A Catholic Blog for Lovers
Saturday, August 16, 2003
A Great Cloud of Witnesses / Living Icons
The ecumenism of the "saints"
More and more I believe that the future of the Christian Reality belongs to those who know how to keep Christ and His Person as the living Center of faith and life. And to foster the bonds of fraternal love between those who love the LORD, without minimizing any genuine difference, but knowing that "what unites us is greater than what divides us" if Christ is indeed the center and heart.
I have been meaning, for quite a while, to point to a wonderful book about glowing personalities of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Living Icons: Persons of Faith in the Eastern Church by Father Michael Plekon (who wrote me a while back about his book and now finally I mention it and will add it to my Praise of Glory Bookcenter). I am a "people-person" and much of what I have learned about the faith and theology has come from getting to know some wonderful personalities, who are shaped by Christ and the Church. That's why I love books like this one!
There are wonderful, nuanced, essays on these grand and fascinating, sometimes intriguing, figures:
St. Seraphim of Sarov, Sergius Bulgakov, Mother Maria Skobtsova, Fr. Lev Gillet, Paul Evdokimov, Fr. Gregory Krug, Nicholas Afanasiev, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. John Meyendorff, and Fr. Alexander Men.
I have known each of these and some have had an impact on my own life: especially Father Lev Gillet, iconographer Gregory Krug, Mother Maria of Paris (the Orthodox Dorothy Day!), Father Alexander Schmemman, Saint Seraphim of Sarov. I have read books by Paul Evdokimov, Sergius Bulgakov, Father John Meyendorff, and Nicholas Afanasiev. So these are not strangers to me at all! All are a part of my own spiritual landscape, some more than others, of course.
I am delighted to link them with my own webpage "A Great Cloud of Witnesses", dedicated to some of my own mentors. In the photo, you can see some of them: John Henry Newman, Charles de Foucauld, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and Saint Therese of Lisieux. Others I mention on my page are Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Flannery O'Connor, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, Father Vincent McNabb OP, Saint Edith Stein, Vladimir Soloviev, Henri de Lubac SJ, Hans Urs von Balthasar. What a marvellous "collection" of burning lights!
Here east meets west in the love of Christ! The ecumenism of the saints! It seems fitting to conclude this piece by quoting once again favorite words of mine by Father Lev Gillet, in his lovely book, "Orthodox Spirituality" (Father Michael's essay on Father Lev is a joy to read):
"The whole teaching of the Latin Fathers may be found in the East, just as the whole teaching of the Greek Fathers may be found in the West. Rome has given St Jerome to Palestine. The East has given Cassian to the West and holds in special veneration that Roman of the Romans, Pope St Gregory the Great. St Basil would have acknowledged St Benedict of Nursia as his brother and heir. St Macrina would have found her sister in St Scholastica. St Alexis 'the man of God', the 'poor man under the stairs', has been succeeded by the wandering beggar St Benedict Joseph Labre. St Nicholas would have felt as very near to him the burning charity of St Francis of Assisi and St Vincent de Paul. St Seraphim of Sarov would have seen the desert blossoming under Father Charles de Foucauld's feet, and would have called St Therese of Lisieux 'my joy'".
Living Icons: Persons of Faith in the Eastern Church
And for another book on four great Christian writers, sometimes known as "The School of the Holy Ghost": Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy, don't forget The Life You Save May Be Your Own.
Warsaw's Heroic Cityscape
In a article in the Travel section of the New York Times about Warsaw I came across the following encouraging section:
"..Like nowhere else in Europe, Warsaw's Roman Catholic churches are full - with people of all ages. Their interiors are often of light and cheerful Baroque style; so are the sung Masses. Just as they reflected defiance and resistance during the centuries of oppression, so now the churches ring out optimism. For perhaps the first time in a thousand years of Polish history, it seems justified..."
Why is it that Poland seems to have weathered the "postconciliar" storms so much better than other countries in Europe? Why is it that Poland seems to have kept not only most of the older generation but most of the new generations as well? Does this also indicate something about our Pope and his own pastoral plan for the universal Church? Poland seems to have implemented Vatican II the way the conciliar fathers intended (and, of course, Karol Wojtyla was one of its most active bishops).
Could ‘God’s architect’ be a saint?
From the Tablet online
The Vatican has begun examining 1,024 pages of documentation collected in Barcelona to support the cause for the beatification and eventual canonisation of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926). It is one of the more unlikely candidacies to be taken under consideration by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, reports Peggy Polk from Rome.
Most saints are priests or members of religious orders. Gaudí’s fame came from his extraordinarily original and innovative architecture, which grew out of the turn-of-the-century art nouveau movement. He mixed Moorish, Gothic and Baroque elements to develop a style that incorporated brilliant colours, contrasting textures and sinuous, twisting shapes resembling trees, fish and other shapes from nature. Barcelona is full of his work – his still uncompleted masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) Cathedral, Güell Park, villas, apartment houses, a college and a crypt.
The supporters of Gaudí’s cause focus mainly on the last 10 years of his life, which he devoted entirely to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. “God’s architect” lived like a monk in poverty and prayer, refusing a salary and pouring all the funds he could collect into construction of the cathedral. The white-bearded Gaudí was so shabbily dressed that when struck by a tram and fatally injured as he turned back to admire the cathedral after daily prayer, he was assumed to be a beggar and was taken to a hospital for the indigent.
But even his supporters admit that Gaudí’s character and early life do not fit the picture of a saint. He was impatient and egotistical and had a notoriously bad temper. It is part of the Gaudí legend that the day before his accident he told a priest friend, Fr Gil Paré, that he was “a fighter by nature. I have always fought, and I have always had my way except in one thing, in the fight against my bad temper. I have not been able to master it.” Like many other Catalan architects, he became a Mason in his youth and associated with anarchists and socialists.
Fr Lluís Bonet i Armengol, rector of the Sagrada Familia parish and vice-postulator of Gaudí’s cause, has argued that even as a young man Gaudí could not have been anticlerical or he would not have been allowed to start work on the Sagrada Familia at the age of 31. Later in life he began attending Mass and reading the Bible every day, and had a spiritual director.
Another Gaudí legend is that asked when he expected to complete the cathedral, he would point to the sky and say: “My client is not in a hurry.” Today, 120 years after work was begun, the cathedral is still under construction.
The Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudí was formed in 1992. In 1998 the Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Ricard Maria Carlés, and the Catalan Conference of Bishops gave permission for the establishment of historical and theological commissions to look into Gaudí’s life. Formal diocesan hearings began with Vatican approval in 2000.
Cardinal Carlés presented the findings of the tribunal and documentation collected by the commission to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 21 May. The congregation on 9 July began deliberating Gaudí’s claim to heroic virtues, which would establish him as venerable. If the cause clears that hurdle, one miracle is required for Pope John Paul II to declare Gaudí blessed and another for the Pope to proclaim him St Antoni Gaudí.
Jordi Piqué, spokesman for the Barcelona archdiocese, said the congregation was “very interested and very positive” about the cause.
The love of nature
The Tablet's summer series offers a reflection on the Creator and creation - a theme dear to my own heart.
"...True, some of the earliest, even the most genial, of the Church Fathers counselled their flocks to “hate” the world. Surely, however, this was meant to instruct them not to love it too much, not to be distracted. In his Confessions St Augustine chides himself for just such a distraction. “What excuse can I make for myself when often, as I sit at home, I cannot turn my eyes from the sight of a lizard eating flies or a spider entangling them as they fly into her web?”
You could wish that he had not chosen examples of nature’s unsentimental voraciousness – flies must have been a torment in his North Africa – but Augustine was a realist as well as, by nature, a poet. It is the poet in him who saves the day by adding, “It is true the sight of them inspires me to praise you for the wonders of your creation and the order in which you have disposed all things.” Nevertheless, lizard and spider have distracted him from God. But had they? Even John Wesley called out: “Love the creature, as it leads to the Creator.”
Elsewhere, later, St Augustine is much more wholehearted about Creation, finding authority in the Psalms. In his close reading of Scripture, he distinguished between “facts”, which were to be believed, and “signs”, which had to be unpacked. Examining “signs”, he puzzles over Psalm 98 (99), because he cannot at first understand “fall down before his footstool, for he is holy”. What are we to make of it, he asks – “a footstool is something beneath one’s feet”.
Then he remembers Isaiah, “Heaven is my throne, but the earth is my footstool”. Aha! Christ became flesh, flesh is from the earth, “and he gave us that same flesh to eat for our salvation, therefore … we can plainly see how the Lord’s footstool is rightly worshipped. Not only do we commit no sin in worshipping it; we should sin if we did not.” Thus he links, to his own satisfaction, footstool, earth and Creation...."
Treasures of the Vatican
Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art to showcase nearly 20 centuries of famous art and religious artifacts, some never before seen outside Rome.
Today in Christian history
August 16, 1773: Pope Clement XIV suppresses the Society of Jesus. Pius VIII restored the Jesuits 41 years later.
Friday, August 15, 2003
Feast of the Assumption: "A Night Prayer"
Dark! Dark! Dark!
The sun is set; the day is dead,
Thy feast has fled;
My eyes are wet with tears unshed;
I bow my head;
Where the star-fringed shadows softly sway
I bend my knee,
And, like a homesick child, I pray,
Mary, to thee.
Dark! Dark! Dark!
And all the day - since white-robed priest
In farthest East,
In dawn's first ray - began the Feast,
I- I the least -
Thy least, and last, and lowest child,
I called on thee!
Virgin! Didst hear? My words were wild;
Didst think of me?
Dark! Dark! Dark!
Alas! And no! The angels bright,
With wings as white
As a dream of snow in love and light,
Flashed on thy sight;
They shone like stars around thee! Queen.
I knelt afar -
A shadow only dims the scene
Where shines a star!
Dark! Dark! Dark!
And all day long, where altars stand,
Or poor or grand,
A countless throng from every land,
With lifted hand,
Winged hymns to thee from sorrow's vale
In glad acclaim,
How couldst thou hear my lone lips wail
Thy sweet, pure name?
Dark! Dark! Dark!
Alas! And no! Thou didst not hear
Nor bend thy ear,
To prayer of woe as mine so drear;
For hearts more dear
Hid me from hearing and from sight
This bright Feast-day;
Wilt hear me, Mother, if in its night
I kneel and pray?
Dark! Dark! Dark!
The sun is set, the day is dead;
Thy Feast hath fled;
My eyes are wet with the tears I shed;
I bow my head;
Angels and altars hailed thee Queen
All day; ah! Be
To-night what thou hast ever been -
A mother to me!
Dark! Dark! Dark!
Thy queenly crown in angels' sight
Is fair and bright;
Ah! Lay it down; for, oh! To-night
Its jeweled light
Shines not as the tender love-light shines,
O Mary mild,
In the mother's eyes, whose pure heart pines
For poor, lost child!
Dark! Dark! Dark!
Sceptre in hand, thou dost hold sway
Fore'er and aye
In angel-land; but, fair Queen, pray
Lay it away.
Let thy sceptre wave in the realms above
Where angels are;
But, Mother, fold in thine arms of love
Thy child afar!
Dark! Dark! Dark!
Mary, I call! Wilt hear the prayer
My poor lips dare?
Yea! Be to all a Queen most fair,
Crown, sceptre, bear!
But look on me with a mother's eyes
From heaven's bliss;
And waft to me from the starry skies
A mother's kiss.
Dark! Dark! Dark!
The sun is set, the day is dead;
Her Feast has fled!
Can she forget the sweet blood shed,
The last words said
That evening - "Woman, behold thy Son!"
Oh! Priceless right,
Of all His children! The last, the least one,
Is heard to-night.
- Father Abram Ryan,"Priest-Poet of the South"
Believe It, or Not
An op-ed piece in the New York Times for the Assumption!
"The heart is a wonderful organ, but so is the brain."
That's a pretty handy explanation of why I am a Catholic!
"Catherine de Hueck is a person in every way big. And the bigness is not merely physical: it comes from the Holy Ghost dwelling constantly within her, and moving her in all that she does. I never saw anyone so calm, so certain, so peaceful in her absolute confidence in God.
She was full of the love of God; and prayer and sacrifice and total, uncompromising poverty filled her soul. She had tremendous spiritual vitality of grace, a vitality which brought with it a genuine and lasting inspiration, because it put souls in contact with God as a living reality. And that reality, that contact, is something which we all need."
- Thomas Merton, writing as a new Catholic, in "The Seven Storey Mountain"
"The Baronness" or just "B" as her friends called her, Catherine de Hueck (Doherty), was larger than life (and she was a big woman!). Along with Dorothy Day (her friend), Catherine pioneered the works of mercy and fraternal love in action in a radical way. She started with Friendship House but then began an apostolate still very alive and active today, Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario.
With Dorothy, the Baronness was a "valiant woman" and along with another great American Catholic female, Flannery O'Connor, the B could be quite "feisty". A famous example: when a society woman sniffed contemptously and told Catherine: "you smell of the Negro", she quipped back: "And you stink of hell!"
Nothing sums up the spirit of Catherine de Hueck Doherty better than The Little Mandate: the "magna carta" of Madonna House. Here one glimpses the intensity of faith and a yearning to live the gospel without compromise that informed this strong, feisty, "tough", praying, giving, loving witness of Christ even to our own days:
Arise - go! Sell all you possess . . . give it directly, personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me - going to the poor - being poor - being one with them - one with Me.
Little - be always little . . . simple - poor - childlike.
Preach the Gospel WITH YOUR LIFE - WITHOUT COMPROMISE - Listen to the Spirit - He will lead you.
Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.
Love - love - love, never counting the cost.
Go into the market place and stay with Me . . . pray . . . fast . . . pray always . . . fast.
Be hidden - be a light to your neighbour's feet. Go without fears into the depth of men's hearts . . . I shall be with you.
Pray always. I WILL BE YOUR REST.
Happy Birthday, B!
THE PRAISES OF MARY from ST LOMMAN, ABBOT (7th century)
Passed on orally in Ireland for centuries and finally written down in the 20th century, a beautiful testimony to the special place of Our Lady and a beautiful gift of the Irish Church.
For the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady
The following poem - which I go back to each year on this day - was written by one of my (outstanding!) professors of literature and poetry, Father John Duffy, C.Ss.R., who was himself an excellent poet and even a mystic (I learned that later on in life!). This poem commemorates a custom among some Catholic peoples - on the Feast of the Assumption, some would go to the ocean or sea and take a dip, believing that on this Feast of Our Lady, the waters held special blessings and curative powers. Father John Duffy recalls in this poignantly beautiful poem his own beloved mother, Bridie, on one such Feast of the Assumption:
CURE IN THE WATER
Feast of the Assumption, 1924
You shamed that naked goddess of the seas,
0 Bridie, barefoot in Our Lady's tide
The day you begged a miracle to ease
The swollen feet that life had crucified.
Clothed to the knees in black, you stood and prayed.
Your little son, I watched, appalled. I knew
What you were praying for and was afraid
Of God - and miracles - and even you.
Ah, back you came, cheated of your surprise,
A crone bent over, cramping on shells and stones,
Our Lady's answer grieving in your eyes
And Golgotha still groaning in your bones.
Nothing, poor dear, poor crone ... But what you thought
Blessed back to God what lust had cursed away,
And with the aching in your bones you wrought
A sacramental out of Quincy bay.
I'd carve you in great marble if I could,
My Bridie of Our Lady of the Sea,
To show the sorrow of it, how you stood
Praying in vain for what was not to be.
Long dead, my dear... but when at last we meet -
O changed forever! The Eternal's bride,
Robed all in white down to the little feet
Shining like His who once was crucified!
- John Duffy, C.SS.R.
A blessed feast to all celebrating this beautiful day of such honor bestowed on the human race in Mary, through Christ Risen and Glorified. Mary, be for us more Mother, than Queen!
Today in Christian history
August 15, 1096: The First Crusade sets out from Europe to rescue Jerusalem from the Muslim Turks.
August 15, 1195: Anthony of Padua is born in Lisbon, Portugal. The most popular and effective preacher of his day (he had studied under Francis of Assisi), attracting crowds of up to 30,000, Anthony earned the title "hammer of the heretics" for converting so many of the dualistic Cathari. "He is truly the Ark of the Covenant and the treasury of Holy Scripture," said Pope Gregory, who added that if all the Bibles of the world were lost, Anthony could surely rewrite them.
August 15, 1534: Ignatius of Loyola founds "the company of Jesus," which he described as similar to a group of fur traders, only focused on God's will. In 1540 they gained the approval of the pope, who named them the Society of Jesus. The vision and disciplines of the "Jesuits," as they came to be called, caught the imagination of Europe. Soon Jesuits flocked to Europe's major cities as well as the new world: Gao, Mexico City, Quebec, Buenos Aires, and Bogota. They opened hospices for the dying, sought financial support for the poor, founded orphanages, and opened schools.
August 15, 1549: Spanish Jesuits led by Francis Xavier become the first Christian missionaries in Japan. Xavier went to Japan hoping to eventually reach China. He figured once he evangelized China, Japan's conversion would be much easier because, he believed, Japan looked to China for wisdom.
August 15, 1896: Catherine de Hueck Doherty is born. "The Baronness" was a pioneer in social justice in the United States with her Friendship Houses. Eventually she founded the apostolate of Madonna House and was influential in introducing some aspects of Russian spirituality to many in the west. Her cause for canonization has begun.
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Welcome to St Blog's
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam - Francis
Sanctificarnos (help for the divorced Catholic) - jesus gil, Therese Z., Carlos, etc.
The Southfarthing Soapbox - samwise
Puritas Cordis - LC
Catholic, Musician, Student, in that order - Alle Psalite
Times Against Humanity - Earl
Integrity - Jack resurrected
John Gibson Expagan Blog - John Gibson
Thinking of all of you who have lost power and so many taken for granted means of communication. Did you have to walk home today (in the sweltering heat)?
So far, it has made me proud once again to be a New Yorker!!! I hope all are well and dealing OK with the situation. Welcome back online if you lost your computer and internet access.
An aside: My own day trip was lovely; to my utter surprise and delight I thoroughly enjoyed lunch at Denny's (not one of my favorite eateries; haven't been in one in many years). The JP II Cultural Center is quite impressive; airy, cool, beautiful lines, and with lots of potential. It needs more "warmth" in my opinion. Chapel is simple but prayerful and engaging. I liked it a lot. Icon exhibit surprised me. Didn't think I would like the icons from the period chosen: the Imperial Period. Many of them were stunningly beautiful. And warmed my heart and soul as well. Especially some of the Mother of God.
But I am sure some of you had more "interesting" days than I did today!
Today, in a few hours, I will be leaving for a nice trip - going to D.C. and the John Paul II Cultural Center for the exhibit of Russian icons. I am going with an Orthodox priest-friend, who spent some time studying in Russia, and we will meet up with another friend of his: lunch first, then the Center. It's a first for me; I have not yet been to this new Center (they both have been there). I will be tempted very much to visit the Shrine but we may need to get home before "rush hour" hits. Ah, an old mentor of mine used to say, "always save something for the next time."
In light of my anniversary today, it seems a sheer grace that I can do this. Deo gratias!
Light shining in darkness
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Two Years Ago today
On the vigil of the Assumption, two years ago, I came home after a long, difficult, five months away, spent between Saint Agnes Hospital and a local nursing home. I was very sick indeed and for weeks I was "in the woods" and it was touch and go. I almost wanted to die then, I was so weak and so powerless. But others had other plans and, wow, did I get the prayers, support, love of family and friends and even some I didn't know. I was carried by others. And then perhaps after close to two months the doctor came and said "you're out of the woods." And then I began a slow and at first fragile recovery. I came home five months later, August 14, 2001.
I have been blessed to be stable in my condition - despite some unexpected "bumps" along the way. I am, true, disabled. My heart just doesn't pump well enough and so I need a wheelchair for distances. But I can hobble a bit as long as I take it slow and rest as I go. A leg I almost lost has healed so well; it is still "wounded" but holds my weight well and I even have some movement now in the foot. I have a large scar and thought I'd never wear shorts. Wrong. I do. And if anyone looks at my wound, someone gave me the perfect line: "you should see the other guy!"
I am still not sure about a reversal of my clostomy and stomach hernia; but I hope I can make these decisions down the line. My heart doctor is a bit hesitant. I mentioned once before that he doesn't want to put me at any risk since I am what they call "a save."
Yes, and I am so grateful to so many for my life today. I hope you can understand why I am so expressive of my gratitude for being alive, so close did I come to passing on. I thank you for your patience and long-suffering as I rehash this all once more (I do it for my own sake I am sure).
I must say that while I am very grateful indeed, there is a new situation in my life. Since being so sick, my "feelings" of faith have pretty much evaporated and I am very dry. I pray more than ever: "I believe, help my unbelief." I feel the void more than the presence.
But little by little I establish some small pattern of prayer again. It took a long time since I felt so distracted and unable to concentrate. But now I am saying more regularly - and outloud - morning prayer, noon prayer, and evening prayer, and compline as well (all memorized so no reading). These consist of The Angelus three times daily, and a decade of the rosary in the evening. Not much but more than I had been doing for a long time. And I have used music more over the past year to help me with a spirit of prayer and adoration.
Maybe the feelings will return again. But I hope I can live with or without them. I know this: as I write this I am extremely thankful and appreciative and render thanks to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: one God, the Source of all life and love. And thanks to you, too, for your own special place in the unfolding of God's plan. I pray for you daily.
Today in Church history
August 14, 1248: Construction of the Cologne Cathedral begins. Workers completed it on the same date in 1880.
August 14, 1905: Hans Urs von Balthasar is born in Lucerne, Switzerland. Von Balthasar was trained as a musician but then decided to join the Jesuits. He distinguished himself as a scholar, spiritual director, pastor of souls, apostle. Eventually he made the painful decision to leave the Jesuits to follow an inspiration regarding a new Secular Institute. Von Balthasar, in many ways, towers over other theologians and Henri de Lubac said of him that he was "the most cultured man in Europe." "If there is a Christian civilization: here it is! (in von Balthasar)". His theological output was enormous and his project was to theologize "on the knees" as a homage of adoration to the Triune God and in service of the Church and her mission. His works are like a symphony: finally climaxing in Catholic fulness. He has been criticized by some, of course, but is highly regarded by Pope John Paul II, who nominated him to become a Cardinal of the Roman Church. Von Balthasar died two days before receiving the red hat.
I'd rather be in Carey, Ohio, for the Feast of the Assumption
A glimpse of Catholic culture in the USA
My failed attempt at humor
Read the comments under the Cardinal Law piece; don't you think I was obviously being playful? But I love it that Mark the Good didn't catch it!
Top Ten Spiritual Places in the UK
Nice to see that the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham tops the list!
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Thanks to all those who replied to my liturgy questions below. I'm at that stage where I do not expect others to agree with me and was not totally surprised at some of the differing and measured responses. (I'd love to hear more of your opinions about Weigel's article on hymns; the comment system was down most of yesterday when I posted it but now, thankfully, they seem fixed).
But my own preferences are rather strong. I prefer, by far, the more literal translation. First of all, I believe the Latin text should be translated in its integrity into the vernacular and that includes all its thoughts and formulations. For example, the Latin text says "ut intres sub tectum meum" and that means "that you should come under my roof." To translate that as "receive you" is a reduction and, in my opinion, a diminution, even a distortion.
I much prefer, too, the "poetic" feel of "come under my roof." It makes me sense my own person as a sort of home where I can welcome - or reject - guests who come. And here, in this prayer, I confess my unworthiness to welcome the Guest of guests but and ask him, with the centurian whose word is borrowed for this prayer, to speak but the word and my soul (anima mea) will be healed. I think the link to the text of the gospel is important. If this reductionism takes place too often, the scriptural basis of much of the Liturgy is excised and lost. Not good.
I prefer, too, the older threefold recitation. For me, it is a brief prayer (especially the, to me, bland ICEL translation) and to say it once is too quick. I need to hear it more and let it sink in a bit. Even at home when I pray formally I do some repetition for my own sake (not for God's!). And like at least one commentor, I, too, strike my breast at this prayer.
Thanks again for your own comments. I don't expect others to agree with me.
But I do think I am right, of course! :-)
Two Great Minds Agree
This week we remember the deaths of two of the greatest religious and spiritual geniuses of the 19th century: John Henry Newman and Vladimir Soloviev. Representing different traditions, both came to the same belief about the primacy and infallibility of the office of Peter, of the Pope, in the life of the living Church of God. This convergence seems to me utterly remarkable and a sign of grace from above.
Hans Urs von Balthasar says this of Soloviev:
"...he was a completely different person from Newman. Aware of already possessing the entire catholicity of the faith of the Creed and bringing with him the rich treasure of Eastern wisdom and speculative trinitarian sophiology, he had a triumphal way of showing his Orthodox brethren the plain necessity of a concrete Church center in Rome and of mercilessly unveiling the sins, delusions and cowardice of the Eastern Church. Yet he loved the Church of his origins no less than Newman did his own; both were noble hearts - but Newman spoke more softly..."
Soloviev has inspired an elite group of Russian Christians and others who work towards the full unity of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, some of whom continue this mission today, quietly and with great patience. Soloviev still lives on in his work and in his daring and embracing spirit. Memory eternal!
Today in Christian history
August 13, 662: Maximus the Confessor, the Eastern leader in the fight against Monothelitism (the heresy that Christ had divine, but no human, will), dies after being tortured for his beliefs. Maximus wrote several stong words in praise of the Roman Church and its orthodoxy and primacy "over all the saints in all the world."
August 13, 1727: Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, at age 27, organizes Bohemian Protestant refugees into the Moravian community of "Unitas Fratrum" (united brotherhood).
August 13, 1900: Vladimir Soloviev, enigmatic Russian Christian and philosopher-theologian dies. Soloviev fell into disfavor with the official Russian Orthodox Church but never believed he had "left" her even after receiving communion from a Byzantine Catholic priest. He died with the sacraments of the Orthodox Church. His last work, the remarkable Short Tale of the anti-Christ is a strong reaffirmation of the role of the Pope in the Universal Church. Soloviev remains a vital force in some ecumenical circles (and has been hijacked by some theosophists as well!).
A REMARKABLE PARABLE by Vladimir Soloviev
By way of bringing this too lengthy preface to an end, here is a parable which will perhaps bring out more clearly my general point of view and the purpose of the present work.
A great architect, setting out on a voyage to distant parts, called his pupils and said to them: 'You know that I came here to rebuild the principal sanctuary of the country which had been destroyed by an earthquake. The work is begun; I have sketched the general plan, the site has been cleared and the foundations laid. You will take my place during my absence. I will certainly return, but I cannot tell you when. Work, therefore, as though you had to complete the task without me.
Now is the time for you to apply the teaching that I have given you. I trust you, and I am not going to lay down all the details of the work. only observe the rules of our art. I am leaving you the solid foundations of the Temple which I have laid and the general plan that I have traced; that will be sufficient if you are faithful to your duty. And I am not leaving you alone; in spirit and in thought I will be always with you.' With these words he led them to the site of the new church, showed them the foundations and handed them the plan. After his departure, his pupils worked in complete harmony and almost a third of the building was soon raised.
As the work was vast and extremely complicated, the first companions were not enough and new ones had to be admitted. it was not long before a serious dispute arose between those who were in charge of the work. Some of them maintained that of the two things left them by their absent Master--the foundations of the building and its general plan--only the latter was important and indispensable; there was nothing, they said, to prevent them from abandoning the foundations already laid and building on another site.
When their companions violently opposed this idea, they went further and in the heat of the argument actually declared (contrary to what thev themselves had often maintained before) that the Master had never laid nor even indicated the foundations of the Temple; that was merelv an invention of their opponents. Many of the latter, on the other hand, in their anxiety to maintain the importance of the foundations, went to the opposite extreme and declared that the only thing that really mattered in the whole work was the foundation of the building which the Master had laid, and that their proper task consisted simply in preserving, repairing and strengthening the already existing part of the building, without any idea of finishing it entirely, for (they said) the completion of the work was reserved exclusively for the Master himself at the time of his return.
Extremes meet, and the two opposing parties soon found themselves agreed on one point, that the building was not to be completed. But the party which insisted on preserving the foundations and the unfinished nave in good condition plunged into various secondary activities for that purpose and displayed indefatigable energy, whereas the party which thought it possible to abandon the original foundation of the Temple declared, after vainly attempting to build on another site, that there was no need to do anything at all; the essential thing in the art of architecture, they maintained, was theory, the contemplation of its classic examples and meditation on its rules, not the carrying out of a definite design; if the Master had left them his plan of the Temple, it was certainly not with the object of getting them to work together on its actual construction but simply in order that each one of them by studying this perfect plan might himself become an accomplished architect.
Thereupon the most zealous of them devoted their lives to meditating on the design of the ideal Temple and leaming and reciting by heart every dav the explanations of that design which some of the early companions had worked out in accordance with the Master's instructions. But the majority were content to think of the Temple once a week, and the rest of the time was spent by each of them in attending to his own business.
There were, however, some of these dissentients who from a study of the Master's plan and of his own original explanation of it perceived clear indications that the foundations of the Temple had actually been laid and could never be changed; among other remarks of the great architect they came across the following: 'Here are the impregnable foundations that I have laid myself--it is upon them that my Temple must be built if it is to be proof for ever against earthquake or any other destructive force.'
Impressed by these words, the good workers resolved to give up their quarrel and to lose no time in joining the guardians of the foundations, in order to assist them in their work of preservation.
There was, however, one worker who said: 'Let us admit our mistake; let us be just and give due honour to our old associates; let us rejoin them around the great building which we began but to our shame abandoned and which to their incalculable credit they have guarded and kept in good condition. But above all we must be faithful to the Master's conception. He did not mean these foundations which he laid to remain untouched; he meant his Temple to be built upon them. Therefore we must all unite to complete the building upon the existing foundations. Shall we have time to finish it before the Master's return or not? That is a question which he did not see fit to answer.
But he did tell us explicitly to do everything to continue his work; and moreover he added that we should do more than he had done. This worker's appeal seemed strange to most of his companions. Some called him an idealist, others accused him of pride and presumption. But the voice of conscience told him clearly that his absent Master was with him in spirit and in truth.
- Vladimir Soloviev, from "Russia and the Universal Church"
A Tent Revival. Yes, in Brooklyn
Seven days a week from June through August, Sister Brenda offers healing and salvation as part of her Miracle Prophecy
"...Soon, there were worshipers stumbling around, whooping, wailing, screaming, writhing. Those reactions, Sister Brenda said later, were of people receiving the Holy Ghost..."
Hymns: Some Reflections by George Weigel
A topic that interests me. I hope to comment a bit about it. On first reading I think I mostly agree and have some other concerns as well, not mentioned. For instance, I think singing only one or two verses of a hymn would indicate it is a filler and not at all an integral part of our communal worship, and a source of any belief (lex orandi, lex credendi).
Also I personally like "Gift of Finest Wheat" for whatever reasons. It at least has some devotional warmth, lacking in so many more modern hymns and "songs."
But I realize how diverse our own opinions and preferences can be! I relearn this reading the comments about my "Liturgy Question" below. I hope to give my own preferences and why soon.
P.S. Thanks to Amy Welborn for pointing me to this article by Weigel.
Another "face" of the Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Church has more than one "face" and I am blessed to know a face different than the one often presented in the media (and which does reflect another face of this same Church). In my own neighborhood is the beautiful convent-monastery and chapel (and magnificent grounds bordering Patapsco State Park) of a monastic community of Episcopal nuns, whose radiance and joy seem to make the environment all the more filled with the glory of God. This convent seems a true oasis of serenity and peace in our hectic world. I love visiting it! And love seeing and chatting with any Sisters who might be about, gardening, moving wood, etc. And I recall, too, the warm welcome always given to my beloved ONION.
An Orthodox bishop I know is now in England, giving some "lectures" to both Orthodox and Anglican groups. He is living with an Anglican religious community. You can read about this and lots lots more on Bishop Seraphim's Live Journal (a mystic in our own day!).
I resonate deeply with the following recent comment he makes:
"The English Church is an odd sort of thing, irrelevant or thought so by very many, silly in moments, at present considerably involved in argument about who can be a priest or bishop which surely has little to do with any core heart need of most people in the world yet many of left or right on these questions seem to have nothing else much to offer, the Church of England also is a rich source of Monty Python routines like that of the trendy bishop holding forth on football on the television and unaware his fly is unbuttoned...and yet it also has always had very many estimable people and together with its silly pride and inflation, a humility and holy emptiness which perhaps is not so easy to see from the outside as the silliness and pretension..."
P.S. Thanks, Susan, for the reminder - and thanks to pointing me to the photo of dear Sister Barbara!
Poor Clare Nuns
Yesterday was the feast of Saint Clare of Assisi, foundress of the Poor Clares. This website is beautiful and very encouraging: the monastery is the The Netherlands!
New US Visa ‘Prostitute’ Query Shocks Saudis
“I’m shocked,” said a Saudi woman, Nahid Omari, when told of the new security visa application question.
“What a weird and awful question. Imagine a husband filling out the application for his wife. The application is basically asking if his wife is or was a prostitute! What would he feel? This kind of question is totally unacceptable in our society. It is a possibility that they are doing all this to deter people from traveling to America,” she said.
On seeing the question, a Saudi husband, who asked not to be named, told Arab News: “This is ridiculous. Have they no respect? How dare they ask me if my wife or even I have ever been involved in prostitution? They need to realize that our society and our women are different from the women they have in America..."
Monday, August 11, 2003
Today is the anniversary of the death of John Henry Newman, a towering figure of the 19th century. His sermons are among the greatest ever written in the English language. One of his most poignant sermons was the last sermon he preached as an Anglican, "The Parting of Friends." Here is an excerpt which may perhaps have a profound relevance today:
"O my mother, whence is this to thee, that thou hast good things poured upon thee and canst not keep them, and bearest children, yet darest not own them? Why hast thou not the skill to use their services, nor the heart to rejoice in their love? How is it that whatever is generous in purpose, and tender or deep in devotion, thy flower and thy promise, falls from thy bosom and finds no home within thine arms?
Who hath put this to thee, to have 'a miscarrying womb, and dry breasts,' to be strange to thine own flesh, and thine eye cruel toward thy little ones? Thine own offspring, the fruit of thy womb, who love thee and would toil for thee, thou dost gaze upon with fear, as though a portent, or thou dost loathe as an offense--at best thou doth but endure, as they they had no claim but on thy patience, and vigilance, to be rid of them as easily as thou mayest...."
Thou makest them 'stand all the day idle,' as the very condition of thy bearing with them; or thou biddest them be gone where they will be more welcome..."
A priest speaks his mind
CATONSVILLE, Md. — When the Rev. Steven R. Randall learned that his denomination had consented to the first openly homosexual bishop in mainline Protestantism, he decided he could no longer trust the Episcopal Church and its leaders.
Mr. Randall, 52, received a standing ovation yesterday after telling his 200-member congregation at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church here that he would no longer obey his bishop nor would his congregation send its monthly $5,000 pledge to the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland...."
St Timothy's is in my own locality and I see it quite often. A beautiful structure! It was highly charismatic in the seventies with Father Phil Zampino as Rector (he is now a Bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church). I am not sure if this has continued but think not. But it is a rather conservative parish (and there have been troubles over the years, of course).
Cable Modem Fixed!
This cable guy was both competent and helpful. He even fixed up my mouse (I thought I needed a new mousepad).
Never say "it can't get worse" - often enough it does! Cable guy didn't show; I called and was told he had been at the house and no one was home. Four of us have been here most of the day! More calls and now, finally, a cable guy is here who seems to know something and is busy trying to fix things up. We'll see. This dial up network has been some help but it not only is extremely slow but freezes up my system over and over. I hope and pray I'm up and running this evening....
The Cable Guy - part III
The third cable guy should be here this morning, between 9 AM & 1PM to, hopefully, straigthen out the mess left by the last two cable guys. As I mentioned below, in the interim, I am using a residents dial-up account. It has reminded me vividly of why I switched to cable to begin with! And, along with being painfully slow, it ties up my one and only phone. So I have to be off line now to await the call of the cable guy to say he's coming (I was told if I don't answer the phone they won't come!!!). So here's hoping I can be back fairly soon..... and a TV that is working correctly, and a cable modem that works for both residents in this household who have an account. Despite my unhappiness with the shoddiness of the last work done, I am still eager to resume service (and will ask for some kind of credit as a result of the loss of service and the "stress" that gave me a touch of post-traumatic stress disorder). Here's hoping....
P.S. As I write this the comment system of Haloscan is down again as well. I am eager to get more opinons about the Liturgy question below so if the comments system is down during your visit, please come back again when they are up and running and let me know what you think. Thanks!
Today in Christian history
August 11, 1253: Clare of Assisi, known for her spiritual relationship with St. Francis and for founding the Poor Clares, dies. In 1958, citing a legend that Clare once saw and heard Mass being celebrated miles away, Pope Pius XII proclaimed her the patron saint of television.
August 11, 1890: John Henry Newman dies. Ordained an Anglican in 1824, he later helped lead the Oxford Movement, aiming to restore the Church of England to its high church principles. In 1843 he left the Anglican church and became a Catholic. (More later, I hope, depending on the "cable guy").
Sunday, August 10, 2003
In both the new and old Roman rites, this is a prayer before communion:
Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tecum meum; sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea.
Literal translation: LORD, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; speak but the word and my soul shall be healed.
ICEL translation: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you; but only say the word and I shall be healed.
Question A: Which translation do you prefer, and why?
Question B: Do you prefer the current practice of reciting this prayer once; or do you prefer the old rite's threefold repitition of this prayer, and why?
Lead Us Not...!
A Muslim reflects on the latest controversy in the Episcopal (Anglican) Church
The First Day of the Week
For me, it's good to know that Sunday is the first day of the week. Thus the week starts so well: usually with Mass and Communion as its highlight (and sometimes a lovely Sunday brunch as well, as for instance, today!).
Monday, for many, the back to work day, is the second day of the week.....
That's why I don't speak of the "weekend" but of the "weekbend"..... Sunday is not an end but a beginning, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are a bending of the old week into the new week.
At any rate, a blessed LORD'S Day to all!
Pope Urges Prayers for Rain in Europe
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) -- Pope John Paul II urged people to pray for rain Sunday to ease Europe's seemingly relentless heat wave and expressed worry about the wildfires devouring much of the continent's woodlands..."
Courts Weighing Rights of States to Curb Aid for Religion Majors
RAVERSE CITY, Mich., Aug. 5 — Teresa Becker made a costly decision when she chose after her sophomore year to major in theology.
She had received $1,200 in state scholarship money for her freshman year at Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Mich., in 2000. The next year she received $2,750 in state aid. Last June, she was promised that amount for her junior year, too.
A month later, when word of her choice of a major reached state officials, they wrote her a new letter.
"Students enrolled in a course of study leading to a degree in theology, divinity or religious education are not eligible to receive an award," it said, paraphrasing a state law. "Your award has changed from $2,750.00 to $0.00...."