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, August 23, 2003
Ex-Priest Dies After an Attack in Prison

BOSTON, Aug. 23 — John J. Geoghan, the defrocked priest at the center of the clergy sexual abuse scandal here, died this afternoon after being attacked at a Massachusetts state prison, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections said..."

Life is stranger than fiction at times.


Requiescat in pace.

Cardinal Stafford on the Church's Crisis

I believe this an important piece in light of today's realities. I am an admirer of Cardinal Stafford (and know him a bit personally even) and think he is a thoughtful and pastorally aware bishop. It is fascinating to read the Cardinal's words in light of John Allen's latest column referenced below.

A few excerpts:

Cardinal Stafford: The most significant positive development since the Second Vatican Council has been the flourishing of lay movements within the Church. That doesn't mean that there were not lay movements before. We obviously have analogous groups such as the Knights of Columbus and the confraternities, which go back to the Middle Ages, but the unique expression of that, through the various associations of the lay faithful, has only developed since World War II and after the Second Vatican Council.

...So, the new lay movements are, as a matter of fact, a commitment to a deeper "koinonia" [communion], a living out of community with one another and with the presbyterate in a way that assists them in living and experiencing the meaning of the beatitudes in their lives, especially as married men and women.

...So the new lay movements have many things to offer the Church: a deeper sense of community in the Holy Spirit, of fellowship in the Holy Spirit, of communion in the Holy Spirit, and a deeper sense of commitment to Christ in the workplace. They also experience a great reinforcement of their life as married men and women.

...One of the greatest gifts the Spirit has given to us from the Second Vatican Council is the renewal of the catechumenate.

...The parish is to be a community that calls others to a deeper conversion of life from sin to the light of Jesus. That, in my judgment, should lead us to a further exploration of a restoration of the "Ordo Poenitentium" - the Order of Penitents -- that was present in the patristic Church.

Many of the problems that we are experiencing in the priesthood, I think, especially the sexual abuse, are due to a crisis, not just an acute crisis, but a long-term crisis in the parish and in the community of the parishes that is lived out. Part of it is rooted in the fact that people do not really experience love within the parish; it is a place in which they really do not trust one another enough to be able to experience the forgiving love of Jesus as that is mediated by the community.

A restructuring, a renewal, a rediscovery of the "Ordo Poenitentium," for example as in the early Church, would be an opportunity in which priests and people would recognize their sinfulness, would be willing to surrender in their vulnerability to the tough love of the community in making known their weakness, their sinfulness, and asking for a public penance.

But this would not be true just of the priests; this would be true of lay men and lay women in their own experience of fidelity or infidelity within marriage, or as parents, or their lack of witness, or their sinfulness in their work, in their business, in their unions, in their university setting, so that their parish really is a community in which people experience the forgiveness of Jesus.

...In my judgment, and I've been a bishop now since 1976, the Neocatechumenate is one of the strongest expressions of that capacity within the Church that the Spirit has given to us that has the ability to create a forgiving community, the capacity to create a community of tough love that is rooted in the cross of Jesus.

I have known the Neocatechumenate since 1980. I invited them into the Archdiocese of Denver and we established a Redemptoris Mater seminary there. I have become much more familiar with the Neocatechumenate since I have gone to Rome. In my judgment, it is one of the best expressions, one of the best proclamations of the paschal mystery that the Spirit has given to the modern Church.

...I think one of the instruments that the Spirit has given to us would be these new lay communities, including the Neocatechumenate. Despite the fact that so many find objections to the Neocatechumenate in the United States, I am convinced that the means for renewal within the Church rests with the new communities and it also rests with the Neocatechumenate.

...I think the lay people have much to teach us in this. I am thinking of such lay persons as Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, David Schindler, Tracey Rowland in Australia - a great woman theologian - some lay theologians in Great Britain.

They are indicating to us that we have to better our understanding of the theology of culture. I understand them to say that the Vatican Council was too optimistic in its assessment - "Gaudium et Spes" especially - of the compatibility between postmodern culture and the Catholic faith. I am in full agreement with that judgment..."

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

Ever wonder how that phrase in the Confiteor (I confess) got translated as "through my own fault" and not as "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grevious fault?"

Which do you prefer and why?

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!"'

Today in Christian history

August 23, 1723: Increase Mather, one of Colonial America's most famous clergymen, dies. Friends and colleagues mourned him as "the patriarch…among us".

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.

Friday, August 22, 2003
New "Word from Rome"

John Allen's column is quite interesting this week and gives some good "food for thought". Among the topics:

The pope’s too liberal; down on American culture; champion of ‘dynamic orthodoxy’; Disowning ‘primacy of conscience’; hubbub in Holland; hot, hot, hot; some brief notes

Salve, Regina!

The Crowning of Our Lady by Paulo Veneziano

One blessing of my life is that I have memorized (along with countless Catholics) the beautiful Marian antiphon, "Hail, Holy Queen" - and can thus rather easily pray it before falling asleep. This antiphon has a special place in monastic observance; the singing of the Salve is one of the high lights of the monastic day, sung at the end of Compline.

Just in case you haven't yet memorized this great prayer, here it is (it is traditionally prayed at the conclusion of the Rosary):

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

Locked in

Angry worshippers locked a Romanian Orthodox bishop in their church after he came to remove from his job a priest who had broken church rules by remarrying, the bishop complained yesterday. The Bishop of Tomis, Teodosie, has declared a no-tolerance policy on divorced and remarried priests. He arrived at the Black Sea village last Monday to remove the altar cloth after priest Vladimir Cazan refused to leave his post. Church rules say that services cannot be held if there is no cloth covering the altar. Accusing Teodosie of removing holy objects, dozens of angry worshippers locked the bishop in. He was freed after he called police from his cell phone.

- 08-21-2003 Kathimerini

Preacher, be a teacher

The Church’s media image is at rock bottom. What better time for Christians to teach the riches of their tradition? A Benedictine monk explains

"....And what should we be teaching, if not the immense riches of the Christian spiritual tradition? People today are seeking to mature their faith with something deeper than classes on the Catechism or the Church’s social or sexual teaching. The Church has more to teach than ecclesiology; there is no shortage of experience of the faith, nor of people trained to teach it, nor of resources and places. Every parish or religious community could be drawn into a continuing diocesan programme which would transform the self-understanding of the Church. It would show that the Church is not a club we belong to or merely a hierarchical structure allowing limited collaboration. The Church is a learning body, a spiritual school where, as in any true teaching environment, everyone learns from each other..."

Some of what the author writes seems an echo of very important (and largely neglected?) words of John Paul II in Novo Millennio Ineunte:

"33. Is it not one of the "signs of the times" that in today's world, despite widespread secularization, there is a widespread demand for spirituality, a demand which expresses itself in large part as a renewed need for prayer? Other religions, which are now widely present in ancient Christian lands, offer their own responses to this need, and sometimes they do so in appealing ways. But we who have received the grace of believing in Christ, the revealer of the Father and the Savior of the world, have a duty to show to what depths the relationship with Christ can lead.

The great mystical tradition of the Church of both East and West has much to say in this regard. It shows how prayer can progress, as a genuine dialogue of love, to the point of rendering the person wholly possessed by the divine Beloved, vibrating at the Spirit's touch, resting filially within the Father's heart. This is the lived experience of Christ's promise: "He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (Jn 14:21). It is a journey totally sustained by grace, which nonetheless demands an intense spiritual commitment and is no stranger to painful purifications (the "dark night"). But it leads, in various possible ways, to the ineffable joy experienced by the mystics as "nuptial union". How can we forget here, among the many shining examples, the teachings of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila?

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, our Christian communities must become genuine "schools" of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly "falls in love". Intense prayer, yes, but it does not distract us from our commitment to history: by opening our heart to the love of God it also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God's plan."


Our Lady of Life: a new sculpture in the Grotto of Mount Saint Mary's, Emmitsburg, Maryland

The friends who took me on recent visit I made to Emmitsburg were Pavel Chichikov - poet and photographer - and his gifted wife, Nancy. Pavel took some beautiful shots while there, among them this stunning photo he entitled "Tenderness."

A blessed Feast of the Queenship of Mary to all celebrating!

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.

Thursday, August 21, 2003
Joy mingled with sadness

Yesterday, as part of our day in Emmitsburg, we visited the Basilica of Saint Joseph, in which lie the relics of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, a truly remarkable personality and a great saint. This is part of a huge complex staffed by Mother Seton's religious community, The Daughters of Charity. This congregation has had a remarkable history and has contributed immensly to the Catholic Church (and society) in the United States. I have always been impressed by the peaceful and serene spirit of these sisters, in their older and more modern (and, to me, quite beautiful) modified habit.

About five years ago or so, they decided to make the veil optional. This struck me as a really stupid decision, since already it had been clear, for years, that the only orders that are attracting any vocations are those whose members wear the veil (now I realize this is not the essential issue but it surely has more than "symbolic" value as well).

I think now the vocations have pretty much dried up already. For myself, I do not find the sisters in various lay garbs and various hair dos, etc. looking as good as they used to, not giving the beautiful place the same "feel" as in the past. Of course, I am not one of them and so I have nothing to do with the decisions they make. But I do have my opinion and reactions.

Yesterday, visiting the Shrine of Mother Seton, there was a mingling of joy and sadness....

(And a wondering of what will happen to these beautiful buildings when there are no more Daughters of Charity to staff them).

Religion of Peace?

A scary photo!

Some Muslim clerics in the Palestinian territories have been known to preach support for suicide bombings against Israel, but Abdel-Hamid Mask was the first to turn sermon into action. Mask, a 29-year-old imam from the West Bank city of Hebron, blew himself up aboard a Jerusalem bus on August 19, 2003, killing 18 people, including five children, in an attack claimed by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Mask is seen in this undated video still released by Hamas on August 19. (Reuters)

Today in Christian history

August 21, 1567: Francis de Sales was born today. Bishop of Geneva and one of the leaders of the Catholic Reformation, Saint Francis de Sales is now best known for writing his "Introduction to the Devout Life" and his "Salesian spirituality." He is the patron saint of Catholic journalists.

August 21, 1741: George Frideric Handel shuts himself up in his home to begin writing "Messiah." He finished the composition 23 days later. "Whether I was in the body or out of the body when I wrote it, I know not," he later said.

August 21, 1874: Henry Ward Beecher, a popular Congregational clergyman from Connecticut, is accused of adultery. Sued for $100,000 by the alleged adulteress's husband, the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (and son of evangelical leader Lyman Beecher) would eventually be exonerated by his congregation and the jury (which voted 9-3 in favor of Beecher).

Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Some tidbits

An unidentified source today told me that the Arlington Diocese, which used to send the most men to Mt St Mary's Seminary, now is one of the less represented dioceses. Apparantly the current bishop is not another Bishop Keating, the prior ordinary of Arlington (the new wing is named after him). Keating seemed to pick the right persons for vocation director, while Loverde has gone through three directors already. (At least according to my source).

My source, too, confirms what I already knew. That Cardinal Keeler shot himself in the foot and has totally lost his priests. Sad to hear but quite understandable. The source thinks Keeler is not what he used to be and seems to be a bit "diminished" - e.g. at a recent funeral for a priest, Keeler said a few words that seem disconnected from the event and seemed garbled in content. I hope not. I may be seeing Cardinal Keeler soon and will see for myself (and this souce asked me to get back to him with my own observations).

Dioceses sending lots of vocations: Rockford and Atlanta are among the ones my source mentioned (I can't recall a few others named - I got distracted).

Just a tidbit or two.... :-)

Back early!

Had a nice day but it ended earlier than expected since our priest friend wasn't feeling one hundred percent and couldn't join us for dinner - and the three of us had already had a nice lunch together. So my friends said: maybe we can just go home early? YES! A sort of answered prayer. I just wasn't looking forward to a night in the Day's Inn in Westminster. So I am home with ONION and very happily so!

P.S. Mount St Mary's Seminary is an amazing place. And there are 50 new entries this year.

An overnight

In a little while some friends will be by to pick me up and off we go to beautiful Mt St Mary's, Emittsburg, Maryland. There we will link up with a priest-friend, who is a professor of Church history at the thriving seminary located there. He is one of my favorite people in all the world: knowledgeable, personable, devout, and a howl! We will spend time there and then eventually out to dinner. These friends don't like driving in the dark, so they got me a room at a motel in Westminster, Maryland, so we can return in daylight tomorrow. I am a homebody and would much prefer being home this evening (with ONION). But I am willing to go along and enjoy and be appreciative of their kind generosity. I hope to be able to get to the grotto (we bring my wheelchair) and I will say a prayer for all the readers of this blog. Hope to be back soon, God willing. Say a prayer for me. Thanks.


"The only measure of love is to love without measure."

- Bernard of Clairvaux

Today in Christian history

August 20, 984: Pope Boniface VII killed his rival Pope John XIV today in . This did little for his popularity, and on his own death he was dragged naked through the streets of Rome.

August 20, 1153: Bernard of Clairvaux dies. Bernard was a towering figure of the 12th century; he helped strengthen and spread the Cistercian renewal, counseled kings and popes, and wrote still treasured treatises and letters. His hymns are still sung by Christians of various traditions. Bernard had a tender devotion to Our Lady, and the prayer "The Memorare" is often attributed to him.

August 20, 1745: Francis Asbury, one of the two first Methodist bishops in America (the other was Thomas Coke), is born in Birmingham, England.

August 20, 1912: William Booth, founder and first General of the Salvation Army, dies.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Hebrew-Speaking Israeli Catholics to Get an Auxiliary Bishop

Abbot Was Baptized at Age 23

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- News of John Paul II's appointment of an auxiliary bishop of the Latin patriarch for Hebrew-speaking Catholics has stirred considerable public interest in the Holy Land.

The unprecedented assignment was announced by the Vatican press office last Thursday and entrusted to Father Jean-Baptiste Gourion, abbot of St. Mary of the Resurrection Monastery, of the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation in Abu Gosh, a peaceful Israeli village where a Hebrew-speaking Christian community resides.

Born in 1934 in Oran, Algeria, and baptized at age 23, Gourion entered the Abbey of Bec in France and in 1976 was sent with two men religious to Abu Gosh to found the monastery.

In 1990, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, named him episcopal vicar and president of St. James' Work of Jerusalem, for the pastoral care of the Hebrew-speaking Christian community.

"Our community is small, born from the creation of the state of Israel, made up of Christians who were not of Arab formation or culture, and who stayed in Israel," Father Gourion explained. "There were, for example, mixed marriages, persons who had converted to Christianity, persons who worked in the Israeli environment."

The future bishop told Vatican Radio that the Pope made this decision because "there is a need to offer an ecclesial structure" for these Catholics, who are not of Arab culture or tradition, as is the case of the majority of the faithful who belong to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

According to Father Gourion, in some countries the press has referred to a conflict between Arab and Hebrew-speaking Catholics which, in fact, does not exist.

"It is an artificial creation," he said. "It has related events which in reality are not related in themselves. Thus, they have placed me in opposition to the patriarch, giving this assignment a political interpretation."

"It is, however, a pastoral measure of the Holy Father," he clarified. "It is obvious that the Arab and Hebrew culture are two different worlds, but all remains here."

Father Gourion explained that with this appointment the Pope also hopes to promote good relations with the Jewish world.

The Legacy of the Popes

Did you know that Eggs Benedict got its name from Pope Benedict XIII, who favored this dish for breakfast during the years he reigned 1724-1730?

Losing his religion: Apostate Ibn Warraq campaigns for the right not to be a Muslim

Thanks to Mark Shea for pointing me to this fascinating article in the Boston Globe.

Orthodox Pilgrimage: The Mountain of Crosses

Women carrying an icon crawl around the church at the Holy Hill of Grabarka, the holiest Orthodox Shrine in Poland, 87 miles east of Warsaw Monday Aug. 18, 2003.

The Holy Hill of Grabarka, sometimes called the Czêstochowa of the Orthodox Church, in reference to Jasna Góra Monastery in Czêstochowa, the holiest shrine of Catholicism in Poland, has a peculiar charm that is hard to resist. Huge crowds of the faithful, often numbering over 50,000, gather here every year Aug. 19, on the holy day of the Transfiguration, a holiday solemnly celebrated by members of the Orthodox Church. On that day, numerous pilgrimages from Poland and abroad walk to the hill, bearing penitential crosses, some of enormous size..."

In honor of today's saint, John Eudes:

Father of mercies and God of all consolation, You gave us the loving Heart of your own beloved Son, because of the boundless love by which You have loved us, which no tongue can describe. May we render You a love that is perfect with hearts made one with His. Grant, we pray, that our hearts may be brought to perfect unity: each heart with the other and all hearts with the Heart of Jesus and may the rightful yearnings of our hearts find fulfillment through Him: Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

- Collect from Saint John Eudes' Mass, Gaudeamus, 1668

Today in Christian history

August 19, 1099: Three years after setting out, the First Crusade armies defeat the Saracens at the Battle of Ascalon, a Palestinian city. For more than a century afterwards, Christians controlled the Holy Land.

August 19, 1662: Blaise Pascal, French scientist, polemicist, and Christian apologist, dies at the age of 39 after an extended illness. In 1654, he experienced his "definitive conversion" where he discovered the "God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the philosophers and men of science".

August 19, 1680: John Eudes, founder of male and female religious communities in France, died. John promoted devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and was an opponent of Jansenism. Canonized in 1925.

August 19, 1843: C.I. Scofield, dispensationalist creator of the Scofield Reference Bible, is born near Clinton, Michigan.

August 19, 1886: Richard G. Spurling, a Baptist minister, founds the Christian Union in Tennessee. In 1923 the organization took the name the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee, a Pentecostal denomination that now has hundreds of thousands of members.

Monday, August 18, 2003
Spiritual Friendship

Love between the saints

One very fascinating area is the special bond among some saints, especially the male-female relationship. Coming to mind immediately is Saints Francis and Clare, Blessed Jordan of Saxony and Sister Diana, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr (not to mention Abelard and Heloise!) - and today's saint: Jane Frances de Chantal and her deep and abiding bond with Francis de Sales.

I came across this today in a book I have, "The Bond of Perfection" by Wendy M. Wright (Paulist Press), which describes Saint Jane (Jeanne) upon the death of her beloved father and brother and friend in Christ, Francis de Sales::

"His companions noticed that he appeared very ill the day after Christmas, yet he continued to spend himself in the service of others. He spent the evening with the Visitation sisters, giving them a conference on his favorite motto, “Ask nothing and refuse nothing.”

The next day he continued to keep his appointments and to say Mass although he noted that his eyesight seemed to be failing. When he returned to the convent at midday his servants noticed that he had difficulty rising after a light meal and that he found it impossible to write the letters that urgently needed attending to. As he rose from his desk chair he collapsed. The doctors were hastily summoned and they made a diagnosis of apoplexy through a rupture of the cerebral artery. For a full day the physicians used all their ingenuity to apply a truly horrible succession of remedies to their patient while friends and pious visitors clustered round the bed. Francois de Sales died at eight in the evening on December 28, 1622, the feast of the Holy Innocents.

Jeanne left Grenoble without hearing the sad news, and she arrived in Belley ten days after Christmas still ignorant of her friend’s death. For Michel Favre, Francois’ confessor and confidential secretary as well as chaplain of the Visitation, had made sure that no letters or information reached her while she was on the road because he wished to be the one to gently break the news to her himself.

At Belley the sisters were requested not to make any display of their grief for it was decided that the mother superior should be allowed to celebrate the feast of Epiphany, which marked the end of the joyous Christmas celebration, with serenity. Jeanne was not aware of the conspiracy of silence, but she was troubled that she had had no news of François for some time. Approaching Michel Favre, she inquired after their mutual friend. He replied that the bishop had fallen ill in Lyon and handed her a letter written by Francois’ brother Jean who had been his assistant and now, with Francois’ death, had become bishop of Geneva.

Jeanne’s first response upon hearing that Francois had fallen ill was to announce that she wished to return to Lyon immediately. But she sensed the mood of her informants:

"When Monsieur Michel put the letter.., in my hand my heart beat wildly. I drew myself close to the presence of God and his will, greatly fearing that there was something painful to be learned in this letter. In the small space of time that it took to recollect myself in God, I understood the words that I had heard in Grenoble: “He is no more,” the truth of which was clarified for me by reading that blessed letter. I fell to my knees, adoring the divine Providence and embracing the holy will of God which included my incomparable affliction, as best I could."

Madame de Chantal wept through most of the day and night, her tears in her own words being “abundant but very gentle.” She continued with the regular round of community life but in her grief paid little attention to what was going on around her. This warm woman whose heart Francois had said “loved powerfully and felt things strongly” was not even in this most personal of moments free from barbs of criticism thrown by her detractors. She was approached by one of the priests present at the convent for the feast. He informed her that a soul perfectly resigned to the will of God really ought to dry its tears. She answered simply:

'My dear Father, if I knew that my tears were disagreeable to God, I would not shed even a single one.’"

A favorite essay of mine by Father Gerald Vann OP, "Love Among the Saints." ENJOY!

In the Shadows of Alhambra

JEDDAH, 17 August 2003 — After a delay of more than 500 years, Spanish Muslims have finally succeeded in once again building their own mosque in the shadow of the Alhambra, once the symbol of Islamic power in Europe.

Last month, the country’s Muslim community celebrated the opening of the Granada Mosque which symbolizes the new dawn of Islam in Europe and the revival of Spain’s glorious Islamic heritage. Overlooking the historic Alhambra Palace, the beautiful redbrick building, with design references to the Cordoba Mosque as well as to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, stood out as a magnificent landmark. Amid repeated shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), Sharjah’s ruler, Sheikh Sultan ibn Muhammad Al-Qassimi who contributed $3.4 million to the project — opened the mosque...."

Priest voted France's favourite - again

A Roman Catholic priest who has spent most of his life championing the poor, homeless and unemployed has again been voted France's favourite personality, French LCI TV reported.

Abbe Pierre, who is 91, came top of a poll carried out by the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

France's football superstar Zinedine Zidane, who plays for Real Madrid, took second place.

This is the 17th time that Abbe Pierre has topped the popularity list, the TV said.

Born Henri Groues, he served as a Capuchin monk before being ordained a priest in 1938.


He became known as Abbe Pierre during his work with the French Resistance, smuggling Jews out of occupied France.

But in the 1990s, he incurred the wrath of the American Jewish organisation, the Anti-Defamation League, for allegedly comparing the acts of the ancient Israelites to the Holocaust and downplaying the Nazis' crimes against the Jews.

The League decried Abbe Pierre's remarks as "insulting to both Jews and Catholics," and urged the Catholic Church to take action against him. His defenders said he was seeking justice for the Palestinians and was not anti-Semitic.

He became a member of the French parliament after the war, and in 1949 founded the Emmaus movement, known for its self-supporting communities of homeless people..."

More Living Icons etc.

Below in a post from Saturday evening, I mention the book of Father Michael Plekon which contains essays on some recent distinguished Orthodox Christians. I mention in that same post some of my own (Catholic) mentors of more recent times, from my "A Great Cloud of Witnesses" web page. I was thinking of some more recent Protestant who have influenced me and who seem to shine with Christ's Light.

I think of the Quaker writer Thomas Kelly (quoted below), the writer Evelyn Underhill, C.S. Lewis. the Scottish Presbyterian preacher, James Steward and of Frere Roger of Taize (but he is still alive), . My mind seems inactive now; just these come to it immediately. I am sure there are more. (The norm I used for my own mentor's page was that there was a photograph made of each of them, so they weren't too far removed from us in time) and that they had already died.

Who have I missed in my Catholic, and Orthodox, and Protestant list if you were to make one for yourself? In other words, what kind of list would you come up with of some of the more recent Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant Christians, who have had a real impact on your life?

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Colman McCarthy reviews some recent books about Catholics in the Washington Post Book section.

Almost persuaded

Carol Zaleski, one of my favorite current writers, has a good piece in the latest edition of The Christian Century online, on meeting some Mennonites at Carnival. Lovely.

Our Trifles and True Portion

Paradoxically, this total Instruction proceeds in two opposing directions at once. We are torn loose from earthly attachments and ambitions - contemptus mundi. And we are quickened to a divine but painful concern for the world - amor mundi. He plucks the world out of our hearts, loosening the chains of attachment. And He hurls the world into our hearts, where we and He together carry it in infinitely tender love.

Positions of prominence, eminences of social recognition that we once meant to attain - how puny and trifling they become! Our old ambitions and heroic dreams - what years we have wasted in feeding our own insatiable self-pride, when only His will truly matters! Our wealth and property, security now and in old age - upon what broken reeds have we leaned, when He is "the rock of our heart, and our portion forever!"

Unless the willingness is present to be stripped of our last earthly dignity and hope, and yet still praise Him, we have no message...

- Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion

A new New York

In Calm Blackout, Views of Remade City

It was inspiring to me to witness the way New Yorkers dealt with this recent black-out; not sure what made the difference but, regardless, it is something wonderful and worthy of comment. I was waiting for some pieces such as this article in the New York Times. (I have always believe New Yorkers the friendliest people in the world - and have "proven" it to visitors more than once). I do think the Sept 11th had an impact on this latest crisis. Something good from such horror and evil! A new New York!

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