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

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Saturday, December 21, 2002
Prophets of Doom: The Road to Hell

"Those who are preocuppied with hell are usually on the road to it."

- Teresa of Avila


"Let Mary's soul be in each of you to magnify the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith.

Every soul receives the Word of God if only it keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled. The soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary's soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. In another place we read: Magnify the Lord with me. The Lord is magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God but because he is magnified within us.

Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted."

- Saint Ambrose of Milan, Office of Readings for Dec. 21


Croatia and Religious Tolerance

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) - Croatia on Friday signed agreements with the country's Orthodox church and Islamic community, granting their members similar rights to those enjoyed by members of the predominant Roman Catholic church.

The Orthodox church, which mainly gathers the country's ethnic Serbs, will receive 7.5 million kuna (about US $1 million) in state funding each year under the agreement. The Islamic community will get 2.1 million kuna (US $300,000).

The amounts are proportional to the size of each group. The Roman Catholic church receives 160 million kuna (US $22 million) from the state each year.

Prime Minister Ivica Racan said the long-awaited accords confirmed Croatia as a "democratic, but also multicultural and multireligious country."

More than 80 percent of Croats consider themselves Roman Catholics and although other religions are free, their believers have often complained they feel neglected.

The head of the Islamic community, Sefko Omerbasic, said Croatian Muslims "hope the agreements will give them a right to enjoy their faith, without a fear of being persecuted like in some other countries."

The government plans to sign similar agreements with other religious communities in Croatia soon, Racan said.

"O" Antiphon for December 21

O ORIENS, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of light eternal, and Sun of Justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Amen.

Today in Church history

December 21, 1118: Thomas a Becket was born in London. Henry II made him Archbishop of Canterbury over his protests. Becket soon was on the outs with the king. Henry spoke hasty words that led four of his knights to kill the bishop at his own altar. Canterbury became a place of pilgrimage after that and the subject of T. S. Eliot's famous play, Murder in the Cathedral.

December 21, 1511: In Hispaniola, preacher Antonio des Montesinos counters the conquistador sentiment "Gunpowder against Indians is incense to the Lord" with a fiery sermon denouncing Spain's atrocities in the new world.

December 21st, 1597: Jesuit missionary Peter Canisius dies; considered the "second apostle" of Germany. Among his writings: "It was as if you opened to me the heart in your most sacred body; I seemed to see it directly before my eyes. You told me to drink from this fountain, inviting me, that is, to draw the waters of my salvation from your wellsprings, my Savior. I was most eager that streams of faith, hope and love should flow into me from that source. I was thirsting for poverty, chastity, obedience. I asked to be made wholly clean by you, to be clothed by you, to be made resplendent by you."

December 21, 1620: English separatists known as the Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.

December 21, 1807: Anglican clergyman and hymnwriter John Newton, author of "Amazing Grace," dies.

Friday, December 20, 2002

I remember a priest-mentor telling me about the RORATE Masses held in Bavaria during Advent, early in the morning, and very popular. I just came across this from what may be Weisner's (?) classic on Liturgy and Customs throughout the world. I am wondering: does anyone know if these RORATE Masses are still celebrated and attended in Bavaria. (It would strike me as (another) great loss if they are gone too).

"RORATE MASS - In the early mornings of the "Golden Nights," long before sunrise, a special Mass is celebrated in many places of central Europe. It is the votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin for Advent, called "Rorate" from the first words of its text ("Rorate coeli desuper": Dew of Heaven, shed the Just One). By a special permission of Rome, this Mass may be sung every morning before dawn during the nine days preceding Christmas provided the custom existed in a place from ancient times. The faithful come to the "Rorate" Mass in large numbers, carrying their lanterns through the dark of the winter morning."

The Day Draws Nearer

A 28-meter (71-foot) tree from a forest in the Gorski Kotar region, Croatia, is seen minutes after the decorations were lit during a ceremony with Croatia's President Stjepan Mesic in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Dec. 17, 2002.

"O" Antiphon for December 20

O CLAVIS DAVID, et sceptrum domus Israël, qui aperis, et nemo claudit, claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O KEY OF DAVID, and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death. Amen.

Today in Church history

December 20, 1552: Former nun Katherine von Bora, Martin Luther's wife from 1525 to Luther's death in 1546, dies.

December 20, 1560: The Scottish Reformed Church, organized with the help of John Knox, holds its first assmbly.

December 20, 1576: Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury, sends a letter to Queen Elizabeth protesting her order that he tell preachers throughout England to stop speaking so often. She felt three or four sermons per year were sufficient. Grindal's refusal to enforce her wishes earned him house arrest.

December 20, 1787: The Shakers, a millenarian communal society in New Lebanon, Indiana, experience a revival. The religious fervor continued throughout the frontier, crossing denominational barriers.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

It must be the Holy Spirit by Cardinal Franz König

Reflections on the Second Vatican Council by one of its influential participants.

Reflections During Advent - Obedience

By Dorothy Day

FREEDOM and authority. When I became a Catholic it never occurred to me to question how much freedom I had or how much authority the Church had to limit that freedom. I had been a Bible reader from early childhood and had accepted it as an inspired book. There was so much I did not understand in the universe that I was quite ready to accept the riddles the Scriptures imposed on me. "I would think about that tomorrow," in the words of Scarlett O'Hara. I had quite enough already to think about today.

We were supposed to obey the Commandments, and the Sermon on the Mount brought them up to a new level. I had reached the point where I wanted to obey. I was like the child in the New Yorker cartoon (I was nearly 30 years old) who said, "Do I have to do what I want to do today?" I was tired of following the devices and desires of my own heart, of doing what I wanted to do, what my desires told me I wanted to do, which always seemed to lead me astray. I felt always on the verge of falling into one of the seven deadly sins.

Not having a parochial education, I just asked one of the Catholic Worker staff what were the seven deadly sins, and she repeated quickly, "Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy and Sloth. Much easier to remember somehow than the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit or the fourteen works of mercy."

I did not have the conviction, as (Episcopalian) Bishop Fletcher of Boston has, that the Ten Commandments could be amended as situation ethics demands. "Thou shalt not covet--ordinarily. Thou shalt not kill - ordinarily. Thou shalt not commit adultery - ordinarily" (as reported in the New York Post, November 12). If they were going to be amended at all, far better that they should be fulfilled as Jesus Christ fulfilled them. "Anyone who looks to lust after a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

This sounded reasonable to me even before I was introduced to St. Francis de Sales' most understandable phrase, "taking delectation in temptation." There were the same debates about sex and purity in the 20s, and the same scorn for what was termed then the demi-vierge, the one who played around but did not go the whole way. Of course if God is rejected, then everything is permitted, as Ivan Karamazov reasoned. But I do not think that young people want to throw God out of the picture. Polls taken among them show that many are rejecting the Church but not God whom they find in each other - to use that beautiful phrase of the Quakers, "that which is of God in every man."

Gandhi himself said that he found God in his fellow man, and Jesus Christ said that what we did for the least of His brothers we did for Him. He also said that where two or three are gathered together in His name, there He is in the midst of them. The discovery of these things has meant a light so bright to many young people that it has blinded them to the path which leads still further, to the incomparable riches which are in the teachings of the Church, its traditions, its saints and mystics. But this article is supposed to be about obedience.

Obedient to my conscience, I became a Catholic, was conditionally baptized and said, "I do believe," to the great and solemn and beautiful truths proposed to me. Then for the next five years no great problems came up of obedience. The Church held up a tremendous ideal for the follower of Christ, and no matter how many times one failed, fell flat on one's face, one might say, the Church, Holy Mother Church, was there with her sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist to reassure and forgive and sustain and nourish one.

In 1933 I met Peter Maurin, a French peasant who proposed to me the idea of starting a paper which had the purpose of bringing the social teachings of the Church to the man on the street. I had been writing articles for America, the Jesuit weekly, for the Sign, the Passionist monthly, and I had been going for spiritual direction to Father Joseph McSorley, formerly superior of the Paulist congregation in New York. I asked each one of these men for advice as to whether it was necessary to ask permission before starting a venture of this kind and both editors, Father Wilfrid Parsons and Father Harold Purcell, as well as Father McSorley, told me in no uncertain terms, "No, it was not necessary to ask for permission. The thing to do was to go ahead, on one's own, and the proof of the pudding would be in the eating, the tree would be known by its fruit, and if the work were of God, it would continue."

I could well understand this. If Peter and I started something on our own, we alone would be responsible for its mistakes. If it were begun with the permission of the hierarchy, then they might be held responsible. I was not thinking in terms of financial responsibility. I was thinking of the positions we would take in regard to civil rights, racial as well as social justice. Without knowing St. Augustine too well (I had read only his Confessions), his dictum "Love God and do as you will" had a familiar ring. The words breathed freedom, the freedom found even in obedience to a temporary injustice, even to such a temporary injustice as stopping us once we had begun. I have never felt so sure of myself that I did not feel the necessity of being backed up by great minds, searching the Scriptures and searching the writings of the saints for my authorities.

Later I came across this passage from St. Francis de Sales: "My agent says that it is wrong to apply to Rome for things in which it can be avoided and some cardinals have said the same: for, say they, there are things which have no need of authorization because they are lawful, which, when authorization is asked for are examined in a different way. And the Pope is very glad that custom should authorize many things which he does not wish to authorize himself on account of consequences."

Bishop O'Hara of Kansas City was a good friend and visited us in the earliest days of our work. I remember his first visit very well. We were living on Fifteenth Street, and he sought us out there on the East Side near Avenue A, not many blocks from where the Municipal Lodging House for men used to be, so that they came to visit us daily for food and clothing. He came in to the poverty of that little store front and took the trouble before he left of going to each person who was there and giving them a blessing. Later one of the girls who had worked in textile mills, who had just come to us from the hospital after the birth of her third child out of wedlock, told us most seriously, "When I kissed his ring, it was just like a blood transfusion. It did something to me." He kept up his friendship with us, helping us when we sent out an appeal and writing us when there were things in the paper with which he disagreed.

But he said to Peter on one memorable visit, "Peter, you lead the way, and we (the bishops) will follow." Peter knew what he meant. He meant that it was up to the laity to be in the vanguard, to live in the midst of the battle, to live in the world which God so loved that He sent His only begotten Son to us to show us how to live and to die, to meet that last great enemy, Death. We were to explore the paths of what was possible, to find concordances with our opponents, to seek for the common good, to try to work with all men of goodwill, and to trust all men too, and to believe in that goodwill, and to forgive our own failures and those of others seventy times seventy times. We could venture where priest and prelate could not or ought not, in political and economic fields. We could make mistakes without too great harm, we could retrace our steps, start over again in this attempt to build a new society within the shell of the old, as Peter and the old radicals (those who went to the roots of things) used to say.

I speak of these incidents to show the tremendous freedom there is in the Church, a freedom most cradle Catholics do not seem to know they possess. They do know that a man is free to be a Democrat or a Republican, but they do not know that he is also free to be a philosophical anarchist by conviction. They do believe in free enterprise but they do not know that cooperative ownership and communal ownership can live side-by-side with private ownership of property. I could bolster my positions by the writings in the Dominican monthly Blackfriars, for instance; one entire issue years ago was entitled, "Who Baptized Capitalism?" And by the words of the Bishop of Mwanza in Tanzania, who said the world was not divided between East and West but between the haves and the have-nots. "Only a wealthy country," he said, "could afford the luxury of all this private ownership."

I remember a meeting I had with three Jewish students who were putting me on a bus in St. Louis on one of my speaking trips. They said, "The one thing the Catholic Worker has done for us is to open up our minds to the immense freedom there is in the Church."

OBEDIENCE is a matter of love which makes it voluntary, not compelled by fear or force. Pope John's motto was Obedience and Peace, and yet he was the pope who flouted conventions which had hardened into laws as to what a pope could or could not do, and the Pharisees were scandalized and the people delighted. All his life long he had done his work, which sometimes meant in silence and solitude and inactivity as in Bulgaria and Turkey. But now that he was pope and his decisions concerned the whole world, he ceased to obey men.

Father Ernesto Balducci, in his book John - The Transitional Pope, calls him a man of vast and vital ideas and said that his temperament led him "to escape whenever possible from behind the velvet curtains of ecclesiastical offices into the roads and squares where living men and women move." He had accepted the frustrations of his life and his plans because "obedience is not only a moral virtue but a specific principle of faith, and as such, has reasons that reason cannot understand."

Pope John compared his own life during those years of frustration to the waiting of Simeon in the Temple who seemed to be "wasting the years, pouring out his life as a total loss. And his life was not lost at all. The time he spent in waiting prepared him to present Christ to the world. And now I tell you that my own poor life continues to be poured out as you know; with my usual hair shirt which is so dear to me, on my back." This he wrote in a letter to a friend some years before his election to the papacy.

Immediately following his election as pope he went to visit the prison in Rome - "You could not come to see me, so I came to see you," he told the prisoners. Every day of his long priestly life he had prayed at the third hour of the Office, "Let our love be set aflame by the fire of Your love and its heat in turn enkindle love in our neighbors." God had so answered his prayer that his own love kindled a fire which is sweeping over the world and the whole Church is enkindled.

This may sound like an extravagant way of speaking when we know full well the turmoil, the controversy, the impatience in the Church today which has led so many to leave convents and monasteries and even the priesthood, that high estate. Men and women have begun to exercise their freedom and are examining their own obedience, as to whether it was a matter of fear or of habit. To examine too the kind of training they in the home and in the school. Someone said that Pope John had opened a window and let in great blasts of fresh air. With all his emphasis on obedience, I do not think he has been understood.

What the American people - and I speak only of them, not knowing the condition of the Church in other countries - now feel free to do is to criticize, speak their minds. They have always been accused of a lack of diplomacy, or at least of bad manners, and they have felt it a virtue in themselves, the virtue of honesty, truthfulness. Freedom has meant searching and questioning. What do we really believe? It is as though man were realizing for the first time what is involved in this profession of Christianity. It is as though we were going through the Creed slowly, and saying to ourselves, Do I believe this, and this, and this? When we had retreats at the Catholic Worker farm we used to renew our baptismal vows at the close of the retreat, and I remember one fellow saying, "I want to read them over carefully to see if I wish to renew them." He meant to be humorous, because of course he knew that the vows had been made, and this recognition brought up the question of infant Baptism. The rite had been performed, the sacrament conferred, we were really in for it! We are free to obey or disobey.

Faith is required when we speak of obedience. Faith in a God who created us, a God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Faith in a God to whom we owe obedience for the very reason that we have been endowed with freedom to obey or disobey. Love, Beauty, Truth, all the attributes of God which we see reflected about us in creatures, in the very works of man himself whether it is bridges or symphonies wrought by his hands, fill our hearts with such wonder and gratitude that we cannot help but obey and worship.

The knowledge of Scripture is knowledge of Christ and His teaching. One time Jacques Maritain spoke to us in a little dingy church hall in the Italian section of New York, a hall which was dirty and cold and smelling of beer from a party the night before. (Smokey Joe, so called from the "smoke" he had consumed in his long life before he settled down at the Catholic Worker, had refused the pastor's appeal for volunteers to paint the hall, judging the pastor guilty of contributing to the delinquency of his parishioners).

Jacques Maritain, who loves the poor, spoke simply of the love of God and especially of the need to study the Scriptures in order to find Christ, Him whom our soul loves. "Read the Gospel prayerfully," he said, "searching for the truth, not just to find something with which to back up your own arguments," he added with humor. I thought, as he spoke, of St. Therese who wore pressed against her heart, under her habit, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as one would a love letter.

I think too of Dostoievsky's Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, and the little Testament given him on his way to Siberia, which brought him his knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of his sins. Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief. My faith may be the size of a mustard seed but even so, even aside from its potential, it brings with it a beginning of love, an inkling of love, so intense that human love with all its heights and depths pales in comparison. Even seeing through a glass darkly makes one want to obey, to do all the Beloved wishes, to follow Him to Siberia, to Antarctic wastes, to the desert, to prison, to give up one's life for one's brothers since He said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brothers ye have done it unto me."

But how much easier it is to obey the least ones, than the great ones of the earth, whether they are princes of the church or state. It has seemed to me always that one of the proofs of that great catastrophe, the Fall, is man's almost instinctive desire to disobey, on the human level, on the natural level. It can be observed from earliest youth. When I was raising my own small daughter and at the same time took care of the children of two Village women one summer at the beach, one of the women used to lecture me on not interfering with the freedom of her child. "Never say 'No' to him," she would tell me. "You must say, 'Wouldn't you rather do this, or that? 'Offer him an alternative. When you say no, it just puts his back up." The fairy tales we read to children are full of this matter of obedience and disobedience, and the fearful consequences of disobedience - the story of Bluebeard, the story of Pandora's box, and so on. On the other hand, obedience, blind obedience, is always rewarded. I was just reminded of the little girl who obligingly went out to pick strawberries in January, and as she swept off the steps at the command of a little dwarf, there she found the strawberries she had been bidden to pick. This reminds me of St. Teresa's emphasis on obedience even to the unquestioning planting of a picked cucumber, or St. Ignatius' command to plant a cabbage upside down.

This example was given last month during the press discussion of the rebuke to the Jesuits by Pope Paul, who seemed to think they were straying from obedience to papal directives to which they were sworn. Such obedience never has surprised me, convert that I am. I felt it was part of love, of loyalty, of abandonment, part indeed of that folly of the Cross so emphasized by St. Paul. Obedience, I thought, meant an ordered universe and was proper response to authority. It meant people working together for the common good. A man had authority when he knew what he was doing, whether performing an operation, filling a tooth, directing a symphony. If a man was an authority in his field, it meant obeying his directions whether, as around the Catholic Worker, it meant Hans in the kitchen, Mike in the engineering line, John in the fields or Martin Corbin in the editor's chair. In the House of Hospitality in the city, it meant whoever was "in charge," who would take the responsibility of doing the job, getting the tobacco, shopping for the groceries, giving out the flop money or carfares or emergency gifts or loans, getting the speakers for Friday night meetings. Authority was certainly decentralized and many shared in it.

Philosophical anarchism, decentralism, required that we follow the Gospel precept to be obedient to every living thing: "Be subject therefore to every human creature for God's sake." It meant washing the feet of others, as Jesus did at the Last' Supper. "You call me Master and Lord," He said, "and rightly so, for that is what I am. Then if I, your Lord, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. I have set you an example; you are to do as I have done for you." To serve others, not to seek power over them. Not to dominate, not to judge others.

Simone Weil has a great deal to say about obedience. "The idea of the despised and humiliated hero which was so common among the Greeks and is the actual theme of the Gospels," she writes, "is almost outside our Western tradition which has remained on the Roman road of militarism, centralization, bureaucracy and totalitarianism. "Every new development for the last three centuries has brought men closer to the state of affairs in which absolutely nothing would be recognized in the whole world as possessing a claim to obedience except the authority of the State." How strong and positive a virtue is this obedience to God and to one's conscience! St. Peter said, speaking for himself and the Apostles: "We must obey God rather than men."

Certainly the staff of editors and all the volunteers who are so at home with us that they call themselves Catholic Workers must have tried the patient endurance of the chancery office in New York, not only because of our frequent sojourns in jail and because of the controversial nature of the issues taken up in the paper and by our actions, but also because of the false ideas put forward by many of our friends as being our positions. One time I made the statement, whether in writing or in a speech I do not remember, that I was so grateful for the freedom we had in the Church that I was quite ready to obey with cheerfulness if Cardinal Spellman ever told us to lay down our pens and stop publication. Perhaps I had no right to speak for more rebellious souls than mine. Or for those whose consciences dictated continuance in a struggle, even with the highest authority, the Church itself. Perhaps I have sounded too possessive about the Catholic Worker itself and had no right to speak for the publication, but only for myself.

I do know that Peter Maurin would have agreed with me. Most cradle Catholics have gone through, or need to go through, a second conversion which binds them with a more profound, a more mature love and obedience to the Church. I do know that my nature is such that gratitude alone, gratitude for the faith, that most splendid gift, a gift not earned by me, a gratuitous gift, is enough to bind me in holy obedience to Holy Mother Church and her commands. I consider the loss of faith the greatest of disasters and the greatest unhappiness. How can one help grieving over friends and relatives and how insistent should be our prayers? We should be importunate as the friend trying to borrow some bread to feed his late guests, as the importunate widow before the unjust judge.

But obedience to the command "Search the Scriptures" will give us the reassurance we need. Will a father, when he is asked for bread, give his son a stone? Of course, it does not necessarily follow that one "out of the Church" has lost his faith. His rebellion may be the first step in examining his belief, and may lead to his first valid act of faith. C. S. Lewis has said something like this, but I do not know where, though it comforts me to believe it. But for me, faith and Church, and obedience to the Church, are tied together; and my gratitude for this sureness in my heart is such that I can only say, I believe, help Thou my unbelief. I believe and I obey.


Mir religii, 18 December 2002

Several hundred Orthodox Russians converted to the Catholic faith in the past decade according to a report today by the head of the Russian Catholic, Tadeucz Kondrusiewicz, Interfax reports. At the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian federation it was explained to the agency that there were approximately 500-600 such conversions. "For a country of many millions, this is a pittance," T. Kodrusiewicz said at a press conference in Moscow. At the same time he categorically rejected the accusations of proselytism which are often aimed at the Vatican from the Russian Orthodox church.

"We are dealing with the voluntary conversion of people from Orthodoxy to Catholicism. How can one refuse a person who comes to us by himself? Kondrusiewicz said.

At the same time he noted that the Vatican, despite the claims from the Orthodox side, does not consider Russia a mission country that needs to be converted to Christianity. "Russia was baptized a thousand years ago; it is an Orthodox country, but today there are 69 religious denominations registered in it, that is, the religious situation has changed in comparison with 1917," Kondrusiewicz added.

(tr. by PDS, posted at http://www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/0212d.html#17 on 18 December 2002)

"O" Antiphon for December 19

O RADIX JESSE, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare..

O ROOT OF JESSE, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not. Amen.

ICEL translation in use in official publications:

I am not sure if the ICEL translation of the "O" antiphons is that found in the Liturgy of the Hours (much fuller) or those used in the Alleluia verse of the daily Mass (much reduced in content). This applies, too, to the versions I have already given from the Mass text rather than from the Liturgy of the Hours for Dec 17 and 18. Maybe someone can let me know the status of these "O" antiphons - and maybe there are now two versions in use in the official prayer of the Church?

Today in Church history

December 19, 1734: Count Nicholaus von Zinzendorf, founder of the modern Moravian church and a pioneer in ecumenism and missions, is recognized as a minister by the theology faculty of Tubigen, Germany. (Some fascinating comments about von Zinzendorf can be found in Ronald Knox's utterly delightful classic ENTHUSIASM).

Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Ember Days

I wonder how many of us, who speak frequently about the "reform" of the Church and the necessary "purification", observe the traditional disciplines of fasting, abstinence, and more extended periods of prayer, such as was traditional in the Roman Rite in the Ember Days. Held four times a year (at the change of seasons) Ember Week included fasting and abstinence on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday, imploring God for blessings on the new season. They also prayed for those being ordained in these new seasons.

In the traditional Roman Rite, today is the first Ember Day of Advent. Is there even a faint echo of this celebration in the minds and spirits of any Catholics anymore? (Well, I know for sure that Karen Marie Knapp remembers!). Is there any echo of Advent, with its purple vestments and no Gloria at Mass, as a penitenial season of preparation for a renewed spirit at Christmas (Eastern Christians are still called to fast during the entire pre-Nativity season).

I write this as I begin to get a bit hungry and fear I won't even begin to live what I think and write about.... and, yes, I tend to be a minimalist in some ways and if it is no longer "obligatory" I tend to give myself a break....

Unlike you, of course!!!!!!!!!!

For rest of Advent....

I will not visit the blogs that continually point to the "troubles" facing the Church and the scandals, etc. (Actually I have one very popular blog in mind - and it's not yours, Mark!). I will focus more, I hope and pray, on my own need for conversion, for the hope of Advent, for the joy of a Christmas mystery renewed in my own heart and soul - a renewal I so desparately need.

I am curious enough to visit these blogs often - and sometimes to get good tips for information I can use here on my own blog. BUT NOW IT IS SIMPLY BECOMING DEPRESSING! (Others are probably made of stronger stuff than I am).

So instead of reading these blogs and the (more depressing) comment sections, I hope to pray more, listen to more music (like the beginning sections of Handel's Messiah), and REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS.

Come, Lord Jesus!


My archives are still there, it seems. For example, if I put in a google search I can access the older pages. The links to them have disappeared however (and I am told I can manually rebuild them; but I am also told Blogger itself may be working on upgrading and taking care of this problem). At any rate, I appreciate your patience if you were hoping to go back some in reading this blog. Hopefully one of these days the links to past pages will reappear once again!

Acquittal in Shooting of Priest Splits a city

"BALTIMORE, Dec. 17 — This city is split over a man's acquittal on Monday on felony charges in the shooting of a priest who he said sexually abused him 10 years ago.

Some people here, mostly African-Americans, reacted with joy and relief at the verdict for the man, Dontee Stokes, 26, who is black, as is the priest, the Rev. Maurice J. Blackwell. They called Mr. Stokes the victim of a broken system.

But many whites, as well as many blacks, who called talk shows on radio and gave interviews, attacked the verdict as vigilante justice. Some said the predominantly black jury had been motivated by the defendant's race and their animosity toward the police, prosecutors, the Roman Catholic Church and other predominantly white institutions."

"O" Antiphon for December 18

O ADONAI, et dux domus Israël, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arm. Amen.

ICEL translation in use in official publications:

O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with Your mighty power.

Today in Church history

December 18, 1707: Charles Wesley, who founded Methodism with his brother John, is born in England. A celebrated and prolific hymnwriter, his "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Lo, He Comes" are widely sung this time of year.

December 18, 1835: Lyman Abbott, a Congregational clergyman who was a leading proponent of the social gospel, is born in Massachusetts. Prompted by his admiration of Henry Ward Beecher to enter the ministry, he succeeded Beecher as pastor at Brooklyn's Plymouth Congregational Church.

December 18, 1865: Slavery is abolished in the United States as the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. Many of the abolitionists who pushed for its passage were Christians seeking to make America more like the Kingdom of God.

December 18, 1957: English author Dorothy Sayers, a Christian apologist who was also the most popular mystery writer in England, dies.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002
"The mystical sanctuary of our religion"

"The degree to which beneath the surface Mozart lived by his Catholic faith emerges particularly clearly in the account of a conversation with the cantor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Hildesheimer passed it over and Barth only apostrophized it.

The cantor, Johann Friedrich Doles, was a pupil of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the conversation took place in 1789, two years before Mozart’s death. Mozart is said to have remarked that this ‘enlightened Protestant’ did not grasp what the Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem, etc., was all about. He then went on to speak of his own religious experience:

‘But if someone has been introduced from earliest childhood, as I have been, into the mystical sanctuary of our religion; if there, when you did not yet know how to cope with your dark but urgent feelings, you waited for worship with an utterly fervent heart, without really knowing what you wanted, and went away with a lighter and uplifted heart without really knowing what you had had; if you thought how lucky were those who knelt down at the moving Agnus Dei and received the eucharist, and at the communion the music spoke in quiet joy from the hearts of those kneeling there, Benedictus qui venit, then it is all quite different.’

This was Mozart’s experience as a boy. And now? ‘Now, though, that gets lost in the life of the world; but - at least that’s the case with me - once you really take in again words which have heard a thousand times, in order to set them to music, it all comes back. It stands before you, and moves your soul.’"

(From Hans Kung, Mozart, Traces of Transcendence).

The mystical sanctuary of our religion is how Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart (the name entered in Mozart's baptismal record) expresses it so beautifully.

I wonder: is our own expression of Catholicism "mystical" enough to ever produce music so beautiful and "divine" as that of Mozart and the great musicians who wrote such magnificent sacred music for the ages?


Dontee Stokes claims to have been abused by a priest, Maurice Blackwell, and took matters in his own hands and shot Blackwell three times. The jury dropped all charges except some handgun violations and he will probably be given probation.

Regarding this attempted murder, Cardinal Keeler has this to say:

"With the decision of the jury tonight, one sad chapter is concluded, but there remains much healing ahead. Many of us have been praying for this healing. My prayers are with Dontee Stokes and his family. He is a young man who has shown much promise; may God bless him now and in the days and years to come."

Not a word about his own priest! Not a word.....


Stokes found not guilty of any kind of murder charges regarding the Catholic priest whom he shot three times

"Jurors did, however, convict Stokes of three lesser handgun charges, which most likely will bring a sentence of probation."

"Last night, (Cardinal) Keeler issued a statement saying he is going to pray for Stokes; the cardinal did not mention (former priest) Blackwell."

What's wrong with this picture????

"O" Antiphon for December 17

O SAPIENTIA, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence. Amen.

ICEL translation in use in official publications:

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care.
Come and show your people the way to salvation.

Today in Church history

December 17, 1912: Yale-educated Chicago native Bill Borden, heir to a fortune in real estate and milk production, boards a ship to China via Egypt. Converted to Christ as a young man, Borden had given his inheritance and his life to the cause of world evangelism. Only a month after arriving in Egypt, he contracted spinal meningitis and died. However, publication of his story prompted many young people to enter the mission field.

December 17, 1917: Bolsheviks confiscate all property of the Russian Orthodox Church and abolish religious instruction in the schools. Many priests and laity were martyred in the following decades.

Monday, December 16, 2002
Sick Feeling in my gut

Just opened up latest issue of The New Oxford Review which came in today's mail.

My stomach sickens. The list of "bad guys" keeps growing.

Thank God this, I believe, is the last issue of my subscription (a gift from a buddy).

Archives Lost

Perhaps some fellow bloggers might be able to point me to how I can find and publish the missing archives of my blog. The usual solution is not working: e.g. setting archive for no publishing, then for weekly, etc.

I'd appreciate any good suggestions; often enough I have found some help this way. Thanks!

Advent Word for the Church

From the Book of Tobit, Chapter 13

As for me, I exalt my God,
and my soul rejoices in the King of heaven.
Let all people speak of his majesty,
and acknowledge him in Jerusalem.
O Jerusalem, the holy city,
he afflicted you for the deeds of your hands,
but will again have mercy on the children of the righteous.
Acknowledge the Lord, for he is good,
and bless the King of the ages,
so that his tent may be rebuilt in you in joy.
May he cheer all those within you who are captives,
and love all those within you who are distressed,
to all generations forever.
A bright light will shine to all the ends of the earth;
many nations will come to you from far away,
the inhabitants of the remotest parts of the earth to your holy name,
bearing gifts in their hands for the King of heaven.
Generation after generation will give joyful praise in you;
the name of the chosen city will endure forever.
Cursed are all who speak a harsh word against you;
cursed are all who conquer you
and pull down your walls,
all who overthrow your towers
and set your homes on fire.
But blessed forever will be all who revere you.
Go, then, and rejoice over the children of the righteous,
for they will be gathered together
and will praise the Lord of the ages.
Happy are those who love you,
and happy are those who rejoice in your prosperity.
Happy also are all people who grieve with you
because of your afflictions;
for they will rejoice with you
and witness all your glory forever.
My soul blesses the Lord, the great King!
For Jerusalem will be built as his house for all ages.
How happy I will be if a remnant of my descendants should survive
to see your glory and acknowledge the King of heaven.
The gates of Jerusalem will be built with sapphire and emerald,
and all your walls with precious stones.
The towers of Jerusalem will be built with gold,
and their battlements with pure gold.
The streets of Jerusalem will be paved
with ruby and with stones of Ophir.
The gates of Jerusalem will sing hymns of joy,
and all her houses will cry, 'Hallelujah!
Blessed be the God of Israel!’
and the blessed will bless the holy name forever and ever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit: now and forever. Amen.

The National Review on Cardinal Law's resignation

The National Review has numerous articles on the Catholic Church and when it speak of "the Church" it seems that it is speaking only of the Catholic Church! (Yet it is not a Catholic publication).

The latest online edition has two pieces on Cardinal Law's resignation:

One by Michael Novak

Another by Rod Dreher

One difference between these two Catholic writers: Novak has written exquisite stuff on things Catholic and the mysteries of faith. Dreher, as far as I am aware, limits himself to criticism of things Catholic (I'd love to be pointed to any essays that praise and exult in the Catholic Faith and Church).

I link to both of these artices on my Scandal and Hope Page: which I update still with articles of interest (but not with everything written - most of which is very repetitive by now).

Today in Church history

December 16, 345: Eusebius (not to be confused with historian Eusebius of Caesarea) becomes bishop of Vercelli, Italy. After refusing to sign the condemnation of Athanasius at the Council of Milan, he was exiled. But he was pardoned by Julian the Apostate and led the movement to restore the Nicene Creed - and thus orthodoxy - to the empire.

December 16, 1714: Revivalist and evangelist George Whitefield, the best-known figure of the American Great Awakening, is born in Gloucester, England.

Sunday, December 15, 2002
I love my parish!

I don't know in how many other churches I could still sing the beautiful Advent hymn I sung as a child, as a young man: O come, Divine Messiah?

Yet more wisdom from the Contrarian

Thanks, Patrick, and I hope you don't mind so many links from here to there..... You seem to me not so much a "contrarian" as a voice of some needed "balance" and refinement (refining)....

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