A Tale of the Laity and Priestly Scandal, Circa 1400 AD

This is Part III of a recently started series about on-going personal conversion. Part I started us off with thoughts from a vision of St. Catherine of Siena. Part II continued with words of a Franciscan friar giving an intelligence brief on our adversary. What follows is either miraculous or not depending on how you view things.

I say miraculous, in at least a minor way, because a) until today, I had never heard of this passage I’m sharing now, and b) the timing of the find is uncanny. How, pray tell, did I “find” it? It all started a few weeks ago when I picked up volume one of the Norton Anthology of English Literature for $4.00 at a flea market about an hour from my home. In mint condition, and weighing in at 2074 pages, folks who like math will delight in the fact that I paid ‎a whopping .001344989 cents per page for it. It’s chock full o’ Catholic classics too.

What does this have to do with personal conversion? Boatloads. As Qoheleth, the inspired writer of my favorite Old Testament book says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” That includes scandals involving priests. They will come, and they will go. None of us have seen the last of them, and persevere through them, we must. And despite some folks thinking that questioning priests, and holding them accountable, turns the faithful into members of the “brood of vipers and evil doers” section of the flock, I believe this story shows the opposite to be true.

So this morning, with no intention whatsoever of my own, I picked up this weighty tome I acquired so cheaply and randomly flipped it open to find myself on page 374. There, I happened upon the following tale that beckoned me with the heading Examination Before the Archbishop and started with the following words,

There was a monk should preach in York, the which had heard much slander and much evil language of the said creature.

Uh?, I thought. Do tell! Having never heard of Margery Kempe, I just plunged onward through this story as if I had entered a time machine and was whisked back to the days when England was still Catholic. Margery, it turns out, was a contemporary of St. Julian of Norwich and is honored in the Anglican Communion. She lived in Norwich, married at the age of 20, and had 14 children. She remained a member of the laiety, and yet was ahead of her time in recognizing her calling to the “royal priesthood” that St. Peter describes in his first letter to the faithful (1 Peter 2:9).

Be advised that this is a bit long, so go get a glass of your favorite beverage, or head to the loo, before you wade in. Ready? Enjoy…

from The Book of Margery Kempe

Examination before the Archbishop

There was a monk should preach in York, the which had heard much slander and much evil language of the said creature. And, when he should preach, there was much multitude of people to hear him, and she (Margery) present with them. And so, when he was in his sermon, he rehearsed many matters so openly that the people conceived well it was for cause of her, wherefore her friends that loved her well were full sorry and heavy thereof, and she was much the more merry, for she had matter to prove [test] her patience and her charity wherethrough she trusted to please Our Lord Christ Jesus.

When the sermon was done, a doctor of divinity which loved her well with many others also came to her and said,

“Margery, how have ye done this day?”

“Sir,” she said, “right well, blessed be God. I have cause to be right merry and glad in my soul that I may any thing suffer for his love, for he suffered much more for me.”

Anon after came a man which loved her right well of good will with his wife and others more, and led her seven miles thence to the Archbishop of York, and brought her into a fair chamber, where came a good clerk, saying to the good man which had brought her thither, “Sir, why have ye and your wife brought this woman hither? She shall steal away from you, and then shall ye have a villainy of her.”

The good man said, “I dare well say she will abide and be at her answer with good will.”

On the next day she was brought into the Archbishop’s chapel, and there came many of the Archbishop’s meiny, despising her, calling her “loller” and “heretic,” and swearing many an horrible oath that she should be burnt. And she, through the strength of Jesus, said again to them,

“Sirs, I dread me ye shall be burnt in hell without end unless than ye amend you of your oaths swearing, for ye keep not the commandments of God. I would not swear as ye do for all the good of this world.”

Then they gedyn [went] away as they had been ashamed. She then, making her prayer in her mind, asked grace so to be demeaned that day as was most pleasant to God and profit to her own soul and good example to her evyn [fellow] Christians. Our Lord, answering her, said it should be right well.

At the last the said Archbishop came into the chapel with his clerks, and sharply he said to her,

“Why goest thou in white? Art thou a maiden?”

She, kneeling on her knees before him, said, “Nay, sir, I am no maiden; I am a wife.”

He commanded his meiny to fetch a pair of fetters and said she should be fettered, for she was a false heretic. And then she said,

“I am no heretic, nor ye shall none prove me.”

The Archbishop went away and let her stand alone. Then she made her prayers to our Lord God almighty for to help her and succour her against all her enemies, ghostly and bodily, a long while, and her flesh trembled and quaked wonderly that she was fain to put her hands under her clothes that it should not be aspied.

Since the Archbishop came again into the chapel with many worthy clerks, amongst which was the same doctor (of theology) which had examined her before and the monk that had preached against her a little time before in York. Some of the people asked whether she were a Christian woman or a Jew; Some said she was a good woman, and Some said nay.

Then the Archbishop took his see [ecclesiastical seat], and his clerks also, each of them in his degree, much people being present. And in the time while the people was gathering together and the Archbishop taken his see, the said creature stood all behind, making her prayers for help and succour against her enemies with high devotion so long that she melted all into tears. And at the last she cried loud therewith, that the Archbishop and his clerks and much people had great wonder of her, for they had not heard such crying before.

When her crying was passed, she came before the Archbishop and fell down on her knees, the Archbishop saying full boisterously unto her,

“Why weapest thou so, woman?”

She, answering, said, “Sir, ye shall will some day that ye had wept as sore as I.”

And then anon, after the Archbishop put to her the Articles of our Faith (the Apostle’s Creed), to the which God gave her grace to answer well and truly and readily without any great study so that he might not blame her, then he said to the clerks,

“She knows her faith well enough. What shall I do with her?”

The clerks said, “We know well that she can the Articles of the Faith, but we will not suffer her to dwell among us, for the people have great faith in her dalliance, and peradventure she might pervert some of them.”

Then the Archbishop said unto her, “I am evil informed of thee; I hear said thou art a right wicked woman.”

And she said again, “Sir, so I hear said that ye are a wicked man. And,if ye be as wicked as men say, ye shall never come in heaven unless than ye amend you while ye be here.”

Then said he full boisterously, “Why, thou, what say men of me?”

She answered, “Other men, sir, can tell you well enough.”

Then said a great clerk with a furred hood, “Peace, thou speak of thyself and let him be.”
Since said the Archbishop to her, “Lay thine hand on the book here before me and swear that thou shall go out of my diocese as soon as thou may.”

“Nay, sir,” she said, “I pray you, give me leave to go again into York to take my leave of my friends.”

Then he gave her leave for one day or two. She thought it was too short a time, wherefore she said again,

“Sir, I may not go out of this diocese so hastily, for I must tarry and speak with good men ere I go, and I must, sir, with your leave, go to Birdlington and speak with my confessor, a good man, the which was the good prior’s (St. John of Birdlington) confessor that is now canonized.”

Then said the Archbishop to her, “thou shall swear that thou shalt not teach nor challenge the people in my diocese.”

“Nay, sir, I shall not swear,” she said, “for I shall speak of God and undirnemyn [reprove] them that swear great oaths wheresoever I go unto the time that the Pope and Holy Church have ordained that no man shall be so hardy to speak of God, for God all mighty forbids not, sir, that we shall speak of him. And also the gospel makes mention that, when the woman had heard Our Lord preach, she came before him with a loud voice and said, `Blessed be the womb that thee bore and the tits that gave the suck.’ Then our Lord said again to her, `Forsooth so are they blessed that hear the word of God and keep it.’ And therefore, sir, me thinks that the gospel gives me leave to speak of God.”

“A sir,” said the clerks, “here wot[know] we well that she hath a devil within her, for she speaks of the gospel.”

As such a great clerk brought forth a book and laid Saint Paul for his party against her that no woman should preach. She, answering thereto, said,

“I preach not, sir, I come in no pulpit. I use but communication and good words, and that will I do while I live.”

Then said a doctor which had examined her beforetime, “Sir, she told me the worst tales of priests that ever I heard.”

The bishop commanded her to tell that tale.

Stand-by for one of the best parables I have ever read. Everything prior, though a bit tedious, has set the stage for the following stunner. Read on me hearties!

Peach Tree in Bloom
Vincent Van Gogh

“Sir, with your reverence, I spoke but of one priest by the manner of example, the which as I have learned went wild in a wood through the sufferance of God for the profit of his soul til the night came upon him. He, destitute of his herborwe [lodging], found a fair arbor in the which he rested that night, having a fair pear tree in the midst all flourished with flowers and embellished, and blooms full delectable to his sight, where came a bear, great and boisterous, hugely to behold, shaking the pear tree and felling down the flowers. Greedily this grevious beast ate and devoured those fair flowers. And, when he had eaten them, turning his tail end in the priest’s presence, voided them out again at the hinder part.

The priest, having great abomination of that loathly sight, conceiving great heaviness for doubt what it might mean, on the next day he wandered forth in his way all heavy and pensive, whom it fortuned to meet with a seemly aged man like to a palmer or a pilgrim, the which enquired of the priest the cause of his heaviness. The priest, rehearsing the matter before written, said he conceived great dread and heaviness when he beheld that loathly beast defoul and devour so fair flowers and blooms and afterward so horribly to devoid them before him at his tail end, and he not understanding what this might mean.

Then the palmer, showing himself the messenger of God, thus areasoned him,

“Priest, thou thyself art the pear tree, somedeal flourishing and flowering through thy service saying and the sacraments ministering, though thou do undevoutly, for thou take full little heed how thou says thy matins and thy service, so it be blabbered to an end. Then go thou to thy mass without devotion, and for thy sin hast thou full little contrition. Thou receivest there the fruit of everlasting life, the sacrament of the altar, in full feeble disposition.

“Since all the day after thou misspendest thy time, thou give thee to buying and selling, chopping and changing [bargaining and exchanging], as it were a man of the world. Thou sittest at the ale, giving the to glotony and excess, to lust of thy body, through lechery and uncleanness. Thou breakest the commandments of God through swearing, lying, detraction, and backbiting, and such other sins using. Thus by thy misgovernance, like onto the loathly bear, thou devourest and destroyest the flowers and blooms of virtuous living to thine endless damnation and many man’s hindering less than thou have grace of repentance and amending.”‘

Then the Archbishop liked well the tale and commended it, saying it was a good tale. And the clerk which had examined her beforetime in the absence of the Archbishop, said,

“Sir, this tale smites me to the heart.”

The foresaid creature said to the clerk, “Ah, worshipful doctor, sir, in place where my dwelling is most, is a worthy clerk, a good preacher, which boldly speaks against the misgovernance of the people and will flatter no man. He says many times in the pulpit, `If any man be evil pleased with my preaching, note him well, for he is guilty.’

And right so, sir,” said she to the clerk, “fare ye by me, God forgive it you.”

The clerk wist [knew] not well what he might say to her. Afterward the same clerk came to her and prayed her of forgiveness that he had so been against her. Also he prayed her specially to pray for him. And than anon after the Archbishop said,

An Archbishop

“Where shall I have a man that might lead this woman from me?”

As swithe [immediately] there started up many young men, and every man said of them, “My Lord, I will go with her.”

The Archbishop answered, “Ye be too young; I will not have you.”

Then a good sad [of sober continence] man of the Archbishop’s meiny asked his Lord what he would give him and he should lead her. The Archbishop proferred him five shillings and the man asked a noble. The Archbishop, answering, said,

“I will not waryn [spend] so much on her body.”

“Yes, good sir,” said the said creature, “our Lord shall reward you right well again.”

Then the Archbishop said to the man, “See, here is five shillings, and lead her fast out of this country.”

She, kneeling down on her knees, asked his blessing. He, praying her to pray for him, blessed her and let her go.

Than she, going again to York, was received of much people and of full worthy clerks, which enjoyed in our Lord that had given her not lettred wit and wisdom to answer so many learned men without villainy or blame, thanking be to God.

****

And that’s all for today, dear reader. For more on Margery Kempe, see this new volume added to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf: The Cell of Self-Knowledge.

The Corapi Kerfuffle and Agape (In Reply to a Reader)

A reader writes,

Wow, hey Frank are you really a Christian? Do you actually receive communion with a clear conscience? Do you enjoy stomping on a priest when he’s down? That goes for the the other un-Christian commentors above too.

Jasper

Dear Jasper,

My Christian brother, you are a few posts behind (see this and this)but let me just say that if St. Nicholas could punch Arias in the face at the Council of Nicea, and still be a Christian, then yes…I can say I am really a Christian too.

Unfortunately, you don’t seem to recognize that our brother is in direct violation of the orders of his superior. In other words there are two options here: a)rally behind the mutineer,or b) rally behind the Church.

I choose b).

Agape your neighbor as yourself. I have children and when they disobey me, I don’t just “let it go” or “pray for them,” but out of love and duty, I set them straight too. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it is necessary. I did the same thing in the Marine Corps with juniors, peers, and even superior officers. It’s called providing counsel, even when it isn’t asked for. That too is agape.

From your comment, it seems that you believe that Catholic priests are above reproach, and that Holy Orders is a sort of “get out of Jail Free” card. Surely, after all the the scandals that have roiled the Church since 2002, you don’t believe this. And yet now that the fellow you thought was the best thing since sliced bread has gone and been exposed to have fallen, he is now attempting to lure away the faithful. All while being ordered to return to the fold. He needs to be held accountable for his actions, yet he refuses to do so. So, in your estimation(?) I should just assault heaven with prayers for him and let it be.

Christian love is many splendored and multi-faceted. In all charity, the only charitable thing to say to John Corapi now is what I said in my previous post,

Obviously the best thing to do would be for him to obey, return to base, and stand the ecclesiastical version of a court-martial.

If I was foundering in the same way, I would hope that others, such as yourself, would agape me enough to say what I needed to hear to get my head screwed on straight. Not just egg me on towards the abyss with brave words and “you can do it!” And “We stand behind you!” Thanks, but no thanks.

I’d prefer you had enough agape for me to say what this reader on the Corapi’s site said,

“John, you need to rethink your approach. You sound like a dry drunk, full of self-righteousness and blame. That you fell—who cares? You’re just a guy. That you’ve behaved this way after you got caught? That’s another thing. Cling to the misguided support of some of these folks posting, if you must. But there are plenty of recovering men out here who know stinking thinking when we hear it. We love you, and want you to repent, but we aren’t falling for any of this posturing. May God be with you, and may you listen to Him before it’s too late.”

That is the kind of counseling that John Corapi needs to hear now.

Pax Christi,

Frank

The Messenger, the Muse, and the Redeemer

Why can’t I just turn away from the John Corapi story and leave it behind? All I can figure is that it is like the aftermath of a ferry boat accident. There are a lot of passengers that are still in the water and I have the conn of a lifeboat.

Or it’s like I’ve happened upon the scene of a passenger train wreck, and I’m stepping into the role of the Good Samaritan. I don’t know how effective I will be, but I’m trying to help move survivors back to safety.

As for John Corapi himself, it appears more and more to me that he has done as Shakespeare’s lines in Hamlet state: hoisted himself on his own petard. Perhaps he feels, though, that he is Hamlet reciting these lines,

There’s letters seal’d: and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang’d,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard; and ‘t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon: O, ’tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.

–Hamlet Act 3, scene 4, 202–209

No matter. His orders from his superior are clear and he is in direct violation of them. Obviously the best thing to do would be for him to obey, return to base, and stand the ecclesiastical version of a court-martial. But that isn’t happening, as Deacon Greg’s latest synopsis clearly shows.

Leaving the errant messenger, then, I give you Johnny Cash. Johnny knows addiction, pain, and hurt. So Johnny, the muse, can help assuage your wounds now. These songs may help as he points you toward the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who also felt the betrayal that you feel now.  The Lamb of God took that burden all the way to hell and back.

Sing it Johnny,

Ring of Fire.

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I See A Darkness.

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Hurt.

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Why Me Lord?

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Dom Lou Tseng-Tsiang once wrote this about the faith,

In every period of transition the two opposing currents are very violent. To escape from them, one must be prepared to be judged unfavorably by both. So one must learn to be alone. The Christian life, for its part, does not escape this rule. Our Lord Jesus Christ is so often all alone on His Cross.

Solitary Man.

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And by reader request (thanks!),

Redemption Song.

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Redemption Day.

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Haul yourself into the lifeboat and head back to the barque of St. Peter.

For Thoughts on Our Adversary by Fray Francisco de Osuna

No, this isn’t about Uncle Sam, patriotism, or anything like that. This is part two of a series on the work of on-going personal conversion that I started yesterday. Milk drinkers beware, because meat and potatoes are coming your way.  Bring your knives and forks and spoons. Napkins are optional.

Last December, I wrote of a minor miracle regarding me and Fray Francisco de Osuna. Come to think of it, St. Anthony of Padua probably had something to do with it too, as I thought a book was lost, and it was found. Francisco, see, was a Franciscan, and he wrote the book I misplaced, The Third Spiritual Alphabet, that had a huge impact on St. Teresa of Avila. Information like that gets my attention, pronto.

For me, Fray Francisco became a mentor of sorts. Sure, he’s dead and gone, and not an official saint, but if reading his book helped out the Carmelite superstar mentioned above, then I figured he could help me out too. I didn’t know too much about Franciscans at the time, except that they were founded by the peace-loving St. Francis of Assisi. But for a guy that was cloistered, Fray Francisco sure seemed an expert on human nature. And his command of the scriptures, as you’ll soon see, put this RCIA attending “soon to be former” Protestant “Bible-expert” at ease.

As for his “peace-loving” Franciscan side? Well, don’t you dare try and stereotype my mentor. Besides, the combat he refers too is spiritual, though it involves the physical as well. In my mind’s eye, I picture him as Sir Alec Guinness playing Obi-Wan Kenobi, but with a Spanish accent. However, instead of spouting modernist, Manichean, New Age, Star Warsian psycho-babble from under his brown wool habit, he’s teaching Catholic orthodoxy. The kind that, with me anyway, never goes out of style.

Take for instance the following passage from the seventh letter of “the Alphabet.” What’s this section all about? “How We Are To Cast Out Evil Thoughts, Saying: Thoughts Start War if the Gate is not Closed.” What follows is from the first chapter of this treatise. Remember my affinity for the military genius from ancient China, named Sun Tzu? My mentor Fray Francisco could teach him a thing, or two.

Chapter 1: The Devil’s Army

Astute captains always keep soldiers in reserve so that when they rush into a losing battle, the soldiers who thought themselves overwhelmed will take heart at the support, and their joy and renewed efforts will discourage the enemy. This is exemplified in the valiant, gentle captain Joshua who in the fight against the city of Hai placed five thousand men in ambush on one side of the city and thirty thousand on the other side, while he with the main body of soldiers stood openly against the city. He pretended to flee before the citizens, who ran out in pursuit, while the thirty thousand came and took the city, and the five thousand resisted those who returned to defend it; thus, with some helping others, they all enjoyed total victory. (Joshua, Chapter 8)

Just a quick note from your Marine Corps trained editor. See what I mean? Fray Francisco speaks the lingo that resonated with the recently retired Leatherneck. And now, we meet the adversary.

This strategy of clever warriors is no less known by that skilled soldier, the devil, to whom the words of the Maccabeans are applicable: “He fought many battles and took the fortresses of all, and killed the kings of the earth. He went through even to the ends of the earth and took spoils of many nations; and the earth was quiet before him. And he gathered great power and a very strong army, and his heart was exalted and lifted up. And he subdued the countries and nations, and princes became tributaries to him.” (1 Maccabees 1:2-5)

This passage describes the unjust, exceedingly prideful Alexander (Ed: Alexander the Great), who through great force became lord of what was in no justifiable sense his. He represents the devil, not only in deed but in name, for his name means the very strong, and so it can be said of him that he was a very strong and warring man, the son of a whore (Judges 11:1) His evil guilt and sin are expressed by his wicked mother whose son he became when he obeyed her and heeded the counsel of iniquity.

This devilish and most strong Lucifer, like the other Alexander, fought and fights each day many unjust battles; he took the fortresses of all when he conquered our first parents, leaving us vanquished like the subjects of a captured king. He killed the kings of the earth, who were our first parents, whom God created to rule all inferior things, when he caused them to offend God Your Majesty and be sentenced to death. He killed them, as it were, because he said they would not die for their offense, but that in itself was the reason they perished.

And it says he passed through to the end of the earth, which is human flesh corrupted by iniquity, and God says that this end has come before him in lament (Genesis 6:11-13). This passing through the earth is original sin, which goes from one to another like a perpetual burden, as slavery is handed down from mother to child, or corrupton spreads from the roots of the tree, or force of yeast affect the entire dough, or the poison of the salamander invades the tree’s fruit, for Pliny says that if the salamander touches the roots of the tree, its entire fruit and all the tree will be infected.

See Isaiah 14:12

Thus the devil passes by to take possession of mortals and steals immense wealth when he leads into sin many who previously were rich in grace. And if they do not resist, the earth becomes quiet before him, which in itself suffices to make them his. The devil gathers a great army from among the defeated, forcing them to fight against those as yet unconquered, and he protects them and arms them with cleverness like his own so that they constitute a crowd of sinners whose hearts burst with deviltry and who are more skillful than the devil himself.

He can muster such an army because there is no earthly power to equal his (Job 41:24). He took countries of nations, especially because the Gentiles worshipped him (as Alexander probably did), and as Christ explains, the tyrants became his tributaries when he named himself prince of this world (John 12:31). The tyrants are lesser devils who serve him continually, albeit against their will, for if they do not consent to honor God in heaven, even less do they wish to be subjects of Lucifer.

This extraordinarily strong warrior who, like Goliath, is trained for battle since youth (1 Samuel 17:33), fights in the style I began to describe: that is, he keeps soldiers in reserve and divides his army into three groups for a more clever attack. He orders one squadron after another into the skirmish so that if his enemy succeeds against the first, the second will defeat him, and the third, as seen in the image from the book of Kings: Three companies went out from the camps of the Philistines to fight (1 Samuel 13:17).These Philistines, who are demons, pitch their tents in the field of malice and assemble their trops in three battalions.

Luxury is the first battalion and it marches forth heavily armed and provided with everything necessary to win. St. Bernard says this battle engages every rank or class of people: all ages, the ugly, the beautiful, the great and small, the healthy and the sick –in short, the entire human race.

Many manage to escape from their ferocious opponent, but then the battalion of Pride rushes in, armed with offices, riches, honor, and such things, and those who did not wish to sully themselves in what they considered the obscenity of the first vice now fall victim to the second precisely because it seems so clean in contrast with the first and less blameworthy for the reason that so many people commit it.

If they overcome the second battalion, the third surely defeats them, for these soldiers are more ferocious and cunning, being the demons themselves who have come to battle men by thrusting into their imaginations a whole throng of spiritual vices, as expressed by the image of Sennacherib (Tobit 1:18), who launched his entire army and power against Jerusalem.

St. Paul advised the faithful about this: “Take comfort, brothers, in the Lord and the strength of his power. Put on the armor of God to counter the devil’s tricks. For now we do not contend just with flesh and blood, but with princes and powers, the rulers of the world of darkness, the evil spirits over heavenly things (Ephesians 6: 10-12).”

The apostle’s words prove the seriousness of the battle in that first he warns us that the battle will be strenuous and we will need the armor of God’s favor and effort, since our own is inadequate against such infamy, and second, he refers to trickery, which implies malice as well as strength. Third, he emphasizes the grievousness of the battle by stating that it is no mere contest of flesh and blood and by naming the demons with lofty titles so as to evoke their tremendous power to battle spiritual opponents for what he calls heavenly things, those which the commentary explains are the virtues and souls of the faithful against whom the third assault is launched.

The first two attacks are physical, clear to see, and involve the body rather than the spirit. But the third hurls a host of evil thoughts to irritate and wear us down, and our letters says concerning these: “Thoughts start war if the gate is not closed.”

It seems that in the first two battles the devil leaves the fighting to his soldiers, those who take his side: that is, the flesh, which is the first vice to plague man, and the world, which supports the devil against Christ. But when the devil sees that his companions and vassals, who are other demons, are defeated and that person has withstood successfully the siege of these two vices and lives chastely and totally devoted to God, then it can be said of him: “He sent against them the heat of indignation, anger, and fury, and tribulation, a multitude of agents of misfortune; he opened a way for his anger and he did not save them from death.” (Psalm 77:49-50)

Is your milk getting curdled yet? Perhaps it is fitting to recall that Blessed Pope John Paul II recommend the following to the flock,

“May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians: ‘Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power’ (Ephesians 6:10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St. Michael throughout the Church. Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

For the Work of On-Going Personal Conversion (Part I)

I’ve written in the past about the deleterious side effects of cults of personality. If I wasn’t clear before, let me rectify the situation and say that I believe in the only cult of personality that really matters. It is the same one that all of the saints point us towards: the Person of Jesus Christ.

The Church is built around this, and this alone. One of the reasons I am a Catholic now is that I believe I became ready to move past the milk and head on to the solid food of the Faith. Prior to my conversion, I was a milk drinker for so long that I grew tired of it. So I left and as a result, I almost missed the feast that awaits Christians that persevere along the Way.

One way I have found that helps me stay grounded in the faith is to follow the advice of St. Philip Neri,

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

Or in the case today, the works of St. Catherine of Siena. What follows is from Chapter 63 of her Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin. How do I know it’s chapter 63? Because something I was reading that was written by Father Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. identified it as such in his The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life. How did I find out about his book? From the tip I received from the Chinese “Chesterton”, and author of The Three-fold Way of Love, John C.H. Wu. See?

Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

The common thread among these folks, and the other saints (such as St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, and others), is that Christianity is not just a “one-and-done” conversion. Far from it.

As Christians, see, through no merit of our own, we help spread the Good News, while the saints help us to persevere in the faith in that which we cannot see. In the passage below, God gives information through a vision of St. Catherine that points out how after our first conversion, the second must be attained, which leads unto the third. Come and see,

How the Soul, after having mounted the first step of the Bridge, should proceed to Mount the Second.

“Thou hast now seen how excellent is the state of him who has attained to the love of a friend ; climbing with the foot of affection, he has reached the secret of the Heart, which is the second of the three steps figured in the Body of My Son. I have told thee what was meant by the three powers of the soul, and now I will show thee how they signify the three states, through which the soul passes. Before treating ‘ of the third state, I wish to show thee how a man becomes a friend and how, from a friend, he grows into a son, attaining to filial love, and how a man may know if he has become a friend. And first of how a man arrives at being a friend.”

“In the beginning, a man serves Me imperfectly through servile fear, but, by exercise and perseverance, he arrives at the love of delight, finding his own delight and profit in Me. This is a necessary stage, by which he must pass, who would attain to perfect love, to the love that is of friend and son. I call filial love perfect, because thereby, a man receives his inheritance from Me, the Eternal Father, and because a son’s love includes that of a friend, which is why I told thee that a friend grows into a son. What means does he take to arrive thereat ? I will tell thee.”

“Every perfection and every virtue proceeds from charity, and charity is nourished by humility, which results from the knowledge and holy hatred of self, that is, sensuality. To arrive thereat, a man must persevere, and remain in the cellar of self-knowledge in which he will learn My mercy, in the Blood of My onlybegotten Son, drawing to Himself, with this love, My divine charity, exercising himself in the extirpation of his perverse self-will, both spiritual and temporal, hiding himself in his own house, as did Peter, who, after the sin of denying My Son, began to weep. Yet his lamentations were imperfect and remained so, until after the forty days, that is until after the Ascension.”

“But when My Truth returned to Me, in His humanity, Peter and the others concealed themselves in the house, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, which My Truth had promised them. They remained barred in from fear, because the soul always fears until she arrives at true love. But when they had persevered in fasting and in humble and continual prayer, until they had received the abundance of the Holy Spirit, they lost their fear, and followed and preached Christ crucified. So also the soul, who wishes to arrive at this perfection, after she has risen from the guilt of mortal sin, recognising it for what it is, begins to weep from fear of the penalty, whence she rises to the consideration of My mercy, in which contemplation, she finds her own pleasure and profit. This is an imperfect state, and I, in order to develop perfection in the soul, after the forty days, that is after these two states, withdraw Myself from time to time, not in grace but in feeling. My Truth showed you this when He said to the disciples ‘I will go and will return to you.’”

“Everything that He said was said primarily, and in particular, to the disciples, but referred in general to the whole present and future, to those, that is to say, who should come after. He said ‘I will go and will return to you;’ and so it was, for, when the Holy Spirit returned upon the disciples, He also returned, as I told you above, for the Holy Spirit did not return alone, but came with My power, and the wisdom of the Son, who is one thing with Me, and with His own clemency, which proceeds from Me the Father, and from the Son. Now, as I told thee, in order to raise the soul from imperfection, I withdraw Myself from her sentiment, depriving her of former consolations.”

“When she was in the guilt of mortal sin, she had separated herself from Me, and I deprived her of grace through her own guilt, because that guilt had barred the door of her desires. Wherefore the sun of grace did not shine, not through its own defect, but through the defect of the creature, who bars the door of desire. When she knows herself and her darkness, she opens the window and vomits her filth, by holy confession. Then I, having returned to the soul by grace, withdraw Myself from her by sentiment, which I do in order to humiliate her, and cause her to seek Me in truth, and to prove her in the light of faith, so that she come to prudence. Then, if she love Me without thought of self, and with lively faith and with hatred of her own sensuality, she rejoices in the time of trouble, deeming herself unworthy of peace and quietness of mind.”

“Now comes the second of the three things of which I told thee, that is to say: how the soul arrives at perfection, and what she does when she is perfect. This is what she does. Though she perceives that I have withdrawn Myself, she does not, on that account, look back, but perseveres with humility in her exercises, remaining barred in the house of self-knowledge, and, continuing to dwell therein, awaits, with lively faith, the coming of the Holy Spirit, that is of Me, who am the fire of charity.”

“How does she (the soul) await me? Not in idleness, but in watching and continued prayer, and not only with physical, but also with intellectual watching, that is, with the eye of her mind alert, and, watching with the light of faith, she extirpates, with hatred, the wandering thoughts of her heart, looking for the affection of My charity, and knowing that I desire nothing but her sanctification, which is certified to her in the Blood of My Son. As long as her eye thus watches, illumined by the knowledge of Me and of herself, she continues to pray with the prayer of holy desire, which is a continued prayer, and also with actual prayer, which she practises at the appointed times, according to the orders of Holy Church.”

“This is what the soul does in order to rise from imperfection and arrive at perfection, and it is to this end, namely that she may arrive at perfection, that I withdraw from her, not by grace but by sentiment. Once more do I leave her, so that she may see and know her defects, so that, feeling herself deprived of consolation and afflicted by pain, she may recognise her own weakness, and learn how incapable she is of stability or perseverance, thus cutting down to the very root of spiritual self-love, for this should be the end and purpose of all her self-knowledge, to rise above herself, mounting the throne of conscience, and not permitting the sentiment of imperfect love to turn again in its death-struggle, but, with correction and reproof, digging up the root of self love, with the knife of self-hatred and the love of virtue.”

More from St. Catherine’s Dialogue can be found on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. I’ll post more on this subject with thoughts from my Franciscan mentor, Francisco de Osuna.

Because Christ Is In Every Book of the Bible

Interestingly, I missed this video (below) last week when Deacon Greg Kandra ran it over at his place. Maybe there is a reason for that. You see, earlier this week some friends of mine got into a discussion regarding books of the Bible. [Read more...]

Christian Thoughts On Private Property: What Ayn Rand Missed, Part II

Still in my library, I found the following selection on the subject of private property, and of “the state,” in Life of Leo XIII And the History Of His Pontificate. Ayn Rand missed this book as well as Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. Perhaps this is just a case of too much writing and too little research. That’s what I think anyway. Of course, she was a novelist, so facts weren’t necessary (head-slap). [Read more...]

Christian Thoughts On Private Property: What Ayn Rand Missed

It’s been a couple of weeks since publishing my last post on Ayn Rand.Things have settled down a bit here and now I can turn my attention to what she missed regarding a concept that is near and dear to all of her devotees: the concept of private property.

Given how much ink Rand spilled on this subject, you would think she came up with the idea of private property in the first place. Alas (for her fans), no. [Read more...]

Let Me Tell You About “Herding Dogs”

Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf 

Without a strong master, they are worthless. Destructive. Bored. Good for nothing but trouble. These descriptions, for those who have owned (or do own) herding dogs, would be the end of this post. Their experience with dogs like these would make the truth of these statements self-evident. Frank knows herding dogs.

For those of you who have not owned dogs bred to herd animals, you may need a little more convincing. And where has Frank gotten his bonafides on cattle and sheep herding dogs? Experience. Since 1993, I’ve owned three dogs: two of them were Australian Cattle Dogs, and now I own a Border Collie. None of them are “black sheep dogs” with malevolent stares, though they all have had black coloring in their coats. Yes, this is a post that is tangentially about the Corapi kerfuffle. Because you need to know.

Put down your pitch-forks and torches for a second and come meet my dogs. Besides, that kind of stuff (scary Hollywood style mobs, milling about earnestly looking to lynch someone) doesn’t scare Joe Six-Pack, USMC. Nor does it scare my dogs.

St. Davy at age 12

First up is Davy, also known in my household as “St. Davy of Queensland.” Why, pray tell? Because Davy, my first Australian Cattle Dog, could do no wrong. He simply was Our.Best.Dog.Ever. Davy was my and my wife’s first born, see. We bought him the same week we bought our first home, back in the Fall of 1993. He was six weeks old when I brought him home to surprise my wife less than a week after moving in.

Mad Max & his dog

At the local pet store, the sign in his cage said he was a “Queensland Heeler.” I had no idea what that was, but he looked a bit like a Corgy as a little pup and I wasn’t enthused about that favorite of the Royals. I headed to the local library (yes, this was before the days of Google) and did a quick bit of research on this breed. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was the dog that Mel Gibson had at his side in Road Warrior. Cool!

Here’s what I learned about the breed from the Readers Digest Illustrated Book of Dogs,

The Australian Cattle Dog was developed to be a strong biting dog, one able to drive cattle over long distances. Its speckled coat camouflages it when nipping at bovines’ legs. Its punishing jaws are essential to a cattle dog in mustering and moving wild livestock. Protecting its master’s family and home is a responsibility the Australian Cattle Dog takes as seriously as driving cattle.

When Australian stockmen required a herding dog to help control half-wild cattle and sheep, they set out to breed one. The process began in the 1830′s when a stockmen named Timmons crossed a Smithfield, a tough but noisy working breed, with a Dingo. The resulting “Timmons Biter” had the Dingo’s silent ways but proved difficult to manage.

A further cross with Border Collies enhanced tractibility, but barking became a problem once more. Again, the Dingo was used. Later, to improve temperament, Dalmatian stock was introduced. To further develop working ability, the Australian Kelpie was interbred. This final cross produced just the versatile canine the stockmen were searching for. Their creation, possessed stamina, reliability, and uncanny intelligence.

So consulting my checklist, Smart? Check! Medium sized? Check! Not too yappy? Check! Cool looking? Check! I headed back to the store and bought him immediately.

When fully grown, Davy weighed 45 lbs, so he was indeed medium sized. If there is a MENSA equivalent for dogs, Australian Cattle Dogs would be one of the most numerous members of that society. Davy was simply the smartest dog I have ever had (and my family had several dogs while I was growing up). He was house broken in one week, and for the rest of his life (and he spent all 13 years of his life with us) he never had an accident indoors. He’d let you know when he needed to go out. And be advised, he was an outdoors dog. We lived in Southern California for most of his life and he lived and played in our fenced-in backyard, sleeping in a wooden kennel outdoors.

Within his first six months, he could pee and poop on command. My wife and I went to the Universal Studios tour and among the attractions, we saw the animal talent show there. I took the tricks I saw performed there back home to Davy and in a matter of weeks, he could sit, shake, roll-over, and speak (bark) with hand signals alone. Dogs like these make their masters look like professional animal trainers (think “Cesar Milan“). Life was very good.

Davy died about a year after we moved back to my hometown. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it because he was such a loved member of our family. He was great with our kids when they arrived. He would herd me along when I came out with the laundry heading to our washer and dryer out in the garage. He loved catching frisbees and loved going on walks on the two mile circuit my wife and I staked out around our neighborhood. He loved the water. Quiet? He only barked when something was out of the ordinary.

True story time: Once, when he was about a year old, he saved our neighbors car from being stolen. One morning, about 1:00 o’clock, Davy awoke and sounded the alarm by stationing himself at the gate to our backyard, barking his head off. When Davy barked, you knew something was up. It turned out someone had smashed the window of our next door neighbors car in a bid to steal it. Davy saved the day.

Bull Mastiffs love me too.

Here’s another one from when Davy was 5 years old. I had just rejoined the Marines as a Reservist and was getting ready to head to Colorado for annual training with my artillery battery. The Friday evening right before I left, Davy started barking. Herding dogs are smart, and vary the pitches of their barks in a way that is difficult to explain, but you know it when you’ve experienced it. He had this higher pitched barking sound whenever a possum wandered into our yard along the top of the fence, for example.

So I went out back to investigate. He had boxed something into the far right-hand corner of our back yard, somewhere between the block wall that fronted the back of an apartment building, and the oleander bush in the corner, next to our cypress trees. As such, he was sweeping in an arc around that back corner and barking with his “I’ve caught a possum” bark. He wouldn’t stop, so I went back in the house to get the flashlight and a broom (to knock it off the fence, and the flashlight because it was about 10 PM). When I came back out, Davy still had it cornered. When I flashed the light toward the oleander, a man’s voice cried out with “Man, can you call your dog off?!”

My hackles immediately went full tilt and I said “Hell no, I’m calling the Police!” and I scampered back inside to do just that. I knew this dude would never get past Davy. He evidently climbed back over the back wall and ran away, because Davy quieted down and the cops found nothing when they arrived shortly thereafter. My wife was less than pleased that I was leaving her alone with my 2 1/2 year old son for two weeks the next morning, but we were confident that Davy would guard my family’s safety. That is how life is with a well-trained Cattle Dog.

After Davy passed on, I didn’t want to get another dog for a while. But I missed having one around. So I went looking for another Australian Cattle Dog and found one at a Cattle Dog rescue place about an hour from our home. This is where Riley came into our life, a few short weeks after St. Davy left.

Riley, loyal to Frank (only).

It turns out that one of the reasons Davy was so saintly is because a) he was six weeks old when I bought him, and b) I spent a lot of time with him. I trained him, and he was very obedient to me and my wife. We both worked outside the home at that time, and Davy was fine when left to himself in the back yard, foraging avocados, and figs, and the occasional squirrel. When we came home, he was with us the whole time, you know, fetching frisbees, learning new tricks, and hanging out until bed time. Riley’s story is completely different.

First off, he was about 1 1/2 to 2 years old when we got him. You see, he had run away from his owner in Kentucky and the owner had never come looking for him at the pound. So the Cattle Dog Rescue place swooped in and saved him and we adopted him. As a result, training Riley was a bit tougher than training Davy, but the characteristics of the breed still won out. Though he was crate-trained (something I had never had to do with Davy), house breaking him was a chore.

He had trouble obeying my wife, but since I was around, I ignored this warning sign. Because in short order, Riley was catching frisbees with the best of them. He was so athletic, and jumped so high, our next door neighbor would invite folks over just to watch him go. He too loved the water, and throwing frisbees into the lake nearby, he would happily swim out for them 25-30 yards from shore, swim back and demand that you throw it out there again. He was an Olympian.

Riley was silent for the most part too, much to the dismay of UPS truck drivers and the post office letter carriers who brought us packages. He would not bark until he was right on their heels. So we were added to the “do not deliver to” list promptly. Our neighbors happily received packages for us whenever they came.

As long as I was around, all was well. Then I went back to work outside of the home again about a year after he joined the family. He took this hard. See, when I went back to work, the master who kept things on an even keel with him was gone. Riley tried then to take my place on the Alpha Dog roster, growing ever more disobedient to my wife and children while I was away at work.

When I got home, all would be well. But when I was gone, which was 5 days a week, for close to 10 hours a day, he tried to fill the void. Loyal only to me, he started growling at my family, and when he snapped at my daughter, he went right back to the farm where I had picked him up. Our relationship with Riley lasted 2 years. Then we went without a dog for about 1 1/2 years of decompression. Enter Cody, the Border Collie.

Cody at 6 weeks old.

The long dog-less dry spell ended last June. My youngest son and I picked up this dude when he was six weeks old, just like with Davy. Unlike Davy, and Riley, Cody has grown up with a family of 5 from the get go. House trained pretty rapidly, and only a few mistakes since, he’s a fun addition to the family. Spirited, he barks more than the Cattle Dogs ever did, but look at that face! Look at those eyes! Not a malevolent stare capable in this brown-eyed handsome dog. Don’t let them fool you though, because though a pushover with his family, he’s fearless with outsiders.

And he’s as smart as his Cattle Dog cousins, and has a whole vocabulary of sounds. I’m learning to translate them now. Sam Sheepdog (see the photograph at the top of this post) is really a Bearded Collie. Lots of training and supervision have been needed by Cody, and we have provided it. That and lots of exercise, which he gets mainly by running around the borders of our yard. Want to see the effect of genetics on a breed? Ride a bicycle in the yard and he will herd you around like you are a lost sheep. Your bicycle is alive, as far as he’s concerned, and he will not stop trying to get you to go where he knows you need to go. No matter how fast you pedal, or for how long.

And that brings me full circle to the point about herding dogs that I started this post with. Left to themselves, they aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Bored, they will be destructive, troublesome and worthless for their intended job. They need strong shepherds. Period. Someone to tell them what to do, and where to take the flock.

Which brings me to the part of this post where I’ll share these wise words written by Fr. Joseph Jenkins about the Corapi kerfuffle entitled Black Sheep Dog or Black Wolf? He covers everything that anyone needs to know about this situation.

As you read it, keep in mind what I have shared with you from my own long experience with herding dogs and how important their relationships with their masters are both to their own happiness and to that of their families (the pack). Light your torches and bring your pitchforks if you must, but you won’t make it into my yard. That much I can assure you of.

Pax!

Cody, the next generation

The Rose of Sharon

The Rose of Sharon
by Anonymous. Arranged by Barney E. Warren (pub. 1911)

Lord Jesus, my sweet Rose of Sharon,
My Prophet, my Priest, and my King—
To Thee I will sing all my praises,
For blessings Thy mercy doth bring.
All glory and honor to Jesus,
Who offered His life on the cross,
To open a fountain for sinners,
And purchase a world that was lost.
(refrain)
Sweet Rose of Sharon,
Blooming above for me.

Oh, come help me sing of my Savior,
For He is the joy of my heart;
Come join in His service forever,
He will His rich graces impart.
I gaze at the wounds of my Savior,
From which that great fountain doth flow;
His word is my shield and my buckler,
By faith I’m made whiter than snow.

Sweet Rose of Sharon,
Blooming above for me.

In love’s verdant vale I am resting,
In Christ all my hope I confide;
My heart and my life He is blessing,
As humbly I walk by His side.
I’m living low down in the valley,
Where sweet Rose of Sharon doth bloom;
Oh, glory! its heavenly odor
With fragrance my soul doth perfume.

Sweet Rose of Sharon,
Blooming above for me.

Come, sinner, thy heart like the desert,
With sweet Rose of Sharon shall bloom;
’Twill blossom as flowers of summer,
His Spirit thy heart shall illume.
He paid all thy debt on Mount Calv’ry,
He suffered that you might be free;
Oh, look, guilty one, there is mercy,
There’s life and salvation for thee.

Sweet Rose of Sharon,
Blooming above for me.

My study…


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