"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Vociferous voices: Recalling Fra Girolamo Savonarola

“Elegance of language must give way before simplicity in preaching sound doctrine.” - Savonarola
I was surprised to discover that Magnificat published a short excerpt from Girolamo Savonarola's writings for the meditation on todays Gospel at Mass...  "wisdom is vindicated by her works." [Mt. 11: 16-19]  In the Gospel Christ describes the people of this age as children squabbling in the marketplace, disparaging both the Baptist and Christ for the one's austerity and the other's leniency and mercy.  I couldn't help but consider the Gospel in relationship to some arguments which have taken place on this blog and elsewhere in Catholic media; good priest/bad priest, good nun/bad nun, and similar debates.
Interestingly enough, Savonarola, executed as a heretic by corrupt contemporaries, is now considered a saint by many.  He was a fiery, outspoken moralist, highly critical of the papacy and corruption in the Church and society.  He burned books and degenerate art.  (He would burn my work for sure.)  That said, he was a great reformer.  I think some contemporary priests and traditional Catholics may be very much like Savonarola, as well as like other reformer saints, who were not always 'nice' or 'polished' in their teaching methods.  I could name a few devout, habited nuns from my elementary school days who resembled Savonarola, not only in their teaching methods and temperament, but sometimes even physically - and they were supposed to be the good nuns.  (Albeit, many might judge that they changed into 'girls gone wild' after the habits came off.)
As for the ensuing conflicts over faith and morals, and the faithful combatants in Catholic media, "wisdom is vindicated by her works" - in other words, time will tell.


  1. If he were alive today, he'd be the biggest Catholic blogger, no doubt. And he wouldn't even have to show pictures of birds or nothin'! LOL!

  2. Dear Terry, Some years ago I read Fra Savonarola's Exposition of Psalm 50, the Miserere. It is an extraordinary meditation written while he was in prison. You might be interested in reading it. It's available on Google Books in English translation.

  3. Just a sampling of Fra Savonarola's meditation on Psalm 50:

    Thoroughly (and more and more), shalt Thou wash me from mine iniquity wherein I have sinned against my neighbor; and from my sin wherewith I have offended against God.

    Wash me, that Thou mayest take away, not the crime and the guilt alone, but likewise the fuel of sins.

    Thou shalt wash me, verily, with the water of Thy manifold grace; with the water whereof whosoever shall drink, shall never thirst; but it shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

    Wash me with the water of my tears.

    Wash me with the water of Thy Scriptures, that I may be worthy to be numbered among those to whom Thou hast already said, Ye are clean according to My word.

    "For I acknowledge my iniquity, and my sin is ever before me."

    Truly, with whatever intention of Thy mercy and Thy compassions, 0 Lord, I confidently flee to Thee for refuge. Yet I come not as the Pharisee, who, holy in his own eyes, made his prayer; nay, rather made boast of himself, and despised his neighbor ; but as the publican, who dared not so much as lift his eyes to heaven, for I acknowledge my iniquity.

    For when I think upon my sins, I dare not lift my eyes on high. But, with the publican, in humility, I say, God be merciful to me a sinner. For my soul swayeth betwixt hope and fear. And at one moment, through dread of the sins which I acknowledge to be within me, I despair. At another I am sustained with the hope of Thy mercy.

    Verily, because Thy mercy is greater than my misery, my hope shall ever be in Thee, 0 Lord; and I will sing of Thy compassions for ever and ever.

  4. Anonymous2:32 PM

    Savonarola was considered a saint even immediately after his death and St. Catherine di Ricci and her monastery of San Vincenzo attributed to him her cure.

    He has always been considered saintly (but odd) in the Dominican Order and there have been steps towards a canonization process.

  5. Anonymous2:34 PM

    Also the Dominican Nuns of Summit have a SOAP named after him!

  6. michael r.4:50 PM

    Funny, but I was thinking a lot about him the past day, after reading some of your firebrand admirers a couple of posts down...

  7. elisabeta7:10 PM

    Yes, there have been many misunderstood and misjudged religous throughout the ages, and it will no doubt continue to be so for all time. My thoughts, however, are for you, Terry, with regards to the loss of your brother. It was a beautiful and touching post. Why did you delete it? Or have I just not figured out how to retrieve it.

  8. e, Terry's posts are sometimes a moving target; now you see it, now you don't. If we ask nicely he might restore it.

  9. My thoughts and prayers were also with you, your family, your brother.

    Christ be with you.

  10. Thinking of Skip.....

  11. Thanks so much everyone - Elisabeta - sometimes I write about the secrets of my soul and I regret my lack of discretion and prudence, and that is why posts such as Skip's disappear. I'm sorry.

  12. Dear Fr. Mark - thank you for sharing that - I remember it from one of your posts. God bless!

  13. Terry,

    Sometimes, I wonder though that isn't so much a lack of prudence that we share the secrets of our soul, but more of a revelation because people whose hearts are plugged in will know to automatically respond with prayer that we can put to good use.

    If you start posting things like you're washing your socks, going to get a haircut and all the minutia the narcissists feel compelled to tweet about every five minutes, it may be time to start worrying.

  14. p.s. re we fiery admirers of yours (though I think it's more accurate to say we are attracted to your gifts that we think we could use more of), a hearty thank you for being such a gracious host. I learn from the many things God inspires in you.

  15. Thanks Carol - you are too kind. God bless you!


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