From the Treasure Chest: A Primer on Natural Law

My friend John C.H. Wu was a highly regarded jurist and professor of law. He had a close friendship with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the U.S. Supreme Court. It turns out that one of the reasons he converted to the Catholic Faith was that the Church embraces what is know as the Natural Law. The same goes for his friend Dom Lou Tseng-Tsiang.

So in the interest of learning what exactly this means for regular folks, without enduring a semester of law school, I scouted Google Books and found another gem of a book by another long dead Jesuit. Entitled The Relations of the Church to Society, and authored by Edmund J. O’Reilly, SJ, the very first chapter is an essay on the Natural Law.

There will not be a pop quiz on this, but it will be on the mid-term as well as on the final exam. Fr. Ed has the floor,

CHAPTER I.
REVELATION AND THE NATURAL LAW. [Read more...]

Thanks to Nicholas Kristof For These Courageous Thoughts

Floored. And pleasantly surprised. That what I was when I read the latest editorial by Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times. His Tweet was as follows,

Many evangelicals do great work, and it’s reverse intolerance to mock their faith.

Have a look at the article:

Centuries ago, serious religious study was extraordinarily demanding and rigorous; in contrast, anyone could declare himself a scientist and go in the business of, say, alchemy. These days, it’s the reverse. A Ph.D. in chemistry is a rigorous degree, while a preacher can explain the Bible on television without mastering Hebrew or Greek — or even showing interest in the nuances of the original texts.

Those self-appointed evangelical leaders come across as hypocrites, monetizing Jesus rather than emulating him. Some seem homophobic, and many who claim to be “pro-life” seem little concerned with human life post-uterus. Those are the preachers who won headlines and disdain.

But in reporting on poverty, disease and oppression, I’ve seen so many others. Evangelicals are disproportionately likely to donate 10 percent of their incomes to charities, mostly church-related. More important, go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics, similar in many ways) who truly live their faith.

Bravo Zulu and Amen. Go read the rest.

For Thoughts Like These On Confession

What follows are thoughts on the Sacrament of Reconciliation written by Kenhelm Henry Digby in his classic, Mores Catholici.

Thoughts on Sin, the Church, and Forgiveness

Now the Church had far more mysterious relations than could exist in any mere domestic society, so that by persons who viewed it from without, a right understanding respecting it could only be formed by an act, in the first instance, of confidence in the truth of God who has founded the Church. They must at first have been satisfied with the evidence that it was a divinely constituted household, and then after being received into it as members, they would assuredly in due time have discovered how it was holy in all its doctrines, and just in all its ways. As the Athenian says to the blind wanderer who interrogates him respecting the laurel groves to which he has come—”These things, O stranger, are to be venerated, not from the words of men, but rather from long custom and experience.”

Cicero, indeed, says, that “the medicine of the soul is not only not desired before discovered, but that it is not even valued after it is known;” but such a complaint applies only to philosophy, for it was ungrounded in relation to the remedies which the Church administers, insomuch that a man accustomed to confession, when asked for arguments to prove its divine origin as an integral part of religion, must have felt as if he had been called upon to prove the reality of his own existence.

Its proofs were in the deepest roots of his spiritual life. His own amendment, the recovery of long lost joy, the renovation of his heart, this was the evidence that must have convinced him so feelingly that each argument beside would seem blunt and forceless in comparison. It is dangerous to follow men into the deepest recesses of their heart and behold what passes there: I will not, therefore, invite “the moderns” to search into the grounds of their hatred for confession. To persons obstinate in the conclusions of prejudice, reader, I would turn not, when viewing historically the supernatural features in the morality of the Catholic Church. On confession and indulgence I will speak not as if to an ignorant multitude, nor to judges, nor to senators, more accustomed to action than to the contemplation of things, but as to a man interiorly philosophic who understands and loves philosophy.

Respecting the hatred of truth and the love of deceiving and of being deceived observable in many men, (Blaise) Pascal says,

Mark a proof of this which fills me with horror. The Catholic religion does not oblige one to discover his sins indifferently to all the world; it permits him to remain concealed from all other men excepting one only, to whom it commands him to disclose the bottom of his heart, and to show himself such as he really is. 


There is only this one man in the world that it orders us to undeceive, and he is obliged to an inviolable secrecy, so that this knowledge is in him as if it was not in him. Can one imagine any thing more charitable and more gentle? Nevertheless, the corruption of man is such that he finds this a hard law, and it is one of the principal reasons which have made a great part of Europe revolt against the Church. (Thoughts, #100)

You have heard the great thinker of modern times; let us now attend to the philosophy of the middle ages. “Silence respecting sin,” says the Master of the Sentences,

arises from pride of heart. For a man wishes not to confess his sin in order that he may not be reputed externally such as he exhibits himself in the sight of God, which desire springs from the fountain of pride. For it is pride in a sinner to wish to be esteemed just, and it is hypocrisy to palliate or deny our sin like our first parents, or like Cain to bury it in silence. Now where there is pride and hypocrisy there can be no humility, and without humility there is no forgiveness. 


Therefore, where there is silence respecting sin there can be no hope of pardon. Here then, we see how detestable is the silence of sin, and how necessary is confession, which is the evidence of a conscience fearing God; for he who fears the judgment of God does not blush to confess. Perfect fear dissolves all shame. The confession of sin has shame, and that shame is a heavy punishment : and for this reason we are commanded to confess, that we may suffer shame, for this is part of the divine judgment.

Thus the words of St. John, beginning with “if we confess our sins,” were not understood as implying merely, “If we say that we are sinners generally with all the world,” but as teaching the necessity of suffering the shame and humiliation of confessing one’s personal particular sins; nor was there found any one formerly to maintain that this could be an immoral shame which would injure rather than repair the soul’s purity.

That extreme horror on finding that one has been suspected of crime, which Tieck’s hero evinces in his conversation with Balthasar, only proved in fact an unillumiuated heart: moreover, this overstrained and false honor reveals its own weakness, for by its very indignation it evinces its conviction that the fall was possible.

It is worthy of remark, that while the Church inflicted penance on all who ever made mention of expiated sins,— for among the penitential canons of the rule of St. Columban, we read, ‘”He who relates a sin already expiated shall fast on bread and water for a day,”—the very men who denounced the act of humility that she imposed as injurious, made no scruple not only as we before observed, in resting in self-contemplation, but also in confessing the sins of their past life; or rather exulted in being able to recall the rememberance of them, disclosing them in detail with effrontery: their own retrospective narration differing £rom the confession which they renounced and stigmatized, only in the circumstance that theirs was made in defiance of the law of God, in hardened impenitence insensible to shame.

“O fearful thought!” cries St. John Climacus, “there are moments of delirium in the career of sin, when man fears not God, esteems as nothing the memory of eternal punishment, execrates prayer, looks at the relics of the dead as if they were senseless stones.” True, indeed ; but what is it to reflect that in consequence of a new instruction, widely imparted and legally established in some places, this is the case with men now, not during moments of delirum, for which they might repent and make amends, but throughout their whole lives, which pass in an uninterrupted career of self-esteem and congratulation? To the fundamental objection of the moderns, the best mode of reply would be simply to relate in the clear and precise language of the middle ages, what was the Catholic doctrine.

Taking, then, Hugo of St. Victor for their representative, let us hear what he says respecting sacerdotal absolution.

Solus Deus peccata dimittit (Only God forgives sins) ; yet authorities have that power by which priests forgive sins, and that by which God forgives them. But priests are said to forgive sins, because they administer the sacraments in which, and by which, sins are by the divine authority, forgiven.

When it was said that the form of absolution which had been in use thirty years before was deprecatory, and that William of Auxerre, William of Paris, and cardinal Hugo thought that this was the only ancient form, St. Thomas Aquinas replied, that ”he did not know whether this were true or not; but in any case no authority of antiquity could do prejudice to the words of our Lord, ‘Whatever you shall bind on earth.’”

Thus instead of being tempted to enter with them upon subtle, antiquarian investigations, he embraced the spirit of antiquity. It is clear, however, from the Roman council under pope Zacharia, that the form of the sacrament of confession was then similar to what it is at present. Strictly judicial is the sacerdotal office so that with accurate precision has the church retained the name of Basilica, which signified that upper part of the forum, where justice was administered to the people.

You can read more at the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

For Thoughts Amid the Storm (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Vision of St. Don Bosco 

Generally posts shared with the addendum in the title above have been reserved for lines of verse. Not so today. Instead, I’ll share a few epigrams from the disparate bookends of the Desert Fathers and Mothers to the United States Marine Corps, with a few wise words of friends and saints in between.

Remember my recent post on being a pilgrim people? First up, from the deserts of Egypt near Skete, a thought about pilgrimage.

One of us asked Abba Sisoes, “What is pilgrimage, Abba?” He answered, “Keep silent; and wherever you go, say, ‘I am at peace with all men.’ That is pilgrimage.”

Sigh. I’m a gonna need some help then. More epigrams, por favor! Like this one from an Amma,

Amma Theodora said, “Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate. Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Speaking of storms, my buddy Blaise Pascal reminds us,

There is a pleasure in being in a ship beaten about by a storm, when we are sure that it will not founder. The persecutions which harass the Church are of this nature.

St. Paul on endurance,

For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:6-7

And from the Marine Corps version of the Communion of Saints, General Victor H. “Brute” Krulak. He stood 5′ 4″ tall, and maybe weighed 145 lbs when wet. Not a Catholic, but an Episcopalian, he fathered three boys. One of them would become the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the other two became Epsicopal priests and served as chaplains (one retired from the Navy, the other served in the Army). Here is his promised bookend thought,

Being ready is not what matters. What matters is winning after you get there.

Ain’t that the truth.

Would You Believe for the Fallible Facepalm?

So we were driving to Mass this past Sunday, like we’ve done every Sunday since forever. Listening to the radio, with the kids riding in the back, something prompted my wife and I to start naming off the Seven Sacraments.

We named six of them pretty quickly, especially Matrimony, which I had just been discussing as we pulled out of the driveway. Baptism, my wife called out. Check! Confession, or Reconciliation was called out. Check! Holy Orders. Check! Anointing of the Sick. Check! And then we ran over the list again.

“What’s missing kids?”, I asked while piloting us on to our destination. We ran through the the short list of the Sacraments we had named so far and noted we had come up with five. My wife chimed in with Confirmation as number six. I gave the kids a pass on that one, as none of them have reached the age for Confirmation yet.

I’m really embarrassed to say that for a number of minutes, maybe 3-5(!) we were having trouble coming up with the seventh Sacrament. My wife, the cradle Catholic, and I ran through the list, aloud, and counting on our fingers the Sacraments we had enumerated so far. And then, after driving under the overpass after exiting the freeway, the missing Sacrament hit me like a ton of bricks. “The Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist!” I exclaimed doing a face palm while stopped at a red light.

Actually, I called it a “face plant,” but my oldest son corrected me by saying, “Dad, that’s what happens when you fall on your face in front of everybody.” Of course, that is what I did, but even if he didn’t realize he was being merciful, I took it gladly and said, “I meant facepalm,” and I did my best impersonation of Captain Picard’s version you see above.

The memory of the scene haunted me for the rest of the drive to our parish. I was thinking, how could you forget the Body and Blood of your Lord and Savior? The “source and summit of the Christian life,” Frank, in case you forgot. There I was, quizzing the kids on why when Catholics get married, we do so in the Church and with a Mass. “So Jesus will be present to bless your union.” And yet, here I was forgetting his Real Presence in the Sacrament that we celebrate at Mass every Sunday, and every day for that matter?

Photo credit: Michael Belk

The memory of this episode came welling up in my mind again this morning when I came across a blog post about how some Catholics have an aversion to remembering Jesus, and the central place He has in our Faith. It feels weird even writing that, because it is so obvious, as Mary Kochan makes it plain in her post.

But given that even I was at a loss for a bit, the episode above leaves me sympathizing with those who sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees. Or in the case of the Vine, sometimes we get lost among the branches. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. His mother points us to Him, as do all the saints. The Mass is all about Him, as is the liturgy. He died for our sins, and showers us with His grace. And, ahem…He instituted the seven Sacraments.

Now, speaking of things I’ve misplaced in the last 5 minutes, has anyone seen my coffee mug?

For Anti-Democratic, Dictatorship Loving, Theocratic Fascist Thoughts…Not!

Check out my cool sword! Can’t wait to use it…

 

There I was, writing about pluralism. So my friend Mark Shea has been catching some heat lately for commenting on a video where self-proclaimed Catholic role-model, and all around knowledgeable guy, Michael Voris, blasts the hymn Amazing Grace for leading all Catholics into perdition’s flames. There’s a host of similar conspiracies that have been hatched on us too, and MV dutifully warns us of them all.

Here is what Mark wrote, and is now being pilloried for.

Maybe I can help divide the forces attacking the Dark Lord of the Pacific Northwest! Mark Shea is a big boy. He can handle stuff like this without any assistance from Joe Six-Pack, USMC. I mean, he’s taken him on for trying to act like a bishop before. But what the heck, Sun Tzu would approve of me working to divide the forces of an aggressor on an ally, so here goes.

Sure, anyone with their head on straight can simply ignore this guy easily, seeing as his venue of choice is YouTube. I’d rather watch Otis Rush play blues guitar over there than listen to another uncharitable rant by Michael Voris.

Back in April, I suggested reading the saints makes more sense. Now, thanks to a tip from a friend of a friend, and the interwebs, I have the video that I hope will make even the most sanguine, and die-hard fan of the Vortex scratch their head and say, What the hell?! It’s from way back in October of last year, but somehow, I missed it then. This is painful to watch…

Micheal Voris on the Proper Form of Government

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Heh. And you thought I just grabbed the title for this post out of thin air. Thankfully, and I reckon Michael doesn’t grasp this, the United States Government isn’t a direct democracy. It is a republican form of government and a representative democracy. Perhaps he hasn’t read the Constitution, and frankly I wonder if he ever read the Federalist Papers? No. 51 in particular. Importantly, the Church seems pretty pleased with the advent of representative democracy and the freedoms they have given human beings, but what does she know?

Uh-oh, it looks like some pesky stuff from Vatican II. Yep, from Guadium et spes, aka the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World. Remember my post on that document? Here’s a couple of relevant nuggets,

#73. The present keener sense of human dignity has given rise in many parts of the world to attempts to bring about a politico-juridical order which will give better protection to the rights of the person in public life. These include the right freely to meet and form associations, the right to express one’s own opinion and to profess one’s religion both publicly and privately. The protection of the rights of a person is indeed a necessary condition so that citizens, individually or collectively, can take an active part in the life and government of the state.

#75. It is in full accord with human nature that juridical-political structures should, with ever better success and without any discrimination, afford all their citizens the chance to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political community, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders.

Hmmm. I knew I liked the Council for a number of reasons. Go read that whole section on The Life of the Political Community.

Like Mark said in his post on Amazing Grace, I’m not sure why folks listen to Mr.Voris at all. He is my Christian brother too, but this is way over the line. Joe Six-Pack, USMC spent a good part of his life defending his country, and by extension, the Constitution. All those serving in the Armed Forces have taken an oath to uphold and defend it as well. I’ve even had friends who have been killed while under oath to it.

Nope, if this is “Real Catholic TV,” then I’ll eat my copy of the Catechism. “Real Crazy TV” seems like a better title to me.

Hey, I’ve got a better idea! I’ll keep my copy of the Catechism (and Gaudium et spes) in good shape and instead, I’ll just take my family out to see the final Harry Potter movie.

UPDATE

Creative Minority Report posts, Voris & Shea: Can’t We All Just Get Along? How about beers in a rose garden somewhere! —Publius :)

UPDATE II: A then, a few days later…

U.S. Military Color Guard with the Colors
and the Papal Flag

Three from S.D. (Music for Mondays)

I had a super busy weekend, thus not much on the posting front. My family and I played on the water all day Saturday, and spent Sunday criss-crossing the Carolinas taking my daughter to a camp. Now it’s Monday morning and my “work for food” beckons.

But on the heels of my last post, I’ve got a couple of songs from a group whose sound I love. I don’t know much about the members of the band, and I don’t need to either. I’m not saying they are Catholics, saints, or even angels. I’m saying they JAM though, and with a raw sound that speaks of “the struggle.”

So “S.D.”, as in Social Distortion. Here are three of their songs that stand out to me,

Story of My Life. Does this ring any bells with anyone?

Life goes by so fast,
You only want to do what you think is right.
Close your eyes and then it’s past;
(it’s the) story of my life.

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Ball and Chain. Singing about marriage? Please. This is about the weight of sin folks. At least, that’s how I hear it. Born to lose, and destined to fail.” Without Christ, that about sums it up.

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Angels’ Wings. Dude…this is the work I was talkin’ about the other day!

I triumphed in the face of adversity
And I became the man I never thought I’d be
And now my biggest challenge, a thing called love
I guess I’m not as tough as I thought I was

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I’ve gotta go to work. I’ll be back later.

Thoughts on Obedience and Reading Maps without Guidance

Today, while making the rounds around the blogger neighborhood, I saw a great quote on a subject that is not near and dear to the heart of modern mankind: obedience. Deacon Greg Kandra shared the thoughts of a modern saint on the subject,

Your obedience is not worthy of the name unless you are ready to abandon your most flourishing work whenever someone with authority so commands…Oh, the power of obedience! The Lake of Genesareth had denied its fishes to Peter’s nets. A whole night in vain. Then, obedient, he lowered his net again into the water and they caught ‘a great number of fishes.’ Believe me, this miracle is repeated every day. –St. Josemaria Escriva [Read more...]

Stuff I Heard This Weekend (Music for Mondays)

Yep, you read that title right. There is nothing more to this post, and nothing less. Some of these songs I heard in the house, or on the road. None of them were from an i-Pod or anything like that. Usually, I prefer to have music arrive to my ears by chance. Call me crazy. Oh, and this post is so long, I’m publishing it on Sunday night. Call it the Early Edition.

So that is what you have to look forward to from me today. No reasoned approach to the selection. No ulterior motive to the picks. But sometimes, and trust me I’m open to seeing things this way now, the songs just come unannounced and resonate with what is happening in the world of my faith and the new oxygen supply of my life. I speak of my love of the Church here, if you hadn’t noticed that trait rearing it’s head already.

It’s a jumble of old and new, but only if “new” is used very loosely. New, as in “newer rock n’ roll.” Have a listen and see how these tunes tickled my puzzler this past weekend. Warning: The final song in the post is 24+ minutes long. LOL.

The Who, Can’t Explain. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the subject of the Faith and the Church is so deep, and so wide, that it can never be exhausted in terms of ideas to write or blog about. Take this blog, for instance. From one author, to two, and then three, and back to one again, YIMCatholic has 1089 posts published on the books, all wrapped around the title statement and you now what? Webster and Allison are still out there writing posts too. See? She’s like a rich vein in a mine whose surface has only just been scratched. Better yet, it’s like what Our Lord says here,

the water that I will give to him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life. —John 4:10

Other than that, my love for Christ and His Church is unexplainable except it must be Love. I saw this on the Facebook page of the Who and the first song of the set was chosen.

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Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love. Love is complex, multidimensional, and multifaceted. Of late I’ve been sharing thoughts around love as agape. Of course, love also is eros, philios, and storos. Modern culture seems to highlight eros, and maybe to you this song does that too. But real love encompasses all four types of love, and that even includes the love of one’s faith. These are the thoughts I had when I heard this song in the car. It reminded me that setting unrealistic expectations for love will drown you in sorrow. Because love will make you laugh, make you cry, and even make you yodel sometimes. Just sayin’. This was written when Springsteen’s marriage to Julianne Philips was unraveling. Remember that?

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1ubwj

Kim Wilde, Keep Me Hanging On. Welcome to the “Big Eighties!” Big hair, big sound, and big, splashy, covers of older hits. Like this modern take on the song made famous by Diana Ross. I heard this right on the heels of Bruce’s tune. Seriously though, whatever happened to Kim Wilde? Her version of this classic reminded me that often times in love, temptations will arise and attempt to lead you astray. You have to cut them away like wreckage from a boating accident, or it will act like an anchor and drag you to the bottom. You have to say “get out of my life” to that which threatens your relationship’s health or threatens to lead you astray. Sing it Kim!

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Jon Bon Jovi, You Give Love a Bad Name. More big hair, this time on a dude wearing cool looking rags. Ever met somebody that gives “love” a bad name? Some folks think I was giving love a bad name recently. Heh. I tend to default back to a lesson I learned a long time ago: leadership is by example. Those who hit me with “do as I say and not as I do” behavior leave me cold (thank God for the Sacrament of Reconciliation). And they give love a bad name. Christ never said, or did, such a thing.

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Naked Eyes, Promises, Promises. This song, to me anyway, is YIMCatholic. Everything else is simply a string of broken promises. I’ve come to believe what W.J. Williams, G.K. Chesterton, and countless others have come to realize: the Catholic Church is the key that fits the complex lock of human nature. Every other approach is just empty promises that can’t be kept, and that leave you playing solitaire in your jail cell.

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The Fixx, Stand or Fall. Remember these guys? What a bunch of great tunes they made! Red Skies at Night, One Thing Leads to Another, Saved By Zero. Awesome stuff. And of course this tune, which issues something of a challenge. I’ve stated my piece. I choose to stand with the Church.

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Rare Earth, Get Ready. How can you not love this song or this band? Not a recognizable “star” name among them. And yet, BAM! They rock the house. This is their 1969 cover of Smokey Robinson’s classic. The boys took it to #4 in 1970. I heard a snippet of this one while sitting through the trailers in the theater before The Tree of Life started. I’ve got a soft spot for any band whose drummer is the lead singer. You just don’t see that very often. Here is their awesome loooooooong version, where every band member gets to do a solo. Because 3 minutes just isn’t good enough, you know? This is YIMCatholic too. I never met a girl like the Church, the Bride of Christ. She’s bringin’ the world a multidimensional Love that’s true. Now THAT is a rare earth! Are you ready?

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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.


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