A Catholic Blog for Lovers

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

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Saturday, January 04, 2003
You can find out the strangest things on the internet!

Searching for the Pope's birthday, I stumbled on this one.

Divining Secrets in 'Twelve Days of Christmas'

Peter Steinfel's discusses a popular current theory about this well known Christmas carol.


Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

- Christina Rossetti

Split churches seek common ground

"We are all Christians. It's our duty to know and respect each other," said Mika Romanova, 42, a Catholic in Rakovski, Bulgaria. "This is how it should be everywhere. It isn't." One of the main reasons — in Bulgaria and elsewhere — is the powerful Russian church, which traditionally has set the tone across Eastern Europe."

Today in Church history

January 4, 1309: Angela of Foligno, known as "the Mistress of theologians" dies. After the death of her husband (and children) she affiliated with the third order of Franciscans; she was gifted with mystical experiences and knowledge and was beatified in 1693.

January 4, 1581: James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, is born. Famous for a chronology of the Bible that was repeatedly printed in King James Versions, he was so highly esteemed that Oliver Cromwell gave him a state funeral and had him buried in Westminster Abbey.

January 4, 1821: Elizabeth Ann Seton, wife, mother, widow, convert to Catholicism, foundress of the Daughters of Charity, died at Emmitsburg, Maryland. Mother Seton was canonized a saint in 1975.

January 4, 1934: The "Confessing Church," led by Karl Barth, Martin Niemoeller, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in opposition to the Nazi "German Christian" church, officially organizes in Barmen, Germany.

January 4, 1965: T.S. Eliot, the most influential English writer in the twentieth century and a devout Christian who wove his religious convictions into his work, dies.

Friday, January 03, 2003
Today' Memorial: the Holy Name of Jesus

Jesu Dulcis Memoria

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blessed Name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

O Jesus, King most wonderful
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable
In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, light of all below,
Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

Jesus, may all confess Thy name,
Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
To seek Thee more and more.

Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Inflaming it with love.

O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
To Thee our prayers ascend.

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night;
And joy to all impart.

Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be,
While endless ages run.

- Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

People are Good!

As many of you know, I took a plunge into hope recently, and actually booked a 6 day cruise to Alaska in May. Something I've dreamt about for years, something I thought out of reach (especially after getting so ill a few years ago and being somewhat "disabled" now), but now becoming a reality, God willing. The cruise itself was chosen since it was so reasonable: with a handicapped accessible cabin, which seems about 50% larger than cabins in its class, the cost is just over $500.

But since I live in Baltimore and the ship sails from Vancouver and arrives in Seattle the airfare would have been even more expensive than the cruise! Yesterday I received a suprise email from a good friend, and she said she wanted to give both me and Father Michael (who will be traveling with me) some of her free air miles and then went on to book our flights - FIRST CLASS!!!! (I once traveled first class when I was bumped up for some reason on a trip to Puerto Rico and it was great).

One "problem" - her miles will only take us to Seattle and not Vancouver. So we decided to leave for the cruise a day early, rent a car at Seattle airport, drive up to Vancouver, spend the night in Vancouver, drop the car off and get on the cruise ship - to the land of my dreams! Cost is very reasonable (I spent a good bit of yesterday online, tracking down info and making reservations). Car rental (full size car) is $72 for a day; hotel (at Vancouver's tallest hotel, the Empire Landmark) is $66. Add a few short cab rides, a few meals (we like cheap eats), and a few other incidentals, and that will be the expense - rather then the almost $600 per person airfare!

Not only does this generous gift save us money, it also added a nice "leg" to our trip and I look forward to the drive from Seattle to Vancouver and spending at least a little time in that beautiful city in British Columbia (I was there for the World's Fair years ago and loved it). And it also bestows even on this cruise that special sense of the goodness of others, the generosity of heart and soul, that has blessed me, step by step, in my own "journey" of life. Thanks, L!
People are good!


P.S. I only wish I could take ONION with me.....


Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span;
Summer in winter, Day in night,
Heaven in earth and God in man.
Great Little One whose all-embracing birth,
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.

- Richard Crashaw

Today in Church history

January 3, 1521: Pope Leo X creates a bull of excommunication for Martin Luther that would have deprived him of civil rights and protection, but before its execution, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V allows Luther the opportunity to recant his beliefs at the Diet of Worms. When Luther instead affirms his beliefs, the bull is carried out.

January 3, 1785: The Methodist "Christmas Conference" concludes at Baltimore, Maryland, having created the Methodist Episcopal Church in America and elected Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke its two first "general superintendents".

January 3, 1840: Joseph de Veuster, who, as Roman Catholic Missionary Father Damien gave his life ministering to lepers in Hawaii, is born in Tremelo, Belgium.

January 3, 1892: Literature professor J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a devout Catholic, is born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Thursday, January 02, 2003
Saints and Friends!

St Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzen) spoke of his incomparable friendship with St Basil (today both of these saints are remembered together):

"It seemed as though we two had but one soul; and though we must not hold that all things are in all things, yet you must believe that we were two in one and each in the other, having the one aim: to practice virtue and to center our life on eternity, thus passing beyond this mortal life while still in the world."

New Catholic Church in Magadan, Russia

Father Daniel Maurer, of Vladivostok, Russia, sends us these photos and these accompanying words. Thanks, Father Dan, for sharing another wonderful sign of hope! God richly bless you and your ministry and your people!

The photos show the interior of the new Roman Catholic church of the Nativity of the Lord in Magadan, Russia on the far northeastern Pacific coast of Russia. Magadan is famous as the last stop of the GULAG archipelago of death and labor camps during the Stalin era. It was the administrative center for the famous Kolyma (Ko-li-MAH') death camps.

In 1990 in a very historic opportunity Archbishop Francis Hurley of "neighboring" Anchorage, Alaska was able to start the Catholic parish there even before Pope John Paul II was able to reappoint the Catholic hierarchy for Russia in April 1991. He founded the parish of the Nativity in Magadan. Since 1994 Fr. Michael Shields of the Heart of Jesus, archdiocesan priest from Anchorage (but working toward the foundation of a priestly religious group inspired by Charles de Foucauld). A few years later, Fr. David Means (archdiocesan priest of St. Louis, MO) joined him.

With funding from the Archdiocese of Anchorage and other sources in the U.S. they just completed the construction of the first real Catholic church building in the Magadan area. Until then, they had been meeting in a reconstructed apartment chapel.

The new church has not yet been officially dedicated (consecrated) because the bishop of the diocese has been excluded from Russia since April 2002. He would like to be present to do the consecration. But on Christmas Eve last week the faithful gathered for the first Mass in the new church. Retired Archbishop Hurley (with miter) was able to be there for the joyful occasion. The group photo, Fr. Michael Shields (black hair and glasses, facing away from the camera, waving his hand) is immediately to the archbishop's right. I was not present for the celebration. I looked for Fr. David Means in the photo but have not found him yet.

This is another sign of hope and grace, especially in Magadan which for so long has been a symbol of death and religious repression.

With prayerful best wishes for a very happy New Year!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dan Maurer
Vladivostok, Russia

Taize Event Draws Big from Eastern Europe

Participants in the 25th young adult meeting led by the Christian community of Taize sing during a late prayer at the Parc des Expositions in Paris, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2002.

PARIS, JAN. 1, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Some 80,000 young participants at a Taizé Community meeting spent their New Year's Eve in a now-traditional way: praying for peace.

More than half the young people, ranging in age from 17 to 30, were from former Communist countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and Ukraine, said Taizé, an "international ecumenical community" established in 1940 by monks near Cluny.

The Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant participants were housed by Parisian families during the five-day event.

In the mornings, they met in 400 venues in Paris to pray and exchange experiences on the "signs of hope." In the afternoons, they met at the Exhibition Park of the Port de Versailles to attend meetings on various topics, conducted in 23 languages.

"Do we not see arising, even in the most problematic situations of the world, some signs of undeniable hope?" Taizé founder Brother Roger asked in his 2003 Letter, which was the subject of reflection during the event.

Most popular Italian Christmas Carol

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Listen to the lovely melody sung by an a capella chorus "San Marco" in MP3 format

1. Tu scendi dalle stelle
O Re del Cielo
E vieni in una grotta
Al freddo al gelo
O Bambino mio divino,
io ti vedo qui a tremar
o Dio beato;
ah quanto ti costò l’ avermi amato!

O King of Heaven! from starry throne descending,
Thou takest refuge in that wretched cave:
O God of bliss! I see Thee cold and trembling.
What pain it cost Thee fallen man to save!
O my dearest Child most holy,
Shudd'ring, trembling in the cold!
Great God, Thou lovest me!
What suff'ring Thou didst bear,
That I near Thee might be!

2. A te che sei del mondo il Creatore, *mancano panni e fuoco, o mio Signore. (2v)
Caro eletto pargoletto, quanto questa povertà, più m'innamora, *giacché ti fece amor povero ancora. (2v)

Thou, of a thousand worlds the great Creator,
Dost now the pain of cold and want endure;
Thy poverty but makes Thee more endearing,
For well I know 'tis love has made Thee poor;

3. Tu lasci del tuo Padre il divin seno, *per venir a penar su poco fieno. (2v)
Dolce amore del mio cuore, dove amor ti trasportò, o Gesù mio! *Perché tanto patir? Per amor mio! (2v)

I see Thee leave Thy Heavenly Father's bosom,
But whither has Thy love transported Thee?
Upon a little straw I see Thee lying;
Why suffer thus? 'Tis all for love of me.

4. Ma se fu tuo volere il tuo patire, *perché vuoi pianger poi, perché vagire? (2v)
Sposo mio amato Dio, mio Gesù, t'intendo sì, ah mio Signore! *Tu piangi non per duol, ma per amore! (2v)

But if it is Thy will for me to suffer,
And by these sufferings my heart to move,
Wherefore, my Jesus, do I see Thee weeping?
'Tis not for pain Thou weepest, but for love.

5. Tu piangi per vederti da me ingrato, *dove sì grande amor, sì poco amato! (2v)
O diletto del mio petto, se già un tempo fu così, or te sol bramo! *Caro, non pianger più, ch'io t'amo, t'amo (2v)

Thou weepest thus to see me so ungrateful;
My sins have pierced Thee to the very core;
I once despised Thy love, but now I love Thee,
I love but Thee; then, Jesus, weep no more.

6. Tu dormi o Gesù mio, ma intanto il cuore *non dorme, no, ma veglia a tutte l'ore. (2v)
Deh, mio bello e puro agnello, a che pensi dimmi tu? O amore immenso! *"A morire per te rispondi io penso."

Thou sleepest, Lord, but Thy heart ever watches,
No slumber can a heart so loving take;
But tell me, darling Child, of what Thou thinkest.
"I think," he says, "of dying for Thy sake."

7. Dunque a morire per me, tu pensi o Dio *e chi altro, fuor di te, amar poss'io? (2v)
O Maria speranza mia, se poc'amo il tuo Gesù, non ti sdegnare! *Amalo tu per me, s'io nol so amare! (2v)

Is it for me that Thou dost think of dying!
What, then, O Jesus! can I but love Thee?
Mary, my hope! If I love him too little -
Be not indignant - love him thou for me.

Today in Church history

January 2, 1909: Aimee Semple and her husband, Robert, are ordained by Chicago evangelist William H. Durham. Aimee, who married Harold McPherson after Robert died, would become the founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and one of America's most popular preachers of the twentieth century.

January 2, 1921: Pittsburgh radio station KDKA broadcasts the first religious program over the airwaves: a vesper service of Calvary Episcopal Church. The senior pastor, unimpressed by the landmark broadcast, didn't even participate in the service, leaving his junior associate to conduct it. The two KDKA engineers (one Jewish, the other Catholic), were asked to dress in choir robes to be less obtrusive. Today religious broadcasting is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003
The Solemnity of the Mother of God

Today, during the Christmas season, the Church remembers especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, Dei Genetrix, Theotokos, and our own Mother! For the feast I offer the great poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins, in whch all the faith and devotion of the Church towards Our Lady is revealed in incomparable words and images. It may not be "easy" reading for many but any effort to enter its "sacramentality" can bear some rich fruit and renewal of faith and joy. I offer, too, two images of Our Lady from two different cultures and traditions, indicating the universality of the Motherhood we celebrate today. (I place in bold font the section of this poem that seems more "seasonal"):

Japanese Madonna

The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe

WILD air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that ’s fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing’s life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life’s law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race—
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess’s
Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
This one work has to do—
Let all God’s glory through,
God’s glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.

I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
She, wild web, wondrous robe,
Mantles the guilty globe,
Since God has let dispense
Her prayers his providence:
Nay, more than almoner,
The sweet alms’ self is her
And men are meant to share
Her life as life does air.
If I have understood,
She holds high motherhood
Towards all our ghostly good
And plays in grace her part
About man’s beating heart,
Laying, like air’s fine flood,
The deathdance in his blood;
Yet no part but what will
Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn—
Bethlem or Nazareth,
Men here may draw like breath
More Christ and baffle death;
Who, born so, comes to be
New self and nobler me
In each one and each one
More makes, when all is done,
Both God’s and Mary’s Son.

Again, look overhead
How air is azurèd;
O how! nay do but stand
Where you can lift your hand
Skywards: rich, rich it laps
Round the four fingergaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot,
Charged, steepèd sky will not
Stain light. Yea, mark you this:
It does no prejudice.
The glass-blue days are those
When every colour glows,
Each shape and shadow shows.
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, not alter it.
Or if there does some soft,
On things aloof, aloft,
Bloom breathe, that one breath more
Earth is the fairer for.
Whereas did air not make
This bath of blue and slake
His fire, the sun would shake,
A blear and blinding ball
With blackness bound, and all
The thick stars round him roll
Flashing like flecks of coal,
Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,
In grimy vasty vault.
So God was god of old:
A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must make our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man’s mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.

- Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ

Ethiopian Madonna

Turkish group demands Santa's bones

"If the remains were moved there would be a revolution here."
- Rev. Gerardo Cioffari, historian at the St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari, Italy

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Give us Santa's bones back!

That's what the Turkey-based Santa Claus Foundation told Italy Tuesday in its message for the New Year.

Muammer Karabulut, the group's chairman told The Associated Press that the remains of St. Nicholas, from whom the myth of Santa Claus emerged, were stolen from what is now Turkey by pirates in the 11th century and taken to Italy.

"We want them returned in 2003," he said in a telephone interview. "We're starting a campaign this year for them to be given back."

St. Nicholas was born and served as bishop of what is now the Mediterranean town of Demre, Turkey, in 4th century A.D. He was buried there, but his remains were later taken to the southern Italian town of Bari.

"He belongs in Turkey," Karabulut said.

Hundreds of Greek and Russian Orthodox commemorate St. Nicholas' death every December 6 at a church in Demre built in his honor.

But the church in Bari dismissed any Turkish claims to the bones.

"They ask for the remains only to keep tourism alive. They don't venerate St. Nicholas," said the Rev. Gerardo Cioffari, historian at the St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari.

According to Cioffari, the remains of the saint's body were brought to Bari in 1087, and have been stored there in the St. Nicholas Basilica. The remains have been secured in blocks of reinforced concrete.

But Karabulut said a small part of his legs remain in Turkey.

"We plan to have the bone fragments tested this year to see if the bones in Italy and Turkey belong to the same person," Karabulut said.

But Cioffari said the bones could never be given back.

"If the remains were moved there would be a revolution here," Cioffari said. "Even the Vatican couldn't do anything about it."

Today in Church history

January 1, 379: Early church father Basil the Great dies. Founder and financial supporter of a monastery in Annessi, which became a complex of hospitals, hostels, and schools, he also succeeded Eusebius as bishop of Caesarea. He is also known for his theological work explaining the Trinity and for healing the Antioch schism in the eastern church. His monastic rule remains the basis of the Rule followed by the Eastern Orthodox religious today.

January 1, 1484: Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli is born at Wildhaus, Switzerland

January 1, 1622: The Roman Catholic Church adopts January 1 as the beginning of the year, rather than March 25.

January 1, 1643: English mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton is baptized at St. John's Church in Colsterworth, England. Deeply interested in religion throughout his life, Newton (known especially for formulating the laws of gravitation) acknowledged Jesus as Savior of the world, but not God incarnate.

January 1, 1802: In a letter to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association, Thomas Jefferson coins the famous metaphor, "a wall of separation between Church and State." A recent exhibit at the Library of Congress has sparked argument over whether Jefferson used the term merely for political reasons or whether he meant it to explain the First Amendment.

January 1, 1863: American President Abraham Lincoln frees all slaves in Confederate states by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. Churches throughout the North held candlelight vigils commemorating the event.

January 1, 1937: Presbyterian scholar J. Gresham Machen, fundamentalism's most gifted theologian, dies.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002
As the new begins

For all that has been - amen.
For all that is - thanks.
For all that will be - yes.

O God, who was, who is, and who is to come: to you belong all times and seasons. Bless this new calendar year for all of us, and let your blessings accompany us, one day at a time.

We know so little, see so little, miss so much: but for ALL, what we know and do not know, what we remember and what we have forgotten, what we see and do not see: Thanks!


At year's end....

Tears of joy!

From my perspective perhaps the most important Catholic happening of 2002 was the World Youth Day (WYD) celebration in Toronto in July. I have several reasons for this opinion: here's an attempt to spell some out as briefly as I can.

For one thing, the WYD gave a much needed shot in the arm for Catholics in North America, severely wounded by the "scandals" and media blitz on this topic for most of this year. In one sense, the "scandals" might qualify as the most important happening among North American Catholics in 2002; but ultimately I think WYD is more important - especially as it bears on the future. At WYD, too, the Pope gave a perspective, briefly but powerfully, in which to place the scandals, and it seemed to resonate well with the multitude gathered.

Here we had the Pope gathering with hundreds of thousands of younger Catholics, who were mostly eager, joyful, and even "pious". Despite the reports of imminent failure on the part of both critics of the left and of the right! In a world ever increasing in its secularization, this is a sign of hope. In a world, too, becoming more and more islamized as well, this is a sign of hope.

I have noticed, for some years now, that when pictures of Moslems are shown, it often involves oodles of young men, teeming at times. When pictures are shown of Catholics (other than papal events), it has tended to be a few older people, and lately a few older priests accused of sexual offenses! "Demographics are destiny" and if this is true than the destiny of the west is in jeopardy.

Thus the importance of WYD and the reenergizing of the youthful Church! In so many sectors of the "western" world, the "progressive" european countries, the young have long been known to abandon the faith and the Church. It happens a good bit in North America too!

So when we see gatherings of hundreds of thousands of YOUNG Catholics it seems we should rejoice and support and pray, pray, pray that these gatherings bear rich fruit for the sake of the Church and of the world. (It is very saddening to me to read criticisms of WYD by Catholics who, to me, seem to miss "the forest for the trees" and miss the essence as they focus on peripheral things).

Thus, for me, once again the real "man of the year" is Pope John Paul II, a priest of integrity if ever there was one! His "connection" with young people seems a miracle to me, worth far more attention than it gets (but maybe that's just as well). And this year, especially, since, once again defying the prophecies of the gloomy right and left, he seems to be reviving his physical health to some degree and has surprised us all once more.

Ad multos annos!



May the Son of God
who is formed in you
grow strong and immense
in you
and become for you
great gladness
and exaltation
and perfect joy.

- Blessed Isaac of Stella, 12th century Cistercian Father

New Book by Pope to be published

An unprecedented book of poetry written by Pope John Paul, including the pontiff's thoughts about choosing his successor, will soon be published in his native Poland, the Catholic Information Agency said December 30, 2002 (Yahoo News).

Rebel Monks Get Marching Orders

Esphigmenou Monastery

ISTANBUL, December 18, 2002 (Kathimerini) -- A recalcitrant group of ultra-Orthodox Mount Athos monks has been excommunicated, declared schismatic and ordered to promptly evacuate their 1,000-year-old monastery, the Ecumenical Patriarchate said yesterday.

The decision could signal final victory for the Istanbul-based Patriarchate in its 30-year war with the monks of the Esphigmenou Monastery, who refuse to acknowledge the "renegade" patriarch's authority or abide by the Athos monastic community's rules. Their relations with the Patriarchate - which has jurisdiction over Mt Athos - soured after the 1964 Istanbul meeting between Patriarch Athinagoras and Pope Paul VI. For the 100-odd monks, who have draped a banner reading "Orthodoxy or Death" from their medieval walls, this was high treason.

The Patriarchate said yesterday the monks would have to "leave the Athos Peninsula without further ado," having been declared "unrepentants, schismatics and subject to excommunication." The Greek Constitution bans schismatics and non-Orthodox from dwelling on Mt Athos.

Today in Church history

December 31, 1384: John Wycliffe, pre-Reformer who initiated the first complete translation of the Bible into English and influenced Hus, Luther and Calvin, dies at about 64. He was condemned at the council of Constance (1415), and his body was disinterred and burned.

Monday, December 30, 2002
Are you a "crunchy conservative?" asks Rod Dreher in National Review online

A relatively light piece, and Rod mentions two people I know a bit: Frederica Mathewes-Green and Juliane Wiley. Frederica was a neighbor and I belonged to the same church she belongs to for a few years; I met Julianne at a Right to Life march in DC and have kept in some contact with her - she has been a source of inspiration and encouragement to me. While I am not yet a "crunchy" conservative or liberal (I am a meat and potato kind of guy), I do appreciate much of what Rod describes regarding foods. I am a nature-lover and have a firm commitment to environmentalism. Enjoy!

Top Ten News Stories, 2002, in the Protestant Evangelical World

The events, people, and ideas of the past year that have or will significantly shape evangelical life, thought, or mission.

By Christianity Today editors | posted 12/30/2002

1. Martyrs' Brigade: Militant Muslims murder Christians in Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Sudan, and Nigeria.

2. Might for the Right: Conservative Christians rally as Republicans gain control of Congress.

3. Pronoun Politics: Bible scholars dispute gender translation in Today's New International Version.

4. Faith Clash: Missouri Synod Lutherans, Baptists, and other conservatives struggle over participating in interfaith services.

5. Theology-rattling: With an eye on Iraq, Christians debate just-war doctrine, merits of pre-emptive attack.

6. Staying the Course: 'Confessing' movement of classic Christians expands inside mainline denominations.

7. Persecution Archive: New documents from China chronicle 22,000 cases of religious persecution.

8. Public School Pullout: More Christian parents, objecting to pro-gay curriculum, remove kids from public education.

9. Untying the Gay Knot: Conservatives gather support for Federal Marriage Amendment. Canadian Anglicans split over same-sex unions.

10. Dalit Turnabout: Asia's 'Untouchables' reject Hinduism; more turn to Christianity than ever before.

A Pet Peeve

Of course, I have some pet peeves. One of them has to do with what I call the "minimalism" built into too much Catholic things - e.g. yesterday's official readings offering long and short versions of both the epistle and gospel. To me this is ridiculous (as if either of those readings were that long to begin with!). The epistle, in its short form, conveniently stopped at the brief section on "wives be subordinate to your husbands, etc."

Human nature being what it is, a part of me loves the "shorter" form and the "no obligation" on Friday abstinence, and the almost non-existent eucharistic fast to give a few examples. But a part of me yearns for "more" and "longer" and obligatory disciplines of fasting and abstinence.

At any rate, this is one of my pet peeves. There is much more that could be said and discussed, I think. My own parish usually avoids the worst of this and, for example, our main Mass usually lasts for an hour and fifteen minutes (we sing every verse of every hymn). But I think in most parishes the pressure is on to "make it quick" and never to go over an hour, God forbid! What about your own parish? How long do you think Sunday Mass should be?

The Place of His Birth

Christ chose to be born in a stable... He still chooses unlikely places. In each of us just beyond the the noise of our outward life, there is some place of silence and darkness, an emptiness where, if we have courage enough, we are alone with ourselves. There, in this place of silence, He alone can content us, He alone is our peace.

It is in this secret place of the soul that Christ wants to be born in us. He wants to be born in us, that through us He may live in this world again and make it new with His life, make it young with His youngness, little with His littleness, true with His truth, childlike with His childhood, pure with His purity.

It is in the dark place of our heart that Christ wants the light of the world to begin to burn and from its burning to radiate, until it shines back from the face of humanity. Here it is that He wants the light to begin to shine in darkness and the life of the world to begin again.

- Caryll Houselander

Mob stops UK envoy attending service

By John Phillips and Dragan Petrovic in Belgrade

December 26, 2002

PROTESTERS stopped the British Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Charles Crawford, and local Anglicans from holding a Christmas Eve church service in Belgrade.

The Anglican community in the Yugoslav capital, some of them Serbs, had planned to attend the midnight service, as they have done every year, in a chapel made available by the leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle, at his palace in the diplomatic quarter of Belgrade.

When Mr Crawford and other worshippers arrived with the Anglican priest resident in Belgrade, the Rev Philip Warner, however, they were prevented from entering the patriarchate by a hostile crowd of about 30 ultra-nationalist militants who were whistling and chanting slogans against the ecumenical movement that has sought reconciliation between the Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic churches since the overthrow in 2000 of Slobodan Milosevic, the former President.

The Patriarch tried to remonstrate with the protesters, but they took no notice and refused to allow the Anglicans to enter the chapel. Security sources said the protesters were members of the ultra-right movement Obras.

A Western diplomat who witnessed the protest said: "It was a very strange affair that damaged the image of the Patriarch, who evidently cannot control some people who say that they are connected with the church." Mr Warner said: "I am not personally hurt, but it is very sad for His Holiness that he has groups like this in his church."

President Kostunica of Yugoslavia apologised for the incident in which police who were present did not intervene.

Today in Church history

December 30, 1823: Charles G. Finney, the most effective evangelist America had ever seen, is licensed to preach.

December 30, 1852: Future U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes marries "Lemonade "Lucy," so called because, as first lady, she forbade alcohol in the Executive Mansion. The Hayeses were both devout Methodists who began each day with prayer and organized Sunday evening worship services at the White House.

Sunday, December 29, 2002
I love my parish!

Among many reasons here's a few:

Candles alight, sea of pointsettas, before Sunday Mass

Christmas cherubs dance around the head of Father Paschal in the pulpit

Be not afraid!

grchristmed.jpg (16253 bytes)

By making himself such a gentle, tiny Infant, he cries out to you: trust, intimacy! Don't be afraid of me! Come to me! Have no fear in the presence of such a gentle child. He is indeed your God, but so very, very gentle and with such a lovely smile....Let your hearts overflow with tenderness, love, and trust.

- Charles de Foucauld, Brother Charles of Jesus

Nativity image created by a Little Sister of Jesus

Today in Church history

December 29, 1809: William Gladstone, four-time British prime minister, is born in Liverpool, England. One scholar has called him "the epitome of all that the evangelicals and the English public asked for in their politicians" .

December 29, 1849: The carol "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," by pastor Edmund H. Sears, appears for the first time in The Christian Register.

December 29, 1851: The first Y.M.C.A. in the United States is organized in Boston.

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