Saturday, June 24, 2006

to encourage Ehren Watada, and others so situated

Great bunches of the holy Church's earliest martyrs were girls who wouldn't marry whatever papa picked, and young men who wouldn't join the military or wouldn't kill on command once they were in.

So, from the year 295, the story of St. Maximilian of Tebessa, also called St. Maximilian the Great Martyr, who, heavens no, he couldn't go.

On the 12th day of March during the consulship of Tuscus and Anolinus [295], when Fabius Victor had been brought into the forum at Tebessa, together with Maximilianus, and their advocate Pompeianus had been granted an audience, the last declared, "The temonarius Fabius Victor is present, together with Valerianus Quintianus, the praepositus Caesariensis, and the fine recruit Maximilianus, Victor's son. Since he is acceptable, I ask that he be measured." The proconsul Dion said, "What are you called ?" Maximilianus replied, "Why do you want to know my name? It is not permitted to me to serve in the military since I am a Christian". The proconsul Dion said, "Ready him". When he was being got ready, Maximilianus replied, "I cannot serve in the military; I cannot do wrong; I am a Christian." The proconsul Dion said, "Let him be measured". When he had been measured, an official reported, "He is five feet ten inches tall." Dion said to the official, "Let him be marked." And as Maximilianus resisted, he replied, "I will not do it; I cannot serve in the military."

2. Dion said, "Serve so that you do not perish." Maximilianus replied, "I will not serve; cut off my head; I do not serve the world, but I do serve my God." Dion the proconsul said, "Who has persuaded you of this?" Maximilianus replied, "My soul and he who has called me." Dion said to his father Victor, "Advise your son." Victor replied, "He himself knows --- he has his purpose --- what is best for him." Dion said to Maximilianus, "Serve and accept the seal." He replied, "I will not accept the seal: I already have the seal of my Christ." Dion the proconsul said, "I will send you to your Christ right now." He replied, "I wish that you would do so. That is even my title to glory." Dion said to his staff, "Let him be marked." And when he was resisting, he replied, "I do not accept the world's seal, and if you give it to me, I will break it, since I value it at nought. I am a Christian. It is not permitted to me to bear the lead upon my neck after [having received] the saving seal of my Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, he whom you do not know, who suffered for the life of the world, whom God surrendered for our sins. All of us Christians serve Him. Him we follow as the source of life and author of salvation." Dion said, "Serve, and accept the seal, so that you do not suffer a terrible death." Maximilianus replied, "I will not die. My name is already with my Lord; I cannot serve in the military." Dion said, "Have regard to your youth and serve; for this befits a young man." Maximilianus replied, "My service is for my Lord; I cannot serve the world. I have already said: I am a Christian." Dion the proconsul said, "There are Christian soldiers in the sacred retinue of our lords Diocletian, Maximianus, Constantius, and Maximus, and they serve." Maximilianus replied, "They themselves know what is best for them. But I am a Christian, and I cannot do wrong." Dio said, "What wrong do they who serve do ?" Maximilianus replied, "You know well what they do." Dion replied, "Serve, lest, having scorned military service, you begin upon a terrible death." Maximilianus replied, "I will will not die; even if I do depart the world, my spirit will live with my Lord Christ."

3. Dion said, "Strike out his name." And when it had been struck out, Dion said, "Because you have disloyally refused military service, you will receive the appropriate sentence in order to serve as an example to others." And he read his decision from his tablet, "Maximilianus, since you have disloyally refused the military oath, it has been decided for you to be punished by the sword." Maximilianus replied, "Thanks be to God." He was 21 years, 3 months, and 18 days old. And when he was being led to the place [of execution], he spoke as follows, "Dearest brothers, with an eager desire, hurry with as much courage as you can so that it may befall you to see the Lord and that he may reward you also with a similar crown." And with a joyous face, he addressed his father as follows, "Give that guard the new clothing which you had got ready for me during my military service, so that I may welcome you with a hundredfold reward and we may glory with the Lord together." And so he suffered death shortly afterwards. And the matron Pompeiana obtained his body from the judge and, having placed it in her carriage, she brought it to Carthage, and buried it beneath a little hill near the martyr Cyprian and the palace. And so, after the 13th day, the same woman died, and was buried there. But his father Victor returned to his home with great joy, thanking God that he had sent on ahead such a gift to the Lord, he who was about to follow shortly afterwards.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A life of struggles, a life of forgiveness

The most remarkable thing about James Cameron was that he never held a grudge.

A commentary about James Cameron, one of the more well-known saints of this fair city. The funeral will be at the Cathedral on Monday morning, Juneteenth Day, the feast of liberation, which is also the 18th anniversary of the opening of the museum he founded, dedicated to forgiving and never forgetting. (For, those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.)


Monday, June 12, 2006

Eternal rest and perpetual Light, O Lord!

Deacon John Wargin, the master of ceremonies for +Richard our auxiliary bishop, died yesterday in a traffic accident while he and +Richard were going to a remote part of the diocese on the chrism trail. Deacon Wargin was driving, missed a stop sign. Two people in the other car and +Richard were also injured but were treated and released the same day.

and James Cameron, founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum, also died yesterday. He was a survivor of a lynching in 1930, and devoted his life to forgiving and not forgetting.

Funeral arrangements pending for each.....


Friday, June 09, 2006

Two great saints today

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

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

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

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

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

St. Ephrem's Great Prayer

[Making a prostration]

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

[Making a prostration]

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

[Making a prostration]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, June 05, 2006

On the Ember Days --- 7, 9, 10 June 2006

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, ducklings, 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 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 this week.
Let us not forget.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Sometimes one has to die.

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

Sometimes you have to die.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the assembly hall, after a long harrangue about the duties of pages to obey their rightful king, Mwanga called out of the assembly "all of you who pray." And all of the Christians, Anglicans and Catholics alike, stepped out, as did a few of the Muslim pages. Another member of the court weeded out the Muslims, and the Christians were condemned to death, marched, with a few casualties along the way, to the traditional royal site of Namugongo, and burned alive on this day in 1886. The persecutions continued at a lower level for a few years more, until the death of Mwanga and the enthronement of his successor, who was an Anglican Christian.

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

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

Yosefu, Karoli, and companions, and all holy martyrs, pray for us.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Refusing to fear

In this essay, Seeking unity: Overcoming discord in the church, Father Timothy Radcliffe op, formerly Master General of the Dominicans, seeks to reconcile that internecine warfare that currently mars the holy Church.

Here's an excerpt:

First of all we have to stop being afraid of each other. Our home in the church seems threatened. It is neither the people of God on pilgrimage to the Kingdom, of which some Catholics dream, nor is it anymore the solid institution for which others hope. And we see other Catholics as menacing our home. For some Catholics any mention of Opus Dei, or Mother Angelica or the Legionaries of Christ produces a frisson of horror. The sight of a deep clerical collar and a biretta can make one panic. (I had thought of wearing a biretta for these lectures, just to see the reactions!) These are just the sort of people who are seen as turning the church around, undermining our dreams of renewal. To those of you who feel that I say: Do not be afraid. God has promised the Kingdom. We are on the way there. We do not know how or when it will come, but one day all injustice and oppression will be ended and we shall rejoice in the perfect freedom of Christ. We will reach the home for which we long, even though every bishop in the world belonged to Opus Dei.

Communion Catholics can also be free of all fear. They may see menace in every liberated feminist nun, in every bearded and sandaled priest. A copy of the National Catholic Reporter brings on the trembles. When I was a young and longhaired priest in my late 20s, I remember being scornfully told by a grand woman: “You do not look like a priest.” To which I could only reply, “Which particular priest don’t I look like?” But to those Catholics, we too can say: Do not be afraid. The church is not about to crumble. Even though every bishop in the world was a hippie, the church will survive. Forty years after the Council of Nicea in the fourth century most of the bishops were Arian, but the church did not collapse. Jesus said to Peter, “Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” To see one’s fellow Catholics, whether of the so-called left or right, as an ultimate threat to one’s home is a failure of faith.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Christian Carnival's finally up

Stop waiting, and sure as little green apples it arrives!

The 124th Christian Carnival is now ready for customers at the Parableman.


Catholic Carnival

I was waiting until the other Carnival was posted to post both together, but it looks like this week's Christian Carnival has been weather-delayed. However, this week's Catholic Carnival is open for business as usual. I contributed the essay on offering up to the Carnivals this week.


St. Justin and the Six Movements of the Eucharist

Today is the memorial of St. Justin, a philosopher of the second century and martyr. A noted philosopher even before his conversion to Christianity, he continued to teach in the schools after his conversion, and also was famous for his public defense of the Christian faith.

St. Justin, in chapters 65-67 of his First Apology (which he wrote to the emperor to defend the Christians from accusations of atheism, promiscuity, and cannabalism), writes about the six movements through which the Christian people have celebrated the holy Eucharistic Liturgy from the beginning to this very day --- the earliest explanation we have of the movements of the Eucharist.

From St. Justin:

But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to "so be it". And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.

And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.