Friday, February 08, 2019

On the sexual abuse of nuns ...

"Don't ever think for an instant, Sister, that your habit will protect you." 
- Mother Mathilde’s warning to Sr. Luke - The Nun’s Story 

RIP Albert Finney 1936-2019

Thursday, February 07, 2019

St. Francis and the Sultan ... How it wasn't the exact same situation with Pope Francis, and that's fine.

How some are dubious when the comfortably affluent 'Franciscans' and cultural Catholic clerics profess to know so much about our holy father, St. Francis of Assisi.

Not that I know any more than anyone else, but little kids know, unlettered 'peasants' know, and many, many ordinary people know.  They don't have to be told that Francesco Bernardone was not a-sissy.  They don't have to be disparaged by the message that  he wasn't a 'bunny-hugging bird kisser'.  Manly men who carry guns and are on constant awareness of their surroundings, ready to shoot anyone who seems threatening do not impress me as the type of guy who can explain the manliness of St. Francis to me.

That said, ordinary people, even little Cord-bearers of St. Francis, recognized something deeply moving and edifying - not to mention hope-filled - about the visit of Pope Francis to the UAE this past week.  Along with the Pope, we also see, or recognize a reminder of  the “visit of St Francis Assisi to Sultan al-Malik al’Kamil”.  There is a significant spiritual connection to that episode in the life of St. Francis.

The legenda or details of the life of St. Francis was carefully recorded by his contemporaries; Thomas of Celano was one of the first biographers not long after the canonization, which took place only two years after the Saint's death.  (Commissioned by Pope Gregory IX in 1228)  Celano records the meeting with the Sultan, which differs slightly from other accounts: "Francis would have liked to suffer martyrdom at the hand of the Moslems. He attempted a voyage to Morocco, but became ill in Spain and had to turn back. In 1219 he went to Syria where a crusade was in progress, and enjoyed the following experience, according to Celano."

In the thirteenth year of his conversion, Francis proceeded to Syria, for great and deadly battles between Christians and pagans were going on there every day. Francis, who was traveling with a companion, was not afraid to present himself before the sultan of the Saracens. But who can say with what constancy of mind he stood before him, with what strength of spirit he spoke, with what eloquence and assurance he answered those who insulted the Christian law? Before he was brought before the sultan he was captured by soldiers, insulted, and beaten with a lash; yet he was not afraid, was not terrified by the threats of torture, and did not grow pale when threatened with death. And though he was reproached by many who were opposed in mind and hostile in spirit, he was very honorably received by the sultan. Trying to bend Francis' spirit toward the wealth of this world, he honored him as much as he could and gave him many presents; yet when he saw that Francis despised such things as if they were dung, he was filled with the greatest admiration and regarded Francis as different from all others. He was moved by Francis' words and listened to him willingly. In all these things the Lord did not fulfill Francis' desire for martyrdom, since he was reserving for him the prerogative of a singular grace.  - source

"[T]he unarmed Francis and his companion left the Crusader camp, crossed the Nile, and approached the Muslim fortifications." - Thompson, Augustine. Francis of Assisi: A New Biography

So you see class, accounts of the mission of St. Francis differ - to some extent, even in his lifetime, and as time went on.  A century or so later when other biographers gathered the oral and written legends together, stories were embellished.  Much later 'cultural Catholics' adapted these stories to edify modern ears.  Today, hagiographers adapt their stories to dismiss an earlier piety. A piety which edified and encouraged believers, sparking the spiritual imagination of the young, who accounted for numerous vocations over the centuries, and so on.  Alas, the Friars Minor have been depleted, and aside from a few fervent new groups, they seem almost unrecognizable as Friars Minor, having more clothes than just one tunic, more shoes than sandals, and luxurious friaries instead of poor houses.  But I digress.

Some Catholic critics spend their time online criticizing and condemning the Pope's pilgrimage to the UAE, dismissing any symbolic connection with the visit of St. Francis.  Perhaps they hoped the Pope would be martyred, yet God willed that neither one of the poor men, St. Francis or Pope Francis would face martyrdom.  One may hope the effects of their pilgrimage would be similar, that peace takes a step forward, and the reconciliation of peoples may be possible in the long term.

In the Fioretti, we have a charmingly pious account of the visit of our holy father St. Francis to the Sultan.  Do remember that these things are also visually recorded in early Tuscan-Umbrian iconography and numerous illuminations.  The visual record, frequently based upon oral tradition, can be as informative as the written accounts.

At length St Francis, seeing he could do no more good in those parts, was warned by God to return with his brethren to the land of the faithful. Having assembled his companions, they went together to the Sultan to take leave of him. The Sultan said to him: "Brother Francis, most willingly would I be converted to the faith of Christ; but I fear to do so now, for if the people knew it, they would kill both me and thee and all thy companions. As thou mayest still do much good, and I have certain affairs of great importance to conclude, I will not at present be the cause of thy death and of mine. But teach me how I can be saved, and I am ready to do as thou shalt order." On this St Francis made answer: "My lord, I will take leave of thee for the present; but after I have returned to my own country, when I shall be dead and gone to heaven, by the grace of God, I will send thee two of my friars, who will administer to thee the holy baptism of Christ, and thou shalt be saved, as the Lord Jesus has revealed to me; and thou in the meantime shalt free thyself from every hindrance, so that, when the grace of God arrives, thou mayest be found well disposed to faith and devotion." The Sultan promised so to do; and did as he had promised. Then St Francis returned with his company of venerable and saintly brethren, and after a few years ending his mortal life, he gave up his soul to God. The Sultan, having fallen ill, awaited the fulfillment of the promise of St Francis, and placed guards in all the passes, ordering them if they met two brothers in the habit of St Francis to conduct them immediately to him. At the same time St Francis appeared to two of his friars, and ordered them without delay to go to the Sultan and save his soul, according to the promise he had made him. The two set out, and having crossed the sea, were conducted to the Sultan by the guards he had sent out to meet them. The Sultan, when he saw them arrive, rejoiced greatly, and exclaimed: "Now I know of a truth that God has sent his servants to save my soul, according to the promise which St Francis made me through divine revelation." Having received the faith of Christ and holy baptism from the said friars, he was regenerated in the Lord Jesus Christ; and having died of his disease, his soul was saved, through the merits and prayers of St . - Fioretti, Part 1, Chp. 24

So you see Phyllissyfussi...

You see how the accounts vary.  Amazingly many, many vocations to the Friars Minor followed Francis upon his return to Italy after his visit to the Sultan.  In those days, life in the OFM was very difficult, very, very poor, something many of those who like to set the record straight on the manliness of the skinny little Francesco di Bernardone refuse to admit - or at least attempt to explain away in some symbolic interpretation for today's taste.

To be sure, Francis was not a sissy or a romantic - though entirely in love with Jesus Crucified, he and his first followers went about as the fathers of old, and the words of St. Paul certainly apply to them: "The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth."  The authentic reformers in the history of the Friars Minor certainly recognized that primitive fervor, and tried to emulate it.  They would see the similarities in the visit of Pope Francis to the expedition of St. Francis.

St. Francis had great love and respect for priests, and especially the Pope.  As Benedict XVI noted:
Pope Innocent III's dream. In it, he saw the Basilica of St John Lateran, the mother of all churches, collapsing and one small and insignificant religious brother supporting the church on his shoulders to prevent it from falling. On the one hand, it is interesting to note that it is not the Pope who was helping to prevent the church from collapsing but rather a small and insignificant brother, whom the Pope recognized in Francis when he later came to visit. Innocent III was a powerful Pope who had a great theological formation and great political influence; nevertheless he was not the one to renew the Church but the small, insignificant religious. It was St Francis, called by God. On the other hand, however, it is important to note that St Francis does not renew the Church without or in opposition to the Pope, but only in communion with him. The two realities go together: the Successor of Peter, the Bishops, the Church founded on the succession of the Apostles and the new charism that the Holy Spirit brought to life at that time for the Church's renewal. Authentic renewal grew from these together. - P. Benedict
Pope Benedict also left a beautiful commentary on the mission of St. Francis to the Sultan and its effect upon the Church and the Holy Land.  He ties it to Nostra Aetate, something P. Francis clearly had in mind as well:
Innocent III's Successor, Pope Honorius III, with his Bull Cum Dilecti in 1218 supported the unique development of the first Friars Minor, who started missions in different European countries, and even in Morocco. In 1219 Francis obtained permission to visit and speak to the Muslim sultan Malik al-Klmil, to preach the Gospel of Jesus there too. I would like to highlight this episode in St Francis' life, which is very timely. In an age when there was a conflict underway between Christianity and Islam, Francis, intentionally armed only with his faith and personal humility, travelled the path of dialogue effectively. The chronicles tell us that he was given a benevolent welcome and a cordial reception by the Muslim Sultan. It provides a model which should inspire today's relations between Christians and Muslims: to promote a sincere dialogue, in reciprocal respect and mutual understanding (cf. Nostra Aetate, 3). It appears that later, in 1220, Francis visited the Holy Land, thus sowing a seed that would bear much fruit: his spiritual sons would in fact make of the Sites where Jesus lived a privileged space for their mission. It is with gratitude that I think today of the great merits of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. - Benedict, General Audience 27 January 2010
Works for me.

For a good bibliography on the Life of St. Francis, go here, The Internet Guide to St. Francis.  Then read modern biographers if you like.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Losers in love ...

Margaret Cortona
Loser saint.

Some advice about losing I try to follow.

"Let the dead bury their dead."

From Mother Elvira Petrozzi, foundress of Comunita Cenacolo, on the subject of losing:

"... Someone will have to 'lose' so that peace can reign. Yes, peace is more important than anything, and to know how to 'lose' is our security."

"Let the dead bury their dead."

Christians are not approved by the world - indeed, Christians often do not approve of one another - all the snark online verifies that much. But how does that concern me when my job is to follow Christ? St. Seraphim Sarovsky assures us, "Keep yourself in peace and thousands around you will be saved." So there you have it - that is what I understand by the words, let the dead bury their dead. It is in reality a going out of sorts - outside the city gates, bearing the insult Christ bore. For here we have no lasting city; we are seeking one which is to come. Through him let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is the fruit of lips which acknowledge his name. Our life is hidden with Christ in God and I need to fix my eyes on him, who inspires and perfects my faith.

"To lose always and let everyone else win is a trait of valiant souls..." - Maxim 58, St. John of the Cross

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Pope Francis walks in peace among the 'Mohammedans'.

Blessed or the peacemakers.

Seek Christ and his humble love, Pope Francis exhorts Catholics in UAE: Preaching on the Beatitudes during his visit to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, Pope Francis called on those present to seek communion with Christ before all else.
“Let us together ask here today for the grace of rediscovering the attraction of following Jesus, of imitating him, of not seeking anyone else but him and his humble love,” the pope said Feb. 5 during Mass at Zayed Sports City, a stadium in Abu Dhabi.
“For here is the meaning of our life: in communion with him and in our love for others,” he added. - CNA
I wrote the following on Facebook:
This is amazing. As an American Catholic I am always tempted to be self-reverential regarding the Church and the faith, completely forgetting that there is an entire world of Roman Catholics from many disparate nations for whom the Holy Father is a sign of unity. These events help us step out of our narrow understanding of the faith. The joy of the Catholics living and working on the Arabian Peninsula, far away from their homelands is truly edifying, if not humbling. Viva il papa! - TN

I got a little flack, some Catholics are upset about the Pope signing a document on “Fratellanza Umana per la Pace Mondiale e la convivenza comune… Human Fraternity for world peace and living together” with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahamad al-Tayyib.  A dispute has once again arisen over something the document says: "The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom."

Not a problem for me.  As I replied to a priest who commented on my post: 
I didn't need a footnote for that statement, I'm not highly educated but I do appreciate Thomist thought on the will of God - such a complex, mystery. The whole teaching on 'the distinction of antecedent (inefficacious) will from consequent (efficacious) will' seems to me to help our understanding; but like I said, I'm not well educated. Nevertheless, I at the very least see the good in this, and if I had a shred of doubt, I would in charity at least understand the statement in the sense of God's 'permissive will'. Humanity is in the hand of God, in Him we live and move and have our being. Nothing exists outside His will. The beauty of the Holy Father's pilgrimage is to strengthen our brother and sister Catholics in Muslim territory. To read their comments and joy is a consolation for all Catholics. TN

Fr. responded saying that the problem was he didn't say 'permissive will'.

Looks like people will add this to the dubia, or list of questions they want the Pope to answer or clarify.


Another FB friend, Fr. Stephanos Pedrano posted something I would have thought most people understood by now:
On God's will and plan of salvation for those who are not Christian

"But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place among these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Savior wills that all men be saved."

[From paragraph 16 of the dogmatic constitution "Lumen gentium"]

Of course, many now doubt Vatican II as much as they doubt Pope Francis.

I am with the Pope and with the thousands who welcomed him in the UAE, especially those Christians who joyfully are quoted in the news:
“The pope has made pleas for ending the Yemen war, greater tolerance and more,” said Lina Ghattas, a 48-year-old Egyptian who had traveled from Bahrain.
“I am not sure what will change: time will tell - hope, hope,” she said. - Reuters
I'm just an ordinary Catholic like those people who welcomed the Holy Father, I'm not a theologian or a scholar, I believe in God - I hope in God.  I'm older now, I see myself very close to the end - I'm in my 'end times' and I rejoice to see the Pope walking in peace among the 'Mohammedans'.  The Holy Father brought Christ to the UAE, to strengthen the faith of believers, in peace.  He walked in peace through the midst of them.  God's wonders never cease. Viva il papa!

"Neither arguments or disagreements."

“We Christians try to implement the order Saint Francis gave at his time to his brothers and to 'live spiritually among the Muslims ... not to engage in arguments and (simply) to acknowledge that (we) are Christians.'” - Bishop Hinder

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Here's a few things I have been working on ...

St. Nunzio Sulprizio
Acrylic on paper
T. Nelson

First edition.

I've been painting steadily, but fail to photograph it and post it.  I need to do that.

Background for Nativity
Acrylic on canvas.
I did about 25 panels to form a continuous
impressionist landscape.  It was fun.
(My apologies for lack of styling in the photo.  LOL!)