Sep 17 – Galileo, Copernicus, Bellarmine: to read history, throw away modern lenses


please click on the image for greater detail

“Presentism” is a heresy of history of reading history through modern point of view, culture, and biases. We cannot judge the past from the present. It is impossible. Nor would the past understand the present. The best way to read history is to prepare like an actor to participate in that moment in history taking a well know, well worn role, and seeing it through those eyes.


-by Christopher Check

“Events in history happen in certain times and places. Goes without saying, right? I’m not so sure. It’s not uncommon for us to examine the past through the lenses of today.

I once read a history of the eleventh-century Norman conquest of Sicily. This otherwise lively and accurate account portrayed Robert Guiscard and Roger de Hauteville as venture capitalists, a profession that no medieval man could have wrapped his imagination around.

It is a mistake to judge the decisions and actions of the churchmen involved in what has come to be called the Galileo Affair through the lens (no pun intended here) of modern astronomical discoveries. Better to consider the event by taking a stab at understanding the state of the science at the time, the personality of Galileo, the cultural and religious atmosphere, and the personality of the one saint in the story, the man whose sanctity we celebrate today on his feast day: Robert Cardinal Bellarmine.


-Nikolaus Kopernikus, “Torun portrait” (anonymous, c. 1580), kept in Toruń town hall, Poland, please click on the image for greater detail

Copernicus raises a question

Since ancient times man’s understanding of the cosmos was geocentric: a fixed, immobile Earth around which the heavenly bodies orbited. Aristotle and Ptolemy, whose model included planetary epicycles to account for apparent retrograde motion, were the chief proponents of this model. Among the ancients there was at least one proponent of a heliocentric model, Aristarchus of Samos (known to us through Archimedes), but in the absence of observational evidence the model that was intuitive took hold. Geocentrism was not doctrine, but because it came from Aristotle and because it comported with Scripture, the Church adopted the model.

Not until a canon of the Catholic Church, Nicholas Copernicus, in 1543 published on his deathbed his De revolutionibus orbium ceolestium did anyone give a serious look at a heliocentric model. Even then, few took notice, and the Church certainly was not alarmed. Fact is, Copernicus was encouraged by priests to publish, and he dedicated the book to Pope Paul III. (Luther and Calvin, it’s worth noting, were in fits; Luther called Copernicus a “fool.”)

Copernicus had not one piece of physical observational evidence in support of heliocentrism. De revolutionibus was a complex collection of mathematical formulas and Latin descriptions written to predict the location of the heavenly bodies throughout the year. It’s important to underscore that astronomers at this time in history were not natural philosophers, what we call “physicists” today. They were mathematicians. Their job was to devise the formulas that predicted the location of the heavenly bodies, whether or not the formulas were a true account of what was happening in the physical cosmos.

“Why bother then?” Well, if you were the navigator on a seagoing vessel, or one of the Jesuits at the Roman College hard at work on bringing more precision to the Julian Calendar (some eleven minutes too long every year), where the planets and stars were and when was of central importance to your trade. Also, if you were an astrologer—and make no mistake, back then astrology and astronomy were considerably less delineated than they are now (Galileo wrote horoscopes for cash)—the position of the heavenly bodies was critical to your trade, too.


-Galileo Galilei (1636), by Justus Sustermans, please click on the image for greater detail

Galileo: a force of nature

Knowing the distinction between astronomers (mathematicians) and natural philosophers (physicists) helps us appreciate just how groundbreaking Galileo was: he looked at astronomical questions from the perspective of a natural philosopher. His interests were motion, dynamics, mechanics, etc.; in other words, the fields that tell us what is happening in the physical world.

His theories would not have received the attention they did had it not been for the arrival in the early seventeenth century—in the Netherlands, perhaps—of a carnival toy. Galileo did not invent the telescope, but he sure did improve it, and—another critical contribution—in December of 1609 he pointed it at the heavens. The subsequent months revealed undiscovered wonders, the “mountains of the moon,” the moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus. None of these was proof of a heliocentric solar system, but for a pioneer of deductive reasoning, they constituted compelling evidence.

Equally compelling was the force of Galileo’s personality. An impatient genius, Galileo did not go out of his way to make friends among his academic colleagues in Pisa, Florence, Padua, and Rome. His correspondence is replete with bold expressions of his arrogance and bitter insults leveled at men who disagreed with him. He not only lacked humility, he took pleasure at social gatherings in humiliating other scholars with rhetorical traps. His obstinacy is something to marvel at, especially when he was wrong—as he was about the tides, circular orbits, and comets, for example.

Had Galileo been a little more sensitive to the religious atmosphere of his age, the story might have gone less badly. It is commonly believed that the Church’s leading minds refused to look at Galileo’s arguments or look through his telescope. Nothing could be further from the truth. He had the backing of the Carmelite scientist and philosopher Paolo Antonio Foscarini and of many the Jesuits at the Roman College, including Gregorian Calendar architect Christopher Clavius, who were buying up his telescopes and confirming his findings. (His chief academic adversaries were laymen.)

It is true, however, that Galileo made his discoveries in a world still reacting to Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s insistence that Scripture was subject to personal interpretation. The Council of Trent in the mid-sixteenth century said it was not. There was no shortage of scriptural passages making reference to a fixed Earth orbited by sun and stars. (There still are!) The Church, as Cardinal Bellarmine was at pains to explain to Galileo when they met in 1616, needed to be deliberate in interpreting scriptural passages that seemed to contradict the discoveries of modern astronomy.

Bellarmine: the voice of reason

Bellarmine counseled caution for two reasons. The first showed a more disciplined and careful approach to deductive science than Galileo’s. “The Copernican system predicts the phases of Venus,” Bellarmine told Galileo. “This does not prove the converse, that is: Venus exhibits phases, therefore the universe is Copernican.” Bellarmine was right, of course. Tycho Brahe’s hybrid model, in which all but the Earth revolves around the sun and all that swirling bundle revolves around the Earth, would also account for the phases of Venus. In other words, absent proof (and that does not come until the mid-nineteenth century) caution more than anything was required in reinterpreting Scripture—which brings us to the good saint’s second reason for caution.

Bellarmine was sharp of mind and had a strong pastoral sense. He told Galileo, “The evidence is insufficient to force scriptural reinterpretations that could lead to doubts in the minds of the faithful about the inerrancy of Scripture.” The position is a perfectly reasonable one. It applies a pastoral solution to a speculative problem. Had Galileo listened to Bellarmine, he would not have found himself in front of an understandably impatient (by this time he had implied that the pope was simpleminded) and admittedly heavy-handed inquisition in 1633.

The dictate of charity

The details of that conflict are for another piece. Let’s conclude with the reflections of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, who, while still an Anglican, argued that Bellarmine in his caution was following the dictates of charity:

Galileo might be right in his conclusion that the earth moves; to consider him a heretic might have been wrong; but there was nothing wrong in censuring abrupt, startling, unsettling, unverified disclosures, if such they were, disclosures at once uncalled for and inopportune, at a time when the limits of revealed truth had not as yet been ascertained. A man ought to be very sure of what he is saying, before he risks the chance of contradicting the word of God. It was safe, not dishonest, to be slow in accepting what nevertheless turned out to be true. Here is an instance in which the Church obliges Scripture expositors, at a given time or place, to be tender of the popular religious sense.

I have been led to take a second view of this matter. That jealousy of originality in the matter of religion, which is the instinct of piety, is, in the case of questions that excite the popular mind, also the dictate of charity. Galileo’s truth is said to have shocked and scared the Italy of his day. To say that the Earth went round the sun revolutionized the received system of belief as regards heaven, purgatory, and hell; and it forcibly imposed a figurative interpretation upon categorical statements of Scripture.

Heaven was no longer above and Earth below; the heavens no longer literally opened and shut; purgatory and hell were not for certain under the earth. The catalogue of theological truths was seriously curtailed. Whither did our Lord go on his ascension? If there is to be a plurality of worlds, what is the special importance of this one? And is the whole, visible universe, with its infinite spaces, one day to pass away?

We are used to these questions now and reconciled to them; and on that account are no fit judges of the disorder and dismay that the Galilean hypothesis would cause to good Catholics, as far as they became cognizant of it, or how necessary it was in charity, especially then, to delay the formal reception of a new interpretation of Scripture, till their imaginations should gradually get accustomed to it.”

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book: Protestant & Catholic Bibles


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“Q. Our Protestant friends often speak of “the word of God” as if it was limited to just the Bible. Is that true?

Jimmy: No. The Bible speaks of the “word of God” as being several different things. It certainly includes the Bible, but it also includes the word of God communicated to people orally—in the form of Tradition, as when the apostles preached the word to people before the New Testament was written, or when the prophets preached God’s word before any book of Scripture was written. The ultimate Word of God is Jesus himself, so we can’t limit the word of God to just the Bible.

Q. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for “making void the word of God” by their tradition. Does that mean all Tradition is bad?

Jimmy: Just because one group misuses tradition doesn’t mean that all tradition is bad. Elsewhere, the New Testament speaks highly of the traditions that come from the apostles, and it commands Christians to honor them whether they are written in the Bible or not. The tradition of the Pharisees isn’t binding on us, but the Tradition of the apostles is!

Q. Our Protestant friends say we should base our doctrine on “Scripture alone.” What’s wrong with this idea?

Jimmy: A big problem is that, if we have to prove every doctrine “by Scripture alone” or sola scriptura then we’d have to prove this doctrine in the same way. But we can’t. There are no verses that say or imply that we should prove every doctrine by Scripture alone. That makes sola scriptura a self-refuting doctrine.

Q. Some anti-Catholics say that the Catholic Church “hates” the Bible and tried to keep it from the people. How can we reply to that?

Jimmy: If the Catholic Church “hated” the Bible, then it wouldn’t have laboriously hand-copied Bibles in the long centuries before the invention of the printing press. Further, the monks wouldn’t have made the beautiful, illuminated Bibles, whose pages they literally covered in gold by applying gold leaf to the illustrations to honor God’s word.

Q. When were the Gospels written? Are they late documents written long after the life of Jesus?

Jimmy: As biblical scholarship has progressed, the dates for the Gospels have been steadily rolled back. You no longer have scholars saying they were written a hundred or more years after Jesus. Today, virtually all scholars acknowledge that they were all written in the first century, and the best evidence indicates that they were written between about A.D. 55 and 65—only around twenty to thirty years after Jesus’ ministry.

Q. Did all Jews in Jesus’ day honor the same books as Scripture?

Jimmy: No. Different groups of Jews had different opinions about which books were sacred, and most did not have a single, closed list or “canon” of biblical books. The precise boundaries of the Old Testament continued to be debated in Jewish circles for centuries.

Q. Why does the Bible contain the books that it does? How did we get the exact list of books it has today?

Jimmy: God guided the Church, over the course of centuries, to recognize certain books and not others as being written expressions of his word. On the human level, this was done through the teachings of the Magisterium—the popes and the bishops. The Catholic Church thus played a crucial role in identifying the books of the Old and New Testaments.

Q. Why do our Protestant friends have smaller Bibles?

Jimmy: Martin Luther and other early Protestant leaders rejected certain Catholic teachings, such as purgatory, which is strongly supported in the Old Testament book 2 Maccabees. They therefore appealed to the European Jews of their day, who didn’t honor 2 Maccabees and certain other books as Scripture. They thus removed certain books from the Protestant Bible that Christians had historically regarded as Scripture.

Q. Bottom line: Why is the Bible a Catholic book?

Jimmy: The Bible is a Catholic book because the New Testament was written by Catholics, because the Catholic Church determined which books belong in the Bible, and because the Catholic Church preserved and published the books of the Bible by hand-copying them down through the centuries. The Bible is a gift that God gave to the world through the Catholic Church.”

Love,
Matthew

The Protestant Challenge


-by Karlo Broussard

Q. What is the Protestant challenge that you meet in your new book?

Karlo: In Mark 7:9-13, Jesus chastises the Pharisees for holding to traditions that entail a rejection of God’s commandment and make void God’s Word. Many Protestants claim several Catholic beliefs fall under this condemnation, because they think such beliefs contradict the Bible.

The challenge usually takes the form, “How can the Catholic Church teach X, when the Bible says Y?” For example, how can the Catholic Church teach that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth when the Bible says that Jesus had brothers (Matt. 13:55)? Or how can the Catholic Church teach that works have a role to play in our salvation when the Bible says in Romans 3:28 that “we are justified by faith and not by works of the law?”

It’s this sort of challenge that I meet in the book, covering fifty of the most common challenges that Protestants make.

Q. Is this challenge the only Protestant challenge? Or, are there other kinds of challenges? If so, how do they differ from this one?

Karlo: The challenge that I meet in my book is not the only challenge. Any Catholic who talks religion with Protestants has at some time been challenged with the question, “Where’s that in the Bible?”

Much of Catholic apologetics, especially since its revival in the late eighties, has centered on answering that question, offering positive arguments for the biblical basis of Catholic doctrine. But, since Catholics don’t operate on the principle of sola scriptura, we don’t believe that every Christian truth has to be explicitly found in Scripture. We also appeal to truths revealed by God and preserved outside of the Bible in Sacred Tradition.

For example, Protestants may ask, “Where is Mary’s bodily assumption in the Bible?” But a Catholic can simply reply, “I don’t need to justify it with Scripture, since I can accept it on the basis that it’s a part of Sacred Tradition as infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII” (Munificentissimus Deus, 1950).

Of course, a Protestant is not going to find the above response persuasive (and it would open up other debates about Christian teaching authority). But at least he can’t charge a Catholic with incoherence in his belief.

The kind of Protestant challenge that I address, however, does charge a Catholic with incoherence. And this is the kind of challenge that a Catholic must meet, because whatever the Church teaches, even if derived principally from Sacred Tradition and not the Bible, can’t contradict the Bible. Scripture and Tradition are two streams of revelation that flow from the same source, God.

Our task as Catholics, therefore, is to show that Catholic teaching doesn’t contradict those Bible passages that some Protestants think pose a threat to it. The purpose of this book is to help the reader fulfill this task.

Q. What are some of the main Catholic beliefs that our Protestant friends challenge us on that you show don’t contradict the Bible?

Karlo: I examine fifty challenges that cover a variety of beliefs concerning Church authority, Scripture and Tradition, salvation, the sacraments, Mary and the saints, eschatology (study of the last things), and Catholic life and practice.

So, for example, with regard to Church authority, I defend the Catholic belief that Jesus established his Church with a hierarchy with Peter at the head. With regard to Scripture and Tradition, I defend the Catholic belief that a Christian must accept and honor “both Scripture and Tradition” (CCC 82), because the Church “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone” (82).

On the topic of salvation, I meet challenges to the Catholic belief that salvation and justification are not one-time events of the past but have different stages, and that good works play an essential role when it comes to the ongoing and final stages.

The sacraments that I defend include Baptism, the Eucharist, Confession, the Priesthood, and Marriage.

The challenged beliefs about Mary are the familiar ones: her perpetual virginity, her sinlessness, and her Queenship. The main belief about the saints that I deal with is the intercession of the saints.

With regard to eschatology, I tackle challenges that deal with Purgatory and the Catholic view of the end times in relation to Protestant views on the Rapture and the millennium in Revelation.

Finally, I meet challenges made against the Catholic practices of clerical celibacy, abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent, calling priests father, praying the rosary, moderate use of wine, and Catholic statues.

Q. Can you explain a little bit about what the reader should expect when they read each chapter?

Karlo: Each chapter begins with a brief statement of the Catholic belief, usually derived from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Then, the Protestant challenge to the belief is explained.

The section where I meet the challenge usually consists of two to three ways in which one can show the Catholic belief doesn’t contradict the Bible. Also, some of the responses require that I give positive biblical evidence for the belief. And this, of course, equips the reader with what’s needed to answer the other Protestant challenge, “Where’s that in the Bible?”

After learning how to meet the challenge, the reader is given a “Catholic Counter,” which is a brief question that a Catholic can ask a Protestant as a sort of counter challenge. We can’t always be on the defensive. We have to learn to challenge our Protestant friends’ beliefs as well.

Q. What is the ultimate goal for this book? In other words, what do you hope it will accomplish for the person who reads it?

Karlo: My hope is that the reader will become more efficient in their conversations with Protestants. Also, I hope the book will strengthen the reader’s own faith, helping him or her know that in embracing Catholic teaching he or she is not “making void the word of God through [his or her] tradition” (Mark 7:13).

Love,
Matthew

Sep 12 – Most Holy Name of Mary 2


-Battle of Vienna, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“September 12 is the memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary, a liturgical celebration that probably gives many Catholics pause. Honoring the Blessed Mother in the liturgy is nothing new or unique in the Church, but many may ask, why this feast on this day?

The answer lies in a pivotal battle fought in the late seventeenth century between the Cross and the Crescent at the “Gateway to Europe.” A little more than a hundred years after the great Christian victory at Lepanto (October 7, 1571) where Don John’s Holy League warriors prayed a rosary the night before their miraculous victory (remembered liturgically as the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary), Christendom was once more severely threatened by the Ottoman horde. The Turks had solidified their hold on the Balkans since the time of Lepanto and were gaining strength for an attack on imperial Hapsburg territory.

Ottoman treachery

Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (r. 1658–1705) pursued a diplomatic policy of appeasement with the Ottomans, because he was more concerned about his belligerent French neighbor, King Louis XIV. Some of Leopold’s advisors believed the once-mighty Ottoman military was weak and ineffective compared to the strong and large standing army of the Sun King.

Leopold entered into a peace treaty with the Ottoman Turks in 1665 but, fearing the Ottomans might break the treaty, the emperor also entered into defense treaties with other European nations; including Poland, to come to his aid should the Turks invade. The treaty with the Ottomans was set to expire in 1684 but, unbeknownst to Leopold, the Ottomans had decided a year earlier to break the treaty and invade Austria.

At a meeting on August 6, 1682, advisors to the Ottoman sultan, Mehmet IV (r. 1648–1687), persuaded him that the time was right to invade Christian territory. The invasion would commence in 1683 with an army of 100,000 men under the command of the grand vizier Kara Mustapha (1634–1683). Although he was a veteran of numerous military campaigns, Kara Mustapha was not beloved by his troops, since he was known to accept large casualties to accomplish the mission. He lived ostentatiously, with thousands of concubines in his harem and numerous slaves and eunuchs to tend to his needs. He also despised Christians and was looking forward to the campaign.

Kara Mustapha was overly confident of victory and believed his army would capture not only Vienna but even Rome, where he bragged he would stable his horses in St. Peter’s basilica. The Ottoman army crossed the frontier in late June 1683, rampaging and pillaging as they marched.

Polish heroes ride out

As soon as news reached Leopold that the Turks were on the move, he reached out to his allies and begged them to come to the aid of Vienna. Jan Sobieski (r. 1676–1696), the King of Poland and a devout Catholic, responded to his treaty obligations and raised a relief army. He left Warsaw with an army of 20,000 men, mostly cavalry, on the way to Cracow, where the rest of his troops were ordered to assemble.

Along the march, Sobieski stopped to pray at the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Entrusting the success of his military efforts to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, he began his army’s march to Vienna on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 1683. His forces were buoyed by the knowledge that Pope Innocent XI (r. 1676–1689) had granted the Crusading plenary indulgence to all who fought for the defense and relief of Vienna.

The Ottoman army arrived at the city on July 14 and, as was their tradition and custom, arranged their camp around the city in the shape of a crescent. The Viennese defenders fought bravely for a month, but by the end of August and into early September food was scarce in the city and disease was rampant. It was only a matter of time before the Ottoman’s broke into the city.


-King John III Sobieski of Poland, please click on the image for greater detail

The undoing of the Turks

The allied relief army led by Sobieski arrived near Vienna on September 9. Surprisingly, the Turks had not secured the approaches to the city; in fact, they did not even post sentries to warn Kara Mustapha of the approach of the relief army. It was a foolish and deadly mistake by the grand vizier, who had focused solely on the siege of the city. Sobieski developed his battle plan and prepared to attack the Ottomans using the high ground of the Kahlenberg Mountain on the outskirts of Vienna.

The battle began on September 11, and the fighting was intense. The unseasonal heat of the day exhausted soldiers on both sides so that by midday the fighting stopped temporarily. When it resumed, Sobieski sensed the Ottoman line was weak, and he unleashed his famed Winged Hussars for a cavalry charge that demolished Turkish resistance. Polish troops were first into the city and were greeted with cheers and prayers of thanksgiving by the beleaguered defenders.

Sobieski sent a victory message to Pope Innocent XI, who credited the Christian victory over the Ottomans and the salvation of the city to the intercession of the Blessed Mother. As a result, the pope established the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, first celebrated in Spain in the sixteenth century, as a universal memorial for the Church in thanksgiving for the victory at Vienna.

The Ottoman campaign to capture the gateway to Europe and destroy Christendom was a risky operation. Its success would have ensured Ottoman hegemony over Eastern Europe and opened up the approaches to Western Europe. Its failure would begin the decline and ruin of the Islamic empire. Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the military genius of the Polish king Jan Sobieski, Christendom was saved.”

Love,
Matthew

May 18 – Sep 11, 1565: Knights Hospitaller defeat the Ottomans at Malta (3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days)


Lifting of the Siege of Malta by Charles-Philippe Larivière (1798–1876). Hall of the Crusades, Palace of Versailles. please click on the image for greater detail


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“In the same year that Pope Leo X condemned the errors of the recalcitrant Augustinian, Martin Luther, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire died. It was 1520, and Selim I left the throne of the mighty Turkish Empire to his only surviving son, Suleiman, who would come to be known to history as “the Magnificent.” Every Ottoman sultan was expected to glorify Islam by adding territory to the empire, and the Ottomans’ victorious and bloody march through Christendom since the late fourteenth century showed no signs of slowing at the beginning of the sixteenth.

Suleiman was the grandson of Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople, but he quickly overshadowed the great achievement of his ancestor. While Mehmet focused on conquering the “Queen of Cities,” Suleiman set out during his forty-six-year reign to conquer the world. His forces conquered Baghdad, Belgrade, Budapest, and Rhodes. As the empire reached what would be its furthest reach, Ottoman military planners knew that land conquests were important but insufficient: control of the seaways was vital. Therefore, the Ottomans embarked on a campaign to control the “center of the world,” the Mediterranean Sea.

Suleiman’s desire to control the Mediterranean was thwarted for a time, however, by a Catholic military religious order: the Knights Hospitaller on the island of Malta. An Ottoman fleet successfully conquered the Knights’ previous home island of Rhodes in 1522, but Suleiman allowed the surviving Christian warriors to leave the island due to their gallant and tenacious defense. The Knights settled on the strategic island of Malta and harassed Ottoman naval vessels for the next thirty years. By 1565, Suleiman could no longer ignore the problem of the Knights, so he assembled an army of 40,000 warriors, a hundred artillery pieces, and one hundred thousand cannonballs and set out to attack Malta. He was certain of the imminent victory of Islam, but once more the Knights would prove their mettle and push back against the Ottoman horde.

The Knights had used Malta as their base of operations for almost forty years when the great Ottoman invasion fleet arrived. The Master General of the Order, Jean de La Valette, a veteran of the siege of Rhodes, knew the situation was desperate, so he sent a summons to all the Knights in Christendom to come to the island’s defense. He recognized that if Malta fell, the Muslims would gain a strategic base from which to launch an invasion of Sicily, Italy, and ultimately the very heart of Christendom, Rome.

The Ottomans arrived on Malta in May 1565 with a 180-ship fleet that sailed into and took the main harbor, unopposed. La Valette had placed his greatly outnumbered troops in several forts around the harbor. The Ottomans disembarked and arranged their camp in a crescent shape, as was their custom. The Christian defense centered on Fort St. Elmo, at the tip of the largest and most strategic peninsula, as it commanded the entrance to the harbor. Recognizing the importance of the fort, the Ottoman commanders decided to attack it on May 25. Ottoman engineers estimated it would fall in four or five days, but their calculation proved substantially incorrect.

As the calendar turned to June, the Ottomans had succeeded in capturing only the outer trench. The fight was brutal, seeing bitter hand-to-hand combat, heavy sniper activity, and a near-continuous Ottoman artillery barrage. Although the defenders fought bravely, it was only a matter of time before the fort would fall.

The defenders knew the end was near when a cannonball decapitated the fort’s commander on the twenty-sixth day of the siege. The Ottomans launched what proved to be the last attack on June 23 against the sixty Christian defenders remaining (out of an original strength of 1500). Only five ultimately survived the siege. The Ottoman commander (Mustapha Pasha) hoped to demoralize the remaining Christian troops across the harbor so he ordered some of the bodies of the dead Knights stripped of their armor, their hearts ripped out and heads cut off. Each headless corpse was then marked with a cross cut into the chest and nailed by the hands and feet to a wooden crucifix, which was placed into the water to float across the harbor to the remaining Christian defenses. La Valette responded to the Ottoman atrocity by beheading captured Muslim soldiers, loading the heads into his cannons, and firing them into the Muslim camp.

This grotesque exchange illustrates the fact that both sides knew this was a fight to the death, and that the stakes both for the Islamic caliphate and for Christendom could not be higher.

Those who died at Fort St. Elmo gave the other defenders of Malta time to consolidate and reinforce their positions, but the respite was short-lived. Fighting was intense through the month of July, and in early August an Ottoman assault nearly broke the Christian defenses. The hour was so desperate that even Maltese civilians, including women and children, manned the walls to push back the Turks. The remaining days of August were filled with intense trench combat that produced a stalemate, and casualties on both sides were heavy.

The Christian defenders received news on September 8, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the arrival of the long-awaited Spanish relief force in eighty ships. A few days later, on September 11, 1565, the Spanish reinforcements began their march towards the harbor to relieve La Valette’s troops. Aware of their vulnerability, the Ottoman commanders tried a risky, and ultimately futile, attack against the Spanish relief force. The fresh Spanish forces easily routed the Ottoman troops, who were wearied after four months of heavy fighting.


-Jean Parisot de Valette, please click on the image for greater detail

The Ottomans retreated hastily to their waiting ships in St. Paul’s Bay, the famous site of St. Paul’s shipwreck fifteen centuries before, and sailed home. Malta was saved and with it, Christendom. Pope Pius IV offered La Valette the cardinal’s hat for his valiant and brilliant defense of Malta, but the humble warrior refused the offer. He lived another five years, dying from a stroke after returning from a hunt on a hot summer day. He was buried on the island he so nobly defended.”


-re-enactment, please click on the image for greater detail


Non nobis Domine, Domine
Non nobis Domine
Sed nomini, Sed nomini
Tu o da gloriam

Not unto us, O Lord
Not unto us, O Lord
But to Your name
But to Your name
Give the Glory!

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book – Scripture

“Jesus and the apostles did appeal to Scripture, and we should mention how the term was used in Jesus’ day. The Greek word graphê originally just meant writing, especially a brief piece of writing, but in Jewish and Christian contexts it came to mean a holy writing, which is why it is often translated scripture.

Today we use this term to refer to the entire collection of holy books, saying things like, “Scripture contains the Old and the New Testaments.” But in the first century, when the term was used in the singular, it normally referred to a specific book or passage. Thus, in Mark 12:10, Jesus says:

Have you not read this scripture: “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?

The passage Jesus is quoting (“this scripture”) is Psalm 118:22-23. By contrast, when people wanted to refer to all the holy writings as a group, they used the plural: “the scriptures.” Thus, Jesus tells his Sadducee critics they are wrong, “because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29).

Christians initially used this term for writings composed in the Old Testament period, for these were the only holy books at the time. Even when they began writing the books of the New Testament, they used “the scriptures” as a technical term for the earlier holy books.

There are a few exceptions, such as when Paul refers to Luke’s Gospel as “scripture” (1 Tim. 5:18; see Luke 10:7) or when Peter lists Paul’s letters alongside “the other scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:16), but referring to the books of the New Testament as “Scripture” really didn’t catch on until the second century.

Jesus overturned many common religious ideas of in his day, but he didn’t challenge the authority of Scripture. As the incarnate Word of God, he acknowledged the authority of the written word. Thus, he declared, “Not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17); and, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

Jesus saw his ministry as fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. At the Triumphal Entry, Jesus rode a young donkey in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 (see John 12:14-15); and when he was arrested, he declared, “All this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (Matt. 26:56). Following the Resurrection, he spoke with two disciples, and “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

The Scriptures Jesus Accepted

If Jesus saw his ministry as the fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures, which ones did he have in mind?

In the Gospels, he commonly refers to “the Law” and “the prophets” (e.g., Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 11:13). This was a common way of referring to the whole of the Old Testament, though it doesn’t tell us which specific books he saw it including.

From the evidence of the Gospels, we can tell Jesus placed more emphasis on certain books than others. The ones he quoted from most were Psalms, Deuteronomy, Exodus, and Isaiah. Depending on how you reckon what counts as a passage, he quotes fifteen passages from the Psalms, eleven from Deuteronomy, eight from Exodus, and seven from Isaiah.

The large number of quotations from Deuteronomy and Exodus are to be expected, given the prominence of the Pentateuch in Jewish thought, and it’s no surprise he also quotes from Genesis, Leviticus, and Numbers. When it comes to the prophets, Jesus quotes not only from Isaiah but also from Jeremiah and Daniel, as well as several minor prophets (Hosea, Jonah, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi).

Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow us to say precisely which books he regarded as Scripture. The Gospels are only partial records of his words and actions, and the fact that they don’t record him quoting a book doesn’t mean that he never quoted it or didn’t regard it as Scripture.

When scholars commonly believed there was a “Palestinian canon” that all Palestinian Jews accepted, it was easy to claim—based on where He lived—that Jesus simply accepted that one. But as scholarship has advanced, it’s become clear there were multiple, fuzzy canonical traditions even in Palestine.

It’s likely Jesus accepted more books than the Sadducees. When they challenged Him on the resurrection of the dead (Matt. 22:23-32), he conspicuously used Exodus 3:6 (“I am the God . . . of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”) to prove that the dead will one day rise, though there are much clearer passages, such as Daniel 12:2 (“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”). Jesus elsewhere cites Daniel as a prophet (Matt. 24:15) and quotes from his book (Matt. 24:30; 26:64). This indicates that Jesus treated Daniel as Scripture, and He probably avoided using it with the Sadducees because they didn’t accept it.

Some have tried to shed light on which books Jesus accepted by appealing to the languages he spoke. From various Aramaic words and phrases in the Gospels (see Mark 3:17; 5:41; 15:34), it’s clear Jesus’ daily language was Aramaic. When he quoted Scripture, he likely did so in Aramaic, based on the targums read in the synagogues. But it’s also likely he used Hebrew, and some have argued he would have accepted a book as Scripture only if it was in Hebrew or Aramaic—excluding the deuterocanonical books.

There are several problems with this argument. One is that modern scholarship has shown most of the deuterocanonicals were actually written in Hebrew or Aramaic. These include Sirach, Tobit, Judith, Baruch, and 1 Maccabees, so language would not prevent Jesus from accepting them.

Also, Greek was an international language at the time, and it was spoken in Palestine. Modern scholars have taken seriously the idea that Jesus and his disciples may also have used Greek. In the Gospels, Jesus speaks to Gentiles on various occasions (e.g., Matt. 8:38-34; Mark 7:26), including the Roman governor (Matt. 27:11), who would not have known Aramaic; and a group of Greeks asked Philip to arrange an audience with Jesus for them (John 12:20-22).

We also have evidence that Jesus read and valued some of the deuterocanonicals. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus made a single petition contingent on our own actions rather than simply being a request made to God. He taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12), following it up by saying, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

Scholars have noted that this expresses the same teaching found in Sirach 28:1-5, but not present elsewhere in the Old Testament. Thus, Sirach states, “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray” (Sir. 28:2).”

Love,
Matthew

The Seventh Deadly Sin: Sloth


-by Br Francis Mary Day, OP

Saint John Chrysostom tells us that, “It is not so much sin as sloth that casts us into hell.” How can this be? Sloth is not the most serious of sins, but in the Christian life, it can be the most dangerous, for to sloth is to anticipate damnation. Saint Thomas Aquinas considers sloth a major factor in the “sin against the Holy Spirit” that Jesus speaks of in the Scriptures (ST II-II q. 14, a. 2):

And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Mt 12:32)

[ Ed. Sloth is a sin of omission, in contrast to the other deadly sins which are sins of commission.  It is the most difficult sin to define, and to credit as sin, since it refers to a peculiar jumble of notions, dating from antiquity and including mental, spiritual, pathological, and physical states. Saint Thomas Aquinas defined sloth as “sorrow about spiritual good” and as “sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good… [it] is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds.” (ST II-II q. 35, a. 1) According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.”(CCC 2094)

Sloth includes ignoring the seven gifts of grace given by the Holy Ghost (wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord); such disregard may lead to the slowing of spiritual progress towards eternal life, to the neglect of manifold duties of charity towards the neighbor, and to animosity towards those who love God. (Manning, Henry Edward (1874). Sin and Its Consequences. London: Burns and Oates. pp. 40, 103–117)]

What is sloth but a final resistance to the gift of grace? It is the radical decision of a soul that no longer wishes to share the life of God, but desires to spend its life, and its death, in a state apart from Him. God respects our free will, and He will not violently force Himself upon a soul. This is why Jesus says that a sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this life or the next.

That being said, this description of sloth can sometimes seem so radical and so intense that it would be impossible to commit. Short of some tremendous personal or social crisis, it can be hard to imagine ourselves falling into the sin of sloth. On the other hand, sloth is often the fruit of another sin that is much more subtle: acedia. Acedia is sometimes understood as the capital sin of sloth, the implication being, as a common phrase goes, “For Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do. Satan is the god of sin, the underworld and all things evil.” (“Against Idleness and Mischief“(1715) -by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)).

Josef Pieper, one of the most prominent Catholic philosophers of the last century, describes acedia as “a kind of anxious vertigo that befalls the human individual when he becomes aware of the height to which God has raised him” (On Hope, 55). In an apparent paradox, acedia is sadness over salvation, even though we do not desire to obtain salvation. Pieper tells us, “Man flees from God because God has exalted human nature to a higher, a divine state of being…[a man fallen into acedia] expressly wishes that God had not ennobled him, but had ‘left him in peace’” (On Hope, 56).

This kind of sadness can often lead to discouragement and various levels of inactivity, which is why acedia includes within it what we typically think of when we consider sloth. Acedia can also result in a state of overwork, whereby we try to ignore or bury our nagging guilt and sadness with pointless exercises. This is why acedia is traditionally considered as a sin against the third commandment; it is the inability of the soul to rest in God. Genuine leisure and healthy labor can only come about when a man is at peace with himself and with God.

Sloth is often a result of acedia, but there are other results that accompany it. Acedia may result in a sort of uneasiness or restlessness of mind called evagatio mentis. This is a fancy way of describing something altogether too common, often manifested in observable phenomena: an inability to stay in one place, a lack of purpose, loquaciousness, excessive curiosity, or a lack of quietude. One is reminded of a quotation from the Pensées of the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Other effects of acedia include torpor, which is an indifference to salvation; rancor, which is hatred of anything that reminds us of the divine good; and malitia, which is the inner decision to favor evil.

None of these things start off as something entirely obvious, but they are the logical results of a soul (or a society) that wishes to flee from God. Acedia can only be overcome, St. Thomas says, by vigilant watchfulness. Once you can recognize the temptation to acedia, the war is half won.

Love,
Matthew

Perseverance

Presence of God – Grant, O Lord, that by Your grace I may persevere unto the end.

MEDITATION

To become a saint, it is not enough to be courageous and patient and to practice the other virtues for a few days or a few months, or even for a few years. Our perseverance must persevere in these dispositions to the end of our life, never yielding to fatigue, discouragement, or laxity. This is the crucial point for, as St. Thomas says, “to apply oneself for a long time to a difficult task—and virtue is almost always difficult—constitutes a special difficulty” (Summa Theologica IIa IIae, q.137, a.1, co.); and it is only by overcoming this difficulty that we shall be able to reach perfection. We are not angels, we are human beings. The angel, a pure spirit, is stable by nature; if he makes a resolution, he holds to it; but this is not the case with us. We, being composed of spirit and matter, must suffer the consequences of the instability and fluctuations of the latter. As stability is characteristic of spirit, so instability is characteristic of matter; hence it becomes so difficult for us to be perfectly constant in the good. Although we have formed good resolutions in our mind, we always feel handicapped by the weakness of the sensible part of our nature which rebels against the weariness of sustained effort, and seeks to free itself from it, or at least to reduce it to a minimum. Our bodies are subject to fatigue; our minds are disturbed by emotions which are always fluctuating. That which at one moment fills us with enthusiasm may, at the next, become distasteful and annoying to such a point that we think we can no longer endure it. This is our state while on earth and no one can escape it. However, God calls us all to sanctity, and since sanctity requires a continual practice of virtue, He, who never asks the impossible, has provided a remedy for the instability of our nature by giving us the virtue of perseverance, the special object of which is the sustaining of our efforts. Though fickle by nature, we can by the help of grace become steadfast.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, I shall certainly be saved if I persevere to the end, but my perseverance must be virtuous if it is to merit salvation; from You comes the virtue which will save me; it is You Who make me persevere until I attain salvation.

“At present, I am still engaged in battle: the struggle from without against false virtue, the struggle from within against my concupiscence. When I think of the number of little faults which I commit every day, even if only in thought and word, I realize that their number is very great, and that this great number of little failings makes an immense heap. O unhappy that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? You will deliver me, O God, by Your grace, through the merits of Jesus Christ, Your Son and Our Lord. In the toil of this battle, then, I shall look to Your grace and, in the heat and burning thirst which I feel, I will beg for Your life-giving shade.

“Help me, O Lord Jesus, by saying to me: ‘Do not tire of the narrow way: I walked it before you, I am the way Itself; I am the guide, and I carry those whom I lead and bring them to Myself at the last.’” (St. Augustine).

“O eternal God, grant me the virtue of perseverance; without it, no one can please You nor be acceptable to You. This virtue brings to the soul an abundance of charity and the fruit of every effort. Oh! how happy I should be, Lord, if You would give me this virtue, because even here on earth it will make me enjoy a pledge of eternal life. But Your light reveals to me that I cannot attain it unless I suffer much, because this life cannot be lived without suffering. He who would escape suffering would deprive himself of holy perseverance” (St. Catherine of Siena).

Love,
Matthew

Matthew 13:45-46

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.   -Mt 13:45-46

https://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/27297631/happened-villanova-basketball-star-shelly-pennefather-made-deal-god

Whatever happened to Villanova basketball star Shelly Pennefather? ‘So I made this deal with God.’

Aug 2, 2019
Elizabeth Merrill
ESPN Senior Writer

“She left with the clothes on her back, a long blue dress and a pair of shoes she’d never wear again. It was June 8, 1991, a Saturday morning, and Shelly Pennefather was starting a new life. She posed for a group photo in front of her parents’ tidy brick home in northern Virginia, and her family scrunched in around her and smiled.

All six of her brothers and sisters were there — Little Therese, in braided pigtails; older brother Dick, tall and athletic with Kennedyesque looks. When Shelly came to her decision, she insisted on telling each of them separately.

Dick had the loosest lips in the family, so she’d told him last. Therese, 12 years old and the baby of the family, took the news particularly hard. She put on a brave face in front of Shelly, then cried all night.

They crammed a lot of memories into those last days of spring, dancing and laughing, knowing they would never do it together again. Shelly went horseback riding with Therese and took the family to fancy restaurants with cloth napkins, picking up all the tabs.

Twenty-five years old and not far removed from her All-America days at Villanova, Pennefather was in her prime. She had legions of friends and a contract offer for $200,000 to play basketball in Japan that would have made her one of the richest players in women’s basketball.

And children — she was so good with children. She had talked about having lots of them with John Heisler, a friend she’d known most of her life. Heisler nearly proposed to her twice, but something inside stopped him, and he never bought a ring.

“When she walked into the room,” Heisler said, “the whole room came alive.

“She had a cheerfulness and a confidence that everything was going to be OK. That there was nothing to fear.”

That Saturday morning in 1991, Pennefather drove her Mazda 323 to the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Alexandria, Virginia. She loved to drive. Fifteen cloistered nuns waited for her in two lines, their smiles radiant.

She turned to her family.

“I love you all,” she said.

The door closed, and Shelly Pennefather was gone.


The Pennefather family in 1991, on the day Shelly entered the monastery. Shelly Pennefather is pictured in the middle. She did not pack any bags because she took a vow of poverty. Courtesy Mary Jane Pennefather

“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” — J.M. Barrie, “The Little White Bird.”

It’s been 28 years since Pennefather left home to become Sister Rose Marie of the Queen of Angels, and I’m standing outside the family’s house in Manassas, Virginia, on a warm June day, searching for answers.

I spent eight years in Catholic schools, with lessons in history from Sister Agnes Marie and kindness from Sister Rosetta. We knew that on Sundays, if you’re breathing, you’d better be at Mass.

But I cannot grasp what Pennefather — now Sister Rose Marie — has chosen to do. The Poor Clares are one of the strictest religious orders in the world. They sleep on straw mattresses, in full habit, and wake up every night at 12:30 a.m. to pray, never resting more than four hours at a time. They are barefoot 23 hours of the day, except for the one hour in which they walk around the courtyard in sandals.

They are cut off from society. Sister Rose Marie will never leave the monastery, unless there’s a medical emergency. She’ll never call or email or text anyone, either. The rules seem so arbitrarily harsh. She gets two family visits per year, but converses through a see-through screen. She can write letters to her friends, but only if they write to her first. And once every 25 years, she can hug her family.

That’s why we are here in early June 2019, to witness the 25-year anniversary of her solemn profession and the renewal of her vows.

The Poor Clare nuns enter this radical way of life because they believe that their prayers for humanity will help the suffering, and that their sacrifice will lead to the salvation of the world.

But why would someone with so much to offer the world lock herself away and hide her talents? Who, staring at a professional contract that would be worth the equivalent of about $400,000 today, would subject herself to such strict isolation and sacrifice? Imagine Kansas legend Danny Manning quitting basketball to become a monk.

Perhaps the best person to answer this is the woman who stood next to Shelly in that goodbye photo in front of the house, who wrapped her arm around her daughter and smiled while her heart must have wanted to stop.

Mary Jane Pennefather is the matriarch of the family, a 78-year-old who mows her own lawn and rises every morning to walk to church. When Shelly entered the monastery all those years ago, she left behind a note. Mary Jane is the strongest person Therese knows, but when she read the letter, she broke down and cried.

Mary Jane was a cheerleader once, but is steeped in a generation of Catholics who did not believe in drawing attention to themselves. She opens the door to her home and leads me to a room full of religious statues and images, which the family calls the Blessed Mother room. Her husband, Mike, died in this room. He had skin cancer, which had spread too far when doctors found it, but he went quickly, which Mary Jane considers a blessing. Sister Rose Marie couldn’t go to her father’s funeral back in 1998. She was in the monastery. But she wrote a letter that they read out loud, and her brother Dick says it was probably the most touching part of the service.

Surely, Mike Pennefather had hoped to hold his daughter again on her silver jubilee. But Mary Jane would be there. The week leading up to the Mass was stressful. How do you prepare to hug your daughter for the last time?

Mary Jane Pennefather insisted on making all the food for a reception celebrating her daughter’s jubilee. In this photo, she is standing with her famous orange slush. Mary F. Calvert for ESPN

NUNS ARE BY no means an anomaly in today’s society. The 2018 Official Catholic Directory lists 45,100 sisters in the United States. But cloistered nuns, with all of their combined orders, account for only a fraction of that number. The Poor Clare Colettines, according to the directory, have about 160 sisters in this country.

There were hints, all along, that Pennefather was different.

In sixth grade, a teacher asked the class an ordinary question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

The teacher wasn’t prepared for Shelly’s answer.

“I’m going to be a saint,” she said.

The whole class laughed, assuming she was joking. Pennefather liked to regale her friends with jokes and magic tricks.

Her childhood might have inadvertently prepared her for life as a cloistered nun. Mike Pennefather was an Air Force colonel, taking the family to Germany and Hawaii and New York, so she’d already seen a lot of the world by her 20s.

Her mom was — and is — about as anti-technology as a person can be in 2019. Mary Jane doesn’t own a cell phone, she could go on for hours about how cell phones are destroying the human experience, and a few decades ago, she was saying pretty much the same thing about television.

Children of the ’70s often have stories of their forays into alcohol or drugs; the Pennefathers’ illicit pursuits centered mostly on the forbidden television. They’d wait until Mary Jane was gone, pull it out of the closet, rig up a coat hanger for an antenna, and stand in just the right spot to get reception.

“I think my sister watched ‘Fantasy Island’ and got caught and got in trouble,” Therese said. “You had to invent your own entertainment, and we did all kinds of stupid stuff.

“I absolutely wouldn’t trade any of it.”

The Air Force gave the Pennefathers new playgrounds every few years, and assured that they would almost always be safe. Want to play kick the can at 11 o’clock at night? No problem. Leave the base lights on and go ahead and invite 20 other Air Force brats.

Mary Jane might have seemed strict, but Mike was actually more intimidating. He was a bear of a man with a loud voice and a physics degree. Mike Pennefather did not tolerate foolishness. He taught all seven of his children how to shoot a basketball, and when he had finished with that, he taught other people’s children how to do it, too.

The Pennefathers had six children in eight years, and Shelly was born between two brothers, two basketball playmates. The elbows and charges she took made her unstoppable when she finally played against girls.

At nighttime, Mary Jane would gather the whole family together to pray the rosary. It didn’t matter if it was midnight; she waited until everyone was home.

The rosary is considered one of the most powerful symbols in Catholicism. Each of the 59 beads represents a prayer. The Hail Mary is said 53 times during the rosary. The repetition is intended to bring spiritual contemplation and peace.

At the Pennefather house, after the last prayer was said, each child gave Mary Jane and Mike a kiss goodnight.


Every June, Villanova coach Harry Perretta travels three hours to bring supplies for the sisters. Then he visits with his former star player from behind a screen. Mary F. Calvert for ESPN

Coach Harry Perretta also prayed the rosary every day, a practice that came in handy in his pursuit to lure Pennefather to Villanova. If Pennefather played today, her recruitment might have been as big as that of Breanna Stewart or Elena Delle Donne.

Pennefather went 70-0 in her first three years of high school at Bishop Machebeuf in Denver and won three state championships. When her dad was transferred to upstate New York her senior season, nothing changed. Utica’s Notre Dame High went undefeated, too.

Pennefather had no interest in the recruiting process. She hated the attention that it brought, and didn’t like talking on the phone. So it was hard for any coach to get a read on her. Perretta talked to her about his devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary, and they connected. She committed to Villanova, the oldest Catholic university in Pennsylvania.

Their bond was tested early. Her freshman year, they clashed constantly. “She was a very lazy basketball player at first,” Perretta said. “She didn’t work hard on the court when she came here.”

He said it wasn’t necessarily her fault; she was so good in high school that she probably didn’t know what playing hard meant. But he had to get through to her. He yelled at her and kicked her out of the gym, and nothing seemed to work. In her sophomore season, Pennefather considered transferring.

She’d leave campus on weekends, seeking solace at teammate Lisa Gedaka’s house in New Jersey. Gedaka, a freshman, would go back a lot because she was homesick.

“I always remember hearing about how she was searching,” Gedaka said. “Was this the right place to go? What is the meaning? Why is she here? And I remember saying to her once, ‘Shelly, did you ever think that maybe this is God’s will that you should be with us here at Villanova? This is where you’re meant to be.'”

Somehow, some way, Pennefather and Perretta finally clicked. “God gave you this gift,” Perretta told her. “You’re not really using it to the fullest extent.”

From there, she didn’t hold anything back. There was one game, junior year, when she was so overcome with menstrual cramps that they were almost debilitating. As the team left for the gym, Perretta told her to just stay at the hotel.

A couple of minutes before tipoff, Pennefather emerged from the locker room, in agony, with her sneakers still untied. “I’m going to try to play,” she told him. She mustered enough strength to tie her shoes when the horn sounded. There was no time for any warm-up. She made all nine of her shots in the first half.

The Wildcats’ teams in the mid-to-late 1980s were lucky. They were a collection of people who knew, when they were freshmen, that they’d stay friends forever. They demanded the best of each other.

It was a different time, before NCAA-regulated practice schedules and transfer portals. “We could say stuff to each other,” said former Wildcats point guard Lynn Tighe. “If somebody was being a pain in the butt, I had no trouble telling them, and if I was a pain in the butt, I was told about it. We were open to each other, and nonsense didn’t fester.”

Pennefather was roommates with Tighe, and you can imagine her glee when she found out her point guard had a small television. Pennefather had one movie she would watch constantly on the VCR. “The Sound of Music.” She subjected everyone to it, belting out Julie Andrews songs on the team bus.

“I wouldn’t say she had a good voice,” Tighe said. “But it wasn’t bad. She knew every word to every one of them.”

But Pennefather did have the most beautiful shooting touch in all of women’s basketball. She scored 2,408 points, breaking Villanova’s all-time record for women and men. She did it without the benefit of the 3-point shot, and the record still stands today.

In 1987, she won the Wade Trophy, given to the best women’s college basketball player. She eventually threw away all of her trophies — “I don’t think she cared about them at all,” said her sister, Therese — but spared one, the Wade Trophy. She gave it to Perretta.

The WNBA did not exist when Pennefather graduated from Villanova, but women’s professional basketball overseas offered good money. She signed with the Nippon Express in Japan, the place where her whole life would change.

The pace in Japan was much slower — the Express played just 14 games in the span of four months — and it jolted Pennefather. Away from her college teammates and the daily chaos of her large family, she felt homesick and alone in a faraway city. Her team started 0-5. If they finished at the bottom of the division, she would need to stay in Japan for another two months to play a series of round-robin games.

She desperately wanted to go home, and vowed that if her team could finish in the top six, allowing her to go home rather than stay those two months, she would spend that time doing volunteer work.

The Express turned their season around and finished third. Pennefather returned to the U.S. and fulfilled her promise by working in a soup kitchen at the Missionary Sisters of Charity in Norristown, Pennsylvania. In a convent full of tiny nuns, the 6-foot-1 basketball player stood out.

She felt even more out of place that next season in Japan. She did everything she could to keep busy, reading books, learning Japanese, teaching English. But Pennefather still felt a deep emptiness.

“She was forced to go into solitude,” said John Heisler, her childhood friend. “There was nobody else, just her and God.”


Perretta doesn’t question Pennefather’s choice. “I want people to understand that they’re not weird or different or strange,” he said. “They’re normal people who decided to take on this calling and pray for humanity.” Mary F. Calvert for ESPN

Heisler was sort of a mystery man for many years. Pennefather’s teammates used to say that they thought she’d do one of two things in her life — marry this guy she spent summers with or become a nun. But not a cloistered nun, of course.

Sports Illustrated did a story on Pennefather’s rare sacrifice in the late 1990s, but Heisler’s name wasn’t mentioned. He was nowhere near being ready to talk about her back then.

But now Heisler is really helpful. He wants people to understand, even if he still doesn’t completely get it himself.

“It’s a mystery to me too about why they’d take somebody so talented, so giving, so energetic,” he said. “She could help so many other young ladies to be women … to be strong, too, in their identity. Why should she be so hidden now? I’ve been really thinking … about the mystery of the stars. They’re so distant, yet they’re so beautiful.”

They met in grade school on a base in Wiesbaden, Germany. He’d never met a girl like her — confident yet self-effacing; strong but kind enough to defend anyone who was being picked on.

Heisler came from a large Catholic family, too. At one point, the families prayed the rosary together. They eventually were shipped to different places, but they always seemed to find each other. Heisler had three passions growing up: sports, comic books and stories about saints. He was fascinated by St. Francis of Assisi, who eventually helped St. Clare start an order called the Poor Clares.

When he got older, Heisler developed another interest: Shelly Pennefather. Heisler went on to the Air Force Academy, and one morning he woke up content with his life and the fact that he flew F15s but also plagued by one question: What if God has another plan for me?

In a move that was both bold and not very well thought out, he withdrew from his classes at the academy, went back to his family’s home in Maine, then drove to Villanova to see Pennefather.

They’d spend their summers together white-water rafting and talking about anything.

Despite their affection for each other, they were never intimate. John Heisler, you see, was battling his own inner voice, the one that told him he should become a priest.

If a calling came from a booming voice above the clouds, like in the movies, it would be easy. Heisler’s was a gnawing pain. He went back to school to become an electrical engineer, and pursued Pennefather through different stops in their lives, but that pain just wouldn’t go away. It was like a kill switch that told them they’d never be together.

In early 1991, during her third season in Japan, she called Heisler and asked him to meet her in Virginia so they could talk. “What’s going on?” he asked.

“Well, I’m entering the Poor Clares,” she told him, “and this is our last time … to spend time together.”

Heisler’s heart dropped. But in a way, it was freeing. Father John Heisler had nothing holding him back. Eight years later, he was ordained.


Pennefather, wearing No. 15 and standing next to Anne Donovan, No. 7, made a good living playing professionally in Japan, but she felt isolated. Courtesy Mary Jane Pennefather

When Pennefather got back from Japan in 1991, she wanted to tell her closest friends about her decision in person. She traveled to New Jersey to tell Lisa Gedaka and to Pennsylvania to tell Lynn Tighe.

Tighe owned a deli back then, and she and Pennefather were peeling potatoes when her former teammate dropped the news. Pennefather never stopped peeling.

“Lynn, I would never choose this for myself,” Pennefather told her. “I would never leave my family and my friends. But this is what I’m called to do. I know it. God is calling me. And I’m going to do it.”

But Tighe, Karen Daly and Kathy Miller, all part of the same Villanova class that met each other as freshmen in 1983, wanted more answers. They insisted on going to the monastery and talking to the mother superior. They wanted to know everything they could about the life of a cloistered nun.

They wanted to make sure their teammate would be OK.

Pennefather gave her friends a couple of questions to ask, too, a true sign she had little idea what she was getting herself into.

Miller said that they struck a deal with the mother superior that day: That in 2019, the three of them would be able to hug Pennefather during her silver jubilee. Just like family.


Shelly Pennefather takes the name of Sister Rose Marie of the Queen of Angels. Courtesy Mary Jane Pennefather

Seasons passed for everyone but Sister Rose Marie. Tighe became an associate athletic director at Villanova; Lisa Gedaka got married, had children and became a high school basketball coach. Her oldest daughter plays basketball, too, and now Mary Gedaka is a forward at Villanova, playing under an older and somewhat mellower Harry Perretta.

Perretta also brokered a backdoor deal with the Poor Clares. He’d bring the sisters some much-needed supplies every summer in return for his own yearly visit with Sister Rose Marie.

So every June, he drives three hours down I-95 to the monastery, delivering necessities such as ginger ale and Reese’s peanut butter cups. Sometimes, he’ll bring along one or two of her old teammates to (wink, wink) help. They can see her through the screen and hold their hands up to hers.

One time, Perretta was visiting Sister Rose Marie when his phone rang.

“What’s that?” she asked.

She’d never seen a cell phone.

If Perretta or any of Sister Rose Marie’s teammates are struggling, they can call the monastery and ask the mother superior to pass along prayer requests. They pray for humanity and the things they can’t see.

They prayed for the victims of 9/11 even though they never saw any pictures of the towers falling or knew the names of the people who died.

“I didn’t understand it at first,” Perretta said. “But if you believe in the power of prayers, then they’re doing more for humanity than anybody.”


Sister Rose Marie visits with former Villanova teammates from behind a screen after the celebration of her vows at her silver jubilee at the Poor Clare Monastery in Alexandria, Virginia. Mary F. Calvert for ESPN

It rained ON June 9, the day of Sister Rose Marie’s jubilee Mass. The bishop of Arlington, Virginia, came, and people in Sunday suits and dresses scurried to find seats in the monastery’s tiny chapel. Perretta’s two sons, strapping young men, stood in the back and craned their necks to see the altar. They weren’t even born when Pennefather left.

Shortly after the homily, two wooden doors opened and the whole chapel let out a silent gasp. There she was, 53 years old, standing before them, with no screen. Without even scanning the crowd, she immediately fixed her eyes on the pew where her mother sat. Her face lit up.

Sister Rose Marie renewed her vows. Then a procession line formed in front of her. Mary Jane was first. Sister Rose Marie held her hands out as her mother drew closer. The Pennefathers have never been a touchy-feely family, but when mother and daughter embraced, it seemed to last an eternity. Neither one wanted to let go.

“I’ll be here at 103 if you can hang in there,” Mary Jane told her daughter.

“I’ll try,” Sister Rose Marie said.

She hugged nieces and nephews she had never touched before. She embraced siblings whose hair had turned from dark to gray.

Perretta got his hug. Tighe, Daly and Martin weren’t sure whether anyone would remember that deal they made with the mother superior so many years ago. But they slipped into the back and hugged her, too.

And in that receiving line stood Father John Heisler. He saw the woman he had known and loved for most of his life, and they gave each other a knowing smile and an embrace.

“We made the right decision,” she told him.

“No regrets,” he said.


Helen Perretta greets Sister Rose Marie after delivering an SUV full of food and other provisions to the nuns. Mary F. Calvert for ESPN

Most of her teammates knew, going in, that they weren’t going to get a hug because it was supposed to be for family only. But they didn’t want to miss this moment. They traveled from Washington State and points up and down the Eastern seaboard.

One ex-Syracuse player who met Shelly at a camp more than three decades ago drove three hours to see her, too. She means that much to people, Marita Finley said.

A few hours after the Mass, Sister Rose Marie’s teammates were allowed a visit. It was the first time they’d been together in decades. They didn’t know what to expect.

When she appeared behind a screen, the whole room erupted in cheers.

“I just want to say one thing,” Pennefather told them. “I’ve heard every comment you said about me at alumni gatherings in the past. These will have eternal repercussions.”

Everyone laughed.

A woman who spends 23 hours a day in silence seamlessly launched right into conversation. There were no awkward gaps. It was as if they picked back up after seeing each other at the last team reunion.

“I mean, it doesn’t really surprise me that some of us should have ended up incarcerated,” she deadpanned. “The surprise was that it was me.”

The years had been kind to Sister Rose Marie. She lifts weights three times a week and stretches on the other days, except, of course, on Sundays. No, she does not play basketball, but every so often, the sisters will engage in a game of stickball.

With her old teammates around her, clinging to each other’s words, they caught up on families and careers, then, without being asked, Sister Rose Marie shared a story. Her story.

She was in Japan that first year and wanted to go home. “So I made this deal with God,” she said. She told them that the missionary work moved her so much that she went back every summer after that. One year, she was invited to a retreat, where she was asked to read a Bible verse, John 6:56: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

And that, she said, is when it hit her. She felt that God was right there, 20 feet in front of her. She kept reading, and when she closed the Bible, she said a silent prayer. She was stunned. She walked into church the next day, genuflected at the tabernacle like she always did, and realized that she was no longer alone.

“You can look back now and you see how providentially our Lord just kind of took me and put me there in that place where I could just develop, you know?” she told them. “And then I just kind of felt that he was asking me to serve this sort of radical kind of call, which is the hardest thing I ever did. But I’m grateful I did, and here I am. Incarcerated.”

But she never really left them. Her letters got them through marriage problems and deaths and child-raising crises. Some of the women brought their children to the monastery, just to see her.

“I love this life,” she told them. “I wish you all could just live it for a little while just to see. It’s so peaceful. I just feel like I’m not underliving life. I’m living it to the full.”


Bishop Michael Burbidge greets Mary Jane Pennefather following the silver jubilee Mass celebrating her daughter’s vows. Mary F. Calvert for ESPN

The Pennefathers threw a jubilee reception at a Knights of Columbus hall. They could have catered it, but Mary Jane wouldn’t have it. She spent weeks making everything, the lasagna and chocolate cake and orange slush. Maybe if she kept moving, she wouldn’t have to think about the finality of the hug.

If anyone is going to make it to 103, her children say, it’s Mary Jane. She’s lost a husband and two grandchildren, but she is constant, like the spring cherry blossoms up the highway.

Sister Rose Marie’s sacrifice was Mary Jane’s sacrifice. She no doubt was filled with pride and sorrow when Shelly made her decision. She keeps a box at the house that contains her daughter’s hair. It was cut after she went into the monastery.

Mary Jane isn’t sentimental about it; she doesn’t open the box to feel closer to her daughter. But she’s kept it, and Shelly’s letter, after all these years.

Mary Jane does not want to share the letter. It’s too personal. But she will recite one line, from memory.

“I realize that I won’t hear the laughter of my brothers and sisters anymore.”

Shelly’s younger sister, Jean, also became a nun. She’s not cloistered and can hug her family, use a cell phone and drive.

Mary Jane does not want people to think that someone who chooses either of these lives is an oddball. But she knows that no matter what she says, people will not understand.

She got out of her seat in what they call the Blessed Mother room and searched through some drawers and pulled out a photo album. She stopped at an old picture of a young girl wearing a veil.

“That’s me,” Mary Jane whispered. “I entered, too.”

She was 14 years old in the picture. The convent was vast, and 2 ½ hours away from her home in Louisiana. Nine months in, it dawned on her. I shouldn’t be here. She went home, finished high school, went to college, met Mike and never looked back.

She, too, has no regrets.

“Well,” she said, “look at the fruits of my life.”


Sister Rose Marie hugs her mother, Mary Jane Pennefather, for the first time in 25 years. Mary F. Calvert for ESPN

—————————————————————————-


-Br Jordan Zajac, OP

“Last month, ESPN held up the fine pearl for all to see. The Worldwide Leader in Sports ran a feature story on a 1980s basketball phenom named Shelly Pennefather who left her professional career, and everything else, to become a cloistered nun. Incredibly, millions of readers received an introduction to the reality of consecrated life.

Pennefather’s path to the cloister is certainly an extraordinary one, worthy of the attention. In the video accompanying the story, legendary UConn coach Geno Auriemma refers to her as the “Larry Bird of women’s basketball.” She didn’t lose a single game in high school (96-0) and was an All-American for Villanova, where she is still the all-time leading scorer in program history (for both men and women). After graduating she played professionally for several years in Japan, giving her the opportunity to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The ESPN story goes to great lengths to try to comprehend what Pennefather chose to do next, entering the Poor Clares in Alexandria, Virginia, where she took the name Sister Rose Marie of the Queen of Angels. Her family, friends, teammates, and coaches are all interviewed, offering their reflections about her response to the Lord’s call. The more the ESPN story tries to describe her life in the cloister, though, the less sense it seems to make. With the video especially, what makes a deep impression is the pain that her family members and friends have endured, missing her presence in their lives. In the story you find a lament about all the good she could have done in the world. Among the comments left by readers of the article on Twitter, you find plenty of dismissive jabs about this being “a cult,” and her choice being “a tragedy.”

In the eyes of the world, the pearl of great price looks a lot like a pile of garbage.

The problem, of course, is that these people talk like Pennefather herself is the fine pearl. They mistake merchant for merchandise. And even though ESPN seems to give a quite thorough account of her journey, there is still one paragraph missing. St. Gregory the Great has already written it:

[H]e who attains a… knowledge of the heavenly life as far as this is possible, is supremely happy to relinquish all he loved before. In comparison with that sweetness nothing is of value, and the soul abandons all it had gained, scatters all it had amassed. Aflame with love for the things of heaven, it cares for nothing upon earth and considers as deformed all that once seemed so beautiful, for in the soul shines only the splendor of that priceless pearl. Of this love Solomon says: ‘Love is strong as death’ (Sg 8:6), because, as death strips the body of life, so love of life eternal kills the love of temporal things. (Homilies on the Gospels, §11)

When someone like Pennefather encounters Love itself—divine love, a love as strong as death—it inspires what seems like a total waste of a life. But really it becomes “a superabundance of life,” as Pope St. John Paul puts it. Cloistered nuns give the whole world a “joyful proclamation and prophetic anticipation of the possibility offered to every person and to the whole of humanity to live solely for God in Christ Jesus” (Vita Consecrata, no. 59).

This ESPN profile provides an extraordinary witness—a kind of introductory tutorial on how to begin to look at life like a real merchant, how to identify the good stuff when you see it. This education takes time. Sometimes, a very long time. But hopefully for many, through the witness of Sr. Rose Marie, it has begun. May the witness of her vocation move many others, by their very act of wrestling with the seeming irrationality of her choice, to find what is latent within us all: the desire for God.”

Love,
Matthew

Revelation 22:18-19

“Catholic Bibles are bigger than Protestant ones. The Catechism teaches that the canon of Scripture includes “forty-six books for the Old Testament (forty-five if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and twenty-seven for the New” (120). Although Protestants agree with Catholics on the books that make up the New Testament, there are seven books in the Catholic Old Testament canon that they reject: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. They also reject portions of the books of Daniel and Esther. Catholics refer to these seven books as the deuterocanonical (second-canon) books and Protestants call them the Apocrypha.

You may run across a Protestant who rejects the deuterocanonical books because he thinks the Catholic Church added these books, in violation of John’s prohibition to add to the Bible:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Rev. 22:18-19).

John says not to add to Scripture, yet the Catholic Church literally added seven whole books and more!

Reply:

1. If we granted for argument’s sake that John here is referring to the entire canon of Scripture, then Protestants would be guilty for removing the deuterocanonicals.

If we suppose that John is talking about the biblical canon (the list of all the books that make up the Bible) in Revelation 22:18-19, then the challenge becomes a two-edged sword. A Protestant may argue that the Catholic Church added books to the Bible, but a Catholic can just as easily argue that the Protestant community took some books away.

The seven books found in the Catholic Old Testament that are not found in the Protestant Old Testament were widely held as Scripture all throughout Christian history, and it was not until the Protestant Reformation that their canonicity was called into question and rejected on a major scale.

Prior to the Reformation, some individuals did question the canonicity of these books, but for the most part Christians as a whole accepted them. Numerous fourth and fifth-century Church councils authoritatively declared them to be inspired: the Synod of Rome (A.D. 382), Council of Hippo (393), Third Council of Carthage (397), and Sixth Council of Carthage (419). Protestant scholar J.N.D. Kelly affirms the major consensus on these books in the early Church: “For the great majority, however, the deuterocanonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense.”

Such historical evidence makes this challenge difficult for a Protestant. If Revelation 22:18-19 refers to the canon, then the prohibition of “taking away” from it is just as strong as the prohibition of adding to it. So how can Protestants reject seven books from the Bible when Revelation 22:18-19 forbids it?
2. This passage is not even discussing the canon of Scripture but merely the book of Revelation.

These verses, however, don’t even refer to the entire Bible. The Greek word use here for book, biblion, can mean “small book” or “scroll.” In the ancient world, it was impossible to fit the entire Bible on a single scroll. The books of the Bible were originally individual compositions, such as an individual scroll, and the biblical canon as we know it was a collection of individual scrolls, a library of books. That’s why they’re called the “books” (plural) of the Bible. These books would not be put into a single volume until centuries later.

Therefore, it makes most sense to read the phrase “book of this prophecy” as referring to the scroll in which John is recording his prophecy, namely, the book of Revelation. As such, John’s instruction not to add or remove anything refers to the book he was writing—Revelation—and not the future canon of Scripture (which wouldn’t be authoritatively settled for centuries after).

A similar instruction is given is Deuteronomy 4:2, where Moses says, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Moses wasn’t referring to the whole Old Testament canon; otherwise we would have to side with the Sadducees and reject every Old Testament book outside the Pentateuch. He was merely prohibiting adding or taking away from the “statutes and the ordinances” that constitute the Mosaic Law.

Since we now know that John was not giving instructions concerning the biblical canon, but instructions governing the book of Revelation (don’t add to the prophetic text of Revelation and don’t take away from it), it becomes clear that Revelation 22:18-19 doesn’t undermine the Catholic canon, regardless of whether the Catholic Church added books to the biblical canon or Protestants subtracted from it. Of course, we must not add to or subtract from the canon of Scripture. But that is not what John is talking about in this passage.

Reply: How could John be referring to the entire biblical canon in Revelation 22:18-19 when the canon wouldn’t be settled for another several hundred years?

Consider: Your Protestant friend might argue that because the New Testament doesn’t quote any of the deuterocanonical books we have good reason to exclude them from the canon of Scripture. This is common among some Protestants. But this logic would demand that we also exclude from the canon Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations, Nahum, Joshua, Obadiah, and Zephaniah, since the New Testament doesn’t quote any of these. I don’t think your Protestant friend wants to make his biblical canon any smaller!”

Love,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine