For Thoughts Like These from Robert Hugh Benson

Robert Hugh Benson was an English convert to Catholicism. No big deal, right? Wrong! You see, RHB had been ordained an Anglican priest in 1895. The thing was, his dad was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time.  Think of how proud his parents and the rest of his family were of him.

In 1896, his father passed away suddenly, and Benson himself was ill as well. While on a field trip to recover his health, he began delving into his beliefs and began to lean toward becoming a Catholic. His relatives were underwhelmed with the idea of the son of the late head of the Church of England doing such a thing. Preposterous—but Bobbie did just that in 1903. [Read more...]

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Back in June, I shared a poem by Frederick Faber in this space.  This week, I share the words of a hymn he wrote. You can find the music, too, and sing along if you like.  But I actually prefer these words without the music.

I first read read them in my favorite book about my favorite Old Testament book. Faber wrote lots of hymns, Faith of Our Fathers being one of the better known ones. This hymn is a gift that reminds me of the passage that St. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.(2Cor. 1:3-4)

Though the road that leads to life is narrow, God’s mercy is not.

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.

‘Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
It is something more than all;
Greater good because of evil,
Larger mercy through the fall.

If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine
In the sweetness of our Lord.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?

It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
‘Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Was there ever kinder shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Savior who would have us
Come and gather at His feet?

From the Treasure Chest: Challoner’s “The Morality of the Bible-Genesis”

Although I didn’t do any writing while on vacation, I was able to do a little reading. I “discovered” another modern Catholic writer that I would like to get to know better.  His name is Richard Challoner, whom you see here in the portrait.  This particular portrait of Richard hangs in the Archbishop’s House at Westminster Cathedral.

It’s a pity that the blog that was hosted there is no longer active. There is a great post all about Richard that was written by a priest there. Having recently visited the Library of Congress, and Thomas Jefferson’s personal library located there, I was motivated to continue adding virtual book selections to our humble YIM Catholic Bookshelf. And today is the feast day of St. Lawrence, patron of librarians and archivists, so what better day than this to share more books with you?

Somehow, and I honestly don’t recall how,  I stumbled upon Challoner’s work and immediately added fifteen of his books to the shelf. What with our limited budget here, but with books that are free, this was easy to do. No need to get Webster’s approval.

The book below was published in 1762 and re-published in 1827.  Its full title is The Morality of the Bible: Extracted From All of the Canonical Books, Both of the Old and New Testament. It’s subtitle is For the Use of Such Pious Christians As Desire to Nourish Their Souls to Eternal Life With Daily Meditating On The Word of God. You know, as well as I do, that they just don’t title books like this anymore.

As a former Protestant who converted to Catholicism, I enjoy reading the Bible. I’m not afraid of touching mine, and as my wife can verify, I don’t get lost between it’s covers. Geographically speaking, I know my way around the Scriptures and I don’t need the table of contents or the handy side tabs to find passages.

In case I get labelled as a “holier than thou” type, let me just say that in no way am I claiming that I completely understand everything I’m reading there. Alone, no one else does either.  I don’t care if you have a PhD. in theology, you alone don’t know enough, and you never will. If you haven’t figured that out yet, then you have been kidding yourself. I’m not going to argue with you though, I’m just stating the facts.

But I’m not saying “throw in the towel” either. Not by a long shot. Read scripture and study the Word.  We are called to do so, and contrary to popular belief, we are encouraged to do so. And this isn’t something new either, as these quotes of St. John Chrysostom prove:

To become adult Christians you must learn familiarity with the scriptures(On the Letter to the Ephesians – Education of Children).

But what is the answer to these charges? “I am not,” you will say, “one of the monks, but I have both a wife and children, and the care of a household.” This is what has ruined everything, your thinking that the reading of scripture is for monks only, when you need it more than they do. Those who are placed in the world, and who receive wounds every day have the most need of medicine. So, far worse even than not reading the scriptures is the idea that they are superfluous. Such things were invented by the devil.[Second Homily on Matthew, section 10 (which is sometimes labeled as section 5.)]

Want to see more saintly quotes on the importance of reading scriptures? See what the actual “holier than thou types”, from St. Augustine to Pope Benedict XIV, have to say on the matter here. As for me and other “needier than thou” types, let’s just say that Challoner’s little book is a good start to help you summon the courage to dive in and to start reading the Bible on your own.

Sure,  this book is old and may be lacking in the most up to date teachings of the Church. But it won’t be very far off, and Challoner keeps it pretty straightforward. In the preface, he states:

The word of God has been of old the great meditation book of the holy fathers and other saints: and these pure souls illustrated by the light of the Spirit of God, have discovered in almost every page of this heavenly book (where there is not one iota or tittle without its meaning, St. Matt. v. 18.) in its mystical sense many excellent lessons of life, and documents of divine wisdom; for the bringing on the spiritual man to all perfection.

But as the generality of Christians are not capable of penetrating so far into the profound depths of the more obscure and mysterious parts of the sacred scriptures; much less of making themselves perfect masters of all the sublime contents of these divine books: for which the whole life of the best capacities would hardly suffice; though wholly employed in study and meditation: we have endeavoured in the following sheets, for the benefit of the commonality, to abstract from every part of these sacred writings, what appeared to us the most plain, and the most intelligible; the most instructive, and the most affective; adapting the whole as much as possible to every capacity; in order to make the meditation on the divine word, both very easy and very profitable to all Christians of a good will: industriously avoiding all such hard and obscure passages, as might be liable to be wrested by the unlearned and the unstable to their own perdition (2 St. Peter, iii. 16.) and passing by all such as might rather exercise the brain, than enlighten the mind and enflame the heart: which is the great business of meditation and mental prayer.

Sheesh, they wrote with huge paragraphs back in the day! Again, for more instruction, there are other resources for you if, and when, you need them; your Parish priest, a deacon, or a pastoral associate, for example, will be more than willing to answer any questions you may have. And the Cathechism, and all of the helpful commentary in your thicker Catholic Bible, is there to help as well. And don’t forget the resources on our YIM Catholic Bookshelf, too.

Here is Challoner’s first chapter, which naturally covers the book of Genesis. Take a look, and see what you think. I know what I think—This will be a great resource to help my children become as familiar with the Scriptures as I am.

School’s in!


Chapter I. Verse 1. &c.;

‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And God said: be light made, and light was made: and God saw the light that it was good.’

See, my soul, how all things readily obey the great Creator: he speaks the word, and they are presently made; and they spring forth out of nothing, at his command: and all that he makes he sees to be good, and nothing that he makes is evil. And why wilt not thou obey his word? How long wilt thou resist his commands? How long shall evil (which is no part of his creation) have dominion over thee whom he created good, for himself the sovereign Good?

v. 31. ‘And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good.’

Each part of the creation, and every single creature was good: but all of them together were exceeding good, nothing being wanting to make the whole absolutely perfect. O great Creator, glory be to thy name! Let the whole creation bless thee for ever.

Chap. ii. v. 3. ‘God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he had rested from all his work.’

This day of God’s rest, sanctified by him, has a mysterious allusion to the everlasting rest or sabbath, into which he will introduce all his true servants, after the six days labors of their mortal life. (Hebr. iv. 4. 5. 9. 11.)

v. 9. ‘The Lord God brought forth of the ground, all manner of trees—the tree of life also in the midst of paradise.’

This tree of life, by eating of the fruit of which man would have lived for ever, was an illustrious figure of our Lord Jesus Christ, by feeding on whom, we are brought to everlasting life. (St. John vi. 50, 51, 52, &c.;)

Chap. iii. v. 17, &c.; Mark the sentence of man’s punishment for sin:

‘Cursed is the earth in thy work: with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee—in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread, till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken, for dust thou art and into dust thou shalt return.’

Of this curse, the just punishment of man’s fall from God by sin, we still feel the weight, in this earth (of flesh) which we carry about with us, in the thorns and thistles of our disorderly inclinations, and the labour and toil with which we must suppress them, &c.; And this remembrance of our extraction and the necessity of our returning to our original dust, is here inculcated, to teach us to know ourselves; to be ever humble; and to be always prepared for our journey hence.

Chap. iv. 9, 10. ‘The Lord said to Cain—What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth to me from the earth.’

O sinner, what hast thou done, when by thy scandals, or by thy drawing any of thy neighbours into sin, thou hast murdered that poor soul ? Will not thy brother’s blood, in these cases, cry aloud to heaven for vengeance against thee?

Chap. v. v. 5. ‘Adam lived nine hundred and thirty years, and he died:’

and so of the other patriarchs; the account of whose long lives is still concluded with these words, “and he died.” And how small a difference will there be by and by, between the longest and the shortest life? Since a thousand years before the eyes of the eternal Truth are but as yesterday, which is past and gone, Psalm lxxxix. 4.

v. 24. ‘Enoch walked with God, and was seen no more, because God took him.’

Happy they who make it the business of their life to walk with God, by keeping themselves in his presence,” by a spirit of recollection; and by a constant attention to please him ! such as walk with him tn this manner, he will take to himself in a happy eternity.

v. 29. ‘He called his name Noe (Noah), (or comforter) saying this same shall comfort us, from the works and labours of our hands on the earth which the Lord hath cursed.’

Our true Noe, or comforter, sent us from heaven, is the Son of God, who comes to comfort us under all our labours; to bless the works of bur hands; and to change into a blessing in our favour, the curse laid on us for sin.

Chap. vi. 3. ‘God said: my spirit shall not remain in man for ever, because he is flesh,’(enslaved to carnal sins, and therefore shall be destroyed.)

Mark how by the sins of the ‘flesh, the spirit of God is sure to be taken away, from the carnal man; and a deluge of evils of course will overflow his whole soul.

v. 6. ‘Noe was a just and perfect man in his generations: he walked with God.’ v. 22.

And Noe did all things which God commanded him. Behold the way to all happiness: ’tis by doing thus we shall escape the dreadful deluge, which threatens all the sinners of the earth.

Chap. viii. 21. ‘The imagination and thought of man’s heart are prone to evil from their youth.’

O the dismal consequences of original sin! Good God deliver us from ourselves.

Chap. xii. 1, 2, 3. ‘The Lord said to Abram. Go forth out of thy country: and from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house; and come into the land which I shall shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation: and I will bless thee, &c.; and in thee shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.’

Happy they who follow God, when he calls them, from the midst of sin and iniquity, as it were out of their native land, to shew them the fair regions of virtue and devotion, in order to bless them there; and from thence to translate them to an eternal inheritance in his kingdom above. This is that great grace of vocation, the corresponding with which is the way to heaven. This “following” God is the fundamental point of Christian morality.

Chap. xiv. v. 18, 19, &c.; ‘Melchisedech the King of Salem, bringing forth bread and wine, for he was the priest of the most high God, blessed him, and said, blessed be Abram, by the most high God, who created heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God by whose protection the enemies are in thy hands.’ “And he gave him the tithes of all.”

Behold here a most ancient and a most illustrious figure of Christ, our great king and priest; and of his sacrifice. See Heb. vii. &c.;

Chap. xv. 1. ‘Fear not, Abram, I am thy protector, and thy reward exceeding great.’

My soul he will be so to thee, if thou also wilt seek him as Abram did, in the simplicity and sincerity of thy heart. (Wisdom i. 1.)

v. 6. ‘Abram believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice.’

Happy faith, which, joined with obedience and devotion, made Abram the special favourite of heaven.

Chap. xvii. v. 1. ‘I am the Almighty God: walk before me, and be perfect.’

The shortest way to all perfection is to walk before God, and in his presence; with a constant attention to please him.

Chap. xviii. v. 17, &c.; ‘The Lord said: can I hide from Abraham what I am about to do seeing that in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed? For I know that he will command his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, and to do judgment and justice.’

See here the duty of fathers and masters, &c.; And see also how true it is that the ‘Lord is good to them that hope in him; to the soul that (sincerely) seeketh him.’ (Lamentations iii. 25.)

v. 27. ‘I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am but dust and ashes.’

Learn my soul thus to humble thyself in thy addresses to God in prayer.

v. 32. ‘I beseech thee, said Abraham, be not angry, O Lord, if I speak yet once more: what if ten just men shall be found there?(viz. in Sodom) I will not destroy it said the Lord for the sake of ten.’

Of what service then are the just to the whole commonwealth(?); Since ten of them might have even saved Sodom.

Chap. xix. 14. ‘Lot spoke to his sons in law (the men of Sodom) that were to have his daughters: and said: Arise, get ye out of this place; because the Lord will destroy this city: and he seemed to them to speak as it were in jest.’

So when the servants of God threaten the wicked with the judgments of God, which are hanging over their heads, their words make no more impression upon them than if they were in jest; till the wrath of God coming on a sudden and when they least expect it, hurries them away and plunges them into a miserable eternity.

v. 26. ‘Lot’s wife looked behind her and was turned into a statue of salt.’

Instructing us, how dangerous it is after being delivered from the Sodom of iniquity and sin, to look back, by a relapse, or by the affection to sin, towards that miserable city.

v. 33. ‘Abraham called upon the name of the Lord God the Eternal’

behold one of God’s names, the most expressive of his divine essence.

See Chap. xxii. The ready obedience of Abraham, when he was sent to offer up his son Isaac in sacrifice; as well as the obedience and resignation of Isaac, who was then a young man in the flower of his age, and yet offered no resistance. And mark the blessing-entailed upon them both, in consequence of this intended sacrifice; alas! how often have we been called upon, to offer up, as it were, in sacrifice, some darling object of our affections; or some unhappy passion, which ties us down to the earth: and yet we never have had the courage to make this offering; and for want of this compliance have deprived ourselves of God’s special blessing, and have perhaps the great work of God yet to begin.

Chap. xxiv. v. 63. ‘Isaac was gone forth to meditate in the fields,’ &c.;

Learn, my soul, from the patriarchs and all the other saints this holy exercise of meditation: and let it be thy daily employment.

Chap. xxv. v. 8. ‘Abraham died in a good old age, having lived a long time, and being full of days: and was gathered to his people:’ (the people of God, who were gone before him)

Where note, that he in a particular manner is said to have lived a long time, and to have been full of days; and yet both his father, and almost all his ancestors lived to a greater age than he. (Gen. ii.) But Abraham’s time was long, and his days were full indeed, by the good use of his time, and by his constant attention to please God in all things. O let our days, my soul, be full in this manner.

v. 34.’Esau eat and drank, and went his way, making little account of having sold his first-birth right.’

A figure of unhappy sinners, who for the sake of gratifying for a moment, their carnal or sensual appetite, sell their title to the inheritance of the first born whose names are written in heaven, and forfeit their father’s benediction; and make little or no account of this greatest of all miseries. See Heb. xii. 16, 17.

Chap. xlv, v. 4. &c.; ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Be not afraid: and let it not seem to you a hard case that you sold me into these countries: for God sent me before you into Egypt, for your preservation—Not by your counsel, was I sent hither, but by the will of God, &c.; And Joseph blessed all his brethren, and wept upon every one of them.’

O admire and adore the wonders of divine Providence, in the whole history of Joseph; and imitate the charity, purity and humility of this holy patriarch.

Chap. xlvii. v. 9. ‘The days of my pilgrimage (said Jacob to king Pharaoh) are one hundred and thirty years, few and evil; and they are not come up to the days of the pilgrimage of my fathers.’

Thus these holy men looked upon themselves as pilgrims upon earth; longing for their true and heavenly country. Heb. xi. 13, 14, 15, 16. Such ought to be the sentiments and dispositions of all good Christians.

Chap. xlviii. v. 15. ‘God, in whose sight my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk,’ &c.;

Said Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph! O my soul how happy shall we be, if we also take care to walk in this divine presence, like these ancient saints!

Chap. xlix. v. 6. ‘Let not my soul go into their counsel, nor my glory be in their assembly.’

Say thou my soul the same of the counsels of the ungodly: and of all the assemblies of the workers of iniquity. v. 10. ‘The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda—till he come that is to be sent (Shilo the Messiah) and he shall be the expectation of nations.’ v. 18. “I will look for thy salvation O Lord.”

Illustrious promises of the coming of the Son of God, for our salvation: who also in the blessing of Joseph v. 26 is called “the desire of the everlasting hills,” as being longed for as it were, by the whole creation.

Chap. l (50) v. 19, 20. ‘ Can we resist the will of God, said Joseph to his brethren, you thought evil against me; but God turned it into good, &c.;’

O how often does he deal thus with us, by drawing good out of our evils ! O blessed be his name!

Challoner’s book in it’s entirety may be found on the YIM Catholic Bookshelf.

To Anne Rice, With Love (Music for Mondays)

I’ve been on vacation since July 28th. On July 29th, you let the world know you are leaving the Church, and Christianity, in “the name of Christ.” Soon thereafter, the whole blog-o-sphere was on fire with “what it all means” posts. The one I liked, I posted on our Facebook page.

But I was on vacation, see, and sorry—I wasn’t going to write a post about you pulling a “crazy Ivan” and leaving the Church. I promised my wife that I wouldn’t post, and I’m a man of my word. Besides, there was too much to do and too much to see in Washington D.C. Like seeing the museums of the Smithsonian, the Marine Corps War Memorial, the Capitol, the White House, and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. All worthy of future posts. But in the back of my mind, Anne, I still thought of you.

And I remembered you again when I came across the passage in Genesis where Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. I’m sure you are familiar with this story Anne, because it comes right after Abraham had bargained with God to spare the cities of Sodom and Gemorrah if he could find 10 righteous men in them.

But he still persisted: “Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time. What if there are at least ten there?” “For the sake of those ten,” He replied, “I will not destroy it.”(Genesis 18:32)

It appears that when taking the census, Abraham came up short, because the city was destroyed in the very next chapter. One family, that of a fellow named Lot was found, and they were warned to get out of town with one condition…don’t look back.

But Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.(Gen 19:26)

Anne, this all happened a few chapters after the flood (like déjà vu all over again). But maybe you believe everything in the Bible is allegorical. Some is, some isn’t. You have to trust the Church to lead you in this, but that is where you and I part company, see?  Now, Paul and Barnabus parted company too and the world didn’t end. But Barnabus never left the Church either.

Anyway Anne, this is getting long. The thing is, I drove to D.C. and drove back, as it takes about 8 hours(one way) from where I live. In my old van, without satellite radio, the reception goes bad on the radio, so we threw some cassette tapes into the stereo (I said it was old!) and these songs came up on the course of our drive home. They reminded me of you again, and here they are.

Depeche Mode, Personal Jesus. I don’t know if this is what you have in mind Anne, but it is a far cry from what Marie of the Incarnation did.

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Nirvana, Smells Like Teen Spirit.  “Overboard and self-assured? That’s what it seems like to me. Oh, and “a denial” too. But don’t you fret, because stronger people than us have denied Christ (just ask St. Peter).

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Stevie Wonder, Higher Ground. Then this came on, Anne, and I thought: “Sheesh!—I wish Anne could hear this old tape (recorded in 2005), because maybe this is what she is thinking?!”

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Elton John, Rocket Man. But then Elton John came on and sang this Bernie Taupin song that made me think you are going to be “burning out your fuse up (t)here alone,” if you aren’t careful. Anne…you’re not being careful—it’s lonely out in space!

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Blondie, Heart of Glass. Seriously, this came on next. Anne, I hope you don’t feel like this!

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Simple Minds, Don’t You Forget About Me. It’s weird, Anne, but the next song on the loop that reminded me of your situation was this one. Sure, the tune is from the movie “The Breakfast Club”, but now, in this context, it means something different to me. “Will you recognize Me? Call My name? Or walk on by…”

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Journey, Seperate Ways. I’m not making this up!

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U2, Mysterious Ways. Do you really think you have the Church all figured out Anne? You know, Thomas Aquinas had a personal revelation experience and afterwards,  he never wrote a single word again. He said everything he had ever written prior to that experience was like so much straw. She moves in mysterious ways Anne.

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One day you will look back
And you’ll see where
You were held 

how by this love
while you could stand there
You could move on this moment
Follow this feeling

Ok, that is all of the songs that I heard on my drive home yesterday that made me think of you. This last one, I heard today on the way back from work.

Madness, Our House. It’s crowded, it’s loud, it’s a house full of sinners. And trust me, “She’s the one (you’re) going to miss in lots of ways.”

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Come back soon Anne! We’ll leave the light on for you.

To Be One of Mary’s Clients

I’ll probably die when I least expect it. That is my sense, anyway. Death for me will come “as a thief in the night.” It almost happened that way for me once already. Then again, I really have no idea.

I do know several people who are close to me who are looking death in the eyes from an illness. The dreaded cancer takes one down this road slowly and tortuously. That path may await me as well. It’s the “thief in the night” once again, just in a different guise. But certainly I will die, and I won’t have a say in the manner or method. What to do? I intend to go down like a Christian, but I’ll need a lot of help to do so.

A while back, I shared the letter Blaise Pascal wrote to his sister upon the death of his father. I liked the way Blaise turned an inevitabilty into a rite of passage for Christians. Not something to fear, but something to celebrate. That’s a pretty contrarian idea and always has been. Below are thoughts on how the Blessed Mother can help us prepare for that day. These words were written by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church, and founder of the Redemptorists.  But, get this,  he says we can call him “St. Al” for short. That’s him in the portrait below.

St. Al’s feast day is coming up on August 1, but I’ll be away from the good ship YIMCatholic, on shore leave, at that time. Before I go, though, I’ll leave you with a little taste of St. Al’s book entitled The Glories of Mary. This particular section provides a window on the “business” of the Blessed Virgin that I, as a recent convert, am unfamiliar with. These words, however, are comforting to me, because when I face this test, I’ll need all the support I can get. As far as I’m concerned, she can sign me up as a “client” right this minute. Where is my pen?

Mary renders Death sweet to her Clients.

“He that is a friend loveth at all times; and a brother is proved in distress,” says the book of Proverbs. We can never know our friends and relations in the time of prosperity; it is only in the time of adversity that we see them in their true colors. People of the world never abandon a friend as long as he is in prosperity; but should misfortunes overtake him, and more particularly should he be at the point of death, they immediately forsake him.

Mary does not act thus with her clients. In their afflictions, and more particularly in the sorrows of death, the greatest that can be endured in this world, this good Lady and Mother not only does not abandon her faithful servants, but as, during our exile, she is our life, so also is she, at our last hour, our sweetness, by obtaining us a calm and happy death.

For from the day on which Mary had the privilege and sorrow of being present at the death of Jesus her Son, who was the head of all the predestined, it became her privilege to assist also at their deaths. And for this reason the holy Church teaches us to beg this most Blessed Virgin to assist us, especially at the moment of death: Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death!

0 how great are the sufferings of the dying! They suffer from remorse of conscience on account of past sins, from fear of the approaching judgment, and from the uncertainty of their eternal salvation. Then it is that hell arms itself, and spares no efforts to gain the soul which is on the point of entering eternity; for it knows that only a short time remains in which to gain it, and that if it then loses it, it has lost it for ever. “The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath knowing that he hath but a short time.”(Rev xii,12)

And for this reason the enemy of our salvation, whose charge it was to tempt the soul during life, does not choose at death to be alone, but calls others to his assistance, according to the prophet Isaias : “Their houses shall be filled with serpents”(Isaias xiii, 21) And indeed they are so; for when a person is at the point of death, the whole place in which he is, is filled with devils, who all unite to make him lose his soul.

It is related of St. Andrew Avellino, that ten thousand devils came to tempt him at his death. The conflict that he had in his agony with the powers of hell was so terrible, that all the good religious who assisted him trembled. They saw the Saint’s face swelled to such a degree from agitation, that it became quite black, every limb trembled and was contorted; his eyes shed a torrent of tears, his head shook violently; all gave evidence of the terrible assault he was enduring on the part of his infernal foes. All wept with compassion, and redoubled their prayers, and at the same time trembled with fear, on seeing a Saint die thus.

They were, however, consoled at seeing, that often, as if seeking for help, the Saint turned his eyes towards a devout picture of Mary; for they remembered that during life he had often said that at death Mary would be his refuge. At length God was pleased to put an end to the contest by granting him a glorious victory; for the contortions of his body ceased, his face resumed its original size and color, and the Saint, with his eyes tranquilly fixed on the picture, made a devout inclination to Mary (who it is believed then appeared to him), as if in the act of thanking her, and with a heavenly smile on his countenance tranquilly breathed forth his blessed soul into the arms of Mary. At the same moment; a Capuchiness, who was in her agony, turning to the nuns who surrounded her, said, “Recite a Hail Mary; for a Saint has just expired.”

Ah, how quickly do the rebellious spirits fly from the presence of this queen! If at the hour of death we have only the protection of Mary, what need we fear from the whole of our infernal enemies? David, fearing the horrors of death, encouraged himself by placing his reliance in the death of the coming Redeemer and in the intercession of the Virgin Mother. “For though,” he says, ” I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me(Psalm xxiii, 4).

Cardinal Hugo, explaining these words of the royal prophet, says that the staff signifies the cross, and the rod is the intercession of Mary; for she is the rod foretold by the prophet Isaias: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root”(Isaias, xi, 1). “This Divine Mother,” says Saint Peter Damian, “is that powerful rod with which the violence of the infernal enemies is conquered.”

And therefore does St. Antoninus encourage saying, “If Mary is for us, who shall be against us?” When Father Emanuel Padial, of the Society of Jesus, was at the point of death, Mary appeared to him, and to console him, she said: “See at length the hour is come when the angels congratulate with thee, and exclaim: 0 happy labours, 0 mortifications well requited! And in the same moment an army of demons was seen taking its flight, and crying out in despair: Alas ! we can do nought, for she who is without stain defends him.”

In like manner, Farther Gaspar Haywood was assaulted by devils at his death, and greatly tempted against faith: he immediately recommended himself to the most Blessed Virgin, and was heard to exclaim, “I thank thee, Mary; for thou hast come to my aid.” St. Bonaventure tells us that Mary sends without delay the prince of the heavenly court, Saint Michael, with all the angels, to defend her dying servants against the temptations of the devils, and to receive the souls of all who in a special manner and perseveringly have recommended themselves to her. The Saint, addressing our Blessed Lady, says,

“Michael, the leader and prince of the heavenly army, with all the administering spirits, obeys thy commands, 0 Virgin, and defends and receives the souls of the faithful who have particularly recommended themselves to thee, 0 Lady, day and night.”

The prophet Isaias tells us that when a man is on the point of leaving the world, hell is opened and sends forth its most terrible demons, both to tempt the soul before it leaves the body, and also to accuse it when presented before the tribunal of Jesus Christ for judgement. The prophet says, “Hell below was in an uproar to meet thee at thy coming; it stirred up the giants for thee”(Isaias xiv. 9).

But Richard of Saint Lawrence remarks, that when the soul is defended by Mary, the devils dare not even accuse it, knowing that the judge never condemned, and never will condemn, a soul protected by his august Mother. He asks, “Who would dare accuse one who is patronised by the Mother of Him who is to judge ?” Mary not only assists her beloved servants at death and encourages them, but she herself accompanies them to the tribunal-seat of God. As St. Jerome says, writing to the virgin Eustochia, “What a day of joy will that be for thee, when Mary, the Mother of our Lord, accompanied by choirs of virgins, will go to meet thee.’

The Blessed Virgin assured Saint Bridget of this; for, speaking of her devout clients at the point of death, she said, “Then will I, their dear Lady and Mother, fly to them, that they may have consolation and refreshment.” St. Vincent Ferrer says, that not only does the most Blessed Virgin console and refresh them, but that “she receives the souls of the dying.” This loving Queen takes them under her mantle, and thus presents them to the Judge, her Son, and most certainly obtains their salvation.

This really happened to Charles the son of St. Bridget, who died in the army, far from his mother. She feared much for his salvation on account of the dangers to which young men are exposed in a military career; but the Blessed Virgin revealed to her that he was saved on account of his love for her, and that in consequence she herself had assisted him at death, and had suggested to him the acts that should be made at that terrible moment.

At the same time the Saint saw Jesus on His throne, and the devil bringing two accusations against the most Blessed Virgin: the first was, that Mary had prevented him from tempting Charles at the moment of death; and the second was, that this Blessed Virgin had herself presented his soul to the Judge, and so saved it without even giving him the opportunity of exposing the grounds on which he claimed it. She then saw the Judge drive the devil away, and Charles’s soul carried to heaven.

Ecclesiasticus says, that “her bands are a healthful binding,”(Eccl. vi, 31) and that “in the latter end, thou shalt find rest in her” (Eccl. vi, 29). 0, you are indeed fortunate, my brother, if at death you are bound with the sweet chains of the love of the Mother of God! These chains are chains of salvation and they are chains that will insure your eternal salvation, and will make you enjoy in death that blessed peace which will be the beginning of your eternal peace and rest.

Father Binetti, in his book on the perfections of our blessed Lord, says, “that having attended the death-bed of a great lover of Mary, he heard him, before expiring, utter these words: “0 my father, would that you could know the happiness that I now enjoy from having served the most holy Mother of God; I cannot tell you the joy that I now experience.”

Father Suarez (in consequence of his devotion to Mary, which was such that he used to say that he would willingly change all his learning for the merit of a single Hail Mary) died with such peace and joy, that in that moment he said, “I could not have thought that death was so sweet;” meaning, that he could never have imagined that it was possible, if he had not then experienced it, that he could have found such sweetness in death.

You, devout reader, will, without doubt, experience the same joy and contentment in death, if you can then remember that you have loved this good Mother, who cannot be otherwise than faithful to her children who have been faithful in serving and honoring her, by their visits, rosaries, and fasts, and still more by frequently thanking and praising her, and often recommending themselves to her powerful protection.

You can read more of The Glories of Mary at the YIM Catholic Book Shelf. Here too is a link to many prayers asking Our Blessed Mother to pray for us.

Eclectic Mix (Music for Mondays)

Over the week just past, we were plying deep waters. You see, we can’t just stay in the shallows and expect to get anywhere. You have to plot a course with confidence, prayer, faith, and with the courage that you can leave the sight of land behind and still live to tell the tale.

There was Scripture 1A, then rough weather,  a hunting obsessed saint, and Scripture 1B. Then we had an obituary and a calling and scary parenting posts. And we can’t forget Belloc!

Still reflecting on some of last weeks posts, I put together this mix of songs for your listening pleasure. Some may not be pleasurable, though. Indeed you may find some irritating, grating, or troubling even. But stay the course, and I think you will be pleased and uplifted, somewhere between the rock and the hard-place.

Wrapping up  Belloc’s book with the chapter on the Modern Phase reminded me of this song by The Doors.  Riders on the Storm. “Into this house were born, into this world were thrown.” In my mind, I can assign roles to each of the characters Jim Morrison sings about here: the riders, the actor, the killer, the girl, the man. How about you?

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The Byrds, Turn, Turn, Turn. The roots of this Pete Seeger song? Hint: it’s from Frank’s favorite Old Testament book. Yeah, you guessed it, Ecclesiastes (see chapter 3). Because everything I know (about this world) I learned from Ecclesiastes.  I even built a Facebook page with that title. I must say that I’m very glad The Word decided to follow-up and make some of Qoheleths observations obsolete. Most of them are still on target though.

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A more modern take on the Ecclesiastes theme from The Police:  King of Pain. There’s a little black spot on the Sun today; it’s the same old thing as yesterday.

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Neil Young,  Restless Consumer. Ever heard the term “cognitive dissonance?” I think Neil hit’s the nail right on the head here. This song reminds me of some of the haunting passages from another Old Testament book (see Amos, chapter 8). After all, as the introduction to the book explains, “Amos is the prophet of social justice. He reveals to us a God who defends the rights of the poor.” Lest we forget. Please forgive the advertising at the beginning…

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Reality bites, sometimes, right? Give us something happy now Frank! Um, not yet—wouldn’t be prudent. Tom Jones has a new album coming out entitled Praise & Blame. Deacon Greg tipped me off to this one. It’s called Did Trouble Me.

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Remember that we are called to love. It’s hard to do, but I keep trying. With her angelic voice, Jocelyn Montgomery helps me to remember. This is Caritas,  from her album singing the texts from Hildegard von Bingen. Webster probably has this on his Pandora Radio channel.

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And pray without ceasing. Here is Loreena McKennitt with her song Dante’s Prayer. I came across this recently. The artist introduces the song and explains how she was inspired by an experience of traveling across Siberia on a train, and reading Dante’s Inferno.

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Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We’ll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me… 

This time next week, and none too soon, I’ll be on vacation! Webster or Allison will have the conn for Music for Mondays until I return. Ciao!

Because Nature Abhors A Vacuum

I found this photograph on a blog with the following caption: So Funny, So True. Maybe it’s just me but I would argue that the caption should have been So Sad, So Tragic.

As a parent of three school-age children, there is plenty for me to worry about in the world. Teen “Self-Help” is not one of them. As the title for this post states, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” a quote attributed to the philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

Spinoza did not believe in a personal God, nor could his brilliant mind come to terms with the idea of God becoming a human, as Our Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ did. I would say (and I’m definitely not brilliant) that Spinoza had a problem understanding Love.

As parents of three school-age children, my wife and I have been entrusted with raising these individuals in a way that will serve themselves and society well and in the manner that God has ordained them to be raised. That is, in a way that will teach them the Two Greatest Commandments (as stated in Luke Chapter 10 here):

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

Of course, saying this and actually doing it are not easy tasks. And I would argue that they cannot be done alone, nor without prayer and constant attention. My wife and I need all the help we can get! And this is another reason why I personally became a Catholic so that I could join with my wife in unity to lead my small flock by example and with all of the benefits that the Sacraments provide and the Graces that The Church has to offer.

“Self Help” is an oxymoron. “Teen Self Help?” You’ve got to be kidding me! Look at the titles on the shelves in the photograph above. Almost every one is a supernatural thriller of some type. And why do we crave the supernatural? Isn’t it obvious? Because we are spiritual beings. Souls in earthen vessels, yearning for God and communion with Him. Why not tap into our children’s need for the supernatural in a positive way?

Time is short, and as parents we can only shape and mold our children while they are in our personal care. Decisions you make to ensure this happens will often times be unpopular in the extreme. However, as stated in Proverbs 22:6

Train a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it.

Some tasks are too important to leave to chance. Or as the poet said:

I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty;
I woke, and found that life was Duty.
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?

Toil on, sad heart, courageously,

And thou shalt find thy dream to be
A noonday light and truth to thee.

More From the Treasure Chest: “Cannot” Part II

A few days ago, I found an essay written by Father George Bampfield entitled “Cannot”. I posted the first part of it here. This post today is the rest of the essay.

I feel compelled to share the rest of it with you for a good reason. From some of the comments to the first post, comments which I didn’t publish, it is obvious that some of you don’t realize that many passages in the Bible are taken literally by the Catholic Church.

In fact, every Bible passage referred to here by Father Bampfield is the scriptural basis for the Catholic Church’s teachings on each of the positions he writes about in this essay.

To be sure, the teachings are more fully developed and fortified by Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church. But to believe that the Catholic Church doesn’t believe in any of the Scriptures as being able to be taken literally is, quite frankly, nonsense.

So here is the rest of the essay, with further examples from both the New Testament and the Old, from the Gospels and the apostolic letters. It gets really good when the narrator (in bold) moderates a debate between Father Flanagan, whom I picture as Alec Guinness’ character Father Brown (in the photo here), and the representatives of the various other Christian denominations.

“Cannot” is still the operative word here, and Father Flanagan does a much better job than I can explaining why that word doesn’t compute.

A word of warning(really more of an FYI), this is long, but simple to follow. You just might want to grab a snack now. Otherwise, we pick up where we left off—

Once more the Protestant flies from the simple sense of God’s word ; and once more with the same cry of “cannot.”

“How can this man,” say they “give us His Flesh to eat?” just as before they said, “Who can forgive sins but God only ?” And once more the priest flies not from the clear simple sense, but answers, “What God says, God means ; and if it is hard, remember that with God there is no ” cannot.”

Hitherto the Catholics have been the straightforward people. ‘You get from them a plain meaning for a plain text. It may be a deep text, and then you get a deep meaning ; but for all its depth it is clear and plain. The sense sticks close to the words. ” White ” does not mean ” black,” and ” black ” does not mean ” white.” Now, Protestants always seem to me trying to make out that ” black ” in the Bible means ” a little white,” and that ” white” in the Bible means “just a trifle black.”

You think it very shocking of me to say such things? Well! let us try both parties with a few more texts.

Our Lord said to Simon the son of Jonas, “Thou art Peter ;” and the word “Peter” certainly means “a rock” He promised him this name from the very beginning (St. John i. 42); He gave it him solemnly in presence of the other Apostles (St. Matthew xvi. 18). Now, certainly this sentence is a very simple one. “Thou art a rock” is clear and plain; and plain men, who are not afraid of the Bible, would take it to mean that St. Peter really is a rock.

Very clear and plain also are the words following : “Upon this rock I will build My Church;” plain men would in their child-like way suppose that Our Lord really did build His Church upon St. Peter.

Plain also are the words that follow : “The gates of hell,” that is the power of hell, “shall not prevail against it.” Plain men would suppose them to mean that, the Church being founded upon S. Peter, the power of hell has not prevailed, and does not prevail against it.

Now let us get some Catholic priest—it does not matter where you take him from, somehow or other they all of them always tell the same story, and the stupidest of them seems as clever in these matters as the cleverest—and put him side by side with a gentleman from St. Paul’s Cathedral, another from the City Temple, a third from the Tabernacle, a fourth from Lady Huntingdon’s miscellaneous college at Cheshunt, and as many more as you like from anywhere else, and let them talk about this text. Father Flanagan shall begin.

Fr. Flanagan: It is the plainest text in the world. Our Lord said to Simon, “Thou art a rock” and he became a rock.

St. Paul’s: Not more than the other Apostles : “the Church is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.” (Eph. ii. 20.)

Fr. Flanagan: Well then Our Lord would have called them all Peter. He does not. He says “Thou” not “Ye;” and when Our Lord says, “Thou” and speaks to one man, I take Him to mean “Thou.”

The Tabernacle: I say St. Peter was no more a rock than the rest of us. We are all “lively stones.” (I. St. Peter, ii. 5.)

Fr. Flanagan: Our Lord by solemnly giving him the name says that he is a rock more than the rest of us. He does not speak to all of us, but only to Simon son of Jonas. Else the giving of the name means nothing; it is made of “none effect.”

Here at all events the priest seems to stick closer to the words than the others. “Thou art a rock” is not the same as “you twelve are rocks,” or as “everybody is a rock.”

But pray Fr. Flanagan, what do you think Our Lord meant by calling Simon a rock? How is he a rock ?

Fr. Flanagan: It is all so simple and straightforward, I can’t see any difficulty. Our Lord compares His Church to a house which He is going to build. Now “a house built upon a rock does not fall” (St. Matt. vii. 25.), because a rock is not shaken by the wind or storm. Our Lord therefore, before building, prepares a rock to build upon. The rock was Simon the son of Jonas.

Yes! But what is meant by the “rock ?” In what way could Simon the son of Jonas be the rock not shaken by wind or storm?

Fr. Flanagan: By being an infallible teacher of the truth. The rock of the Church is a teacher sent from God who cannot blunder. The power of hell on earth has been “lying,” from the time that Satan lied to Eve about the fruit. But if a teacher of truth cannot be taken in by lies, and cannot lie himself, lying cannot prevail against him. He is as little to be moved as a rock, and the Church or society which listens to his voice is safe, so long as it listens.

City Temple: Christ Himself is that teacher sent from, God. He is the rock on which the Church is built, and “other foundation can no man lay.” You are honouring Peter that you may dishonour Christ.

Fr. Flanagan: God forbid! Christ Himself is certainly the Rock, the foundation of the Church; of this I am as certain as you; yet you have just yourself told me, one of you that we are all “lively stones,” another that the Church is “built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.” How can Christ be the foundation and the Apostles a foundation also? In the same way Christ is the “light of the world;” yet He Himself says to the Apostles, “Ye are the light of the world.” If Our Lord is ” the light,” and yet the Apostles can be “the light” also, I suppose Our Lord can be “the rock,” yet St. Peter a rock also.

The difference of course is that Our Lord is the rock by His own strength, St. Peter not by his own strength, but by the strength which God gives him. Christ was the light of the world by teaching His own truth through His own power; the Apostles were also the light of the world by teaching their Master’s truth through their Master’s power. So Christ is the rock on which the Church is built, because He is by His own power the infallible teacher of truth; Peter is the rock on which the Church is built, because he is by Christ’s power the infallible teacher of truth till the world’s end. Against Christ “error,” which is the power of hell, could not prevail, because He is God; against Peter “error” cannot prevail, because he is sent by God and taught by God.

Christ is the unseen rock in Heaven, Peter the seen rock on earth, who leans upon Christ, and so leaning is able to bear up the Church. In other words, Christ taught the truth infallibly while on earth; when He went away from earth He no longer spoke to us with His own human lips; He chose therefore other human lips through which He might speak; the lips He chose were those of Peter. He gave him the power to teach truth without blunder; and, through Peter, Christ teaches us till the end of time. The words therefore of Our Blessed Lord mean as follows—” Thou art a teacher whom I will keep infallible; on thy teaching guided by Me I will build my Church, and false teaching shall never prevail against thee, so as to make thee teach error for My truth.”

What do you mean by saying that Christ teaches through Peter till the end of time? Peter is dead.

Fr. Flanagan: “The King is dead—Long live the King.” Peter himself is reigning with his Master. But Peter’s office is not dead, his Church is not dead, his Bishopric is not dead. Many Churches founded by Apostles have died and passed away. Many Bishoprics have been removed ; St. Peter’s Bishopric has not been removed. Just as, when a king dies, his kingly power goes down to his son, so when Peter died, his power of teaching without error went down to the Bishops who came after him, even to our present Pope Leo XIII. who now sits in Peter’s chair, and speaks with Peter’s power not to err. If it were not so, if it was only to Peter himself, not to the Popes who came after him, that the promise was made, then the Church would hardly be founded on a rock. St. Peter would die, the rock would be removed, and the Church might fall.

I think this is one of your deep texts with a deep meaning, and terribly long you have been about giving it. Still the priest’s sense, deep as it is, sticks close to its words. Now let us see. You said that Peter was and is really a rock?

Fr. Flanagan: Most certainly. Christ took him into a share of His own office of rock of the Church.

And you, Reverend sirs?

St. Paul’s: Well! It is a difficult text. Yes: a rock, certainly a rock; a rock, probably my dissenting brethren will agree with me, a rock by character: St. Peter was a firm-minded strong man.

Fr. Flanagan: For many reasons this will not do.

1. In all other cases in which God Himself gives a name, the name describes not the character but an office. With Abraham and Sarah and Joshua and the Holy Name Jesus, it is so.

2. It is not likely that Our Lord should have solemnly given and made such a point of a name which merely described a man’s character.

3. It is not true of Peter’s character. He went to walk on the waves and sank; he was scandalized at the thought of the Crucifixion; he slept during the Agony; he denied his Master with oaths: naturally he was surely not a rock in character.

You say that on St. Peter Our Lord built His Church ?

Fr. Flanagan: Most certainly.

And you, Reverend sirs?

St. Paul’s: Well no! not on St. Peter. On Himself, or on the Truth.

But He Himself says upon St. Peter: He does not here say on Himself or on the Truth.

St. Paul’s: Well, but this must be the meaning of it. Otherwise Popery would be true, and Popery, you know, is not true.

You say also that the power of hell, that is, error, does not prevail against the Church because it is built upon St. Peter’s See of Rome, and St. Peter is the rock?

Fr. Flanagan. Certainly.

And you, Reverend sirs?

St. Pauls: -Oh ! that cannot be right. Of course error did prevail against St. Peter’s See of Rome. Rome became terribly corrupt.

Who then has the truth?

St. Pauls: Well! nobody exactly has the whole truth. Every sect has got something wrong: each of them teaches some truths and some errors.

It seems to me, then, that the power of hell has prevailed very fearfully. The Church has been built upon sand. Lies and truth are taught together; and the truth with no mixture of falsehood which Jesus taught is gone. The priest’s sense is surely deeper, more honourable to God, and at the same time simpler and nearer to the words. Father Flanagan, I am your convert. You are a better Bible Christian than the others.

Our Protestant friends will again give their reason “Cannot” for thinking St. Peter not to have been really a “rock.” A sinful man, they say, a rock! An erring human creature like ourselves an infallible teacher! Impossible! God cannot make a man infallible. At least, not in 1885. It is true that the writers of Scripture were infallible, but that was long ago.

Long ago! Has God grown old and feeble? He cannot do now what He could do before! He could make Isaiah infallible, perchance even St. Peter himself, but not Leo XIII. Not amidst gas, and electricity and steam, and Armstrong cannons, and Schneider rifles and big telescopes, and daily discovery of wonderful bones—the thing is impossible.

God is and will be as He was—says the Catholic—the same today as yesterday. He, who kept erring man infallible of old, keeps him infallible still ; He does not change ; He loses neither strength nor love. Certainly the Catholic opinion sticks close to the Scriptures and close to common sense also. It is neither Scripture nor common sense to think that God has changed, and does not deal with men as he used to deal.
5. Let us try another text or two. Here, Father Flanagan, is a text from St. James : “Is any one sick among you ?” it says, “let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” You Catholics take this text in its plain meaning, do you not?

Fr. Flanagan: Of course we do. We take every text to mean what it says. What would be the good of texts if they did not? When we are sick, we send for the elders and they pray over us, anointing us with oil.

And you, Reverend sirs?

St. Paul’s: We have no such custom. St. James, you see, wrote of a custom existing in his days; suitable for hot countries and those times; it would not do now.

Fr. Flanagan: Then these words are of “none effect.” They are no use in these days except to puzzle plain people. St. James certainly does not say anything about hot countries. India is hot enough for most people; would my reverend brethren anoint there? It seems to me that a good deal of Scripture might be got rid of in this way, if we may say of any thing we please that it is not for our time or our climate. What makes you think that St. James spoke only for his own day and not for all times?

St. Pauls: Well! there is nothing exactly in the Scripture about hot countries and his own times; but you see we don’t do it, and of course we should do it, if it was right. Besides what is the use of it ?

The Tabernacle: We Baptists used to anoint the sick at one time:—Kiffin did it; but we have left it off now; it is probably a thing we may do or not do just as we please. But I don’t see the use of it myself.

Fr. Flanagan: St. James very clearly tells us the two uses; healing for the body, forgiveness of sins for the soul: “The prayer of faith shall save the sick man, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

The Tabernacle: A drop of oil cure the sick! It cannot be.

City Temple: A drop of oil forgive sins! It cannot be.

Fr. Flanagan: Cannot again! What cannot God do? Does not St. Mark tell us that many that were sick were anointed with oil and healed ? (St. Mark vi. 13.)

The Tabernacle: Oh! but that was in Apostolic times.

Fr. Flanagan: Apostolic times! And is not God alive now? What He could do in Apostolic times, He cannot do for us, and in these days!

City Temple: But forgive sins! Through oil !

Fr. Flanagan: Through these stones if He pleased. The question is what He does please; and these words very clearly say that He pleases to forgive sins to the sick through prayer and the anointing with oil.

It is very odd. Here we are getting a great number of texts on all of which the priest is plain and straightforward, and talks common sense; while, with all respect to our good Protestant brethren, they seem just a trine given to shuffling, and putting inconvenient texts on the shelf. I fancy that if Fr. Flanagan was to take to Bible-burning, there would be a text or two which he would pick out of the flames. Clearly “anointing with oil” is a different thing from-”not anointing with oil;”and leaving off what the Apostles order in the Scriptures is not so Scriptural as doing what the Apostles order in the Scriptures. Father Flanagan, you bad Bible-burning priest, I give it for you again; you are the best Bible Christian of them all. Have you any other text to discuss with St. Paul’s ?
6. Fr. Flanagan: Well! To myself it seems that from Genesis to Revelations—from cover to cover—the Protestants are all wrong about every text altogether; but I suppose this will be thought a wild Irish thing to say, so I will pick you out another verse or two. It shall be about one or two troublesome little things that we do, and you do not. For instance, in St. Matt. xix. 21, Our Blessed Lord certainly says to the rich young man, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor.” Now, in the first place, you do not, I think, in any Protestant body, talk about being perfect. You do not preach sermons about perfection, as distinct from simply “keeping the commandments from your youth up.” (Verse 20).

St. Paul’s: Well no! it would be an indiscreet subject. Men’s works are worth very little. The best of us are unprofitable servants. What can a man do more than keep the commandments ? We certainly do not talk of perfection.

Fr. Flanagan: But you see Our Lord does talk of perfection, and while both of us claim to follow Our Lord, you Protestants do not talk of perfection, and we Catholics do. We say that keeping the commandments is one thing, being perfect is a higher and better thing—and this is what Our Lord says. Which of us so far agree with God and the Scriptures?

St. Paul’s: Certainly Our Lord does speak of perfection here.

Fr. Flanagan: Yes; and He says that selling all that we have is not part of the commandments, but part of being perfect. Now is it at all a custom among you in the Cathedral, the Tabernacle, or the City Temple, to sell all that you have and give to the poor?

St. Paul’s: We are charitable to the poor, I am sure. There is always somebody at me for a guinea to a ragged school here, and a soup kitchen there, and I am Governor myself of a score of hospitals, and asylums, and institutions to meet every evil under the sun. But I don’t know about selling all that I have. I never heard of anybody exactly doing it. My wife would think it injudicious, and I don’t think I could advise any young man to do quite as much as that. It seems to me one of those passages in Scripture that were not meant to be taken too literally.

The Tabernacle: A difficult passage. We have great charities. The orphanage at Stockwell is a noble thing.

Fr. Flanagan: A noble thing, I grant you, nobly planned, and founded by noble charity. But it is not selling all that you have ?

The Tabernacle: It is not. But is this Scripture to be taken literally ? Do you sell all that you have?

Fr. Flanagan: Certainly those who aim at perfection do. Every day rich men and rich women sell all that they have and give to the poor.

The Tabernacle: And what do they do then ?

Fr. Flanagan: Follow Him. Enter convents and monasteries, or the priesthood, and follow His life of poverty, and fasting, and hardship.

The Tabernacle: Oh! convents and monasteries! Cracow, Prague, Belgium, and Hull(ed. know for abuses in the past)!

Fr. Flanagan: Rubbish. Come, come, stick to the point. Our Blessed Lord tells you, if you want to be perfect sell all that you have and give to the poor. Do any of you do this thing ? Yes or no ?

S. Paul’s: Honestly we do not.

The Tabernacle: We do not.

City Temple: We do not.

Fr. Flanagan: We do. Which of us is Scriptural ?

I will only take two things more, for we must not talk over every doctrine and every text of Scripture. It would take two or three life-times. Here is another point very much like the last. Our Lord tells us in very strong language that there are “eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake.”

Father Flanagan how understand you this?

Fr. Flanagan: I understand our Blessed Lord to say that it is good not to marry for God’s sake. He says that it is not given to all men to remain unmarried, but only to some; but He encourages those to whom it is given ; ” He that is able to receive it,” says He, “let him receive it.”

When then Our Lord says “let him receive it,”you take Him to mean that people are to receive it; and that those who are able, do well to remain unmarried for God’s sake ?

Fr. Flanagan: Certainly; that is the plain simple sense; our Lord cannot surely mean by such words as “make themselves eunuchs ” to recommend marriage.

And you, gentlemen?

St. Paul’s: It is a difficult text. We do not generally speak much about it. You see the Apostle says, “Marriage is honourable in all.”

Fr. Flanagan: Oh! fie, for shame! You know you are giving a wrong translation. Come, come, we shall never find out the truth, unless we are ourselves truthful. You know the Apostle’s words are, “Let marriage be kept honourably by all.” But here at all events, our Lord does not say, “Marriage is honourable in all:” He says distinctly, “Making themselves eunuchs is honourable in some.”

The question is simply this. Our Lord and the Scriptures encourage men to remain unmarried for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. Do you encourage men to remain unmarried for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake? Do you ever praise it, or advise it, or in any way promote it?

The Tabernacle: Well! we do not. In fact, to be honest, we encourage age men to marry, and think the unmarried state not so good as the married. We do not care about monks and nuns. The life is too severe: men cannot live it.

St. Paul’s: I think with you. I do not believe it possible.

City Temple: We cannot do it. A wife is very useful in the ministry.

Fr. Flanagan: Cannot, again! Oh! ye of little faith! Do you really forget that what is impossible with man is possible with God? Do you believe at all that God is a God of power?

The Tabernacle: But surely forbidding to marry is one of the errors of Rome. We have said so these 300 years.

Fr, Flanagan: Forbidding to marry! Who talks of forbidding marriage to those who want to marry? Not we. After a baptism, there’s nothing I like so much as a marriage. The question is, if a man wants to make himself a eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, whether he may do so ? You say no, and call him all kinds of bad names. Precious tyrants we think you for your pains. I say, if a man wants to marry let him marry, but if he wants to be single for God’s sake, in heaven’s name leave the man alone, and let him be single. Come, come, be honest; the simple point is this: Our Lord praises men for keeping themselves single for God’s sake; is it a practice among you to keep yourselves single for God’s sake?

S. Paul’s: Our bishops marry, our deans, canons, clergy, and laity. I do not think it is.

The Tabernacle: It is not.

City Temple: With us it is not.

Fr. Flanagan: With us it is. Once more, which of us is Scriptural?

Oh! Flanagan, Flanagan, you bad boy, when next you burn a Bible, pick out this text and keep it. I declare you have the best of it again.

There is only one thing more we will talk about. Fr. Flanagan, I met the other day a woman of your creed, who declared to me that she had been quite cured of rheumatism, lumbago, and I don’t know what besides, by the relics of some saints. I asked her to let me look at them, and she showed me a little bit of a bone that I could hardly see, and a piece of black rag that she said was part of some holy woman’s dress. When I told her it was the doctor’s stuff that cured her, she got so angry that I had to run out of the house like a shot, half afraid of a stool, or some other unpleasant missile, coming after me. Now, this may be all very well for poor old Goody Maguire, but you do not mean to tell me, Father Flanagan, that you educated Catholics will call such a thing as that Scriptural?
Fr. Flanagan: Not Scriptural! Why if there is a doctrine clearly proved by Scripture, I should think it was the doctrine of relics.

St. Paul’s: Well! I never!

The Tabernacle: It is not in our Bible. It must be in some of your books we don’t believe in; or some wrong translation, or something.

City Temple: I never read anything about relics that I remember.

Fr. Flanagan: There it is. You don’t half read your Bibles. You have got your favourite texts, and you stick to them. Talk of my burning Bibles! It seems to me that you clip and cut your Bibles to pieces. Now my dear Tabernacle, the Second Book of Kings—we call it the Fourth Book, but that does not matter—is in your Bible, is it not?

The Tabernacle: Of course it is.

Fr. Flanagan: Well! I will let you use your own translation. Now just turn to the 13th chapter, and read verses 20 and 21.

The Tabernacle: “And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass as they were burying a man, that behold they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the Sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.”

Fr. Flanagan: Well it was not the doctor’s stuff which cured that dead man?

The Tabernacle: No; he was dead.

Fr. Flanagan: Nor the man’s own faith?

City Temple: No; he was dead.

Fr. Flanagan: Nor the faith of those who threw him in ?

St. Paul’s: I suppose not. They wanted to get away from the Moabites. They do not seem to have brought him in faith for the purpose of throwing him in.

Fr. Flanagan: If they did bring him for the purpose, it would prove that they believed—like Goody Maguire—in the power of a holy man’s bones. But they did not. Now, by the plain text of Scripture, if it were not the doctor’s stuff, nor the dead man’s faith, nor the living men’s faith, what was it that raised the corpse to life ?

St. Paul’s: I think we must say it was dead Elisha’s dead bones.

Fr. Flanagan: And what were dead Elisha’s dead bones but the relics of a saint?

The Tabernacle: It is curious; I don’t think I ever thought of the text. But dead bones raise the dead! It cannot be.

Fr. Flanagan: Oh! Cannot, cannot, cannot! I tell you it was.

City Temple: But bones! God only can raise the dead.

Fr. Flanagan: Of course. Am I a baby that you tell me such “A B C” as that! Of course God only. But cannot God raise the dead through the bones of a saint, or through any instrument He pleases ?

The Tabernacle: Of course He can, if He pleases.

Fr. Flanagan: And does not this text show that He did so please ?

The Tabernacle: Yes; in old times.

Fr. Flanagan: In old times! Does God change? What He did under the Old Testament, in the time of fear, He will not do under the New Testament, in the time of love! Again I say, oh ye of little faith! You believe in a God of the past! You do not believe in a living God of the present.

Hush! Father Flanagan. You are getting a trifle hot, and red in the face. I must say I think you have made out about the bones. But what about Goody Maguire’s bit of black rag?

Fr. Flanagan: I will give you but two texts more, for I grant you do make a man hot. In the same Second Book of Kings, chapter ii., we are told that Elijah, when he went up in a fiery chariot, let fall his mantle, his cloak; only what you would call a rag, mind you; a mere piece of stuff. Now, Elisha took it up, and he did a thing which none of you could, according to your religion, have done.

“He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters,” which looked very much like the same sort of trust in a rag which Goody Maguire showed, ” and he said, where is the Lord God of Elijah?” which sounded very like trust in the merits and prayers of a saint, who had gone from earth, “and when he had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither; and Elisha went over.”

St. Paul’s: But that was the power of God, not of the mantle.

Fr. Flanagan: Oh! dear, dear, dear; of course it was the power of God; but it was the power of God using the mantle as His instrument. If not-what was the use of Elisha’s smiting the river with a piece of stuff? You do not dream that we think a Saint’s cloak will heal us by any power in the stuff itself! It is God, using it as He used Elijah’s mantle. You cannot get into your heads the notion of God’s using weak, worthless instruments.

City Temple: It was the power of prayer. Elisha prayed.

Fr. Flanagan: Granted. But he did not pray only. He prayed and struck. If prayer was enough, why strike? And his prayer was a strange one. He did not kneel down and ask God to divide the river. He did not pray to his God. He said “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” He used Elijah’s mantle, and prayed to Elijah’s God. Surely the plain meaning of this is that the river was divided for Elijah’s sake, by the prayer of Elijah in Paradise, and that God gave such strange power to Elijah’s relic to show that it was for his sake.

The Tabernacle: Well! well! granting all this, yet your text is from the Old Testament. Things were more outward in the Jews’ religion; after the coming of the Holy Ghost all things became spiritual and inward. We don’t want saints’ mantles now. You cannot give me one instance from the New Testament.

Fr. Flanagan: Can’t I? How I do wish you men would read your Bibles. Among your other societies, do please form a Bible-Reading Society, and read it fairly. Do you really not remember how a woman with an issue of blood was cured by the hem of Our Lord’s garment? Or did you never read how handkerchiefs and aprons were carried from St. Paul’s body to the sick, and how devils fled from a piece of stuff?

City Temple: I never read it; I don’t think it is in our version.

Fr. Flanagan: It is there, and you have read it. But you won’t notice these things. It is in Acts xix., verse 12.

The Tabernacle: It is there sure enough. It must have been the people’s faith.

Fr. Flanagan: Faith! The poor people had plenty of faith before the handkerchiefs touched the bodies; but never an inch did the devils budge for their faith till the handkerchief got near them. They might have asked St. Paul simply to pray, but they didn’t; they used the relics. Besides, what did they have faith in? They clearly had faith in that in which you have no faith, the power which God gives to a mere rag which has touched a saint’s body.

St. Pauls: It cannot be. A rag!

The Tabernacle: It cannot be.

City Temple. It cannot be.

Fr. Flanagan: Then you don’t believe the Scriptures. Oh ye of little faith!

Ah! Father Flanagan. I see you read the Bibles before you burn them. I declare you have beaten them again.

Fr. Flanagan: Beaten them! How could I help it? The Catholic Church is the Bible. The Church and the Bible being both from God are one and the same thing; and what God hath joined together let no man put asunder.

The Bible says what it means. Which religion really believes this?

Hmmmm. It that “check” or “check mate”?

From Hymns on Paradise (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Webster wrote a post way back in October of last year entitled Because a Tornado is Coming.  As it turned out, it was a hurricane.  See those two flags there in the photograph? That is the signal for “a hurricane is coming.” Don’t let the cloudless sky fool you.

We all know what has happened over the past 18 months—lots of bad stuff. Economic melt downs in 2008 – 2009, jobless recovery in 2010, societal acrimony  and unsettled general feelings and then Whammo!— more discoveries of priest abuse scandals early this year. Top it all off with the spectre of a “double-dip” recession (and all that this implies) and even the hardiest sailor would be getting queasy in this crazy gale.

Oh, you could lie awake at night worrying about all this stuff.  Or you could focus all of your energy on the current political scene and let that side-show take your eye off the ball. Or better yet, you may feel the urge to arm-chair quarterback all of the the latest moves by the Vatican. And you could second-guess all of the decisions of the Church’s leadership at every level.  Heck, you might even decide to throw in the towel and leave the Church altogether, though I pray that you don’t.

You know what I suggest? Turn off the news, stop reading the blogs, take a break. Click. Aaaahh, lookee there, no more hurricane.  That’s more like it!

Sure, you are upset that the professor hired to teach a religion class on Catholicism was fired for doing just that. What is the whole story? Who knows. Let it go.  Go on an information R&R.; Give it a break for a day, or two, or forever, and concentrate on the big-picture, which is the little picture of who we are and what we are meant to be.

We are children of God; salt; the leaven that makes the whole loaf rise. And don’t forget this: we are the light of the world. You and me. And we are called to love one another, hating sin, but loving sinners, which is everyone. No need to be choosy.

Here is another idea: let’s cross the bridge into Paradise.  As painted by these words of  St. Ephrem, which he penned upon reading the Creation story in Genesis, relax from your toils and have a look into our future. Indeed, is this not the better part that Martha was missing?

From Hymns on Paradise

I read the opening of this book
    and was filled with joy,
for its verses and lines
    spread out their arms to welcome me;
the first rushed out and kissed me,
    and led me on to its companion;
and when I reached that verse
    wherein is written
the story of Paradise,
     it lifted me up and transported me
from the bosom of the book
     to the very bosom of Paradise.

The eye and the mind
     traveled over the lines
as over a bridge, and entered together
     the story of Paradise.

The eye as it read
      transported the mind;

in return the mind, too,
      gave the eye rest
from its reading,
      for when the book had been read
the eye had rest
      but the mind was engaged.

Both the bridge and the gate
      of Paradise
did I find in this book.
      I crossed over and entered;
my eye remained outside
      but my mind entered within.

I began to wander
      among things indescribable.

This is luminous height,
      clear, lofty and fair:

Scripture named it Eden,
       the summit of all blessing.

“The summit of all blessing” will not be attained here, not that we won’t keep trying. I’m not going to try to set all things right all by myself today.  No, instead, I’m going to trust God with the conn and give these troubling thoughts a rest. For a day, or two, or forever…

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Silver Bullet Selection II (Music For Mondays)

Steel Pulse is a reggae band that I don’t know diddly squat about. But it’s Monday, it’s raining, and I like the advice these guys are giving here: Chant A Psalm A Day. It makes a whole lot of sense, which is why it’s like a silver bullet.

What have you got to lose? 150 Psalms = 150 days. Some are longer than others, but I’m willing to give it a try. Not sure which ones to pick? Check out the LOTH or just do them in numerical order from your Bible. While you think about it, listen to the song.

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