Category Archives: Liturgy

Dec 24 – Protestant Existential Angst with Christmas

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-Santa Calvin, by the author

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-by Br Bonaventure Chapman, OP (prior to joining the Order, Br Bonaventure received an M.Th. in Applied Theology from Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, where he studied for the Anglican priesthood.)

“Tomorrow is the day that every child (young and old!) has been waiting for: Christmas. We keep vigil on this Eve of the Nativity and anxiously await the celebration of Christ’s first coming in humility, with anticipation for his second coming in glory. Who would deny such a celebration to the Church? Surprisingly, some bearing the name Christian!

When in 1519 Huldrych Zwingli took to his pulpit in the newly Reformed city of Zurich, he did not follow the custom of preaching from the lectionary but began with Matthew’s Gospel and preached through the whole book, in what became known as lectio continua.

Holy days and feasts were ignored in this Scripture-centered form of worship. The most famous Reformer, John Calvin, largely followed Zwingli’s tradition: the city of Geneva had stopped celebrating holy days outside of Sunday. Even Christmas was not to be commemorated in any special way. On Christmas Day 1550, Calvin welcomed a larger than usual church crowd with the following:

“Now I see here today more people than I am accustomed to having at the sermon. Why is that? It is Christmas Day. And who told you this? You poor beasts. That is a fitting euphemism for all of you who have come here today to honor Noel.”

The Puritans in England under Oliver Cromwell would go even further: in 1647 the English Parliament officially abolished celebrating Christmas. The Puritans of New England largely followed suit. In Massachusetts a fine was even imposed on those caught celebrating in secret!

Why this Christmas animus? The Westminster Confession of Faith offers a Protestant principle cited for such a suppression:

“The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture. (WCF XI.1)”

Christmas Day, December 25th, is not in the Scriptures; therefore, it is not to be celebrated – the simplicity of sola scriptura strikes again!

Happily the majority of modern Protestant churches do not follow their fathers in faith, even if the denial of Christmas liturgy does follow this Protestant principle quite naturally and straightforwardly. Yet, as with many Protestant beliefs, sometimes simplicity is simply too simple for reality. (Ed. It is generally known, the intelligentsia of Europe did not defect during the Reformation.)

Take, for instance, the Protestant detestation of any notion of mediation between God and man in the sacraments of the Church. The Protestant claim of immediacy between God and man sounds simpler, but what of this mortal flesh and physical world we find ourselves surrounded by: all a dream, a vision, an unreality? What of the Incarnation of Jesus, the taking on of this supposedly unseemly medium of creatureliness? It strikes me, at least, that the Catholic teaching on mediation in sacraments, among other things, is exactly and simply right. We are creatures of space and matter. If we are to be met at all, it will be in this space and this matter.

But we are not only creatures of space; we are also creatures of time. St. Augustine, in his famous discourse on time in his Confessions, admits as much: “I confess to you, Lord, that I still do not know what time is, and I further confess to you, Lord, that as I say this I know myself to be conditioned by time” (XI.xxv.32). And this conditioning by time is part of the fabric of the cosmos. As Joseph Ratzinger says in The Spirit of the Liturgy: “Time is a cosmic reality. The orbiting of the sun by the earth… gives existence the rhythm that we call time.” This means, Ratzinger continues, that “man lives with the stars. The course of the sun and the moon leave its mark on his life.”

While the rhythms of time make up creatureliness in general, they especially mark man. We are creatures enveloped by time. We remember the past, perceive the present, and anticipate the future in ways that other animals, let alone plants and stars, can only be represented as doing in fictional and fabulous tales.

For just this reason God seeks to meet us in temporal fashion as the Church celebrates the rhythms of salvation history in time. Seasonal cycles bring about ecclesial and personal remembrances and anticipations of God’s mighty deeds. We, lowly creatures of time, are being educated into God’s time of salvation in preparation for the eternal now of heaven. Worship is about the changing seasons and the developing of God’s story in time and beyond it. As Ratzinger reminds us: “The liturgy is the means by which earthly time is inserted into the time of Jesus Christ and into its present.”

Thus the Church rightly celebrates the Seasons and Holy Days of the Church calendar, and our anticipation on Christmas Eve as children, waiting for the decorated dawn of morning, is taken up in the liturgy in our anticipation of the second coming of Christ. We, creatures of time, need particular Holy Days and Seasons just as we, creatures of space, need particular sacraments and signs. And thankfully God has given us the gift of liturgical time with its special celebrations – especially Christmas, that liturgical day of remembering when God took on human flesh and dwelt amongst us.

This post started off polemically, but on a day such as this, the Eve of our Savior’s birth, perhaps it is fitting to end on a more irenic note with some words from one of John Calvin’s Christmas Sermons (yes – he did occasionally preach them!):

“Let us note well, then, that the peace which the angels of Paradise preach here carried with it this joy, which the first angel had mentioned, saying ‘I announce to you a great joy,’ that is, the salvation you will have in Jesus Christ. He is called our Peace, and this title declares that we would be entirely alienated from God unless he received us by means of his only Son. Consequently we also have something to boast of when God accepts us as his children, when he gives us freedom to claim him openly as our Father, to come freely to him, and to have our refuge in him.”

Love & Merry Christmas,
Matthew

Dec 17-23: The Great O Antiphons – O Radix Jesse

Harley 1892 f. 31v Tree of Jesse

-Harley 1892 f. 31v Tree of Jesse 

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-by Br Athanasius Murphy, OP

“O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, Who stands as the sign for the peoples,
at Whom kings will shut their mouths,
Whom the nations will entreat:
Come now to free us, and do not delay!

The O Antiphons we sing in Advent give many names to Christ: Wisdom, Lord, Key, Dayspring, King, Emmanuel. One name on the humbler side of titles is Root.

Roots are the hidden plant-parts that keep the rest of the organism aloft. They’re the source of life that make growth and nourishment possible. Christ, by his Incarnation, is no different. Fashioned in the womb and born of Mary, Christ makes us grow from the same shoot that sprung from Jesse. Christ, as God and through his humanity, keeps the Church alive. Here are a few things to remember this Advent about Christ’s human life, and how he’s the root and foundation of our lives.

His obedience. To be obedient means that there’s a good and loving Boss in charge Who’s calling the shots, and you’re okay with that. The Eternal Son of God shares everything equally with the Father, but by His becoming man He also became obedient to the Father. Christ gave His whole life to the Father, becoming obedient even to death on a cross. This is why the Father says throughout the gospels, “This is my Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Mk 1:11, Lk 3:22 Mt 17:5). We may have to learn obedience the hard way, but Christ gives us prodigal sons the grace and example to be newly adopted sons that share the Father’s embrace.

His humility. A humble man recognizes what is above him, and what is below him; what raises him up and what brings him down. Christ humbled himself in taking on our humanity to redeem it. We are made humble when we recognize the sin we’ve chosen below us, and are raised up to God by his mercy when we ask for his help. We learn from Christ because He is meek and humble of heart, and He wants us to take on that same light and easy yoke. The Savior of the universe kneels before his disciples to wash their feet. Pray for humility. You may not wash anybody’s feet this Advent, but you may find the clarity and courage to say sorry for that thing you did months ago to your friend, even if he isn’t expecting an apology. Who knows? You may even find yourself wanting to go back to confession before Christmas.

His prayer. When Christ as man prayed He spoke not to a distant God, but to the Father from Whom He as the Son proceeds eternally and loves infinitely. Christ prayed in the depths of His soul about His life and for us. His prayer, like His life, was always directed toward the Father. He begged the Father on our behalf to forgive our sins and keep us away from our misgivings, temptations, annoyances, and anything else that keeps us from the Father’s love. Jesus wants us to pray like He does, and we learn to pray well when we learn to be beggars for God’s grace. Jesus tells us “whatever you ask in My name I will do it” (Jn 14). Take Him up on His word, and pray in the name of Jesus that the person in your life who really needs divine help will get it in the best way God knows how.

His patience. To have real patience is a rare thing. It’s not only enduring serious trials but doing so because your eyes are fixed on a further goal that makes the present pains worth bearing. The greatest goal we can hope for while on earth is heaven. Christ’s gaze in His earthly life never left heaven, not because He lacked or needed it, but because He wants us to have by grace the sonship that He has by nature. Christ became man to live a fully human life, but also to die a fully human death, and this took patience. He had patience with sinners, pharisees and puppet kings, and Roman soldiers trained in torture. He did this for us, with His eyes fixed on the Father, so that we could one day behold the Father face to face ourselves.

At the seat of all these virtues is Christ’s love. Jesus loves more than any human heart can ever love, and it’s this love that brought the Son to take on our humanity in the first place. We call Christ the root because He’s the source of any good and any grace we can have. We’re grafted onto the same tree of Jesse that tears us away from death.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them vict’ry o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

“There is a flower sprung of a tree,
The root thereof is called Jesse,
A flower of price;
There is none such in paradise.

This flower is fair and fresh of hue;
It fades never, but ever is new;
The blessed branch where this flower grew
Was Mary mild who bore Jesu,
A flower of grace!
Against all sorrow it is solace.

The seed thereof was of God’s sending,
Which God himself sowed with his hand;
In Bethlehem, in that holy land,
Within her bower he there her found.
This blessed flower
Sprang never but in Mary’s bower.

When Gabriel this maiden met,
With “Ave, Maria,” he her gret [greeted]
Between them two this flower was set,
And was kept, no man should wit, [know]
Til on a day
In Bethlehem, it began to spread and spray.

When that flower began to spread,
And his blossom to bud,
Rich and poor of every seed, [i.e. kind]
They marvelled how this flower might spread,
Until kings three
That blessed flower came to see.

Angels there came out of their tower
To look upon this fresh flower,
How fair He was in His color,
And how sweet in His savor,
And to behold
How such a flower might spring amid the cold.

Of lily, of rose on ryse, [branch]
Of primrose, and of fleur-de-lys,
Of all the flowers at my devyse [I can think of],
That flower of Jesse yet bears the prize,
As the best remedy
To ease our sorrows in every part.

I pray you, flowers of this country,
Wherever ye go, wherever ye be,
Hold up the flower of good Jesse,
Above your freshness and your beauty,
As fairest of all,
Which ever was and ever shall be.

-John Audelay’s beautiful fifteenth-century carol ‘There is a floure’.

Love,
Matthew

Doctrine Saves?….Doctrine Saves!

christian doctrine

Basic Christian Doctrine is the study of the revealed word of God. It is Christian Theology regarding the nature of truth, God, Jesus, salvation, damnation, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, resurrection, and more.

“holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict,” (Titus 1:9).

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-by Br Dominic Mary Verner, OP

“It’s a bold claim. “Doctrine”—the word doesn’t exactly conjure images of heavenly harbors or paradisal sands. It hits the ears about as pleasantly as “doctor exam,” “doctoral dissertation,” or “indoctrination.” If the word had a smell, it would probably be the smell of old-book must—the smell of dead letters on acidic paper playing host to acrid fungal spores (I’d rather not think of its taste). Doctrine divides. The letter kills. How can we say that doctrine saves?

To see the goodness of Christian doctrine, how sweet its sound, it first helps to recall what it was like to be aged about three. Yes, you, dear reader, like me, were once three. And at the time, we had the rather obnoxious habit of asking all who would listen, “Why?” It was the most sensible question for us to ask at the time, because we knew, as if by instinct, that the world had a lot of explaining to do.

This is in part because, truth be told, neither you nor I chose to exist—not at that time, not in that place, not to those parents, not as this type of creature, not in this strange world with its storied history. No one asked us. Then, subito! There we were, thrust into history, tuned into season three of The Human Drama without a clue as to what happened in seasons one or two. What are we doing here? What are we to do? How did it begin? How does it end?

Perhaps our despair of these questions is the reason “doctrine” sounds so dismal. Perhaps we never got satisfying answers. Perhaps the answers seemed too abstract, too impersonal, too frightful or demanding. Perhaps we heard the telling of so many fragmented and conflicting stories that we gave up on ever putting the pieces together. Whatever the reason, somewhere along the line, we grew out of our questions. Doctrine lost its existential spice, its invigorating aroma, its sweet saving sound.

There is hope, of course, to recapture the flavor. Advent is a time when the Author of doctrine sets us up to be awestruck again. In times past, the God who placed us dazed and confused in season three of the cosmos spoke to us through the prophets, but in these later days, he sent us His Son. The Word became flesh, doctrine incarnate:

“In these later days, he spoke to us through a Son, Whom He made heir of all things and through Whom He created the universe, Who is the refulgence of His glory, the very imprint of His being, and Who sustains all things by His mighty word.” (Heb 1:1-2)

By the voice that creates, we learn our origin. By the Word that sustains, we know our way. By the Son that radiates glory, we achieve our destiny. Divine love that creates, redeems, and saves; a glorious company forged in filial obedience, self-denial, and hope; an inspired Church commissioned to pass on the flame of God’s teaching—not exactly acrid book must, that!

Sacred doctrine saves because it is the last speech of the first Son, the living legacy of the God-man born in a manger, destined to conquer death by a death born of love: “I AM the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (Jn 11:25-26).

His doctrine has the power to change everything—to give hope to the hopeless, to give sight to the blind—and the power, praise God, to save even a wretch like me.” (Ed…& me, too!) 🙂

She's a Christian

Love,
Matthew

Sin, Tears, Forgiveness, Conversion

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When was the last time you heard a worthy, edifying homily on sin in a Catholic Church?  Really.  Seriously.  I don’t think I’ve ever.  I did hear, from a Jesuit homilist, once, the Catholic Church does believe in Hell.  That was once in forty-nine years.  The paucity of these mentions stand out simply for their paucity, not for any fascination with the subject on my part.

Or, when the prophets of old are thundering condemnation, why is it always the smallest lector, with the softest/tinest voice, who can neither see nor be seen over the ambo, does the reading?  Part of the New Evangelization should definitely be the training of lectors to read for appropriate dramatic effect given the text, imho.  Politics over proclamation?  🙁  (I’m not much of a liturgist.  I’m very Roman in this regard, plain and simple, with as little affectation as possible.  Thank you, Charlemagne.  I am also fond of plain, white, stripped New England Congregationalist churches.)

Given the prevalence of sin, its universal and universally disastrous effects in our lives and the world, and it being the reason for the Incarnation, you would think you would, logically, hear more of it on Sundays?  I understand the hesitance to address difficult topics, however, our fears are insufficient reason not to proclaim the truth.

I find it difficult to comprehend the glory of my redemption if I first do not contemplate the depths of the depraved state to which I have fallen, (see Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.  Holla! to all my SJs!) and rise from, in the glory of my own Resurrection, thanks to His mercy and salvific effect.

-by Rev Donald J Goergen, OP, PhD, STM

“The reality of sin and the forgiveness of sin, we can never let go of either side of the coin in that regard. So let us first ask is sin real? And what does it mean? Often we have defined it as offending God, or an offense against God, but can God be offended? It is an offense against love, against covenant love, against the covenant that God has made with us and that we have made with God. Many texts from the New Testament exemplify the human struggle with falling short of what God has created us to be.

A classic text is Romans chapter 7:15-20, in which Paul says, “I do not understand my own actions for I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, is what I do.” In other words, Paul is very much aware here of the un-freedom within which he lives, that he is not free. He’s not able to will what he really wants to will.

And then also there is that text from the Gospel of John to which Pope St John Paul II referred and on which he commented extensively in his own encyclical on the Holy Spirit. That text from the Gospel of John 16:8, “…and when He comes. That is –The Advocate, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, when He comes, He will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”  What does it mean to convince the world concerning sin in that text from the 16th chapter of the Gospel of John?

There is in John, in Paul, and elsewhere, of course, in the Scriptures, this awareness that yes we can offend God. That God is love and we might find our lives not aligned with God. I’d referred earlier on another occasion, to Rudolf Steiner in one of his works, again, not an Orthodox Christian, or Catholic thinker, but nevertheless one in touch in many ways with spiritual aspects of our lives, he said, “Nevertheless, whether we are aware of them are not, we must realize that forces hostile to life exist.”

This is part of the struggle in our modern world, the tendency, in a way, to disbelieve in the devil or in demonic forces or the demonic. Cardinal Newman in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua about his own life gave a great text on one occasion in which he speaks about considering the world and its length and breadth its various histories and then the ways in which we don’t live up to what God expects of us and what we expect.

It’s like looking in the mirror and not seeing our own face. And so it is for him the awareness in some ways that the world is out of joint. Yes, sin is real. Sometimes you may use other words to talk about the reality of the struggle with the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Robert Johnson, the Jungian psychologist, again speaks more about the shadow, the un-chosen side of our lives that cause us trouble or he might speak about the disowned, the need to reconnect with the shadow, the dark side of ourselves.

Whatever language we use, there is in our lives, the reality of sin as well as the reality of the forgiveness of sin. For Christians, for Catholics, this has often has been discussed in the context of the capital sins, just as we might speak about the virtues.  St John Cassian and in the East, spoke of eight principal vices following a classification of Evagrius before him. In the West, Gregory the Great reduced this list to seven what we think of as the seven capital sins. If we mention the eight, they were gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, despondency or sadness, achadia or spiritual wariness or sloth, vainglory and pride.  These are mentioned in the fifth conference of St John Cassian as well, as in the Institute.

So there is this reality of the garbage, to use that image again, that lies there within each of us that comes to the surface of which we need to be more aware as we live contemplatively. All of this is a part of who we are.  In some ways, I suppose, it’s acknowledging a fraud, that each of us in some ways attempts to present ourselves publicly as being other than we are. And that we need to come to grips with our own sinfulness and that this is the question then of awakening, of conversion, of repentance.

Conversion, am I open to conversion? I suppose if I’m honest, I’d have to say much of the time no, I’m not. Conversion requires a radical reorientation of one’s life. A restructuring of one’s self, it’s asks us the question, is God enough for us? Is God enough? And as much as we might want to say yes, most often, probably, we in fact, through our behavior, at least, are saying no. Conversion is a continuing process. It’s not just a once and for all kind of thing.

There may be that powerful conversion experience, in other words, it may be dramatic, but it can also be gradual, and most often conversion is both.  Those events, experiences, in which we are turned around, but then that continuing conversion whereby we have to live out of that new awareness, consciousness, or experience and we can talk about conversion of heart, as well as of mind, or of affective conversion, intellectual conversion, moral conversion, and spiritual conversion.  As it settles in, it takes place, transforms at varied levels of our being, conversion of will, conversion of mind.

John Paul II again in that encyclical on the Holy Spirit wrote conversion requires convincing of sin, and of course this goes back to that text also from the Gospel of John, but conversion requires convincing us of sin. That’s the tough step, convincing, especially the modern person of the reality of sin. Conversion requires convincing of sin, he writes, and he goes on, “It includes the interior judgment of the conscience and this being a proof of the action of the Spirit of Truth in our inmost being, becoming at the same time a new beginning of the bestowal of grace and love.”  “Receive the Holy Spirit…” he writes, in this convincing concerning sin; we discover a double gift, the gift of the truth of conscience, and the gift of the certainty of redemption.

Conscience, reality of sin, redemption, forgiveness of sin, and he continues in order to convince/convict us of the forgiveness of sin, of the reality of grace, of the awareness of God as mercy, of the fact of redemption. In other words, emphasizing its twofold dimension to conversion. Convincing concerning sin, and convincing concerning its forgiveness, hence the conversion of the human heart, clearly Pope John Paul II here has a very good grasp of this reality.

And how we can have an emphasis on one without the other? We can so emphasize the reality of sin that we neglect and forget the reality of grace, mercy, forgiveness, or we can so talk about the forgiveness of sin that we in a way just take the reality of sin for granted as not to be taken seriously. But the two needs to come together less our own contemplative in Christian lives become distorted.

Sri Aurobindo, a mystic of modern India, perhaps in one way the greatest mystical philosopher of modern India, died in 1950, not a Christian, in a great book called the Synthesis of Yoga, speaks about conversion in his own way.   And just to take a couple expressions from his own thinking, he says, “The acceptance of a new spiritual orientation and illumination, a turning or conversion seized on by the will and the heart’s aspiration, this is the momentous act which contains, as in a seed, all that is to come.” In other words, we cannot over emphasize the importance of this conversion, awakening, illumination; it’s an aspiration that contains as a seed everything that’s to come. And he writes a truly spiritual conversion does not consist in the change of one’s mental beliefs, but in the acceptance of a new spirit, a spiritual force, life in the spirit, a decisive turning we could say from business-as-usual.

And, therefore, there is, for him, in this process of conversion, first an aspiration, a yearning for the Divine.  Again, Augustine:  “Our hearts are restless…”, a yearning for the Divine, an aspiration from the mind as well as the heart. It’s not yet conversion, but aspiration.  Then the second is following the aspiration, the desire, the yearning comes in a twofold conversion and consecration. Consecration means making sacred and offering of one’s actions and interior movements to the Divine, consecrating one’s life to the divine.

A conversion is a more spontaneous movement of the consciousness, but then the consecration as the deliberate process that grounds it, the conversion may be sudden but the consecration takes time. The consecration makes the conversion last so the process begins with that reality of aspiration followed by then the twofold conversion and consecration. The consecration being required for the persistence striving steadily, effort, perseverance, and of course for us this is all the result of grace.

But we can also think of consecration as a religious consecration: the consecrated life, the Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart, St Louis de Montfort’s total consecration to Jesus through Mary;  varied forms of, but consecration is essential if conversion is going to be carried through. This then entails the awakening of one’s innermost self, something is awakened within us. One wakes up and this culminates in the gradual transformation of who we are, our whole being:  the physical, the affective, the mental, the spiritual, it’s a turning of our whole self towards God.  The transformation of consciousness from egoic or false consciousness to a more pure consciousness, purity of heart, conversion the different stages or facets of conversion, all of it of course, grounded in the moral life.

We referred in our last conference to the moral virtues. We didn’t speak at any length about them. But in every religious tradition there’s this emphasis on the moral dimension. In Buddhism they speak about the five precepts, to refrain from killing or physical violence.  To refrain from taking that which is not offered or from stealing, to refrain from misuse of our sexual power or energy, to refrain from lying or harsh or idle speech, to refrain from taking intoxicants that clouds the mind. These are clearly a moral foundation for the Buddhist way of life.

Likewise for us, the moral foundation can be put in different ways but the Ten Commandments is foundational. I recall an example someone once had given that there are those today who want to practice meditation or live a life of contemplation, but are not so preoccupied with a basic moral living, with basic morality, and the analogy was used, it’s like someone’s wanting to row a boat while leaving it tied to the dock.  If we do not have a solid moral foundation on which to build its like remaining tied to the dock and the boat isn’t going to go anywhere.

In other words, the contemplative life builds on the moral life and in fact they cannot be separated, they are all part of a whole.   Spiritual theology is not something totally separate from moral theology, moral theology from doctrinal theology, it’s as a whole.  But for this conversion to take hold of us, for this awakening to happen, for this consecration to take place that enables us to persevere, requires repentance, repentance. In the Gospel of Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the Gospel!”

Again, Catholic teaching gives us an unfolding of stages of repentance, or aspects from sorrow for sin, contrition, you could say, to a firm purpose of amendment. That purpose, almost like a consecration, to doing penance, finally, to confession, frequent confession. More frequent than perhaps many of us might feel drawn towards.

St John Chrysostom spoke about five paths of repentance.  He said “Would you like me to list the paths of repentance? They are numerous and quite varied. In other words, different forms or ways of repentance all lead to Heaven. A first path of repentance is the condemnation of your own sins that then is one very good path. Another, and no less valuable is to put out of our minds the harm done us by our enemies in order to master our anger and to forgive others, then our own sins against the Lord will be for a given.  Do you want to know a third path? It consists of prayer that is fervent. It comes from the heart. If you want a fourth path, I will mention almsgiving, whose power is great and far-reaching. If forever a man lives a modest, humble life, that no less than the other things I’ve mention, takes sin away, too. Thus I’ve shown you five paths of repentance, 1) condemnation of your sins, 2) forgiveness of your neighbors sins, 3) prayer, 4) almsgiving, 5) humility; repentance, the foundation.”

The reality of sin, the forgiveness of sin, sorrow for our own sin, firm purpose of amendment, doing penance, confession, consecration, and perseverance; but many of our spiritual ancestors spoke about two conversions, that of water and that of tears, and the gift of tears. That of water, of course, involving baptism, and in that sense also baptism of the adult.  St John Cassian was the first to have given us a classification of tears in his ninth conference, and he spoke about five sorts of tears.

The relationship between compunction or sorrow for sin and fiery prayer, the ecstatic contemporary prayer, is something of which he spoke, and he spoke about the remembrance of our sins, producing tears, followed by ineffable joy. That again, I mention earlier, the joy of repentance, tears followed by joy, as one enters into this new way of life. For Cassian, tears was most common form of spiritual experience encompassing both sorrow and joy and the experience of grace.

Pope St Gregory the Great, in the West, is known as the Great Doctor of Compunction, or the Western Doctor of Tears. He outlined four kinds of compunction or tears. In the East, Simeon the New Theologian was known as the Theologian of Tears. St Catherine of Siena, OP, later spoke about five kinds of tears. Four kinds, and then about those who desire to weep and are unable to do so, is a very special kind. A kind of spiritual tear where there is no physical tear. She speaks about God, responding that there is a weeping of fire that is a longing for God so intense that she writes, “Such a soul would like to dissolve her very life in weeping, but these souls cannot shed physical tears. They rather shed tears of fire, the source being a heart full of fire, or an ardent longing for God.” She also writes, “This is how the Holy Spirit weeps.  The Holy Spirit weeps in the person of every one of my servants, Christ says, who offers me the fragrance of holy desire and humble prayer.”

So she speaks about these as spiritual tears or tears of the heart or the inner the weeping of the Holy Spirit. If you wish, go to her Dialogue, chapters 88 to 97, to read more where she talks about five kinds of tears, but really the first four being more common and then this is kind is weeping of fire. This spiritual tear where we do not physically weep, but indeed our hearts are manifesting its both sorrow and joy before the Lord. We think here even of the prophet Ezekiel, when he speaks about our hearts of stone in the hearts of flesh. And says, “A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you and I will take out of your flesh, the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

So here we are getting to the basics, the basis, and the foundation of the contemplative life. That we can look to the heights of, we can desire to infused, we want to open ourselves. But again, it’s almost as if that’s what that “dark night” was all about, needing to let go of our way of controlling our spiritual journey and to come back to simply compunction. Sorrow for sin, contrition, repentance, conversion, to not know myself as sinner will be to never know God as mercy.

If we yearn to know God and if knowing God is to know God as mercy, then we must come to grips with the reality of who I am as sinner. Always keeping in mind what Pope St John Paul II said, “The two sides, the reality of sin and the reality of its forgiveness, never one without the other.”

This time as a closing prayer I would like to take some verses from Psalm 51, the Miserere, a great Psalm acknowledging who we are as sinners. Let us pray, “Have mercy on me God in your goodness in your abundance of compassion, blot out my offense, wash away all my guilt, from sin, cleanse me. For I know my offense, my sin is always before me. Against you alone have I sinned, cleanse me with hyssop that I may be pure, wash me, wash me, Lord. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Mass in the Diocese of Madison: all are not welcome

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PLEASE READ:
http://www.madisoncatholicherald.org/bishopscolumns/2596-the-beauty-of-our-worship-in-the-liturgy.html

All Are Welcome!
-by Marty Haugen

Let us build a house
where love can dwell
And all can safely live,

A place where
saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
Rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions;

Let us build a house where prophets speak,
And words are strong and true,
Where all God’s children dare to seek
To dream God’s reign anew.

Here the cross shall stand as witness
And a symbol of God’s grace;
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat:
A banquet hall on holy ground,
Where peace and justice meet.

Here the love of God, through Jesus,
Is revealed in time and space;
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

HERESY!!!!! HERESY!!!!! CALL THE INQUISITION!!!!!

And the richness of it all is the chancery, at least publicly, is befuddled why the diocese is in such poor financial shape and the cathedral cannot be rebuilt going on ten years, the land of which downtown will revert to the donating family, by original covenant, if the now vacant land, unused for liturgical purposes, cannot pay the assessed taxes?  Shocking.  Apparently time is not aiding comprehension?

Love,
Matthew

“They lengthen their tassles and widen their phylacteries.” –Mt 23:5

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-THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST, KING OF KINGS, JUDGE OF JUDGES & LORD OF LORDS, at the moment of our Redemption, resplendent, enrobed beautifully in His nakedness and humility for the most precious sacrifice as both priest and victim.  Lord, may ALL your servants follow your most profound example and likeness and depth of humility.

We do have, here in the Diocese of Madison, a resurgence of fiddle backs, maniples, crossed stoles.  Kids, ask your grandparents.

I am perturbed since it seems an implicit rejection of Vatican II.  While the GIRM says nothing regarding these throwbacks, the message is quite clear here, along with the liturgical innovations of 2011, to the People of God.

Back to the days when priests were priests, the People of God trembled in fear, or should have, and nary a question was asked.  Let’s hope those days are long dead and gone to ashes, for the sake of the Church, in praise of her Lord.

http://ncronline.org/news/art-media/whats-message-runway-baroque-fashions

Jan 26 2013

-by Fr Thomas O’Meara, OP [Dominican Fr. Thomas O’Meara is the Warren Professor of Theology Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame.]

“When I was a boy, more than 50 years ago, ecclesiastical clothes were impressive. They were unusual and colorful, antique and sacral: they were distinctively Roman Catholic. The colored watered silk, the jeweled gloves, the red slippers (buskins) pointed to an individual caught up in a church office. This transcendent figure, a representative of the divine, appeared among the ordinary suits and dresses of working-class Catholics at rare moments. Nonetheless, even as a teenager singing in a college choir at the archbishop’s liturgies. I had already noticed that sometimes rituals focused more on the clothes than on religious words and sacrament. Removing gloves and putting on glasses, keeping a skullcap in place or adjusting a pallium could appear more important than the elevation of the chalice.

Time passes, and today ecclesiastical clothes are less intelligible and point less clearly to something beyond their colors and gilt. They raise questions of gender and class, of culture and sacramentality.

There are three kinds of clothes male Catholics wear for public ecclesiastical and liturgical events. There are vestments for the liturgy of the Eucharist and other sacraments and for devotions. Among them are chasuble and stole, alb and cincture, miter and cope. Second, there are the habits of religious orders and congregations. Third, there are special garments for those in the episcopal order and for those in levels below (monsignors) or above (cardinals). Vestments at the Eucharist and other liturgies appear at their best when they are simple, aesthetically pleasing and inspiring to the people viewing them. Members of religious orders, particularly monks and friars, tend to wear their habits at liturgy and at other times inside their religious houses.

Here is a ninth-century description of the liturgical clothes used by the bishop of Rome, clothes related in their style to garments worn by Romans two centuries earlier. Walahfrid Strabo, who died in 849, wrote: “Priestly vestments have become progressively what they are today: ornaments. In earlier times priests celebrated Mass dressed like everyone else.”

Often special church garments do not come from the patristic or medieval period (which did not encourage distinctive clothes). They come from the Baroque period from 1580 to 1720, when liturgy as theater arranged rituals to channel graces. After 1620, in the world of Pope Urban VIII, ecclesiastical garments began to assume the importance they have today in spotlighting ecclesiastical officeholders. Who may wear what, in which color, and at which church services? The years from 1830 to 1960 witnessed additional, quite artificial elaborations of church attire. Today vestments that reflect the simplicity of the patristic or early medieval style also appear contemporary, while those that appear antiquarian and flamboyant are the product of the Baroque.

Critics of religious clothes

Jesus is a critic of religion. He warns against human display and the use of religious objects to disdain others. He condemns using religion to further being noticed or set apart from most people. “The scribes and the Pharisees … do all their deeds to be seen by people; they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues … The greatest among you–must be your slave” (Matthew 23:5-6, 12).

Few dimensions of human life aroused Jesus’ anger, but religious leaders seeking attention and power through clothes were called “white-washed tombs that look handsome on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead” (Matthew 23:27).

In the years just before the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), Dominican Fr. Yves Congar wrote a critique of the church’s display of power and privilege. He had researched the origins of church vestments and insignia in the Roman Empire and in feudalism, concluding that those clothes no longer have any clear meaning for people. He concluded that vestments can have value, although their religious presence must resonate with the people they address.

One contemporary critique of ecclesiastical clothes was Federico Fellini’s 1972 movie “Roma.” Ecclesiastical fashions are exhibited on a runway where models display chasubles and miters for an audience of nuns and clerics and a presiding cardinal, a pale, sexless creature with crimson robes and ill-suited sunglasses who falls asleep. The style show ends with new designs using electric lights on chasubles.

Vatican II spoke of “a noble simplicity” for ecclesiastical clothes. In the years just after Vatican II, Pope Paul VI sold papal tiaras and issued instructions to set aside unusual clothes like flamboyant cloaks, colored stockings, special buckles and sashes with tassels.

Clothes today

Among a few small groups in the church, religious clothes are returning. They may be returning not as religious signs but as distractions from faith and ministry. Sashes and birettas, chains and large crosses, amices and maniples, special gloves and shoes have reappeared. Restorationist and reactionary groups tend to have striking clothes just as dictatorships have uniforms.

These groups show a preference for special kinds of clerical collars, tall miters, elaborate trains, a metal cross hung around the neck. Programs on EWTN are the runway for Baroque fashions, some authentic, some from the 19th century, most imitations. Great attention is given to gold vestments and gold vessels, odd new habits and distortions of past religious objects. Monastic habits with tunic and hood were originally the ordinary clothes of laborers. As centuries passed, they became unusual when ordinary clothes changed. Still, the habits of the medieval monks and friars were simple, and no sashes and capes or medals are added. The habits of many congregations of men founded after 1830 were colorful and attention-getting, elaborating on the medieval or Baroque but without any connection to the modern world.

At graduations at Catholic universities, students, faculty and administrators wear their academic robes, while parents and families wear suits and dresses. A bishop in a silk cape with ribbons and a skullcap looks out of place. Once, at a fundraising event in a large hotel, a bishop wore what he called his “full dress uniform, which attracts lots of compliments on my wardrobe.” The main speaker of the night remarked: “If I were dying and someone with a red bow and gown drew near, I would be scared stiff.”

The media pays attention to the current pope’s red-pink shoes, fur-lined hat of the eighth century, elaborately embroidered stole from the 18th century. Recent images on television of bishops and popes in white and red cassocks, Renaissance hats and jeweled gloves no longer seem religious and sacramental but antiquarian and self-centered. The pope, during a visit to the White House garden in white cassock and no visible pants, looked out of place; distinctive and different, yes, but not spiritual. American Catholics are, for the first time, reacting to televised gatherings of bishops and cardinals where there is concern over wearing properly colored skirts and sashes.

Clothes and ministry

New religious groups in the United States, along with some young members of older orders seem eager to wear a religious habit in public, not just on the grounds around a school but at airports or on the subway. What does a monastic habit or a cassock in public say to Americans at the beginning of the 21st century? It is not at all evident that the general public knows who this strangely dressed person is or even connects the clothes to religion. The symbolism is not clear and a message is not evident. The person does stand out, but as a kind of public oddity. Eccentric clothes instill separation. While some argue that odd clothes attract people, the fact is that more often than not they repel. Normal people are not attracted by the antique or bizarre costume, and ordinary Christians are not drawn to those whose special costume implies that others are inferior. Sometimes wearing clothes seems to be a substitute for real ministry.

It is not clear how men wearing dresses and capes proclaim God’s transcendence or the Gospel’s love. A man’s identity is something complex; the search for it lasts a lifetime. A celibate cleric gives up things that form male identity, like being a husband and a father. One cannot overlook possible links between unusual clothes and celibacy. Does the celibate male have a neutral or third sexuality that can put on unusual clothes? Are special clothes a protection of celibacy? Or are they a neutralization of maleness? Why would a man want to wear a long dress or a cape in public? Are spiritual reasons the true motivation?

Cultural meaning

Clothes are useful as they keep us warm or cool and cover our nakedness. They can make men and women attractive to others. Human beings and societies have come up with a variety of clothes to which they give particular meanings, using a few clothes as symbols–the toga, the high hat, the veil, the robe. What do ecclesiastical clothes say today? This question touches not only the wearer’s identity but the community’s faith. There is no absolute answer, no answer apart from people in their time and culture. Tradition and history are not an answer, for there is always a time when this ecclesiastical garment was unknown and there will be a time when it will be seen only in a museum.

Time brings and then buries styles. A medieval person probably understood episcopal regalia fairly well because aspects of his or her life depended upon its rare appearance, and it was seen in a milieu of many insignia. The elaborate arrangement of artificial clothes in the Catholic church is from the past four centuries. Today, unusual clothes appear on television as something connected to entertainment. What thoughts are conjured up when a cardinal or archbishop appears at a baseball game in a cape and gown? What does the cape and sash say personally and socially? Does it recall the New Testament or the liturgy of the Christian community?

There are no intrinsically religious clothes. Religious clothes are meant to point to some truth of faith or suggest a sacramental presence. The public person of each minister in the church should relate to the humble Jesus and to sacramentality in this church’s life. In the Christian community all clothing–this includes liturgical clothing–expresses the church’s life animated by the Spirit. Capes and cloaks in a Baroque style are neither prophetic nor countercultural. If regal or antiquarian distinction was once a value for church leaders, if pretension to being ecclesiastically or even metaphysically better was presumed, since Vatican II more and more people ignore such displays. Time never stands still. What seemed powerful in the past is today merely curious. Many Catholics are reaching a point where antiquated clothes are not inspiring and sacramental but exist outside human life.

Both the church’s expression of the reign of God and the culture to which it speaks are historical. Change touches everything. At any time, something new is being born and something static and alien is dying. History flows through the relationships between faith and grace and people, and those are always being determined anew in the concrete. The Holy Spirit strives, against sin, unreality and selfishness, to animate the church. In the last analysis, clothes are just clothes.

Henry David Thoreau said it well: “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” Perhaps some lesson remains in the words of Psalm 132: “I will vest the priests in holiness, and the faithful will shout for joy.”

Love,
Matthew

Apr 8, 2014 – CARA Study: Majority of U.S. Clergy Dislike the New Roman Missal

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4/19/03 – 7th Marine Regiment Chaplin, Father Bill Devine speaks to U.S. Marines assigned to the 5th Marine Regiment during Catholic Mass at one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces in Tikrit, Iraq.

http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2014/04/08/cara-study-majority-of-u-s-clergy-and-lay-leaders-reject-the-new-roman-missal/

Praise the Lord!  Well, I must confess.  I agree.  I have been silent, dead silent at Mass since November 2011, not uttering a word, not a syllable.  My conscience informs me so, I cannot speak.  And I have kept Holy Silence, in obedience, with regards to my opinion.  Silly.  Stupid.  Literal translation?  How do you spell oxymoron???  How do you spell insecure???

I expect the Inquisition will be moments from breaking down my door once I hit send on this one.  🙂  It was nice blogging with you!  The good thing is Roman Catholicism is a LIVING tradition!  We can and should disagree, civilly, where appropriate, aware of doctrine vs discipline, ALWAYS!  At least there are some still left to care enough to note these things!  Catholicism = Universal, not uniform.  It’s a sign of health.  Really.  It is.  Sensus fidelium.

It is ALWAYS healthful to reread Scripture.  May I recommend Mt 23:1-33?  Peace.

CARA Study: Majority of U.S. Clergy Dislike the New Roman Missal

April 8, 2014

“According to a landmark national study released today, Catholic clergy and lay parish leaders in the United Stated for the most part do not like the new Roman Missal which was introduced in November 2011. The study was commissioned by the Godfrey Diekmann, OSB Center for Patristics and Liturgical Studies of Saint John’s School of Theology Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota, and carried out by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.

According to the CARA study, clergy reject the missal by a 52/42 margin. The largest group of clergy (41%) say that “before it was introduced I was apprehensive about it and I still don’t like it,” with a further 11% saying that “before it was introduced I was looking forward to it but I’ve changed my mind and don’t like it.” Only 27% say that “before it was introduced I was looking forward to it and I still like it.” When clergy and lay leaders are taken together, the missal is rejected by a 49/45 margin. Among the other findings of the study:

  • 58% of clergy disagree (35% strongly) that they like the more formal style of language in the new text.
  • Only 39% of clergy think the new missal is an improvement on the previous translation. 58% disagree, 32% strongly, that it is an improvement.
  • 76% of clergy agree, 50% strongly, that some of the language of the new text is awkward and distracting.
  • A majority of clergy think that the new translation urgently needs to be revised – 54% agree with this, 37% agreeing strongly, whereas 41% do not think it urgently needs to be revised.
  • Clergy do not think other rites (marriage, confirmation, divine office) should be translated in a similar style, by a margin of 57/41.

The study reveals some disturbing trends about the trust Catholic clergy place in Church leadership.

  • Asked whether they are confident that the views of priests will be taken seriously in future decision about liturgical translation, nearly 2/3 (63%) are not confident that they will be heard. The largest group of clergy, 33%, disagree strongly that their views will be taken seriously. Only 23% of clergy think that priests’ views will be taken seriously, of which only 7% strongly agree with this sentiment.
  • Half of all clergy (50%) say they do not approve of the leadership of the Holy See in Rome in bringing about the new missal, with 44% supporting the Holy See.

When priests and lay parish leaders are taken together, the margin of support for the new missal is a bit higher than the views of just clergy. But this larger group of clergy and lay leaders together still rejects the formal language of the missal by a 55/41 margin, thinks that some of the language is awkward and distracting (75/24), disagrees that the new missal is an improvement (55/40), and thinks that the new translation urgently needs to be revised (50/42).

This new study by CARA largely corroborates the results of a less scientific study carried out by the Diekmann Center and released in May, 2013. That study invited all priests in 32 participating U.S. diocese to state their views on the new missal. That studied showed that 59% of priests do not like the new missal, compared to 39% who do. Priests rejected the more formal language by a 57/36 margin, and 80% agreed that some of the missal’s language is awkward and distracting. 61% said that the new translation urgently needs to be revised, and 61% did not think other rites and sacraments should be translated in the same style as the new missal. In the earlier study 55% disagreed that priests’ views on translation would be taken seriously, and 49% did not approve of the Holy See’s leadership in bringing about the new missal.

At the time of the earlier study, Bishop Robert Brom, now retired bishop of San Diego, said that “the new missal needs corrective surgery and this should take place without delay. The views of priests must be taken into consideration.”

The Roman Missal retranslation was made necessary by the controversial 2001 Roman document Liturgiam authenticam which has been stronglyy criticized by leading liturgical scholars. A widely-aclaimed earlier revision, carried out from 1981 to 1998 and approved by all the bishops’ conferences of the English-speaking world, was discarded by the Holy See with the issuance of the 2001 translation directives. Pray Tell has reported extensively on the long and difficult path toward the 2011 Roman Missal.

Fr. Anthony Cutcher, president of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, sees the newly-released CARA study as an opportunity to work constructively toward a revision of the current text which clergy and lay leaders dislike. He said, “Our response turns from condemnation to constructive criticism… Armed with the latest data, we can take this opportunity to help craft a revision that stays true to the text and at the same time is accessible to all.”

An essay on the new missal by Fr. Cutcher will be published tomorrow at Pray Tell.

Cutcher’s remarks echo those of former U.S. bishops’ conference president Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who recently conceded that the new text has “flaws and difficulties” and is “inadequate” and “needs correction.”

Pray Tell moderator Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, who was involved in the development of the new missal but then withdrew support for it in an open letter to the U.S. Bishops, recently expressed hope that the Catholic Church could move beyond past difficulties: “Have we turned the corner on this missal thing? Are we ready to build up the church with a constructive discussion of its strengths and weaknesses?”

Fr. Anthony has written an editorial on the way forward with the missal…. This CARA study was carried out by the Diekmann Center with the generous support of the following organizations: The National Federation of Priests’ Councils (NFPC), The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP), The Church Music Association of America (CMAA), The National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM), Oregon Catholic Press (OCP), Liturgical Press, and several anonymous individuals.”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 9 – Franciscan Martyrs of China & Companions: The Boxer Rebellion

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-the Empress Dowager Cixi

The uprising by the “Society for Justice and Harmony” (commonly known as the “Boxers”; don’t you just LOVE these euphemisms?  Not well disguised, except from the truly moronic?  “The Committee on Public Safety” in the French Revolution?  Pick a lobby in Washington?  Ok, I’ll cede one, “The Holy Office”, aka, The Inquisition :), occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century and caused the shedding of the blood of many Christians, Catholic & Protestant.

After a long drought, a slight drizzle began to moisten the dry fields of Shanxi province. But it was too late.  Local peasants had already spread rumors – the Christians were to blame for the long-term lack of rain. Banners had begun to appear throughout the region: “The skies won’t rain, the earth is scorched, all because the churches have blocked the heavens” (Taiyuan jiaochu jianhua, 311).

Two Franciscan bishops, two priests, a brother, and seven nuns had prayed for rain, but when it had finally arrived they knew it could not stop the tide of violence. Chinese Christians all around them were already being captured, ordered to renounce their faith in God, and executed if they refused. By the summer of 1900 a group of anti-foreign and anti-Christian men and women had organized themselves into roaming bands of martial artists groups carrying long swords, spears, and halberds; they called themselves the Yihetuan, or the “Society of Righteous Harmony.” Their duty, they asserted, was to support the ruling court and “annihilate all foreigners.”

At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the Franciscan bishops, priests, and nuns were reciting the Divine Office together with Chinese faithful in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi, when they heard the clamor of weapons approaching their small room. Instinctively knowing that they would soon be executed, those present all knelt before Bishop Gregorius Grassi, the ordinary of their remote Chinese diocese. Grassi trembled with emotion as he said to his fellow Christians, “The hour of death has come, my children: kneel down and I will give you holy absolution” (Franciscan Martyrs of the Boxer Rising, 14).

Bishops Grassi and Francis Fogolla, Fathers Theodiric Balat and Elias Fachini, Brother Andreus Bauer, seven nuns, fourteen Chinese Catholics, and a group of Protestants who had also been arrested, were each stripped to the waist, men and women, and tied together. On their way to the governor’s mansion, where their execution ground was being prepared, the Franciscans were derided and beaten both by their guards and the mob that lined the street.

Once they had arrived at Governor Yuxian’s official residence, the missionaries and native Catholics were ordered to kneel in the large courtyard. There was no trial. In Cardinal Louis Nazaire Bégin’s account of what happened next, we hear of how they were martyred:
‘Kill them, kill them!’ roared the crowd. Yu-Hsien striking with his own sword cried: ‘Kill them!’ At this sight the soldiers began the slaughter, dealing blows right and left, cruelly injuring their victims before giving the final stroke. Father Elie, aged sixty-one years, received more than one hundred sword cuts and at each lifted his eyes to heaven saying: ‘I go to heaven.’

During the scene the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary were spectators, for their executioners hoped the sight of the martyred priests would make their own death more horrible. They knelt in prayer with eyes lifted to heaven, praying for the martyrs, for the conversion of their persecutors and for the perseverance of the Christians. . . . The nuns embraced each other, intoned St Ambrose & St Augustine’s Te Deum Laudamus (Christian martyrs, when presented with immanent death, SING! see also Carmelites of the French Revolution), and presented their heads to the executioners…(Life of Mother Marie Hermine, 62-63).

Father Andrew Wang tried to evade the Boxers by wearing secular garb and taking flight into Shanxi’s remote areas. Father Wang spent several days without food or shelter, and finally in a state of exhaustion, coughing blood, was discovered by his pursuers, who took him to the local magistrate for trial.

During his investigation, he was told by the local official: “. . . if you renounce your religion you will receive clothes and money, and your life will be spared.” Father Wang calmly informed his judge that he was a priest, reasserted his faith in God, and asked to be executed on the grounds of his church, which had just been destroyed by the Boxers.

The Boxer Rebellion, Boxer Uprising or Yihetuan Movement was a violent anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement which took place in China towards the end of the Qing dynasty between 1898 and 1900. It was initiated by the Militia United in Righteousness (Yihetuan), known in English as the “Boxers”, and was motivated by proto-nationalist sentiments and opposition to foreign imperialism and Christianity. The Great Powers intervened and defeated Chinese forces.

The uprising took place against a background of severe drought, and the disruption caused by the growth of foreign spheres of influence. After several months of growing violence against foreign and Christian presence in Shandong and the North China plain, in June 1900 Boxer fighters, convinced they were invulnerable to foreign weapons, converged on Beijing with the slogan “Support the Qing, exterminate the foreigners.”

Foreigners and Chinese Christians sought refuge in the Legation Quarter. In response to reports of an armed invasion to lift the siege, the initially hesitant Empress Dowager Cixi supported the Boxers and on June 21 authorized war on foreign powers. Diplomats, foreign civilians and soldiers, and Chinese Christians in the Legation Quarter were under siege by the Imperial Army of China and the Boxers for 55 days. Chinese officialdom was split between those supporting the Boxers and those favoring conciliation, led by Prince Qing.

The supreme commander of the Chinese forces, Ronglu, later claimed that he acted to protect the besieged foreigners. The Eight-Nation Alliance, after being initially turned back, brought 20,000 armed troops to China, defeated the Imperial Army, and captured Beijing (Peking) on August 14, lifting the siege of the Legations. Uncontrolled plunder of the capital and the surrounding countryside ensued, along with the summary execution of those suspected of being Boxers.

The Boxer Protocol of September 7, 1901 provided for the execution of government officials who had supported the Boxers, provisions for foreign troops to be stationed in Beijing, and an indemnity of 450 million taels of silver – more than the government’s annual tax revenue, to be paid as indemnity over a course of thirty-nine years to the eight nations involved.

As a result of the Boxer Rebellion, the martyrdom of Catholic & Protestant missionaries and many Chinese took place who can be grouped together as follows. Twenty-seven Franciscans and Franciscan tertiaries and their confreres in faith who became victims of the Boxer Rebellion; they represent more than 100,000 Christians of China who were martyred in the reign of Empress Dowager Tz’u Hsi (Cixi).

a) Martyrs of Shanxi, killed on July 9, 1900 (known as the Taiyuan Massacre), who were Franciscan Friars Minor:

1. Saint Gregory Grassi, Bishop,
2. Saint Francis Fogolla, Bishop,
3. Saint Elias Facchini, Priest,
4. Saint Theodoric Balat, Priest,
5. Saint Andrew Bauer, Religious Brother;

b) Martyrs of Southern Hunan, who were also Franciscan Friars Minor:

6. Saint Anthony Fantosati, Bishop (martyred on July 7, 1900), vicar apostolic of Hengchow,
7. Saint Joseph Mary Gambaro, Priest (martyred on July 7, 1900), who was tortured to death,
8. Saint Cesidio Giacomantonio, Priest (martyred on July 4, 1900), burned alive.

To the martyred Franciscans of the First Order were added seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, of whom three were French, two Italian, one Belgian, and one Dutch:

9. Saint Mary Hermina of Jesus (in saec: Irma Grivot),
10. Saint Mary of Peace (in saec: Mary Ann Giuliani),
11. Saint Mary Clare (in saec: Clelia Nanetti),
12. Saint Mary of the Holy Birth (in saec: Joan Mary Kerguin),
13. Saint Mary of Saint Justus (in saec: Ann Moreau),
14. Saint Mary Adolfine (in saec: Ann Dierk),
15. Saint Mary Amandina (in saec: Paula Jeuris).

Of the martyrs belonging to the Franciscan family, there were also eleven Secular Franciscans, all Chinese:

15. Saint John Zhang Huan, seminarian,
16. Saint Patrick Dong Bodi, seminarian,
17. Saint John Wang Rui, seminarian,
18. Saint Philip Zhang Zhihe, seminarian,
19. Saint John Zhang Jingguang, seminarian,
20. Saint Thomas Shen Jihe, layman and a manservant,
21. Saint Simon Qin Chunfu, lay catechist,
22. Saint Peter Wu Anbang, layman,
23. Saint Francis Zhang Rong, layman and a farmer,
24. Saint Matthew Feng De, layman and neophyte,
25. Saint Peter Zhang Banniu, layman and labourer.

To these are joined a number of Chinese lay faithful:

26. Saint James Yan Guodong, farmer,
27. Saint James Zhao Quanxin, manservant,
28. Saint Peter Wang Erman, cook.

When the uprising of the “Boxers”, which had begun in Shandong and then spread through Shanxi and Hunan, also reached South-Eastern Tcheli (currently named Hebei), which was then the Apostolic Vicariate of Xianxian, in the care of the Jesuits, the Christians killed could be counted in thousands. Among these were four French Jesuit missionaries and at least 52 Chinese lay Christians: men, women and children – the oldest of them being 79 years old, while the youngest were aged only nine years. All suffered martyrdom in the month of July 1900. Many of them were killed in the church in the village of Tchou-Kia-ho (or Zhujiahe), in which they were taking refuge and where they were in prayer together with the first two of the missionaries listed below:

29. Saint Leo Mangin, S.J., Priest,
30. Saint Paul Denn, S.J., Priest,
31. Saint Rémy Isoré, S.J., Priest,
32. Saint Modeste Andlauer, S.J., Priest.

The names and ages of the Chinese lay Christians were as follows:

33. Saint Mary Zhu born Wu, aged about 50 years,
34. Saint Petrus Zhu Rixin, aged 19,
35. Saint Ioannes Baptista Zhu Wurui, aged 17,
36. Saint Mary Fu Guilin, aged 37,
37. Saint Barbara Cui born Lian, aged 51,
38. Saint Joseph Ma Taishun, aged 60,
39. Saint Lucia Wang Cheng, aged 18,
40. Saint Maria Fan Kun, aged 16,
41. Saint Mary Qi Yu, aged 15,
42. Saint Maria Zheng Xu, aged 11 years,
43. Saint Mary Du born Zhao, aged 51,
44. Saint Magdalene Du Fengju, aged 19,
45. Saint Mary Du born Tian, aged 42,
46. Saint Paul Wu Anju, aged 62,
47. Saint Ioannes Baptista Wu Mantang, aged 17,
48. Saint Paulus Wu Wanshu, aged 16,
49. Saint Raymond Li Quanzhen, aged 59,
50. Saint Peter Li Quanhui, aged 63,
51. Saint Peter Zhao Mingzhen, aged 61,
52. Saint John Baptist Zhao Mingxi, aged 56,
53. Saint Teresa Chen Jinjie, aged 25,
54. Saint Rose Chen Aijie, aged 22,
55. Saint Peter Wang Zuolong, aged 58,
56. Saint Mary Guo born Li, aged 65,
57. Saint Joan Wu Wenyin, aged 50,
58. Saint Zhang Huailu, aged 57,
59. Saint Mark Ji Tianxiang, aged 66,
60. Saint Ann An born Xin, aged 72,
61. Saint Mary An born Guo, aged 64,
62. Saint Ann An born Jiao, aged 26,
63. Saint Mary An Linghua, aged 29,
64. Saint Paul Liu Jinde, aged 79,
65. Saint Joseph Wang Kuiju, aged 37,
66. Saint John Wang Kuixin, aged 25,
67. Saint Teresa Zhang born He, aged 36,
68. Saint Lang born Yang, aged 29,
69. Saint Paulus Lang Fu, aged 9,
70. Saint Elizabeth Qin born Bian, aged 54,
71. Saint Simon Qin Chunfu, aged 14,
72. Saint Peter Liu Ziyu, aged 57,
73. Saint Anna Wang, aged 14,
74. Saint Joseph Wang Yumei, aged 68,
75. Saint Lucy Wang born Wang, aged 31,
76. Saint Andreas Wang Tianqing, aged 9,
77. Saint Mary Wang born Li, aged 49,
78. Saint Chi Zhuzi, aged 18,
79. Saint Mary Zhao born Guo, aged 60,
80. Saint Rose Zhao, aged 22,
81. Saint Maria Zhao, aged 17,
82. Saint Joseph Yuan Gengyin, aged 47,
83. Saint Paul Ge Tingzhu, aged 61,
84. Saint Rose Fan Hui, aged 45.

Besides all those already mentioned who were killed by the Boxers, it is necessary also to remember:

85. Saint Alberic Crescitelli, a priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions of Milan, who carried out his ministry in Southern Shaanxi and was martyred on July 21, 1900.

Some years later, members of the Salesian Society of St John Bosco were added to the considerable number of martyrs recorded above:

86. Saint Louis Versiglia, Bishop,
87. Saint Callistus Caravario, Priest.

They were killed together on February 25, 1930 at Li-Thau-Tseul.

A 14-year-old Chinese girl named Ann Wang, who was killed during the Boxer Rebellion when she refused to apostatize. She bravely withstood the threats of her torturers, and just as she was about to be beheaded, she radiantly declared, “The door of heaven is open to all” and repeated the name of Jesus three times.

Another of the martyrs was 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, who had been preparing to receive the sacrament of Baptism when he was caught on the road one night and ordered to worship idols. He refused to do so, revealing his belief in Christ. His right arm was cut off and he was tortured, but he would not deny his faith. Rather, he fearlessly pronounced to his captors, before being flayed alive, “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.”

Following the failure of the Boxer rebellion, the government recognized it had no choice but to modernize, which in turn led to a booming conversion period in the following decades. The Chinese developed respect for the moral level that Christians maintained in their hospital and schools. The continuing association between western imperialism in China and missionary efforts nevertheless continued to fuel hostilities against missions and Christianity in China. All missions were banned in China by the new communist regime after the outbreak of the Korean war in 1950, and officially continue to be legally outlawed to the present.

“The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of Corpus Christi – Cibivat Eos, Introit for the Mass, “Wheat & honey from the rock!” & Lauda Sion

monstrance

(The work is in two sections, the first containing the antiphon (text: Psalm 81:17), the second the verse (text: Psalm 81:2) and doxology. For a proper liturgical performance, the first section must be repeated after the second.)

Cibávit éos ex ádipe fruménti,
allelúia:
et de pétra, mélle saturávit éos,
allelúia, allelúia, allelúia,

He fed them with the fat of wheat (alleluia);
and filled them with honey out of the rock
(alleluia, alleluia, alleluia).

Exsultáte Déo adjutóri nóstro: jubiláte Déo Jácob.

Rejoice unto God our helper; sing aloud to the God of Jacob.

Glória Pátri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sáncto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper,
et in saécula saeculórum. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Cibávit éos ex ádipe fruménti, allelúia:
et de pétra mélle saturávit éos,
allelúia, allelúia, allelúia,

He fed them with the fat of wheat (alleluia);
and filled them with honey out of the rock
(alleluia, alleluia, alleluia).


-by Br Alan Piper, OP

“A recent book, “American Catholics in Transition”, drawing on numerous surveys conducted over a period of twenty-five years, reports that 37% of self-identified Catholics in America do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Significantly, however, only 4% claim that they both know and disbelieve the Church’s teaching. The great majority of unbelievers in the real presence—1 in 3 of self-identified Catholics—claims not to know what the Church teaches on the subject: namely, that the bread and wine are really changed into the body and blood of Christ.

The liturgical calendar provides us with an opportunity to reflect on this mystery. The Feast of Corpus Christi (“the Body of Christ”) was instituted in the thirteenth century in order to foster a greater appreciation of the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist. In the U.S. it occurs this Sunday, though in other countries it happens today, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, as a kind of second Holy Thursday (the day of the Last Supper).

The Gospel reading for Corpus Christi is John 6:51-58. The passage follows the multiplication of the loaves and consists mainly of Jesus’ response to a request from the crowd: “Sir, give us always [the bread of God . . . which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world]” (Jn 6:33-34). Jesus’ answer is clear and emphatic: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven . . . and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (6:51). Jesus is insistent about this. In the eight verses of the liturgical text (which is only a selection from a larger passage), words meaning “eat” and “drink” appear a total of ten times, and the words “food” and “bread” occur six times in sum. Jesus persistently associates these words with himself, with his “flesh” (six times) and with his “blood” (four). Eventually he adds the adjective “true”: “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (6:55).

Jesus also uses different words for “eat.” In the first part of the passage, he uses a more generic term, which was used to denote the eating of a meal or metaphorical consumption, e.g., the devouring of books. In the second part, however, he begins to use a verb that means “gnaw” or “chomp.” Presumably, Jesus is driving home his point. What’s required is not only spiritual assimilation, but also oral ingestion. The eating that Jesus is talking about is bodily; it’s animalistic. The translation in the Lectionary hints at this animality in verse 57: “the one who feeds on me will have life . . .”

Some of Jesus’ disciples objected to the idea that they should eat his body and drink his blood. They said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (6:60). Many were so repelled that they stopped following him altogether: “[they] returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (6:66). But Jesus did not run after them trying to explain that he was only speaking symbolically. Still less did he open the doctrine up for negotiation. He simply turned to the Twelve and asked, “Do you also want to leave?” (6:67).

Perhaps the defectors thought Jesus was proposing a straightforward cannibalism, such as one might imagine about the worst pagans, such as might have existed among neighboring pagans. Maybe some would object that Jesus was too concerned about “externals.” Today people might say that they don’t go to Church because they go to God “directly,” from home or from anywhere. The Christian claim is that God has already come to us directly in Christ, who declared, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (6:53). Now, ingesting the Son of Man is not normally something people can do at home. So Jesus is inviting us to Church: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (6:54). These are the options he gives us: no life or eternal life.

The Eucharist contains “the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324). This great gift is offered to us as a sacrament, that is, as a sacred, saving sign. But unlike some other signs (for instance, a photo of a loved one), in the case of the Eucharist, the sign literally involves the real presence of Christ in his humanity and divinity. This is why Catholics genuflect and kneel in the presence of the Eucharist. And this is the reason for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which is characteristic of celebrations of Corpus Christi. After the consecration, there is no longer any bread or wine on the altar. Jesus is there under the appearances of bread and wine, offering Himself for the life of the world.”

“I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, “A Charmed Life.”) She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. . . . Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them.

Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the most portable person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.

That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.” -Flannery O’Connor, in a letter to Elizabeth Hester

“God in His omnipotence could not give more, in His wisdom He knew not how to give more, in His riches He had not more to give, than the Eucharist.” – Saint Augustine

Love,
Matthew

Photographing the Ascension

13642_Unidentified-German-Ascension-1890-628x378

gabriel_torretta
-by Br Gabriel Torretta, OP

“There’s an interesting feature about many artistic representations of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, common to the works of both run-of-the-mill painters and masters like Rembrandt: namely, they are very boring.

Now I don’t want to blame the great masters and their lesser counterparts for phoning in their treatment of the subject; it’s just almost impossible to represent the Ascension in an artistically meaningful way. After all, at the Ascension the disciples witness Jesus pass from the visibility of his life on earth to the invisibility of his life in heaven, which is not really an event that tangible arts can represent easily.

Nor, to be honest, is the Ascension an event that we can easily wrap our minds around, even forgetting the question of art. After all, if the thirty-three years of Jesus’ earthly life and the forty days after his resurrection were able to plant the seeds of the Church and win the redemption of mankind, doesn’t it seem reasonable to expect that Jesus’ best move would have been to stick around visibly on earth, letting everyone see him resurrected, not aging as the ages pass, thus forcing all reasonable people to conclude that this immortal man must in fact be the Son of God? Wouldn’t a Jesus who reigned in his resurrected body on earth have won more souls to heaven, simply by the undeniability of his presence? To put it simply: isn’t the spiritual character of Christ’s Ascension the very obstacle that we physical beings stumble over and thus fall into unbelief?

Happily, there’s a very strange artistic representation of the Ascension that solves the difficulties of the preceding paragraphs, by being both compositionally fascinating and theologically illuminating. It’s the image that appears as the featured image for this post: titled simply Ascension, it is a photograph produced by an unknown German in 1890, currently held by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Everything about this image is odd. First, it’s a photograph, which is fairly strange unless we accept that Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was actually a documentary all along. Second, the actual composition of the scene is unusual: although the scriptural accounts specify that the only witnesses to the Ascension were the eleven disciples (Mt 28:16, cf. Acts 1:1-11), here we have Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Jesus thrown in as well. So what’s going on here?

The image can reasonably be put into the pictorialist school of photography, which sought to compose photographs in the manner of a painting, rather than merely recording events that passed a camera’s lens. That is, the pictorialists sometimes—as in this photograph—sought to capture the uncapturable, to photograph the unphotographable, making visible what is invisible either by its nature or because it has passed in time. As a result, this idiosyncratic and short-lived art form was perhaps uniquely well-suited to represent the simultaneously fleshly and spiritual character of the Ascension, when Jesus’ resurrected humanity really went to heaven in his physical body, where he still reigns in perfect equality with the Father and the Spirit.

In this image, the spiritual reality of the Ascension is revealed in its full splendor precisely as visible; Jesus’ bristling, bushy beard won’t be denied, and neither will the bony leg that juts out from underneath his tunic, nearly making contact with Mary’s outstretched arm. Jesus’ humanity will not be denied here, even as it is being taken up into the ethereal realm of the painted whorl of cherubim on the backdrop wall. Moreover, the visible composition of the scene itself reveals the inner spiritual reality of the event, by the particular imposition of Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Jesus. That is, with the insertion of those two figures, the artist creates a perfect echo with the crucifixion, where John (to Mary Magdalene’s left here) and the two Marys are often depicted in precisely these positions and poses. The additional presence of the remaining ten disciples from the Ascension scene conflates the two, signaling both the unity of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice on the Cross and the Ascension, as well as the particular instantiation of redemption in the lives of the apostles who had fled the earlier event. The visible, then, is the key to the invisible, just as the invisible is the key to the visible; neither makes sense without the other.

This is the inner dynamic of the Ascension, and of the very redemption of Christ. Jesus did not want to remain in his visible, risen humanity on earth forever, lest men and women forget that something more remains for us; he came not to make a permanent base out of the waystation of earth, but to lead us to the more perfect homeland of heaven, drawing us through his Incarnation to share in his divinity. With the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the visible is now shot through with the glorious reality of heaven—where we will be in the closest spiritual presence to the invisible God—and we in turn are only drawn to that spiritual perfection in and through our bodily existence. We go to God not as angels, severed from our bodiliness, but as redeemed men and women, living a share in the life of heaven already on earth by grace. Christ’s ascension into heaven makes this reality known to us, as his reign in heaven makes his grace accessible to us.

So next time you find yourself in a muddle about the meaning of the Ascension, take a trip back in time with our nineteenth-century German friend, and let your eyes behold in faith the visibility of the invisible God.”

Love,
Matthew