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Friday 1 March 2013

Odds and Ends and the Attic Treasures.....Poll Results....

I find it odd that when I had the poll for which posts people liked the most, on the top deck were the lives of the saints and martyrs, and the perfection series. However, since I have been highlighting those two areas, my numbers of readers has gone done, and the number of comments has plummeted.

Either those who voted were not representative of the silent majority, or people are too busy to read, or I am still not meeting needs.

However, in the next few weeks, I shall continue the Doctors of the Church and perfection series, do saints, and cover all the papal news.

I have not written about socialism, as I am taking a break from the evil geniuses, such as Gramsci and others.

So, if any of you want to make a comment, I am open to input.

POLL RESULTS: the poll results for the Pope Guesses ended up with the greatest number of votes going for someone else, and many people wrote to me about Burke, then Scola and Ranjith, followed by Turkson (interesting name).

By the way, did anyone else have the set of Junior Classics with which I grew up? Just wondering...

I had almost all of the original set. Guess what my favourite fairy tale is?.


The shoes seen round the world...

Benedict, Pope Emeritus, has new shoes. No, these are not red, but burgundy.

Here is the story and some of the photos.

If you need a modest wedding dress....

visit this blog.

Adorable children's wear, too.

Part 62: DoC and Perfection: St. Augustine of Hippo

One forgets the world of St. Augustine was very much like ours today.

He grew up and went to a classical school.

He went to the theatre most likely in or near Tagaste (Thagaste).

He went to the University at Carthage and went to the Roman baths there.
Augustine at Tagaste all from the Apsidal chapel, Sant'Agostino, San Gimignano

He was a man of the world.

He understood, from first-hand, as we see in his masterpiece, the two cities: the City of God and the City of Man.

He was a citizen of both at one time of his life.

He went to Rome to teach rhetoric. He went to Milan.

Augustine on his way to Rome to teach

Then, all changed and he became a Catholic. Then, a monk.

People forget that he lived in a community and took vows. He then was ordained and became a bishop.

Above all, his scholarship shows the genius that he was. but a genius with all the struggles and temptations found in the City of Man.

Perhaps more than any of those Doctors I have highlighted here on this blog so far, Augustine speaks to us today.

Augustine teaching in Rome

We are on the edge of the ruin of Western Civilization. We are heading into neo-barbarism.

The Fall of Rome marked a time of the end of civilization and culture which was taken for granted by millions of people. The barbarian culture was not one of civilization.

Augustine reading St. Paul

But, the rot in the culture of Rome led to the relatively easy take over the the City of Man.

God had a plan. The City of God was to grow even more out of pain and suffering-the ashes of the great pagan civilization. And, a New Rome was built on the ruins of the old.

Even on, especially on the edge of destruction of all we have taken for granted, is the way of perfection needed. Do not wait, do not procrastinate.

Augustine could have said no to the way of perfection. He could have run away from the hard way.

When he was in his garden, he heard child-like voice saying this,
"Take and read". He was led to this passage in St. Paul in Romans:

"Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof" 

Even though Augustine was consecrated and appointed Bishop of Hippo, he lived in a monastic lifestyle.

He is called the patron saint of the "regular clergy" which is very interesting.

The way of perfection is for all of us. We only need to say yes.

The Baptism of Augustine by St. Ambrose

In case you missed these historic moments

A Room with a View: DoC: Part 61; Continuation of St. Augustine

Our last pope, Benedict XVI, is a great Augustinian scholar. I am sure he will have time to read this Doctor of the Church in the next two months, with this room with a view, if Benedict so desires.

Thagaste, birthplace of Augustine
Augustine is called the "African Doctor" and the "Doctor of the Catholic World". But for my purposes here, and for the modern person, his works reveal a combination of psychology  the movement of the heart and mind, grace and free will, and the strength of the combination of  doctrine and mysticism so needed in the journey to perfection. His appeal is understandable. This appeal streams from all those areas of human experience, conversion. loss, commitment, and he articulates the human struggle for perfection, not merely the glory.

As with the other Doctors, St. Augustine has written much on perfection. I can only highlight a few sections in the next few days.

Roman mosaic from ruins of Carthage, not to far from Hippo
Already, one sees a dialectic pattern: grace and will, heart and head, doctrine and mysticism, psychology and simplicity, loss and gain. This is the pattern of activity and contemplation, referred to in this series through both Albert the Great and Bernard of Clairvaux.

Looking at a sermon of St. Augustine's (his works took over long aisles in the Notre Dame library when I was there), one can perceive this dialectic in his thought. In this perfection series, I am addressing the laity, so that we can understand our way to God.

Tractate on John's Gospel (Tract. 124, 5, 7: CCL 36, 685-687) My comments are in non-italics.

There are two ways of life that God has commended to the Church. One is through faith, the other is through vision. One is in pilgrimage through a foreign land, the other is in our eternal home; one in labour, the other in repose; one in a journey to our homeland, the other in that land itself; one in action, the other in the fruits of contemplation.

Here, in this dualism, one sees the day of work and prayer, so loved by the Benedictines. But, the lay path to perfection is similar: work and prayer.

The first life, the life of action, is personified by the Apostle Peter; the contemplative life, by John. The first life is passed here on earth until the end of time, when it reaches its completion; the second is not fulfilled until the end of the world, but in the world to come it lasts for ever. For this reason Peter is told “Follow me”, but Jesus adds, “If I want John to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me”.

I have referred to this on line before. The progress is from purgation to action to contemplation. But, without the purgation, our actions are no more than vain operations of our own necessities, rather than the work of God.

You are to follow me by imitating me in the enduring suffering; he is to remain till I come to restore the blessings that last for ever. To put it more clearly: let action, which is complete in itself, follow me and follow the example of my passion; but let contemplation, which has only begun, remain until I come, wait until the moment of its completion.

This is subtle: suffering is the purgation of the mind, body, soul, and will. Action must follow this, must follow the Passion, and contemplation will follow. Now, Christ comes to us at death, but He also comes to us in our daily lives, if we allow Him to enter into these lives. 

View of ancient Hippo ruins-the ancient cathedral of Augustine
Sometimes, He enters like lightening, striking the very core of our beings. Sometimes, he comes like the soft wind in the Old Testament. But, if one is open, He responds to that open heart, soul, mind and will.

It is the fulness of patience to follow Christ loyally even to death; the fulness of knowledge lies in wait until Christ comes again, when it will be revealed and made manifest. The ills of this world are endured in the land of the dying; the good gifts of God will be revealed in the land of the living.

One cannot run away from suffering. No. Some people go through life without any consolations. These are the white, or green martyrs. They suffer daily, and remain in love and even joy. St. Augustine knew this way.

We should not understand “I want him to stay behind until I come” as meaning to remain permanently but rather to wait: what is signified by John will not be fulfilled now, but it will be fulfilled, when Christ comes. On the other hand, what is signified by Peter, to whom Jesus says “follow me”, must be realised now or it will never be fulfilled.

The boldness of this statement is keen. One is asked to follow Christ and if one is baptized, that promise has already been made in one's life. The now is all one has to follow Christ. One has NO other time, but the now.

The ruins of Augustine's cathedral in Hippo
In order to fulfil the quest for perfection, one must say say YES today and all days. Each individual strives for perfection in the sacramental life of the Church. This is my duty and challenge, as it is yours.

But we should not separate these great apostles. They were both part of the present life symbolized by Peter and they were both part of the future life symbolized by John. 

Considered as symbols, Peter followed Christ and John remained; but in their living faith both endured the evils of the present life and both looked forward to the future blessings of the coming life of joy.

Peter was crucified on the upside down cross. He followed the way of perfection through martyrdom. John, who experienced the Death of Christ on the Cross by staying with Him on Golgotha, did not die a martyr, but was exiled. Sometimes, one has to choose exile, self-exile, like Benedict has done.

Mosaic from ruins of ancient Hippo

It is not they alone that do this but the whole of the holy Church, the bride of Christ, who needs to be rescued from the trials of the present and to be brought to safety in the joys of the future. Individually, Peter and John represent these two lives, the present and the future; but both journeyed in faith through this temporal life and both will enjoy the second life by vision, eternally.

What we do, each one of us, we do for Christ's Bride, the Church. As seen in the passage below, each one of us has a call. Peter was married, had a business; he followed Christ's call. John was celibate, and had a special love for Christ. He is like Bernard and Augustine.

All the faithful form an integral part of the body of Christ, and therefore, so that they may be steered through the perilous seas of this present life, Peter, first among the Apostles, has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to bind and loose from sin. And also for the sake of the faithful, so that they may keep the still and secret heart of his mode of life, John the evangelist rested on Christ’s breast.
Fresco of St. Augustine blessing his people in Hippo in the Apsidal chapel, Sant'Agostino, San Gimignano

It is not Peter alone who binds and looses sins, but the whole Church. It is not John alone who has drunk at the fountain of the Lord’s breast and pours forth what he had drunk in his teaching of the Word being God in the beginning, God with God, of the Trinity and Unity of God — of all those things which we shall see face to face in his kingdom but now, before the Lord comes, we see only in images and reflections — not John alone, for the Lord himself spreads John’s gospel throughout the world, giving everyone to drink as much as he is capable of absorbing.

This is key. Let God purify you so that you can absorb all that is to be in your lives...

We are all called to perfection. To be continued....

Your time is not your own...

The shut doors at Castel Gandolfo

I have been thinking about what it means to be given time. Time is a gift.

The quotation I put on this blog last night, which Benedict said at his last Angelus address refers to the fact that we must have priorities regarding time.

Here is the quotation of Benedict repeated--"Loving the church also means having the courage to make tough choices, suffering, having always before you the good of the church and not yourself."

New stamp-Sede Vacante

Benedict loves the Church and only wants to serve the Church. These should be motives for all of our lives.

When I had an adult re-conversion at the age of 22, one of the gifts I was given was great love for Holy Mother Church.

As baptized Catholics, we are given this gift, but sometimes we lose it, by an over-critical spirit, or cynicism, or sin.

Benedict calls us to glorify God no matter what we do, large or small. Sometimes the small is very small.

We are only given a short space of time on earth. Our priorities must follow the knowledge that when we die, we must give an account to God, as did the men in the story of the talents, as to what we did with time and talents.

These thoughts are not about diocesan programs or self-help books. These thoughts look toward perfection, the cooperation with grace.

Your time is not your own....

Prayer for a New Pope

The collect of the Missal for the election of a Pope from AngelQueen...
O Lord, with suppliant humility, we entreat Thee,
that in Thy boundless mercy Thou wouldst grant the most holy Roman Church a pontiff,
who by his zeal for us, may be pleasing to Thee,
and by his good government may ever be honoured by Thy people for the glory of Thy name. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ.
V/ Most Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary,
R/ pray for us who have recourse to Thee!
V/ Saint Pie V.
R/ pray for us.
V/ Saint Pie X.
R/ pray for us.

By the way, I made a mistake a few days ago, and the General Meetings start on March 4th at 9:30 am, not the conclave. Hopefully, the conclave will follow soon after those meetings.

Ah, Hollande, again....not a class act

My Grandma use to say, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear".

Happy St. David's Day

To all the Welsh, happy national holyday

My favourite poet and painter is David Jones.

Wear a leek in your hat and give daffodils today.

from wiki

St David (WelshDewi Sant) was born towards the end of the fifth century. He was a scion of the royal house of Ceredigion, and founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro), at the spot where St David's Cathedral stands today. David's fame as a teacher and ascetic spread throughout the Celtic world. His foundation at Glyn Rhosin became an important Christian shrine, and the most important centre in Wales. The date of Dewi Sant's death is recorded as 1 March, but the year is uncertain – possibly 588. As his tearful monks prepared for his death St David uttered these words: 'Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil'.