A Catholic Blog for Lovers

A celebration of beauty, truth, and goodness, and, of course, love...and perhaps a little nastiness

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Saturday, December 14, 2002
Reflections During Advent - Chastity

By Dorothy Day

HOW PRESUMPTUOUS it is to try to treat of such a subject in a short article, when great books (like Dietrich von Hildebrand's In Defense of Purity) have been written on the subject. I can only put down a few thoughts, a few incidents, perhaps a few things I have read which influenced my thinking profoundly.

A few years ago a young woman came to our farm-retreat house to spend a few days before Pentecost, on which great day she was going to be confirmed together with two or three other adults in the local parish. You could not say she was spending her time in silence and recollection, because she was an ardent and lively creature and shouted rather than talked and moved swiftly rather than with the thoughtful deliberation one might expect for such an occasion.

She was as happy as a lark and after the great occasion when we all sat down to table to celebrate with a good Sunday dinner, she snatched the short breviary from her pocket and called out loudly, "Listen to this! Listen to St. John Chrysostom: '. . . the grace of the Holy Spirit . . . has been poured out abundantly and has transformed the whole world into heaven; not by changing of natures, but by correcting of wills. For it found a taxgatherer and transformed him into an evangelist; it found a persecutor and made him into an apostle; it found a robber and conducted him to Paradise; it found a prostitute and rendered her equal to virgins; it found the learned and showed them the gospels. . . .' A prostitute - equal to virgins! That's me. That's me today. A miracle!"

IT SEEMS TO ME (I have not a copy of the book by me) that Faulkner's The Wild Palms has a passage which refers to the loss of virginity as irreparable. It is contained in a strange passage, a long conversation between friends in a railroad station while they were waiting for a train. In page-long, involved sentences the thought is difficult to disentangle from the story which deals with the black power of sex to bring two people to their death, one a physical death through an abortion and the other a death in life, a moral death.

A loss of virginity is a loss of integrity, wholeness, a solitary completeness. In marriage, it is a surrender, a giving of one's self to another, "a dying to self," a "putting off the old man" and putting on the new in that one is on the way to becoming cocreator with God of another human being. Sex, having to do with life itself, affects us, body, mind and soul. It is generally conceded, taking in the whole man as it does, that the marriage act purged of impurities is the nearest thing to the beatific vision we can know. The intense pleasure and delight of the act itself may be like a sword piercing the heart, but though momentary in itself, it colors the hours and days, people and events, before and after, so that one is apt to feel that one is seeing others as God sees them, loving them as God loves them.

These things cannot be described except by the saints who knew that sin is a turning from God and a turning to creatures, a perversion, and pleasure becomes pain and light a most heavy darkness, and delight a deep sadness of the heart. "What do I love when I love Thee," St. Augustine cried out in his Confessions.

The entire Book Ten of St. Augustine's Confessions (it can be obtained in paperback) sings the beauty of sex and the surpassing beauty of God. "But what do I love, when I love Thee? not beauty of bodies, nor the fair harmony of time, nor the brightness of the light, so gladsome to our eyes, nor sweet melodies of varied songs, nor the fragrant smell of flowers, and ointments, and spices, not manna and honey, not limbs acceptable to embracements of flesh. None of these I love, when I love my God; and yet I love a kind of light, and melody, and fragrance, and meat, and embracement when I love my God, the light, melody, fragrance, meat, embracement of my inner man: where there shineth unto my soul what space cannot contain, and there soundeth what time beareth not away, and there smelleth what breathing disperseth not, and there tasteth what eating diminisheth not, and there clingeth what satiety divorceth not. This is it which I love when I love my God."

I read a story by Maxim Gorky once, called "Twenty-Six Men and a Girl" and it was about men who worked in an underground bakery, a cellar perhaps like those of Italian and Jewish bakeries which still flavor the neighborhood on the Lower East Side of New York. In a shop above the bakery there was a delightful young girl, and the joy of these men's lives was to catch a glimpse of her beauty and unsullied joy. To them she was the image of purity and the thought of "making" her never crossed their minds. They loved her as the only spot of beauty in their laborious lives and they enjoyed seeing her radiant and unclouded face looking in on them every now and then as they toiled. But there came a day when an outsider, persisting in his advances to her, made the grade, so to speak, and the image faded and the men sank back into the dullness and ugliness of their daily lives, unvisited any longer by the vision of chastity.

It was a long time ago that I read this story, but I thought of it when a dozen young men from the Deep South sat in the Catholic Worker office one day and confronted me with the question, "What is wrong with sexual intercourse outside marriage?" They asked me this because they had read in my column, "On Pilgrimage," a few remarks "in defense of purity." What is purity? According to my little desk dictionary, it is the state or quality of being clean; freedom from foreign or adulterating matter; innocence, virtue; freedom from evil or improper motives. And the word chastity is freedom from obscenity or depravity in life or thought; sexual purity.

I could not answer these young boys from the dictionary, I could only say, "I believe in God and His Commandments and I believe in Scripture as the source and re-source of our life. I believe that adultery is not just having intercourse with a married person but it is being unfaithful to God. In the Old Testament and the New we are called adulterers and fornicator in the sense of being unfaithful to God. We are all guilty.

"Of course sex is good. It is good and beautiful. In the Bible the Canticle is a love poem and all Catholic mystics turn to it for a description of God's love for the soul. He is spoken of as the Bridegroom, 'Behold thou art fair, my beloved, and comely. . . . His left hand is under my head and his right hand shall embrace me.... In my bed by night, I sought him whom my soul- loveth. . . . Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth. . . ."' "The tracing of analogies holds an honored place in Catholic theology," a priest writes to me. "Outside of divine revelation itself, it is the only positive means we have for studying and contemplating God. By means of it theologians seek to fill the gaps left by revelation in our knowledge of God. And in this particular case, the analogy between sexual union and the union of love between God and the soul is at once affirmed by reason and pointed out by divine revelation itself."

CERTAINLY it would seem that the world is obsessed by sex these days. When there is talk of the new morality, young people think of it as a new sexual morality. Fr. de Menasce, writing in Commonweal a good while ago, says that the reason men are obsessed by sex is that there is so little satisfaction in their work life. The majority of them work to earn a living by nerve-wracking toil in a factory or at a machine, work that exhausts them nervously but not physically. They do not use their bodies for working, walking or playing. There is no sense of creativity in their work. They work to gain money to support them in the comforts they have become accustomed to, the pleasurable but not particularly nourishing food, the recreation of sex, included in every "good time."

The lack of tenderness in people's relations with each other. tenderness expressed by warmth of voice and speech, handclasp and embrace - in other words, the warmth of friendship - lack of these things too means a concentration on sex, and the physical aspects, the animal aspects of sex. I remember a 16-year-old bringing in a record called Fever and when I got tired of the panting voice and the throbbing drums on the record I said that it reminded me of an animal in heat, and when a younger sister laughed, the hurt 16-year-old said to me haughtily, "You are too old to know what it means," and to the younger sister, "and you are too young."

It seemed to me to be a far cry from my own romantic attitudes at the age of 15 when the mere sight of a certain boy would make my heart turn over in my breast and I worshipped from afar all one winter without having ever spoken to him. Oh, the need there is in us to express tenderness! When there is a small child in a family where there are teen-agers who are having a hard time of it, I have often noticed how they spend their tenderness, express their physical love in the tenderness they expend on the littlest one.

THERE WAS AN ARTICLE once in Blackfriars', the English Dominican monthly, dealing with the "unwilling celibate," and I suddenly realized how many there were of such in the world. Teen-agers are unwilling celibates and widows and widowers, separated husbands and wives, and prisoners and the countless millions of people who live alone in the world, who are not chosen, as they think, by another, who go about their work and their family lives never having known "the grand passion" of sexual love.

I cannot believe that it is coldness and selfishness that unfits them for love. Man is made to love and be loved and the need for love is always there. Community of work, community living certainly can take its place with its demands. One of the attractions of war, Antoine St. Exupery wrote in one of his books, was that sense of community men felt at moments in dire hardships shared, danger and suffering faced bravely. One might say that modern man almost craves this initiation, this trial by fire, to prove to himself his manhood; and though not recognized immediately by the thousands behind the lines, in future years "service" is looked back on as a time of sharing together an experience, a great trial of endurance, if only of boredom and work. To offer the suffering of celibacy, temporary or permanent, to the Lord is to make use, in the best possible way, of man's greatest joy.

As I conclude these brief paragraphs, I am on my way to Boston to be present at the funeral Mass at the cathedral for Jane Marra, who was the founder of the House of Hospitality in Boston. She was in her 80's when she died, a single woman, a woman who was a worker (a member of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union), who lived her entire life with an asthmatic sister and a deaf-and-dumb brother in the slums of Boston which surround the cathedral. She spent her last days in a rest home run by the city, her brother and sister having died before her. Her association with the Catholic Worker began in our second year, 1934, when she sent in a dollar though the subscription price is only 25 cents.

A few months later, when the son of a Chicago newspaper editor visited us in New York on his way to Harvard and asked what he could do to help the work, I gave him a list of our subscribers in Boston, not more than a score then, and told him to send postcards to them and ask them if they wished to start a center. From that first small meeting, Jane emerged as the one to rent a loft to serve as the first House of Hospitality and meeting place. It was through her that Arthur Sheehan and John Magee came into the work and took over an entire house on Tremont Street, and from that house and its meetings thousands of readers were added to the mailing list. A farm was bought by the group, in Upton, Massachusetts, where three or four families lived and raised their children, children who are married now and have children of their own.

The Worcester house was started from the Boston house. It was through Jane that two of our editors came to work with us, Arthur Sheehan and John Cort, the latter spoken of as an illustrious alumni of the CW in that he served as head of the Peace Corps in all the Philippines and is now with the poverty program in Massachusetts. Was it the House of Representatives which objected to the cost of transporting John and his ten or so children to the other side of the world? Perhaps that is why the government is keeping him at home now. It was John and Helen Cort who sent me the telegram about Jane's death, and there will be many there at that funeral whose lives were changed by the quiet, unobtrusive work and presence of Jane Marra.

I think of Jane now, her long and useful life of celibacy, one might say of poverty, chastity and obedience, though there were no vows made and none of the security of the religious life to sustain her. But such evidences of the power of grace in the world today, "that which is of God in every man" as the Quakers say, gives one knowledge as well as faith that chastity is a positive virtue, a strength and a power in the great world around us. I am sure that Jane met death with serenity and strength and when I hear the In Paradisum sung for her, I will exult with her happiness crowned and her expectation of happiness fulfilled.


Reading through comments on another blog I came across this (from a rather well known figure in the Catholic world and an editor of a conservative political journal):

"Anyway, some of these abuses that we're hearing about occurred in the late 1950s and 1960s, before the culture went insane. Something else was at work. What about Cardinal Spellman, gay as a goose and noncelibate to boot, reigning as a true Prince of the Church during the Golden Age of Catholicism in America (he died in the late 1960s)? Look, I don't deny that these temptations are exacerbated by the culture we're in, but when people point to the culture as a big factor in this, I think to myself that whores wouldn't treat children the way these churchmen did."

Whether or not this is true about Cardinal Spellman or not, I do not know. I have read similiar reports over the years but without any real evidence tendered, mostly "gossip" and innuendo.

EVEN IF IT IS TRUE, however, I just don't know how a Catholic can justify writing things like this about another Catholic. What has happened, dear God, to the "traditional" norms of slander, detraction, the right of all to a good name, the virtues of charity, civility, decency when speaking of the dead.

I really think things have gone quite awry lately. I have been stunned to read what some are writing these days, and how the critics of the "right" have joined forces with critics of the "left" and are joining together in a real and even vicious attack on some elements of the Church, especially the hierarchy (who are not, of course, without fault and without sin).

It has sickened me more and more. And I know I do not want to be a part of any "reformed" Church these carping, judgmental, puritanical, humorless (when it comes to the Church), joyless, miserable critics wish to impose on the rest of us.

Count me out.....

All things are yours!

"For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God." (2 Cor 4: 21-23)

"Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me."

- Saint John of the Cross

Cardinal Bernard Law's Resignation: Fellow Cardinals Respond

It is interesting to see the different American Cardinal's approach to the resignation of Cardinal Law.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington DC acknowledges the good done by Law but doesn't say anything about any relationship between them.

Cardinal Edward Egan of New York City writes briefly and in the third person!

Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore is cool, detached, and politically correct.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles seems to use Law's troubles to cover his own possible difficulties.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago writes briefly but rather warmly of his priestly relationship with a friend, Cardinal Law.

Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit has high praise for Cardinal Law's accomplishments.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia speaks of Cardinal Law as "my brother Cardinal."

Interesting to see the differences in approach here. As for me, if I were in need and hurting, I could do without the pieties uttered by Cardinals Mahony and Keeler! And I would hope for at least one Cardinal George!

For what it's worth...

San Juan de la Cruz

Saint John of the Cross' painting of Christ

Today, in the Roman Rite, is the feast of yet another of my favorite saints, St John of the Cross. Hard for me to sum up why he is so special to me. And, perhaps it goes without saying, he is quite distant even as I feel his closeness. I am so far from entering into his own radical discipleship, and his radical approach to living and loving in Christ.

Yet he's close in that I sense how authentic his words are, how vital for my own growth in Christ - and his poetry most especially (even in translation or in the little Spanish I know) touches me in my depths. And I can understand why some secular writer said that "St John of the Cross has a lot to teach lovers!" Some of the finest things I've read about St John's approach is by that Methodist psychiatrist, William May (brother of Rollo May).

He is close, too, in my own sense of his presence when I read his works, when I see his image, when I view the Crucifix he painted (and this was the basis of Dali's famous painting "The Christ of St John of the Cross"). He sort of sings to me - but the words of the tune are more a challenge than any reality in my life! I sort of stammeringly hum along....at a distance!

John of the Cross is one of those "larger than life" saints. He was a musician, an artist, a mystic of mystics, a poet of excellence and perhaps incomparably so. As far as I know, he is the only "Doctor of the Universal Church" who is a Doctor because of his poems. I base this on John of the Cross' own statement that his poetry is his doctrine expressed and that his prose falls far short of this. Thus, at John's own word, his poetry unveils his inner life and his teachings.

And this poetry is counted among the greatest poetry ever written in Spanish - and considered by some as the greatest of all Spanish lyrical poetry.

He was a man who knew suffering and disappointment. He wrote his most beautiful poem perhaps, "The Spiritual Canticle," while imprisoned in his own monastery and flogged daily in public! He wrote it in his his mind and once he escaped - yes, by climbing down a bedsheet he used as a rope - he wrote it out in finished form. By the way, when he escaped, he had to fall some distance and he wounded himself and limped afterwards (like Jacob wrestling the angel perhaps).

He was a small man (St Teresa, his dear friend and co-reformer of Carmel, once wrote another to introduce John to them and said "I am sending you half a monk!"), but his heart was large and full of passion.

But a passion for nothing (NADA) less than God Himself.

He is radical in his demand for total renunciation of all that is not God - from the material to the highest pinnacles of the spiritual self. NADA is the byword and he's known for this. And he is relentless in this. He says, for example, that a bird may be tied by a rope, and cannot fly. A bird may be held by a thread, *and cannot fly!* He believed that unless the surrender is complete and without *any* reservation, God cannot work freely with the soul and there will be no real growth into the fullness of life and love.

He is radical, too, in other ways. Louis Bouyer, in his wonderful book The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, uses St John of the Cross in his chapter on "Soli Deo Gloria" as the Catholic answer to Calvin and Calvin's jealousy for the Glory of God alone - and demonstrates how John is far more radical than Calvin! The *nada* of St John, while not puritanical or manicheean, goes deeper and higher than Calvin's
authentic concern.

John, too, is radical in this view of images and icons. He is far from much of the Byzantine approach that "sacramentalizes" icons and images and holy things. John remains within Catholic orthodoxy here - but insists that God is beyond these images and that they can even become a danger - if they, too, become "attachments" of mind, heart, or even soul. In this, von Balthasar says that John is "eastern" in the Evagarian tradition, but even more radical. In fact, von Balthasar says that John of the Cross was one of the great Catholic answers to The Reformation - and largely did this by going back to the gospels and the eastern tradition!

John, while knowing that God is not confused with nature and creation (and knows it consummately), loves nature and beauty and his own mystical poetry is filled with images of the creation he loved so. It seems that John's approach was different from the usual approach of going to God through the creatures. Traditionally, created things were seen as pointers to the Creator. John, in his renunciation of all things, his nada, enters into the union with the Triune God, is "deified," and now with the Word awakening in the deified soul, the world is now seen from the vision of God Himself.

The whole world is now his - all reality is his - in his union with God Himself and his own participation in the Trinitarian Life and Love. He speaks of his own breathing of the Holy Spirit, sharing in the spiration of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the Trinity. Daring and dizzying heights!

Is John of the Cross for everyone? He is a Doctor of the Universal Church! Yet von Balthasar (his chapter on St John of the Cross in this third volume of "The Glory of the Lord" is exquisite) suggests that John's way is really one of many possible approaches to the Christian life and discipleship of Jesus. Even La Madre, St Teresa, disagreed with some of John's teachings and thought him too demanding...and wondered if the Samaritan woman could have had such unity with the Lord if John had his way! But they are in basic agreement, of course, yet Teresa allowing for a more positive appraisal of mystical experiences and spiritual images of the Lord than John himself would admit.

Maybe that's the way it should be....differing approaches allowed in the Church of God. But St John, while maybe not for all, surely can be a magnificent guide along the path, even if the approach will be somewhat different. His words have that ring of truth, of authenticity, of the anointing of the Holy One. His very life can encourage and inspire. And his poetry - I think that's a gift anyone can appreciate and anyone can sense, in these grand words and thoughts, another enfleshment of Christ in the history of the world.

And to any who wants to love and love fully, I doubt if there's many others who can open love's riches as Juan de la Cruz.

And always under the sign of The Cross.

For more "meat" on this great saint: Thomas Merton on Saint John of the Cross.

Hans Urs von Balhasar's magnificent essay in the third volume of The Glory of the Lord on Saint John of the Cross: the Perfect Adventure.

The above piece was written for an internet mailing list in 1998, slightly revised today.

Today in Church history

December 14, 872: Pope Adrian (or Hadrian) II dies. Adrian twice refused the papacy (in 855 and 858) before reluctantly accepting in 867. Weak and vacillating, he sought support from, of all people, the antipope Anastasius.

December 14, 1363: French ecclesiastical statesman and writer Jean Gerson is born. Eager to end the Great Schism of 1378-1414, he was influential in calling the Council of Pisa and the Council of Constance (which eventually ended the dual papacy). In defense of the Council of Pisa, Gerson wrote a tract promoting counciliar theory - the idea that a council can supersede the pope.

December 14, 1591: Spanish poet John of the Cross, reformer of the Carmelite Order, one of the greatest Christian mystics, dies. His "Dark Night of the Soul" is one of the era's best known religious poems, and his writings continue to be read and influence many.

December 14, 1853: Illinois Institute is begun by Wesleyan abolitionists. The school became Wheaton College after its president, Jonathan Blanchard, asked local landowner Warren Wheaton for a large property donation, offering to name the school after him and "save [his] heirs the expense of a good monument."

Friday, December 13, 2002

The rosary made of the dozen beautiful roses I received on the Feast of Saint Therese arrived today. Wow! They are the most beautiful rosary I've ever seen. And the scent of roses is exquisite! Beauty!

I want to pray with this "icon" of God's Love and Mercy...... (thanks, Susan, for pointing me to the Carmelites of Fort Tobacco who make these rosaries out of roses - and for the other "favor" as well).

Thomas Merton on "progressive" Catholics

From a letter to Christopher Lax:

"Mark my word man there is no uglier species on the face of earth than progressed Catholics, mean, frivolous, ungainly, inarticulate, venomous, and bursting at the seams with progress into the secular cities and the Teilhardian subways. The Ottavianis were bad but these are infinitely worse. You wait and see."

Can't help but think of some of those who have been so vitriolic in regard to Cardinal Law and the ongoing compaign of "reform" in some circles. Let's wait and see....

Statement by the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Boston on Cardinal Law's resignation:

The resignation of Archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law is greeted by the Greek Orthodox Community with great sadness and the fervent prayer and hope that healing, peace and tranquility may be restored to our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic community.

We pray for Cardinal Law who worked closely over the years of his ministry with the Orthodox Christian Community in Boston and throughout New England, providing many opportunities of prayer and common social action. He exemplified visionary and dynamic leadership, fostering ecumenical encounters and cooperation between all Christian Churches. He reached out to the entire Interfaith Community, especially since the tragedy of September 11, 2001. His leadership resulted in renewed awareness concerning the role that all faiths can play in the pursuit of world peace and respect for human rights and dignity. We are appreciative of his care and outreach to the poor and disenfranchised in our neighborhoods, specifically in providing housing for the poor, elderly and homeless.

We have witnessed the trials and tribulations suffered by our sister Church, its dedicated clergy and devout laity, most especially the criminally victimized innocent children. Regrettably, the salvific ministry of consecrated clergy throughout the Roman Catholic Archdiocese has been overshadowed by the unspeakable, criminal behavior of a handful. Approaching the Feast of Christmas, we reflect upon the Prince of Peace, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We pray that the Healer of our souls and bodies bring healing to the victims and their families, and that Christmas 2002 be a time of forgiveness, reconciliation, and renewal for all.


Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights,
Skies, and be perfect! Fly vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet meteors,
And disappear.
You moon, be slow to go down,
This is your full!

The four white roads make off in silence
Towards the four parts of the starry universe.
Time falls like manna at the corners of the wintry earth.
We have become more humble than the rocks,
More wakeful than the patient hills.

Charm with your stainlessness these nights in Advent,
holy spheres,
While minds, as meek as beasts,
Stay close at home in the sweet hay;
And intellects are quieter than the flocks that feed by starlight.

Oh pour your darkness and your brightness over all our
solemn valleys,
You skies: and travel like the gentle Virgin,
Toward the planets' stately setting,

Oh white full moon as quiet as Bethlehem!

- Thomas Merton, written in 1946

The spirit of Advent and Cardinal Law

Amen! Amen! Amen!

This article resonated so deeply in my depths that I repost it here in full:

The spirit of Advent and Cardinal Law
By Peter J. Gomes, 12/13/2002

FOR A YEAR NOW, we Bostonians have been treated to an almost daily account of the scandal within the Archdiocese of Boston. Quickly we moved from scandal to crisis, and the crisis has been sustained by a remorseless cycle of disclosures, reactions, legal maneuvers, and media frenzy.

Consistent throughout all of this has been the call, at first muted but now in full cry, for Cardinal Law's resignation. This, it seems, would make everybody happy.

The victims would have themselves a victim; the lawyers would be able to proceed without credible opposition in the search for compensation; liberal voices for reform in the church would see a nemesis removed; and the press would have brought down a mighty figure in a near-Watergate victory with Pulitzers all around.

Some time ago, it seems, this case ceased to be about what should have been done with abusive priests and what should be done to prevent such abuses in the future. Nor was it really about the legitimacy of the claims of the victims, the appropriate size of their compensation, or the legal tactics and compensation of their lawyers. Increasingly, the case comes down to one person: the cardinal.

While the cardinal has been for some time the emotional center of this crisis, I have waited in vain to see if any of his good works would generate some supporting words from anyone in the Commonwealth who since 1984 has observed Boston's Roman Catholic archbishop as a public and consistent force for good.

Not summoned in his defense has been the fact that he has ordained many good men to the priesthood, that he has been a consistent foe of both abortion and capital punishment, that he has been a fearless advocate for the poor and the homeless, that he has lent the prestige of his office, often denied by his predecessors, to significant ecumenical efforts, particularly between Catholics and Jews, and that he has worked hard to improve race relations in a city where racism and Catholicism were too often seen as synonymous.

When I told some colleagues that I, a conspicuous Protestant, thought I should say a word in this sulfurous climate on behalf of a brother cleric, I was advised against it and told that every angry Catholic and militant secularist in town, not to mention the unbridled forces of the city media, would be against me.

The question was sharply put: ''Why would you support a man who has lost all support?'' The answer is simple, at least in my profession: ''Because he needs it.''

I cannot imagine what breakfast at the cardinal's residence on Lake Street must be like, with the table laid with the morning edition of the local papers. The news is bad enough, but when columnists and editorial writers weigh in with their shrill characterizations and cries for arch-episcopal blood, one cannot help but empathize just a bit with the Nixon-like figure who is damned at every turn.

Those who not long ago were pleased to be pictured with the cardinal, kissing his ring and attending his charitable events and proud to be known as archdiocesan insiders, now, like the disciples on Maunday Thursday, have forsaken him and fled. If a public figure is treated like Nixon, we shouldn't be surprised if he behaves like Nixon, to whom Norman Cousins, in The Daily Telegraph of July 17, 1979, ascribed the motto: ''If two wrongs don't make a right, try a third.''

It is not for me to second-guess the proceedings now wending their way through the courts. It does not, however, seem likely that the remarkably impatient Judge Constance Sweeney will be the most sympathetic justice before whom the case against the archdiocese can be heard, and that is a lamentable commentary on the judiciary.

It is equally difficult to imagine that a jury of impartial citizens can be empaneled within the jurisdiction in which the cardinal resides. Certainly the cardinal and the powers that be within the church have made a terrible mess of things, but the civil adjudication of this mess has not been helped by a climate of hysteria and manipulation that has been created and sustained now for nearly a year.

Where we might have hoped for a level of calm analysis and civic, even civil, discussion of the case in all of its humanity and complexity, we have been given little more than banner headlines, orchestrated press conferences, serial fascination with priestly deviancy, and plaintiff strategy. At the risk of an even further trivialization of everybody's pain, the whole thing begins to sound like Gilbert and Sullivan's ''Trial by Jury,'' where it is clear that poor Edmund the defendant hasn't a chance. What is funny in ''Trial by Jury'' is tragic in Boston.

''Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?'' (Who guards the guardians?) This is the question posed long ago by Juvenal, which to this day is often asked in cases of public trust. Surely such a question could be put to those in the archdiocese who were charged with guarding the souls of the young faithful and who so wickedly abused that trust. We know that. The question now is about who will protect us from those people who fail to use their powers wisely in the maintenance of a free and rational climate for discourse and debate.

When lawyers, the courts, and the media all seem complicit in the cycle of vengeance and blood and no closure short of decapitation seems acceptable, then we have reason to worry about the climate for justice, mercy, and charity, and Salem in 1692 seems not so far removed in moral climate from Boston in 2002.

Advent in the Christian calendar is the season of justice, mercy, and charity. Is it too much to wish for a little more of each as this sordid story with its lay and clerical victims makes its way to its conclusion? In what surely must be the antepenultimate phase of the cardinal's reign, can we not extend to him the remembrance of his good deeds, the dignity of his own amply expressed contrition, and the charity that allows him, like every sinner, the opportunity for amendment of life in the discharge of his pastoral office as long as it is his?

This is not a matter of clerical deference but of human decency. The cardinal, when all is said and done, is one of us, a fellow citizen from whom we have received much, and for his sake and ours we cannot simply sacrifice him upon the altar of expediency.

What is at stake here is not simply the future of one man, or of the whole church, or of pending legal matters. What is at stake is how we create and sustain a climate within which moral outrage and humane discourse can coexist in a civil society.

So far, we have not done very well. My Advent hope for the cardinal, and for the rest of us, is that we keep on trying, and this time hope to get it right.

- The Rev. Peter J. Gomes is Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University.

I will be writing an email thanking Rev. Gomes for this outstanding reflection, and perhaps you would like to do the same. You can email his administrative assistant, Janetta Randolph.

Cardinal Bernard Law resigns as Archbishop of Boston

News that will make some happy; others, sad; and others, like me, with a bit of both emotions welling up. I pray for Cardinal Law and the Catholic Church of Boston: come, Lord Jesus, Emmanuel, and renew your presence in each and all this Christmas. Mary, mother, enfold all in your maternal love.

Today in Church history

December 13, 37: Nero, the Roman emperor who was the scourge of early Christians, is born. After his suicide in 68, many believed he would return, and "false Neros" appeared throughout the eastern provinces.

December 13, 304: Lucy, one of the earliest Christian saints to achieve popularity, dies. According to legend, she renounced marriage out of devotion to Christ, but a spurned suitor convinced Roman authorities to force her into a life of prostitution. When this was unsuccessful, they tried to burn her to death, but she wouldn't catch fire. Finally, she was killed by the sword. More realistically, she was probably one of several Christians killed in the Diocletian persecution. But within a century of her death, she had a remarkable following.

December 13, 1250: Frederick II, the messianic German Emperor (1212-1250) who fought repeatedly and heatedly with popes, dies suddenly of dysentery at age 55. He called himself "lord of the world"; others either praised him as "stupor mundi" (wonder of the world) or damned him as Antichrist.

December 13, 1294: After issuing a constitution giving popes the right to quit, Pope Celestine V shocks the world by resigning. An aged, nearly incoherent hermit when he was chosen to succeed Pope Nicholas IV, Celestine was desperately unsuited for the job and served only 15 weeks before Cardinal Gaetani, masquerading as a voice from heaven, convinced him to step down. Gaetani then became Pope Boniface VIII, and he imprisoned Celestine until the old man's death.

December 13, 1545: The first session of the Counter- Reformation Council of Trent opens. Responding to the spread of Protestantism and the drastic need for moral and administrative reforms within the Roman Catholic church, it met on and off for 18 years. Ultimately the reforms were not comprehensive enough to satisfy the Protestants or even many Catholics, but it created a basis for a renewal of discipline and spiritual life within the church.

December 13, 1835: Phillips Brooks, Episcopal prelate and author of "O Little Town of Bethlehem," is born in Boston.

Thursday, December 12, 2002
Our Lady of Guadalupe

Augustine DiNoia, O.P.

I just came across this reflection and wish I had my opened my Magnificat earlier today. It is lovely and I share it for the beautiful feast of the beautiful Virgin.

The sacred tilma with the image of Our Lady mysteriously imprinted

Roses and an image. These are the central elements of the apparitions of Our Lady at Tepeyac — not words, or at least not many words, no message as at other appari­tions which took place during the octave of the Immaculate Conception, and thus during the Advent season, in 1531.


The roses were a sign for Bishop Zumárraga who would recognize them as a species of rose native to Castile. How could the good bishop have failed to be amazed by these Castilian roses in midwinter Mexico, roses picked on a barren hillside and arranged by Our Lady. “There is no rose of such virtue / As is the rose that bore Jesu / Alleluia,” to quote a fifteenth-century English carol. The roses make us think of the expectant Mary, the Advent Mary, who directs our gaze to Christ and the mystery of his coming. The Advent theme is sounded: roses from a midwinter hillside signify the unexpected pure grace of Christ’s coming for which we cannot really prepare and for which grace itself must make us ready. “For in this rose contained was / heaven and earth in little space: / Res Miranda.”

An image

The miraculous image of Guadalupe, measuring six and one-half by three and one-half feet, imprinted on the rough cloth of Juan Diego’s cloak has remained intact for 465 years; and, not only are there no brush strokes, but it is next to impossible to paint such an image on cloth of this kind.

But perhaps even more important than the miracle is the fact of the image itself. Mary says of it: “This sacred image will be known as the Entirely Perfect Virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe?" In a 1688 work on the appari­tions, Franciscan Fray Jeronimo Valladolid put the point clearly: “This Virgin as she is portrayed needs no writing because she is herself a writing on a piece of cloth." The image itself communicates its message like a pictograph.

Prior to the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the language Nahuati was written entirely in hieroglyphics. Helen Behrens, who studied Mary’s image by comparing it to Aztec iconography, points out that the image of Our Lady is a pictograph which itself contains Mary’s mes­sage to us. The most important elements in the picto­graph can be understood in connection with the word “Guadalupe” which is neither a place name (as one might suppose) nor a Nahuati term. It has been shown that the word “Guadalupe” in fact corresponds to the Nahuati “te coatlaxopeuh” as a Spanish speaker would hear and repeat it. It means “to crush the stone serpent” and clearly refers to the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl, to whom untold numbers of human beings were annual­ly sacrificed. Thus, the title of the image turns out to mean: “the Entirely Perfect Virgin Holy Mary who crushes the stone serpent." It is the image itself that is powerful in overcoming the serpent (see Gn 3: 14-15).

Other elements of the image are also significant: the sun rays behind Our Lady show that human beings are more important than the sun god to whom they were sacrificed in the old religion, and the crescent serpent depicts the crushed Quetzalcoatl.

Again, we can discern a striking Advent theme. The incarnate Son, whom we expect in this holy season, is the Word made flesh, the perfect image of the Father. God sent us, not words, but his very own Son. Just like the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the incarnate Son is the divine message in himself.

So: the roses and the image that are central to the apparitions of Guadalupe draw us into the deepest mystery of Advent. “By that rose we may well see / That He is God in Persons three: / Pari forma.” The unex­pected and astonishing roses remind us of the pure and unmerited grace of the incarnation. The image reminds us of the awesome immediacy of the divine in Christ.

How fitting it is that, in the heart of the Advent season, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, north and south of the Rio Grande, we all embrace “the Entirely Perfect Virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe” as the Mother and Queen of the Americas.

Father I. Augustine DiNoia, o.p., is a Dominican priest and Under-Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

From MAGNIFICAT, December 2002

New Blogs

DaveTown - Dave
The Inman Family Page - Michael Inman
The Accidental Catechist - Anthony Marquis
The Rosary Blog - Bill White
El Camino Real - Jeff
De Fidei Oboediencia - JMT

Warm welcome to all!

Farewell to Steve Mattson's In Formation

Steve discerns a call to more silence and so has entered his last post on his excellent blog, In Formation. I read his farewell with tears in my eyes. Not sure why - but, besides loving Steve's blog, I think he struck a chord deep inside me - and my own need perhaps for more silence and a more contemplative approach. I don't yet feel that call to shut down my blog or websites but know that if they do not spring from a silent listening to the Voice of God, they will be ultimately empty and fruitless.

I ask God's richest blessings on Steve and hope he will stop by occasionally and say a prayer for me. Thanks, Steve, for the blessings of your blog!

Visit Heaven!

Just 3 mintues, 24 seconds of the divine!

Blessed Feast to all!

"Wherever in Christianity Mary appears, everything abstract and distant, all veils and obstacles disappear; and every soul is immediately touched by the heavenly world." (Adrienne von Speyr)

Today Mexico celebrates (and more and more non-Mexicans as well). Really celebrates! Maybe only Poland, with its queen, Our Lady of Czestochowa, compares to Mexico here - with one "icon" at the center of the nation's identity and of a people's piety. Today, millions of Mexicans gather at the Shrine in Gaudalupe (actually multitudes of them came a few days ago!), and demonstrate in every way their love of the Virgin and the simple - but dauntless - faith passed on from generation to generation. Ah! today to be in Mexico City and experience this expression of Catholic faith and piety and joyful celebration. God bless the pilgrims in Mexico City today and those celebrating throughout the entire world!


There are many stories today in the various papers about Cardinal Law and VOTF and Grand Juries, etc. etc. I chose not to point to them here; rather I ask you to join me in praying for the Church, for the Archdiocese of Boston, for Cardinal Bernard Law, for all involved in "the Situtation" there and elsewhere..... and to invoke the maternal love of Our Lady of Gaudalupe on all. Thanks.

Today in Church history

December 12, 1189: King Richard I "the Lion Hearted" leaves England on the Third Crusade to retake Jerusalem, which had fallen to Muslim general Saladin in 1187.

December 12, 1667: The Council of Moscow deposes Russian Orthodox Patriarch Nikon. A "man of great ability and sincerity but of autocratic temper," according to one historian, his calls for liturgical reform grew into a fight over the relationship between church and state. Though deposed at the council, banished, and imprisoned for 14 years, his liturgical reforms were sanctioned. In 1681, he was recalled to Moscow by the new tsar, but he died on the way. He was buried with patriarchal honors and all decrees against him were revoked.

December 12, 1712: The colony of South Carolina requires "all persons whatsoever" to attend church each Sunday and refrain from skilled labor and travel. Violators of the "Sunday Law" could be fined 10 shillings or locked in the stocks for two hours.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

I was trying to free up space for my website (it is now about 120MB) and I deleted a folder I thought I wouldn't need. Turns out many of the images I have worked on recently where somehow in that folder! I work with Frontpage online and don't have anything on my own computer. I have contacted my server, hoping they can restore it from backup. In the meantime, sorry for any missing pictures.


This "report" is a fine example of the following words of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger:

"The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts..Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the Church. It is a logical and well-founded conclusion."

Of course the Pope didn't write the notice to begin with.

And it obviously refers to the issue of where the now laicized priest should live - and if there is scandal it should be away from the area of the scandal but if there is no fear of scandal then the superior may mitigate this.

Let's see - there are only about 14 more beating up days until Christmas.....

Pray for our beloved Church this Advent that she be reborn in Christ in newness of life at Christmas

"The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life...He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Rev 22: 17-21)

Return to traditional language in new lectionary

While many critics have focussed on the (mildly) inclusive language issue of the new lectionary, perhaps some have missed the return to more traditional usage. For example, in the gospel for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, it is no longer: "Rejoice, O highly favored daughter" but once again: "Hail, full of grace". And, glory be to God, at the Christmas midnight Mass gospel it will no longer be: "because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged" but now again it will be: "because there was no room for them in the inn."

This return to more traditional English usage is consistent in all the revised readings of the Lectionary and of the revised NAB New Testament as well. How good to hear once more "behold" (rather than "there is") and "amen, amen, I say to you" (rather than "I solemnly assure you").

I, for one, rejoice in this "change!"

P.S. My Bible of "choice" is the NAB with the revised New Testament and the unrevised Book of Psalms! Thankfully I have such an edition.



by Hugo Rahner, SJ

One of the happiest experiences in the world is when we look forward with the eager expectation of a child to a Christmas present or the surprise that we feel - or pretend, with a rather painful smile, to feel - when the packages lying under the Christmas tree are unwrapped. What is revealed in all this is a deep human longing.

In every one of us, there is hidden, somewhere in the depths of our being, a poet or an artist who is prevented from expressing himself or herself by the everyday tasks. As Baudelaire said, our heart is like a captive albatross on the deck of the ship of life - an awkward, incongruous, ridiculous creature when not in the sky, because it is made for flight and its huge wings prevent it from walking.

Every gift is... a symbol of our love. Every present is like a sacramental, a making visible of an invisible good that goes further than our calculations, has no boundaries and recognizes no frontiers.

And however poor we may be, so poor that we have, in the weeks before Christmas, to go past the shop windows and their glorious displays of gifts perhaps with a troubled, hurt, and even envious heart, we can still say on Christmas day to those we love: I give you my heart. My heart, my loving heart, is like a carefully locked Christmas present. It contains treasures that have still not been discovered. My love is new and full of surprises. It looks forward to receiving a gift in return. And it is renewed and made young again when it hears the only possible answer: I love you too.

Today in Church history

December 11, 1518: Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli becomes "people's priest" at the Old Minster Church in Zurich, a position he held for the remaining 13 years of his life. After nearly dying from the plague, he began his reforming program almost immediately, persuading the city council to judge religious issues by Scripture alone.

December 11, 1640: English Puritans introduced a petition with 15,000 signatures to Parliament, seeking to abolish the church episcopacy, "with all its dependencies, roots and branches." The House of Commons accepted what has become known as the "Roots and Branch Petition," but the House of Lords (many of whom were bishops) rejected it, and the episcopal organization of the Church of England remained.

December 11, 1792: Jacob Mohr, author of the poem "Silent Night," is born.

December 11, 1918: Russian author Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, an Orthodox believer whose works include One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago, is born.

December 11, 1984: The White House displays a nativity scene for the first time since courts ordered its removal in 1973.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Reflection During Advent

The Meaning of Poverty

By Dorothy Day

THERE IS A STORY of Tolstoi's called "How Much Land Does A Man Need?" It is the story, as I remember it, of a peasant who left his good land and home to go to the South, where he had heard there were thousands of fertile acres for the asking. He made his way to the nomad tribe and asked for some of their land.

The chieftain told him he could claim as his own the amount of land he could encompass on foot, from sunup to sundown. When he had rested from his journey he set out running at a pace he felt he could sustain, for he had great confidence in his own strength and endurance, and began to stake out his land. But his greed was greater than his endurance, so his strength began giving out towards the close of the day. By the time he had run the immense boundaries he had chosen for himself, he fell dead at the feet of the Cossack chieftain. He ended in a six-foot grave dug merrily by his scornful hosts, who sensed that the earth was the Lord's and the fullness thereof.

We had a man living with us once who claimed that all illness was a punishment for some fault. When Sunday visitors came in happily with bunches of poison ivy, picked because of their bright colors or pretty berries, he labeled the visitors as "acquisitive." It was the fault he most despised, perhaps because it was the one he was most guilty of himself. He wanted to be poor, yet he looked upon all things around him as his own and gathered them to himself. At the same time, he did not like to work, to be exploited, he called it, in our present acquisitive, competitive society, so he preferred to gather furniture and even slightly spoiled food from off the city dump near the farm, and felt he was exemplifying voluntary poverty.

Another family moving in with us, on one of our Catholic Worker farms, felt that the beautifying which had made the farmhouse and its surroundings a charming spot was not consistent with a profession of poverty. They broke up the rustic benches and fence, built by one of the men from the Bowery who had stayed with us, and used them for firewood. The garden surrounding the statue of the Blessed Virgin, where we used to say the rosary, was trampled down and made into a woodyard filled with chips and scraps left from the axe which chopped the family wood.

It was the same with the house: the curtains were taken down, the floor remained bare, there were no pictures - the place became a scene of stark poverty, and a visiting bishop was appalled at the "poverty." It had looked quite comfortable before, and one did not think of the crowded bedrooms or the outhouse down the hill, or the outdoor cistern and well where water had to be pumped and put on the wood stove in the kitchen to heat. Not all these hardships were evident.

On another farm we owned - a larger place where we could accommodate more children in summer, more families, more men from off the road - there was the same lack of plumbing arrangements and the same need to heat the place with wood fires Even the nearby city helped us out by bringing logs from trees which had fallen in storms and blocked the highways, to increase our store of fuel. The place was old and beautiful, and had a carefully tended flower garden with peonies, iris, forsythia, perennials and annuals that delighted the eye and kept our chapel furnished with color and fragrance.

Here one of our prosperous visitors looked around with a censorious eye and commented, "You call this voluntary poverty? I could not afford a country home like this." She did not see the three sets of outhouses set back in the trees and bushes which had to be used winter and summer (the temperature often dropped to 10 below zero); nor did she see our bare dormitories with their double-decker beds crowded together, nor the living quarters of a family over the carriage shed that was heated only by an old stove in the middle of the barnlike structure, nor the wayfarers' dormitory down below where men came in from off the road at any hour of the night or day (and sometimes with a bottle to keep themselves warm!). No doors were ever locked in that farm by the road. It is not right to justify oneself, but we tried to point out how ungrateful we would be to God and to our benefactors if we did not, by hard work and care, improve what we had received in the way of land and house. The very men who had come to get help had stayed to give help and had made the place what it was by constant hard labor.

But the poor, it seems, have no right to beauty, to order. Poverty must be squalor, filth, ugliness, to be esteemed as poverty. But this is destitution, and it was usually from such destitution that our family had come "up in the world." Our visitors did not recognize true poverty - voluntary poverty now - offered up by these men for the sake of their fellows . . . a poverty on the part of students and volunteers as well as men from the Bowery, which meant no money to jingle in the pocket, no wages, having to ask for tobacco, to wear the clothes which "came in"and to have no privacy, which is the greatest desire, the greatest need of all.

Right now on our farm at Tivoli, New York, there are five hermits in the woods who have rebuilt old campsites so that, winter and summer, they can live alone. During the 33 years that the Catholic Worker has been published and the Houses of Hospitality and farms have grown up around the United States, there has always been this misunderstanding of poverty. For a long while, poverty was denied - we just did not have any, according to popular belief, in our affluent society. Many a time I was queried by students, "where is poverty? We do not have any around this prosperous Middle West, for instance." I was asked this question at Notre Dame, when I spoke there, and to show that there was poverty. Julian Pleasants and Norrie Merdzinski, both Notre Dame students, started a House of Hospitality in the off-bounds section of South Bend. With the help of Fr. Putz and Fr. Mathis they kept it going during their student years, to care for unemployed and unemployable men off the road.

The same question was asked me in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I could only point out that where there was a Good Shepherd home for delinquent girls, and an Indian reservation, and a prison and a public ward in the hospital, there was poverty. You could always find poverty at the public dump, or in the prison or hospital. All founders of religious orders and societies searched out poverty.

IT WAS Michael Harrington's book The Other America, and Dwight McDonald's long review and analysis of that book in the New Yorker, that made the problem explode in this country, to use an expression of Abbe Pierre, who himself works with the destitute and homeless. This book of Mike's, which came as a result of his two-year stay with us as one of the editors of the Catholic Worker, started the War on Poverty program.

But it is not to discuss solutions proffered by government or city agencies that I wish to write, though this long introduction was necessary to clarify the subject. War, and the poverty of peoples which leads to war, are the great problems of the day and the fundamental solution is the personal response which each of us makes to the message of Jesus Christ. It is the solution which works from the bottom up rather than from the top down, and makes for readiness to join in larger regional solutions like the organizing of farm workers with Cesar Chavez, community solutions of Saul Alinsky, village solutions like Vinoba Bhave's in India, etc.

The wonderful thing is that each one of us can do something about the problem, each one of us can give his response and can go as far as the grace of God leads him; and God "ordereth all things sweetly," and there is no need to be afraid as to where such a response will lead US.

"Ask and you shall receive," Jesus told us, and this asking may be just that question "What shall we do?" Samuel asked it, St. Paul asked it - "Lord, what will you have me do?" and they seemed to get direct answers. Paul was struck blind, literally and to everything else around him except that one great fact, "whatever ye do to the least of these My brethren, ye do to Me." If you feed them, clothe them, shelter them, visit them in prison (or go to prison and so are with them!), serve the sick, in general perform the works of mercy, you are serving Christ and alleviating poverty by direct action. If you are persecuting them, killing them, throwing them in prison, you are doing it to Christ. He said so.

When the crowd was moved by John the Baptist and asked, "What shall we do?" he said to them, "He who has two coats give to him who has none." He also said, "Do injury to no man. Be content with your pay." Or with no pay at all. If you are voluntarily giving away what you have, giving your coat, don't expect thanks or the reform of the recipient. We don't do it for that motive, with the expectation of reward. We must do it for love of Jesus, in His humanity, for love of our brother, for love of our enemy.

Charles Peguy in one of his poems, God Speaks, tells the story of the prodigal son and comments, "That's the kind of a Father we have, who loves even to folly, who forgives seventy times seven, who rushes out to embrace and feast the prodigal son." This is the kind of love we must have for the poor. The kind of love which will give away cloak also if coat is demanded of you. Nobody is too poor to help another. The stories in the New Testament are of the widow's mite, of the little boy's loaves and fishes, of the cloak, of the time given when one is asked to walk a second mile.

Another Russian story which profoundly moved me was The Honest Thief, by Dostoievsky of the hardworking tailor who lived in a corner of a room, and yet who took in one of the destitute he encountered. The guest begged and drank and the tailor suspected him of stealing his one treasure, an old army coat. He spoke to him harshly, but when the thief ran away, the tailor searched him out and brought him back to his corner to nurse him in his illness. "Love is the measure by which we shall be judged." And by not judging we too shall not be judged.

I am thinking of how many leave the Church because of the scandal of the wealth of the Church, the luxury of the Church which began in the very earliest day, even perhaps when the Apostles debated on which should be highest in the kingdom and when the poor began quarreling as to who were receiving the most from the common table, the Greek Jews or the Jerusalem Jews. St. Paul commented on the lack of esteem for the poor, and the kowtowing to the rich, and St. John in the Apocalypse spoke of the scandal of the churches "where charity had grown cold."

It has always been this way in the Church. On the one hand the struggle for detachment, to grow in the supernatural life which seems so unnatural at times, when the vision is dim. Thank God for the sacraments, the food of life which we can receive to strengthen us. Thank God for the Word made flesh and for the Word in the Scriptures. Thank God for the Gospel which St. Therese pinned close to her heart, and which the murderer Raskolnikoff listened to from the lips of a prostitute and took with him into the Siberian prison. The Word is our light and our understanding, and it is also our food.

- Dorothy Day, Ave Maria, December 3, 1966

Wrestling with Islam by David Warren

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for pointing me to this long, interesting, informative article on a topic of great importance today.

Text of Letter of Priests asking for Cardinal Law's resignation

"The signers make up a small minority of Boston's Catholic clergy, but are far more than have previously called for Law's resignation. Among them are a dozen religious order priests and two retired priests, in addition to active diocesan priests. There are about 550 active diocesan priests in the Boston archdiocese and 300 retired priests and 700 religious-order priests."

That would make it 58 signatures out of a possible 1550 - which, as the Globe correctly states, is a rather small minority we're talking about at this point.

Today in Church history

December 10, 1520: German reformer Martin Luther publicly burns Pope Leo X's bull "Exsurge Domine," which had demanded that Luther recant his heresies.

December 10, 1561: German theologian Caspar Schwenkfeld, a reformer who fell out of favor with the "mainstream" Reformation movement because of his Christology (he believed Christ's humanity was deified), dies.

December 10, 1824: Scottish writer and poet George MacDonald, whose fairy tales and mythopoetic novels inspired C.S. Lewis, is born.

December 10, 1968: Thomas Merton, Father Louis Mary, OCSO, dies in a freak accident in Bangkok, where he is attending a conference on monasticism. This Trappist monk is one of the most popular and influential spiritual writers of modern times. He converted to the Catholic Church and his account of his conversion, "The Seven Storey Mountain", is still regarded as a classic in its genre.

Monday, December 09, 2002
Requiescat in pace!

Philip Berrigan, died Dec. 6, 2002, at age of 79

A pickup truck carries the casket of former Catholic priest and peace activist Phil Berrigan to the church for his funeral as hundreds of people follow through the streets Monday, Dec. 9, 2002, in Baltimore. Berrigan died Dec. 6, 2002, after a two month battle with cancer.

One doesn't have to agree with everything about Phil Berrigan or with his politics and personal decisions along the way; yet it is hard not to admire the force of his witness, the price he was willing to pay, the consistency of his convictions. I, for one, had my disagreements with Phil Berrigan, but was glad he was around nonetheless and have always felt he shamed me in applying some of the principles of the gospel. At any rate, I join the many who pray for the repose of his soul and that he will know the joy of the Lord whom he tried to serve in the poor.

Pallbearers carry the coffin of peace activist Philip Berrigan into the church for his funeral as Jesuit priest brother Daniel Berrigan stands holding a rose at left, with yellow scarf, Monday, Dec. 9, 2002 in Baltimore.

Now that's the kind of coffin I hope to have myself! And I am not surprised to see it used for Phil Berrigan!

From the battlefield

In a comment (no. 6) entered after my post about VOTF and Donatism Redux, tony c writes from the "battlefield" (Boston) and it seems important enough to post it separatelay lest it be missed. Thanks to tony and all those who enter such fine comments!

"And so I came home w/ the Globe after Mass to read: VoTF meeting in "heretics" basements, the text of the letter from priests calling for Law's resignation, and the Globe Magazine cover story on a disgruntled gay ex-priest who was removed for having an affair w/ a seminarian. That article portrayed the Diocese as hypocrites for "firing" him and shuttling Geoghan etc. A valid point, perhaps, but a nice pro-gay Catholic bash all the same.

The good story was 100+ people showed up to protest the play "Jesus Has 2 Mommies".

All the folks who gave Card. Ratzinger flack for saying there's a concerted media attack on the Church don't see the BosGlobe everyday.

But at the Latin High Mass I attended, which grows in numbers every time I go, there was heaven on earth for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Afterwards, a Baptism according to the Latin Rite (Law extended the indult here.) And there was a line after Mass to light a candle and say a few prayers 'neath the statue of a crowned Virgin and Child. You won't see that mentioned in the Globe.

-from the battlefield,

Sonnet to the Virgin

Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied;
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven's blue coast;
Thy image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend,
All that was mixed and reconciled in Thee
Of mother's love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!

- William Wordsworth (1770-1850)


Today in Church history

December 9, 1531: A Christian Indian in Mexico, Juan Diego, receives the first apparition of the blessed Virgin Mary, "Our Lady of Gaudalupe."

December 9, 1608: English poet John Milton is born in London. Though most famous for his epic Paradise Lost, he also penned an exposition of Christian doctrine, a plan for Christian education, and various political writings.

December 9, 1840: Unable to go to China, David Livingstone sets sail from London as a missionary to southern Africa.

December 9, 1843: The first Christmas cards - actually more like postcards - are created and sold for a shilling.

December 9, 1979 : Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen - legendary Catholic apologist, author, and television personality -- longtime Bishop of Rochester, NY - dies at 84. (Thanks, Dylan!).

Sunday, December 08, 2002
400 Protestors outside Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross on December 8, 2002

"For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute... When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day." (I Cor 4: 9-13)


by Archbishop John Carroll, First Bishop of the United States - adapted (and I can't find original!)

Most Holy Trinity:

Our Father in Heaven, who chose Mary as the fairest of Your daughters; Holy Spirit, who chose Mary as Your Spouse; God the Son who chose Mary as Your Mother, in union with Mary we adore Your Majesty and acknowledge Your supreme, eternal dominion and authority.

Most Holy Trinity, we put the United States of America into the hands of Mary Immaculate in order that she may present the country to You. Through her we wish to thank You for the great resources of this land and for the freedom which has been its heritage.

Through the intercession of Mary, have mercy on the Catholic Church in America. Grant us peace. Have mercy on our President and on all the officers of our government. Grant us a fruitful economy, born of justice and labor. Protect the family life of the nation. Guard the precious gift of many religious vocations. Through the intercession of Our Mother, have mercy on the sick, the tempted, sinners... on all who are in need.

Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Our Mother, Patroness of our land, we praise and honor you and give ourselves to you. Protect us from every harm. Pray for us, that acting always according to your will and the will of your Divine Son, we may live and die pleasing to God. Amen.


I live my Advent in the womb of Mary.
And on one night when a great star swings free
from its high mooring and walks down the sky
to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of him by blessed grace.
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith's walled place,
with hope's expectance of nativity.

I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth's most amazing knowledge:
someone is hidden in this dark with me.

- Jessica Powers
Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit

VOTF President and Donatism Redux

"Meanwhile, Voice of the Faithful leaders are discussing an attempt to contact Pope John Paul II to ask him to intervene. The group's president, James E. Post, said the organization would argue that the Archdiocese of Boston is now effectively leaderless, and that the pope should appoint a new spiritual leader for Eastern Massachusetts.

''We are a diocese without a bishop,'' Post said. ''There is no shepherd left in the Archdiocese of Boston, and that leaves the people in the archdiocese in a state of spiritual and moral crisis. That's what the Vatican has to come to recognize.''

Today in Church history

December 8, 1691: English Puritan minister Richard Baxter dies in London. One of England's most renowned preachers and author of nearly 200 works (including several hymns), he was known as a peacemaker who sought unity among Protestants.

December 8, 1934: American missionaries John and Betty Stam are beheaded by Chinese communists. The couple had met while attending Moody Bible Institute and married just the year before their death. Publication of their biography prompted hundreds to volunteer for missionary service.

December 8, 1984: American Jesuit missionary and confessor, Walter Ciszek, dies. He worked in Russia and was arrested by the communist authorities, and spent 5 years in solitary confinement, and 15 years in hard labor in Siberia. He said later: "Camp Lubianca was for me a school of prayer." The cause for his canonization is under way.

Search WWW Search praiseofglory.com Search blogforlovers.blogspot.com