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Colorado Weekend

As I mentioned, we’ve taken a quick trip to Colorado (first time)  for the weekend, thanks to Frontier Airlines beginning cheap flights out of Birmingham. Of course a part of the “cheap” means you can maybe take a Ziploc on board and you have to pay for the air you breathe, but hey. It works.

(Seriously – you can take a small “personal item” on board as part of the fare. Our backpacks with clothes, etc., fit that fine, and I also took my purse separately without them saying anything about it. Because it’s winter and winter clothes are fatter – and we didn’t want to wear hiking boots all weekend – I splurged on a carry on bag. Just one. It was fine, and we might have been able to do without the carry on. The plane was good, although J found the seat uncomfortable. I don’t know what the plane was, but it was for sure the quietest plane I’ve been on in a long time, maybe ever. They did say in the announcements that it was new.)

Friday night we stayed at a Residence Inn halfway between the airport and downtown. I’d thought about staying downtown that first night, but I’m glad I didn’t – it wouldn’t have been worth the double cost & need to pay for parking, and we got in late enough so that we wouldn’t be venturing out for any night life.

Saturday was rainy and, eventually snowy. The plan had been to spend time seeing things in Denver and perhaps Boulder and then make our way up to Estes Park, where we’d stay Saturday and Sunday night. Part of the plan worked, but I was concerned about the “snow” part of the forecast, considering my rental car was just a regular car – not an SUV or anything like that – and I had no idea what to expect in terms of roads and driving. As the day progressed, I decided it would be wiser to start the journey to Estes Park sooner rather than later, and it was a very good decision – I am not sure if I could have made it up if I’d waited until 5 or so – and the stress factor of driving that in the snow and in the dark would have been high.

So anyway, back to Saturday morning in Denver: very simple – Union Station, the glorious Tattered Cover Bookshop, the State Capitol building – exterior and the mile-high marker only, since the interior is only open during the week, the History Colorado Museum, lunch at Torchy’s Tacos (a good chain) and a drive-by of the Broncos stadium.

Observations: the History Colorado Museum was okay, but was missing a comprehensive, chronological history of either Denver or the state. Interesting stuff about a variety of subjects: Skiing, the RMNP, the presence of the Klan, the Japanese internment camp, the Chicano movement, the Dust bowl – but an organized, comprehensive, you know – history  – exhibit would strengthen the museum.

Secondly, many, many homeless folks around the capitol, with many of their effects scattered on the grounds. I was glad to see what looked like groups offering them help of one sort or another, including a mobile laundry. But still – seeing soaked clothing, blankets, chicken bones, etc. littering the state capitol grounds is expressive of what is left to do.

 

The drive to Estes was not the easiest drive I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t terrible at 3pm. We arrived at our hotel in one piece, checked in, chilled out, walked around a bit, then the younger one and I embarked on a longer walk. Our hotel is about a mile from the small downtown, and even in the sub twenty-degree weather, it was pleasant. Crisp, with the everyone in a cheery mood because, well, it’s vacation time and they were celebrating their Christmas tree lighting ceremony. After a bit, I called the older son and told him to walk down and meet us and we’d find dinner. We did – at a place where one of us could have an elk burger and another could have a game meatloaf.

 

Sunday morning – Mass at the lovely Our Lady of the Mountains. Packed 10 am Mass, intelligent homily.

Then it was time to …do something. I had not done a ton of research into this day, and what I had done confused me, and there was the snow issue – although by Sunday morning the roads in town were clear. Doing a bit more research Saturday night and chatting with a fellow at the visitors’ center five minutes before they closed indicated some direction – basically attempt a hike in the Rocky Mountains National Park, perhaps with snowshoes, and probably around one of a few easier lakes to get to .

So after getting ourselves ready back at the hotel, we headed to a very busy mountain gear supply store, where a conversation with one of the sales people gave me even more direction. We rented snowshoes and poles and set out.

We didn’t end up at any of the spots I’d thought, and the hike was probably harder than I’d anticipated, considering it was 1.2 miles mostly uphill. But it was the first trail we hit after a steady drive that nonetheless unnerved me since the park roads were still snow-covered, and so I really didn’t want to keep doing that not-fun activity. Plus, I saw the name of the trail destination to be a sign: Bierstadt Lake, named after the German landscape artist who painted so much of the American West  – including this lake and this area – and one of whose paintings of Yosemite is a star holding of our own Birmingham Museum of Art. Of course we have to hit the Bierstadt trail and see Bierstadt Lake.

Well, we first discovered that the snowshoes were unnecessary, at least for the hike up the mountain. The trail is a series of switchbacks up the mountain, down a much shorter distance through woods, and then to the lake. It wasn’t easy – but I did it! The youngest ditched the snowshoes first, followed by me about halfway up. The trail was packed, and moreover, it was narrow, making the snowshoes mostly an obstacle. They’re light, though, and it was less hassle to carry them than wear them. However, when we did the trail around the lake, the snow was deep, and the snowshoes fulfilled their promise – although they still weren’t necessary, honestly.

But getting to the lake? Worth it. Gorgeous, humbling and stunning. (Don’t worry – it looks like they are standing on the lake in the photo, but they are well on the shore.)

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The idea of cold weather activity has never appealed to me – I frankly never understand why people want to do it. Perhaps I’m still suffering from the ill-effects of my Maine-raised mother tossing me out to play in the snow in northern Illinois winters, assuring me that it would be enormously fun. I hated it.

But this? It was good. I finally understood that with the proper equipment (snowshoes excepted)..no, freezing and misery is not the only possible outcome of going outside in the cold. Took a while, didn’t it?

Oh – one more thing. On the trail, I spied a group of two men and one woman heading towards us. One of the man was wearing a UAB sweatshirt. Turns out he and the other fellow were Australians studying at UAB – So there we were, two groups from Birmingham meeting there in the Rocky Mountains. It’s pretty crazy, but to tell the truth, every time I travel, I run into someone with some connection to either me personally or wherever I’m living at the time. I imagine all those degrees of connections are far closer than we think – we just don’t know it because we’re not stopping to talk to every single person – and we’re not all walking billboards advertising our home.

img_20181118_160610Back into town, return equipment, stop at the grocery store, as well as at the Stanley Hotel, which is the inspiration for The Shining – King was staying there when he got the idea for the novel. Photo is of the son who’s read the book and seen the movie a couple of times (much preferring the latter, btw) doing his best Jack Nicholson-in-The-Shining performance.

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Now? Football one one TV, The Dark Knight on the other, and me here. Home tomorrow, but hopefully one more small adventure before we have to be at the airport.

Saturday

Quick Saturday digest with some reading and travel notes. I’d write more, but I’m hampered by the fact that I’m on my laptop, which has an inoperable “a” key and is super annoying. (So how do I do “a?” Cut and paste. Ctrl-v. It works, but, as I say, annoying.”

We are in a new spot for us – Colorado. Frontier has started flying out of Birmingham, and with direct cheap flights to Denver, I thought…why not? We’re only here for the weekend – getting back home on Monday for Thanksgiving festivities and such. But go to Instagram to keep up. 

On the way over, I read from the collection The Collar: Stories of Irish Priests by Frank O’Connor. I had picked up the Kindle version last week when it was on sale for $1.99 – it’s not that cheap anymore, unfortunately. I’ll write more in detail about it next week, but if you can (from the library or such) find “The Mass Island.”  I don’t often read fiction that gets me teary, but this one did. Stunning.

For you:

Bishop Shawn McKnight on the USCCB meeting.

And so, I was disappointed that even the mild proposals up for consideration at the Baltimore meeting had to be pulled from a vote.  It was a rather harsh reminder to me of what many lay people have been saying throughout our Diocese: We bishops are ineffectual in our attempts to address the problem of abuse of power by the hierarchy.  The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People has had a marked impact on lowering the number of incidents of abuse by clergy since 2003.  But with the aggravation of the McCarrick scandal,   the laity and clergy are now rightfully asking that we get it all out, once and for all, and respond with an urgency that this crisis deserves. We literally have people dying because of the harm caused by predator clergy, and survivors of abuse are further victimized when we fail to take swift action.    Seeing certain retired bishops who were notoriously responsible for covering up clergy sexual abuse at this year’s General Assembly in Baltimore as welcome guests was a slap in the face to all who have been wounded by the clergy.  This example of episcopal arrogance and clericalism evidences the fact that we still don’t get the problem.

The whole Church is needed to solve our problem which the whole world knows about.  What more do we have to hide?  If we are going to move forward, we need to have authentic communion and a genuine synodal process.  And this requires transparency and better communication between the clergy and the laity, between the USCCB and its own members, and between the USCCB and the Holy See. We need to become the Church Christ founded us to be

Monsignor Pope has strong words. 

Finally, there are some in Rome and even among our own bishops and priests in the U.S. who still see this crisis as a mere tempest in a teapot, largely stirred up by “right-wing” bloggers and Catholics who simply “don’t like” Pope Francis. I know of no one from any sector of the Church who is not heartbroken about this, while also angry and insistent upon reform. This is not a storm created in the “blogosphere.” Every day I am approached by parishioners and contacted by people from all over: young adults in our Bible study and pre-Cana programs, older Catholics in our Sodality and Knights of Columbus, catechists, staff members, long-time Catholics, recent converts, attendees at Sunday Mass, daily communicants, and those frequenting Eucharistic Adoration. They are all concerned; they are on the receiving end of questions themselves from family and friends: “What’s wrong with your Church?” They are dismayed; they are deeply concerned for the Church they still love. These are the people still in our pews, who did not leave during the cultural downslide and have supported the Church through thick and thin. These are the people who look to us. No clergyman should demonize them; they have been too good to us for us to write them off as some fringe element. They are good Catholics and are looking to us for clear teaching, for some return of the love and loyalty they have shown us through the most difficult decades of the cultural and sexual revolutions. They have been exceedingly patient with us. This is no time to be dismissive; this is a time to listen and work together with God’s good people for reform and a new springtime of faith in the Church and in the world.

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

All righty then – yesterday was a big day a round these parts. Kevin at New Advent threw up a link to the post I put up griping about Cardinal Mahony, and voila – a ridiculous number of new readers. Thanks to Kevin, and I hope at least a few of you stick around.

I— 2 —

Along that theme, here are a couple of the more helpful articles I found on this past week’s events:

Christopher Altieri, here:

The measures would at any rate have been likely to offer precious little in the way of direct address of the core problem: not so much the bishops’ failure to police their own ranks with respect to the abuse of minors and the cover-up of said abuse — appalling and egregious as that failure is — as the bishops’ dereliction of their duty to foster a sane moral culture among the clergy, high and low.

Here’s the point on which the whole thing hangs: neither Cardinal DiNardo, who in his presidential allocution said of himself and his fellows, “In our weakness, we fell asleep,” nor Pope Francis, who has called the February meeting around the theme of “safeguarding minors” or “minors and vulnerable adults,” comes close to acknowledging either the nature or the scope of the crisis.

The bishops were not merely negligent: many of them were complicit. As a body, they are widely viewed as untrustworthy. Francis appears more concerned with making sure everyone understands that he’s in charge, than he is with actually governing.

— 3 —

Msgr. Pope, on what doesn’t seem like a related point, but actually is – not only for the clergy, but for all of us – what about those imprecatory Psalms?

But there are significant omissions in the modern Breviary. This is true not merely because of the loss of the texts themselves, but that of the reflections on them. The verses eliminated are labeled by many as imprecatory because they call for a curse or wish calamity to descend upon others.

Here are a couple of examples of these psalms:

Pour out O Lord your anger upon them; let your burning fury overtake them. … Charge them with guilt upon guilt; let them have no share in your justice (Ps 69:25, 28).

Shame and terror be theirs forever. Let them be disgraced; let them perish (Ps 83:18).

Prior to the publication of the Liturgy of the Hours, Pope Paul VI decreed that the imprecatory psalms be omitted. As a result, approximately 120 verses (three entire psalms (58[57], 83[82], and 109[108]) and additional verses from 19 others) were removed. The introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours cites the reason for their removal as a certain “psychological difficulty” caused by these passages. This is despite the fact that some of these psalms of imprecation are used as prayer in the New Testament (e.g., Rev 6:10) and in no sense to encourage the use of curses (General Instruction # 131). Six of the Old Testament Canticles and one of the New Testament Canticles contain verses that were eliminated for the same reason.

Many (including me) believe that the removal of these verses is problematic. In the first place, it does not really solve the problem of imprecation in the Psalter because many of the remaining psalms contain such notions. Even in the popular 23rd Psalm, delight is expressed as our enemies look on hungrily while we eat our fill (Ps 23:5). Here is another example from one of the remaining psalms: Nations in their greatness he struck, for his mercy endures forever. Kings in their splendor he slew, for his mercy endures forever (Ps 136:10, 17-18). Removing the “worst” verses does not remove the “problem.”

— 4 —

And then a priest in Arizona…brings it:

What this does is to give those Bishops who have jelly-spines cover. How convenient to do nothing by claiming, ‘we have to be obedient to the Pope’. Well we should remind them that the Bishops are equal with the Pope in the episcopal ministry. While the Pope is first among equals, the rest of the Bishops still have their own authority and jurisdiction. They are not lacky’s of a Pope. The Letter to the Galatians clearly demonstrates that fact. The Apostle Paul, tells us in Galatians that, “he opposed Peter to his face when he was clearly in the wrong”. Paul was not challenging Peter’s authority as leader of the Church but was opposing the way in which Peter was exercising that authority, treating Gentiles and Jews differently. The US Bishops need to follow Paul’s example and challenge the Vatican and the cartel that runs it by challenging the way they exercise their authority in a way that protects them and not those who are most vulnerable. The irony here is that the Pope is blaming clericalism for the problem while at the same time his staff is acting in a most clerical way, alla Cardinal Richelieu, afraid that if the US Bishops appoint lay boards to unravel this mess they lose their power.

— 5 —

Many women saints are celebrated today and tomorrow. Let’s start with St. Gertrude:

(Also Margaret of Scotland. And tomorrow, Elizabeth of Hungary.)

Learn about her from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI 

St Gertrude the Great, of whom I would like to talk to you today, brings us once again this week to the Monastery of Helfta, where several of the Latin-German masterpieces of religious literature were written by women. Gertrude belonged to this world. She is one of the most famous mystics, the only German woman to be called “Great”, because of her cultural and evangelical stature: her life and her thought had a unique impact on Christian spirituality. She was an exceptional woman, endowed with special natural talents and extraordinary gifts of grace, the most profound humility and ardent zeal for her neighbour’s salvation. She was in close communion with God both in contemplation and in her readiness to go to the help of those in need.

At Helfta, she measured herself systematically, so to speak, with her teacher, Matilda of Hackeborn, of whom I spoke at last Wednesday’s Audience. Gertrude came into contact with Matilda of Magdeburg, another medieval mystic and grew up under the wing of Abbess Gertrude, motherly, gentle and demanding. From these three sisters she drew precious experience and wisdom; she worked them into a synthesis of her own, continuing on her religious journey with boundless trust in the Lord. Gertrude expressed the riches of her spirituality not only in her monastic world, but also and above all in the biblical, liturgical, Patristic and Benedictine contexts, with a highly personal hallmark and great skill in communicating.

…..Gertrude transformed all this into an apostolate: she devoted herself to writing and popularizing the truth of faith with clarity and simplicity, with grace and persuasion, serving the Church faithfully and lovingly so as to be helpful to and appreciated by theologians and devout people.

Little of her intense activity has come down to us, partly because of the events that led to the destruction of the Monastery of Helfta. In addition to The Herald of Divine Love and The Revelations, we still have her Spiritual Exercises, a rare jewel of mystical spiritual literature.

….It seems obvious to me that these are not only things of the past, of history; rather St Gertrude’s life lives on as a lesson of Christian life, of an upright path, and shows us that the heart of a happy life, of a true life, is friendship with the Lord Jesus. And this friendship is learned in love for Sacred Scripture, in love for the Liturgy, in profound faith, in love for Mary, so as to be ever more truly acquainted with God himself and hence with true happiness, which is the goal of our life. Many thanks.

— 6 —

Earlier this week, I published a short story on Amazon Kindle. Check it out here:

— 7 —

We are off later today on a weekend jaunt to a place none of have ever been before – stay tuned to Instagram for more!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Devoted Bishops

One of my regular blog reads is Ann Althouse, retired Wisconsin law professor. I don’t see eye-to-eye with her on all issues, particularly social issues, but at least once a day, she posts something interesting in a clarifying way. One of the tags she frequently uses on blog posts is “civility bullshit.”  As in: 

 …because the real motivation is political advantage. Usually, the civility-demander is trying to get opponents tone it down and not take advantage of whatever hot passion and energy they’ve got on their side.

And this is absolutely, one-hundred percent correct. It applies in all types of discussions, including churchy ones.

Related is what I guess I’ll call Collegiality BS. 

(In deference to those who might be offended…)

You might recognize it as the call for a Kumbaya moment. You might recognize it in calls for us to prioritize our sense of community – closeness, good feelings, acceptance at some level – above anything else. It’s a certain interpretation of the Christian notion of communion. The problem is that it’s superficial and theologically incorrect. For the Catholic/Christian understanding of authentic communion is rooted in Christ’s actions, not ours. All the baptized are already in communion with Christ and each other. We don’t do it. He does. Our call is to recognize that communion and build on it.

How to see the difference?

Imagine yourself sitting in Mass. Look around.

You could think:

We should really try to create some communion here.

Or you could think:

Wow. Jesus has brought me into communion through Him, with every single person here – the people I know, those I don’t, the people I like, the people I avoid, the people who are like me, the people who are very different – Christ has done this – what’s my response?

But communion-awareness can shift into Communion and Collegiality BS when those preaching it are really just trying to deflect, distract and move on from uncomfortable matters. Always be skeptical when someone frantically tries to “build community” with you.

Take, for example, Cardinal Mahony.

It’s appalling enough that he  spoke at this week’s weird and pointless (although not useless – see the difference? As in God can bring good out of anything?) bishops’ gathering.

And they all just sat there and listened. At least they didn’t applaud.

Anyway, Cardinal Mahony’s five minute talk said not a word about abuse or corruption. He was all about …our devotion to each other as members of the conference and the college of bishops. 

His point was that there’s a great need for bishops to support each other, afford priests space for prayer (he’s not wrong) and emphasize a collegial communion with particular attention to how “outside forces” can threaten that: “We must not allow outside groups of any kind…to interfere with or attempt to break the bonds of our collegial union.”

To that end, Mahony proceeded to hijack appeal to St. Charles Borromeo in a most interesting way, perhaps knowing that the reforming bishop-saint is being appealed to with more frequency these days. He characterized Borromeo’s mission as one of having to deal with “difficulties and problems” in Milan and that the saint worked at this by pulling the bishops together, reminding them that “we are not bishops alone or separate, but we belong to a college” and that one of the major threats to the mission and collegiality were “kings, emperors” and other “folks” who tried to interfere.

This is not necessarily, inherently bs, but here it is, and this is why:

  • Episcopal collegiality and closeness is not the highest Christian value, nor is it a value in and of itself, apart from the core of faith in Jesus Christ and the responsibility of the successors of the apostles to live that out, protect the deposit of faith and evangelize. Catholic history is filled with bishops calling each other out, excommunicating each other and sending each other into exile. There used to be a formal ritual for the “degradation of a bishop” who had violated episcopal norms so severely that he was being stripped of office.
  • Secondly, and most obviously, this is a deflection technique, just as civility bs is. Oh, you better not do anything to damage our collegial union. Shame on you, Bad Brother Bishop!
  • More to the point on Borromeo. I suspect that if Mahony was basing his words on anything, it was the saint’s oration at the fifth provincial council from 1579. As I noted, the archdiocese of Milan was a mess – it wasn’t just experiencing “difficulties.” You can read about how bad it was, top to bottom, elsewhere. Charles Borromeo had a huge task in front of him, and what this oration reflects is the necessity of having all the bishops on board, not so they would feel good about themselves and content and secure in their mutual admiration – not so that Bishop X would know that no matter what, Bishop Y had his back (and would cover for him), but simply: Jesus Christ is One, the Gospel is One, His Church is One – so as bishops, you are called to act as One, as well.

“Christ the Lord wished the spirit of the pastors to be one, joined in one bond of charity and spurred on by one concern and solicitude. To this end he instructed us, when in today’s Gospel he entrusted the office of preaching and the curing of diseases to his apostles convoked together, and prescribed to all of them certain rules for that apostolic office.”

He finished with a prayer:

“You, Lord God Almighty, who ordered seventy elders of the people to be convoked by Moses at the entrance to the tent of the covenant, and ordered them to be present,
remaining together in the same place, and who deigned to grant one and the same spirit (cf. Nm 11:16-17); you who sent your Holy Spirit to your apostles gathered together in one place (cf. Acts 2:1-4), illumined their minds, and inflamed their hearts to the point that, burning with incredible ardor, when they knew and accepted that they were legates of the divine preaching, they carried out that mission most admirably, with one most burning zeal and with the same enactments of apostolic discipline over the whole world: we beg you today, be present to us who are called together into one in your name. Enlighten our minds with the splendor of your divine light, tend them with goodness.
Rule and direct them by wisdom, and cause us so to carry out the duties and tasks of our commission with one counsel, the same vigilance, the same admonitions and the same example. May we do so in such a salutary way that we and the faithful of our province, made one in you, may entirely enjoy that eternal glory which is in you, the one God. Amen.

For a welcome contrast to Cardinal Mahony’s defensiveness, I point you to Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne, who walked into a situation in which his predecessor had been accused of abuse. 

Biegler was consecrated as Cheyenne’s bishop in June 2017. His first confrontation with his predecessor was before that, after he heard that Hart wanted to concelebrate the Mass of consecration.

“I went to visit him shortly after I arrived in Cheyenne, prior to the ordination,” Biegler told The Star. “And I said that I wouldn’t allow him to concelebrate because of the allegations and because Bishop [Paul] Etienne [who led the diocese between Hart and Biegler’s tenures] had already put a protocol in place regarding limitations on his public ministry.”

Although Hart was upset, Biegler did not stop there. Etienne had asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to open an investigation into claims against Hart in 2010, but when Biegler arrived in the diocese, he was told that investigation had been stalled. However, he gained Vatican approval to open his own.

Biegler hired a private investigator to review claims against Hart that had surfaced in 2002 in Wyoming. Wyoming does not have a statute of limitations for child sex abuse, and Biegler turned the investigator’s findings over to the district attorney.

Now, what Bishop Biegler said at this week’s meeting. He had proposed a section to the document they were considering that took on the perversion of episcopal and clerical …collegiality … head on:

As the Church seeks to be reformed, we need to address the root causes of the episcopal abuse of power in the sexual abuse crisis. A major factor was clericalism. Some bishops fostered a “toxic brotherhood” which caused them to overlook questionable behavior, ignore rumors of problems, believe clerical denials and seek to preserve a cleric’s ability to minister. At times, they acted to protect the reputation of the Church or clergy, while they shunned the victims/survivors of sexual abuse and their families. Bishops frequently ignored the voices of the laity who spoke up about sexual abuse and the mishandling of allegations; instead, they acted within institutional isolation. 

In his remarks, Bishop Biegler reflected on his experience of investigating his predecessor. He said what he had encountered was a dynamic of favoritism toward the accused, an attitude that infected law enforcement, the legal community, longtime parishioners and other bishops. He characterized it as an “unhealthy dynamic” and indicated that this was something he had directly encountered in his encounters with other bishops. He spoke quietly, but powerfully.

There are several remarks from bishops at this meeting that are getting attention, both positive and negative, but I think Bishop Biegler’s is actually one of the most important, for it’s one of the first times I’ve ever heard a bishop publicly note that other bishops will find ways to stonewall truth-finding and scapegoat truth-tellers – and that this is not an unusual, one-off kind of thing, but is a culture, deep and pervasive that hides under all kinds of disguises and pseudonyms.

Like I said…collegiality….bs.  

 

Albertus Magnus

Faith…science….all here.

His memorial is today, November 15. 

The Nashville Dominicans – who run the school one my sons attends have a nice page on him. 

From B16, a 2010 General Audience:

He still has a lot to teach us. Above all, St Albert shows that there is no opposition between faith and science, despite certain episodes of misunderstanding that have been recorded in history. A man of faith and prayer, as was St Albert the Great, can serenely foster the study of the natural sciences and progress in knowledge of the micro- and macrocosm, discovering the laws proper to the subject, since all this contributes to fostering thirst for and love of God. The Bible speaks to us of creation as of the first language through which Albert the Great StampGod who is supreme intelligence, who is the Logos reveals to us something of himself. The Book of Wisdom, for example, says that the phenomena of nature, endowed with greatness and beauty, is like the works of an artist through which, by analogy, we may know the Author of creation (cf. Wis 13: 5). With a classical similitude in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance one can compare the natural world to a book written by God that we read according to the different approaches of the sciences (cf. Address to the participants in the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 31 October 2008; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 November 2008, p. 6). How many scientists, in fact, in the wake of St Albert the Great, have carried on their research inspired by wonder at and gratitude for a world which, to their eyes as scholars and believers, appeared and appears as the good work of a wise and loving Creator! Scientific study is then transformed into a hymn of praise. Enrico Medi, a great astrophysicist of our time, whose cause of beatification has been introduced, wrote: “O you mysterious galaxies… I see you, I calculate you, I understand you, I study you and I discover you, I penetrate you and I gather you. From you I take light and make it knowledge, I take movement and make it wisdom, I take sparkling colours and make them poetry; I take you stars in my hands and, trembling in the oneness of my being, I raise you above yourselves and offer you in prayer to the Creator, that through me alone you stars can worship” (Le Opere. Inno alla creazione).

St Albert the Great reminds us that there is friendship between science and faith and that through their vocation to the study of nature, scientists can take an authentic and fascinating path of holiness.

His extraordinary openmindedness is also revealed in a cultural feat which he carried out successfully, that is, the acceptance and appreciation of Aristotle’s thought. In St Albert’s time, in fact, knowledge was spreading of numerous works by this great Greek philosopher, who lived a quarter of a century before Christ, especially in the sphere of ethics and metaphysics. They showed the power of reason, explained lucidly and clearly the meaning and structure of reality, its intelligibility and the value and purpose of human actions. St Albert the Great opened the door to the complete acceptance in medieval philosophy and theology of Aristotle’s philosophy, which was subsequently given a definitive form by St Thomas. This reception of a pagan pre-Christian philosophy, let us say, was an authentic cultural revolution in that epoch. Yet many Christian thinkers feared Aristotle’s philosophy, a non-Christian philosophy, especially because, presented by his Arab commentators, it had been interpreted in such a way, at least in certain points, as to appear completely irreconcilable with the Christian faith. Hence a dilemma arose: are faith and reason in conflict with each other or not?

This is one of the great merits of St Albert: with scientific rigour he studied Aristotle’s works, convinced that all that is truly rational is compatible with the faith revealed in the Sacred Scriptures. In other words, St Albert the Great thus contributed to the formation of an autonomous philosophy, distinct from theology and united with it only by the unity of the truth. So it was that in the 13th century a clear distinction came into being between these two branches of knowledge, philosophy and theology, which, in conversing with each other, cooperate harmoniously in the discovery of the authentic vocation of man, thirsting for truth and happiness: and it is above all theology, that St Albert defined as “emotional knowledge”, which points out to human beings their vocation to eternal joy, a joy that flows from full adherence to the truth.

St Albert the Great was capable of communicating these concepts in a simple and understandable way. An authentic son of St Dominic, he willingly preached to the People of God, who were won over by his words and by the example of his life.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray the Lord that learned theologians will never be lacking in holy Church, wise and devout like St Albert the Great, and that he may help each one of us to make our own the “formula of holiness” that he followed in his life: “to desire all that I desire for the glory of God, as God desires for his glory all that he desires”, in other words always to be conformed to God’s will, in order to desire and to do everything only and always for his glory.

He’s in the Loyola Kids’ Book of Heroes, under “Faith.”


I. Faith

  1. Introduction: Jesus is Born
  2. John the Baptist: A Hero Prepares the Way
  3. Early Christian Martyrs: Heroes are Faithful Friends
  4. Medieval Mystery Plays: Heroes Make the Bible Come to Life
  5. St. Albert the Great: Heroes Study God’s Creation
  6. Sister Blandina Segale: Heroes Work in Faith

 

Wednesday

amy_welbornWell, good morning. I’m going to have a couple of other posts up this morning, so this truly will be a digest without rabbit trails. I’ll force the rabbit trails onto the other posts.

Let’s start with:

Writing: I put the finishing touches on a longish short story called The Absence of War that I’ve posted for sale as an Amazon Kindle ebook – it clocks in at 7000 words or so, so you might get your .99 worth! 

Steve McEvoy has kindly reviewed it here. Go to Steve’s site and enjoy his many many reviews of books. It’s an invaluable site.

What touched me most, and to be honest will have a lasting impact is the sense of other. Or to be more specific the recognition of other, not our impression, and kindle covermemories, but a true encounter. It is not said, but what it reminds me of is the passage ‘Lord open my eyes to see.’. And that is what the story has done, helped me to see differently. 

An excellent story. More than worth the price and time to read. And I can only hope that Mrs. Welborn decides to share more of her fiction with us, If it is as good as this it will be a treat indeed!

Thanks, Steve!

(Steve has also reviewed my son’s short story collections and novel here.)

Over the next week, I’m probably going to put up a novel I wrote a few years back. I’ve gone back and forth about what to do with this book. I actually had an agent agree to represent it and she worked hard to sell it, but obviously without success. But why not just self-published and get it, too, out of my brain and into yours?

I’m also working on another short story. And I have a project due in early January that I finished a solid first draft of mid-summer that it’s time to pick up and revise- that’s what I told myself I’d spend December doing, and wow…it’s almost here.

Reading:  Besides post-election and USCCB stuff, mostly J.F. Powers short fiction, and re-reading for the fifth time or so David Lodge’s Souls and Bodies. Read all the bloggers you want, if you really want to even begin to understand the Church (in the U.S. and England at least…) over the past fifty or sixty years and didn’t live through it yourself, these two are really the way to go.

(Along with Frank Sheed’s The Church and I.)

Oh, also reading TripAdvisor forums on a destination to which we’re traveling this weekend. It will just be for the weekend, and we’ll be in town most of Thanksgiving break, but I’m taking advantage of new direct fares from a discount airline to a place we’ve never been – it will be a quick trip, but, since it will be new to all of us and cheap, hopefully worth the time and money spent! Check out Instagram this weekend for the updates on that. 

Watching: Almost halfway through the last season of Breaking Bad with the guys. Not anything besides that for me.

Listening: Since last we spoke, the daily watch/listening of We are the World has continued apace for some reason, along with other random 70’s and 80’s music videos.

I listened to my son play his Beethoven at his recital – Instagram selection here – and listen to practice organ at various churches around town (we’re up to three different practice venues now – 2 Catholic and 1 Methodist) and to him play with his jazz assignments on his keyboard.

Kind of boring, but it’s 7:21 and so thanks for participating in my early-morning writing exercises….

 

 

 

The Absence of War

All right, folks, here’s a story for you.

We can call it a “short story,” but it clocks in around seven thousand words, so maybe not.

kindle coverWhen I finished this a few weeks ago, I wondered what to do with it. I thought I might submit it to a journal or competition. I did send it out to a few friends, most of whom have read it, I believe.

But then, I decided, eh. Just publish it. Get it out there. Move on. 

Which I have – now working on something which will be much shorter and hopefully a little sharper.

Of course, I can probably use an editor. It could use fine-tuning and questions and honing.

But guess what? I’m not 25 or 32, just starting this stuff. I’m 58 – fifty-eight –  and when I trumpet my advanced age so emphatically, it’s not because I’m suggesting that I’m beyond help and that I know all. No – I’m saying that I just don’t have time to sit around and wait for a year to see if this might perhaps catch someone’s eye and make it to print. Life proceeds apace and I have a great deal I want to say, and who knows how long I’ll have to say it?

(No – no Walter White scenarios here. Everything’s fine as far as I know. I’m just morbid realistic.)

Now remember – it’s fiction. And fiction is not supposed to be prescriptive, although much of it ends up being just that, especially if someone is writing about anything vaguely related to religion. I don’t know if I succeed, but I’m trying to describe a moment in history as well as a couple of dynamics as I’ve witnessed and experienced them – personal and spiritual dynamics – and how they relate, which I’m firmly convinced they do. You may not agree. It may anger you – but it might strike you as true, even if you disagree with the characters and their choices and opinions. It’s all I can hope for, I think. Something that strikes you as true.

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