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?

For All the Saints: The Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne

Guest post by William “Mac” McCarthy

Blogging makes surprising connections. Back in the day when I was a lapsed Episcopalian and he was the rare Catholic at our New England school, Mac lived down the hall from me. Forty years later, now an attorney in Bakersfield, California, he read YIM Catholic and quickly promised me a write-up on an extraordinary group of Catholic martyrs, whom we honor on July 17.

“Permission to die, Mother?”
“Go, my daughter!”

During the French Revolution’s Reign of terror, on the evening of July 17, 1794, in Paris’s Place de la Nation, a hardened crowd waited at the guillotine for the carts carrying that day’s “batch” from the Palais de Justice. A heavy stench from the putrefying blood in the pit below the scaffold hung over the plaza. During the five weeks the guillotine had stood in the Place de la Nation, a thousand severed heads had fallen into the blood-stiffened leather bag of Sanson, the Paris executioner. The blood pit had been enlarged once already but had quickly filled up again.

Usually, raucous jeers from where Rue du Faubourg St. Antoine emptied into the plaza would signal the approach of the tumbrels carrying the condemned. Not this night. A strange hush spread into the plaza. Then there was something else. Singing. Serene, female voices intoning a cool, effortless chant of verse after verse of the Te Deum.

When the tumbrels rolled up to the scaffold, the crowd grew silent. The singers were sixteen sisters from the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Compiegne. They wore long white choir mantles (cloaks) over brown robes similar to nuns’ habits. Such attire had long since been outlawed in the new order. But these women were not of the new order. Their religious clothing and singing in Latin embodied the lost time before the storming of the Bastille and the start of the revolution on July 14, 1789. Also, while plenty of priests and some nuns had been executed individually, never had an entire religious community been carted up to the guillotine. Their radiant, happy faces were wrong for this place. They should have looked sad. They were about to die. They looked joyous. The other twenty-four condemned prisoners with them looked unhappy.

The reason for the Carmelites’ happiness was their belief that the guillotine was the answer to their prayers. Every day for almost two years, since about the time of the September 1792 massacres, the sisters had made a daily act of consecration in which they offered their own lives to God as a sacrifice to restore peace, help France, and stop the killing. For Christ, their heavenly Spouse, to actually accept their offer of themselves in holocaust and grant them their martyrdom gave them great joy.

Three hours earlier at the Palais de Justice, the sisters had been condemned to death. A show trial proved them “enemies of the people.” The blatantly false charges included “hiding weapons in your convent.” In answer, the 41-year old prioress, Mother Teresa of St. Augustine, lifted her crucifix from her bosom and held it up to the presiding judge saying, “The only weapon we’ve ever had in our convent is this. You cannot prove we have ever had any others.” They had no convent anyway. The revolutionary government had confiscated it and ejected them in September 1792. Carmel Compiegne and everything in it had been sold to finance the revolution.

A fellow prisoner who saw them return from hearing their death sentences reported their faces were “beaming with joy.” A Parisian working class woman who watched the Carmelites pass by on the tumbrels had shouted, “What good souls! Just look at them! Tell me if you don’t think they look just like angels! I tell you, if these women don’t go straight to paradise, then we’ll just have to believe it doesn’t exist!”

At the scaffold, the sisters performed devotions normal for dying Carmelites. The nuns renewed their monastic vows of poverty chastity and obedience. They sang the Veni Creator Spiritus:

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
and in our hearts take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heav’nly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made. …

One sister, was heard to cry out, “Only too happy, O my God, if this little sacrifice can calm your wrath and reduce the number of victims.”

Then Mother Teresa of Saint Augustine walked over to the foot of the scaffold steps and turned to face her spiritual daughters. In the palm of her hand, the prioress held a tiny terracotta image of the Virgin and Child, a last relic saved from Carmel Compiegne. She summoned Sister Constance, the youngest sister, who approached.

This was 29-year-old Sister Contance’s first act of obedience as a professed Carmelite. Moments before, as her sisters were renewing their vows, she was pronouncing her vows for the first time. In 1789, at the start of the Revolution, just before she completed her novice year, the revolutionary government prohibited the taking of religious vows. So, after six years as a novice, she finally made her profession in extremis. Previously, she had expressed a terrible fear of the guillotine. She would show no fear this night.

At the steps, Sister Constance knelt at her prioress’s feet and received a blessing. She kissed the clay Madonna and Child cupped in her prioress’ hand. Finally, bowing her head, she asked:

“Permission to die, Mother?”
“Go, my daughter!”

Sister Constance rose from her knees. A witness described her as radiant as “a queen going to her receive her diadem.“ As she began her climb up to the scaffold, she spontaneously intoned the Laudate Dominum omnes gentes, the 117th Psalm. That psalm was sung by the Discalced Carmelite Order’s mother-foundress, St. Teresa of Avila, at the foundation of every new Carmel in 16th-century Spain. Hearing Sister Constance, her sisters immediately took up the chant:

Praise the Lord, all ye nations!
Praise Him all ye people!
For his mercy is confirmed upon us,
And the truth of the Lord endureth forever!
Praise the Lord!

At the top of scaffold steps, still joined in chant with her sisters, Sister Constance waved aside the executioner and his valet. She walked on her own to the vertical balance-plank; was strapped to it; and then lowered into horizontal position. With a swoosh and a thud, the guillotine had cut the number of voices to 15. The remaining voices rose in defiance. Even before her falling head reached Sanson’s leather bag, Sister Constance was in the arms of her heavenly Spouse in the Kingdom of the Lamb.

The exact order in which the other 15 sisters climbed the scaffold has not come down to us. We know only the last two sisters. What is known is that the guillotine mob remained silent the whole time, an almost impossible–or one could say miraculous–occurrence. The bumps, clicks, swooshes and thuds of the death apparatus told of the deadly business. But the calm, austere chant of the Laudate Dominum never stopped.

About every two minutes, one voice would fall away from the others, to be heard no more by mortal ears. Each sister, when her time came, went to her Mother and knelt; received a blessing; and kissed the Madonna and Child statuette.

“Permission to die, Mother?”
“Go, my daughter!”

Here are the names of the other sisters:

Sister Jesus Crucified, choir sister, age 78. She and Sister Charlotte had celebrated their jubilee of 50 years of profession.

Sister Charlotte of the Resurrection, choir sister, age 78. The martyrs arrived at the Paris Concierge (jail) from Compiegne on July 13 after a two-day journey in open carts. Sister Charlotte was unable to rise and step out of the cart with her sisters. She could only walk with a crutch, but her hands were tied behind her back. Exhausted, she sat alone in the tumbrel in the soiled straw. An angry guard jumped up and tossed her out onto the cobblestones. After lying still for a while, Sister Charlotte lifted her bloodied head and gently thanked the brutal guard for not killing her. She wanted to live long enough to make her witness with her sisters.

Sister Euphrasia of the Immaculate Conception, choir sister, age 58

Sister Julie Louise of Jesus, choir sister, age 52. Sister Julie Louise of Jesus entered Carmel as an aristocratic young widow. Well educated and musically talented, she composed a song or poem every year for the community’s July 16 patronal festival, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This year, at the Concierge in Paris, since writing materials were forbidden in jail, she managed to obtain scraps of charcoal. She composed a long five stanza song about a happy martyrdom and set it to the tune of the bloodthirsty La Marseillaise. One line went, “Let’s climb, let’s climb, the scaffold high!” The day before they went to the guillotine, all the sisters gaily sang Sister Julie Louise’s feast day song. Their only disappointment was they would not die on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Sister Teresa of the Heart of Mary, choir sister, age 52

Sister Saint Martha, lay sister, age 52

Sister Catherine, extern, age 52

Sister Marie of the Holy Spirit, lay sister, age 51

Sister Teresa of Saint Ignatius, choir sister, age 51

Mother Henriette of Jesus, past prioress and novice mistress, choir sister, age 49

Sister Teresa, extern, age 46

Sister Saint Louis, subprioress, choir sister, age 42

Sister Saint Francis Xavier, lay sister, age 30

Sister Henriette of the Divine Providence, choir sister, age 34. This sister was the second to last to die. She was a fiery beauty, whose nine adult bothers and sisters included two priests and five nuns. Fearing her natural beauty would be a distraction, she had withdrawn from the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, a public nursing order and sought out the hidden life in the cloister at Carmel. One of her sisters became the Superior General of all the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. (This was the order of St Bernadette of Lourdes.)

In the courtroom at the Revolutionary Tribunal on the day of her martyrdom, she boldly challenged the Tribunal’s notorious public prosecutor, Antoine Fouquier-Tinville, to define what he meant by calling her community “fanatic.” In response to her repeated demands that he stop avoiding her question and answer it, the prosecutor finally said their “attachment to their religion” made them criminals and dangers to public freedom. At the guillotine, since she was the Carmel’s infirmarian, she took a place by the steps and helped her older, weaker sisters up the scaffold steps.

The psalm chant stopped only when the last Carmelite, the prioress—Mother Teresa of Saint Augustine, age 41, had climbed the scaffold steps and followed her daughters. She was the only child of an employee of the Paris Observatory. Since she was not from a wealthy family, the generous young Dauphine of France, Marie Antoinette, had paid her dowry for Carmel. The prioress was well educated and artistic. Some of her paintings still hang on the walls of French Carmels. She was only 34 when she was first elected prioress. She is believed to be the first nun to have felt the call to community martyrdom.

Before beginning her walk up the steps, the prioress made the sign of the cross and paused. A pious woman in the crowd, who saw the hesitation, understood and moved up to discreetly take the tiny terracotta Virgin and Child statuette from the hand of the great prioress of Carmel Compiegne. The statuette was kept safe and has come down to us.

Ten days after the Carmelites of Compiegne fulfilled their vow and offered themselves up in sacrifice to stop the bloodshed, Robespierre fell from power. A bloody revolutionary, he was a key architect of the Reign of Terror. The next day, July 28, 1794, he was guillotined and the Reign of Terror soon faded.

That the martyrs were able to wear parts of their forbidden habits at the guillotine, like their white choir mantles, was due to unusual coincidences or, more likely, the hand of God. After their expulsion from Carmel Compiegne, they had been forbidden to wear their habits. With no money to buy clothes, they had to accept worn out, cast-off, immodest clothing. They draped scarves over their shoulders and necks to protect their modesty.

But, on July 12, 1794, in the jail in Compiegne (a confiscated convent) they had donned what remained of their habits in order to wash their single outfits of civilian clothing. At the same time, the mayor received an order from the Paris Committee of Public Safety ordering the martyrs’ immediate transport to Paris for “trial.” The secular clothes were soaking in wash tubs. Delaying the execution of the Paris order was unthinkable (and too risky) for the Compiegne officials. Therefore, the martyrs went to Paris in what they had left of their forbidden habits. Perhaps, when their Lord decided to accept their offer of martyrdom, He also granted the martyrs the tender mercy of dying in their beloved, long, white choir mantles.

The worn-out, immodest civilian clothes left soaking in the tubs at Compiegne had yet another role in God’s plan. Confined in the Compiegne jail with the Carmelites had been 17 English Benedictine sisters. Four others had already died in jail. They had been arrested as foreigners in 1792 at their monastery in Cambrai. A granddaughter of St. Thomas More had founded the monastery when Catholic religious orders were forbidden in England. Though kept apart, Benedictines learned of the Carmelites’ daily consecration to sacrifice themselves to restore peace and free prisoners.

After the Carmelites were taken to Paris, the Compiegne jailers made the Benedictines wear the Carmelites’ abandoned civilian clothes. The Benedictines were still wearing them when they were finally allowed to sail for England in 1795. That community eventually founded England’s famous Stanbrook Abbey. Today, Benedictines at Stanbrook still honor the Carmelites as martyrs whose deaths somehow stopped the killing and saved the jailed Benedictine sisters from the guillotine. In 1895, Stanbrook Abbey returned many of the “wash tub” clothes as venerated relics to the newly reestablished Carmel Compiegne.

The martyrs were beatified by St. Pius X on May 13, 1906. Their memory is celebrated on July 17 by both branches of the Carmelites and the archdiocese of Paris.

Several successful literary and artistic works have helped spread the martyrs’ story around the world. They include Gertrude von De Fort’s famous 1931 novella, Song at the Scaffold, which in turn inspired Georges Bernanos’ Les Dialogues des Carmelites (1949), as well as Francis Poulenc’s opera (1957) and an Italian-French film (1959), both also named Les Dialogues des Carmelites.

Almost all the historical facts used in this post come from William Bush’s outstanding book, To Quell the Terror: The Mystery of the Vocation of the Sixteen Carmelites of Compiegne Guillotined July 17, 1794, ICS Publications (1999). The same goes for a lot of the wording and observations in this posting. Bush has spent many years studying the martyrs. His book has a picture of the terracotta statuette and photos of art work by the martyrs, including a beautiful pastel of Christ on the Cross by Mother Teresa of Saint Augustine. Any errors, misstatements, or unclear writing here in this post are this writer’s fault.

For a short, brilliant essay on the martyrs, Catholicism, and modern times, read “The Mantle of Elijah: The Martyrs of Compiegne as Prophets of the Modern Age” by Terrye Newkirk, OCDS. It is only 11 pages and easily downloaded from the ICS website.

“Permission to die, Mother?”
“Go, my daughter!”

Matt Maher (Music for Mondays)

Does anyone remember Webster’s little secret? Well, how about Christian Contemporary music written and performed by a Catholic? No need to keep that a secret, right? But heck, I’m probably the last Catholic to ever hear of Matt Maher or his music.

Now, I first heard one of his songs on the Message, which I play whenever I’m driving my wife’s car on taxi duty.  A quick search on the internet later and I learned that he is a Catholic, which really wouldn’t matter if he couldn’t carry a tune. But from the selections below you will hear that he can do that quite handily.

Now, there is no need for me to re-write Maher’s website for him in order to introduce him to you.  Besides, I don’t know enough about him to write much anyway. You can read all about him yourself here. But before you go there, have a listen to the following tunes I was able to cobble together from the videos available on YouTube. Many of these include the lyrics to the songs, so I’ll keep my comments to a minimum.

As far as I can tell, there are a lot of good songs that Maher has put out. He has released 5 albums in his career so far and he does a lot of touring.  He has been out and about since 2002, but I never got the memo. In case you didn’t either, I hope you will enjoy these as much as I do.

The artists introduction to Hold Us Together.

YouTube Preview Image

Hold Us Together

YouTube Preview Image

Great Things

YouTube Preview Image

Alive Again. When writing the songs for this album, Maher determined that “the over-arching theme that emerged seemed to be centering on what it means to be alive. The whole notion that God became a human being should change the way we look at what it means to be human, and ultimately the way it leads us is back to the cross.”

YouTube Preview Image

Your Grace Is Enough

YouTube Preview Image

As It Is In Heaven

YouTube Preview Image

Empty and Beautiful

YouTube Preview Image

Lay It Down

YouTube Preview Image

Head on over to i-Tunes and pick up one of his albums (I just did!).  And then check his website to see if he may be coming to a concert hall near you.

Would You Believe The Who? (Music for Mondays)

The Who, the bad boys of rock n’ roll. I can hear some of you saying You’re kidding, right Frank?! You think there is any redeeming quality to any of the music these artists have produced? Well, if you ask me, my answer is a resounding Yes! Keep in mind, the beautiful thing about art is it is subject to personal interpretation. So I can truthfully say that some of the hit songs of this particular band have always struck me as spiritual.

Don’t try to explain to me that Pete Townsend and company are a bunch of sinners up to their neck in filth, etc. I’m not saying they are perfect.  I’m not saying that they are Catholics, and I’m not saying that all their songs, especially their most recent stuff, pass muster for the faithful. But hey, here’s an idea, let’s pray for them!

Then, bear with me as I present you with a few of their tunes that I always feel inspired by. Because as Webster said once, “being Catholic is like walking around with a blazing torch in your hand, one that illuminates everything you encounter, at least for me. So everything is a good subject for YIM Catholic, because Jesus Christ is everywhere, all the time.” Indeed, is that not what Allison wrote about yesterday? As Our Lord said in the Gospel reading yesterday, “who do you say that I am?” So let’s see what good I can find from the work of this famous rock n’ roll band with the name from Our Lord’s query.

First up, from their 1967 Album “The Who Sell Out,” I Can See For Miles.  Sure, on the surface it’s a love story gone wrong.  But from a different perspective, one gained standing on the foundation of Scripture coupled with riding on the shoulders of the writings of the Early Church Fathers, I feel this way when confronting “the deceiver” day to day.

YouTube Preview Image

I’m Free, from the rock-opera Tommy. Maybe I’m just an eternal optimist, but this is how I feel when I let go of the tiller and hand myself over to Our Lord. Sure, it’s hard not to try and grab the wheel back from time to time. But I notice that whenever I do the driving, I don’t get this feeling. This version of the song is from Tommy, the movie and rich in symbolism.

If I told you what it takes
to reach the highest high,
You’d laugh and say ‘nothing’s that simple’
But you’ve been told many times before
Messiahs pointed to the door
And no one had the guts to leave the temple!

YouTube Preview Image

See Me, Feel Me. From the closing scene of the movie Tommy as well. Have you ever felt like this as you contemplate Our Lord and Savior? Maybe Roger Daltrey is singing about the sun, but when I sing it, it’s about The Son. This scene reminds me a bit of Psalm 121 and I think of Mary the sister of Lazarus when hearing these words,

Listening to you, I get the music
Gazing at you, I get the heat
Following you, I climb the mountain
I get excitement at your feet

Have a look:

YouTube Preview Image

If you have an hour(and change) to kill, you can watch the entire rock-opera Tommy as performed live in Los Angeles at the Universal Amphitheater in 1989 at the link here. Low resolution video, and lots of guest stars too(Stevie Wynwood, Billy Idol,Patti Labelle, Phil Collins, and Elton John). Be advised, some ‘R’ rated lyrics when Billy Idol comes aboard.

The Seeker. Recorded after Tommy, and it seems to be another unintentional spiritual hit, with me anyway. According to the link (see title), Pete Townsend says “it sounded great in the mosquito-ridden swamp I made it up in, Florida at three in the morning, drunk out of my brain.” He didn’t like it much, it seems. Which goes to show that it doesn’t always matter what the artist thinks, but how one percieves the art. Well, their agent must have liked it! There God goes again, writing straight with crooked lines.

YouTube Preview Image

From the rock-opera Quadrophenia (1973),  Love Reign o’er Me. This album was also made into a movie in 1979 and stars a bunch of unknowns and one Gordon Sumner, aka, Sting. I never saw the movie, never had the time. But this song became a hit, and I would venture to put forth that the reason it did so well is that it strikes a chord with listeners, universally. Another catholic hit with a small ‘c.’

Only love,
Can bring the rain,
That makes you yearn to the sky.
Only love,
Can bring the rain,
That falls like tears from on high.
Love!

YouTube Preview Image

Won’t Get Fooled Again (1971). We don’t waste much time and energy on politics here at YIM Catholic. This classic song pretty much sums up why. Vote, don’t throw in the towel, but also don’t forget to “get down on your knees and pray”too. For as the Psalmist says,

I put no trust in princes, in mere mortals powerless to save. (Psalm 146:3)

YouTube Preview Image

From their latest album (2006) Endless Wire. So Pete Townsend saw Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ and was inspired to write a few songs. Maybe not in a good way. This one is called Two Thousand Years. Remember what I said earlier about their later stuff? It’s definitely not orthodox as Pete is still struggling with the concept of organized religion. Like you haven’t, right? That’s why I said pray for them.

YouTube Preview Image

From the same album, It’s Not Enough. Because He requires all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, which for some may seem to be asking too much. But like Our Lord says in yesterday’s Gospel reading,“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” 

YouTube Preview Image

I hope you enjoyed these selections. Pax Christi and see you next Monday.

For Your Vatican-Approved Friday Night at the Movies

It’s not often we get a free pass to go to the movies from the Vatican.  But that is what we received earlier this week. And heck, I couldn’t be happier because I love this movie. My mom loves this movie. Come to think of it, my wife, sister, brother, and even my kids love this movie.

Bravo Zulu to the Vatican Film critics. So head to the library, Blockbuster, or boot up your Netflix account and have a blast watching this classic comedy starring the late John Belushi and Dan Akroyd. Here is one of my favorite clips and a little preview clip to boot.

“It’s gotta cop motor, 440 cubic inch plant.  It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s the model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. Whaddaya say? Is it the new Bluesmobile or what?”

That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!

YouTube Preview Image

“We’re on a mission from God.”

YouTube Preview Image

YIMC Book Club “The Great Heresies” Chapter Two

It’s meat and potatoes time here at the YIM Catholic Bookclub. Old Thunder (Belloc) kicks off this chapter with these terse and direct words, “Arianism was the first of the great heresies.” Where are the footnotes to back up this claim? You won’t find any footnotes in Belloc’s books. I suppose he is confident in making the claim because “everyone knows” this to be true.

Sure, I didn’t, and maybe you didn’t either. But I’ve stated before that I don’t know everything, so if I were you I would make a note to myself to check out these assertions. Perhaps by reading the works of St. Athanatius, for example, or more recently the words of Cardinal John Henry Newman. But for now, let’s just let Belloc draw back the veil on the early Church and see what almost happened to Christianity.

And let me remind you that from almost the very beginning of the Church, it has not been “smooth sailing.” Consider the words of St. John (1 John 2:18-19) when he states,

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not really of our number; if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was our number.

Yes, the bold is my emphasis, but I’m not the one making the point. St. John is clearly stating that even in his lifetime (6 – 100 AD), controversy and heresy were getting off the ground. Heck, it sounds like they were actually thriving because otherwise why would he mention it? This is shocking to no one who is deep in the scriptures, which is probably why Belloc didn’t encumber every one of his points with footnotes. For the rest of us though, it wouldn’t hurt for you to keep the Bible and the Cathechism close at hand while reading the rest of Belloc’s book. And may I suggest Freiderich Knicht’s helpful book as well?

Belloc writes,

Now the central tradition of the Church here, as in every other case of disputed doctrine, was strong and clear from the beginning. Our Lord was undoubtedly a man. He had been born as men are born, He died as men die. He lived as a man and had been known as a man by a group of close companions and a very large number of men and women who had followed Him, and heard Him and witnessed His actions.

But, said the Church, He was also God. God had come down to earth and become Incarnate as a Man. He was not merely a man influenced by the Divinity, nor was He a manifestation of the Divinity under the appearance of a man. He was at the same time fully God and fully Man. On that the central tradition of the Church never wavered. It is taken for granted from the beginning by those who have authority to speak.

Did I mention that everything hinges on authority for Belloc? And in the end, isn’t that True?

Before I blather on, recall that at the start of the meeting for this book selection, I asked for volunteers to take a leadership role in guiding our discussion here. Up to the plate this week is “Mary R.” What follows is Mary’s brief synopsis of this weeks chapter and the high points as she saw them.

Let’s give Mary R. a hearty welcome and a dose of gratitude for being the first out of the gate in my little experimental twist on the YIMC Book Clubs’ rules of engagement: “all readers should be prepared to help discuss the book.” Maybe Webster, Allison and I will eventually just bring the refreshments!

Mary R., you have the floor,

Chapter 3 – The Arian Heresy
I erred in my first reading of this chapter. Hillaire Belloc stated, “There is no greater error in the whole range of bad history than imagining that doctrinal differences, because they are abstract and apparently remote from practical things of life, are not therefore of intense social effect. … Merely to say that Arianism was what it was doctrinally is to enunciate a formula, but not to give the thing itself.”

I read “enunciate” as “eunicate.” “Eunicate” is not a word (ed.- LOL) but “eunuch” is and that is what I did to the Arian heresy when I first heard about it. I removed the essential and kept the dogmatic part. I knew that Arianism concerned the denial of the divinity of Jesus but I did not take into consideration the society and the uniqueness of the era.

Belloc, referred to as HB going forward, corrected my view and gave me the history, the flesh and blood, of the Arian heresy. This chapter covers roughly 250 years from 300 to 550. It is about generals, emperors, men and motives. HB explains the cultural groundwork that allowed Arianism to take root.

There are the people who supported Arianism – the noble families who were reluctant to accept the social revolution of Catholicism; the intellectuals who were concerned about the loss of their social position; and the Army who supported it. It is the history of people and how their support strengthens or weakens the Church. And it is the doctrines that must be defended.

The competing doctrines were:

* Catholic Christianity: Jesus was at the same time fully God and fully man. “On that central tradition of the Church never wavered.”

* Arianism: Jesus was man and our Lord but not divine. He was not God.

The two main characters who supported opposing views were Areios and St. Athanasius. Both men were charismatic. Both were passionate and both believed what they taught. And finally, halfway through this chapter we find out how St Athanasius defeated Arianism. He was sincere, he was tenacious, he was Patriarch of Alexandria (2nd most important town in Eastern Empire), he enjoyed popular backing, he was a genius, and he was young when the Arian heresy started. He had a lot going for him but he also endured five exiles. Through it all, St Athanasius defended the doctrine.

If you are like me looking for answers, be careful not to read too fast this chapter or you might misread words, change meaning, and miss what you are looking for. Fortunately, I wrote this introduction and had to reread the chapter several times. Thus I have an answer to how I can personally combat heresy. No, I am not male therefore I cannot be a bishop. I don’t have a following of people to support my ideas. And I am not young. Finally, I shouldn’t look for an Army general (HB tells us how the Army was finally converted from Arianism).

What I did learn is that I need to study and understand Church teachings – the dogmas of what it is to be Catholic. I need to believe by both reason and faith.  I need to listen to my bishop and give him my support as he leads me back to union with God.

Okay. Now it is your turn. What did you learn?

Thanks Mary R., and Bravo Zulu! I’m looking forward to our members’ (and anyone else who has read the chapter) discussion in the comm-box below.

One Hit Wonders (Music for Monday’s)

I stumbled across the idea for this post when I was praying the LOTH today and ran across this quote attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

I suppose some of the following artists were on the precipice of worldly success, some probably didn’t care, but others hoped for superstardom. As you will see, that wasn’t meant to be because these were all “one hit wonders.”

But the following songs were hits because each of them struck a chord with listeners, or at least with program directors, back in the heyday of radio. So let’s consider them catholic with a small “c” and have a little fun going down memory lane with what I can remember hearing on the radio or television over the years.

Norman Greenbaum, Spirit in the Sky (1969-70) For the longest time, I thought this was played by the band T-Rex.  I always liked it growing up, and dug the guitar riffs too. And who doesn’t want to “go to the place that’s the best?”

YouTube Preview Image

Hillside Singers, I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (1972). The song that later became an iconic commercial success for Coca-Cola. I hope you hum it all day long.

YouTube Preview Image

Sister Janet Mead, The Lord’s Prayer (1974). Made it to #4 on Billboards Top 100 back in 1974. A rockin’ nun from South Australia, I remember the tune well.  You all know the words so sing along!

YouTube Preview Image

Patrick Hernandez, Born to be Alive (1979) Break out your dancin’ shoes because “you see we’re born, born, born to be alive (born too be alive.)” I can’t argue with that!

YouTube Preview Image

The Korgis, Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime (1980). Don’t look know, but we’ve hit the Eighties. Does anyone else remember this tune? A classic catholic one hit wonder if there ever was one. Universal appeal? Just check the following lyrics,

Change your heart
Look around you.
Change your heart
It will astound you.

YouTube Preview Image

Joey Scarbury, Believe It Or Not  (1981) Also know from the television series The Greatest American Hero, where a teacher is given a suit by aliens that gives him superpowers.  It was a fun show starring William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Selleca.  Music by Mike Post. While we’re at it, does everyone remember the Solid Gold dancers? Sheesh!

YouTube Preview Image

Maybe next week we’ll continue with One Hit Wonders through the Eighties.

YIMC Book Club “The Great Heresies” Chapter 1

In last weeks introduction, Belloc spelled out why we should study heresy. This week, he explains the plan of his book and why he choose the five heresies that he did. Although the number of heretical ideas that assault Christianity are as numerous as sand is on a beach, Belloc argues that the five heresies he covers here should suffice in alerting us as to what we need to be aware of.

It’s disclaimer time here at the book club: I’m fully aware that Belloc’s book is provocative. And his point of view is that Christianity is seen in it’s fullness in Catholicism. Period. This will likely irritate many modern readers, but so be it. As Belloc discussed in the introduction, heresy has become an unused word.

For example, he is unapologetic about the following statement:

There is, as everybody knows, an institution proclaiming itself today the sole authoritative and divinely appointed teacher of essential morals and essential doctrine. This institution calls itself the Catholic Church.

Going further, Belloc states that,

Many through antagonism or lack of knowledge deny the identity of the Catholic Church today with the original Christian society. 

Are you still with us? Because for Belloc, and for many others who have converted to Catholic Christianity, the matter of authority is a key issue. One which many don’t concern themselves with. Not Belloc, though, because for him the matter of authority is crucial. May I suggest you switch off your “know-it-all-ness” for a bit and just listen to what he says? You’ll be glad you did because in doing so you will gain the knowledge to identify “old hat” heresies dressed up in new clothing.

Santayana opined, and I paraphrase, that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Do you believe that? I admit that I do.  Qoheleth, in Ecclesiastes, flatly states that what has been before will be again. So if we don’t know what was “before,” how will we know if we are being led astray? Well, I’ve come to believe the Church because,

From the day of Pentecost (some time between A.D. 29 and A.D. 33) onwards there has been a body of doctrine affirmed for instance, at the very outset, the Resurrection. And the organism by which that body of doctrine has been affirmed has been from the outset a body of men bound by a certain tradition through which they claimed to have the authority in question. 

It is further historically true (though not universally admitted) that the claim of this body to be a divinely appointed voice for the statement of true doctrine on the matters essential to man (his nature, his ordeal in this world, his doom or salvation, his immortality, etc.) is to be found affirmed through preceding centuries, up to a little before the middle of the first century.

Belloc then provides brief sketches of the following heresies and how they attack the Catholic Church. Belloc claims that each of the following present a type of attack. They are as follows,

1) Arianism: Attacked the authority of the Church by denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity. But even more, it was a “large-scale reaction against the supernatural.” Ever meet a Christian who scoffs at the miracles the Catholic Church has approved of? Sure you have.

2) Islam: So you thought this was an indigenous religion of the Middle East like Shinto Buddism is to Japan or Confucianism is to China? Belloc notes that Islam is essentially,  a heresy alien rather than intimate. It threatened to kill the Christian Church by invasion rather than to undermine it from within. This should be interesting.

3)Albigensianism: Much like the Manichean heresy (that St. Augustine dabbled with prior to his conversion) with the concept of good fighting evil, and the equal power of the two. Combined with this is the idea that matter is evil and that “all pleasure, especially of the body, is evil.” Ever heard Christians lamenting that our bodies are just corrupt and that we would be better off without them? Show of hands?

4)Protestants: Here is the elephant in the room, eh? Protestants denied the unity of the Church and the central authority Christ gave to Peter as his vicar. Denial of “not the doctrines it(new denominations) might happen to advance, but its very claim to advance them with unique authority” while rejecting unity. This one is going to be hairy!

5)The Modern: Belloc claimed this heresy was on the rise when he wrote this back in 1936 and it is probably blowing full force by now, wouldn’t you say? If I can’t touch, taste, see, or smell it, then it obviously doesn’t exist. If it can’t be measured and tested by the scientific method, then it is make-believe. This heresy, Belloc notes, came before all the other ones, so it looks like we are back to where they started.

Such are the five great movements antagonistic to the Faith. To concentrate our attention upon each in turn teaches us in separate examples the character of our religion and the strange truth that men cannot escape sympathy with it or hatred of it. To concentrate on these five main attacks has this further value, that between them they seem to sum up all the directions from which the assault can be delivered against the Catholic Faith.

Next week we jump into Arianism with the help of reader Mary R. Until then, happy reading!

From “The Pearl” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Today is the feast day of St. Ephrem the Syrian, Deacon and Doctor of the Church. Pope Benedict XV gave him the title of Doctor in his Encyclical dated October 5, 1920.

St. Ephrem was prolific, writing over 3000 poems and hymns during his lifetime. So why have I never heard of him? Maybe because I haven’t been paying attention. Well, I’m paying attention now because even though he wrote his poems in Syriac, they translate beautifully into English.

As I’ve written before, I really enjoy learning new things about our Church and the depth and breadth of our Catholic faith. And I enjoy sharing my discoveries with you too. Perhaps I’ve been studying the wrong poets for too long a time, but poems like this one leave me yearning for more.

Below is the Fourth Hymn of St. Ephrem’s The Pearl: Seven Hymns on the Faith translated by J.B. Morris. I think Hilaire Belloc got a kick out of reading poems like this. It left me mesmerized. After reading this, you will understand why St. Ephrem was known by the sobriquet, The Harp of the Holy Spirit.

The Pearl: Hymn Four

The thief gained the faith which gained him,
And brought him up and placed him in paradise.
He saw in the Cross a tree of life;
That was the fruit,
He was the eater in Adam’s stead.
The fool, who goes astray,
Grazes the faith, as it were an eye,
By all manner of questions.
The probing of the finger blinds the eye,
And much more doth that prying blind the faith.

For even the diver pries not into his pearl.
In it do all merchants rejoice
Without prying into whence it came;
Even the king who is crowned therewith
Does not explore it.

*****

Because Balaam was foolish,
A foolish beast in the ass spoke with him,
Because he despised God Who spoke with him.
Thee too let the pearl reprove
In the ass’s stead.
The people that had a heart of stone,
By a Stone He set at nought,
For lo, a stone hears words.
Witness its work that has reproved them;
And you, ye deaf ones,
Let the pearl reprove to-day.

With the swallow and the crow did He put men to shame;
With the ox, yea with the ass, did He put them to shame;
Let the pearl reprove now,
O ye birds and things on earth and things below.

*****

Not as the moon does thy light fill or wane;
The Sun whose light is greater than all,
Lo! of Him it is that a type is shadowed out in thy little compass.
O type of the Son,
One spark of Whom is greater than the sun!
The pearl itself is full,
for its light is full;
Neither is there any cunning worker who can steal from it;
For its wall is its own beauty,
Yea, its guard also!
It lacks not,
since it is entirely perfect.

And if a man would break thee
To take a part from thee,
Thou art like the faith which with the heretics perishes,
Seeing they have broken it in pieces and spoiled it:
For is it any better than this
To have the faith scrutinized?

The faith is an entire nature
That may not be corrupted.
The spoiler gets himself mischief by it:
The heretic brings ruin on himself thereby.
He that chases the light from his pupils
Blinds himself.

Fire and air are divided when sundered.
Light alone, of all creatures,
As its Creator, is not divided;
It is not barren, for that it also begets
Without losing thereby.

*****

And if a man thinks that thou art framed by art
He errs greatly;
Thy nature proclaims that thou, as all stones,
Art not the framing of art;
and so thou art a type of the Generation
Which no making framed.
Thy stone flees
From a comparison with the Stone which is the Son.
For thy own generation is from the midst of the deep,
That of the Son of thy Creator is from the highest height;
He is not like thee,
In that He is like His Father.

And as they tell,
Two wombs bare thee also.
Thou camest down from on high a fluid nature;
Thou camest up from the sea a solid body.
By means of thy second birth
Thou didst show thy loveliness to the children of men.

Hands fixed thee, when thou wast embodied,
Into thy receptacles;
For thou art in the crown as upon the cross,
And in a coronet as in a victory;
Thou art upon the ears, as if to fill up what was lacking;
Thou extendest over all.


St. Ephrem, Pray for Us.

You may read all seven hymns in The Pearl here.

Baseball (Music for Mondays)

A few days ago, Webster posted on the imperfect call heard ’round the world. Baseball has been a big part of my life, especially after I became a dad, with two boys who play the game. Softball is pretty big too, as my daughter plays that game (and my alma mater, UCLA,  is in the College Softball World Series championship game, Go Bruins!).

There is a lot of baseball on my, and my oldest son’s plate this week as he has a camp, hitting lessons, games, and finally try-outs for the high school team.  All of that on the weekdays, and of course, more baseball this weekend too.  So when thinking of music for this Monday, I have baseball on the brain.

Baseball gives me chills sometimes.  This scene from The Natural always does.

YouTube Preview Image

Brought to you by the guy who wrote and sang such hits as Short People  and I Love L.A., Randy Newman did the score for The Natural.

YouTube Preview Image
Anyone not remember this speech from Field of Dreams?
YouTube Preview Image

And the theme? Composed, co-orchestrated, conducted, and produced by James Horner.

YouTube Preview Image

A baseball music post would not be complete without John Fogerty’s Centerfield. Check out that baseball bat shaped guitar. Nice!

YouTube Preview Image

Nor would it be complete without Wild Thing covered by the band X. Made famous from the comedy movies Major League and Major League 2.

YouTube Preview Image

Take me out to the ball game!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X