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Yes, I have written about this before, but here’s a new Substack from an Australian pediatrician that lays it out very simply for you – pass it on, especially to your legislators who might be, in the coming year, debating this issue.

And here lies my first problem with paediatric gender endocrinologists. They do the exact opposite of all other endocrinologists. The whole point of endocrinology is to treat disease caused by hormone levels being pathologically elevated or depressed. The whole point of endocrinology is to put hormone levels back into the normal range. This is true of every endocrine disease – diabetes, thyroid disease, adrenal insufficiency and so on.

But not when it comes to treating gender diverse children. When a child enters the clinic of a paediatric gender endocrinologist for their first injection of a puberty blocker, they have zero endocrine disease. That child’s hormone levels are all exactly where they should be. Their gonadotropins are normal, their sex hormones are normal for the stage of puberty. They have no disease.

Yet when they leave, the paediatric gender endocrinologist has induced abnormal hormone levels. In that child, a doctor has deliberately suppressed normal hormone levels to treat, not endocrine disease, but that child’s mental distress.

When that child turns 16, that iatrogenic hormone suppression has continued. The paediatric gender endocrinologist then goes one step further, and deliberately introduces exogenous sex hormones. They deliberately raise a female’s testosterone to levels that can only be described as pathological. They deliberately raise a male’s oestrogen levels too. They continue to suppress that child’s own natural sex hormone levels.

They are inducing iatrogenic disease. On purpose. Not as a side effect, but deliberately.

In what other circumstance would this be considered acceptable? Within endocrinology, can you imagine another similar circumstance? If any endocrinologist was to deliberately elevate or suppress a patient’s thyroxine level outside the normal range, they would be subjected to disciplinary action. But it has been deemed acceptable for paediatric gender endocrinologists to do this with gonadotropins and sex hormones. Why?

In what other speciality would this be considered acceptable? A physically healthy child never enters a paediatric gastroenterologist’s clinic and leaves with gastrointestinal disease that wasn’t there before. Why are physically healthy children seeing specialists who treat disease the child doesn’t have?

Everything paediatric gender endocrinologists do is antithetical to both paediatrics and endocrinology.

The aim of paediatrics is to ensure children reach adulthood as healthy as possible. Paediatric gender endocrinologists take physically healthy children and commit them to a lifetime of medicalisation.

We need honesty. We need acknowledgement of the truth. We need to discuss all of the issues with which I have barely scratched the surface here – the huge explosion of girls presenting, the high rates of autism and trauma, the concern over brain maturation, children being treated on this pathway while in the care of protective services, the influence of social media, the stories of those who detransition long after the paediatric gender services are done with them, and above all, consent. Can a child at the age of 11 or 12, when puberty is just starting, consent to this pathway and all of its outcomes both known and unknown? This is the most important question of all.


Related, in case you missed it before: a Twitter account named, “Read some Piaget, please”


From another angle – looking at fantasy. I found this an affecting piece, not only because of its relationship to the trans issue, but also to the truth the author speaks, in her own words and quoting Natalie Ginzburg, in describing the inner life of a child.

Harry Potter, fantasy worlds and puberty blockers:

Monday Random

The book, from a liberal feminist perspective, explores the question of sexual boundaries. Pollnow pushes and asks – why? What is it about sex that makes us think there should be boundaries or expectations of consent or reciprocity?

So what is sex’s significance? And how do we determine what it is? Notably, this significance cannot be determined by an airtight proof, the sort of thing that will convince any person with any possible set of priors. (There is, after all, no way to prove even the very basic moral fact “Consent is necessary” to a person whose one and only moral principle is “Raping and pillaging are good.”) At the same time, blind submission to the values of our culture is not a satisfactory way to determine sex’s significance. Instead, we must use logic in a more limited way—to test whether our views are ­internally consistent, to see whether they have ugly implications—and to listen sympathetically to other people’s perspectives to consider what it would be like to approach things in a different way. Although there is no guarantee that we will thereby arrive at the correct view, it is worth doing, given the importance of this question, and given how easily a society can get it wrong.

If we want to understand why sexual consent is so important, we can state that sex has mysterious ethical properties that are particular to it, but that the reasons for these special properties are entirely unknowable. I think it is more satisfying, however, to link the importance of consent to what we know about sex. Specifically, I believe the importance of consent is related to the reciprocal and reproductive nature of sex.

Pollnow has a Substack – Journal of Embarrassing Catholic Studies.

Then she promises she will relax and spend the last few hours with her family. “I want to die listening to my family, I just want to hear their banter and the normal buzz of life as I go.”

Adamant she doesn’t want anyone to pity her, she explains, “As emotional as I am, I don’t want to be a sad story. I could have died when my kids were seven and nine, [but] science and brilliant doctors and my rebellious hope has given me life which has enabled me to have holidays; and experience things that I never thought possible; and raise awareness of bowel cancer; and do a tiny bit of good.”

Nor does she have any regrets. “I could have regretted working too hard as a teacher but I loved every second of it. I could have regretted putting my life on show and stripping off to my knickers for bowel cancer but I don’t regret it, I met incredible people and felt I was making an impact.”

She had found love and purpose. “What else could I wish for? I just feel gutted, absolutely gutted, that the things I love — I love life — I won’t get to see, hear, taste or smell [any more]. I have so outlived my prognosis, it’s ridiculous. I want to thank everyone: the NHS, my doctors and nurses. I am now sounding like an Oscar winner except there are no medals for dying.”

The Instagram account Looney Tunes Backgrounds has compiled over 900 backdrops from the legendary cartoon, going all the way back to the ’30s, so now we can all take a thoughtful look at them. What’s interesting is that without the flickering back and forth of cartoons, these painted locations look like creepy, existential spaces, empty though colorful graveyards where someone’s childhood died.

10 new saints

The first canonizations since 2019 will take place tomorrow at St. Peter’s.

When you read their stories, you see differences – in family origins, in nationality, in class, and even in specific charisms – but what they all share is, of course, a love for Christ and a motivating conviction that Christ, in turn, loves all people, and wants all people to know him.

Here’s a general article, and then here are some links to some information about each:

Charles de Foucauld

Titus Brandsma

Lazarus Devasahayam

His refusal to worship the Hindu gods of the palace and renouncing the traditional Hindu religious festivals greatly angered the officers.  They could not tolerate his preaching on the equality of all peoples, the overcoming of castes and friendship with the untouchables of the lower classes, which is forbidden for a person of high caste.

False charges of treason and espionage were brought against him and he was divested of his post in the royal administration.  He was imprisoned and subjected to harsh persecution. A Catholic for only seven years, he was shot dead in the Aralvaimozhy forest on January 14, 1752. 

César de Bus

From his own experience, César found five pillars to build his relationship with the Lord: love for Sacred Scripture, Eucharistic Adoration, devotion to Mary, invocation of the Angels and Saints and spiritual accompaniment….

With simple, immediate and familiar language, he made abundant use of the Word of God, applying it to concrete concepts and situations. Through his catechesis, he aimed to induce his listeners to be “good Christians”, not only in their words, but also in their behavior, leading them, through a sincere conversion, to Jesus.

Don Luigi Maria Palazzolo

Always sensitive to the needs of the poor, after his ordination in 1850, Luigi’s life became one entirely dedicated to them – especially to abandoned children. His heart was moved by the plight of the poor boys he encountered in the streets of Bergamo. Taking over the running of a men’s oratory in one of the poorest parts of town, he placed himself amongst them, seeing to their care and education – and even their entertainment, putting on puppet shows for them. (In fact, many of these puppets are still in existence and can be seen, recently restored, in the Palazzolo Museum in Bergamo.)

Later, when he realized that there was an equal need for the care and education of girls and young women, he began to help them, too, with a house for the poor and orphans and a women’s oratory. In 1869, together with Teresa Gabrieli, he founded the Sisters of the Poor to carry out this work.

That same year, while on a retreat in Rome, he received a profound calling not only to serve the poor but to become one of them – to become like Jesus, who died naked on the cross.

Blessed Justin Mary of the Holy Trinity

On April 30, 1914 he implemented an experiment. He set up a group of boys known as “fedelissimi” (the most faithful) to live together at the father’s house. However, this experiment did not last very long due to the disapproval of the Bishop.

In 1920 he became Parish Priest of San Giorgio in Pianura. He tried again to revive the community life with twelve other young men. This time his efforts were rewarded as he had the approval of the Bishop Pasquale Ragosta. The Vocationist order marks its official start on the 18th October.

On October 1, 1921 Fr. Justin welcomed some young women from the “Pia Unione” (Pious Union) and founded the order of the Sisters of the Divine Vocations.

The development of this female branch was helped immensely by Giovanna, sister of Fr. Justin, who was elected Superior General. Some other young women, who were not called for the community life but still able to enjoy a lay vocation which was conveyed to them, formed the secular order.

The main center of the new foundation was the Vocationary where all those who showed signs of a vocation and had not yet decided whether to enter the seminary or join a specific Religious Community were welcomed and formed, both spirituality and academically, free of charge. Poverty was not to stop them from realizing their vocation.

(More from a different article.)

Mother Maria Francesca Rubatto

It has been written of her that “she gave Franciscanism a modern feminine version” and that “[in her] there is hidden a figure among the greatest of today’s female Franciscanism”. Like St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Frances encountered Christ in the poor and suffering, and had an authentic experience of Our Lady of poverty. She was a sister among the Sisters, more than a founding mother, and she lived such a profound missionary zeal and desire for martyrdom, that she was led by it at the end of a life consumed by charity and love for Jesus and for the poor.

Maria Domenica Mantovani

Maria Domenica Mantovani was born in 1862 in a small Italian village. Two things were always important to Maria: her love for God and her desire to help others. Her parish priest, Blessed Giuseppe Nascimbeni, encouraged her to teach religion classes to younger children, visit the sick, and join in parish activities. Maria asked our Blessed Mother Mary to guide her in all that she did.

With Maria’s help, Blessed Nascimbeni founded a religious order for women when Maria was 30 years old. It was called the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family. Maria was given the name Mother Maria of the Immaculate, but everyone just called her “Mother.” The order was devoted to building a strong parish community and to caring for the needs of others through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Mother Maria became the Superior of the new order. She was a prayerful example to the other nuns. She trained the young nuns and called all of the Sisters her “daughters.”

Blessed Marie Rivier

When the French Revolution broke out and any religious action was suspicious, Marie Rivier secretly held Sunday assemblies. She was cautious but remained an apostle with a heart of fire! In 1794, the village of Thueyts beckoned her and she willingly responded. Soon four young women joined her and allowed themselves to be set afire by the Gospel. At a time when all the convents were being closed, Marie Rivier opened hers. On November 21, 1796, the feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, Marie and her four companions consecrated themselves to God. The new community grew very quickly despite the poverty it experienced.

For Marie Rivier and her daughters, the Christian education of youth was and will remain a priority. However, religious education extended to adults as well. The poor also held a special place in Marie’s heart and she opened her first orphanage in 1814. Even if the house was poor, welcoming the most destitute was sacred.

A good summary article on the four women being canonized:

As the French Revolution forced convents and monasteries across France to close and priests and nuns were martyred under the Reign of Terror, this 28-year-old Frenchwoman founded a religious order in 1796.

Marie Rivier founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, dedicated to the education of young girls in the faith. The congregation received official approval in 1801 and expanded across France.

Rivier struggled for much of her childhood from a debilitating disability that caused her joints to swell and her limbs to shrink. She could hardly stand with the help of crutches, according to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Her health problems also hindered her ability to enter religious life, but Rivier persevered and helped to educate unemployed women in her parish before the founding of her congregation…

Mother Maria Francesca of Jesus was a 19th-century missionary foundress who crossed the Atlantic Ocean seven times by boat to establish an order of Capuchin sisters in Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil.

The Italian religious sister, originally from the province of Turin, was born Anna Maria Rubatto in 1844. She lost her mother at the age of four and her father when she was 19 years old.

She worked as a servant and cultivated a deep spirituality, visiting a church daily to pray. But she did not discover her vocation until she was 40 years old….

Maria Domenica Mantovani served as the first general superior of the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, which she co-founded to serve the poor, orphaned, and the sick.

At the age of 24, she made a vow of virginity on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in front of a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in her hometown of Castelletto di Brenzone in northern Italy….

Born in Palermo in 1852, Carolina Santocanale felt a desire to consecrate herself to God from an early age despite her father’s wishes. Under the spiritual guidance of Father Mauro Venuti, she discerned to devote her life to works of charity for the poor rather than entering the cloister.

At the age of 32, she began to experience significant health problems. Severe pain in her legs led her to be bedridden for more than a year. After her illness, she embraced an even more radical Franciscan spirituality….

Today is the feast of St. Matthias, who was chosen to take Judas’ place among the Twelve.

We don’t know much about him, but Benedict XVI brings him into his General Audience address on Judas.

The betrayal of Judas remains, in any case, a mystery. Jesus treated him as a friend (cf. Mt 26: 50); however, in his invitations to follow him along the way of the beatitudes, he does not force his will or protect it from the temptations of Satan, respecting human freedom.

In effect, the possibilities to pervert the human heart are truly many. The only way to prevent it consists in not cultivating an individualistic, autonomous vision of things, but on the contrary, by putting oneself always on the side of Jesus, assuming his point of view. We must daily seek to build full communion with him.

Let us remember that Peter also wanted to oppose him and what awaited him at Jerusalem, but he received a very strong reproval: “You are not on the side of God, but of men” (Mk 8: 33)!After his fall Peter repented and found pardon and grace. Judas also repented, but his repentance degenerated into desperation and thus became self-destructive.

For us it is an invitation to always remember what St Benedict says at the end of the fundamental Chapter Five of his “Rule”: “Never despair of God’s mercy”. In fact, God “is greater than our hearts”, as St John says (I Jn 3: 20).

Let us remember two things.

The first: Jesus respects our freedom.

The second: Jesus awaits our openness to repentance and conversion; he is rich in mercy and forgiveness.

Besides, when we think of the negative role Judas played we must consider it according to the lofty ways in which God leads events. His betrayal led to the death of Jesus, who transformed this tremendous torment into a space of salvific love by consigning himself to the Father (cf. Gal 2: 20; Eph 5: 2, 25).The word “to betray” is the version of a Greek word that means “to consign”. Sometimes the subject is even God in person: it was he who for love “consigned” Jesus for all of us (Rm 8: 32).

In his mysterious salvific plan, God assumes Judas’ inexcusable gesture as the occasion for the total gift of the Son for the redemption of the world.

In conclusion, we want to remember he who, after Easter, was elected in place of the betrayer. In the Church of Jerusalem two were proposed to the community, and then lots were cast for their names: “Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias” (Acts 1: 23).Precisely the latter was chosen, hence, “he was enrolled with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1: 26).

We know nothing else about him, if not that he had been a witness to all Jesus’ earthly events (cf. Acts 1: 21-22), remaining faithful to him to the end. To the greatness of his fidelity was later added the divine call to take the place of Judas, almost compensating for his betrayal.

We draw from this a final lesson: while there is no lack of unworthy and traitorous Christians in the Church, it is up to each of us to counterbalance the evil done by them with our clear witness to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

The first sentence I bolded in particular helped me pin what is missing in the current Big Theme of “accompaniment.” The emphasis is on God’s initiative, God’s mercy, God’s love for us. All well and good. And a truth that needs to be heard and embraced by all of us.

But as I listen to this repeated so frequently, I start to feel infantilized — and not in the good sense in which Jesus speaks that we are all to be like children – open and trusting, – but rather in the sense that I am being told that I am helpless and, more than anything else in my life, need to be patted on the head and told I am okay.

On the contrary, Catholic spirituality has always emphasized personal responsibility – sometimes to an exaggerated extent that ends up laying heavy, needless burdens, but which also always ends up being reformed and corrected in the course of things.

But the fact is that the story of God’s people, from Israel through the Gospels, is the story of people whom God encounters and then invites to accompany him – a journey that requires sacrifice and even radical change. Paul is quite clear: our goal is to put on the mind of Christ, not seek confirmation of the rightness of our minds.

The Good News that is the climax of this story is the gracious gift of the Incarnation – yes, God accompanying us in the flesh – but then inviting us to him. The act of the Incarnation is not a blanket pronouncement that Creation is once again sanctified. It is an invitation for those of us who have fallen to move in the direction of the One.

Face it. When Jesus invites people to “follow me” in the Gospels, what always follows is sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is articulated by Jesus himself:

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it

…everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.

Other times we just see it from the events unfolding: the apostles leaving their livelihood and their families. Matthew and Zaccheus leaving sinful livelihoods behind. The women of Luke 8 leaving their homes – where they presumably had responsibilities – to become a part of Jesus’ band.

We hear a great deal about accompaniment these days, and it is a good thing for us to hear: that we are not alone in the world and our true home is with God. Many people feel as if their decisions and habits have cut them off from God, irrevocably. This is not a new story.

Understanding that, it is then my turn.

I am gifted with freedom.

Freedom to ask, freedom to respond, freedom to counterbalance the evil with good.


As I’ve let you know before, the small study guide I wrote for OSV on these talks was published to …accompany…the book version of the GA addresses. It’s out of print, so I have it available as a free download, which you can access here – and feel free to, and to reprint as you will. I think it and the study guide on the Fathers talks are decent foundations for personal or group study and reflection.

Using a resource like this, you don’t have to spend a dime for resources – it’s all online, and you can fight the terrible Catholic Parish Habit of charging people for catechetical resources and experiences.

“Come and see!”

(And pay.)

Below are the two main pages provided for this talk:

Some trans-related notes for you, a partial wrap-up of items that have caught my eye over the past couple of weeks, since we last spoke on these matters.

First, regarding the SCOTUS leak and the ensuing angst.

Abortion supporters have gotten themselves into bit of a bind with all of their trans-allyship, which put them in the difficult position of having to advocate for what they describe as “women’s” rights while at the same time being extremely reluctant to use the word “woman.” That’s absolutely unsurprising.

What interests and saddens me more, though is the also unexpected defense of the Roe status quo by Gender Critical Feminists. As I said – this doesn’t surprise me, but it strikes me, as I have said before, as an indication of a blind spot. A huge one.

The GC feminists – TERFs and proud of it (I include myself in that number) are all about the material reality of sex and the refusal to allow anyone to perform “gender” games that seek to mask that reality or fantasize that it isn’t….real.

It’s more than a little aggravating that they can’t see how this applies to the abortion issue. The way I’d put it is that there’s a line – maybe not a straight one, but a line – from decades of a culture denying the material reality of preborn human life to a culture denying the material reality of sex.

In other words: If you can say that a living, breathing and growing human being has a different identity and set of rights the minute before it leaves a woman’s uterus than it does the minute after just because we say so – well, your brain is now prepped to say that a man can declare himself female – just because he says so.

Nominalism. It’s a thing. So is gnosticism. Just goes to show that it pays to study your history of ideas, kids.

Here’s another thing: Working for one cause alongside people with whom you disagree on other issues. Maintaining the integrity of your position is one thing.

Pharisaical, self-aggrandizing performative purity tests are another.

But more on that when I finally get to the SCOTUS thing. Which should probably wait until Monday when, it seems, the decision might be announced.

Anyway, some notes:

The American Civil Liberties Union is intervening in a lawsuit launched by four female inmates who were subjected to abuse at the hands of trans-identified male transfers. In the intervention, the ACLU claims that human beings are “not sexually dimorphic,” and that males have no biological differences from females.

In November of 2021, the Women’s Liberation front (WoLF) launched a lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in response to the state’s transfer of male inmates to women’s prisons. In the suit, WoLF included representation for four female inmates currently incarcerated in the state who had experienced violations of their rights at the hands of male inmates who had been transferred under SB-132, one of which was sexually assaulted by a trans-identified male transfer.

SB-132, or the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act, went into effect in January of 2021, and allowed male inmates to seek transfer to women’s prisons on the basis of self-declared gender identity. Male inmates did not have to be on hormones, have surgery, be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, or even have legal documents supporting their transgender status in order to gain transfer.

But the ACLU has now filed a motion to intervene in the suit, claiming the state of California cannot adequately represent their interests against WoLF, and that they must join in to defend SB-132.

But in the motion, filed on May 9 in the Fresno District Court, the ACLU not only rejects the details in WoLF’s suit, it also makes some bold assertions — including that “males” and “females” do not exist.

“Proposed Intervenors deny that ‘men as a class’ are defined and differentiated from ‘women as a class’ by their ‘anatomy, genitalia, physical characteristics, and physiology,’” the ACLU writes, going on to state that they “deny the allegation” that there are anatomical, genital, and physical characteristics that differentiate men from women.

A good quote, that sums it up:

We are now in a situation where corporate wolves are passing effortlessly as progressive sheep.

  • Finally, Kara Dansky on the Biden administration and Title IX – this is a great piece because Dansky hones in on the fact that Title IX was spearheaded (and eventually named for) Hawaii Senator Patsy Mink. The Biden administration’s obsession with replacing “sex” with “gender identity” is galling anyway, but especially galling in relationship to a piece of legislation associated with a human being who experienced discrimination because of her ethnicity and sex – neither of which she could – if she wanted to – wave away by the Unicorn Magic of Self-Identification.

The Biden administration has been accomplishing its assault on Title IX by redefining the word sex to include the phrase “gender identity.” This might seem innocuous. It might appear on its face that the redefinition of sex to include “gender identity” is meant to protect a small community of marginalized people called “transgender.”

It isn’t. Instead, the administration is doing the bidding of a vicious industry whose aim is to obliterate the material reality of biological sex. The truth is that every single human being on the planet is either female or male — the word “transgender” is simply being used throughout society to obscure this reality. ..

…The administration’s insistence on redefining sex to include “gender identity” is particularly egregious when one considers the author of Title IX: Patsy Mink, a Japanese American woman in whose memory the law was renamed in 2002, one month after her death…

…But the struggles Mink endured as a woman of color, for which she was honored not too long ago, are now being spit upon by an administration that wants to reduce her sex to a vague and meaningless catchall and gut the protections for her sex that she fought to secure.

On his first day in office, for example, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 13988 on “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” Many of us, myself included, naively assumed that this would mean that, within 100 days, federal agencies would put forth proposed rules for notice and public comment, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act. None of that has happened. Instead, the administration has been methodically, and with no notice or opportunity for public comment, obliterating sex as a meaningful category throughout federal administrative law, including the Title IX enforcement regulations, which permit sex-specific sports and spaces under certain conditions.

Shortly after Biden signed his executive order, the Justice Department announced in March 2021 that Title IX’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex would be interpreted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of “gender identity.” That signaled the death of women’s and girls’ sports at all federally funded institutions….

More

Today’s the feat of Our Lady of Fatima. Here’s a Fatima book illustrated by my friend and frequent collaborator Ann Kissane Engelhart:

Our Lady's Message cover

Written by Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle. Originally published by Sophia, but now apparently out of print – hence the (rare) Amazon link above.

Here are a couple of the interior illustrations:

Blurbs for the book have specifically mentioned the illustrations as worthy of note. So if this appears on your radar, remember that the very talented artist has other books:

"amy welborn"

And a fantastic Instagram page to follow!

And since we talk about the Rosary on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima – here are the relevant pages from the Loyola Kids Book of Signs and Symbols:

Remember the format: Left-side page has an illustration and a simple explanation for younger children. Right-side page has a more in-depth explanation for older students. This entry is in the section entitled, “At Home.”

I mentioned Titus Brandsma the other day. Let’s look at Charles de Foucauld, also to be canonized this coming Sunday.

“Is my presence here doing any good? If it does not, the presence of the Most Holy Sacrament certainly does it greatly. Jesus cannot be in a place without shining forth. Moreover through contact with the natives, their suspicions and prejudices are slowly abating. It is very slow and very little. Pray so that your child does more good and that better workers than him might come to clear this corner in the field of the family’s Father.”

amy_welborn


At the end of his 2005, beatification,  Pope Benedict XVI remarked:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Let us give thanks for the witness borne by Charles de Foucauld. In his contemplative and hidden life in Nazareth, he discovered the truth about the humanity of Jesus and invites us to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation; in this place he learned much about the Lord, whom he wanted to follow with humility and poverty.

He discovered that Jesus, who came to join us in our humanity, invites us to universal brotherhood, which he subsequently lived in the Sahara, and to love, of which Christ gave us the example. As a priest, he placed the Eucharist and the Gospel at the heart of his life, the two tables of the Word and of the Bread, source of Christian life and mission.

My former editor from OSV back in the day, David Scott, wrote an article on Blessed Charles for Godspy, also back in the day. There is not lack of material about Blessed Charles online, but David’s article is a great place to start.

Nazareth had captured his imagination. At Nazareth, Charles marveled, the almighty creator of heaven and earth had lived for more than thirty years, quietly making his home with a mother and father, holding down an ordinary job, answering to a common name, Jesus.

Charles was fascinated by what Catholic tradition has long called “the hidden life” of Jesus—those thirty years or so between his birth and the start of his public ministry, about which the gospels say only that he lived with Mary and Joseph and worked as a carpenter.

For Charles the “ordinariness” of Jesus’ hidden life was a divine sign of the way we are to live our lives. We are to live on earth as God himself lived on earth—content with few possessions, with no dreams of fame or fortune; doing our daily work out of love for God and loving kindness towards others.

If there was a certain holy abandon, even a wildness to his appearance, Charles was nonetheless a missionary from the old school. He believed in the French colonial project of bringing “civilization” to Africa, and the Christian mission of preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth.

He was a frequent critic of the greed and mixed motives in the French occupation, complaining once: “If these unfortunate Muslims know no priest, see as self-styled Christians only unjust and tyrannical speculators giving an example of vice, how can they be converted? How can they but hate our holy religion?”

Charles didn’t proselytize as such. His mission, he once explained, was to be a good friend and a good example: “I must make people say this when they see me: ‘This man is so good that his religion must be good.'”

And he saw himself as the advance guard of what he envisioned as a missionary movement of priests, brothers, nuns, and lay people. He had no illusions of Muslim mass-conversions, but he did believe that genuine Christian love and virtue, expressed in friendship and charity, would bring “conversions, at the end of 25, 50, or 100 years, as fruit ripens.”


“I do not think there is a gospel phrase which has made a deeper impression on me and transformed my life more than this one: ‘Insofar as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.’ One has only to think that these words were spoken by the uncreated Truth, who also said, ‘This is my body . . . this is my blood . . .’ to be kindled into searching for Jesus and loving him in ‘the least of these brothers of mine,’ these sinners, these poor people.”
His deep love and respect for the Muslims was matched by his heart for the poor. Like so many saints and spiritual masters before him, he came to see a profound connection between Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist and his presence in the poor and oppressed:

He helped farmers find ways to irrigate their crops in the desert; he fed the hungry, and helped the sick. Most controversially, he began buying the freedom of slaves from their Muslim captors.

France had abolished the flourishing Muslim practice of slavery upon establishing colonial rule in Algeria. But slavery continued, with colonial officials turning a blind eye for fear of a backlash from volatile tribal chiefs and other major slave holders.

Charles wrote indignant letters to Church authorities, demanding that they denounce “the monstrous injustice,” and expressing outrage that “the representatives of Jesus are happy to defend ‘with a whisper in the ear’ and not ‘with a shout from the rooftops’ the cause which is that of justice and charity.”

He purchased the freedom of numerous slaves, including one who became his personal aide and, fourteen years later, an eyewitness to his death.

Here’s another good site, with many quotes.

De Foucauld’s life and witness is sometimes misrepresented as an argument against conversion as a goal of mission. Studying what he actually said and did reveals this characterization to be just that – a misrepresentation.  Charles de Foucauld certainly took the long view. He saw his presence as a witness to Christ by virtue of simply living in friendship, community and love, but he was not indifferent on the question of conversion. He hoped and prayed for it, and saw his way of life as sowing seeds that others might harvest decades hence in a challenging landscape.

Below are several photos from the International Missionary Photography Archive at USC. Fascinating. Enter anything into the search box – here’s what you get with “Catholic.” And below are some photos related to Charles to Foucauld. These are postcards and the description is from those postcards, originally in French, explained in English. Links go to the USC site:

What the postcard actually says on the front is that this is the structure where Foucauld was “treacherously captured and put to death.”

Again, the description actually emphasizes the site as the location of his death.

Men before Charles de Foucauld’s tomb, Algeria, ca.1920-1940

Men before Charles de Foucauld’s tomb, Algeria, ca.1920-1940

Here’s what happened:

I realized (duh) that our Big Trip is…not too far away. And while I had reserved accommodations at our first two stops back in February, knowing that they were popular anyway and this summer would undoubtedly see heavy travel…that’s all I had done (aside from the plane tickets). And given we will be in this place without a car and, like all European destinations, you pay more for train tickets the closer you get to departure, I decided that I needed to set aside my whatever-we’ll-get-there-sometime-and-what-we-see-we’ll-see philosophy for this trip at least and actually – gulp – plan, rather than just “prepare.”

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Immersed in train schedules and the ins-and-outs of British rail cards and passes, asking advice on travel forums and doing all kinds of calculations and even buying tickets for experiences ahead of time (?! What?), the whole trip is just about reserved. Every accommodation – check – most of the train tickets – check – tickets to see Viking things and puffins and such.

It’s actually kind of a relief, and it’s definitely helpful to my state of mind. That’s done, my brain can say, and move on.

Let’s go.

Titus Brandsma

The first canonization ceremony since 2019 will be held this coming Sunday at St. Peter’s. Among the canonized are Titus Brandsma and Charles de Foucauld. Brandsma first

Blessed Titus Brandsma was born in Oegeklooster, Netherlands, in 1881 and entered the Carmelites in 1898. Ordained in 1905, he was sent to Rome for further studies and, while there, became a correspondent for several Dutch newspapers and magazines. When he returned home, he founded the magazine Karmelrozen and, in 1935, was named chaplain to the Dutch Catholic journalists’ association. During World War II, he was arrested and sent to Dachau for treason after defending Jews and encouraging Catholic newspapers not to print Nazi propaganda. He was killed with a lethal injection in 1942 at the age of 61 and cremated at the camp.

From a Carmelite website:

Born in the Frisian city of Bolsward, Holland, in 1881, Bl. Titus Brandsma joined the Carmelites while still young and was ordained priest in 1905. He undertook further studies in Rome and was awarded a doctorate in philosophy at the Gregorian Pontifical University.

titus_brandsma

Returning to Holland, he taught in a number of schools before taking up a post as Professor of Philosophy and the History of Mysticism at the Catholic University of Nijmegen where he was later appointed Rector Magnificus. A noted writer and journalist, in 1935, he was appointed adviser to the bishops, for Catholic journalists. He was noted for being ready to receive anyone in difficulty and to help in whatever way he could. In the period leading up to and during the Nazi occupation in Holland, he argued passionately against the National Socialist ideology, basing his stand on the Gospels, and he defended the right to freedom in education and for the Catholic Press. As a result, he was imprisoned. So began his Calvary, involving great personal suffering and degradation whilst, at the same time, he himself brought solace and comfort to the other internees and begged God’s blessing on his jailers. In the midst of such inhuman suffering, he possessed the precious ability to bring an awareness of goodness, love and peace. He passed from one prison or camp to another until he arrived in Dachau where he was killed on 26th July 1942. He was beatified as a martyr by Pope John Paul II on 3rd November 1985.

I included Blessed Titus in The Loyola Kids Book of Saints under “Saints are People Who Tell the Truth.”

"amy welborn"

A couple of pages are online available for viewing, here. Well, and here:

Brandsma came to the United States in 1935, where he lectured at Catholic University.  These writings on Carmelite spirituality were based on those talks.

You can read his last few letters here.

Sicily, 2009.

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