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, July 17, 2004
Evangelical Catholicism Thrives in South Carolina Parish

Thanks to Al Kimmel, of the blog, "Pontifications", for letting me know about this Catholic priest and his dynamic parish. Most interesting, and very hopeful. Deo gratias!

Old-time religion

Conservative Catholic groups share reverence for doctrinal orthodoxy

Thanks to Amy Welborn for pointing me to this article in the Dallas Morning News. You have to register to read it online but that's a very simple matter and quick. I am encouraged by news like this and pray for more of it. Come, Holy Spirit!

A feisty priest dies

One of those unique British obituaries; this about a rebel priest who seems to have been quite a character indeed. Requiescat in pace.

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for this link).

Deo Gratias!

Back from yet another fabulous cruise. Enjoyed seeing new places of beauty. Enjoyed renewing contact with a great Redemptorist and meeting a few new people. God willing, more to come over the next days. And, as always, it is good to be home. ONION made it through the five day absence; not sure how much longer I will have ONION with me. But it is good to have him NOW.

For another wonderful and refreshing time I give thanks to God for such tender mercies. And thankful to be home again!

To Quell the Terror

A Glorious Anniversary
Their memory lives on in the Church of God

by Father Richard Veras

When a high school student in my parish told me she was writing a paper on the French Revolution and its effect on women, I immediately thought of Gertrude Von Le Fort’s novel Song at the Scaffold, and the Bernanos/Poulenc opera Dialogues of the Carmelites. I explained that these were fictional accounts of the martyrdom of a group of Carmelite nuns, and that it would be interesting to find a historical account of the event. After much research, she discovered To Quell the Terror: The True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne by William Bush. She spent a day of her family’s vacation sequestered in the hotel room poring over the book. When she returned to New York, she loaned it to me.

I had greatly enjoyed both the opera and the novel. However, in reading the actual history I was awestruck at how the beauty, the drama, and even the theology contained within the real circumstances so far surpassed the imagination of the fictional writers. The sixteen Carmelites guillotined on July 17, 1794, had explicitly consecrated their lives to Christ in order to end the Reign of Terror that surrounded them.

Somewhere between six months and two years before their death, they recited a daily prayer in which they offered themselves as martyrs in order to save the lives of their countrymen. These were not melodramatic women fulfilling a dream of heroism. This was a Christian community who prayerfully and painstakingly discerned and verified a vocation to martyrdom.

History itself has verified this vocation for, ten days after their martyrdom, Robespierre himself was guillotined and the Reign of Terror ended shortly thereafter.

On the day of their martyrdom the prioress, Mother Teresa of Saint Augustine, stood at the foot of the scaffold. Before climbing the steps, each sister interrupted her singing of Laudate Dominum to ask Mother Teresa, “Permission to die, Mother?” Mother Teresa responded to each, “Go, my daughter’ In front of a violent power, the sisters made it clear who had true authority over their life and death: Jesus Christ, who himself said, “No one takes my life from me, I lay it down of my own free will.” (Jn 10: 18).

Before I had finished reading this history, the terror of September 11 occurred. I now had much greater interest in the Carmelite martyrs and much less time to read about them.

Like many other priests, I volunteered for a shift at the morgue at Ground Zero. As the day of my shift approached, I was afraid of what I would see and of my own inadequacy; so I prayed to the Carmelite martyrs. I also brought my copy of "To Quell the Terror" because I was told that there would be a lot of waiting around in the tent.

When remains came in to be blessed, I prayed to the Carmelite martyrs whose own bodies had undergone violence, and I realized that even in this horror, there were members of the Body of Christ who had gone before us. I understood that my own presence had value only because of Christ, because of my “yes” to Christ who had chosen me in all my weakness and made me his Presence. I prayed to the Carmelite martyrs, “. . .you offered yourselves to end the terror, pray for us in this time of terror! You were human, you were weak, pray for me in my weakness!”

When the shift ended, the priest who relieved me had in his hand a copy of "To Quell the Terror." I had never seen a copy of this book other than the one my friend loaned me. Hundreds of priests were taking rotation at Ground Zero, how is it that the one relieving me is holding this book? “Father, did you start reading this because of September 11?” I asked. “No, I was reading it before!” “So was I. It is an amazing book, isn’t it?” “It is history, but I feel like I am reading mystical theology’ he told me. My prayers were being heard! We are not left alone in this time of terror. Christ has entered history! He is present through his Body, the Church. He is manifested in the communion of saints.

I have shared my devotion to the Carmelite martyrs with my parishioners, many of whom now pray to the “sixteen sisters” for certainty in Christ during this time of terror. In union with the Church who beatified the Carmelite martyrs of Compiegne on May 27, 1906, I have no doubt regarding the relevance and the mystery of their vocation; and I have no doubt that Jesus Christ is present in the real circumstances of history, and that his victory over human evil has already begun, and is already won.

- Father Richard Veras is parochial-vicar at Saint Joseph-Saint Thomas church in Staten Island, NY.

(From the wonderful, and for me, indispensible, liturgical aid, Magnificat, July 2002)

You can order these two marvelous books from Amazon:

The Song of the Scaffold, by Gertrude von Le Fort

This book, based on the true story of Carmelite nuns during the French Revolution, is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Gertrude von le Fort is yet another great convert to the Catholic Church, and how enriched we are by her many gifts. This is one of her finest gifts. The story gives a glimpse into the mysteries of Carmel itself, into the workings of the human heart, of the workings of divine grace - in spite of all weakness! This story is one of the most poignant and powerful expositions of the biblical teaching that God's grace is made perfect in weakness and that God resists the proud. There is a marvelous twist in this unfolding tale - and the ending is too beautiful for words - it is indeed a Song.

You can order: SONG AT THE SCAFFOLD (check the used and new section)

To Quell the Terror:The Mystery of the Vocation of the Sixteen Carmelites of Compiègne, Guillotined July 17, 1794 by William Bush

At the height of the French Revolution's "Great Terror," a community of sixteen Carmelite nuns from Compiègne offered their lives to restore peace to the Church and to France. Ten days after their deaths by the guillotine, Robespierre fell, and with his exectuion on the same scaffold the Reign of Terror effectively ended. Had God thus accepted and used the Carmelites' generous self-gift? Now, for the first time in English, William Bush explores at length the facts behind the fictional representations, and reflects on their spiritual significance. Based on years of research, this book recounts in lively detail virtually all that is known of the life and background of each of the martyrs, as well as the troubled times in which they lived. The Compiègne Carmelites, sustained by their remarkable prioress, emerge as distinct individuals, struggling as Christians to understand and respond to an awesome calling, relying not on their own strength but on the mercy of God and the guiding hand of Providence. The book includes an index and 15 photos.

You can order: TO QUELL THE TERROR (check the used and new section)

Today in Christian history

July 17, 431: The Council of Ephesus ajourns, having rejected Nestorianism (the idea that Christ had two persons, not two natures) and condemned Pelagianism (a doctrine refuting the absolute necessity of grace). At Ephesus, Mary was acclaimed popularly as Theotokos, or Mother of God.

July 17, 1505: Martin Luther enters the Augustinian monastic order at Erfurt, Germany, at age 21.

July 17, 1674: Isaac Watts, author of about 600 hymns, is born in Southampton, England. (Perhaps my favorite hymn in English is Watts' "When I Behold the Wondrous Cross" when set to either of the traditional melodies used).

July 17, 1794: The martyrdom, by guillotine, of sixteen Carmelites Nuns of Compiègne, France.

Sunday, July 11, 2004
Pope to hand icon back to Russia

Pope John Paul II has decided to return to Russia a revered icon from his private apartments at the Vatican.

The icon of Our Lady of Kazan. I venerated this icon when it traveled to Baltimore around 1990.

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