A Convert’s Lament To Mary (A Few Words for Wednesday)


Our Eastern brethren have been observing the Dormition Fast since the first of August. It continues until August 15th this year and concludes on the Feast of the Dormition, which Western Catholics celebrate as the Feast of the Assumption. In honor of this tradition, I will be sharing some of our Marian posts. This one is from October of last year…

Edward Caswall was another Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism in the mid 1800′s. He also joined the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, like his friends Blessed John Henry Newman and Frederick William Farber.  And, like them again, he was a prolific poet and hymnist.

Below is one of Caswall’s fine poems included in his book of verse entitled The Masque of Mary. This particular  poem really resonates with me.

As a convert to Catholicism, I pretty much ignored Our Lady my whole life. Lately, I’ve been making it a point to pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and pray the Rosary regularly with my family. Although I’m not always 100% successful in this effort, I can truthfully say that I’ve been coming around to recognizing the significance of The Blessed Virgin as both the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven.

Much like Caswall, though, I wish I would have come around sooner (but better late than never).

A Convert’s Lament to Mary

Among the thoughts that in my heart
Awaken grief sincere,
Causing with sudden pang to start
The unexpected tear,
Is this, that in the days gone by,
Star of the wintry sea!
Blinded by darkest heresy,
I thought so light of thee.

O Mother of my Lord and God,
Whom none invoke in vain;
O Path of life, which all have trod,
Who now in glory reign!

Had I but learnt in earlier years
To seek thine aid above,
To offer thee my infant tears,
Thy loving glance to love,—

How many deeds of sin and shame
Which now my heart appal,
Scar’d at the sound of thy pure name,
Had not been done at all!

How many a desolated space
Of vainly wasted hours,
Had bloom’d beneath thy smile of grace,
With paradisal flowers!

Mother! receive thine erring child;
Look tenderly on me;
From thy dear bosom long beguil’d,
I now return to thee.

More of Edward Caswell’s poems are here in The Masque of Mary, along with other of Caswell’s works on the YIM Catholic Bookshelf.

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 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.

Because Jesus Is The Unjust Steward

This first ran back in September, 2010 during the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette. I think it deserves another look…

Today I heard the best explanation of the parable of the “Unjust Steward” that I have ever heard. Or maybe it is the parable of the “Shrewd Manager.” Either way, thanks to the homily of my pastor today,  I think I may finally understand this parable.

The title of this post gives it away. Jesus, Our Lord and Savior is the unjust steward, the shrewd manager. How else to find favor in the hearts of us all than to write off or write down our debts completely? How else could this steward’s master find favor with him, unless Our Lord is the steward and God is the rich man? Let’s look at the passage from today’s gospel reading.

Luke 16: 1-13

Jesus said to his disciples,

“A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said,’What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship,because you can no longer be my steward.’

So far, so good.  The conventional wisdom appears to be holding sway. Prepare yourself for a contrarian twist.

The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that,when I am removed from the stewardship,they may welcome me into their homes.’

He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said,’How much do you owe my master?’

Now. Start thinking this is Our Lord speaking of himself.  You know the popular “What Would Jesus Do” question? WWJD? This is it. Back to the debtor (insert character of yourself here).

He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’

He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’

Note the lack of any complaint or push-back on the part of the debtor. This guy knows a good deal when he hears it. A little while later,

Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’

He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’

The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’

Another bargain, and another taker. Right about now, the conventional wisdom lover in you is getting angry, right? This son-of-a-mule is undermining his masters wealth and business. Bad manager! Only one problem. The bad manager gets commended for it.

And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”

Read that sentence one more time. Go ahead, I’ll wait. He says the worldly are more prudent in their dealings with others than are the special ones, these “children of light.” Is this cutting you to the quick a little? It did me.

I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Remember how the Scribes and Pharisees were always chiding Our Lord about him hanging out with unsavory types, you know, those nasty sinners, publicans, and tax collectors? Ahem, yes, the saavy ones instead of the “righteous” ones. Be clever like the former and not disdainful like the latter.

The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?

Do these two sentences have your head swimming? What a paradox, right? Sentence A = conventional wisdom, and we nod our heads in agreement. Then, Sentence B turns sentence A on its head and we shake our heads and yell “no!” We’re all left scratching our heads so He says,

If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Because we individually don’t own anything, see, but we are all, instead, in debt up to our eyeballs. We are indebted to God, because everything we have is a gift. A gift which we must be stewards of. Good stewards, who pat ourselves on the back for our good work? Or unjust stewards, like the model we see here?

Quick, lean your head back so you can breath (!) or else you will drown in debt. And then give thanks to God that He sent His Son, the unjust steward, to write down all of our debts to zero.  In that way, through the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, can our lives be truly restored. For He also said,

Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners. (Matthew 9:13)

If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. (Matthew 12:7)

He taught us to pray “forgive us our debts” which he does for us so easily, and as the unjust steward did, so readily, so cleverly. But he also asks us to pray these words: “as we have also forgiven our debtors.”

Now this is agape in action.

Speaking only for myself, I know I need to work on being more forgiving. How about you?

Because the Church was Catholic at Pentecost

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for a message brought to you by The Church Triumphant. Standby for a brief message from St. Jose Maria Escriva, live from the Communion of Saints…

The mystery of the holiness of the Church — that pristine light which can become obscured by the shadows of human baseness — rejects even the slightest thought of suspicion, of doubt about the beauty of our Mother.

Nor can we tolerate, without protesting, that others should insult her. We cannot seek out in the Church vulnerable points in order to criticise them, as some do who show thereby neither their faith nor their love. I cannot conceive of anyone having true affection for his mother who speaks of her with disdain.

Our Mother is holy, because she was born pure and will continue without blemish for all eternity. If at times we are not able to perceive her fair face, let us wipe clean our own eyes. If we are aware that her voice does not please us, let us remove from our ears any hardness which prevents us from hearing in her tone of voice the whistled beckoning of the loving Shepherd. Our Mother is holy, with the holiness of Christ, to whom she is united in body — which is all of us — and in spirit, which is the Holy Spirit, dwelling also in the hearts of each one of us, if we remain in the grace of God.

Holy, holy, holy, we dare sing to the Church, evoking a hymn in honor of the Blessed Trinity. You are holy, O Church, my mother, because the Son of God, who is holy, founded you. You are holy, because the Father, source of all holiness, so ordained it. You are holy, because the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the souls of the faithful, assists you, in order to gather together the children of the Father, who will dwell in the Church of heaven, the eternal Jerusalem.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. Jesus Christ instituted only one Church. For this reason the spouse of Christ is one and catholic: universal, for all men.

For many centuries now the Church has been spread throughout the world, and it numbers persons of all races and walks of life. But the universality of the Church does not depend on its geographical distribution, even though this is a visible sign and a motive of credibility. The Church was catholic already at Pentecost. It was born catholic from the wounded heart of Jesus, as a fire which the Holy Spirit enkindled.

In the second century the Christians called the Church catholic in order to distinguish it from the sects which, using the name of Christ, were betraying his doctrine in one way or another. We call it catholic, writes Saint Cyril, not because it is spread throughout the world, from one extreme to the other, but because in a universal way and without defect it teaches all the dogmas which men ought to know, of both the visible and the invisible, the celestial and the earthly. Likewise, because it draws to true worship all types of men, those who govern and those who are ruled, the learned and the ignorant. And finally, because it cures and makes healthy all kinds of sins, whether of the soul or of the body, possessing in addition — by whatever name it may be called — all the forms of virtue, in deeds and in words and in every kind of spiritual gift.

The catholicity of the Church does not depend either on whether or not non-Catholics acclaim and acknowledge it. Nor does it have anything to do with the fact that, in non-spiritual matters the opinions of some persons in positions of authority in the Church are taken up — and at times exploited — by those who fashion public opinion, when these churchmen have views similar to theirs. It will often happen that the aspect of truth which will be defended in any human ideology will find an echo or foundation in the perennial teaching of the Church. This is, in a certain sense, a sign of the divinity of the revelation which the Magisterium safeguards. But the spouse of Christ is catholic, even when it is deliberately ignored by many, and even abused and persecuted, as unfortunately happens in so many places.

The Church Militant concurs.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming following this brief presentation.

Because John Galt Is Really Ayn Rand, Not Jesus Christ (Nice Try Though)

What does it take to snap Joe-Sixpack, USMC out of his reverie? That’s easy. Keep attempting to redeem the ideas of Ayn Rand and Christianize them. I’ll fix bayonets and come running like a teufel-hunden responding to one of those silent dog whistles.

Reverend Robert A. Sirico of the Acton Institute (which I generally admire) recently wrote an article entitled Who Really Was John Galt Anyway? Therein, Rev. Sirico tries to tease out Jesus Christ from the persona of Ms. Rand’s fictional character John Galt. Or perhaps he tries to tease out Ms. Rand’s longing for the Lord. [Read more...]

For the Seed Planted by a Chinese Confucian Diplomat

The Holy Father has asked us to pray for the Church in China today. News reports are saying that security is tight in Sheshan. Of course, we must not forget that Mainland China is still under the control of a form of government that is not altogether friendly to the Church. Militant xenophobia has run through China long before she fell to the Communists. [Read more...]

“Post-Rapture Scare” Music (Caritas in Veritate Edition)

Like a champion athelete that should retire when they are on top, I probably should have quit when I was ahead when it comes to the most recent Rapture scare. But the thing is, this isn’t the first prediction of the end of the world and it won’t be the last.

The Bible may not guarantee it, but I will. And we get to do this all over again in 2012 too? Sheesh! But wait a second; the Bible does guarantee something: there is no knowing when the end will come, so stop with the guessing already.

Not only does Christ the LORD state this clearly (see Photoshopped billboard above) once, but He does so repeatedly. Here, here, here, and here. For good measure, the Apostles Peter and Paul do so as well, here and here, respectively. And did I mention Christ said it again here? Practically everywhere throughout the New Testament! Sorry to engage in Shock and Awe scripture tactics but beware the Catholic who reads his Bible regularly.

So, you see, I’m still going to have some fun with this event while hopefully spreading the Truth with Charity (see above links, por favor). Oh, and before we get any further, the Catholic Church (the one founded by the Just Judge Himself) has stated unequivocally that what Christ and the Disciples said about all the end of the world stuff is absolutely and unchangeably true. Catholics believe in the end of the world. It will happen once, and for all. But not on the time-table of any charlatan who thinks he can decipher the mind of God the Father. Even the Son didn’t go there. So that idea is most assuredly laugh-out-loud funny.

So let’s get to some of the music that my friends and I thought of while waiting for this most recent bout of end-times silliness (see you again next year) to pass. First up, the best pop song I can think of that makes light of Apocalypse now!

It’s the End of the World, As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), R.E.M. No set up for this is needed, right? I felt fine, how about you? I didn’t even break out my stash of spare bricks for the post-Rapture looting I invited everyone to attend. Yep, I was that confident that God wouldn’t satisfy the pride of a huckster by showing up on the schedule (say that the British way, for effect) of a mere mortal.

YouTube Preview Image

Rapture, Blondie. A number of my friends posted this one on their Facebook walls. About all that this song has in common with the end of the world is the word “rapture.” Deborah Harry helped bring rap music mainstream with this song. The Mars Attacks! theme sort of reminds me of the zombie apocalypse (see my “Theology of the Zombie” post for details) scenario in a way.

YouTube Preview Image

Dueling Banjo, from the movie Deliverance. See, God is subtle, and as the scriptures (and the Church) clearly teach, the end is unknowable. And your personal end is unknowable too. But something like this happening might be a sign that you should pay attention to. Just sayin’.

YouTube Preview Image

One of Us, Joan Osborne. Several of my friends shared their “If this was the last day on Earth” music as the clock ticked down. This tune made Catholic author Mary DeTurris Poust’s play list. She also wrote a little post about the event you may enjoy as well. Have a look while you listen to Ms. Osbourne.

YouTube Preview Image

Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears. The idea for sharing this song just came over me. Perhaps it’s the name of the band, which fits this event to a “t”, as well as the general idea behind the song. Harold Camping, and his ilk, have a problem with letting the Maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen, rule the world, see? Yo! Mr. Camping—get your hand off the tiller.

YouTube Preview Image

Won’t Get Fooled Again, Pete Townsend. This song is about politics on one level, and about being duped (with startling regularity) on the other. A huge hit for Pete’s band the Who, he’ll go a little softer with his acoustic version. But not much.

YouTube Preview Image

I Will Always Be True, Third Day. Rounding out this seven song set, the gang from Third Day puts this whole episode into the proper perspective for us. After all, Truth Incarnate said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

YouTube Preview Image

Next week, I’ll get back to the Jesus Goes Mainstream series.

For Stuff Non-Catholics Say About the Church Like This

No, this isn’t  a photograph of Karl Marx. That’s Walter Bagehot, former editor of the Economist and a fellow who could write his fanny off. I stumbled upon what follows while tracking down a quote attributed to Blaise Pascal. I’ve become something of an unbeliever in the attributions for quotes that can so easily be found on the internet these days. I want to see the footnotes, or the original text nowadays.

So I was snooping around the electronic shelves of Google Books and found the quote, “All human evil comes from a single cause, man’s inability to sit still in a room,” buried in an article written by Bagehot that was published in an astonishing place.

Would you believe a literary journal of sorts published monthly by the Traveler’s Insurance Company of Hartford Connecticut, Circa 1887? I kid you not.

The piece where Blaise’s quote (from thought #139) was used by Bagehot (how do you pronounce that name!) in a selection entitled Thoughtless Activity, the Curse of Society. Some things never change, do they? The article was taken from a chapter in Bagehot’s book of essays Physics and Politics. And though it was a good article, I was mainly bowled over by the idea that a for-profit insurance company even bothered to publish poetry and essay’s alongside their annual financial and mortality tables. What would Sandy Weill have thought? Fire that guy and hire another actuary! Click on this title line and have a look.

Poking around for more on Bagehot, it seems that he may have been fond of the Catholic Church for a time, early in his career, you know, before more important things took up his time. In his Literary Studies, published several years after his death, his biographer Richard Holt Hutton had this to say about him,

I have no doubt that for seven or eight years of his life the Roman Catholic Church had a great fascination for his imagination, though I do not think that he was ever at all near conversion. He was intimate with all Dr. Newman’s writings. And of these the Oxford sermons, and the poems in the Lyra Apostolica afterwards separately published—partly, I believe, on account of the high estimate of them which Bagehot had himself expressed—were always his special favorites.

Perhaps Bagehot’s brush with Rome was a near-miss, but he certainly wrote favorably of her from France here,

Walter Bagehot on The Catholic Church, from his essay The Coup d’Etat of 1851

I do not know that I can exhibit the way these qualities of the French character operate on their opinions better than by telling you how the Roman Catholic Church deals with them. I have rather attended to it since I came here. It gives sermons almost an interest, their being in French, and to those curious in intellectual matters, it is worth observing. In other times, and even now in out-of-the-way Spain , I suppose it may be true that the Catholic Church has been opposed to inquiry and reasoning. But it is not so now and here.

Loudly from the pens of a hundred writers, from the tongues of a thousand pulpits, in every note of thrilling scorn and exulting derision, she proclaims the contrary. Be she Christ’s workman or Antichrist’s, she knows her work too well.

“Reason, reason, reason!” exclaims she to the philosophers of this world. “Put in practice what you teach if you would have others believe it. Be consistent. Do not prate to us of private judgment, when you are but yourselves repeating what you heard in the nursery, ill-mumbled remnants of a Catholic tradition. No; exemplify what you command; inquire and make search. Seek, and we warn you that ye will never find, yet do as ye will. Shut yourselves up in a room, make your mind a blank, go down (as you speak) into the depth of your consciousness, scrutinize the mental structure, inquire for the elements of belief,— spend years, your best years, in the occupation,—and at length, when your eyes are dim, and your brain hot, and your hands unsteady, then reckon what you have gained.”

“See if you cannot count on your fingers the certainties you have reached; reflect which of them you doubted yesterday, which you may disbelieve tomorrow; or rather, make haste—assume at random some essential credenda,—write down your inevitable postulates, enumerate your necessary axioms, toil on, toil on, spin your spider’s web, adore your own soul, or if ye prefer it, choose some German nostrum; try an intellectual intuition, or the pure reason, or the intelligible ideas, or the mesmeric clairvoyance, and when so, or somehow, you have attained your results, try them on mankind.”

“Don’t go out into the byways and hedges; it is unnecessary. Ring a bell, call in the servants, give them a course of lectures, cite Aristotle, review Descartes, panegyrize Plato, and see if the bonne will understand you. It is you that say Vox populi, vox Dei. You see the people reject you.”

“Or, suppose you succeed,—what you call succeeding. Your books are read; for three weeks or even a season you are the idol of the salons. Your hard words are on the lips of women; then a change comes—a new actress appears at the Theatre Francais or the Opera; her charms eclipse your theories; or a great catastrophe occurs; political liberty, it is said, is annihilated. Il fauti se faire mouchard, is the observation of scoffers. Anyhow you are forgotten. Fifty years may be the gestation of a philosophy, not three its life. Before long, before you go to your grave, your six disciples leave you for some newer master, or to set up for themselves.”

“The poorest priest in the remotest region of the Basses-Alpes has more power over men’s souls than human cultivation. His ill-mouthed Masses move women’s souls—can you? Ye scoff at Jupiter, yet he at least was believed in, you never have been. Idol for idol, the dethroned is better than the unthroned. No, if you would reason, if you would teach, if you would speculate,— come to us.”

“We have our premises ready; years upon years before you were born, intellects whom the best of you delight to magnify, toiled to systematize the creed of ages. Years upon years after you are dead, better heads than yours will find new matter there to define, to divide, to arrange. Consider the hundred volumes of Aquinas. Which of you desire a higher life than that;—to deduce, to subtilize, discriminate, systematize, and decide the highest truth, and to be believed? Yet such was his luck, his enjoyment. He was what you would be. No, no, eredite, credite. Ours is the life of speculation. The cloister is the home for the student. Philosophy is stationary, Catholicism progressive. You call. We are heard,”etc.

So speaks each preacher, according to his ability. And when the dust and noise of present controversies have passed away, and, in the interior of the night, some grave historian writes out the tale of half-forgotten times, let him not forget to observe that, profoundly as the mediaeval Church subdued the superstitious cravings of a painful and barbarous age, in after-years she dealt more discerningly still with the feverish excitement, the feeble vanities, and the dogmatic impatience of an overintellectual generation.

You’ll find Bagehot’s report from France on the electronic stacks of the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X