Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Who is this Carpenter?

Reading in Balthasar recently , I've been struck by the tremendous connections which exist between Christology and Theological Anthropology. Jesus Christ really is the true Example of what it means to be Truly Human.

In today's gospel reading, Mark 6:1-6, that question is thrown into sharp relief by the crowd's reaction to Jesus. Who is this Carpenter? Where does Jesus get all this stuff He's showing us?

The answer is two fold.... it comes from Jesus Himself and ultimately, it comes from His Heavenly Father. There is no bi-furcation of will, or intent, or action in Jesus' life. He has come to do the Father's will. Period. And that will turns Christ toward others.

Benedict XVI wrote helpfully about this issue as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in Einführung in das Christentum.

"Christian faith recognizes in Jesus of Nazareth the exemplary human being. This seems to be the best way to understand Saint Paul’s idea that Christ is “the last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45). But it is precisely as the exemplary human being, as the classic example of the human being, that Jesus transcends the limits of what is human; only by means of that is he the truly exemplary human being.

For the human being is truly himself to the extent to which he is with another. He finds himself only in leaving himself; he only finds himself through another… And in the final analysis, the human being is geared towards… the one who is truly other, towards God…

He is entirely himself when he ceases to remain in himself, to be turned in on himself, to affirm himself, when he is nothing but opening to God.But so that the human being might become fully human, God must become man. It is only then that… the passage from the “animal” to the “spiritual” is definitively accomplished. Then, the earthly being, looking beyond himself, can say “You” to God.

It is this opening to the Infinite which constitutes the human being… And this is the one who is the most human, the true Adam, the one who is the most unlimited, who not only enters into contact with the Infinite, but who is one with him: Jesus Christ…If the true essence of the human being as God imagined him is manifested fully in Jesus, he cannot be destined to form an absolute exception, a curiosity…

His existence has to do with the whole of humanity… He is destined to gather together in himself the whole human race. He must “draw to himself” all of humanity (Jn 12:32) so as to form what Saint Paul calls the “Body of Christ."

Gather us in, Lord. Make us like your Carpenter Son.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Loneliness, Longing and Love

Well, its been a semi rough patch here in the old house. We have just about survived a tumultuous renonvation (three months) and my sons are down to only one weekend visit per month... from their previous usual two or more. I can still recall the days of being a more or less full time dad, 3 weeknights and every other weekend. Seems like yesterday.

At the same time I am feeling that creeping loneliness of being somewhat single as well as single minded. I have my work, which I love and my church activities which give me a lot of deep joy and my formation as a worldly monastic, or an oblate, or a third order, whatever you choose to call it.

But deep inside there is a growing longing to be alone with God, even as that same longing produces a very tangible loneliness. Yes, I know that God is my All and that I can and do turn to Him many times every day.

But lately I've begun to suspect that there is some unsuspected, hidden connection between my interior life and the capacity to love another or many others as Christ loves us.

Now my spiritual director has me reading some of Hans Urs von Balthasar, and this Catholic systematician seems to have a communitarian and mystical streak in him a mile wide and just as deep. I discovered that he helped a German woman found a secular institute, a group for people who want to live the consecrated life of poverty, chastity and obedience, while also staying "in the world."

I've often doubted whether that could truly be done, but I am interested enough to find out just what happened to this group. But first, I've told myself, I'll read an introduction to Balthasar and his book on the Christian State of Life. Only then can I truly appreciate the historical circumstances that led Balthasar et al to form this community. Then, perhaps I might also find some help for my own journey, as solo as that has been thus far.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Yours, Meinrad's and Ours

Yesterday was the the feast day for a saint whose star shines brightly in the Benedictine heavens, if nowhere else- St Meinrad, Hermit and Martyr. I would never have heard of him were it not for the Archabbey in Indiana which bears his name.

No boring hagiographical details here, .... just noting that Meinrad was martyred because he welcomed villians into his hermitage and they killed him.

Sometimes Benedictine hospitality (and the sharing with others that it entails) turns out to be darned inconvenient, a real bother, and, in some cases, a life threatening affair. Receiving everyone as if he or she were Christ is a messy proposition, if not a dangerous one.

However, such sharing in community and hospitality towards "the world which God is saving" ends up conforming us more closely to the image of Christ, crucified and risen.

Christ became human in order to welcome us into God's presence.

We know what He went through.

We are called to imitate Him.

Lesson learned.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Where and How Unity Happens

Benedict XVI is urging the faithful to long for Christian unity, nourished by prayer and charitable collaboration. The Holy Father made this appeal today while addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square following the Angelus.

Today's address falls within the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, being observed Jan. 18-25. The Pope made reference to the prayer week's theme from Mark 7:37, saying that Christ can do everything:

"He is able to infuse in Christians the ardent desire to listen to the other, to communicate with the other, and to speak with him the language of mutual love. "The Pontiff said ecumenism is "a profound dialogic experience, a mutual listening and speaking, knowing one another better. It is a task that all can undertake, especially in regard to spiritual ecumenism, based on prayer and on sharing what is possible for the time being among Christians.

" The Holy Father expressed the hope "that the longing for unity, translated into prayer and fraternal collaboration to relieve human sufferings, will spread ever more at the level of parishes and ecclesial movements and among religious institutes."

Putting it All in Perspective

My Science is Love!

"Sometimes I envy those who have the good fortune to be theologians! But doesn't prayer - divine contemplation - soar much higher in knowledge, love and power, than the highest studies? Feeling is deeper, more luminous, and more fruitful than science. As far as I am concerned, my theology - my science - is love, the union of my heart with God’s through Jesus-Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Nothing more and nothing less!"

Marthe Robin, January 22, 1930 Told in the book Take My Life Lord (Prends ma vie Seigneur) by Fr. Peyret (Desclee De Brouwer Editions)

For more info on Marthe Robin consult:

The Silence is Deafening

Today is the annual day set aside by the Roman Catholic Bishops of America for a Day of Prayer and Penance concerning the Right to Life issue here in America.

At the first anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing the TV networks promoted a second of silence for each of the 131 people killed in the bombing attack, resulting in just over 2 minutes of dead air space.

5o million lives have been ended in America through abortion since the Supreme Court's Roe vs Wade decision in the 1970's. A second of silence for each of these souls would result in over a year and a half of silence! Perhaps this might be a fitting response to this needless, immoral bloodshed. God save us!

Please pray for the unborn, those who have had their lives cut short through abortion, and for the healing of parents who have chosen to abort their children.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lord, open my lips....

and my mouth will declare your praise....

Millions of loyal Christians open their day with this prayer, afixed as it is to the beginning of the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. One can see how readily this single phrase from the Psalms (51:17) can be adapted for that purpose.

Here are some encouraging words on that very topic from the Journal of a Soul, the diary of Blessed John XXIII:

"When we think that these words are repeated at all Matins, in the name of the Church, who prays for herself and for the whole world, and repeated by innumerable lips opened by the touch of the grace they have invoked, the vision broadens, comes alive and is fulfilled. Here the Church is seen not as a historic monument of the past but as a living institution.

Holy Church is not like a place that is built in a year. It is a vast city which must one day cover the whole universe: “With the joy of the whole earth is Mount Sion founded; in the far north the city of the great king” (Ps 47,3). The building was begun twenty centuries ago, but it spreads and stretches through all lands until the name of Christ is everywhere adored. As the Church increases so new nations, hearing the good news, rejoice: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad” (Acts 13,48). The pious and daring commentator concludes with a thought that is very fine and uplifting for every priest as he reads his Breviary: everyone must take part in this building of Holy Church.

He whose work is preaching this grand enterprise must, as a messenger of His Gospel, say to the Lord: “Lord, thou wilt open my lips and my mouth shall declare thy praise”. A priest who is not engaged in missionary work should long to co-operate in the great task of the apostolate, and when he reads the Psalms privately in his cell he also should say: “Lord, thou wilt open my lips”, because even there, through the communion of love, he must consider as his own voice any voice that is at that moment announcing the Gospel, the supreme praise of God which has given us the theme for this verse more charged with hidden mysteries than with words."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I Loved Him Deeply

" I will now show you more fully how, from the beginning, when I first learned and came to an understanding of the existence of God, I was always concerned about my salvation and religious observance. When I learned more completely that God himself was my Creator and the judge of all my actions, I came to love Him deeply, and I was constantly alert and watchful so as not to offend Him in word or deed.

When I learned that He had given His law and commandments to His people and worked so many miracles through them, I made a firm resolution in my soul to love nothing but Him, and the things of the world became altogether repugnant to me. Then, having learned that God himself would redeem the world and be born of a Virgin, I was so smitten with love for Him that I thought of nothing but God and wanted nothing but Him.

As far as I was able, I withdrew from the conversation and the presence of parents and friends and gave away to the needy everything I had come to own. I kept for myself nothing but meager food and clothing. "

From the Blessed Virgin according to Saint Bridget of Sweden (born about 1303; died July 23, 1373) Saint Bride and Her Book: Birgitta of Sweden's Revelations, Book 1, ch.10

Monday, January 15, 2007

Theotokos, Part I : Birthing God in Us

I think I mentioned before that my spiritual director, Fr. Charlie Lachowitzer, had asked me last month to meditate on the concept of Theotokos, the God-Bearer. Doing so, I was immediately drawn to the passage in Paul where he declares to the Galatians (4:19)

"My children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you."

Thinking about the birthing process, I realized that there are many similarities between Mary's role in salvation history and our own growth toward spiritual maturity. I was pushed in this direction also by verses at the beginning of chapter four (4:4-5), which present Mary's role in summary form :

"When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out 'Abba, Father!"
There is a sense in which our own spiritual growth is like Mary's growth toward the Incarnation. What is brought into being within her is truly of her. Jesus, the Christ, is truly a part of her. Christ partakes of her very flesh, being similar to her both in physical likeness and also in spiritual submission to the Father.
At the same time He who is being born from her is given to her from beyond herself. The life within her is foreign, it is a gift, it is God. In her flesh we find the first hint that humanity truly is capable of bearing the infinite. Her finite womb is capable of bearing the Infinite God.
So it is when Christ is born in us. Our spiritual lives belong to us. They express our unique personalities, desires, and motivations,as varied as are human beings themselves. If you have any doubt of that one need only look at the widely varying charisms in the Church today. From Benedictines to Franciscans, to EWTN to Focolare to Charismatic renewal, there is a fresh pallette of color awash on the walls of old Mother Church.
To each his or her own. Every divine pregnancy is different.
But there is also something, given, something gifted, something in us which comes from beyond ourselves. We are all born from above, giving birth to something quite alien to our natures. The Infinite nature of the Godhead necessitates some kind of other-ness in its relationship to us. The other-ness also comes wrapped in a given-ness. Because it is from beyond ourslves we receive this new life from God as pure gift.
Like a pregnancy, there is an element of labor involved, tremendous effort and inconvenince on our part. We do labor until Christ is formed within. We labor, we sacrifice, we work, we toil. However, that acitivity on our part in no way changes the basic nature of the case. As with the birthing process there is an element of the unexpected, the chaotic, the being-beyond our lown control.
This process of giving birth to Christ within us is both gift and task, it is both disciplined labor and unexpected chaos. And so we also ask the Mother of all Mothers to be with us in this process.
Gentle Mother,
help bring to birth in our lives
He whom you once conceived and bore in Palestine.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

What to Do About Iraq?

I was gratified to read that the U.S. Bishops have called for extensive public discussion concerning our options for the future regarding Iraq. Will they go further and help us start to examine why we went there in the first place and what that says about our national priorities and policies towards other nations? I hope so.

U.S. Bishops Call for Responsible Action in Iraq WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 14, 2007

( New proposals for how to proceed in Iraq must be judged by how the plan seeks to "bring about a responsible transition in Iraq," says the U.S. bishops' conference.Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. conference, said in a statement sent Friday that the "course of action, including current policies, ought to be evaluated in light of our nation's moral responsibility to help Iraqis to live with security and dignity in the aftermath of U.S. military action."

He added: "Our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as their presence actually contributes to a responsible transition. Our nation should seek effective ways to end their deployment at the earliest opportunity consistent with this goal. "Determining when a responsible transition can be met, Bishop Skylstad noted, will include reaching such benchmarks as minimally acceptable levels of security; economic reconstruction to create employment for Iraqis; stronger political structures and greater respect for religious freedom and basic human rights.

Bishop Skylstad also repeated calls for a "substantive, civil and nonpartisan" debate about alternative choices in Iraq and added that this "civil dialogue is even more essential and urgent at this moment of national discussion and decision."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What We Need

The Incarnation of the Human Values Necessary to My Life

"A German Catholic priest told that one day he saw a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary hanging in place of honor in the cabinet of Field Marshal Hindenburg. As the priest did not hide his surprise, Hindenburg (who was a Lutheran) said, "I see in the Blessed Virgin the incarnation of the human values necessary to my life."

Is it possible to dream of a better definition of what Mary has brought to the world? To a world completely abandoned to proud egoism, Mary teaches the humility of Bethlehem. To a world dominated by money and greed, she recalls the poverty of Nazareth. To a twisted, dishonest world, she brings truth and simplicity. To a world that gets more and more hardened by hatred every day, she repeats her lessons of gentleness. To an impure and vain world, she offers the testimony of her fertile virginity. To an aged world, she brings her eternal youth."

H. Engelmann Excerpt from his book I Lost the Faith (J’ai perdu la foi, p.91)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Feast of the Epiphany: Crossing the Abyss

"We can imagine the awe which the Magi experienced before he Child in swaddling clothes. Only faith enabled them to recognize in the face of that Child the King whom they were seeking, the God to whom the star had guided them.

In him, crossing the abyss between the finite and the infinite, the visible and the invisible, the Eternal entered time, the Mystery became known by entrusting himself to us in the frail body of a small child. 'The Magi are filled with awe by what they see; heaven on earth and earth in heaven; man in God and God in man; they see enclosed in a tiny body the One whom the entire world cannot contain' (St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 160, n. 2)."

---Pope Benedict XVI, World Youth Day 2005, Address at the Papal Welcoming Ceremony on the Poller Rheinwiesen bank in Cologne, August 18, 2005.

Blessed Andre Bessette.. Weird for God

I first became acquainted with Blessed Brother Andre Bessette when I was in graduate study at Notre Dame, South Bend. He was a Holy Cross brother, so I would see his holy cards and picture around the campus occasionally.

It wasn't until four years ago when I vacationed in Montreal that I actually got to know who he was. There I visited the huge and ornate Oratory of St Joseph, perched on Mount Royal, from which Montreal takes its name. The exterior, constructed while Andre was still alive in the 1930's , is very classical in style. The interior, finished in the 1960's and 1970's is starkly modern. In the undercroft is Brother Andre's heart, perfectly preserved and on display.
Quite unexpected.
But not as unexpected as Blessed Andre himself. He is a wonderful saint, one who I would say was "a little weird for God."

The young man was almost illiterate, and was several times rejected by the Holy Cross order before finally being admitted. He became gatekeeper of the college in Montreal and from that humble position thousands of the poor and the needy and the sick learned of and came to him for guidance and healing.

The rest of the story is best told by this excerpt from his life story as told at

When Brother André was appointed doorkeeper to the order’s college in Montreal, it was surely no accident. His gentle manner, his pleasant disposition, and his knack for putting people at ease--along with his ability to speak English--made him a perfect choice. But there was more than logic here. As future events would reveal, divine providence was at work as well.

After his work for the day was finished, Brother André visited the sick and the elderly in their homes or in the hospital. He put all of his good nature and good humor into these outings, and some criticized him, saying he just liked to travel around in a car. But André responded, “There are some who say that it is for pleasure that I visit the sick, but after a day’s work it is far from being a pleasure. Homes for the poor are filled with men and women who have been abandoned, without relatives or friends. . . . It would do healthy men good to visit the sick.”

As a result of these visits, thousands of the poor, the hurt, and the unhappy came to see André in his little office. There he counseled them, cried with them, and prayed for them. At times he could be quick or sharp, especially when he was fatigued. But whenever he realized that he had spoken sharply, he would repent and remind himself, “At least they know that I am nothing but a poor sinner.” Brother André did not distinguish among those who asked for his help. He prayed for everyone. “Our Lord is our big Brother, and we are the little brothers. Consequently, we should love one another as members of the same family.”

Brother André had a particular love for the Eucharist and encouraged people to go to Communion frequently. “If you ate only one meal a week,” he would say, with a note of sadness in his voice, “would you survive? It is the same for your soul.” Although he had a deep devotion to St. Joseph, his primary love was the Passion of Christ, on which he often meditated. For André, Jesus’ death on the cross was the supreme act of God’s love for man.Worker of Wonders and Friend of St. Joseph.

After five years as doorkeeper, André’s miraculous powers began to manifest themselves. One day, he visited a student suffering from a severe fever in the infirmary and told him, “You are in perfect health. Go outside and play.” The young man did, and when a doctor came to check him, he was perfectly well. Soon afterward, a smallpox epidemic broke out at the order’s college in Saint Laurent. Many had fell ill and some died. Brother André volunteered to nurse the sick, and when he arrived he knelt and prayed to St. Joseph. Not another person died. Reports of these healings began to circulate throughout Montreal, and the trickle of early visitors developed into a flood of sick people seeking him out.

As a young man, André had a dream in which he saw a church in an unfamiliar setting. Later he recognized the place as the top of beautiful Mount Royal, and he became convinced that a shrine in honor of St. Joseph should be built there, but he kept his conviction quiet until the right time.

Meanwhile, the flood of sick people coming to the college had begun to disturb the parents of the students. So for a while André received the sick at a small trolley station--until the passengers began to complain. In the midst of all this turmoil, the Archbishop of Montreal asked André’s superior, “Will he stop this work if you order him to?” The superior testified as to his obedience. “Well then, let him alone. If the work is from God, it will continue; if not, it will crumble.” When some doctors charged André with being a quack, the health authorities cleared him as “harmless.”

From Porter to Construction Manager. Brother André was one of the first to count on St. Joseph as a realtor and appealed to him about property many times. For several years, Holy Cross authorities had attempted to buy land on Mount Royal, but the owners refused to sell. André, along with several other brothers and students, began planting medals of the saint on the property. Suddenly, in 1896, the owners yielded. The brothers owned the right piece of land, and André was one step closer to realizing his dream.

In 1904, when André asked permission to build a small chapel to receive the sick, his request was refused. His superiors did allow him, however, to put a statue of St. Joseph in a niche on the mountain. They told him to save the alms he received and the few pennies he earned as a barber for a future project. When he had collected two hundred dollars, he was given permission to build. All he needed were laborers.

Soon afterward, a mason with a serious stomach ailment asked André for prayer. André replied by asking, “If St. Joseph cured you, would you come and work with me on the mountain? If you are willing, I shall count on you tomorrow morning.” The mason obeyed, and for the first time in months was able to put in a full day’s work.And the People Just Kept Coming. Soon the first chapel was completed, and in 1908 Brother André took up residence there.

Pilgrims came by the thousands. André realized that a priest was needed, and he was given a young priest with failing eyesight to help out. After a few weeks, however, the priest told André that he couldn’t see any longer and would have to quit. “I feel that I have failed you,” the man said, distressed. André just whispered, “Wait until morning.” The following day, the priest’s eyesight improved dramatically and he was able to stay on. Pilgrims kept pouring in, and André knew that the chapel-turned-shrine would have to be expanded.During the Great Depression, enlargement of the shrine stalled for lack of funds. Undaunted, Brother André advised, “Put a statue of St. Joseph in the middle of the building. If he wants a roof over his head, he’ll get it.” So a statue was brought in, and within two months construction was back on schedule.

The shrine which stands there today is the largest church in the world dedicated to St. Joseph. It fits André’s character that throughout the entire time of its construction, he never referred to this shrine as “his” project. Instead, he said, “God chose the most ignorant one.”Brother André died peacefully in a Montreal hospital in January of 1937. An estimated one million people climbed the slope of Mount Royal through rain, sleet, and snow during the seven days set aside to pay their final respects to this humble brother. Pope John Paul II beatified Brother André on May 23, 1982.

I wish we all could be like Brother Andre, caring for the poor and just a little "weird for God."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Hello, Neumann.

Saint John Neumann, Bishop.

I still wouldn't know who he was if six years ago I hadn't joined a parish named after him. People always get him confused with that OTHER Newman, John Henry Cardinal Newman, the famous Anglican convert who also played a small role in my own conversion from Lutheranism.

But St John Newman is a pretty neat guy, too. Here's some information on him gleaned from Catholic Online,

This American saint was born in Bohemia in 1811. He was looking forward to being ordained in 1835 when the bishop decided there would be no more ordinations. It is difficult for us to imagine now, but Bohemia was overstocked with priests. John wrote to bishops all over Europe but the story was the same everywhere no one wanted any more priests.

John was sure he was called to be a priest but all the doors to follow that vocation seemed to close in his face. But John didn't give up. He had learned English by working in a factory with English-speaking workers so he wrote to the bishops in America. Finally, the bishop in New York agreed to ordain him.

In order to follow God's call to the priesthood John would have to leave his home forever and travel across the ocean to a new and rugged land. In New York, John was one of 36 priests for 200,000 Catholics. John's parish in western New York stretched from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania. His church had no steeple or floor but that didn't matter because John spent most of his time traveling from village to village, climbing mountains to visit the sick, staying in garrets and taverns to teach, and celebrating the Mass at kitchen tables.

Because of the work and the isolation of his parish, John longed for community and so joined the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers dedicated to helping the poor and most abandoned.

John was appointed bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. As bishop, he was the first to organize a diocesan Catholic school system. A founder of Catholic education in this country, he increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from two to 100. John never lost his love and concern for the people -- something that may have bothered the elite of Philadelphia. On one visit to a rural parish, the parish priest picked him up in a manure wagon. Seated on a plank stretched over the wagon's contents, John joked, "Have you ever seen such an entourage for a bishop!"

The ability to learn languages that had brought him to America led him to learn Spanish, French, Italian, and Dutch so he could hear confessions in at least six languages. When Irish immigration started, he learned Gaelic so well that one Irish woman remarked, "Isn't it grand that we have an Irish bishop!"

Once on a visit to Germany, he came back to the house he was staying in soaked by rain. When his host suggested he change his shoes, John remarked, "The only way I could change my shoes is by putting the left one on the right foot and the right one on the left foot. This is the only pair I own."

John died on January 5, 1860 at the age of 48.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Could it be... Seton or Satan?

My first experience of Elizabeth Ann Seton was when I visited her shrine daily in lower Manhattan when I was in New York City for financial advisor training in 1997. It's an unassuming Federalist chapel attached to a mansion built in the late 1700's on the site of her former home. Daily Noon Mass there was a trip. Folks of all varieties were present, from tourists to executives, all in the shadow of One World Financial Center where I was taking classes.

I was and am fascinated by the various roles in Seton's life. She was the first daughter of America to be canonized. Married woman of the world, teacher, foundress of an order of nuns. She was all of these things in turn, and she exemplifies what is best in the American spirit and in Catholic Social Teaching.
We could do worse than emulate her spirit of service. She, like our Lord, counted her position as nothing, and lowered herself to work on behalf of those who were in need. Like our Lord, hers was a choice she freely made.
Pope Paul VI spoke to the American situation when he said the following in 1975 at her canonization ceremony:
This most beautiful figure of a holy woman presents to the world
and to history an affirmation of new and authentic riches that are yours:
that religious spirituality which your temporal prosperity
seems to obscure and almost make impossible.

I shudder when I compare Seton's spirit of selfless service with the Spirit of Fear and Greed which animates our economic system. For example, we're fighting a war in Iraq whose economic cost is overshadowed by the lost opportunity cost of being unable/ unwilling to feed our hungry, house our homeless and educate Americans to a level we all deserve.

The tally on the box at the right shows the cost in dollars. That's bad enough. But, when you dip that dollar wad in the blood of innocent civilians as well that of our own service people the result is downright Satanic. We are not just shooting ourselves through the foot with this misbegotten war. We are stabbing ourselves in the heart.
I ask Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton to pray today for us, that we may have peace and gospel priorities for this dear country of ours.
Blessed be you, Lord Jesus, for having given us Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton as our sister. United to you, she loves us and carries us always in her prayers. May the fidelity and fervor of her life here on earth renew us in our own vocation. Hear us, Lord, in whom all the saints are one.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Athanasius and the God who is Love

I found the following in a local newsletter called "Got Culture?" Chesterton speaks very eloquently of the meaning of the Incarnation.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) provides the following insight into the depth of St. John’s words, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

"There had arisen in that hour of history [ca. 325 A.D. the Arian heresy], defiant above the democratic tumult of the Councils of the Church,
Athanasius against the world. We may pause upon the point at issue; because it is relevant to the whole of this religious history, and the modern world seems to miss the whole point of it. We might put it this way.

If there is one question which the enlightened and liberal have the habit of deriding and holding up as a dreadful example of
barren dogma and senseless sectarian strife, it is this Athanasian question of the Co-Eternity of the Divine Son.

On the other hand, if there is one thing that the same liberals always offer us as a piece of pure and simple Christianity, untroubled by doctrinal disputes, it is the single sentence, “
God is Love” [1 John 4:8].

Yet the two statements are almost identical; at least one is very nearly nonsense without the other.

The barren dogma is only the logical way of stating the beautiful sentiment. For if there be a being without beginning, existing before all things, was He loving when there was nothing to be loved? If through that unthinkable eternity He is lonely, what is the meaning of saying He is love? The only justification of such a mystery is the mystical conception that in His own nature there was something analogous to self-expression; something of what begets and beholds what it has begotten. Without some such idea, it is really illogical to complicate the ultimate essence of deity with an idea like love.

If the moderns really want a simple religion of love, they must look for it in the Athanasian Creed. The truth is that the trumpet of true Christianity, the challenge of the charities and simplicities of Bethlehem or Christmas Day, never rang out more arrestingly and unmistakably than in the defiance of Athanasius to the cold compromise of the Arians.

It was emphatically he who really was fighting for a God of Love against a God of colourless and remote cosmic control; the God of the stoics and the agnostics. It was emphatically he who was fighting for the Holy Child against the grey deity of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He was fighting for that very balance of beautiful interdependence and intimacy, in the very Trinity of the Divine Nature, that draws our hearts to the Trinity of the Holy Family. His dogma, if the phrase be not misunderstood, turns even God into a Holy Family. "

---G.K. Chesterton,
The Everlasting Man, CW2:359-360; cf. "The Endless Empire" in The New Jerusalem

Monday, January 01, 2007

Mary, Mother of God

As we approached the Christmas season I was asked by my spiritual director to consider Mary under her title of Mother of God or theotokos. The Feast of Mary, Mother of God is actually celebrated today (January 1st) in the Roman Catholic Church.

The icon above comes from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, fka Constantinople. Here is where what became known as the Orthodox Church found its spiritual home until the Islamic conquests during the Middle Ages. I want to go there some day and pray before this icon.

The picture touches my heart because it, like my own life, is partially defaced. Yet, the image is still beautiful, and evokes a strong response. Even though our lives are fractured, or perhaps because they are so, Mary our Mother longs to make us whole and holy by confirming us to the image of her perfect Son.

Here is a prayer, the Alma Redemptoris Mater, with which I end the Office of Compline each night during Advent/ Christmas season:

Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen
yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature
you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have mercy on us poor sinners.

To which I add my own words:

make our heart like unto yours,
pure, undefiled and always willing to do the Father's will.