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 18, 2004
Archdiocese Halts Bid for Housing Aid at Church It May Raze

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York has withdrawn an application for a federal grant of nearly $7 million to build housing for the elderly on the site of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, a 97-year-old structure in Harlem that preservationists and some neighborhood residents say should not be demolished.."

Coasters, Camaraderie and a Case of Nerves

JACKSON, N.J., Sept. 17 - It may have been Aqsa Khan's first visit to Six Flags Great Adventure, but she knew enough to hustle over to the park's largest roller coaster as soon as the midday prayer ended.

"I thought I was going to die," said Ms. Khan, a sophomore at New York University, upon exiting the Nitro, the mile-long roller coaster that drops 230 feet at about 85 miles per hour.

Accompanied by a half-dozen classmates, Ms. Khan was among the estimated 15,000 Muslims who came out for Muslim Youth Day on Friday, when the Great Adventure theme park was set aside for Muslims from as far away as Massachusetts and North Carolina. Many of the children were off from school, since public schools in New York City, Philadelphia and much of New Jersey were closed for Rosh Hoshanah..

..Before racing off to their favorite rides, most gathered for the midday prayer. Giant blue plastic tarps were spread across the pavement in front of Fort Independence, where men knelt facing east during the hourlong sermon. Behind them, women lined more blue tarps on the ground beside Bluebeard's Lost Treasure Train. Three other less formal prayer sessions were scheduled throughout the day.

Six Flags would usually have had its Halloween decorations up by now, but the park honored the sponsor's request to hold off hanging skeletons, witches and ghosts, which Mr. Farrukh said were viewed as idols by some Muslims..."

Light from the East on the Left Bank

Right next door to Notre Dame of Paris is the ancient church of St Julian the Poor, with a rich history. Since 1889 this has been the church of the Melkite community of Paris; it is simple and beautiful. So glad our "guide" (a Parisian we linked up with on church on Sunday and who spent 3 days with us, giving us some great tips and tours) took us here.

"...Yet the hubbub of Paris seemed to die at the edges of that small solitude where I loved to come and think. The silence around me was like a dwelling in which the past sought refuge; that inner peace seemed to hold a real feeling of Romanesque France, of which St. Julian's ancient stones offered a tangible image... Having come across the little church by accident on one of my walks, I went back there again and again." - "St. Julian the Poor", from "Paris", by Julien Green.

The icon of St Joseph in St Julian the Poor's Melkite Catholic church of Paris

Friday, September 17, 2004
The Roots of Pentecostal Scandal—Romanticism Gone to Seed

The sexual stumblings of prominent ministers point to a hidden flaw in Pentecostal spirituality.

More Hope, More Joy!

"Let my prayer rise before you as incense; the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice." - Ps.141:2

Another wonderful blessing of the Paris pilgrimage was attending the Office of Sunday Vespers at the church of St Gervaise, with the Fraternities of Jerusalem. I have known of this new community since its foundation in 1975 and it was a dream come true to finally be among them in the flesh. The Office is even more beautiful than I expected (and even more beautiful than the TV version I sometimes listen to and watch at: http://www.ktotv.com/videos/kto7.ram).

The monastics radiate joy! And here, too, there is a judicious use of icons (not visible in the photo I took however). The Vespers included the "Trisagion" from the Eastern Liturgy. A sense of fulness and of surpassing beauty.

For all the troubles the Church faces today, here and in France and everywhere: my own limited experience is that there really is a new springtide blossoming. I saw it in the radiant faces of those I met in the new communities, I heard it in the beautiful music, I saw it in the loveliness of beauty. I hope my few inadequate photos give you, too, some sense of it along with a "shot" of hope, and of joy!

Cardinal Ratzinger: A look by John Allen of NCR

John Allen, who has written a book on Ratzinger, updates his view of this prominent theologian-bishop, whom he names "Cardinal Paradox." I see a tremendous softening in Allen's appraisal of Ratzinger (as well as of the Pope).

Today in Christian history

September 17, 1179: Hildegard of Bingen, a German abbess, mystic, author, musician and preacher who received visions of God from the age of 5, dies at age 82.

September 17, 1776: 247 Spanish colonists consecrate their California mission of San Francisco, today a city of 725,000.

September 17, 1967: Swiss medical doctor, Catholic convert, mystic-stigmatist, Adrienne von Speyr, dies. A collaborator with the great theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, whose works he considered more important than his own.

Thursday, September 16, 2004
One Month Anniversary

One month ago today I said my farewell to ONION, my beloved peke and good buddy. I miss him very much but I am so grateful that we found each other and had so many happy times together. ONION is buried right outside my room and we now have a lilac bush in place. He STILL delights me as I remember him and his unique ways and style!

A nice surprise. In yesterday's mail I received a letter from my brother Bill. Enclosed were stamps of ONION. In fact, the envelope he used had such a cancelled stamp on it so I realized it was for real and not just on paper. So now I have some ONION stamps to use! Thanks, Bill, for a very thoughtful and touching gift.

Here's some of them:


Therese and "the east"

The chapel in the Carmel of Lisieux; the nuns are on the side and not in view but their voices resounded in God's praise!

One of the hilights of my visit to France was the pilgrimage to Lisieux; spending some time with my soul-friend, Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. I was overcome with emotion as I sat near her remains in her own environment. We had the privilege, too, to attend Vespers sung by the current Carmelite community, in the very chapel Therese prayed and "slept".... Incredible!

The part of the chapel open to the public has been redone and here, too, we see the influence of "the east". As I mentioned, almost everywhere we went in France there was iconography with an "eastern" flavor. I found it quite beautiful, prayerful, and appropriate. And in good taste and good proportion as well.

On a side wall next to the remains of St Therese is this icon, a gift from Ukraine

Va. Episcopalians Enlist Ex-Archbishop's Services

"The former archbishop of Canterbury stepped in yesterday to preside over the confirmation of more than 300 Virginia Episcopalians whose parishes did not want them to be confirmed by their own bishop after his vote last year to appoint the denomination's first openly gay bishop.

In two evening ceremonies at Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax City, the Rev. George L. Carey, who retired nearly two years ago as the 103rd archbishop of Canterbury, laid hands on hundreds of adults and children from 10 Northern Virginia parishes, confirming them as Christians and members of the Episcopal Church..."

Today in Christian history

September 16, 681: The Third Council of Constantinople adjourns, having settled the Monothelite controversy in the Eastern Church. The Council, which proclaimed the orthodox belief of two wills in Christ: divine and human, condemned as heretics, the Monothelites, who believed Christ had only "one will."

September 16, 1224: During an extended period of prayer and fasting, Saint Francis of Assisi received the stigmata, the crucifixion scars of Christ, on Mount Alvernia, in Italy. Francis, the founder of the Franciscans in 1209, has been called by some the greatest of all the Christian Saints.

September 16, 1498: Tomas de Torquemada, the first Spanish Inquisitor General, dies.

September 16, 1672: Puritan Anne Bradstreet, America's first noteworthy poet, dies.

September 16, 1976: The Episcopal Church USA formally approved women to be ordained as priests and bishops.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004
US blasts Saudi 'religious curbs'

"In an unusual public rebuke, the US State Department put its key Arab ally on a list of states causing particular concern over freedom to worship. According to its annual report, freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia does not exist either in practice or in law..."

Cause for Hope and Joy!

An old Paris church now the site of a monastic community of 21 nuns - they live inside the church. Fascinating!

One of the joys of my recent trip to Paris was to search out, and find!, the monastic community of Bethlehem, one of the new and growing Orders in the Church. Founded in 1950 they already have 32 monasteries. In their development they "met" St Bruno and have became very similiar in spirit and way of life to the Carthusians. In Paris, uniquely, they have taken over an old state owned church and turned it into a living monastic community.

Notice, too, the influence of iconography and of the "east".

We were privileged to have some good time with the prioress, Sister Priscille. (She spoke excellent English as well as any number of languages). Another sister brought us a little platter with a delicious berry juice and simple but superb cookies with raisens to add if wished. It was just perfect and seemed so "monastic" in hospitality.

I hope Sister Priscille will not mind that I post her photo. I thought some might be interested in seeing the beautiful habit of this monastic community.

Sister Priscille, the prioress of the Monastery of Bethlehem

Hispanics resist plan for diocesan fingerprinting

"Catholic dioceses across the nation that have installed strict policies on who is allowed access to their children are wrestling with a new headache: how to deal with Hispanic church members who refuse to submit to background checks.."

Today in Christian history

September 15, 1853: Antoinette Brown Blackwell was ordained into the Congregational Church clergy in South Butler, New York, the first American woman clergy in a mainline Christian denomination.

September 15, 1920: Pope Benedict XV published the encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus, which restated the Catholic position on Scripture: “...the Bible, composed by men inspired of the Holy Ghost, has God himself as its principal author, the individual authors constituted as his live instruments. Their activity, however, ought not be described as automatic writing.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
The inevitable slide before our very eyes

It really isn't surprising to read words like these on another blog. The progression is almost inevitable. From obsessive criticism to bile and cynicism. And to expressions of an almost total dismissal of the integrity of others, including eventually even the Pope:

"Of course it’s a lie. And as Diogenes points out on the CWNews.com blog, the Pope’s asking for Krenn’s resignation “for reasons of health” is also a form of lying. They lie to maintain the great facade. They lie by habit. They lie “for the good of the Church.” They lie. I don’t believe a thing they say anymore, about anything. If the Pope said tomorrow that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, I’d double-check that too, or at least wonder what kind of angle he was pushing.

Posted by: Rod Dreher on Sep 13, 04 | 12:39 pm"

The Exaltation of the Cross

The crucifixion painted by the convert artist, William Congdon

"And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to myself." - John 12:32

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?). (Some sources give the date of this marriage as Sept. 13).

Monday, September 13, 2004
Orientale Lumen

The crucifixion in the sanctuary of the Cathedral of Mantes, France

In every Catholic site we visited in France there were icons! And a definite "eastern" style iconography has a pride of place, it seems. I will show more of this in my Paris Trip Page, which I am working on now. But here is one fine example: in the magnficent cathedral of Mantes we find this beautiful depiction of Christ on the Cross. While we visited this church there was a baptism being celebrated and they were preparing for a wedding. So good to see such beauty - so old, yet so new - being used by a living community of believers.

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" by Fritz Eichenberg


"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 13, 1931: Pentecostal preacher Aimee Semple McPherson marries unknown vaudeville performer David Hutton. McPherson's third marriage, it ended in divorce in 1934. (Some sources give the date as Sept. 14).

September 13, 1541: John Calvin returns to Geneva, where he will spend the rest of his life trying to establish a theocratic society at the request of city authorities who banished him three years earlier.

Sunday, September 12, 2004
A Week Ago

A week ago I had the immense joy and privilege of spending some time in the great cathedral of Paris, Notre Dame. Fortunately the scaffolding that had been in place for a long time while the church was cleaned was just almost completely removed and Notre Dame gleamed. No way to describe the beauty. And the interior is as beautiful as the exterior. Those windows! Notre Dame gets hordes of visitors, tourists (and some pilgrims): the priest who was "on duty" told us that they average between 30 & 40,000 visitors daily.

We were fortunate enough to be there while there was an organ concert. The church was packed from front to back!

I am now downloading and editing photos of this wonderful journey and will, of course, let you know when it is finished. In the meantime, a few here and a few there... just to share the joy of it all.

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.

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