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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, August 28, 2004
 
Banff-Jasper Trip, Summer 1975

After my recent and wonderful trip to Banff, I went looking for some old slides I had taken on my other trip to that beautiful area in 1975. I found them and discovered, too, that these could be turned into digital photos for a small fee (through Walmart). During the summer of 1975 I was attending a Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, and over the weekend did the loop through Jasper and Banff National Parks. I had borrowed a confrere's camera and to my surprise the film developed into slides. The slides-transposed-to-photos aren't too bad but not as good as I had hoped. Oh well. You may still enjoy them (and get a look at me all those years ago!).



 
Augustine of the burning heart

Yesterday was the feast of his mother, Monica. How fitting to keep together the mother of many prayers and tears and the son who benefitted so magnificently from this mother's love and perservance!

I love St Augustine very much, and consider him the greatest of the Fathers of the Church! Certainly the most quotable of the Fathers, and the one whose actuality is most alive today, it seems to me anyway. His "Confessions" are still read and wrestled with by many. (I don't know any other work by any Father that approaches the abiding popularity of the "Confessions").

I love him for his account of his own conversion: that dramatic scene in which he hears that child's voice singing out: "tolle, lege" "take, read" - and how, in the midst of his anguish and divided heart, he opens the Letter of Paul to the Romans and reads: "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and take no more account of the flesh and its lusts" and the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God listened to in faith, gives the gift of a new heart, integrated in Christ.

I have often, in my own struggles and with my own divided heart, gone back to this scene and prayed for a Word that would be effective and transforming as it was for Augustine.

I love him for his profound insights into Christ and the Church. Augustine seems to live in the Scriptures, and this Word informs his vision and his every word. Augustine seems to have been so influential in the unfolding of the Catholic vision of the sacramentality of the Church and its historical incarnation. I am not an "Augustine scholar" but have read enough to sense that Augustine's Trinitarian, Christological, ecclesiological vision has had a profound impact, especially in western Catholic thought. And I sense that today Augustine once again takes his place as we see the truth of his theological vision regarding the power of sin and the need for grace! (Augustine has been unfairly criticized and he has been dismissed as too "pessimistic" etc.)

He is known, too, as "the Doctor of Grace" and he seems more than most Fathers, if not all Fathers, more explicitly tied to the actual words of the Scriptures, especially the epistles of St Paul and St John (with the possible exception of the golden-mouthed John Chrysostom).

I even love him, in a way, for his "errors" and some opinions ultimately rejected by the Church! He demonstrates that no one saint or doctor can be the sole norm or sole teacher - but that the Church's teaching gleans the truth from all, and rejects what is distorted and false even.

Augustine wrote his "Retractions" and revised often. Some of his teachings have not been healthy for the Church - e.g. von Balthasar critiques his beloved Augustine quite harshly for his teaching that one can only hope for oneself...(and this was accepted in the west for centuries - until St Thomas Aquinas, I believe). And his teachings on predestination and the number of the damned has not been received by the Catholic Church as such. (Yet I admire St Augustine for *dealing at all* with these themes, prominent in St Paul and elsewhere in the Scriptures).

According to Romano Guardini, Augustine needs St. Thomas Aquinas for the balanced catholic vision. Augustianianism can tend to a type of "fideism" that doesn't give "secondary causes" sufficient room in God's Plan. But his fire, his warmth of faith, his personalism, his absolute centering in love, is a needed corrective in any attempt to have a full Christian vision of Reality. I suspect that Thomas quotes Augustine more than any other source, outside of the Scriptures themselves. And today, perhaps, Thomism needs the corrective of Augustine: a more realistic appraisal of the sinfulness of "the world" and of the pervasivenss of the effects of original sin. And a renewal of the place of the heart in discpleship, not just the mind and intellect and "rationality" - but the ever sought balance.

Ah, the quotes of Augustine! I know of no other writer who can say so much in so few words - and sear the heart as well.

Many of us are familiar with his memorable phrase, so profoundly true:

"You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

And the daring, startling words::

"Ama Deum, et fac quod vis."
"Love God and do what you will."


Augustine cherished his friends and knew how to know God's love in their midst. Again, he says it incomparably:

"I confess that I give myself entirely to the love of my friends, tired as I am of the troubles of this world. In this I am perfectly at ease, for in this common love I experience God in whom I trust and in whom I take my rest in peace."

"Happy are those who love you, my God, and their friend in you. Such a one is the only person who never loses those who are dear, for they are all loved in you, my God, and you are the God who id never be lost".

Finally Augustine gives such perspective on suffering and the inevitable trials of life in another favorite quotation of his that has nourished me over the years:

"Let no day go by in which I do not bless you; if we do not cease to praise him, even though we seem to be faring badly in a day of sorrow, yet all will be well for us even then in our God."

And this most famous selection from The Confessions:

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Dear St Augustine, for these - and countless other words - glory to you and to the One who enflamed your heart.

Ora pro nobis, saint of the burning heart!


 
Today in Christian history

August 28, 430: As Vandals invade Roman North Africa and overwhelm Hippo refugees, Augustine dies of a fever. Miraculously, his writings, including "City of God" survived the Vandal takeover, and his theology became one of the main pillars on which the Church of the next 1,000 years was built.

August 28, 1828: Leo Tolstoy, Russian novelist and social reformer, is born. Though the Russian Orthodox Church excommunicated him in 1901, his later works emphasized Christian love and the teachings of Jesus. (His novel, "Anna Karenina" is my favorite of all time).

August 28, 1877: (Venerable) Zelie Marie Guerin Martin, the mother of Saint Therese of Lisieux, died. Married to (Venerable) Louis Martin, a watchmaker, they had nine children. Two boys and two girls died in infancy, and they were left with five daughters. Her mother passed away from breast cancer when Therese was only five years old.


Friday, August 27, 2004
 
ONION's simple grave


The mum will be replaced by a lilac bush

Right outside my door is the grave of my beloved peke, ONION. How I miss this buddy of mine! Especially since I got sick 3 years ago, we were virtually inseparable (except for my trips when a neighbor came in to take care of him). I keep expecting to hear the pitter-patter of his feet, the clanging of his tags, the comforting snores when I took a nap or sleep at night. I keep thinking I will give this portion of my own meal to ONION.... only to realize he is gone. But I am OK with it all and still mostly grateful for so many wonderful and happy years with ONION.

I have several reminders of ONION around: the background image on my computer, his favorite toy, "Teddy", and his grave just outside my room. But I don't need anything external. ONION lives on in my memory and in my heart. In a real sense, ONION is still my buddy!


 
Keeping the faith

At St. Albert the Great in Weymouth, the end is near, and confusion and anger abound


 
Gaudí, the Blessed

The Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudí is set to be the first professional artist to be declared a saint. But is it his work, or his life, which should be recognised as holy?


 
Behind every great man.....


Monica and her son Augustine, "the son of so many tears"

Today the feast of the mother; tomorrow the feast of the son.

Monica, Augustine's mother, has found a special place in the life of the Church and especially with so many mothers who weep for their own sons and daughters.

Saint Monica, pray for us and bring those tears of so many to your son and with him to Our Lord Jesus Christ, who rejoices more over the one who returns than over the ninety nine who never strayed.

Let angels rejoice today!


 
Today in Christian history

August 27, 1521: The Spanish composer Tomás Luís de Victoria, known for his sacred music, died.

August 27, 1660: Charles II, newly restored to the throne, orders the works of poet John Milton (who supported the Parliament) to be burned by royal decree. Milton though imprisoned for a short while, continues work on his masterpiece, Paradise Lost.

August 27, 1727: Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf's Moravian community at Herrnhut, Germany, begins a round-the-clock "prayer chain." Reportedly, at least one person in the community was praying every minute of the day—for more than a century.

August 27, 1910: Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu is born to an Albanian couple in Yugoslavia. At age 18, Agnes entered an Irish convent. She later bacame known worldwide as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She said of herself: "By blood and origin I am Albanian; my citizenship is Indian; I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the heart of Jesus."

August 27. 1999: Dom Helder Camera, 90, the former archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, who was also known as the "Red Bishop," died Aug. 27. Dom Helder pushed the Church to move beyond mere charity and advocate social change in areas such as land distribution and access to education to empower the poverty-stricken in the world's largest Catholic nation. He argued that the Church must have a preference for the poor and used Marxist sociological analytical tools to criticize social structures, actions that branded him a Communist by some church members.


Thursday, August 26, 2004
 
Today in Christian history

August 26, 1498: Italian artist Michelangelo, 23, was commissioned by Pope Alexander VI to carve the Pietà, the Body of Christ in His Mother’s arms. The work was completed in 1501.

Interestingly the commission came from the infamous Borgia Pope! Yet how blessed so many have been by this masterpiece of Christian art! The Puritans of yesterday and today might be tempted to smash this statue to make a statement about the evil ways of the Pope (and maybe of Michaelangelo?). Surely they would feel compelled to tell us about Alexander VI before allowing any mindless veneration. The "right to know" of course....


 
Wise Words on Deal Hudson

Catholic Exchange has to be one of the finest Catholic websites available. This editorial strikes me as perhaps the best written anywhere. Amen!


 
The Pope who briefly smiled on us


The gifted, simple, humble, smiling Pope, John Paul I

Twenty-six years ago, on Aug. 26, 1978, the patriarch of Venice, Albino Luciani, was elected Pope, taking the name John Paul I. For 33 days we were blessed with his smile and his simplicity and his charm. But he was overburdened perhaps and succumbed just after one month as our Pope. How mysterious the ways of God! But our good that, following Papa Luciani, we have been blessed - for a long time! - with Papa Wojtyla! May his pontificate last a hundred years!


 
Icon Returned by Pope to Russia


Icon of Our Lady of Kazan

A small step in the right direction. May the LORD use this to help heal the scandal of division among Christians, especially between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Our Lady of Unity, pray for your children who invoke you and love you as Mother!

Here is the prayer John Paul II composed for the celebration of the Word, before the return this week of the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan to the Orthodox patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II. The prayer was read in Russian:

"Glorious Mother of Jesus, who "go before the people of God on the paths of faith, love and union with Christ" (see "Lumen Gentium," 63), blessed be you! All generations call you blessed, "for he who is mighty has done great things in you, and holy is his name" (see Luke 1:48-49).

Be blessed and honored, O Mother, in your icon of Kazan, in which for centuries you have been surrounded by the veneration and love of the Orthodox faithful, having become the protectress and witness of the particular works of God in the history of the Russian people, very dear to us all.

Divine Providence, which has the strength to overcome evil and to draw good even from the evil works of men, has made your holy icon, disappeared in distant times, reappear in the Shrine of Fatima, in Portugal. Subsequently, by the will of persons devoted to you, it was kept in the house of the Successor of Peter.

Mother of the Orthodox people, the presence in Rome of your holy image of Kazan, speaks to us of a profound unity between East and West, which endures in time despite the historical divisions and the errors of men. We now raise our prayer to you with special intensity, O Virgin, while we take leave of this moving image. We will accompany you with our hearts along the road that takes you back to holy Russia.

Receive the praise and honor rendered to you by the people of God in Rome.

O blessed among all women, venerating your icon in this city marked by the blood of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the Bishop of Rome unites himself spiritually to his brother in the episcopal ministry, who presides as patriarch over the Russian Orthodox Church. And he asks you, Holy Mother, to intercede so as to hasten the time of full unity between the East and West, of full communion among all Christians.

O glorious Virgin, Our Lady, Advocate, and Consoler, reconcile us with your Son, commend us to your Son, present us to your Son! Amen."


Wednesday, August 25, 2004
 
Sainte Chapelle


Sainte Chapelle: built by King St Louis to house the Crown of Thorns of Jesus

God willing, soon I will visit and pray at this glorious Gothic jewel, built by the saint of today: King Louis IX of France. I suspect there will be many such jewels and treasures to see and explore (and for prayerful moments). Sainte Chapelle has always appealed to my own sense of the beautiful. And to think I may even get to see it with my own eyes. How good is the LORD!


 
Pitching 'The Passion' DVD to Faithful Flocks

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 24 - By rewriting the rules of movie marketing - bypassing the Hollywood sales machinery in favor of direct appeals to churchgoing Christians - Mel Gibson turned "The Passion of the Christ" into this year's most unlikely movie blockbuster. Now, with DVD's and videos of the film going on sale next week, Hollywood is courting the faithful, hoping to turn "The Passion" into one of the industry's biggest sellers..."



THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: ORDER NOW!


DVD widescreen
DVD full screen
VHS


 

 



 
Today in Christian history

August 25, 1270: Louis IX, king of France since 1226, dies. Louis had been close to death 26 years earlier, and he vowed if he recovered from his bout with malaria, he would lead a crusade. In 1248 he kept his promise and led the Seventh Crusade in an unsuccessful attempt to crush the Muslim political center in Egypt. When he died, the holy king (who had spent much of his reign wearing hair shirts, collecting relics, and visiting hospitals — where he often emptied bedpans) was fighting in the northern Africa city of Tunis during the Eighth Crusade. Lying on a bed of ashes, his last words lamented the city he never won: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem". Louis was canonized in 1287.

August 25, 1560: Led by John Knox, the reformed Church of Scotland is established on Protestant lines. The Scottish parliament accepts the Calvinistic Scots Confession, forbids the mass, and declares the pope has no jurisdiction in Scotland.


 
Impressed!


I just watched the Olympics and the gold race run by the Moroccon athlete, Hicham El Guerrouj. After the acknowledgment of his victory and his successful venture to gain the Olympic Gold Medal, he fell down on the track in prostration and prayer. Very impressive. Islam sure has lots of "power" and "dynamism" along with the shadows and significant problems. (I hope some Christian athletes show a similiar faith and gratitude).


Tuesday, August 24, 2004
 
Uneasy

In a newsletter I receive I read the following and it leaves me very uneasy. I don't like it! I have seen Father Corapi on EWTN and, while not at all drawn to his style, he seems a good and solid priest and preacher. But this really discomforts me. Am I alone?

"FATHER CORAPI is a nationwide known priest who appears on EWTN and does talks and seminars nationwide. To bring him here we need:

• A personal, written invitation must be sent to him from the local church authority, i.e. the pastor where the event is held or the diocesan bishop.
• A $1000 deposit must be sent with the letter.
• The event could only take place from a Friday night and finished on Saturday, it would be 4-6 talks, including homilies.
• The event must be open to guests at least regional through national and not closed to just the host parish.
• Both days need an assurance of a minimum of 1000 persons in attendance.
• There can be no other vendors or recorders than those from Santa Cruz Media.
• The hosts must pay Father the balance of his $3,500 before he departs, and
• The organizers must provide airfare, lodging and food for Father Corapi and one assistant."

Of course, I could be wrong. But I suspect these requirements are not in place for speakers like Father Benedict Groeschel or most other Catholic speakers. In fact, I am willing to come to your parish, free, as long as my own "airfare, lodging, and food" were supplied!!! :-)


 
New (Methodist) Bishop

William H. Willimon, United Methodist pastor and writer, has been elected a Bishop. This is good news. Willimon has been one of my favorite Protestant voices - with a remarkably Catholic accent!

One of my favorite quotes is from Willimon:

"There was a time when Christians wanted to be obedient and faithful. Lately we are content to be sensitive. Once we aspired to justice and righteousness. Our present concern is that we be kind. If kindness alone were enough there would have been no cross. Jesus would have formed a sensitivity group and urged us to share our feelings, or a support group where we could affirm each other. Knowing full well the limits of humanity, the seriousness of our sin, and the depths of evil, he formed the church and charted a different way."

The United Methodist Church is fortunate. May God bless his ministry.


 
DESPICABLE

For any number of reasons, I chose not to comment on the latest events surrounding the "exposé" of Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis magazine, and his failures and sins of the past by the National Catholic Reporter. For one thing I just didn't want to spread such "detraction" even further by use of my own blog. Yet now I feel a desire to at least point to another's reply that pretty much sums up my own, Mark Shea's comment on his own Catholic and Enjoying It blog. I also would sum it all up with the same word as Mark: DESPICABLE.

I am amazed, reading the many comments - now archived - on Amy's blog (and her own comments were extremely balanced), and reading a few comments on other blogs as well, how easily some seem to forget the words of Saint Paul: "Let him who think he stand, take heed lest he fall." I am amazed to read critical comments as if Deal Hudson committed sins of which the writer is incapable of commiting! Or those who say things like "now we know what kind of people are among the neo-cons" - as if there are no sinners among other groupings and political parties!
I have not been any great fan of Deal Hudson's over the years (though I have appreciated Crisis magazine and still do). But I have found the NCR's article despicable, unCatholic, and even prurient. Thus I won't even link to it on my blog.

Let us pray.....


 
Today in Christian history

August 24, 410: Alaric and the Goths sack Rome. Pagans blamed pacifist Christians and their God repudiated for the defeat. Augustine, in his massive "City of God", rejects this claim and blamed Rome's corruption instead.

August 24, 1572: Catherine de Medici sends her son, young King Charles IX of France, into a panic with threats of an imminent Huguenot (French Protestant) insurrection. Frenzied, he yelled, "Kill them all! Kill them all!" In response, Catholics in Paris butchered the Huguenots who had come to the city for a royal wedding. Between 5,000 and 10,000 Protestants died in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. The Pope referred to this sad event in his sermon given at the World Day of Youth in Paris in 1998:

"On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, an event of very obscure causes in the political and religious history of France. ... Christians did things which the Gospel condemns. I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue, which will in turn ensure a fully Christian reconciliation. ... Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension. On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity."

August 24, 1662: The deadline arrives for all British ministers to publicly assent to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The Act of Uniformity, passed on May 19, 1662, also required the BCP to be used exclusively from this date forward. The act remains on Britain's Statute Book, though it has been modified over the years.

August 24, 1939: Pope Pius XII broadcast an appeal to the world on the radio today in an attempt to avert World War II.


Monday, August 23, 2004
 
Saint Rose of Lima: 1586 - 1617
First canonized saint of the Americas: a mystic of joy


Here's a lovely piece, from Evelyn Underhill's classic Mysticism (Image Classic, Doubleday, 1990) about today's saint, Rose of Lima. It has to be one of my favorite stories about the saints!

"In another mystic, less familiar than St. Francis to English readers - Rose of Lima, the Peruvian saint - this deep sympathy with natural things assumed a particularly lovely form. To St. Rose the whole world was a holy fairyland, in which it seemed to her that every living thing turned its face towards Eternity and joined in her adoration of God.

It is said in her biography that when at sunrise, she passed through the garden to go to her retreat, she called upon nature to praise with her the Author of all things. Then the trees were seen to bow as she passed by, and clasp their leaves together, making a harmonious sound. The flowers swayed upon their stalks, and opened their blossoms that they might scent the air; thus according to their manner praising God. At the same time the birds began to sing, and came and perched upon the hands and shoulders of Rose. The insects greeted her with a joyous murmur, and all which had life and movement joined in the concert of praise she addressed to the Lord.

Again - and here we catch an echo of the pure Franciscan spirit, the gaiety of the Troubadours of God - during her last Lent, "each evening at sunset a little bird with an enchanting voice came and perched upon a tree beside her window, and waited till she gave the sign to him to sing. Rose, as soon as she saw her little feathered chorister, made herself ready to sing the praises of God, and challenged the bird to this musical duel in a song which she had composed for this purpose.

'Begin, dear little bird,'she said,'begin thy lovely song! Let thy little throat, so full of sweet melodies, pour them forth: that together we may praise the Lord. Thou dost praise thy Creator, I my sweet Savior: thus we together bless the Deity. Open thy little beak, begin and I will follow thee: and our voices shall blend in a song of holy joy.'

"At once the little bird began to sing, running through his scale to the highest note. Then he ceased, that the saint might sing in her turn ... thus did they celebrate the greatness of God, turn by turn, for a whole hour: and with such perfect order, that when the bird sang Rose said nothing, and when she sang in her turn the bird was silent, and listened to her with a marvellous attention. At last, towards the sixth hour, the saint dismissed him, saying, 'Go, my little chorister, go, fly far away. But blessed be my God who never leaves me!"'


 
Terry Schiavo Update

Received this from Fr Rob Johansen today:

Dear Friends, readers, and fellow bloggers:

I'm not normally one to send out mass e-mailings, but I want to get the word out, and get people praying.

A very critical time in the fight to save Terri Schiavo is approaching. On August 31, next Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of Terri's Law.

I have an update on this, and other developments (not good ones, I'm afraid) in Terri's case, on my blog, Thrown Back.

Also, on the same day, Judge Greer, the infamous "unjust judge" in Terri's case, is up for re-election. He is being challenged by attorney Jan Govan, but Greer has Govan swamped in terms of organization and money.

Greer is widely supported by attorneys in Pinellas County. As I wrote in my blog, even the law firm which represents the Diocese of St. Petersburg and also represents Bishop Robert Lynch personally, contributed to Greer's campaign.

I urge all of you to spread the word about this. If you have a blog, please post a mention of these matters, and a link to Thrown Back, on your blogs.

I also urge you to join in, and spread the word about, a Novena to Our Lady, Health of the Sick, which I am starting today. There are nine days betweeen now and August 31.

I appreciate your help and support.


 
Today in Christian history

August 23, 1773: "The Morning Chronicle" published a list of the most scandalous parsons in England. Their distinctions included forgery, assassination, duelling, rape, boxing, plagiarism, libel, drunkenness and apostasy. In at No.1 was Rev. William Jackson, Chaplain of the King's Bench Prison: "If to sit in alehouses, to brawl in taverns, to frequent brothels, and to inebriate in public be virtuous, that reverend divine, Mr William Jackson, is a miracle of modern goodness."

August 23, 1833: Slavery was abolished in the British Empirethanks to the work of evangelicals led by William Wilberforce. The government paid £20 million compensation to slave owners.

August 23, 1948: The "fellowship of churches which accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior" (a.k.a. the World Council of Churches) is formally constituted in Amsterdam. The World Council of Churches consists of numerous Protestant and Orthodox Churches; the Catholic Church has never joined, but cooperates on several levels.


Sunday, August 22, 2004
 
The Pope's new clothes

Tailor-made and fit for a Pope - have you ever wondered where the clergy go shopping?


 
Today in Christian history

August 22, 565: Celtic missionary and abbot Columba reportedly confronts the Loch Ness Monster and becomes the first recorded observer of the creature. "At the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified," wrote his biographer, "and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes."

August 22, 1800: Edward B. Pusey, author of Tracts for the Times and a leader of the Oxford Movement to renew the Anglican Church, is born. He wrote several works promoting a union between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, but the Vatican I Ecumenical Council (1869-70) dashed his hopes when it declared the dogma of papal infallibility. Pusey worked to establish religious orders in Anglicanism, founding in 1845 the first Anglican sisterhood.

August 22, 1968: Pope Paul VI arrived in Bogotá, Colombia, for the start of the first papal visit to Latin America.


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