Because Christ Is Still Living Among Us

What follows is from Giovanni Papini’s introduction to his Life of Christ. Published in 1921, you would think that these words were written just yesterday. John C.H. Wu tipped me off to this book and I found a used copy of it on Alibris.

It’s 408 pages long and is filled with great passages. Written in his native Italian, it was translated in 1923 by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. Papini had been an ardent atheist, anarchist and was one of the literary giants of Italy.

Have a blast reading this article about him in Time magazine, from March 31, 1923. Was anything “lost in translation?” Nothing whatsoever. Have a look at sections one and two and see for yourself,

from the Introduction of Life of Christ by Giovanni Papini.

For five hundred years those who call themselves free spirits, because they prefer prison life to army service, have been trying desperately to kill Jesus a second time—to kill him in the hearts of men.

The army of His enemies assembled to bury Him as soon as they thought they heard the death-rattle of Christ’s second death. Presumptuous donkeys mistaking libraries for their stables, top-heavy brains pretending to explore the highest heavens in philosophy’s drifting balloon, professors poisoned by the fatal strong drink of philology and metaphysics, armed themselves.

Paraphrasing the rallying cry of Peter the Hermit to the crusaders, they shouted “Man wills it!” as they set out on their crusade against the Cross. Certain of them drew on their boundless imaginations to evolve what they considered proof positive of a fantastic theory that the story of the gospel is no more than a legend from which we reconstruct the natural life of Jesus as a man, one-third prophet, one-third necromancer, one-third demagogue, a man who wrought no miracles except the hypnotic cure of some obsessed devotees, who did not die on the cross, but came to Himself in the chill of the sepulcher and reappeared with mysterious airs to delude men into believing that He had risen from the dead.

Others demonstrated as certainly as two and two make four that Jesus was a myth developed in the time of Augustus and of Tiberius, and that all the Gospels can be reduced to a clumsy mosaic of prophetic texts. Others conceived of Jesus as a good, well-meaning man, but too high-flown and fantastic, who went to school to the Greeks, the Buddhists, and the Essenes and patched together His plagiarisms as best He could to support His claim to be the Messiah of Israel.

Others make Him out to be an unbalanced humanitarian, precursor of Rousseau and of divine democracy; an excellent man for his time, but who today would be put under the care of an alienist. Others, to get rid of the subject (once for all), took up the idea of the myth again, and by dint of puzzlings and comparisons concluded that Jesus never was born anywhere in any spot on the globe.

But who could have taken the place of the man they were trying to dispose of? The grave they dug was deeper every day, and still they could not bury Him from sight.

Then began the manufacture of religions for the irreligious. During the whole of the 19th century, they were turned out in couples and half-dozens at a time: the religion of Truth, of the Spirit, of the Proletariat, of the Hero, of Humanity, of Nationalism, of Imperialism, of Reason, of Beauty, of Peace, of Sorrow, of Pity, of the Ego, of the Future, and so on.

Some were only new arrangements of Christianity, uncrowned, spineless Christianity, Christianity without God. Most of them were political, or philosophic, trying to make themselves out as mystics. But faithful followers of these religions were few and their ardor faint. Such frozen abstractions, although sometimes helped along by social interest or literary passions, did not fill the heart which had renounced Jesus.

Then attempts were made to throw together facsimiles of religion which would make a better job of offering what men looked for in religion. Free-Masons, Spiritualists, Theosophists, Occultists, Scientists, all professed to have found the infallible substitute for Christianity.

But such mixtures of moldy superstition and worm-eaten necromancy, such a hash of musty rationalism and science gone bad, of simian symbolism and humanitarianism turned sour, such unskillful rearrangements of Buddhism, manufactured-for-export, and of betrayed Christianity, contented some thousands of leisure-class women, of condensers of the void…and went no further.

In the meantime, partly in a German parsonage and partly in a professor’s chair in Switzerland, the last Anti-Christ was making ready. “Jesus,” he said, coming down form the alps in the sunshine, “Jesus mortified mankind; sin is beautiful, violence is beautiful. Everything that says ‘yes’ to Life is beautiful.” And Zarathustra, after having thrown into the Mediterranean the Greek texts of Leipzig and the works of Machiavelli, began to gambol at the feet of the statue of Dionysius with the grace that might be expected of a German, born of a Lutheran minister, who had just stepped down from a chair in a Swiss university.

But, although his songs were sweet to the ear, he never succeeded in explaining exactly what he meant when he spoke of this adorable “Life” to which men should sacrifice such a living part of themselves as their need to repress their own animal instincts. Nor could he ever say in what way Christ, the true Christ of the Gospels, opposed Himself to life, He who wanted to make life higher and happy. And the poor syphilitic Anti-Christ, when insanity was close upon him, signed his last letter, “The Crucified One.”

And still Christ is not yet expelled from the earth, either by the ravages of time or by the efforts of men. His memory is everywhere: on the walls of churches and the schools, on the tops of bell-towers and of mountains, in street-shrines, at the heads of beds and over tombs, thousands of crosses bring to mind the death of the Crucified One.

Take away the frescoes from the churches, carry off the pictures from the altars and from the houses, and the life of Christ fills museums and picture galleries. Throw away breviaries and missals, and you find His name and His words in all the books of literature. Even oaths are an involuntary remembrance of His presence.

When all is said and done, Christ is an end and a beginning, an abyss of divine mystery between two divisions of human history. Paganism and Christianity can never be welded together. We can seek out what comes before Christ, we can acquire information about it, but it is no longer ours, it is signed with other signs, limited by other systems, no longer moves our passions. It may be beautiful, but it is dead.

Caesar was more talked about in his time than Jesus, and Plato taught more science than Christ. People still discuss the Roman ruler and the Greek philosopher, but who nowadays is hotly for Caesar or against him? And where are the Platonists and the anti-Platonists?

Christ, on the contrary, is still living among us. There are still people who love Him and who hate Him. There is a passion for the love of Christ and a passion for His destruction. The fury of so many against Him is a proof that He is not dead. The very people who devote themselves to denying His ideas and His existence pass their lives in bringing His name to memory.

This is a great book folks. Too bad it isn’t available on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. Put you local librarian to work though. Find this book!

Update: Papini writing on the Road to Emmaus and After.

Because I Will Follow!

Let me squeeze this in right before Good Friday. Something I learned in the Marine Corps besides leadership is a little trait called “followership.” This should be self-explanatory, but often times everyone wants to lead and nobody wants to follow.

Listen to Bono and the boys and remember that even leaders must follow. Choose your leader wisely. Choose to follow Christ. Amazing grace will follow you for all the days of your life.

Update: Why the Best Leaders are Great Followers. H/T to Father Christian of Blessed is the Kingdom

Because Christ Waits Patiently

I saw this posted yesterday somewhere: “Forget Christmas or Easter. Independence Day is the most important holiday of the year and will have a greater impact on world history as it serves to remind people for millenia that nations are ruled by the consent of the governed.” My first thought? This person is delusional. My second thought? I need to pray for them. [Read more...]

Because Time is Too Precious To Waste on A Bad Movie (Condolences to Fans of Ayn Rand)

Ok, you’re right. This isn’t one of the reasons YIMCatholic. For the sake of argument though, just consider this as a public service announcement post.

A few weeks ago I shared an idea I believe is obvious: Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged is not the Sermon on the Mount. Yes, Joe Six-Pack, USMC is the master of the obvious (if anything at all). Guess what else? He’s cheap too. Or frugal, depending on your frame of reference. The bottom-line? I filter my possible movie viewing choices through a trusted source before deciding to commit my limited amount of entertainment dollars to seeing a movie. [Read more...]

Because the Beggar Just Might Be an Angel

This morning it is raining in my neck of the woods. It was accompanied by thunder and lightning, and yet it was a gentle and warm rain. As I was pulling into the parking garage, I noticed the trolley bus was pulling up to the stop outside. Good, I thought. I won’t have to walk in the rain.

But as it turns out, this particular bus driver is one of the impatient ones. As I was walking towards the exit of the garage, he motored off. Truthfully, I didn’t think much of this because I usually walk up to the office anyway. I just opened up my umbrella and kept on going, like the fellow in Merle Keller’s painting here.

My walk takes me by the new bus transit center that was opened recently. As I stood at the cross walk waiting for the light to change, I noticed with some amusement that a brand new sign proclaimed that our town was designated a “Solar City” by the Department of Energy. This must be because of the lone solar panel at work at the bus station. It’s the only one I’ve seen in town.

As it was raining, there were only a few of us walking. Pretty soon I learned why I was walking too. I noticed a man up ahead coming towards the station as I was walking past it. By his appearance, and by the reception he was getting from the other pedestrians, I knew he was a homeless person. Most treat them like lepers, but I no longer do.

As he approached me now, he asked if he could ask me a question, and to his great surprise I said Sure. You would have thought I had given him $1000. He asked if he could step under my umbrella as he talked and I said Absolutely. By now, you’re thinking I have a death wish or something, right?

Then he just thanked me for even noticing him. He said that most whom he approached wouldn’t even look at him. That is the “homeless person equals leper” effect at work. It’s not a new phenomenon, having been around forever. He didn’t want to give me a sob story or anything, he said, but he only wanted to ask me if I would give him a blessing.

Having no money on me, I tried to give him my apple and orange but he insisted that he only wanted a blessing and nothing more. I agreed to this immediately and I told him I would pray for him right away. I asked him for his name and he told me, “Vernon.”

“Vernon,” I said, “I will keep you in my prayers.” He thanked me profusely, stepped out from under my umbrella, and continued his walk towards the bus station. I resumed my walk towards the office, but now with mental prayers rising up to heaven for Vernon.

I had never seen Vernon before, and quite honestly that is the case with most of my encounters with the homeless. No “regulars,” just passing strangers. In a post yesterday, I wrote that I don’t spend much energy worrying about things I cannot have an effect on. But I’m also well aware of these words written by St. Teresa of Avila,

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Could I change Vernon’s life by merely acknowledging his presence? It’s possible. Will my prayers for Vernon be answered? Undoubtedly yes, and I’ll never know to what effect. Chalk this up to my faith in “Son Power.”

Why did I talk to Vernon? Because the homeless, the beggars on the streets, are people that have a name. They are people with a story, and with wants and needs. And they are like you and me, except we are one tragedy removed from being in their shoes. Would it surprise you that they may just want a hug?

Maybe I was like the lone solar panel in my town which makes the whole enchilada a “Solar City.” The one bit of yeast helping the whole loaf to rise. It’s Lent, and Lent is for alms giving. This is what we do. Ayn Rand, with her leaven of the Pharisees,  wouldn’t like it one bit. So I knew it was the right thing to do.

St. Francis gives his mantle
to a beggar

Perhaps Vernon is an angel in disguise. St. Francis of Assisi, even before his conversion, handled beggars like this,

He was not one of those typical society men who hardly have a penny to give a beggar, but willingly spend their hundreds on a champagne feast. His way of thinking was the following: “If I am generous, yes, even extravagant with my friends who at the best only say ‘thanks’ to me for them, or repay me with another invitation, how much greater grounds have I for alms giving which God himself has promised to repay a hundredfold?”

This was the inspiring life thought of the Middle Ages, which here carried out the genially literal and genially naive translation of the words of the gospel: “As long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” Francis knew — as the whole Middle Ages knew it — that not even a glass of cold water, given by the disciples, would remain unpaid and unrewarded by the Master.

Therefore a pang went through his heart when, one day as there was a crowd in the shop, and he was in a hurry to get through, he had sent a beggar away. “If this man had come from one of my friends,” said he to himself, “from Count this or Baron that, he would have got what he asked for. Now he comes from the King of kings and from the Lord of lords, and I let him go away empty-handed. I even gave him a repelling word.” And he determined from that day on to give to every one who asked him in God’s name — per amor di Dio, as the Italian beggars still are wont to say.

And so have I. I don’t have much in a material way to give. Just some spare change, or an apple and an orange, or an uneaten lunch. But “hey brother, can you spare a prayer?” will always be answered in the affirmative and always given freely (even when it isn’t asked for).

Because Christ Didn’t Say “Take Up Your Palms And Follow Me”

Before I was a Catholic, I never really gave a lot of thought to Palm Sunday. This morning we awoke to glorious sunshine, with nary a cloud in the sky. The previous few days had been cloudy, cool, and wet. But a day like today is how I always picture Palm Sunday in my mind’s eye.

It is the height of paradox that on this day of glory for Our Lord, a mere five days later he was convicted, scourged and thrown on the mercy of the crowd, who voted unanimously to have him crucified while clamoring for the release of the criminal Bar-Abbas. An ironic exchange between two men whose names mean almost the same thing. Bar-Abbas, “son of the father” for Jesus, “Son of the Father.”

This morning I was browsing the volumes on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf via the search window with references for “Palm Sunday.” The digital reference librarians there promptly delivered 193 volumes to my laptop. Everything from sermon notes of Blessed John Henry Newman to The Life of St. Clare. I could spend a month of 8 hour days just going through these selections alone.

But for today, I settled on the sermon notes of another former Anglican reverend who became a Catholic priest: Robert Hugh Benson. What follows is a rough outline of his Palm Sunday sermon from around the year 1913. I like his style and his way of painting a portrait with words, even if many of his missing words must be imagined. What struck me most about his outine is what led me to title this post as I did. Because this wasn’t the day of glory for Our Lord.

How often it is that I yearn for the palm instead of the cross. But how often it is that the cross presents itself to me more often than the palm.

Monsignor Benson will now take the pulpit,

PALM SUNDAY—GOOD FRIDAY
Mark xv. 39: Indeed this man was the Son of God.

Introduction.—Extraordinary how we miss the point in this world. With men: meet a person, label him; and find out a year later that we have misunderstood. Movements: a popular stir; see external events, miss significance (France and England for example). We are like uneducated people at a picture gallery; admire frames, are blind to pictures.

So Too With Our Lord On Earth. He came to His own . . .(John i, 11) Especially typified in last week of His Life.

I. Two Processions.

1. Two great events: one was Palm Sunday Procession. Conceive excitement of apostles. At last their Master vindicated; yields to people. Early afternoon start; strange intoxication in air; people come out and look; carried away, join. Rumor runs ahead; for road is full; crowd swells and swells. Cheering begins. Presently on turning a corner, another crowd runs into them, wheels and turns. Children, dogs; grave men crying and laughing—even great ecclesiastics are swept along: glorious sky; city of David.

At last a check . . . ‘Stop them; it is not decent. Hear what they are saying: Hosanna.’ For a moment disciples hesitate. ‘I tell you,’ rang out the grave exultant voice, ‘that if these should hold their peace the very stones would cry out.’ There is no doubt; He has yielded. Here is the kingdom coming with power. Scepter and crown—triumph of Jesus at last. ‘Thank God, thank God!’

2. Five days later.—Another procession: streets thronged; heads thrust out; windows—roofs. Hear them: ‘It is the King of the Jews,’ they say, sneering. First come children marching and singing; mob; spear-heads of escort. Then, in center, a piteous spectacle. A Figure staggering along, robed in blood-stained tunic; crowned! bearing a vast scepter indeed! Before him goes the herald —placard I.N.R.I. Street full of howling and laughter; dogs bark; soldiers again; then mob, four abreast roaring out songs . . . on, on to the Enthronement of the King.

And when last shouts have died, and all is gone, friend of Jesus sinks down sobbing—Failure after all! And all that day there is blank misery. All mock and weep; all but one beneath the Cross; and from him a strange confession. Others on Palm Sunday had called Him Son of David, roused by splendor. Now one gives Him a higher title yet. Text (Mark xv. 39: Indeed this man was the Son of God).

II. Same Mistake Today.

As we look back now, we know the truth. ‘For this cause,’ says our Lord, ‘came I into the world. I am come to save sinners … I have a baptism to be baptized with.’ (John xviii. 37; Matt. ix. 13; Luke xii. 50) We know that the real triumph was Good Friday, not Palm Sunday: not in palms and Hosanna; but spear-heads, scourge, and nails: not in strewing of their garments, but stripping of His own. Not colt but Cross was His Throne. On the colt He reigned over a few hundreds, on the Cross He is King of the World.

Yet we continue to make the same mistake.

Which after all is the glory of the Church? Ah! look close and test it by the Cross.

(1) Splendor of domination in the Middle Ages? Or the catacombs; burning of martyrs; rack; beasts. Both have their place. Our Lord sanctioned outward glory by Palm Sunday; but He did more than sanction suffering.

Not ‘If any man will be My disciple, let him follow Me with palms and singing’; but…’Let him take up his cross and come after Me.’
(2) Court of France; when Church was honored? or now when against overwhelming hatred she is being stripped and scourged . . .

(3) Look at comfortable Catholics in world, well spoken of; and Poor Clare… which is the more glorious? Both are permitted.

(4) Tranquil death-bed of a good man, who has neither sinned much nor suffered much? or dying sinner—sinned beyond description, who turns and weeps for mercy?

Look at your own life too. Have you not believed you were succeeding, and that God was with you when all went well? That was your Palm Sunday—perfectly right. People praised you, rejoiced with you. But the real test comes in sorrow. It was then that the crucified Lord was near to you… when darkness was thick: rent four ways at once; become aware that no friend would reach you. Then He was manifest in you. His Hands upon yours; His Kiss on your lips; His Heart beating on your broken heart.

Blessed are they that hunger and mourn: for they shall be filled and comforted.

Conclusion.—Today we are rejoicing: giving one more gift to God’s glory and the honor as well of the saints who won their crowns by suffering; all in memory of a happy event. Things are well with us; your priests happy; you are happy. There is a large congregation. This then is your Palm Sunday —Christianity does not exclude joy: our Lord has sanctioned it. But it is important to remember on days of rejoicing that they are only one half of life. The spiritual man is absorbed neither in joy nor sorrow; neither exalted nor depressed.

The real test of the soundness of our joy is found in our behaviour during sorrow and conflict. We need so much. St. Peter’s warning not to be bewildered when conflict comes, as if a ‘strange thing’ happened to us.(1 Peter vi, 12)

God knows there is enough conflict coming: all over the world that old drama of the Passion is being re-enacted—in S. America, in Spain, in France, and not least in England, evidences of old enmity of world against God which crucified our Lord. Face this, then, bravely; be prepared to suffer. Oh! brethren; it is in this that glory shows itself.

You have magnificent churches here, evidences of old splendor; but you produced finer things than that. You have contributed saints to heaven—such as Richard Langley (Mr. Richard Langley was a Yorkshire gentleman, executed on December 1, 1586, for harboring priests.), infinitely greater. See that you continue—it is an acceptable gift that you give today; but there are even better—crucified, mortified souls.

The deeper the darkness, the clearer is His Cross; the more ecstatic the harps of Heaven, the more radiant the smile upon the Face of God.

****

Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Matt xvi, 24;Mark viii, 34; Luke ix, 23)

Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Son of the Father, give me the courage to do just that.

Because the Saints Give the Best Advice

I may be a new Catholic (relatively speaking, RCIA Class of 2008) but I’ve been around the block a few times. I like to think that I know the difference between noise and signal. I’ve mentioned before why I’m not a disciple of this priest, or that priest, but of Christ.

Remember the counsel of the Holy Spirit through St. Paul?

Brothers, I could not talk to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now, for you are still of the flesh. While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving in an ordinary human way? Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.

“But God caused the growth.”

I’m definitely not the follower of laymen like Michael Voris. Why? You mean besides not having enough time in a day for following his rants on video? Because he quite simply has as much authority as I do regarding teaching the Faith. In other words, none. He doesn’t speak for the bishops of the Catholic Church. And even if he means well, like I do, his “Vortex” is often times just that. I try not to go that route though, though I’m not always successful.

Here is an example of what I mean. Exhibit A of “Noise.”

If you were able to make it past 15 seconds before you hit the stop button, my hat is off to you. And if you made it through the next 20 seconds of product placement, you are a better person than I am. If you made it another minute without hearing St. Ignatius of Antioch whisper, “Therefore it is fitting that you live in harmony with the will of the bishop,” then perhaps you would like to spend some time (but not money) getting acquainted with his letters.

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Because this isn’t my idea, but the instruction of St. Ignatius of Antioch,

Beware therefore of such men; and this will be possible for you, if you are not puffed up, and are inseparable from God, from Jesus Christ, and from the bishop, and the ordinances of the Apostles. He who is within the sanctuary is pure, but he who is without the sanctuary is not pure; that is to say whoever does anything apart from the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons is not pure in his conscience.

St. Philip Neri also had some great advice for all of us in regards to becoming fully human as well as on how to spend our time learning about the Faith,

It is very useful for those who minister the Word of God, or give themselves up to prayer, to read the works of authors whose names begin with S., such as Saint Augustine, Saint Bernard, etc.

You can find authors like that (free of charge) in your Bible, and on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. Your “signal to noise” filtering ability will improve markedly after your exposure to them.

St. Philip Neri

For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies VI

Does anyone remember my friend St. Joseph of Cupertino? Well, I wrote a post about him once and tonight’s movie is all about him. It is called The Reluctant Saint and stars Maximilian Schell as St. Joseph.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve about had my fill of prima donnas lately. If you are like me, this film will hit the sweet spot. I like to think of St. Joseph of Cupertino as “the little saint who could.” No one thought he would amount to anything. Not his mom, not his priest/uncle, and most assuredly not his brothers when he entered the monastery.

But there was something about Joseph that everyone missed.

Everyone missed it except his bishop, and of course, God. Ricardo Montalban plays the part of a cleric who doubts him the most of all. His character goes so far as to conduct the Rite of Exorcism over poor, obedient, Joseph.

I don’t know what became of Montalban’s character, but St. Joseph of Cupertino, who called himself “God’s jackass”, is in heaven now. I hope to join him someday.

Have a look at the trailer and then dial up this movie from Netflix or watch the whole film on your computer via Gloria.tvBut please watch it…you’ll be glad you did!

Because My Boys Needed to Know About Hildegard of Bingen

I received a note the other day in my e-mail inbox informing me of a movie that would soon be released on DVD. I noted the title of the film and realized that it was still playing in one of the theaters in our town.The movie I’m referring to is Visions: From the Life of Hildegard of Bingen.

Now, my plan was to take my wife with me to this film, but she and my daughter were engaged in another endeavor. [Read more...]

Because Mammon Is Going To Be Angry

Gordon Gekko, Disciple of Mammon

OK. Let’s say (just for fun) that we’ve tossed Christ and His Church into the dustbin of history. Too many rules and regulations, see? Too much guilt and that unpalatable need to be responsible, etc.

We’re now “all-in” on worshiping the god named Mammon. We love Mammon and will always do his bidding willingly.

Would it come as a surprise to you to learn that we are about as faithful to our new god as we were to our former God (with the capital “G”)?

Would you be shocked to learn that we lie to Mammon? That we disrespect Mammon? Or that we try to fool Mammon the way we used to try and fool the God of Mercy? We even use current taxpayer money to support an organization that kills future taxpayers (who happen to also be creators of future Mammon baksheesh), all the while building social programs that can’t be funded without them. Genius you say?

I’ll be sticking with my old religion (thanks, but see title of this blog) because frankly, Mammon is going to be pissed!

Mammon the Merciless


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X