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.