To Visit Provence Again, As A Catholic

It’s the Feast of St. Martha, you know, “the Dragonslayer” today. Yes, you read that right. Father Steve of Word on Fire has a few words about that and they prompted me to dust this off and bring it to the top today. Enjoy!

I ate at a McDonald’s in Avignon once. I like to see how Mickey D’s adapts to local tastes abroad. My wife and I also walked around the streets briefly too, before we had to get back on the tour bus that was taking us from Nice to the Burgundy country. See, we rewarded ourselves with a European trip after we graduated from college. It was the Summer of 1993.

It was one of those whirlwind tours. You know the type, right? Eleven countries in 21 days. At the time, I thought we spent way too much time in Rome. It’s amazing I wasn’t arrested there. But that is another story. After Italy, the tour moved on to France. We both loved France ( she still enjoyed Italy, whereas I only approved of Florence). To me, arriving in France was like arriving in Heaven after leaving Hell. I didn’t believe in Purgatory at the time, you see.

Two McDonalds in Avignon!

Provence was especially lovely as I recall. And I hope to go back someday, now that I am a Catholic. Why? Because of this little piece of history/ folklore that I stumbled across this morning. I saw on a Christianity timeline that St. Martha, in the year 48-49 AD arrived in Avignon, France. Where I had pommes frites at the Golden Arches? And she brought Lazarus and the gang with her too. Who knew?

I didn’t at the time. So I did a little digging over at Google Books and found about 100 more reasons to head back to Provence. First, I ran across this story in an old magazine named The Century, long since out of print. Why do I want to go back to Provence? Take a look at Exhibit A,

from “The Churches of Provence”, by Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer (November 1894)

“Everything here is on a smaller scale than in Italy — historical facts, as well as those of nature and of art; but thus we are offered a more intimate quality of charm, while we are not saddened by the tragedy of a world-possessing empire gone to wreck.”History meeting legend with a kiss,” we feel ourselves happily enchanted as in a land of pure romance; and the beauty and the gaiety of its living people do but complete the illusion.

The cities

“Every foot of this country, every name on its map, is romantically suggestive of Greeks or Romans, Saracens, Visigoths or Franks, Aquitanians or Spaniards, hermits, crusaders, heretics, inquisitors, exiled popes, famous poets, or earliest Christian martyrs. With Petrarch you may go to Avignon and Vaucluse, with Dante to the ancient cemetery called Les Aliscamps in Arles, with Dumas to the islands of the coast, and to Aix with René of Anjou —king, poet, painter, and historian of tournaments. The first monasteries of Gaul were founded upon Provençal islands, and one of them, St. Honorat, long played the prominent civilizing part that was played in Britain by the island of Iona.

“And Christian legend, calling to you at every step, carries you as far back as it could to Palestine itself.

“There is a real town in Provence with the impossibly poetic name of Les Saintes Maries. By the time you reach it on its ultimate point of sea-coast, you should be in the right Provençal mood; and this is the mood of him who saith, “Surely these things are true, else they had not been told.”

The countryside…Lavender!

“Just here, we are told, there landed a little company of the friends of Christ, set adrift by their persecutors from the shores of the Holy Land. They were Mary Jacobi, the sister of the Blessed Virgin; Mary Salome, the mother of the apostles James and John; their servant Sarah; Maximin, to whom Christ had restored his sight; Lazarus with his sister Martha; and Mary Magdalene.

“Where and why they had left behind them Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, or whether Provençal belief confounds her with the erring and repentant Mary — this I could not get explained. But I know that Mary Jacobi and Mary Salome remained at their landing-place, for the beautiful name they bequeathed it is a witness. St. Louis caused their bones to be fittingly honored: you may see their tombs today in an ancient church tower, as, in the crypt beneath, the tomb of their servant Sarah; and the medieval pilgrimages still continue, in crowding streams, on an anniversary day in May.

Bad dragon!

“I likewise know that Martha journeyed to Tarascon, between Avignon and Arles, for there she slew the tarasque, a terrific dragon that was devouring the land: the name of the town is again a proof, and the name of the old church of St. Martha, the effigy of the tarasque, which you may behold, and the festival which year by year is celebrated yet in honor of the prowess of the good housewifely saint. Then at Arles you will learn that Christ himself consecrated for Christian burial the famous pagan Aliscamps (its name is a corruption of Efysii Campi), and at Vienne you will be informed that St. Paul brought thither the first Christian tidings when on his way toward Spain, and will be shown a Roman tomb under which the body of Pontius Pilate was laid.

“And you might just as well have stayed in America as to doubt that such things, told in such ways for nearly two thousand years, must be veritably true.”

****

Dragon slaying? Sign me up! As if that wasn’t enough, her article goes on to describe the church buildings throughout the region with photographs and drawings that magazines of today just don’t take the time to do anymore. I love this story about the early Christians coming to France though and wanted to know more. Here is another taste of Catholic Provence,

from Cathedrals and Cloisters of the South of France by Elise Whitlock Rose (published in 1906)

“Few of the Cathedral-churches of the Midi are without holy relics, but none is more famous, more revered, and more authentic a place of pilgrimage than the Basilica of Apt. It came about in this way, says local history. When Martha, Lazarus, and the Holy Marys of the Gospels landed in France, they brought with them the venerated body of Saint Anne, the Virgin’s Mother; and Lazarus, being a Bishop, kept the holy relic at his episcopal seat of Marseilles.

“Persecutions arose, and dangers innumerable; and for safety’s sake the Bishop removed Saint Anne’s body to Apt and sealed it secretly in the wall. For centuries, Christians met and prayed in the little church, unconscious of the wonder-working relic hidden so near them; and it was only through a miracle, in Charlemagne’s time and some say in his presence, that the holy body was discovered. This is the history which a sacristan recites to curious pilgrims as he leads them to the sub-crypt…

“To the faithful Catholic, the interest of Sainte-Anne of Apt lies in its wonderful and glorious relics. Here are the bodies of Saint Eleazer and Sainte Delphine his wife, a couple so pious that every morning they dressed a Statue of the Infant Jesus, and every night they undressed it and laid it to rest in a cradle. There is also the rosary of Sainte Delphine whose every bead contained a relic; and before the Revolution there were other treasures innumerable. During many years Apt has been the pilgrim-shrine of the Faithful, and great and small offerings of many centuries have been laid before the miracleworking body of the Virgin’s sainted Mother.”

****

Do you see what I mean? Tidbits like this “Lazarus, being a Bishop…” just give me a thousand more leads to follow up on, and more reasons to go broke heading to Provence. I want to know all about that tradition! As I’ve said before, it will take an eternity of lifetimes to ponder what God has wrought by the Incarnation as well as with the founding of His Church. Unfortunately, it would take a bottomless bank account too. Sigh.

Obviously, Elise’s book is available on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, though, for unlimited access to all at no charge. I could get lost in this particular book for hours…

Cathédrale de Notre Dame des Doms,
Avignon

For the Coolest Blog That Added YIMCatholic to Their Blog Roll

I mean seriously, my hearts goes all soft and warm when I see stuff like this. This is the New Evangelization in action. Would you believe coming out of Emmaus? John C.H.Wu and Dom Lou Tseng-Tsiang are smiling. Me too.

What does the post say? Dunno. But I can make out 2 Corinthians 4: 7-15.

Thank you TingTing Tse…you just made my day!

For Thoughts Like These On Confession

What follows are thoughts on the Sacrament of Reconciliation written by Kenhelm Henry Digby in his classic, Mores Catholici.

Thoughts on Sin, the Church, and Forgiveness

Now the Church had far more mysterious relations than could exist in any mere domestic society, so that by persons who viewed it from without, a right understanding respecting it could only be formed by an act, in the first instance, of confidence in the truth of God who has founded the Church. They must at first have been satisfied with the evidence that it was a divinely constituted household, and then after being received into it as members, they would assuredly in due time have discovered how it was holy in all its doctrines, and just in all its ways. As the Athenian says to the blind wanderer who interrogates him respecting the laurel groves to which he has come—”These things, O stranger, are to be venerated, not from the words of men, but rather from long custom and experience.”

Cicero, indeed, says, that “the medicine of the soul is not only not desired before discovered, but that it is not even valued after it is known;” but such a complaint applies only to philosophy, for it was ungrounded in relation to the remedies which the Church administers, insomuch that a man accustomed to confession, when asked for arguments to prove its divine origin as an integral part of religion, must have felt as if he had been called upon to prove the reality of his own existence.

Its proofs were in the deepest roots of his spiritual life. His own amendment, the recovery of long lost joy, the renovation of his heart, this was the evidence that must have convinced him so feelingly that each argument beside would seem blunt and forceless in comparison. It is dangerous to follow men into the deepest recesses of their heart and behold what passes there: I will not, therefore, invite “the moderns” to search into the grounds of their hatred for confession. To persons obstinate in the conclusions of prejudice, reader, I would turn not, when viewing historically the supernatural features in the morality of the Catholic Church. On confession and indulgence I will speak not as if to an ignorant multitude, nor to judges, nor to senators, more accustomed to action than to the contemplation of things, but as to a man interiorly philosophic who understands and loves philosophy.

Respecting the hatred of truth and the love of deceiving and of being deceived observable in many men, (Blaise) Pascal says,

Mark a proof of this which fills me with horror. The Catholic religion does not oblige one to discover his sins indifferently to all the world; it permits him to remain concealed from all other men excepting one only, to whom it commands him to disclose the bottom of his heart, and to show himself such as he really is. 


There is only this one man in the world that it orders us to undeceive, and he is obliged to an inviolable secrecy, so that this knowledge is in him as if it was not in him. Can one imagine any thing more charitable and more gentle? Nevertheless, the corruption of man is such that he finds this a hard law, and it is one of the principal reasons which have made a great part of Europe revolt against the Church. (Thoughts, #100)

You have heard the great thinker of modern times; let us now attend to the philosophy of the middle ages. “Silence respecting sin,” says the Master of the Sentences,

arises from pride of heart. For a man wishes not to confess his sin in order that he may not be reputed externally such as he exhibits himself in the sight of God, which desire springs from the fountain of pride. For it is pride in a sinner to wish to be esteemed just, and it is hypocrisy to palliate or deny our sin like our first parents, or like Cain to bury it in silence. Now where there is pride and hypocrisy there can be no humility, and without humility there is no forgiveness. 


Therefore, where there is silence respecting sin there can be no hope of pardon. Here then, we see how detestable is the silence of sin, and how necessary is confession, which is the evidence of a conscience fearing God; for he who fears the judgment of God does not blush to confess. Perfect fear dissolves all shame. The confession of sin has shame, and that shame is a heavy punishment : and for this reason we are commanded to confess, that we may suffer shame, for this is part of the divine judgment.

Thus the words of St. John, beginning with “if we confess our sins,” were not understood as implying merely, “If we say that we are sinners generally with all the world,” but as teaching the necessity of suffering the shame and humiliation of confessing one’s personal particular sins; nor was there found any one formerly to maintain that this could be an immoral shame which would injure rather than repair the soul’s purity.

That extreme horror on finding that one has been suspected of crime, which Tieck’s hero evinces in his conversation with Balthasar, only proved in fact an unillumiuated heart: moreover, this overstrained and false honor reveals its own weakness, for by its very indignation it evinces its conviction that the fall was possible.

It is worthy of remark, that while the Church inflicted penance on all who ever made mention of expiated sins,— for among the penitential canons of the rule of St. Columban, we read, ‘”He who relates a sin already expiated shall fast on bread and water for a day,”—the very men who denounced the act of humility that she imposed as injurious, made no scruple not only as we before observed, in resting in self-contemplation, but also in confessing the sins of their past life; or rather exulted in being able to recall the rememberance of them, disclosing them in detail with effrontery: their own retrospective narration differing £rom the confession which they renounced and stigmatized, only in the circumstance that theirs was made in defiance of the law of God, in hardened impenitence insensible to shame.

“O fearful thought!” cries St. John Climacus, “there are moments of delirium in the career of sin, when man fears not God, esteems as nothing the memory of eternal punishment, execrates prayer, looks at the relics of the dead as if they were senseless stones.” True, indeed ; but what is it to reflect that in consequence of a new instruction, widely imparted and legally established in some places, this is the case with men now, not during moments of delirum, for which they might repent and make amends, but throughout their whole lives, which pass in an uninterrupted career of self-esteem and congratulation? To the fundamental objection of the moderns, the best mode of reply would be simply to relate in the clear and precise language of the middle ages, what was the Catholic doctrine.

Taking, then, Hugo of St. Victor for their representative, let us hear what he says respecting sacerdotal absolution.

Solus Deus peccata dimittit (Only God forgives sins) ; yet authorities have that power by which priests forgive sins, and that by which God forgives them. But priests are said to forgive sins, because they administer the sacraments in which, and by which, sins are by the divine authority, forgiven.

When it was said that the form of absolution which had been in use thirty years before was deprecatory, and that William of Auxerre, William of Paris, and cardinal Hugo thought that this was the only ancient form, St. Thomas Aquinas replied, that ”he did not know whether this were true or not; but in any case no authority of antiquity could do prejudice to the words of our Lord, ‘Whatever you shall bind on earth.’”

Thus instead of being tempted to enter with them upon subtle, antiquarian investigations, he embraced the spirit of antiquity. It is clear, however, from the Roman council under pope Zacharia, that the form of the sacrament of confession was then similar to what it is at present. Strictly judicial is the sacerdotal office so that with accurate precision has the church retained the name of Basilica, which signified that upper part of the forum, where justice was administered to the people.

You can read more at the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

For Thoughts Amid the Storm (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Vision of St. Don Bosco 

Generally posts shared with the addendum in the title above have been reserved for lines of verse. Not so today. Instead, I’ll share a few epigrams from the disparate bookends of the Desert Fathers and Mothers to the United States Marine Corps, with a few wise words of friends and saints in between.

Remember my recent post on being a pilgrim people? First up, from the deserts of Egypt near Skete, a thought about pilgrimage.

One of us asked Abba Sisoes, “What is pilgrimage, Abba?” He answered, “Keep silent; and wherever you go, say, ‘I am at peace with all men.’ That is pilgrimage.”

Sigh. I’m a gonna need some help then. More epigrams, por favor! Like this one from an Amma,

Amma Theodora said, “Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate. Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Speaking of storms, my buddy Blaise Pascal reminds us,

There is a pleasure in being in a ship beaten about by a storm, when we are sure that it will not founder. The persecutions which harass the Church are of this nature.

St. Paul on endurance,

For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:6-7

And from the Marine Corps version of the Communion of Saints, General Victor H. “Brute” Krulak. He stood 5′ 4″ tall, and maybe weighed 145 lbs when wet. Not a Catholic, but an Episcopalian, he fathered three boys. One of them would become the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the other two became Epsicopal priests and served as chaplains (one retired from the Navy, the other served in the Army). Here is his promised bookend thought,

Being ready is not what matters. What matters is winning after you get there.

Ain’t that the truth.

Would You Believe for the Fallible Facepalm?

So we were driving to Mass this past Sunday, like we’ve done every Sunday since forever. Listening to the radio, with the kids riding in the back, something prompted my wife and I to start naming off the Seven Sacraments.

We named six of them pretty quickly, especially Matrimony, which I had just been discussing as we pulled out of the driveway. Baptism, my wife called out. Check! Confession, or Reconciliation was called out. Check! Holy Orders. Check! Anointing of the Sick. Check! And then we ran over the list again.

“What’s missing kids?”, I asked while piloting us on to our destination. We ran through the the short list of the Sacraments we had named so far and noted we had come up with five. My wife chimed in with Confirmation as number six. I gave the kids a pass on that one, as none of them have reached the age for Confirmation yet.

I’m really embarrassed to say that for a number of minutes, maybe 3-5(!) we were having trouble coming up with the seventh Sacrament. My wife, the cradle Catholic, and I ran through the list, aloud, and counting on our fingers the Sacraments we had enumerated so far. And then, after driving under the overpass after exiting the freeway, the missing Sacrament hit me like a ton of bricks. “The Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist!” I exclaimed doing a face palm while stopped at a red light.

Actually, I called it a “face plant,” but my oldest son corrected me by saying, “Dad, that’s what happens when you fall on your face in front of everybody.” Of course, that is what I did, but even if he didn’t realize he was being merciful, I took it gladly and said, “I meant facepalm,” and I did my best impersonation of Captain Picard’s version you see above.

The memory of the scene haunted me for the rest of the drive to our parish. I was thinking, how could you forget the Body and Blood of your Lord and Savior? The “source and summit of the Christian life,” Frank, in case you forgot. There I was, quizzing the kids on why when Catholics get married, we do so in the Church and with a Mass. “So Jesus will be present to bless your union.” And yet, here I was forgetting his Real Presence in the Sacrament that we celebrate at Mass every Sunday, and every day for that matter?

Photo credit: Michael Belk

The memory of this episode came welling up in my mind again this morning when I came across a blog post about how some Catholics have an aversion to remembering Jesus, and the central place He has in our Faith. It feels weird even writing that, because it is so obvious, as Mary Kochan makes it plain in her post.

But given that even I was at a loss for a bit, the episode above leaves me sympathizing with those who sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees. Or in the case of the Vine, sometimes we get lost among the branches. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. His mother points us to Him, as do all the saints. The Mass is all about Him, as is the liturgy. He died for our sins, and showers us with His grace. And, ahem…He instituted the seven Sacraments.

Now, speaking of things I’ve misplaced in the last 5 minutes, has anyone seen my coffee mug?

Because We’re a Pilgrim People

My father was a wandering Aramean.

Today is the Feast of St. James the Greater, brother of St. John the Evangelist. He is one of the sons of Zebedee, the “sons of thunder,” as Our Lord called them. James was the first of the Apostles to be martyred, which is interesting when you consider that Mary Salome, the mother of these two, and with them in tow, had the temerity to ask Jesus the following request,

“Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking.

Then he must have turned to these two and asked,

Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?”

They said to him, “We can.”

You’ve got to hand it to them. I mean they were nothing if not confident.

He replied, “My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, (this) is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Of course, after this episode, the other ten disciples got pretty fired up at these two, and Jesus again uses it as a teachable moment and says,

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Christ certainly has a way of melting animosity while bringing the focus back to seeing things as He sees and pointing us down the paradoxical path of the Way.

Speaking of St. James, feast days, paradoxes and the Way, I wanted to share with you all a couple of blog posts that you may find of interest. The first is from Teresa Doyle-Nelson’s blog Bible Saints and includes some really neat background information about James the Greater. The second is a post written by Fr. Steve Grunow of Word on Fire about the pilgrimage along “the Way of St. James,” also known as Santiago de Compostela.

My wife would be thrilled to know that I would love to fly to Provence (remember that dream?) and hike along the pilgrims path all the way to the cathedral in Santiago in Northern Spain. Wait a second…hike the route?! Ok, that may be a little over the top. Maybe a Eurail Pass would do the trick.

By the way (pun intended), I found that way cool map at the website of the Confraternity of St. James. Go check it out too!

UPDATE: Which James is which again?

The 27 Club (Music for Mondays)

Photo credit: Syzmanski 

This past weekend, the news out of the UK was that singer, songwriter Amy Winehouse died. I’m not sure what the autopsy will show, but the press says her death was possibly from a drug overdose.

I really wasn’t a big fan of hers because I never really got around to hearing her music. I do remember her being splashed all over the internet, and by extension I guess that means the tabloids too.

I was saddened to hear of her passing though. It’s heart-breaking to learn of the demise of anyone with a gift that delights the world. At such a tender age, she was catapulted to fame, and her reaction to it may have contributed to her undoing. It could happen to any of us. It has happened to many others in her line of work.

And so it is that the newest member of the 27 Club will be put to rest. And as a kind of requiem music post, I do not wish to celebrate her crossing over into the select group of deceased musicians who preceded her in membership of this “club” by dying at the same young age. But she does join the company of some rock n’ roll music legends and I’ll share with you a few of them today. I said a prayer for her soul, and for the souls of those who preceded her.

Amy Winehouse, Back to Black. I’m a horrible consumer of recently popular music. As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to the latest stuff, I live under a rock. So I was surprised when I saw this haunting video from what the rest of you know as being from Amy Winehouse’s album that won five (5!) Grammy Awards. The imagery in this selection is all too prophetic. And in a way, this song may even help us remember those whose deaths have been eclipsed by hers in the news.

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The Rolling Stones, Paint It Black. A charter member of the “27 Club” is Brian Jones, the founder of the Rolling Stones. He died under “mysterious” circumstances (death by misadventure?!) a month after leaving the band on July 3, 1969, at the age of 27. On this particular song, he is playing the sitar, which is the signature sound on this hit that went to #1 both in the U.S. and the U.K. in 1966. It seems Brian could play almost any instrument he took a fancy to.

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Jimi Hendrix, All Along the Watchtower. Next on the club list, the innovative, ex-paratrooper, guitar genius named Jimi Hendrix. He died on September 18, 1970 from a combination of drugs and alcohol. Check him out as he covers Bob Dylan’s classic that he made his own in this live performance from the year he died. Hendrix could have played guitar upside down and sideways too. In fact, he did. He was a lefty, so he turned the classic Fender Stratocaster right-hand model upside down and strung it backwards for his purposes. He took the electric guitar to places no one even thought possible.

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Janis Joplin, Try (Just a Little Bit Harder). Janis Joplin had a lot in common with Amy Winehouse. A soulful voice, with a deep range. The ability to belt out tunes in a way that just made you realize that she poured every ounce of herself into it. Maybe so much that she thought there was nothing left. She died on October 4, 1970 of a possible heroin overdose. This is from a performance on the Dick Cavett Show on July 18, 1969. This song does not need a little more “cow bell,” if you know what I mean.

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The Doors, Break On Through (To the Other Side). July 3, 1971 on the second anniversary of Brian Jones death, Jim Morrison, the lead singer and lyricist of the Doors died in Paris, France. Cause of death? Heart failure is what the coroner came up with. Steve Huey, his biographer writes, he “would often improvise poem passages while the band played live, which was his trademark. He is widely regarded, with his wild personality and performances, as one of the most iconic, charismatic and pioneering frontmen in rock music history.” Val Kilmer played him in Oliver Stone’s movie. I’ll have to check it out.

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Nirvana, All Apologies. Aside from Amy Winehouse, I was too young when the rest of the members of this select group passed to remember a thing about their departures. Oh, I remember when Elvis died, but he wasn’t 27 years old. And he died when I was old enough to remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. But when Kurt Cobain committed suicide by a shotgun blast on April 5, 1994? I remembered thinking that it was just a sad and tragic waste; a loss not just to his band and fans, but to his recently started family. He personified the Seattle “grunge rock” genre.

This video is from an MTV Unplugged episode that aired 4 months before Kurt took his own life. Current Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl (who was the drummer for Nirvana) and guitarist Pat Smear, who Cobain added to relieve some of the pressure off himself, can be seen playing here as well.

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For Thoughts On the Misery of Man

Here are a few words in prose from my gifted friend Blaise Pascal. They should need no explanation, but only the observation that this particular mathematical genius understands human nature (at least mine, if no one else’s) and he can write as clear as the peal of a bell.

from On the Misery of Man

We care nothing for the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if we could make it move faster; or we call back the past, to stop its rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander through the times in which we have no part, unthinking of that which alone is ours; so frivolous are we that we dream of the days which are not, and pass by without reflection those which alone exist. For the present generally gives us pain; we conceal it from our sight because it afflicts us, and if it be pleasant we regret to see it vanish away. We endeavour to sustain the present by the future, and think of arranging things not in our power, for a time at which we have no certainty of arriving.

If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past or the future. We scarcely think of the present, and if we do so, it is only that we may borrow light from it to direct the future. The present is never our end; the past and the present are our means, the future alone is our end. Thus we never live, but hope to live, and while we always lay ourselves out to be happy, it is inevitable that we can never be so.

We are so unhappy that we cannot take pleasure in a thing, save on condition of being troubled if it turn out ill, as a thousand things may do, and do every hour. He who should find the secret of rejoicing in good without being troubled at its contrary evil, would have hit the mark. It is perpetual motion.

Our nature exists by motion; perfect rest is death.

Food for thought on a Saturday afternoon…

Update: Me and Blaise go way back.

For Anti-Democratic, Dictatorship Loving, Theocratic Fascist Thoughts…Not!

Check out my cool sword! Can’t wait to use it…

 

There I was, writing about pluralism. So my friend Mark Shea has been catching some heat lately for commenting on a video where self-proclaimed Catholic role-model, and all around knowledgeable guy, Michael Voris, blasts the hymn Amazing Grace for leading all Catholics into perdition’s flames. There’s a host of similar conspiracies that have been hatched on us too, and MV dutifully warns us of them all.

Here is what Mark wrote, and is now being pilloried for.

Maybe I can help divide the forces attacking the Dark Lord of the Pacific Northwest! Mark Shea is a big boy. He can handle stuff like this without any assistance from Joe Six-Pack, USMC. I mean, he’s taken him on for trying to act like a bishop before. But what the heck, Sun Tzu would approve of me working to divide the forces of an aggressor on an ally, so here goes.

Sure, anyone with their head on straight can simply ignore this guy easily, seeing as his venue of choice is YouTube. I’d rather watch Otis Rush play blues guitar over there than listen to another uncharitable rant by Michael Voris.

Back in April, I suggested reading the saints makes more sense. Now, thanks to a tip from a friend of a friend, and the interwebs, I have the video that I hope will make even the most sanguine, and die-hard fan of the Vortex scratch their head and say, What the hell?! It’s from way back in October of last year, but somehow, I missed it then. This is painful to watch…

Micheal Voris on the Proper Form of Government

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Heh. And you thought I just grabbed the title for this post out of thin air. Thankfully, and I reckon Michael doesn’t grasp this, the United States Government isn’t a direct democracy. It is a republican form of government and a representative democracy. Perhaps he hasn’t read the Constitution, and frankly I wonder if he ever read the Federalist Papers? No. 51 in particular. Importantly, the Church seems pretty pleased with the advent of representative democracy and the freedoms they have given human beings, but what does she know?

Uh-oh, it looks like some pesky stuff from Vatican II. Yep, from Guadium et spes, aka the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World. Remember my post on that document? Here’s a couple of relevant nuggets,

#73. The present keener sense of human dignity has given rise in many parts of the world to attempts to bring about a politico-juridical order which will give better protection to the rights of the person in public life. These include the right freely to meet and form associations, the right to express one’s own opinion and to profess one’s religion both publicly and privately. The protection of the rights of a person is indeed a necessary condition so that citizens, individually or collectively, can take an active part in the life and government of the state.

#75. It is in full accord with human nature that juridical-political structures should, with ever better success and without any discrimination, afford all their citizens the chance to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political community, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders.

Hmmm. I knew I liked the Council for a number of reasons. Go read that whole section on The Life of the Political Community.

Like Mark said in his post on Amazing Grace, I’m not sure why folks listen to Mr.Voris at all. He is my Christian brother too, but this is way over the line. Joe Six-Pack, USMC spent a good part of his life defending his country, and by extension, the Constitution. All those serving in the Armed Forces have taken an oath to uphold and defend it as well. I’ve even had friends who have been killed while under oath to it.

Nope, if this is “Real Catholic TV,” then I’ll eat my copy of the Catechism. “Real Crazy TV” seems like a better title to me.

Hey, I’ve got a better idea! I’ll keep my copy of the Catechism (and Gaudium et spes) in good shape and instead, I’ll just take my family out to see the final Harry Potter movie.

UPDATE

Creative Minority Report posts, Voris & Shea: Can’t We All Just Get Along? How about beers in a rose garden somewhere! —Publius :)

UPDATE II: A then, a few days later…

U.S. Military Color Guard with the Colors
and the Papal Flag

For the Paradox of the Wide Road on the Narrow Path

Joe Six-Pack, USMC here with a few brief words on Why I Am Catholic. Actually, there is one word that sums up what I am getting at with this post: pluralism. Before pitchforks and torches are mobilized, and hordes of angry, conspiracy theory influenced folks attempt to hurl themselves upon my redoubts and battlements, and risk being bitten by my ferocious and cunning battle dog, let me clarify which definition of this word I mean.

Using the handy Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, you will find the definition of pluralism, as I use it here, listed as the fourth one with two parts.

4 a: a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain an autonomous participation in and development of their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.

b: a concept, doctrine, or policy advocating this state

Catholic Cathedral Bamako, Mali

If when reading the definition in 4 a) you didn’t immediately notice the similarity of this with the actual makeup of the Catholic Church, think about it for a moment. Do you see it now? I don’t mean just in your particular parish, or even in your diocese, though if they are anything like mine, it may be enough. No, I mean the whole Church, the entire Body of Christ spread as she is throughout the world; every parish, and every diocese from Rome, Italy to Bamako, Mali, in all countries, from A to Z.

Whoa Frank, you may be thinking, there is only one way, and that is the Catholic way! And if you note the title of this blog, it should come as no surprise that I agree. But I do so with the caveat that within the “one way” of Catholic tradition, there are many variations that allow the adaptation of practices not only to the cultural mores of local parishes, but even extending out to the widely different charisms that give rise to the multitude of orders and societies within the Church as well.

If there was only “one way,” there would be no allowance for the orders of the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Paulists, or the Poor Clares. There would be no tolerance of the charisms of the Capuchins, the Carthusians or the Cistercians. No need for the Carmelites, the Brothers of the Holy Cross, the Redemptorists, or the Sisters of Mercy. Seriously, if there is only one way to be a faithful, Christ-centered, and blessed by grace, Catholic, the enterprise of saving the whole world was doomed to failure at the beginning.

But it wasn’t a failure. Instead, the mission has been a rousing success, in spite of all the challenges, travails, and martyrs. From the death and resurrection of the Founder, to those of our brothers and sisters that endure persecution for being faithful Catholics today, the saving mission of the Church continues on. The sharing of the Good News, and the provision of inward grace via the outward signs of grace (which are the sacraments) continues apace.

And the Church was successful, and will continue to be so, because the catholic nature of the world demands an embrace of pluralism that, frankly, the leadership of the Church understands and encourages. This is why when you hear some folks ranting about there being only one way to receive communion, only one correct way to sing songs (and even diatribes on certain songs that are in in your hymnal? Lord have mercy.), only one proper way for the Mass to be said, in only one proper language, etc, etc., there is something to remember: there is a wideness in God’s mercy within the narrow path of Catholicism.

Oh, and thank God for bishops. Who, among their many responsibilities, have one also “to affirm legitimate pluralism and to challenge simultaneously contemporary currents which exceed the boundaries of justice, holiness, and mutually forgiving love, so that the unity of truth and the unity of Spirit can be even more deeply renewed ” among the faithful and spread to the world. See Matthew 7:16.

I lifted that quote from Brother James Hanson, CSC and I’ll also share this one from the introduction of his book, If I’m a Christian, Why Be a Catholic? as well,

To be Catholic today is to live in the pluralism of the post Vatican II Church. For many the experience is as confusing as it is renewing. Gradually the dust is settling as the wheat is separated from the chaff while gently nurturing new shoots of life at the same time (Matthew 13:25-30). I am convinced that all truth is beautiful and that the revealed truth of Catholic faith is compellingly beautiful when it is properly understood. In John 10:14, Jesus called himself the good shepherd who knows his sheep and is known by them. When Pope Gregory the Great preached on that text, he wrote, “If someone does not love the truth, it is because he has not recognized it.”

I thank God for helping me to recognize it. And a huge part of that recognition is from seeing the beneficial fruits of the pluralistic policies of the Church as seen in the various approaches she allows in following her. She is so accommodating and hospitable, you know, like you would expect your best friends mom to be.

Now, Brother Hanson wrote those words 27 years ago about the Council, which concluded 19 years before he wrote them. Perhaps he was premature in saying the dust was settled, because there was plenty of threshing to be done, as there always will be. But to me, and remember, I’m just Joe Six-Pack, she believes, practiced, and continues to practice E Pluribus Unum long before that motto was adopted on the Seal of the United States (1782, for you history buffs). In fact, a variation of the phrase was used in the fourth book of the Confessions of St. Augustine (which is just another reason why I am Catholic).

Why has pluralism been a “Catholic thing” since the beginning? Well, I’ll venture to again keep things simple with a one word answer, that may require development in further posts to make it evident. Agape. A simple answer that again is seen as the reason for the saving mission of Christ, and thus of His Church,

A mustard seed

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)

And thus the mustard seed of agape was planted and now we behold the truth as the Truth Incarnate foretold us in this short parable,

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”

Not just for one kind of bird, and in a very large bush. Thanks be to God.


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