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, September 13, 2003
Behold the Lamb of God

Pope John Paul II, old, stooped and suffering, still doing, now in Slovakia, what he has always done: pointing us to Jesus, the Son of the Living God. To the very end...

Deo gratias!

Sisters spotlight eco-justice

"In a conference center tucked inside the enormous General Motors World Headquarters complex in Detroit last month, nearly 1,000 U.S. Roman Catholic sisters talked for five days about the cosmos, ecological justice and the Catholic church...

"..The group’s founding statement, penned nearly five decades ago, proclaimed its intention to “promote the spiritual welfare of the women religious of the USA; insure increasing efficacy in their apostolate; and foster closer fraternal cooperation with all religious of the United States, the hierarchy, the clergy and Catholic associates.”

In Detroit, the distance the organization has traveled through time and rhetorical space was evident as LCWR president Sr. Mary Ann Zollmann addressed the gathering.

“We women religious are living out of and growing more deeply into an ecofeminism that is a communion of companionship, responsibility and accountability to the whole web of life,” said Zollmann, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “Every act sourced in the power of genuine relatedness subverts the power of hierarchy and patriarchy...”

Unmentioned is the "distance traveled" during those five intevening decades in terms of membership and recruitment.

When the LCWR was founded, it represented at least twice the number it now represents and that the median age of the participants was over 60!

But then I suspect few enthusiastic and believing young woman would be too eager to jump on the band wagon where a prominent member can say with a straight face: "“Every act sourced in the power of genuine relatedness subverts the power of hierarchy and patriarchy...”


Sister, what do you mean by saying an "act sourced?" - never heard it put quite that way before.

And, Sister, ever wonder why NO ONE is joining your orders and congregations and they are joining those who can still speak the thoughts and language of your original founding statement?

Saint John Chrysostom: Father and Doctor of the Universal Church

Today the Roman Rite celebrates the memorial of the preacher with a "golden mouth" and "golden heart."

"Christ of the Bread Line" (beloved by Dorothy Day)


"Do you want to honor Christ's Body? Then do not scorn him in his rags, nor honor him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. For he who said: 'This is My Body' and made it so by his words, also said: 'You saw me hungry and did not feed me' and 'inasmuch as you did not do it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did not do it for me.' What we do here in the church requires a pure heart, not special garments; for God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts.

Of what use is it to weigh down Christ's table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger? First, fill him when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adorn his table. Will you have a golden cup made but not give a cup of water? What is the use of providing the table with cloths woven of gold thread, and not providing Christ himself with the clothes he needs?...

You provide silver chains for the lamps, but you cannot bear to even look at him as he lies chained in prison....

Therefore do not adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all."

- St John Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew, PG 58, 508-509

Today in Christian history

September 14, 1321: Dante Alighieri, author of "The Divine Comedy", died. Considered by some the world's greatest poet, his "Divine Comedy" can be viewed as Saint Thomas Aquinas' "Summa" in poetic verse. Dante contributed greatly to the understanding of the relationship of Divine and human love.

September 14, 1543: The infant Mary Queen of Scots was crowned, following the death of her father King James V.

September 14, 1931: Having recently suffered a nervous breakdown, Foursquare Gospel Church founder Aimee Semple McPherson, 40, entered an ill-fated marriage to David Hutton. (They divorced four years later.). McPherson was a colorful and multi-facted personality of the Pentecostal revival and the healing ministry. While a "star" in her field, her life was shadowed by problematic events and misadventures. (So what else is new?).

Friday, September 12, 2003
Church in the Middle: Greek-Catholics in Central and Eastern Europe

Archimandrite Serge Keleher has an outstanding essay online giving an outline of the unexpected resurrection of the Greek-Catholic Churches with its problematics and hopes. On Sunday, Pope John Paul II will be beatifying a Greek-Catholic bishop of Slovakia, Bishop Vasil Hopko. Father Serge's essay is an excellent background piece to understand some of the deep significance of this act of the Pope. Here is just a brief selection:

The Re-emergence of the Greek-Catholics

Then the miracle happened. The Greek-Catholic churches emerged from the catacombs in the USSR, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Poland. To understand the magnitude of the shock this produced, one must realise that almost nobody in the West had believed that there were any Greek-Catholics left in the USSR and Romania; the few stragglers remaining in Poland seemed well on the way to total assimilation into the Polish Roman Catholic Church; and Czechoslovakia was so isolated that nothing was known of the situation there. No one was prepared for the sudden reappearance of millions of Greek-Catholics.

There had been warning signs, but they had not been noticed. In 1963, Metropolitan Iosyf Slipy (who had been arrested in 1945 and held in prison ever since) was released by the Soviet government and sent to Rome. For the next 21 years he used every forum to try to remind the Holy See that there were still millions of Greek-Catholics in Ukraine, with an underground hierarchy of bishops, with priests, monks and nuns, and so on. The Cardinal was ignored, when he was not actually mocked.

In 1968 there was a substantial renewal of the Greek-Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia during the few months of Dubek’s government; the Greek-Catholics regained almost all the parishes lost in 1950. The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia prevented the enthronement of Bishop Prešov, and the Greek-Catholic Church survived at the price of strenuous slovakisation of the faithful; the Orthodox complained of their losses but on a ecumenical scale it seemed a relatively small matter. Within a year or so, it was forgotten. [9. To his credit, Bishop Kallistos (Timothy Ware) took Czechoslovakia in 1968 into account; in subsequent editions of his book "The Orthodox Church" he noted the revival of Greek-Catholicism as an indication that the ‘reunions’ of the Greek-Catholics with the Orthodox Church elsewhere in Eastern Europe had not been voluntary.]

- Serge Keleher, Church in the Middle: Greek-Catholics in Central and Eastern Europe

Friday Penance

Since Friday is still supposed to be a day of penance, here's what I've come up with. I will not allow my curiosity to get the best of me and will stay away from those blogs that seem to evoke the most negative remarks in the comments (which has, obviously, really gotten to me lately). This won't be easy since I tend to get wonderful tips for links, etc. and enjoy some of the writings of the authors of these blogs. But this is at least my plan for today. And there are a lot of other blogs out there that I owe it to myself to visit more. (I also leave a few threads in which I was involved in the comment sections but that, too, may be good to "let go" of and relax and enjoy life more and not try to get the last word!).

'Stronger' pope stirs Slovaks

A seemingly re-invigorated Pope John Paul II has celebrated an outdoor mass in the central Slovakian town of Banska Bystrica in front of thousands of pilgrims.

Ralph and the Archangel

A former bank robber who had a vision of God and became a monk…it sounds like a made-up tale, but it happened.

Today in Christian history

September 12, 1729: John W. Fletcher, early Methodist theologian, is born. During the Calvinism-Arminianism controversy within Methodisism in the mid-eighteenth century, Fletcher became the chief defender of evangelical Arminianism. John Wesley hoped Fletcher would be his successor, but Fletcher died six years before Wesley. Wesley wrote a biography of Flecther along the lines of Catholic hagiography.

September 12, 1788: Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the Disciples of Christ and the Church of Christ, is born in Ballymena, Ireland.

September 12, 1922: The American Episcopal church votes to excise the words "to obey" from its wedding service's marriage vows.

Thursday, September 11, 2003
This is not a joke

One of the most strident critics of the hierarchy and the evils and sins of others in the Church on some blogs belongs to a parish I know a bit. Not long ago the choir director of this parish was someone I also knew of from other sources (an Orthodox priest friend filled me in a bit).

I won't give the name and therefore not the website where I got this information - but I am sure it is correct. It was giving the bio of this choir director, a speaker at the Conference sponsored by a Tri State Bisexual Conference:

"N. , an ordained __N.__ priest and queer-identified, bi-fag and parent, is professor of Cultural Studies and the Dean of Faculty at the Starr King School for the Ministry Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Ca. He is a videographer, a body-piercing artist, an HIV/AIDS activist, an AIDS widow and the partner of a bi-dyke."

I recall once someone calling this person the most politically correct person in America.

I don't publish this as gossip nor to judge the state of anyone's soul; but to show that the first work of reform and renewal begins with me and my own sphere of influence, my own parish - and not to be blasting others if one's own house is not in order.

This person is no longer choir director but I would be surprised if there weren't some areas for improvement in this - or any - parish.

Rooting out dissent with dissent

Perhaps it's time for a new campaign to root out dissent: to root out the growing dissent from the principles of Catholic morality regarding the use of the gift of speech, of the sins of rash judgment, the sins of slander and detraction, and to root out the dissent from the traditional Catholic virtues of civility, courtesy and good manners - to say nothing of the virtues of justice and charity. This dissent from Catholic moral teaching seems to be growing more and more among those interested in rooting out dissent from Catholic teachings (with the exception of the sins mentioned above, of course).

I despair (on a human level).

Words to live by

"A bigot is not the man who thinks he’s right—every sane man thinks he’s right. A bigot is the man who cannot understand how the other man came to be wrong."

- Gilbert Keith Chesterton


Maybe there are no more errors in Saint Blog's?

Undiscerning a vocation

I don't think I'm destined to play much of a role in Church polity in the U.S. I am too easily, and too thoroughly, disgusted by the ubiquitous and unthinking arrogance with which pronouncements like this are made:

There really is no satisfactory solution to this other than the conversion of bishops (to Catholicism, of course).

This would probably strike many as an unremarkable, and undeniable, statement. I can't but take it as symptomatic of two very serious problems facing the Church.

The first is a kind of watery hyperCatholicism by which individuals on their own authority and as a matter of routine busy themselves excommunicating others. It's most explicit among self-styled traditionalists, and I've already brought up the matter of self-styled conservatives using the term "so-called Catholic," but there is no shortage of self-styled progressives who claim the Church is in one way or another refusing the clear demands of the Holy Spirit.

The other problem is the habit of locating the source of all problems in THEM! It's the Vatican's fault, it's the bishops' fault, it's the dissenters' fault! They have to change!

To make it worse, this habit isn't even recognized as a habit. It's seen as impartial analysis, or even simple observation, and passed off as evident truth. We're at the point where a Catholic journalist can say on a Monday "that dissent is the major cause of the sexual abuse crisis," and it strikes others as so natural and obvious that, by that Thursday, he still won't have been laughed out of Catholic journalism. A man who intends to join the Church, but who has not yet attended a single RCIA class, can muse about what the bishops would have to do to convince him they're Catholic, and the Catholics to whom he addresses his thoughts will see nothing worth challenging in them. A handful of people invent a handful of software programs, and suddenly everyone with a home computer and some free time has been divinely anointed a Hammer of Heretics and Scourge of Dissent and is taking detraction, gossip, and busybodiness for prophesy and bold defense of the One True Faith.

When the problem is always them, though, the problem is never me. And the problem that is me is the one problem we have each been commanded to resolve. My job is not to impose a plan of action that will guarantee the survival of the Church in the United States. My job is to guarantee the survival of the Church in the United States by seeing that it survives in me. That, ultimately, is the one thing I have control over - and, it seems to me, it's also ultimately the only way of reforming and purifying the Church. I can't reform and purify you, I can't reform and purify them, and I certainly can't make you reform and purify them.

The one thing that reforms and purifies is God's grace. But His grace isn't sitting around in a pile such that I can get a shovelfull of it and toss it on you. The only way I can have any grace to pass to you is by first accepting it into myself. We are all moonlets, so to speak, reflecting God's light onto each other, and it does me no good to order someone else to move so that more of God's light falls on him.

If instead of worrying about them, I follow the command of Scripture and the counsel of saints and worry about me, something wholly unexpected will happen. I can't say what precisely will happen - it is, after all, wholly unexpected - because it's not by my will or intent that it will happen. It will be by God's will. And even if by worrying about them I could get them to do what I want them to do, that is still an obviously poor choice compared to them doing what God wants them to do by me worrying about me.

- - John da Fiesole on blog Disputations

I repost the entire post, so good, so true, so beautiful do I find it. John's writings attract me as few other do: perhaps because I am drawn, as we all are, to Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. John is a secular Dominican and he reflects in our own troubled times some of the wisdom and balance of the Angelic Doctor. (I hope he doesn't mind that I reprinted his entire post; I really want everyone who visits my blog to read it).


To honor the memory of the thousands killed by the evil act of terrorists on September 11, 2001, I simply post these two photos - among the thousands of possible photos, each with images that sear the very soul. Today I simply wish to honor the victims and the heroes who helped, especially those who lost their lives; and pray that this will never happen again and that a peace rooted in justice will become a reality in our world, finally freed from the cowardice and devastation of terrorism.

God bless America!

Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Bearing the Burden of the Day (of the centuries!)

Mark, at Minute Particulars, in a fine post quotes my favorite theologian, speaking of the reforming sects and movements of the 12th century "who dreamed of a spiritual and holy Church":

"They dared to accuse the indomitable Church, which had endured many storms and upheavals, with having failed in her mission. Had these creations of fantasy and selfishness - and we cannot but recognize them as such while not denying whatever good was in them - had they borne the burden that weighed on the Catholic Church, they would have vanished in a trice into the void from which they emerged."

The self-styled and self-appointed reformers, of "right" or "left", seem to disappear into vapors while the Church continues (and is reformed and renewed by the saints).

- Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church

The Seasons

I love all four: spring, summer, autumn, winter. I am blessed to live in an area where we get all four: and have particularly beautiful springs. Usually hot and somewhat humid summers; I got more used to them over the years. Usually somewhat mild winters but then once in a while, as in last winter, lots of snow. And while our autumn is no matich for upstate New York's or New England's, it can be quite colorful and crisp.

Right now it's one of my favorite times of the year: that transition from summer to autumn here in Maryland. Last evening I actually turned on my little space heater for a few minutes to take a chill out of the air! Just until the night before I had gone to sleep with my door opened to let in all the coolness I could get! I just went outside and how bracing it felt! In the shade, cool and refreshing. In the sun, warmer and refreshing. The evening shadows beginning to work their magic again.

What a wonderful world!

Enjoy it as much as you can.

Disputations rocks again!

So often he says what I wish I could articulate - and says it with balance and humor.

Remarkable church built by ecumenical "Community of Jesus"

This community, of which I know little except that I have known of its website for some years, has constructed a large and quite beautiful "basilica" of the Holy Transfiguration. A new addition to the homepage is the declaration "in the Benedictine tradition" and I am hoping they move closer to full communion with the Catholic Church. Check out the website and look around: if you're patient and intuitive you may find quite a few photos of the church, interior and exterior. Wow!

Our Need for Joy

"We cannot live without joy; therefore when we are deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that we become addicted to carnal pleasures." (Saint Thomas Aquinas)

Terms leave archdiocese facing new strains

"As one crisis ends, another begins.

The Archdiocese of Boston's agreement yesterday to pay up to $85 million to settle 552 clergy sex abuse claims should, if accepted, end the devastating legal and financial uncertainty that has gripped this region's largest religious denomination for more than 19 months.

But the price of peace is very steep, and the church must now raise money and, potentially, cut services even as it attempts to heal the wounds opened by the scandal...."

"..."The archbishop has created a very significant amount of good will, and a lot of people are beginning to say, `How can I be of assistance,' " said Jack Connors Jr., the chairman of the advertising agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos.

"There is a new spirit, and a new sense that at least some of the bleeding has stopped, and now we begin to rebuild," he said.

Connors said he expects to see parish and school closings, but driven by economic and demographic factors, not by the settlement, and others agreed.

"If the scandal never happened, and if we didn't owe a nickel, we would still be faced with the question of what parishes can remain open and what schools can remain open," said Peter Meade, the vice chairman of Catholic Charities. "But I think there's a sense that we have an enormous task, and Archbishop Sean has literally been a godsend, and through a combination of faith and hard work we'll be able to deal with this."

More "dynamite" from Henri de Lubac

The kind of stuff we don't hear anymore from either "right" or "left"

"The man of the Church does not stop short at mere obedience; he loves obedience in itself, and will never be satisfied with obeying 'of necessity and without love'. For the fact is that all action which deserves the description 'Christian' necessarily unfolds itself over a basis of passivity. The Spirit from whom it derives is a Spirit received from God. It is God Himself, giving Himself to us in the first place so that we may give ourselves to Him; insofar as we welcome Him into ourselves we are already not our own.

This law is verified in the order of faith more than anywhere else. The truth which God pours into our minds is not just any truth, made to our humble human measure; the life which He gives us to drink in not a natural life which would find in us the wherewithal to maintain itself. This living truth and this true life only find foothold in us by dispossessing us of ourselves; if we are to live in them we must die to ourselves, and that dispossession and death are not only the initial conditions of our salvation; they are a permanent aspect of our life as renewed in God.

And this essential condition is brought about, par excellence, by the effect of Catholic obedience. In that obedience there is nothing of this world and nothing servile; it submits our thoughts and desires, not to the caprices of men, but to "the obedience of Christ". Fenelon says justly: 'It is Catholicism alone which teaches, fundamentally, this evangelical poverty; it is within the bosom of the Church that we learn to die to ourselves in order to live in dependence'. An apprenticeship of this sort never comes to an end; it is hard on nature, and those very men who think themselves most enlightened are the ones who have most need of it (which is why is is particularly healthy for them), so that they may be stripped of their false wealth, 'to humble their spirits under a visible authority'.

This is perhaps the most secret point in the mystery of faith, and that which is hardest of access to a mind which has not been converted by the Spirit of God. So that it is scarcely surprising that many men consider the exercise of authority in the Church as an intolerable tyranny.....For his part, the Catholic knows that the Church commands only because she obeys God. He wants to be a free man, but he is weary of being one of those who make liberty 'a cloak of malice"...

History and his own experience combine to show him both the desire for the knowledge of divine things which stirs the human spirit, and the weakness which lays that spirit open to falling into every kind of error. In consequence he appreciates the benefit of a divine magisterium, to which he freely submits. He thanks God for having given him that magisterium in the Church, and experiences a foretaste of the peace of eternity in placing himself under the obedience of faith.

He will make the appropriate evaluation of the scope of each one of the acts of the hierarchy - numerous and varied as they are - without splitting them up one from another or setting them in mutual opposition; he will accept them all as obedience demands and understand them as obedience understands them, never adopting an argumentative attitude where obedience is concerned, as if there were some question of defending at all costs a threatened autonomy. He will not countenance any contest with those who represent God, any more than he would with God Himself....

The baptismal instinct of the child responds with a leaping joy to the demands made upon it by its Mother."

From Henri de Lubac's classic The Splendor of the Church.

Encouraging Reports

Some of the other participants who attended the recent meeting of concerned "conservative" Catholics with a few Bishops are far more positive and hopeful than the report of Leon Podles of "Touchstone" magazine. Leon shows himself again, perhaps, as someone quite prone to negativity and harsh and possibly rash judgment of others. It was reading his constant and consistently gloomy reports and opinions, his joyless and carping spirit, that led me to not renew my subscription to "Touchstone" (which I had subscribed to over many years but noticed its growing negativity as Leon Podles' influence expanded, having given a large donation to "Touchstone" and becoming Senior Editor).

At any rate, I modify what I wrote below about the "conservatives" and negativity and would make it more limited to some among them who seem incapable of saying anything good about the actual Church as she really is today. And it is good to read some positive and hopeful reports from some of the other participants. But then I am no great believer in "meetings" to begin with!!!

Today in Christian history

September 10, 422: Celestine is elected pope. During his tenure, he convoked the Council of Ephesus to combat the Nestorian "heresy" (this belief, that Christ had two natures and two persons, was probably more semantic overstatement than heresy) and reportedly sent Patrick to Ireland as a missionary.

Septembr 10, 1224: The Franciscans (founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi) first arrived in England. They were originally called Grey Friars because of their gray habits. The most common habit worn by modern Franciscans is brown.

September 10, 1718: The Collegiate School at New Haven changed its name to Yale. Congregationalists, unhappy with an increasing religious liberalism at Harvard, had founded Yale, the third oldest college in America, in 1701.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Stars fallen from heaven

It seems another "star" has fallen and has been accused of sexual misconduct. You will read all about it on some blogs. Several well known speakers and preachers and writers have been accused and some have admitted guilt. It brought to mind a chapter of that great classic of spirituality, all but forgotten now (at least in the blogosphere!), The Imitation of Christ:

Book III: On Inward Consolation

XIV. Of Meditation upon the Hidden Judgments of God, that we may not be lifted up because of our Well-doing

THOU sendest forth Thy judgments against me, O Lord, and shakest all my bones with fear and trembling, and my soul trembleth exceedingly. I stand astonished, and remember that the heavens are not clean in thy sight. If Thou chargest Thine angels with folly, and didst spare them not, how shall it be unto me? Stars have fallen from heaven, and what shall I dare who am but dust? They whose works seemed to be praiseworthy, fell into the lowest depths, and they who did eat Angels’ food, them have I seen delighted with the husks that the swine do eat.

2. There is therefore no holiness, if Thou O Lord, withdraw Thine hand. No wisdom profiteth, if Thou leave off to guide the helm. No strength availeth, if Thou cease to preserve. No purity is secure, if Thou protect it not. No self-keeping availeth, if Thy holy watching be not there. For when we are left alone we are swallowed up and perish, but when we are visited, we are raised up, and we live. For indeed we are unstable, but are made strong through Thee; we grow cold, but are rekindled by Thee.

3. Oh, how humbly and abjectly must I reckon of myself, how must I weigh it as nothing, if I seem to have nothing good! Oh, how profoundly ought I to submit myself to Thy unfathomable judgments, O Lord, when I find myself nothing else save nothing, and again nothing! Oh weight unmeasurable, oh ocean which cannot be crossed over, where I find nothing of myself save nothing altogether! Where, then, is the hiding-place of glory, where the confidence begotten of virtue? All vain-glory is swallowed up in the depths of Thy judgments against me.

4. What is all flesh in Thy sight? For how shall the clay boast against Him that fashioned it? How can he be lifted up in vain speech whose heart is subjected in truth to God? The whole world shall not lift him up whom Truth hath subdued; nor shall he be moved by the mouth of all who praise him, who hath placed all his hope in God. For they themselves who speak, behold, they are all nothing; for they shall cease with the sound of their words, but the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.

Mysterium Lunae
The Mystery of the Moon

One of my favorite images of the Church is that of the Moon. After reading the following selection from the great Father Henri de Lubac, I have never looked at either the Church or the Moon in the same way. I hope it enriches your vision too! (Every once in a while I repost this to hopefully give us perspective and hope):

"..an old tradition symbolically referred to the mystery of the Church as Mysterium Lunae. The Fathers, with incredible ingenuity, drew heavily on this symbol; here we shall remark only its general lines. Christ is the sun of justice, the only source of light. The Church (like the moon) at all times depends on this sun for her brilliance. It is possible, therefore, to speak with Didymus the Blind, of 'the lunar constitution of the Church'. As the moon shines in the night, so does the Church illumine the darkness of the age and of our ignorance, showing us the way to salvation.

For all that, her light, wholly borrowed, has only limited clarity, refulgentia subobscura, in St Bonaventure's phrase. She dispenses the symbols of a truth whose direct brilliance our eyes cannot yet bear. While the sun remains always in glory, the moon (that is, the Church) continually passes through phases, now waxing, now waning, in proportion to the measure of her growth and her inner fervor; for the vicissitudes of the human condition are always her lot.

But never is the waning so extreme as to cause her total loss; sooner or later she becomes full again. At certain times her witness may falter, the salt of the earth may lose its savour, the 'too human' may get the upper hand, the faith waver in many hearts - but we have the assurance that 'saints will always spring up' (Charles Peguy).

Let us see if we cannot, with the help of an Origen and an Ambrose, understand the meaning - the real meaning - of the moon's waning. It signifies to us that in this century the Church in the throes of death is finding in its onset the means of her renewal, her drawing ever closer to Christ, her spouse.

She becomes so identified with him that she is, as it were, blotted out by his brilliance. So close to her sun, the crucified Lord, the obscurity of the Passion is her road also to fresh vigor and the attainment of her true fecundity. She plunges into the darkness only to re-emerge into the secret fullness of the life of the Resurrected. 'Christ emptied her in order to bring her to fullness, even as he had emptied himself in order to bring all men to fullness. Thus does the Moon announce the mystery of Christ' (St Ambrose).

And the waning, far from being an irreversible decline, is even at the same time a dawning. It foretells the definitive absorption of the moon into the sun, as the verse of the Psalm announces: 'In those days will arise justice and abundance of peace unto the transformation of the moon' (Orietur in diebus ejus justitia et abundantia pacis, donec tollatur luna).

In St Augustine's commentary, 'transformation' (tollatur) means primarily the taking away (auferatur) of all that is mortal and imperfect in the Church - but also her final apotheosis, being wholly assumed by and exalted in Christ, a partner in the glory of his Resurrection."

- Henri de Lubac, How Is The Church A Mystery? The Church: Paradox and Mystery

Too much joy, too much hope?

Please read this; and I even know the author a bit! It is wonderful. Thanks, Chris, for the tip.

Today in Christian history

September 9, 1561, the Colloquy of Poissy convened near Paris. Comprised of both French Catholic prelates and reformed Protestant theologians led by Theodore Beza, the council led to a 1562 edict offering a greater measure of freedom to French Protestants.

September 9, 1585: Cardinal Jean Richelieu, French King Louis XIII’s chief minister, was born on this day.

September 9, 1598: A celebration was held for the newly completed Catholic church at San Juan de los Caballeros—the first church erected in (what is today the state of) New Mexico. The town, founded by Juan de Oñate, was a former Indian pueblo in the Chama River Valley.

September 9, 1833: The first tracts of the Oxford Movement (which sought to purify the English Church) were released. The series was forced to close in 1841, however, when Tract 90 was published, because it interpreted Anglicanism’s “Thirty-Nine Articles” in too strong of a Catholic direction.

September 9, 1982: Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco died from injuries suffered when her car plunged off a mountain road.

September 9, 1990: Russian Orthodox Father Alexander Men, active priest, evangelist, ecumenist, and spriitual father to many, was murdered on Sunday morning, while walking to catch the train to Novaya Derevnya to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. He was murdered by an ax-blow to the back of his skull. Father Alexander's influence continues today among his spiritual children, many of whom have close contacts with Catholics.

Monday, September 08, 2003
Prophets of Gloom and Doom abounding

Regarding the meeting of the "conservatives" with the Bishops (for which I harbor no hope at all, thinking that the need is not for more meetings), already, on the same day as it was held, the complaints and blasts start to come in from the participants. Not surprised, of course. But interestingly I don't recall reading any negative comments from the "liberals" who met earlier with the Bishops.

I wonder who is in the ascendancy now in terms of criticism, negativity, and dreariness - the "conservatives" or the "liberals?" Personally I am more and more preferring the "liberal" to the "conservative" sector - it seems, at least, to have more humanity and is less strident and self-righteous. I never thought I'd say anything like that! The times they are a changin'....

Those labels are meaningless really, but I use them as a sort of code. Most know of whom I speak, I hope.

For myself, I hope to be neither "liberal" or "conservative" but "extreme center." :-)

A Special Day with Special People

As I mentioned, yesterday I was truly blessed to participate in the 150th Jubilee Mass for Saint Mary's Parish in Annapolis, Maryland. A magnificent parish in every way: historically significant, beautiful, dynamic and growing. And for over 4 years now with perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. A few years ago the parish had so seriously outgrown the use of its beautiful Gothic church that they decided to build a second church furthur out. I was privileged to attend the dedication of that new church of Saint John Neumann about 3 years ago.

The Jubilee Mass was held in the newer church, which is quite a bit larger than the older downtown church. It has the look and feel of an "Italian village" according to its planners and I love driving up to it and seeing its setting a lovely piazza and walkways. Here's a partial glimpse:

Saint John Neumann church of Saint Mary's Parish, Annapolis

As soon as we arrived, quite early, the 11AM Mass was letting out; and I ran into an old friend, Paul Goetzge, a young lawyer in Annapolis, who 3 years ago had a diving accident and is now a paraplegic (and with an incredible spirit thanks in part to the faithful love of his lovely wife, Susy). My heart thrilled to see Paul and Susy. Paul's mother is a saint who raised 10 children largely alone. With us, too, is Louis Miller, someone I had known when he was a high school student in Philadelphia (a young and somewhat obnoxious intellectual agnostic then, now a fervent Catholic believer) and has since moved to Annapolis, teaching at the fascinating Saint John's College. Louis and I reconnected a few weeks ago when his twin brother, Bill, visited and brought Louis over to join us for dinner. We connected immediately and happily. Louis is married with 2 children and 4 dogs. A delightful soul and wheel friend! He reads de Lubac in French!

Paul Goetzke, Gerard Serafin, Louis Miller, Susy Goetzke

Here is a partial view of the interior of Saint John Neumann. The crucifix is immense! Notice to the side the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. On the opposite side is an image of Saint Joseph. Nice to see (not shown in photo) the racks of vigil lights in this new church! And, thank God, the tabernacle is central and obvious!

Interior of Saint John Neumann: all the essentials already in place!

The icing on the cake was to see, once again, a couple who I can hardly speak about without breaking down, so profound has their impact been on me: Mary Lee and Hank Schab. Do you have a few hours? If so, I can begin to speak of this truly Catholic couple, whose entire life has been stamped by their faith in Christ and love of His Church. Hank is a convert and both Mary Lee and Hank have been daily communicants for decades upon decades. They have been, still are, apostles! I can't say how many others came closer to Christ and to activity in the parish because of the outreach of Mary Lee and Hank. Mary Lee had a knack of noticing new people in a parish of thousands! She would wait and track them down and greet them and invite them to the next meeting or activity (so they could meet other parishioners). And Hank, who will be canonized a martyr, would patiently wait and wait and wait.....

They started a parish Marriage Encounter movement and gave dozens of weekends to married couples (and spent hours counseling and having them over to the house for a "cup of coffee" - and apple pie and just a little fried chicken - "just for fun" as Mary Lee always said. The joke in the parish was that Mary Lee would approach you and say: Hank and I are having a little gathering for some beautiful little couples and maybe you could help and bring a little fried chicken for seventy five?" And what a cook Mary Lee is! Her crab cakes are special.

One of the high lights of my days in Annapolis was a roast held by parishioners for Mary Lee and Hank.... I even have a picture from it that I may post soon.

They instructed hundreds of persons in their living room, doing the program for those seeking confirmation as adults. They gave pre-cana instructions in their home over many years. They loved their priests and had them over for dinner often. I was a beneficiary as I learned from them, perhaps more than from any others, the beauty and joy of hospitality.

And all the while raising a lovely family of 6 children! They never missed a game played by the kids! They sacrificied to put all of them through Catholic school. The family was first. But they seemed instinctively to know that the family is, what Pope Paul VI said, "the smiling face of the Church." Just seeing the Mary Lee and Hank's home fills me with a sense of warmth and welcome and security.

Now my beloved Mary Lee and Hank are in their late 80s, and while not quite as active as they once were, still radiating the joy of the faith, love of the Lord, loyalty to His Church! Mary Lee, who just had a pace maker put in, still makes herself up to be a bit "glamorous" as she would put it. Hank still so handsome - the quiet rock of the family.

I can hardly bear to think of a world without Mary Lee and Hank Schab. (And, yes, I write these words with tears rolling down my cheeks). How blessed that God let Mary Lee and Hank come across my path. Indeed, Mary Lee was the first person I met when I went to Annapolis! To them I wish what Mary Lee has written at the end of all her letters and cards: "with dearest love." I wish you, my dear friends and spiritual advisors, my dearest love.

Mary Lee and Hank Schab: banner behind them says: "Called to be saints"


In the left column added a few accolades about my blog..... perhaps I will be posting more soon?

A new Springtide for the Church?

This beautiful letter was posted in the comments on Amy Welborn's blog and reprinted on Mark Shea's. I copy it here since it resonates so deeply with my own understandings and experience:

"I've read so much kvetching and lamenting of late on both Amy's and Mark Shea's blogs, so much despair about the Church, that I just have to put in my two cents worth.

In the course of my job, I have taught in over 100 parishes in 50 dioceses in 6 countries (US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Italy) over the past 6 years. I have worked with hundreds of priests (diocesan and religious) - mostly pastors, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 Catholics - lay, religious, and deacons. I have conducted hundreds of private interviews with pastora, diocesan staff, parish leaders, and average Catholics in the pews. Because I am an "outsider", I often get an earful.

I need to stand as a witness: there are a lot of really good priests out there. The older ones who have been pioneering evangelization and formation etc, were swimming against the tide of their generation. By the grace of God, they simply ignored much of the clerical culture about them and went about their Father's business. For instance, my present pastor, who is 65, was studying in Rome at the time of Council. He has recently asked and gotten permission from his bishops to spend the rest of his active priestly life making his parish a center of evangelization.

Meanwhile, the tide has definitely turned. The new generation of priests who are the heirs of JPII and just becoming pastors, are most impressive. They know what they are about and they are both faithful and creative. They care deeply about worshipping and teaching with the Church and about evangelization. Those that attended the North American College in Rome, for instance, have gotten very solid formations. I'm referring to ordinary diocesan priests, not members of any of the "new" groups such as the Legionnaires of Christ.

What also encourages me is the deep hunger of many lay Catholics across this country for solid formation and real help in discerning God's call in their lives.

Yes, many have been badly catechized (the phrase I hear over and over "How come I've never heard of this before?"). but they want the real thing: the real Whole Wheat Bread of Life. Many just want to follow God and discern and do his will.

Few who come to our workshops are members of the chattering classes. Hardly any are hankering for Latin liturgies, most don't follow ecclesial politics, and they never heard of, much less read the GIRM or the Summa. They are aware of the Scandals, of course, but most don't know that St. Blogs exists!

I find being around them refreshing because they still exhibit a *modest* trust in Catholic leaders and institutions. Have some of them been burned? Of course. But they do not approach the Church from within an all-encompassing, all-consuming hermeneutic of suspicion. They presume that most priests, bishops, and religous are rather like themselves: people of essentially good will. They do not assume that Church leaders are heterodox and corrupt unil they can prove otherwise. And for the most part, they have been proved right. This emerging generation of priests and religious will, I believe, even more fully reward that trust.

One further comment: Community among the laity in Catholic parishes has never (not even in the "golden days" before the Council) been rooted in conscious, verbalized doctrinal agreement. That's a very Protestant notion - their denominations and congregations do organize on that basis because it was all they had.

Catholic Communion is sacramental and apostolic. We are in communion with one another, our bishops, and the universal Church fundamentally through our communion with Christ in sacraments. Because this is primarily embodied rather than verbal, it was a thing that is hard to talk about. Traditionally, lay Catholics just assumed it and talked about other things.

Remember, traditional Catholic culture, unlike Protestant culture, is basically introverted. You don't talk lightly and openly about the most important things. Lay Catholics *did* them, they didn't talk about them except in intimate settings such as confession, spiritual direction or among close family or friends. This is beginning to change but this cultural difference still sets us apart from our Protestant brothers and sisters."

- Sherry Weddell

I don't know this Sherry Wedell but wish I did! Write on! We need your voice.

The Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary: September 8

From the Byzantine Liturgy:

"Come, all you faithful, let us hasten to the Virgin: for long before her conception in the womb, the one who was to be born of the stem of Jesse was destined to be the Mother of God. The one who is the treasury of virginity, the flowering Rod of Aaron, the object of the prophecies, the child of Joachim and Anne, is born today and the world is renewed in her. Through her birth, she floods the Church with her splendor. O holy Temple, Vessel of the Godhead, Model of virgins and Strength of kings: in you the wondrous union of the two natures of Christ was realized. We worship Him and glorify your most pure birth, and we magnify you."

- From Byzantine Daily Worship, 441- 442

Today in Church history

September 8, 1157: Richard I (Lion-Heart) of England, leader of the Third Crusade, is born.

September 8, 1565: a Spanish expedition established the first permanent European settlement in North America at present-day St. Augustine, Florida. On the same day, the Catholic parish in St Augustine, Florida, was established by Father Don Martin Francisco Lopez de Mendozo Grajales, chaplain to the conquering Spanish forces. It was the first in what will become the United States.

September 8, 1636: Massachusetts Puritans found Harvard College, America's first higher education institution, a mere six years after arriving from England. They founded the college to train future ministers.

September 8, 1845: On this day in 1845, Oxford Movement leader John Henry Newman, 44, resigned from the ministry in the Church of England, convinced that it had severed itself from its ancient episcopal moorings and true apostolic succession. A spiritual genius and saintly scholar, Newman's influence continues to our own days.

September 8, 1928: Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Rerum Orientalium, promoting study of the history, doctrine and liturgy of Eastern Orthodoxy. He recommended that priests apply themselves to special studies at the Oriental Institute in Rome, founded in 1917 by Pope Benedict XV.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

I am emotionally overwhelmed. I attended the Mass and reception for Saint Mary's, Annapolis, 150th Jubilee. I saw many people I know from my days spent among them (though there are so many new people I do not know - the parish is now one of 5,000 families and growing!). I was overwhelmed by the love lavished on me, the loving and affirming words, the hugs and kisses and sheer joy. When I was assigned to Annapolis in 1972 I fell in love with Saint Mary's at first sight, and that love grew over the years. Whenever I get my first glimpse of Annapolis even today my heart beats a bit faster.

I was, from the beginning. amazed at the calibre of parishioners I met: filled with enthusiasm, knowledge, generosity. They taught me more than the seminary did! They taught me the necessity of simple and solid faith, a faith that can be communicated to the young (and not the abstractions that so appealed to me in my early years). They were my mentors in moving from dissent to orthodoxy. I stammer speaking of these people and events - so special they seem to me.

I remember my last sermon given at Saint Mary's as a parish priest. I confessed that here in this parish I learned what we say each Sunday in the Creed: I learned here what it means that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. No longer abstractions but lived reality! (I must confess, too, that I got a standing ovation at the end of that sermon, for what it's worth!). God blessed me by giving me so many wonderful Catholic people, whose love drew out my own love and it is not an exaggeration to say that we love one another deeply in Christ.

I felt that love again today. How many came over to me, gently touched me physically, whispered sweet things in my ears, and shared both memories and current realities, and, of course, photos of the children and grandchildren.

Interestingly Cardinal Keeler saw me when our eyes met in the reception area. He chose not to come over to me. I can live with that! I may not be so loved by the "upper echelon" but I do know I am very loved by the actual community of Saint Mary's. And the welcome and warmth and generosity was matched by my own Redemptorst confreres, including the current Provincial Superior, who has been very good to me even now, many years after I have left the Redemptorists.

Tomorrow I hope to post a few photos and a few comments.

I give thanks to God for such a rich day, and so much joy and so much love. It was really, for me, a feast.

150th for Saint Mary's, Annapolis

Today Saint Mary's, Annapolis, celebrates its 150th Jubilee with a Mass at 1 PM, presided over by Cardinal William Keeler. God willing, I hope to attend and participate. I love Saint Mary's! I love Annapolis! I was blessed to live and serve at Saint Mary's from 1972-77 and have so many happy memories of those good years. I am blessed to have kept in touch with some wonderful people I met while there, which some of us still refer to as "the golden years" - I managed to arrive at a truly good time for this remarkable parish. Happy Anniversary, Saint Mary's, one of the jewels of Catholicism in the United States! Ad multos annos!

Today in Christian history

September 7, 1807: English missionary Robert Morrison, 25, becomes the first Protestant missionary in China. Catholic missionaries had arrived in China some 225 years before—Jesuit Matteo Ricci first arrived in 1582.

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