our baptism. We are then drawn, pulled in our depths,

the altar of God, the altar of sacrifice, the center of life

to the altar of God, who gives joy to our youth, where our Lord offers Himself to us, for us. And. above the altar, to honor it, and to keep our wandering attentions where they belong,

the crucifix and corona; 'it shows the Wounds!' says +Timothy

the corona, "a form of honor canopy suspended from the ceiling, without pillars", the architectural dictionaries say; but in this case a true crown, a crown of thorns, the crown we gave our Lord and the only one He ever wore on our earth. And, a crucifix, very explicit about the stretched sinews and the glorious wounds. And it works on the human level, also, for as one is distracted there, the apostles in the window catch the eyes, and the apostles pass one's gaze to the archbishops' portraits, which take one to the corona, and the bolt from heaven that split the Temple curtain twain, and the toes of the crucifix, put one's attention right back where it ought to be, the altar of the Lord.

We are there, the Church militant upon the earth, together with the saints in heaven, the Church triumphant, physically represented by the apostles in the windows and the archbishops in the upper arches, by Maria Mater Ecclesiae whose image is in my sidebar,

shrine of Blessed John, at the entrance to the chapel of reservation

by Blessed John, and by the other saints whose images will fill the other shrine spaces in due time. And we worship.

And nobody is begrudgingly there because of the pain of mortal sin. A wise elder of the parish, named Dennis, pointed that out to me a few weeks ago; that there were no sullen folk leaning against the back wall holding it up, as there were in my childhood parish. (my childhood priest had a special soft spot on his soul for those unwilling people, his "pillars".) Now there are some people, like my cybernemesis Terrence, who would see that as a bad thing --- but I don't. I think it is a great thing that everyone who comes is there to worship our Lord in beauty of holiness, or at least are there seeking because they want to desire to worship and praise our Lord. Of course, now the challenge is to bring our friends and acquaintances who have no desire to worship to have that desire, to know that Jesus loves them and wants them to come to Him and be with Him, alongside of us with Him. In the beauty of holiness. Receiving Jesus in the very closest way possible, body, blood, soul, divinity --- and in a true way becoming what one receives.

Besides Mass, Morning Prayer is celebrated each morning, and the church is open all day every weekday for prayer and adoration. There are abundant opportunities for continuing religious education for adults, as well as formation for children in cooperation with the neighboring parishes, and an active and sound RCIA program. Also many opportunities for service to others, including a free cafe offering lunch six days a week along with bible studies and 12-step activities. The Cafe even lets me serve!

All in all, even though Gerald Augustinus declared it non grata, it's still a pretty good parish......


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tabernacles are Wonderful

Gerald Augustinus at The Cafeteria Is Closed has been soliciting stories of wonderful parishes and beautiful tabernacles. I've refrained from emailing him with mine since he has already posted several times making it clear that my parish is parish-non-grata. However, here's the tabernacle as seen as one steps onto the church.

tabernacle as seen from entrance, St. John Cathedral, Milwaukee

the picture was taken a few days before the consecration of the cathedral in 2001, before the furnishings were in. The normal furnishings of the Chapel of Reservation are four kneelers and four benches, and there is room for more when needed.

I like to sit with the Lord here early on Sunday mornings.

Monday, May 08, 2006

It's been a while since I've told a desert story

There were two brothers living in the desert who were also natural brothers, and a demon came to alienate them from one another. One day the younger one lit the lamp, and the demon got involved and knocked over the lampstand. Seeing that the lamp was overturned, his brother struck him in anger. The younger brother apologized, saying, "Be patient, my brother, I will light it again." And behold, the power of the Lord came and tormented the demon all night.

The demon went and told the one who ruled over him what had happened. A priest of the pagans overheard the demon’s tale and went into the desert, became a monk, and from the start persevered in humility. And he used to say, "Humility takes away all of the enemy’s power," just as he himself had heard from the demon, "When I agitate the monks, one of them turns around and apologizes, and destroys all my power."