Thoughts (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I love this photograph of Fr. Abram J. Ryan. Maybe it’s his hair, or perhaps it’s his stare. He has that look about him that says “I don’t care who you are, here comes the goods.” Last summer I shared his Song of the Mystic, and his background information, in this space. There’s a connection between him and me because (for a time) he was the pastor of the parish where I attend daily Mass. I bet he was a great preacher too.

I can imagine hearing him raise his voice at times, opening his eyes wide to make a point, sweeping his mane aside and raising his hands to heaven. And within a moment, dropping his voice fall into a whisper that leaves you on the edge of your seat hungering for the nectar he has teased from the readings. A priest who had seen war in both the heights of it’s glory and the depths of it’s desolation, and then applied what he saw to the Word. I bet it was something to behold.

But he was a poet, see, not just some hell fire and brimstone preacher. He was a mystic, a man of prayer. As well as a thinker and a doer. He was no poseur, as a poet either, as a reading of the following verses will make clear.

Thoughts, by Fr. Abram J. Ryan

By sound of name, and touch of hand,
Thro’ ears that hear, and eyes that see,
We know each other in this land,
How little must that knowledge be?


How souls are all the time alone,
No spirit can another reach;
They hide away in realms unknown,
Like waves that never touch a beach.


We never know each other here,
No soul can here another see –
To know, we need a light as clear
As that which fills eternity.


For here we walk by human light,
But there the light of God is ours,
Each day, on earth, is but a night;
Heaven alone hath clear-faced hours.


I call you thus — you call me thus –
Our mortal is the very bar
That parts forever each of us,
As skies, on high, part star from star.


A name is nothing but a name
For that which, else, would nameless be;
Until our souls, in rapture, claim
Full knowledge in eternity.

See what I mean? Maybe you have to be Irish, but…this guy is good!

Because Vincent de Paul Was Once A Muslim’s Slave

Life got you down? Things perhaps haven’t turned out as you planned? Do you think everyone else has got it so easy? Your neighbors, for example, or those fortunate people who come into a considerable sum of money?

And how about those saintly types? They are simply walking on air, those guys, living lives of complete and blessed beatitude, right? Hold up!

While in Heaven the saints enjoy the beatific vision, but while they were here on earth? They were slogging it out with the rest of us. And that even includes those who were fortunate enough to be blessed with an earthly inheritance.

Take St. Vincent de Paul for instance (today is his feast day). Following his being ordained a priest, in the year of Our Lord 1605, he received news that someone had left him an inheritance. Saints be praised! Come and see where this development led him.

Once Upon a Time, over four hundred years ago…

The young priest’s life flowed on peacefully for the next five years, and then a startling adventure befell him. An old friend of his died at Marseilles, and Vincent received news that he had been left in the will a sum of fifteen hundred livres, which in those days was a considerable deal of money. Vincent’s heart was full of gratitude. What could he not do now to help his poor people. And he began to plan all the things the legacy would buy till it struck him with a laugh that ten times the amount could hardly get him all he wanted. Besides, it was not yet in his possession, and with that reflection he set about his preparations for his journey to Marseilles.

He probably went the greater part of the way on foot, and it must have taken him about as long as it would take us to go to India. But he was a man who had his eyes about him, and the country which he passed through was alive with the history he had read. Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, and the scandal, now two hundred years old, of the two popes, would be brought to his mind by the very names of the towns where he rested and the rivers which he crossed, but at length they were all left behind, and Marseilles was reached.

His business was soon done, and with the money in his pocket he was ready to begin his long walk back to Toulouse, when he received an invitation from a friend of the lawyer’s to go in his vessel by sea to Narbonne, which would cut off a large corner(of his journey). He gladly accepted and went on board at once. But the ship was hardly out of sight of Marseilles when three African vessels, such as then haunted the Mediterranean, bore down upon them and opened fire.

The French were powerless to resist, and one and all refused to surrender, which so increased the fury of the Mohammedans that they killed three of the crew and wounded the rest. Vincent himself had an arm pierced by an arrow, and though it was not poisoned, it was many years before the pain it caused ceased to trouble him. The ‘Infidels’ boarded the ship, and, chaining their prisoners together, coasted about for another week, attacking wherever they thought they had a chance of success, and it was not until they had collected as much booty as the vessel could carry that they returned to Africa.

Vincent and his fellow-captives had all this while been cherishing the hope that, once landed on the coast of Tunis, the French authorities would hear of their misfortunes and come to their aid. But the Mohammedan captain had foreseen the possibility of this and took measures to prevent it by declaring that the prisoners had been taken on a Spanish ship. Heavy were their hearts when they learned what had befallen them, and Vincent needed all his faith and patience to keep the rest from despair.

The following day they were dressed as slaves and marched through the principal streets of Tunis five or six times in case anyone should wish to purchase them. Suffering from wounds though they were, they all felt that it was worth any pain to get out of the hold of the ship and to see life moving around them once more. But after awhile it became clear that the strength of many was failing, and the captain not wishing to damage his goods, ordered them back to the ship where they were given food and wine, so that any possible buyers who might appear next day should not expect them to die on their hands.

Early next morning several small boats could be seen putting out from the shore, and one by one the intending purchasers scrambled up the side of the vessel. They passed down the row of captives drawn up to receive them; pinched their sides to find if they had any flesh on their bones, felt their muscles, looked at their teeth, and finally made them run up and down to see if they were strong enough to work. If the blood of the poor wretches stirred under this treatment they dared not show it, and Vincent had so trained his thoughts that he hardly knew the humiliation to which he was subjected.

A master was soon found for him in a fisherman, who wanted a man to help him with his boat. The fisherman, as far as we know, treated his slave quite kindly; but when he discovered that directly the wind rose the young man became hopelessly ill, he repented of his bargain, and sold him as soon as he could to an old chemist, one of the many who had wasted his life in seeking the Philosopher’s Stone.

The chemist took a great fancy to the French priest and offered to leave him all his money and teach him the secrets of his science if he would abandon Christianity and become a follower of Mohammed, terms which, needless to say, Vincent refused with horror. Most people would speedily have seen the hopelessness of this undertaking, but the old chemist was very obstinate, and died at the end of a year without being able to flatter himself that he had made a convert of his Christian slave.

The chemist’s possessions passed to his nephew, and with them, of course, Father Vincent. The priest bore his captivity cheerfully, and did not vex his soul as to his future lot. The life of a slave had been sent him to bear, and he must bear it contentedly whatever happened; and so he did, and his patience and ready obedience gained him the favour of his masters.

Very soon he had a new one to serve, for not long after the chemist’s death he was sold to a man who had been born a Christian and a native of Savoy, but had adopted the religion of Mohammed for worldly advantages. There were many of these renegades in the Turkish service during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and nearly all of them were men of talent and rose high.

Vincent de Paul’s master had, after the Turkish manner, married three wives, and one of them, a Turk by birth and religion, hated the life of the town where she was shut up most of the day in the women’s apartments, and went, whenever she could, to her husband’s farm in the country, where Vincent was working. It was a barren place on a mountain side, where the sun beat even more fiercely than in Tunis; but at least she was able to wander in the early mornings and cool evenings about the garden, which had been made with much care and toil.

Here she met the slave, always busy—watering plants, trimming shrubs, sowing seeds, and generally singing to himself in an unknown tongue. He looked so different from the sad or sullen men she was used to see that she began to wonder who he was and where he came from, and one day she stopped to ask him how he happened to be there. By this time Vincent had learned enough Arabic to be able to talk, and in answer to her questions, told her of his boyhood in Gascony, and how he had come to be a priest.

“A priest! What is that?” she said.

And he explained, and little by little he taught her the doctrines and the customs of the Christian faith.

“Is that what you sing about?” she asked again. “I should like to hear some of your songs,” and Vincent chanted to her,

“By the waters of Babylon,” feeling, indeed, that he was “singing the Lord’s songs in a strange land.”

And day by day the Turkish woman went away, and thought over all she had heard, till one evening her husband rode over to see her, and she made up her mind to speak to him about something that puzzled her greatly.

“I have been talking to your white slave that works in the garden about his religion—the religion which was once yours. It seems full of good things and so is he. You need never watch him as you do the other men, and the overseer has not had to beat him once. Why, then, did you give up that religion for another? In that, my lord, you did not do well.”

The renegade was silent, but in his heart he wondered if, indeed, he had “done well” to sell his soul for that which had given him no peace. He, too, would talk to that Christian slave, and hear if he still might retrace his steps, though he knew that if he was discovered death awaited the Mohammedan who changed his faith.

But his eyes having been opened he could rest no more,and arranged that he and Vincent should disguise themselves and make for the coast, and sail in a small boat to France. As the boat was so tiny that the slightest gale of wind would capsize it, it seems strange that they did not steer to Sicily, and thence journey to Rome; but instead they directed their course towards France, and on June 28, 1607, they stepped on shore on one of those long, narrow spits of land which run out into the sea from the little walled town of Aigues-Mortes.

Vincent drew a long breath, as after two years captivity he trod on French soil again. But he knew how eager his companion was to feel himself once more a Christian, so they only waited one day to rest, and started early the next morning through the flowery fields to the old city of Avignon. Here he made confession of his faults to the Pope’s legate himself, and was admitted back into the Christian religion. The following year he went with Father Vincent to Rome, and entered a monastery of nursing brothers, who went about to the different hospitals attending the sick and poor.

It is very likely that it was Father Vincent’s influence that led him to take up this special work, to which we must now leave him, for on the priest’s return to Paris, he found a lodging in the Faubourg SaintGermain, close to the Hopital de la Charity—the constant object of his care for some months.

And did I mention that St. Vincent is an Incorruptible?

You can read the rest of St. Vincent de Paul’s story in The Book of Saints and Heroes by Leonora Lang on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

This was originally posted on November 12, 2010. Happy Feast of St. Vincent de Paul!

Hey Gen-X: Be Rebels…Slow Down…Have Kids…Stick it to the Man

It’s the Catholic thing to do. Or you can keep doing what you’ve been doing, as the survey below reports, and continue on the treadmill to oblivion.

Study Finds Gen-X Overlooked in the Workplace

A new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy finds that despite being the smallest generation (46 million), Generation X might be “the most critical generation of all” for employers.

Gen Xers are of an age (33 to 46 years old) that should put them at the prime of their lives and careers, stepping into leadership roles and starting families. However, a recent study, titled “The X Factor: Tapping into the Strengths of the 33- to 46-Year-Old Generation,” reveals that due to challenges and circumstances out of their control, Gen Xers are taking a different life path.

That’s it…we’ll get them to plead “it’s out of my control” and before they realize it, their “prime years” will be gone ( and be all ours). Bawahahahahahahahahahahaha!

The study found a large number of Gen Xers are choosing not to have children. Their extreme work schedules (nearly a third of high earning Gen Xers work 60+ hours a week), strong career ambition, the current economic challenges, as well as changing mores, and life choices are all factors that contribute to their high level of childlessness compared to other generations.

Looks like we got ‘em right where we want ‘em. Keep working harder kids…that’s the answer! Besides, no babies and no diapers equals no little league games, no soccer, no ballet recitals to attend. This way, you can just keep grinding away for Mammon and the man. 60 hour work weeks can become 70 hour work weeks.

Gen X, born between 1965 and 1978, might be called the “wrong place, wrong time” generation, says the Center for Work-Life Policy. They were hit by an economic triple whammy: college-related debt, multiple boom and bust cycles (including the 1987 stock market crash, occurring just as Gen X entered the work force), and the housing slump. As a result, Gen X is the first generation not to match their parents’ living standards.

And they just might not ever…if they stick to our evil plan. Snicker, snicker.

While these economic woes have impacted most generations, they have hit Gen X the hardest in their work lives, the study found. Due to their own financial concerns, Boomers (grrrrrrr) are not retiring and are choosing instead to work an average of nine years longer than anticipated. This delays Gen X’s career progression, resulting in their feeling stalled in their careers and dissatisfied with their rate of advancement.

Heh. And perhaps we can convince them that it is more important to save for retirement, and worship at the altar of the almighty $$$ than it is to tend to their souls. Cackle, cackle.

Go read the rest here. Like I say in the title, continue to play the game to the world’s music and Gen-X will go down in flames (and so will the “Millenials” and all of us). Go the other way, dare I say it, the Catholic way, and you won’t. And even if you still crash, you’ll have at least lived your life to the fullest.

For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?

Exactly! The girls can tell you,

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And the boys too,

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All together now,

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It’s Like Elizabeth Says…

I hope it comes on in my neck of the woods. New idea—I’m going to ask my public library to purchase it!

I got an email tonight from a woman who read this post and realized that the reality of the world “as it is” makes her unhappy.

Well, combating the world “as it is” requires us to teach and admonish, not with the tactics of the world, but “in wisdom made holy” through the love of Christ. If we do that correctly we will — like the early Christians — attract others, and thus assist the Holy Spirit in the turning of the world toward the light.

If we do it incorrectly, we will only repel those who are perhaps in the greatest need to come to know the love of Christ and his salvation. And then we will have to deal with a turned-off, tuned-out world whose heels are stubbornly dug-in to the darkness.

Worse, we will have to answer to Christ as to why we trusted the worldly way of confrontation — the way of anger and distrust and scored points and power — over His way, and the way of His saints, the way of patience, humility and love.

Bl. Pope John Paul II famously said that we Catholics must look at the world clearly and see it “as it is” before we can help to form it into something more perfect-in-Christ.

To do that, we to pray, certainly, and we need more than prayer, but we are not sure what that might be.

I believe this effort by Father Robert Barron’s Word on Fire — its instruction, it’s beauty, it’s passion and it’s profound humanity in exploring the Incarnational Christ and His church — may well be the precise and timely tool we need to learn how to respond to the world “as it is,” because it tells us things about ourselves, our church and our Savior that many of us do not even know, or have perhaps forgotten.

Go read the rest. We’re on a mission from God!

Gone Readin’ Helena by Evelyn Waugh

Why haven’t I been posting much lately? You can blame Fr. Steve Grunow, who suggested the book you see above to me a few days ago. I’ve never read anything by Evelyn Waugh, and I’m not ashamed to say that for most of my life I figured Evelyn was a lady, and I wasn’t much interested in what she had to say.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve got me a college degree and all, and after I became a Catholic and snooped around a bit I learned that Evelyn was a man, a Catholic, and he wrote some great novels that were turned into classics for Masterpiece Theater. Still, I was about as excited to read anything written by him as I was interested in say…watching paint dry, or grass grow. Yawn.

But then I found that neat book about the True Cross by Louis de Combes, and Fr. Steve suggested Waugh’s book. I checked the catalog at the library, noted a copy was on the shelf, and I strolled over there and picked it up pronto. I haven’t been able to put it down since. Here’s a taste:

“Chlorus, is it true what they are saying in Ratisbon: that you are going to be Caesar?”

“Who say that?”

“The governor’s wife, the widow of the banker, all the ladies.”

“It may be true. Aurelian and I have spoken of it before. After the battle, he spoke of it again. He has to go to Syria now, to tidy up trouble there. After that he will return to Rome for his triumph. Then we shall see.”

“Do you want it?”

“It’s not what I want, ostler; it’s what Aurelian wants that counts, he and the army and the empire. It is nothing to be shy of, just another, larger command—Gaul, the Rhine, Britain, possibly Spain. The empire’s too big for one man; that’s been proved. And we need a secure succession, a second-in-command who’s been trained to the job, knows the ropes, can step in straight away when the command falls vacant; not leave each army to declare for its own general and fight it out as they’ve done lately. Aurelian is going to talk to the senators about it when we go to Rome.”

See? Clear thinking like that is what I was just talking about a few days back. And does everything go according to plan? As if!

I’m not going to tell you anything more about the book but this: Helena has just embarked on her quest to find the True Cross and you can forget about me posting anything remotely intelligible until I finish this book. Color me gone!

For Thoughts On Fame by Hilaire Belloc



On Fame, from This And That and the Other

Fame is that repute among men which gives us pleasure. It needs much repetition, but also that repetition honorable. Of all things desired Fame least fulfills the desire for it; for if Fame is to be very great a man must be dead before it is more than a shoot; he therefore has not the enjoyment of it (as it would seem).

Again, Fame while a man lives is always tarnished by falsehood; for since few can observe him, and less know him, he must have Fame for work which he does not do and forego Fame for work which he knows deserves it.

Fame has no proper ending to it, when it is first begun, as have things belonging to other appetites, nor is any man satiated with it at any time. Upon the contrary, the hunger after it will lead a man forward madly always to some sort of disaster, whether of disappointment in the soul, or of open dishonor.

Fame is not to be despised or trodden under as a thing not to be sought, for no man is free of the desire of it, nor can any man believe that desire to be an imperfection in him unless he desire at the same time something greater than Fame, and even then there is a flavor of Fame certain to attach to his achievement in the greater thing. No one can say of Fame, “I contemn it;” as a man can say of titles, “I contemn them.” Nor can any man say of the love of Fame, “This is a thing I should cast from me as evil,” as a man may say of lust when it is inordinate, that is, out of place. Nor can any man say of Fame, “It is a little thing,” for if he says that he is less or more than a man.

The love of Fame is the mobile of all great work in which also man is in the image of God, who not only created but took pleasure in what he did and, as we know, is satisfied by praise thereof.

In what way, then, shall men treat Fame? How shall they seek it, or hope to use it if obtained? To these questions it is best answered that a man should have for Fame a natural appetite, not forced nor curiously entertained; it must be present in him if he would do noble things. Yet if he makes the Fame of those things, and not those things themselves his chief business, then not only will he pursue Fame to his hurt, but also Fame will miss him. Though he should not disregard it yet he must not pursue it to himself too much, but he will rightly make of it in difficult times a great consolation.

When Fame comes upon a man well before death then must he most particularly beware of it, for is it then most dangerous. Neither must he, having achieved it, relax effort nor (a much greater peril) think he has done his work because some Fame now attaches thereto.

Some say that after a man has died the spreading of his earthly Fame is still a pleasure to him among greater scenes: but this is doubtful. One thing is certain, Fame is enjoyable in good things accomplished; bitter, noisome and poisonous in all other things—whether it be the Fame of things thought to be accomplished but not accomplished, or Fame got by accident, or Fame for evil things concealed because they are evil.

The judgment of Fame is this: That many men having done great things of a good sort have not Fame. And that many men have Fame who have done but little things and most of them evil. The virtue of Fame is that it nourishes endeavor. The peril of Fame is that it leads men towards itself, and therefore into inanities and sheer loss. But Fame has a fruit, which is a sort of satisfaction coming from our communion with mankind.

The elderly Belloc

They that believe they deserve Fame though they lack it may be consoled in this: that soon they shall be concerned with much more lasting things, and things more immediate and more true: just as a man who misses some entertainment at a show will console himself if he knows that shortly he shall meet his love. They that have Fame may correct its extravagances by the same token: remembering that shortly they will be so occupied that this earthly Fame of theirs will seem a toy.

Old men know this well.

Bonus time! Thoughts on Fame by another British fellow. Sorry, but I can’t help myself. Note both artist’s names start with a “B.”

To Help Make A Movie, Part Deux!

Ian Higgins writes,

Hi Frank, 

I just wanted to personally thank you and all your readers who have so kindly donated and shown their support for our movie “All That Remains”. It has been overwhelming to witness such support in such a short space of time.

It is thanks to the kindness of all those who donated that we now have enough funds in place to film the crucial interviews in Japan. We’ve managed to raise enough funds to fly out to Japan and film the necessary interviews for the documentary aspects of the movie – thanks to everyone who rallied to our cause!

We didn’t reach our total, but we still consider our campaign a huge success and have decided to launch a second campaign – this time with the goal of raising the necessary funds for the drama sequences that will help bring this amazing story of a remarkable man to life with all the emotional power that a film has.

I would also like to add, to all those who chose to contribute anonymously on our previous campaign, remember to please get in touch with us at info@majoroakentertainment.com with your email addresses (that information is not given to us when you donate as anonymous) so we can send you the links to your perks as and when they become available. Your personal details will be treated as strictly confidential.

Thanks again for your kindness and support!

Huzzah! Ian and Dominic can wing it over to Nagasaki now and get some digital film in the flash drives! Very cool. Guess what else?

Frank, Dominic and I also would like to give you a producer credit on the movie. I know it’s not on the perk you purchased (Ed. a cheap one!), but I think as one of the job descriptions of a producer is to help raise funds for a production – that qualifies you.

Warmest regards,
Ian Higgins

Gulp. Know what that means? I’m now no longer just the chief fan boy or über cheerleader, but an honest-to-goodness movie producer now!? I gotta tell you, the Lord works in mysterious ways because I sure didn’t see that title landing beside my name EVER. No way, no how.

But this is a remarkable story that needs to be told, and told again. It never crossed my mind that I would be denominated with a title like producer on my résumé. And it never would have happened without the generosity of giving readers like you. Folks who live out the words penned by St. James (2:14-17) two thousand years ago,

What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him? And if a brother or sister be naked, and want daily food: And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit? So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself.

Know what else it means? That’s simple: I need to make some more rain for the project! And I’m a beggar-thy-neighbor type, long on faith and prayer, but short on cash. But God will provide, and of that I am sure. And it looks like I’ve got some new stuff to learn. Maybe Tom Cruise can help.

Takashi Nagai, praying the rosary

Remember that little post I shared with you about how Words Matter? Well they do. As I thanked you for your generosity before, I will thank you for it again and ask that you share the news on this project via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, etc. Heck, by any means possible. And give, give, and give some more —in any amount!

But I won’t brow beat you about it either. Shakedowns? We don’t need no stinking shakedowns! Instead, you can keep track of the fundraising progress right here at YIMCatholic. If you have a gander at the right-hand sidebar (up topside), you’ll see I’ve added a little widget showing the All That Remains Phase-2 IndieGoGo page where you can easily share it, see how many shekels are in the jar, how much time is left to give, etc., etc. How neat is that? Here’s an idea: put it on your blog too!

With prayer, action, faith, hope, and love,  I’m sure that Phase-2 of fundraising for this project will be a rousing success. All it will take is the following…

For All the Saints: John Chrysostom



Today is the feast of St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church. Of course, there was a little snippet on him over at Universalis and sundry other places, like here. But my curiosity gets the best of me, see,  and I want to know more. That is one of my many faults.

So I headed to my favorite electronic library and found this gem of a story in The Lives and Legends of the Great Hermits and Fathers of the Church With Other Contemporary Saints by a “Mrs. Arthur Bell.” By who? Make that by Nancy R.E. Meugens Bell. Trust me, she is very accomplished. Check out her titles on Amazon. Who better to get this story about the “Golden mouthed” Doctor than by someone who had a pen that never rested?

I gather that the shorter title of the book is The Saints in Christian Art (whew!) and what follows is from Chapter VIII,

St. John Chrysostom

The most popular, and at the same time, perhaps, also the most saintly of the four Greek Fathers, St. John Chrysostom, or the golden-mouthed—so called on account of his great eloquence—was born at Antioch about 347, and was brought up as a Christian by his widowed mother Arethusa.
He was educated as a lawyer, and had already won great renown as a pleader at the bar, when at the age of twenty-six he resolved to renounce the world.

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St. John in prayer

When the young John declared that the only true way of serving God was to lead a life of solitary penitence, Arethusa, a woman of cultured intellect, and endowed with the yet rarer gift of practical commonsense, tried in vain to convince him that his resolution was at the best a selfish one. He escaped from Antioch and hid himself in the desert, where he remained for nearly six years, weakening himself so much by fasting and self-inflicted penance that he was at last obliged to return home to save his life.

Back again in Antioch, he attracted the notice of the Bishop, St. Meletius, who persuaded him to live with him for three years, ordained him Reader, and endeavored to win him from his undue love of silence and solitude. For a time it seemed as if he had succeeded, but in 374 St. John fled once more to the desert, where he joined a community of anchorites, celebrated even in that day of asceticism for the severity of their self-discipline.

It was not, indeed, until he was already past forty that the real work of the life of St. John Chrysostom began, when the holy Bishop Honorius, to whom the Christians owed so much, induced him finally to abandon his retreat and become a preacher of the Gospel in his native city. Ordained priest in 386, a white dove, it is said, hovering above his head at his consecration, St. John of the Golden Mouth very quickly proved how true had been his mother’s judgment concerning him, for he won over to the Church such numbers of converts that the building in which he preached was soon too small to hold his congregation. When the people of Antioch fell under the just displeasure of the Emperor, it was St. John who composed the speech of St. Flavianus, which so touched the heart of the Emperor that he granted a full pardon to the offenders.

Again, when the Roman supremacy was divided between the sons of Theodosius I., and Arcadius became the Emperor of the East, the voice of St.Chrysostom was often fearlessly raised against the luxury of the Court. He became indeed so great a power in the land that in 397, by the advice of Eutropius, the favourite eunuch of Arcadius, he was made Archbishop of Constantinople on the death of Nectarius.

The thought of losing their beloved teacher so moved the people of Antioch that they refused to let him go, and it was not until an armed escort was sent to fetch him that he was able to start for his new sphere of action. Arrived in the capital of the East, St. John at once set to work to practice the doctrines he had preached as a priest. He reduced the number of the servants in his palace, leading a life almost as austere as he had done in the desert, and giving away so much money in charity that he became known as St. John the Almoner.

St. John
the Almsgiver

by Titian

Not long after his accession to the archiepiscopal throne, occurred one of the most striking incidents of his remarkable career: his rescue of Eutropius from the fury of the mob. The eunuch, who had so long virtually ruled the Empire, was suddenly disgraced, the Empress Eudoxia having complained to her husband of a real or imaginary insult he had offered to herself. Pursued by the officers of justice sent to arrest him, the unhappy man fled to the cathedral for sanctuary, and took refuge beneath the altar at which the Archbishop was officiating. St. John Chrysostom, unmoved by the clamors of the people, or by the fact that a troop of soldiers with drawn swords surrounded the building, ascended the pulpit, that he might, says Gibbon, “be distinctly seen and heard by an innumerable crowd of either sex and every age, and pronounced a reasonable and pathetic discourse on the forgiveness of injuries and the instability of human greatness. The agonies of the pale and affrighted wretch,” continues the historian, “groveling under the table of the altar, exhibited a solemn and instructive spectacle, and the orator, who was afterwards accused of insulting the misfortunes of Eutropius, labored to excite the contempt that he might assuage the fury of the people.”

Eutropius escaped for the time, only to be impeached for high treason and beheaded a few months later, but the fame of the man who had been able to hold spell-bound by his eloquence, so many thirsting for vengeance, and to induce even the Emperor to respect the sanctuary of the Church, became so great that St. John, in his turn, aroused the jealousy of Eudoxia, who, having got rid of Eutropius, now determined to bring about also the exile of his rescuer. St. John, it is said, had aroused her special animosity by his sermons against extravagance in dress, which she chose to think were intended to apply specially to her.

John preaching in Constantinople
by Ambrose Dudley

Aided by the influence of Theophilus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, who was also incensed against the Archbishop on account of his admission to communion of certain so-called heretics, the Empress succeeded in obtaining a decree of banishment against him, and he was driven out of Constantinople in 403, after preaching a farewell sermon full of the noblest resignation to the will of God, in which he declared himself ready to die a thousand deaths for his people, if he could only save their souls.

“Violent storms encompass me on all sides,” he exclaimed, “yet I am without fear, because I stand upon a rock. Though the sea roar, and the waves rise high, they cannot sink the vessel of Jesus. I always say,” he added, “O Lord, may Thy will be done: not what this or that creature wills, but what it shall please Thee to appoint, that shall I do and suffer with joy. This is my strong tower; this is my unshaken rock; this is my staff that can never fail.”

The soldiers sent to see that the Emperor was obeyed were only able to fulfil their duty through the aid of the victim himself, who managed to elude the vigilance of his friends and to deliver himself into the hands of his enemies. He had not, however, been gone from the city many days before a terrible earthquake took place, which so alarmed the guilty conscience of the Empress that she entreated Arcadius to recall St. John, crying in her terror,’ If he do not return our Empire is undone.’ The Emperor consented, and the Archbishop was brought back again in triumph, all the inhabitants of the town going out to meet him. He was, however, again banished in the following year, and he was never afterwards allowed to return.

St. John and Eudoxia
by Jean Paul Laurens

When, on the death of Eudoxia, the broken-hearted widower Arcadius wrote to the celebrated hermit, St. Nilus, asking his prayers for the Empire, the holy man replied: “How do you hope to see Constantinople delivered from the destroying angel of God after . . . having banished the most blessed John, the pillar of the Church, the lamp of truth, the greatest light of the earth!”

Meanwhile many powerful statesmen had endeavored to obtain the recall of St. John, but their importunity, unfortunately, only led to fresh proceedings against him. He had taken refuge at Nicaea, and was there fervently preaching the Gospel, when orders were received that he should be removed to the little town of Cucusus, in a remote district of the Taurus Mountains. There he was received with the greatest enthusiasm by the inhabitants, and was allowed to remain unmolested for a short time, converting many Persians to Christianity, and writing numerous beautiful letters and essays, full of touching resignation, proving how true was his own assertion: “no one can harm the man who does himself no wrong.”

The three years spent at Cucusus and the neighboring town of Arabissus, were, says Gibbon, “the last and most glorious of the life of the great teacher. His character was consecrated by absence and persecution . . . every tongue repeated the praises of his genius and virtue, and the respectful attention of the Christian world was fixed on a desert spot among the mountains of Taurus.”

The Emperor Honorius, recognizing how great a mistake had been made in banishing such a man, endeavored to get his cause brought before what the historian calls ‘the supreme tribunal of a free and general council.’ But it was all in vain; the enemies of the Saint were too powerful, and the weak-minded Arcadius could not be induced to interfere in his behalf. The agitation in favor of St. John resulted merely in a fresh edict of banishment against him. He was to be removed at once from the new home he had learnt to love, to the yet more remote town of Pytius on the Euxine. It is even believed by some that secret orders were given, to the officers sent to take him there, to bring about his death on the road, if possible, and so end all further trouble on his behalf.

Worn out with all he had gone through, and with a constitution weakened by his early austerities, the much-persecuted Saint, though as yet only sixty years old, was in no fit state to travel, and he died on the road after terrible sufferings. It is related that on the eve of his death he was allowed to rest for a few hours in a little wayside shrine above the remains of the martyr St. Basiliscus, who appeared to him in a dream, and said to him: “Be of good courage, Brother John; tomorrow we shall be together.” This greatly cheered the Archbishop, and when he awoke he begged his guards to let him remain in the shrine for a few hours longer, in the hope of thus winning permission to die in peace.

They refused, and compelled him to proceed, but he had not gone far before it became evident that he was dying, and touched, perhaps, at last by his patient suffering, the men carried him back to the shrine and laid him down on it. With a touching desire to do honor to the moment of his meeting with the Lord he had served so well, St. John persuaded his companions to allow him to put on his white robes. His last prayer is said to have been the beautiful one still in use in the English Church, ending with the petition, “granting us in this world knowledge of Thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting,” and when the Amen had been said he died with the words “Glory be to God in all things” trembling on his lips.

He was buried beside St. Basiliscus, but his body was translated to Constantinople in 434, where it was re-interred with great pomp in the Church of the Apostles, in the presence of the Emperor Theodosius II., who, it is related, had gone out to meet the funeral procession at Chalcedon, and there, “falling prostrate on the coffin, had implored in the name of his guilty parents, Arcadius and Eudoxia, the forgiveness of the injured Saint.”

Amongst the attributes given to St. John Chrysostom, who is more often introduced in devotional pictures in the Roman Catholic Church than any of the other Greek Fathers, are a pen, the usual symbol of a writer; a beehive, in allusion, it is supposed, to his honeyed words; and a dove, in remembrance of the incident said to have taken place at his ordination. When he holds a scroll, it generally bears the words, “God our God, who has given us for food the Bread of Life,” a quotation from one of his own homilies.

St. John Chrysostom is sometimes represented being carried along in a fainting condition by his escort of soldiers, or bound to an ass, with his head drooping from exhaustion. He is introduced with St. Athanasius, St. Leo, and St. Thomas Aquinas, amongst the Latin Fathers in the Chapel of Nicholas V, in the Vatican; in S. Giovanni Elemosinaro at Venice is a fine composition by Titian, representing the Patriarch of Alexandria as the Almsgiver seated on a raised podium, with a beggar at his feet (see above), and in S. Giovanni Crisostomo in the same city is a grand Altar-piece by Sebastiano del Piombo, considered one of his greatest works, in which St. John Chrysostom is enthroned, attended by numerous saints, including Augustine and John the Baptist (see top of the post). In a chapel on the left of the choir the golden-mouthed Father appears again, grouped with Saints Andrew, Onofrio, and Agnes.

The character of St. John has also been finely interpreted by Rubens in a painting now in private possession, in which the Patriarch holds a chalice in one hand and rests the left on the Gospels, whilst above his head hovers the dove, typical of the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Check out his homilies and more on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

Because I Asked, I Prayed, And You Helped This Pro-Life Cause

Dr. Nagai and his children praying.

Thank you YIMCatholic Readers! On the last day of this past August, I shared a post about helping to make the movie All That Remains. When completed, it will be a docu-drama about the life of Dr. Takashi Nagai, survivor of the aftermath of the atomic bombing of the city of Nagasaki. I called it “rattling the tin cup” for a good cause, and I shared the post with you all. I threw a few shekels in myself and prayed that others would respond too.

When Ian Higgins sent me the information about the project, the fundraising page he had built over at IndieGoGo set a lofty goal of $24,000 dollars and had a whopping $45.00 in the kitty from three kind donors. Did I mention that there is some kind of time limit on this campaign? The clock was ticking down with 14 days remaining and that goal seemed all but impossible.

It still seems like a stretch. But who knows? Well, God knows. And maybe Ian and his brother Dominic can get an extension. But the good news is that 1082 folks read that post (according to Blogger’s internal counter) and 22 of them have contributed $4155 dollars towards the completion of this inspiring project. Isn’t that great? I’m thanking everyone who contributed, as well as everyone who forwarded the post, shared it on Facebook, Tweeted it, and linked to it. Thanks for all your help!

Now, the counters over at IndieGoGo say that 4 days is all that remains (pun intended!) on the fundraising campaign and I’m rattling the tin cup once again and praying for a miracle. Of the 1082 folks who read the post the first time around, 22 contributed in various amounts; from as little as $15 to as much as $1000(!).  Remember me and my calculator? That works out to 2.03% of readers contributing to the cause. Which is about 17.97% shy of the 20% the Pareto Principle would have predicted would have given.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of the Pareto Principle? The 80/20 rule? Basically it means 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. Or,

80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers
80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers
80% of your profits come from 20% of the time you spend
80% of your sales come from 20% of your products
80% of your sales are made by 20% of your sales staff
80% of your comments come from 20% of your readers

I just made that last one one up. Or put another way, as Our Lord said,

The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened.(Matthew 13:33)

I wonder how close the percentage of meal to leaven in the parable is to 80:20?

Here is the link to the fundraising site (Phase 2!) again, as well as the awesome trailer,

All That Remains – Feature film Trailer from Ian & Dominic Higgins on Vimeo.

For those who think that using nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified, Joe Six-Pack, USMC would simply remind you that doing so in the future would not be justified in light of Catholic teaching. See Guadium et Spes (§80),

80. The horror and perversity of war is immensely magnified by the addition of scientific weapons. For acts of war involving these weapons can inflict massive and indiscriminate destruction, thus going far beyond the bounds of legitimate defense. Indeed, if the kind of instruments which can now be found in the armories of the great nations were to be employed to their fullest, an almost total and altogether reciprocal slaughter of each side by the other would follow, not to mention the widespread devastation that would take place in the world and the deadly after effects that would be spawned by the use of weapons of this kind.

Urakami Cathedral, 500 meters
from Ground Zero.

All these considerations compel us to undertake an evaluation of war with an entirely new attitude.(1) The men of our time must realize that they will have to give a somber reckoning of their deeds of war for the course of the future will depend greatly on the decisions they make today.

With these truths in mind, this most holy synod makes its own the condemnations of total war already pronounced by recent popes,(2) and issues the following declaration.

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

Nor was it an open and shut case among many folks involved in the war effort at the time either, not that that matters now. Never Again!

Thanks again to all who have helped out and thanks in advance for those who will! If you can, throw the Brothers Higgins a few shekels, but if you can’t, please share this with others and pray for the successful completion of this important Pro-Life film project.

P.S. Here’s a bonus earworm from Dweezil and Moon Unit…

YouTube Preview Image

Because the Church is Paradoxically Intolerant and Tolerant

This isn’t the first post I’ve written on paradoxes of the Catholic faith, nor will it be the last. Remember the one on the Church being paradoxically consistent (and vice versa)? Or how about the one on the “Master of Paradoxes,” St. John of the Cross? Like a bull through a china shop, I’ve again let the cat out of the bag with a title that says everything that I’m about to share with you on the modern “virtue” of tolerance. [Read more...]


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