Saturday, November 16, 2013

Acting like busy-bodies ...

The Righteous Man Surprised by the Devil

Minding the business of others. - 2 Thessalonians 3

That verse is taken from tomorrow's second reading at Mass. 

In much speaking there is no escape from sin.
The ninth degree of humility
is that a monk restrain his tongue and keep silence,
not speaking until he is questioned.
For the Scripture shows
that "in much speaking there is no escape from sin" (Prov. 10:19)
and that "the talkative man is not stable on the earth" (Ps. 139[140]:12[11]). - Rule of St. Benedict
Elsewhere in Scripture the Holy Spirit says, "I will correct you by drawing your sins up before your eyes."  When I expose the sins of others, shouldn't my own be exposed as well?  How can I point out the sins of others when I have sinned so grievously myself?

Who? ... Am I? ... To judge?

Our Lord told St. Margaret of Cortona:
My daughter, I see more Pharisees among Christians than there were around Pilate.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Show me the money.

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge those people into ruin and destruction. - 1 Tim. 6:9

This story may help explain why I have problems with asking other people for money ...

Once upon a time, when I was in third grade, my family lived near the old Guardian Angels, and it was there where my brother and I were trained as altar boys.  There was a dear old Irish priest who took us under his wing.  Once, shortly after my dad was released from jail, he and I went to visit Fr. O'Neil.  My dad pretended to ask about instruction in the Catholic faith, since he was raised Lutheran.  As they spoke, my dad told Fr. I wanted to be a priest and how proud he was. (eyeroll)  Then he hit him up for money.  I was so embarrassed.  He used me to get money from the priest - and on the way home complained it wasn't enough.  The End.

Chinese lady say:
"Order meatless chow-mein, it Friday.
Please pay when served. Cash only."
*This post has been edited from its original subject.  Pray for priests.

Excellent advice ...

From The Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur.
Banish everything that is not love...
Not to accept everything,
but to understand everything;
not to approve of everything,
but to forgive everything;
not to adopt everything,
but to search for the grain of truth that is contained in everything.
To reject no idea and no good intention, however awkward or feeble.
To love others as Jesus Christ loved them, including suffering and death. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sayings of the Desert Mothers

"Syncletica said, 'An open treasury is quickly spent; any virtue will be lost if it is published abroad and is known about everywhere.  If you put wax in front of a fire it melts; and if you pour vain praises on the soul it goes soft and weak in seeking goodness.'"

"She also said, 'The same thing cannot at once be seed and a full grown bush.  So men with a worldly reputation cannot bear heavenly fruit.'"

Introduction to the Devout Life ...

According to the SSPX, that is.
Looks like shouting to me.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholics have openly challenged Pope Francis by disrupting one of his favorite events, an interfaith ceremony in the Metropolitan Cathedral meant to promote religious harmony on the anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust.
The annual gathering of Catholics, Jews and Protestants marks Kristallnacht, the Nazi-led mob violence in 1938 when about 1,000 Jewish synagogues were burned and thousands of Jews were forced into concentration camps, launching the genocide that killed 6 million Jews. Before he assumed the papacy, Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and his good friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka led the ceremony every year.
A small group disrupted Tuesday night's ceremony by shouting the rosary and the "Our Father" prayer, and spreading pamphlets saying that "followers of false gods must be kept out of the sacred temple."

Imagine shouting the rosary.  How is that devout recitation? 

Pope Francis on ... the vice of curiosity ... as it pertains to daily messages from Our Lady ... or ... some ... apparitions - maybe?


The Pope of the 'little way' ...

Curiosity impels us to want to feel that the Lord is here or rather there, or leads us to say: “But I know a visionary, who receives letters from Our Lady, messages from Our Lady”. And the Pope commented: “But, look, Our Lady is the Mother of everyone! And she loves all of us. She is not a postmaster, sending messages every day.”*
Such responses to these situations, he affirmed, “distance us from the Gospel, from the Holy Spirit, from peace and wisdom, from the glory of God, from the beauty of God.”
“Jesus says that the Kingdom of God does not come in a way that attracts attention: it comes by wisdom.”
“ ‘The Kingdom of God is among you,’ said Jesus, and it is this action of the Holy Spirit, which gives us wisdom and peace. The Kingdom of God does not come in (a state of) confusion, just as God did not speak to the prophet Elijah in the wind, in the storm (but) he spoke in the soft breeze, the breeze of wisdom.”
“Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus would say that she had always to stop herself before the spirit of curiosity," he said. "When she spoke with another sister and this sister was telling a story about the family, about people, sometimes the subject would change, and she would want to know the end of the story. But she felt that this was not the spirit of God, because it was a spirit of dispersion, of curiosity.
“The Kingdom of God is among us: do not seek strange things, do not seek novelties with this worldly curiosity. Let us allow the Spirit to lead us forward in that wisdom, which is like a soft breeze," he said. "This is the Spirit of the Kingdom of God, of which Jesus speaks. So be it.”
One more thing I have to repent of - how often I act out of curiosity each day, just to read what you know who posted about those people today. 

*Another analogy might be webmaster.

Announcing a remake of "The Nun's Story"

Everyone's favorite movie about nuns.

My cat Gabby (Gabrielle Wander-Malls) is in rehearsals to play the part of Sr. Luke and I am her coach - since I know all the lines.  We are just at the end of rehearsals at this point.  I'm doing the role of her last superior as we rehearse:

Mother Didyma:  Sister, is there nothing we can do?

Sr. Luke:  Nothing Mother.

Mother Didyma:  Sister, do you have a place to go?

Sr. Luke:  Meow.

CUT!  We have so much work to do yet!

Hopefully I can find enough Snow-shoe felines with the right markings to play the other nuns.  The role of Dr. Fortunati will be played by a Chihuahua - not the only non-feline actor however - Poodles will be cast for the African characters; the role of Mother Emmanuel will be played by a huge Norwegian Forrest cat - the only non-Snowshoe amongst the nun-cats.  So much to do before we begin shooting.

The resemblance is extraordinary!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Something tells me this is the job Fr. Z wanted: Vatican Webmaster

Meet the Vatican webmaster.

Vatican Insider interviews Lucio Adrian Ruiz, Head of the Vatican Internet Service: “We’ve had to make the system ten times more powerful in the past year”

The morning after Bergoglio was elected Pope, he ran to a shop and purchased a white iPad which he immediately called “iPapapad” and was given to Francis on the morning of 16 March, at the end of the Pope’s audience with journalists. 48-year-old Mgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, from Santa Fe, Argentina, has been working as the head of the Vatican Internet Service since 1997. He is basically the Pope’s webmaster. He served the Congregation for the Clergy for a number of years, building the website and looking after the technical side of teleconferences – a sort of theological forum which brought together theology experts from all around the world around the same table in one morning. As of 2009 Ruiz has been Head Office of the Vatican Internet Service and telecommunications department and is in charge of the Vatican’s entire web service. - Read the story here.

Just kidding about the Fr. Z job quest - after the cruise ship chaplaincy fell through, he found success blogging for dollars.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that either.


St. Sofia the Righteous, a lay woman, ascetic.

Recently canonized by the Orthodox.
On October 4, 2011, our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with the Holy Synod of Bishops officially numbered among the saints the Eldress Sophia, Ascetic of Kleisoura, Greece.  St. Sophia was born as Sophia Saoulidi in 1883 in the village of Trebizond in present-day Turkey.  In 1907 she married Jordan Hortokoridou but in 1914 he disappeared (likely against his will) leaving her as the single mother of a new born son.  She faced another tragedy shortly after the loss of her husband when this her only child died.  Sophia became totally dependent upon God and began to spend increasing amounts of time in prayer on a nearby mountain. - Source.
Lay saints.

Though St. Sofia would not be included on the Latin calendar, I find her story edifying.  Traditionally Christian widows devoted themselves to Godly pursuits.  How different from today.  If it wasn't for widows, the Casino Bus Co. would be out of business.
In 1919 Sophia arrived in Greece, and on her arrival the Blessed Theotokos appeared to her and said “Come to my house”.  When Sophia asked where should could find her house, the Blessed Mother replied:  “I am in Kleisoura”.  Obedient to the command of the Mother of God, Sophia settled in the Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Kleisoura, about three hours from Thessalonica.  Here she remained for the rest of her long life, never formally taking the vows and tonsure as a nun.  Sophia took up residence in the monastery kitchen sleeping two hours a night and spending the rest of the night on her knees in prayer.  She dressed very poorly and had a blanket and shoes full of holes.  When she was given clothing by visitors to the monastery she would give them away to the poor.  She had no interest in food, eating only enough to survive.  When visitors would give her money, she would hide it and retrieve it only when she found someone in need.  Because of her ascetic lifestyle and shabby appearance many people without a spiritual foundation called her “Crazy Sophia” but others saw in her a lifestyle much like the saints of old. - ibid

One of her sayings makes me ashamed of myself and my blog:

When she observed scandalous behavior of priests and lay people, she never condemned anyone but said:  “Cover things, so that God will cover you”. 

St. Sofia, pray for me a sinner.
O Blessed Mother Sophia, you became wise and the adornment of the Mother of God, you lived an ascetic life in the monastery, from which has spread the praise of your struggles, striking the ranks of demons.  As you now stand as intercessor before Christ, do not neglect those who fervently honor you.
+ + + 
Bonus saint of the day:

The Blind Saint With Sight:
St. Matrona of Moscow 

 Chosen by the Holy Spirit from your swaddling clothes, O blessed eldress Matrona, you received bodily weakness and blindness from God for spiritual cleansing.  You were enriched with the gift of foresight and wonderworking and have been adorned with an incorruptible crown from the Lord .  Therefore we offer you crowns of praise in gratitude crying out to you:  "Rejoice O righteous mother Matrona, fervent intercessor before God for us! - Source


Monday, November 11, 2013

I was wrong about something on the Internet ... something Christopher West said ... about St. Francis.

The prostitute and the hermit.

The Little Flowers of St. Francis

Yesterday a friend posted something Christopher West related in one of his seminars regarding an apocryphal tale from the Fioretti of St. Francis.  My friend posted about it here.

I immediately reacted, posting claims it couldn't be true - that I had never come across the story - ever - in any scholarly work.  Obviously I imagined I was an authority on the life of St. Francis - I've done that before.  I also neglected to note West used the story telling his audience it was apocryphal, albeit relevant to whatever point he was making.  Evidently his tone was suggestive, perhaps salacious, he also got some of the details wrong.  That's how apocryphal legends, oral traditions work sometimes.

Like I said, I reacted and commented - then I researched online.  That's so backwards - I've done that before too.  I found scholarship and poetic writings that substantiated the story - and then - I checked my library.  The story may be found in the Little Flowers of St. Francis.  It is included in the chapter covering St. Francis' encounter with the Sultan.  The version in the Fioretti differs somewhat from West's anecdotal version - he indeed spiced it up a bit - but essentially the same story.  Perhaps West takes poetic license with such things to help stress a point?  I don't read him or follow his work, and I've never listened to an entire talk - so I just don't know enough to comment - and therefore, I have no business involving myself in the discussion.

I surprised myself in my reaction to the West story, and completely forgot that detail from the story of the Sultan.  It really bothered me - not so much that I was presumptuous - and wrong, but because I actually forgot the story.  At my age, any sign of memory loss is scary.  Seriously.

The prostitute of Damietta

I believe the Damietta story is the one Christopher West referred to.  It can be found in The Little Flowers, Chapter 24.  Footnotes reveal a similar story is recorded of an incident at Bari - I don't know the details of that one however.  Such stories were popular amongst hagiographers of the 14th c..  Morality tales such as these 'pepper' the stories of the Desert Fathers as well.  They are used to illustrate the struggle against sin, how to combat lust, how to control the passions, and so on.

I'm not sure how Christopher West uses such stories in his presentations. 

The point in the Damietta story is the miraculous conversion of the prostitute.  West says she became a nun - the Fioretti says she was converted through the merits of St. Francis, embraced the faith and lived a holy life.  No mention of becoming a nun - more likely she became a penitent, a lay follower of Francis.  It is related Francis undressed and laid on the fire, he wasn't dancing around to celebrate his nakedness - if that's what West intended to pass along, that wasn't what Francis intended.  If he actually did that - I'm not sure.  A man's nakedness doesn't impress a prostitute - especially an ascetics body.  These stories tend to emulate the sayings of the Desert Fathers - not unlike stories of the Northern Thebaid from Orthodoxy.  They are spiritual instructions for the ascetic life. 

The prostitute and the hermit.

Contrast the Franciscan story of laying on fire to convert a prostitute, to the story of a prostitute going to a hermit to seduce him. 

"In lower Egypt there was a very famous hermit who lived alone in a cell..."

A beautiful prostitute heard of him and by Satan's wiles decided to seduce him.  She told the clients what she was going to do - if they would pay her.  They agreed, she went to the hermit's cell, claimed to be lost, he gave her shelter and she tried to seduce him.  He was tempted to do so, but said to himself, 'the ways of the enemy are darkness, but the Son of God is light'.  The hermit lit the lamp.  Burning with desire he told himself that people who do things like this go into eternal torment, and unquenchable fire.  'Test yourself - see if you can endure it.'  Putting his finger in the lamp he burnt it without feeling any pain because his passions burned within him.  One by one he burned his fingers - the prostitute watched in horror.  At dawn the men with whom she made the bargain to seduce the hermit came by and asked if a woman visited him.  The hermit said she was still there, asleep.  The men investigated and told him, 'abba - she is dead!'  The hermit showed them his hands - each finger roasted, saying 'Look what this child of the devil did to me.'  The men were astonished - in his charity, the hermit prayed and the woman was restored to life.  She repented and lived the life of a penitent.

Perhaps if West used this story - or the story of St. Francis more soberly - he would surely help people understand the dangers of concupiscence and the necessity of vigilance, prayer and mortification.

Just a thought.

NB:  I watched a video of a Minnesota priest speaking to youth, referencing TOB.  It was 'hip' - he was 'hip' and I totally get that.  Sometimes these people can make mistakes in their presentation - sometimes I think I could do it better.  Many times I'm mistaken, presumptuous, and don't know what I'm talking about.  So pay no attention to me - I'm a sounding keyboard.

Veterans Day

Thank you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More prayers for the Philippines: After one of the strongest storms on record.

MANILA — A powerful typhoon ripped through the Philippines on Friday, killing more than 100 people in a city on Leyte Island, a Civil Aviation Authority official said on Saturday. - NYT
UPDATE: 11-10-13
TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP) -- As many as 10,000 people are believed dead in one Philippine city alone after one of the worst storms ever recorded unleashed ferocious winds and giant waves that washed away homes and schools. Corpses hung from tree branches and were scattered along sidewalks and among flattened buildings, while looters raided grocery stores and gas stations in search of food, fuel and water. - AP 

When the New York Times said ...

'God Is Dead', and the wars begun...'

When the New York Times said...

'Conservative U.S. Catholics Feel Left Out of the Pope’s Embrace'

Today's story from the NYT's reminded me of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin song, Levon, hence the reference in the post title.

Did you know the full title of the Times piece which the lyrics referenced went like this:  "The actual New York Times page 1 headline that included the phrase "God Is Dead" is dated March 24, 1968; the full headline read, "'God Is Dead' Doctrine Losing Ground to 'Theology of Hope'."

Ironic, don't you think?  Because the so-called conservative Catholics might well be saying the same thing today as back then - just fiddle with the subject a bit.  "Under Pope Francis, Catholic Doctrine gaining ground to 'Theology of Hope'."  (Incidentally - Benedict XVI started all of this, with his particular emphasis on the theology of Hope.)

Perhaps not the best analogy, but if you'll pardon the reference, it seems to me the elder sons and daughters of the Church seem to feel left out as the Pope welcomes the prodigal sons and daughters who fell away back home.  Just a thought.

The New York Times story.
Some Catholics in the church’s conservative wing in the United States say Francis has left them feeling abandoned and deeply unsettled. On the Internet and in conversations among themselves, they despair that after 35 years in which the previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, drew clear boundaries between right and wrong, Francis is muddying Catholic doctrine to appeal to the broadest possible audience. -NYT

Any Catholic with a blog or who reads Catholic blogs know the story.  Many spread the story.

This weekend in my Archdiocese protesters are picketing outside the Archbishop's residence demanding Archbishop Nienstedt resign - because cases of sexual abuse were mishandled in the archdiocese.  Many of the protesters are considered dissident Catholic because they are in favor of women's ordination and same sex marriage.

Just goes to show you can't please everybody.

Inevitably, journalists find there way to Catholic blogs to enhance their stories.  The Times article favored this one:
Steve Skojec, the vice president of a real estate firm in Virginia and a blogger who has written for several conservative Catholic websites, wrote of Francis’ statements: “Are they explicitly heretical? No. Are they dangerously close? Absolutely. What kind of a Christian tells an atheist he has no intention to convert him? That alone should disturb Catholics everywhere.”  
In an interview on Friday, Mr. Skojec said he was overwhelmed by the positive response to his blog from people who said they were thinking the same things but had not wanted to say them in public. He said he had come to suspect that Francis is a “self-styled revolutionary” who wants to change the church fundamentally. 
“There have been bad popes in the history of the church,” Mr. Skojec said. “Popes that murdered, popes that had mistresses. I’m not saying Pope Francis is terrible, but there’s no divine protection that keeps him from being the type of guy who with subtlety undermines the teachings of the church to bring about a different vision.” - NYT

What is so hard to understand?  Especially when the Holy Father affirmed:

"The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church..."

We don't have to like the pope, we don't even have to read what he says - except if he speaks ex-cathedra.  Popes don't do it that often anyway.  We don't have to get our approval for the good works we do from the pope, the bishop or any priest.  We can't depend upon approval or support or even thanks and praise from any person or human organization - only from God. 


I love this comment on the Times article from Fr. Martin:
Laurie Goodstein's new piece, "Conservative US Catholics Feel Left Out of the Pope's Embrace," gives voice to a strain of Catholicism in this country that has been increasingly noticeable. A few of the quotes in this piece are patently ridiculous - like the person who accuses Pope Francis of being "dangerously close" to heresy. But the greatest irony is that some Catholics from this part of the church were the same ones who would excoriate anyone who disagreed in the slightest with any statement of Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI. Apparently, it's now okay to disagree with the Pope. - Fr. James Martin, S.J.

I wanted to say that.

In the last days ...

A lot of people will be led astray - 'even the elect, if that were possible.'

Christ said that.

I keep it in mind when I consider things such as the Medjugorje phenomena, the problem of sexual abuse amongst clergy, locutionists, Christian celebrities, road shows, self appointed-self promoting lay evangelists who fall away, visionary sisters, Catholic sexologists ... on and on. 

I've written about it before, it is a spiritual malady which is very dangerous.  It is what the Orthodox spiritual writers called 'prelest'.  It seems to me the problem could even be widespread in our day - or maybe not ...
Even a pious person is not immune to spiritual sickness if he does not have a wise guide -- either a living person or a spiritual writer. This sickness is called  prelest, or spiritual delusion, imagining oneself to be near to God and to the realm of the divine and supernatural. Even zealous ascetics in monasteries are sometimes subject to this delusion, but of course, laymen who are zealous in external struggles (podvigi) undergo it much more frequently. Surpassing their acquaintances in struggles of prayer and fasting, they imagine that they are seers of divine visions, or at least of dreams inspired by grace. In every event of their lives, they see special intentional directions from God or their guardian angel. And then they start imagining that they are God's elect, and often try to foretell the future. The Holy Fathers armed themselves against nothing so fiercely as against this sickness -- prelest. - Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky
Consider this precaution in light of all the heavenly messages and inspirations pious people seem to be receiving now days.  Consider the many locus sancti locutionists in many parts of the world today.  As in Fr. Gobbi's case, some may even have a large following.  Most of these people claim Christ or Our Lady speaks to them.  Often the words they receive accord with other approved private revelations - at least in tone.  The locutionists write down what they hear and sometimes publish the 'messages' without any official approval.  An exception would be in the case of someone with a spiritual director who may authorize the person to publish their messages - yet such 'permissions' do not have the same authority as Church approval.