This is something I wrote to be part of a bigger project, but then I went to Italy and lost interest in the project. So…repurposing, and slightly edited.

Small children wiggled at my side during Mass on and off for decades. During those years, we obviously sat near the front. Not the outright first row, that’s obnoxious. But close, because, as I always used to say, you’d be bored and restless too if your view for an hour was the backs of people three times your size.  

Life changes. The little kids have their own kids, they practice law, they climb mountains. The skin on my hands is thinner and spotted, the veins stand in bolder relief, it’s harder to lose weight, my hair, if I were a spiritually serious person and stopped dyeing it, would be completely gray. Also, most of time, I’m at Mass alone.

Don’t be sad. Because I’m not.

My hearing is fine (my kids would dispute that, but they’re obviously wrong) as is my contact-assisted vision, so these days, my happy place in the parish church is in the back, near the big doors inlaid with a diamond pattern of leaded glass. It’s an especially great day if that one folding chair is set up behind the last pew. I’ll grab it and settle in the corner next to the holy water tank and the century-old plaque of donors’ names.

Humility? Am I the penitent publican? Nice try, but that’s a obviously a trick question, since either yes or no will condemn me, so no comment.  Did I arrive late? Maybe, and honestly, not by accident either. Listen, I know what the readings are.

 It’s not even because I generally, neurotically, cannot sit with my back with my back to a space.  Although, all right, it might be a little of that:  in restaurants, I can’t sit comfortably unless I can see what’s going on in the room.  I just can’t. Do I anticipate gunfire? A raid?  Maybe. But more likely, it’s the same quirk that moves me to sit in the rear of church during Mass, and to even pause before I enter, looking through those thick glass panes for a moment or two.  I not only want to, but I must  take it all in.

Could I tell you how many times I read Harriet the Spy as a child?  No clue, just …many, it’s probably obvious by now.  But in addition, as I get older, my position in this body seems to be shifting. Sitting in the front speaks of a life centered on quieting, teaching, forming and directing, of a time of life when molding and shaping other people is your job and actually seems possible.

The contentment of sitting in the back and observing emerges from a different time, and God help me, I refuse to  say season – the time of life when you’ve learned that people are who they are, and you might as well let them be, unless they ask for your help. Young, we’re yapping with confidence, pointing and pushing. The years pass, the people grow up, you learn to let go. It’s not resignation, because you’re still full of advice and you’re always ready to help. It’s just acceptance. It’s surrender, but in a good way. The place in the back seems right to me, then. It’s a place to appreciate, and pray for the crew, known and known, seen and unseen.

When I sit in the back near the door, I’m also living out my sense of how I fit in this place. I absolutely belong – because I’m Catholic and even if I’d never set foot in this particular church, I’d belong.  For the theological, ecclesiological reality is that there are no “visitors” to any Catholic church, anywhere on the globe. Are you baptized? Congratulations. We’re not congregationalists. You were baptized into the Holy Roman Catholic Church, not St. Snazzy’s Parish Community.  Every parish is my parish, and yours.

But my position in the back, firmly and comfortably inside but ready to slip out when I’m ready, reflects another layer of life, too: as a  writer who writes mostly about churchy things, sometimes annoyed, other times sarcastically, and still other times in a blind fury. Considering that, and even considering the fact that last month’s inspirational reflection might have been inspired by something you did that you didn’t see me see – well, all of that means that it’s best for me to be only lightly engaged with local Catholic institutions. It gives me cover, it mitigates against people giving me the side-eye,  wondering too much if the Catholic weirdness or injustice I wrote about last week has anything to do with this place.  There by the door, they hardly even notice me coming and going. There’s freedom in the back, on the margins near the doorway.

I never know what I’ll do with what I witness, but it’s vital, it seems, for me to see. I study other people because I’m curious and they’re all interesting and because in that Thomas Merton way, I can see them shining like the sun and I know I’m supposed to try to love them and pray for them. Even the ones I don’t particularly want to hang out with.  Who are you? Let me watch and listen and figure you out.  How are we part of this same Body? How are we even on the same planet?

I sort of know a lot of them, but not by name, and conversation isn’t necessary to live the connection. I simply believe it, this communion in the Body of Christ. I would gladly talk if I had to, but I don’t have to, and that’s the beauty of it.   I can just come through the doorway, glance around, listen, be knit together in Communion, pray with you and for you for a while, and slip back through that door.

Look, it takes all kinds to make a world, even to make this Body of Christ. The world needs the goal-busting energetic leaders and dream-followers. It needs the micromanagers and detail-obsessed. Don’t put me on a bridge that they didn’t design. All the Church People tell you to “get involved” and strive for that “vibrant” parish which mostly equals noise and activity. Fantastic and true to a point. Those works of mercy aren’t going to perform themselves, and that’s a fact. As Paul says, the Body has many parts. Your part may be to sit in the front, hang out afterwards, talk to everyone and lead the charge.  But it also needs us, whose involvement and works of mercy may not be so obvious. Even the really quiet ones standing to the side, maybe even sitting next to the door, watching and listening, getting a sense of the forest while you tend to the trees, filing it away, pondering it in our hearts, and no, that is not  eavesdropping.

Trans for Tuesday

Remember that if you want to keep with this issue, my Gender Critical Twitter list might be helpful.

  • First, the USCCB Doctrine Committee issued a statement on the moral limits of technological manipulation of the human body. You can read it here. It clearly lays out a reasoned case – of course, that is what good Catholic thought is all about, but nonetheless, it is still refreshing to see this type of reasoning applied to this issue.

And if I may contribute my usual frank talk here, because it think it’s essential, especially when those who dislike this type of clear reasoning immediately fall back on emotional manipulation: No, removing erectile tissue from a penis, flipping it inside out, pushing it up into a cavity, then stitching empty scrotal skin up around it in an attempt to stimulate labia does not fall under the category of “repairing a defect in the body.”

Much less does using powerful drugs off label to suppress puberty in a child, which is, of course, not only a matter of suppressing the development of secondary sex characteristics, but of the entire, deeply complex, interconnected process of developing from childhood to adulthood in ways that we do not fully understand.

No, that is not “repairing a defect in the body.”

Speaking of Morgan, a couple of weeks ago, he had a discussion on his show, and very ably dissected the incoherence of gender ideology. It’s worth a look and listen if you are interested in this issue.

Monday Random

To be disembedded and desynchronized is also to become subject to the stochastic order of the digital economy.

(See the last list item for context)

All right, let’s get going here.

The Solemnity of St. Joseph is being celebrated today. Here’s St. Joseph from three of my books.

Sister Rosemary Connelly, R.S.M., former executive director of Misericordia and lifelong advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities, will receive the University of Notre Dame’s 2023 Laetare Medal — the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics — at Notre Dame’s 178th University Commencement Ceremony on May 21 (Sunday).

“With her characteristic tenacity, grace and genius, Sister Rosemary has ensured that the residents of Misericordia — as wonderful children of God — have the quality of life and opportunities they deserve,” said Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. “We are inspired by her vision, her leadership and her compassion and are honored to bestow the Laetare Medal on her.”

When Sister Connelly came to Misericordia as executive director in 1969, the nonprofit on Chicago’s south side provided a home and custodial care for children with disabilities from birth to age 6. Though the children were well cared for, they did not have access to educational and enrichment activities — as was typical at the time.

Sister Connelly, however, believed passionately that the children were capable of more and deserved a higher quality of life. She began seeking out special education programming for them and when she found that nothing yet existed, she developed her own.

Today, thanks to her vision and leadership, the Misericordia community has expanded to include a 37-acre campus on Chicago’s north side serving more than 600 children and adult residents, with more than 1,200 staff members and thousands of volunteers, as well as an outreach program that offers assistance to more than 140 additional families. It is considered a benchmark in compassionate care for individuals with disabilities, offering a wide range of vocational training and educational, social, recreational, medical and therapy opportunities.

From that point on, he was determined to find a way to help these women. In 1866, he wrote a pamphlet called Rehabilitated. He sent copies to as many journalists and government officials as he could. He knew that the reason so many of those being released failed was because no one trusted them or gave them the slightest chance. He was determined to reshape public opinion. 

He announced his intentions of starting an order where women leaving prison could begin a religious life in a contemplative setting. This order was approved and is known as the Dominican Sisters of Bethany. The Order still flourishes and serves many women in different countries around the world.

Rumer Godden’s novel, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy was inspired by this order.

This edited collection, based on a conference in Vienna in 2019, investigates the relevance of Sunday and the weekly rhythm in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages in the everyday life of people, in monasticism, in synods, in further imperial and ecclesiastical laws, and in disciplinary and liturgical developments. It also covers controversies with the Jewish Sabbath as well as reflections on the aspect of rest, freedom, and of charity. While exploring different views and regional differences, the contributions show the growing importance of the Lord’s Day, especially since the sixth century, as part of the Christianization of society and the sacralization of the calendar.

For UK book buyers ages 13 to 24, print books were the most popular way to read between November 2021 and November 2022, as they accounted for 80% of purchases, research from Nielsen BookData found. That’s compared with e-books making up 14% of sales from this age group in the same period, according to the data.

It is possible, of course, to frame this as a liberation from the limits of time just as it is possible to frame our uprootedness as a liberation from the constraints of place. And, indeed, it sometimes is just that. But it is also possible that our liberation from older cultural forms, forms which were more directly informed by a place and its time, has been used against us. To be disembedded and desynchronized is also to become subject to the stochastic order of the digital economy.

The computer, after all, is, among other things, an agent of social organization and an instrument of control. But what forms of social organization does it enable and what forms of control does it make possible?

Gender Matters

Emmaus Road Publishing kindly sent me copies of two recent books of theirs focusing on a subject in which someone up there obviously discerned is an interest of mine: gender.

The books are: Metaphysics of Gender: The Normative Art of Nature and its Human Imitations and an anthology, Sexual Identity: The Harmony of Philosophy, Science and Revelation.

You can read descriptions of the books here and here.

Both add important points to the public conversation about this issue, particularly from the Catholic side of things. I’m going to talk about that, and then pull out some more general observations.

(After this post will come another – some time on Monday – with some links to other recent thoughts on this issue.)

Metaphysics of Gender is, as the title makes clear, a work of philosophy. If you have read Abigail Favale’s Genesis of Gender, you will find this a helpful expansion on the introduction she has provided.

In Metaphysics and Gender, Michele M. Schumacher offers a corrective to this distorted and distorting outlook, calling for the recovery of an anthropological vision rooted in recognition of the normative divine “art” of nature and of the likeness—and far greater unlikeness—between divine and human causality. Surveying contemporary transgender trends, Schumacher identifies and excavates their conceptual and ideological foundations in the gender theory of Judith Butler, the existentialist feminism of Simone de Beauvoir, and the atheistic existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre. To the erroneous philosophical presuppositions of these thinkers Schumacher contrasts the metaphysically grounded thought of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, advancing their positive account of the good of creation and of the meaning of ethical norms, human freedom and natural inclinations, and embodiment, and mounting a timely and trenchant defense of the divinely created human person.

What was most valuable to me was the discussion of freedom, contrasting the Sartre/de Beauvoir existentialist perspective with the Aristotelian/Thomistic view, and the source of identity in the former view – which informs the present gender ideology, as focused on desire.

Moving further, what even a casual follower of this issue will find illuminating is Schumacher’s elucidation of the role of the Other in the individuals desire-fueled journey to selfhood. In short: if each of us is forming our identity via the pursuit of desired ends, we will inevitably come into conflict. Further, it will become absolutely essential for my desire-grounded identity to be affirmed by others. Which is exactly the dynamic we see in the trans/gender ideology movement. If you question this, you are causing genocide, etc.

My relations with others are thus entirely governed by my manner of interiorizing what they reveal of my objective being. (79)

For when the Creator is no more, it is uniquely within the Other’s consciousness that my objective being is given to be . (148)

Sexual Identity is, as I said, an anthology. You can see the contents here. If you are unfamiliar with the debate, you will find the entire book helpful. At the very least, if you would like an upfront, honest account of what is at stake here, you should read the chapter on medical procedures and treatments by Patrick Lappert, MD – a retired plastic surgeon and, as it happens, permanent deacon in the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama. It’s very good, very forthright and, most importantly, sets these procedures in the context of procedures of diagnoses and care in which medicine traditionally operates, finding them, unsurprisingly, wanting.

And you just might learn, as I did, some options that are considered if your thumb gets accidentally amputated….

Here are the more general thoughts reading these books – and other pieces over the weekend – prompted.

First – and this bears expansion in another post which hopefully I will get to someday – all of the insights offered in these and other philosophical, theoretically-rooted books are well worth reading, even necessary. But at the same time, they all seem to dance around something pretty basic: there’s some insane crap going on here and we have to stop enabling it.

I mean: you can talk all you want about the ways in which thinking about sex and gender has gotten messed up from de Beauvoir on, but at some point you just have to confront narcissistic, cluster B personalities, and the power they have in a community to center all the energy on them and just say: No.

But moving on…..

What strikes me once again is the absence of engagement between the faith-based critics of gender ideology and the secular, mostly feminist critics. One would think, reading each, that the other does not exist.

And of course, if you familiar with the scene, you know that there are continual disagreements about precisely that – about the level of engagement with the other side (of your side) that is wise or appropriate. Should feminist critics of gender ideology go on Tucker Carlson? Should they work together on legislation? And so on.

Well, as I have written before, these types of disagreements are to be expected in any social movement. Anyone who has studied the history of social movements, from 19th century abolitionism and women’s suffrage movements to the 20th century civil rights and pro-life movements, not to mention political parties themselves, knows that this is so and is to be expected.

So there is nothing earth-shattering about this tension.

But at the same time, I do think that there are elements of it that should be addressed.

So Schumacher, as fine as her work is, in her critiques of the doyenne of gender ideology, Judith Butler, does not acknowledge contemporary feminist critics of Butler – at all. And there are many, just one example being philosopher Kathleen Stock, the author of Material Girls. In general, to read these faith-grounded books, one would barely know that there is a strong pushback against gender ideology that is led by self-identified (pun intended) radical feminists. This is something I – and others with larger platforms – have critiqued, say, Matt Walsh for. As valuable as his work is, Walsh completely ignores the work of feminists working against the trans movement, both as intellectuals and as activists. In Europe, for example, from the UK to France to Spain, the only substantial interest groups working consistently and vociferously, often at great personal cost, against the trans ideology are women who would call themselves progressive and feminist.

Yes, it is true, that mainstream progressive and feminist groups in the US and in Europe have definitely been captured. No argument there. But the complexities of the situation mean that at the same time, the most prominent voices being raised against the capture, at least in Europe, are also progressive and feminist.

I am always surprised and disappointed to read faith-based critiques of gender ideology that completely ignore the contributions and voices of women who are from outside that world, just as I am always disappointed – but not at all surprised – that feminist critics of gender ideology are completely blind to the fact that the gnostic nominalism that declares I’m a woman because I say so emanates from the same gnostic nominalism that proclaims this entity in a uterus is a person worthy of life when I say so.

So, to be very specific on one aspect of this – misogyny. It is blindingly obvious that the energy fueling the aggressive, rage-filled gender activists who are yelling that they are women even though they have penises and who are insistent on being admitted to women’s spaces are men who hate women. Hate. And the word for that is: misogyny.

It’s a motivation that faith-based critics seem reluctant to consider. I don’t know why. Well, I could speculate, but I won’t. Let’s just say, that even if you are attached to the idea of certain roles and social presentations of men and women, even if you see feminism as a bad thing all around, it is still allowed to admit the existence of this thing called misogyny. This particular form of misogyny that we see acted out again and again in this landscape takes two particular forms. First, the form which does get attention from the faith-based critics – the misogyny that tells young women that they should rid themselves of their healthy female body parts and attempt to present themselves as males.

Secondly – and this is the energy that is fueling the activism: it’s men hating women simply because they want to be them – for various reasons, but it all comes down this: I want to be you, I can’t and despite all my efforts, I never will. So I hate you, you uterus-having, front hole-having chest-feeder.

Here’s what you need to do if you don’t understand this: Do a search for the reactions to Kellie-Jay Keen’s current Let Women Speak tour in Australia. Or any of her events – events that are centered on simply gathering in public spaces and listening to…women…biological…natal adult human females…speak…

Nothing enrages a misogynist more than a woman saying ‘NO’.

(Today is the date, but the Solemnity is being celebrated tomorrow, March 20)

In him the Old Testament finds its fitting close. He brought the noble line of patriarchs and prophets to its promised fulfillment. What the divine goodness had offered as a promise to them, he held in his arms.  – from a homily of St. Bernardine of Siena. 

Some images for you, first from the Loyola Kids Book of Signs and Symbols. Recall the structure: left side page has an image and a basic description. Right side page goes into more depth.

Secondly, the first and last page of the entry on Joseph’s dream from the Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories. First page, to give you a sense of the narrative style and the image, the last page, to help you see how each entry concludes: circling around to some aspect of Catholic practice or teaching, along with a reflection question and a prayer prompt. Also remember that the stories in this book are organized according to when they would generally be heard in Mass during the liturgical year. So this story is in the “Advent” section. Also, links go the publisher’s site, not to Amazon.

Then, from the Loyola Kids Book of Seasons, Feasts & Celebrationsan excerpt from the back section, which highlights a few celebrations from each month, including the traditional devotion of that month which is, of course, St. Joseph for March:

Next, a vintage holy card from the Shrine of St. Joseph in Montreal that interests me because it predates the construction of the large basilica:

From the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal.  

I just love the blues on the card below and the not-quite Art-Noveauishness of it.

At the shrine featured in the vintage holy cards.  Summer 2011. 

The sign says “Reserved for pilgrims climbing on their knees.”

The wonderful Catholic artist Daniel Mitsui, whose depiction of St. Joseph dreaming, is above.

Born Blind

This Sunday’s Gospel.

This is one of my favorite Gospel narratives for a number of reasons.  The dynamic and exchanges it describes just ring so true, with this man being sent around, buffeted from the puzzled on all sides, friends, enemies and family members trying to figure out what happened to him and who did it.

And even he isn’t too sure.

The way in which Jesus heals him points ahead to the sacramentality at the core of Christian life.

Some despise ritual, say none of it matters, say that God is not bound by any of it. Of course God is not bound by it. God can do anything he likes. But in this world he created, he uses all that he created to reach us, to touch us, to heal us. Jesus could have just used his words and said – go – you’re healed, but here he didn’t. He spits. He makes mud. He rubs it on the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash.

How often are we tempted to gripe about the complexities and mysteries born of the Incarnation –  God mixing up with us is so very confusing. Wouldn’t it be simpler if God bypassed all of this mud and gunk and waved a wand, and got our attention with big gestures that no one could ignore?

Would it be simple?

I don’t know.

But it wouldn’t be consistent with the very act of Creation and God’s presence within it, that  glory and mystery of God-With-Us.

No magic wands, clearly labeled, magic words from a handbook. Just spit and mud and a push to go find the waters and wash it off.

One of the other points of this narrative that I come back to repeatedly is the process of the blind man’s faith – and I do see it as a process.

Just look at how he answers the questions he’s asked – they get gradually more specific with each time he is challenged. At first the one who healed him is just “a man.”  And no, he doesn’t know where he is.

Then, to the Pharisees, he says that he supposed the healer was “a prophet.

Then second time with the Pharisees he argues that obviously this man must be “from God.

And then, finally, after he has totally frustrated everyone, scandalized others and been thrown out of the presence of the Pharisees…. he meets Jesus. No accident. Jesus seeks him out. And gently asks him some questions – and in response, in recognition, the man, now seeing in every sense, calls him “Lord.”

It seems to me to be a very accurate account of how faith grows and develops – in response to questions and challenges in which we are forced to examine our encounter with God, who we think God is, exactly, open ourselves more and more to him until finally, we meet him again, having been through the ringer, from within and without, and can finally put our ultimate trust, no matter what others say we should do, in the One who touched us way back when.

John 9, 6 - 7 Jesus enabling the man born blind to see Art Source: stjohnpa.org

A figure whose history points out the fact that church history is complex, and that conflict – even intra-church conflict on a serious level – is not a new thing.

But also illustrates the mechanisms that existed to work through these issues and a dynamic for decision-making and discipline that was not centered on the bureaucracy surrounding the Bishop of Rome.

From the Catholic Truth Society’s Facebook post:

It’s hard to imagine one Doctor of the Church accusing another Doctor of the Church of heresy, but that is what happened in the case of St Jerome and St Cyril of Jerusalem.

During the 4th century, Arianism (a heresy which denies the divinity of Christ) proved to be incredibly popular and St Cyril of Jerusalem was surrounded by it. Despite the accusations of St Jerome, as Bishop of Jerusalm Cyril attracted the enmity of a leading Arian of the time. It was perhaps for this reason that Cyril was accused of selling church property, and forced to endure several periods of exile, and in his absence Jerusalem was torn apart by heresy.

Despite these difficulties, Cyril would eventually become known as a champion of orthodoxy. At the Council of Constantinople 381, Cyril defended the term “homoousios” in the Nicene Creed, which is the doctrine that defines the Son as being of the same in essence as as the Father. Today he is known for his catechetical lectures, which he gave during Lent to those being baptised at Easter, leading to him being declared Doctor of the Church in 1882.

Pope Benedict, in his GA talk on Cyril:

Cyril was born at or near Jerusalem in 315 A.D. He received an excellent literary education which formed the basis of his ecclesiastical culture, centred on study of the Bible. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Maximus.

When this Bishop died or was deposed in 348, Cyril was ordained a Bishop by Acacius, the influential Metropolitan of Caesarea in Palestine, a philo-Arian who must have been under the impression that in Cyril he had an ally; so as a result Cyril was suspected of having obtained his episcopal appointment by making concessions to Arianism.

Actually, Cyril very soon came into conflict with Acacius, not only in the field of doctrine but also in that of jurisdiction, because he claimed his own See to be autonomous from the Metropolitan See of Caesarea.

Cyril was exiled three times within the course of approximately 20 years: the first time was in 357, after being deposed by a Synod of Jerusalem; followed by a second exile in 360, instigated by Acacius; and finally, in 367, by a third exile – his longest, which lasted 11 years – by the philo-Arian Emperor Valens.

It was only in 378, after the Emperor’s death, that Cyril could definitively resume possession of his See and restore unity and peace to his faithful….

….Of Cyril’s writings, 24 famous catecheses have been preserved, which he delivered as Bishop in about 350.

You can find those catecheses here.

An excerpt:

Blot out from your mind all earthly care: for you are running for your soul. You are utterly forsaking the things of the world: little are the things which you are forsaking, great what the Lord is giving.

Forsake things present, and put your trust in things to come.

Have you run so many circles of the years busied in vain about the world, and have you not forty days to be free (for prayer ), for your own soul’s sake?

Be still , and know that I am God, says the Scripture.

Excuse yourself from talking many idle words: neither backbite, nor lend a willing ear to backbiters; but rather be prompt to prayer.

Show in ascetic exercise that your heart is nerved.

Cleanse your vessel, that you may receive grace more abundantly. For though remission of sins is given equally to all, the communion of the Holy Ghost is bestowed in proportion to each man’s faith. If you have laboured little, you receive little; but if you have wrought much, the reward is great. You are running for yourself, see to your own interest.

That bolded sentence is an apt reminder for Lent.

Anyway, here’s the pdf of the study guide for B16’s talks on the Church Fathers that I wrote for OSV – now out of print, so here it is for free for your taking. Use it for personal or group study. Make copies. Go for it!

Below are the Cyril-related pages.

For Friday

This is from many, many, many years ago  –  pre-K work.


From St. Patrick’s Confession: 

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, "st. Patrick"and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

3. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.

4. For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.

5. He himself said through the prophet: ‘Call upon me in the day of’ trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’ And again: ‘It is right to reveal and publish abroad the works of God.’

6. I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s desire.

St. Patrick


What is this below and what does it have to do with St. Patrick? See the end of the blog post…

St. Patrick's Well, Orvieto

From The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints:

How do you teach a classroom that’s as big as a whole country? How do you teach a whole country about God?

St. Patrick’s classroom was the whole country of Ireland and his lesson was the good news of Jesus Christ. How in the world did he do it? Well, it was only possible because he depended totally on God.


God gave Patrick the courage to speak, even when Patrick was in danger of being hurt by pagan priests who didn’t want to lose their power over the people.

Patrick’s most famous prayer shows us how close he was to God. It’s called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” A breastplate is the piece of armor that protects a soldier’s heart from harm.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left.

I also have a chapter on the beautiful Lorica prayer – or St. Patrick’s Breastplate in The Words We Pray. You can dip into it here and buy the book here. It’s one of my favorites of those I’ve written.

Here are the last two pages of the chapter:


Note: Links to books do not go to Amazon, but to the publisher’s site. Please support publishers and independent booksellers and bypass Amazon as much as you can. I cancelled Prime a couple of weeks ago and the water’s fine.

The point of St Patrick to me has always been he went back. He (like Isaac Jogues and many others) returned to the people who had caused him much suffering. Why did he return? Because he knew, first hand, that they needed to hear the Gospel. The Gospel is about forgiveness and reconciliation. Who better to bring it to them?

St. Patrick's Breastplate

St. Patrick’s Breastplate in a Wordcloud. Wordcloud made via this. Feel free to share.

The photograph at the top of the blog post is of St. Patrick’s Well in Orvieto, Italy, taken during our 2016 trip. No, St. Patrick never traveled to Italy, and no one thinks he does, either. The assumption is that the name of this very deep, intriguingly constructed well is derived from the awareness of “St. Patrick’s Purgatory” in Ireland, a cave so deep it led to Purgatory.

This incredible 16th century feat of engineering is 72 meters (174.4 feet) deep and 13 meters (43 feet) wide. Two staircases circle the central opening in a double-helix design, meaning that one person (or donkey carrying empty buckets) can travel down the staircase in one direction and never run into another person (or donkey carrying full buckets) coming up in the other direction. Seventy-two arched windows in the interior wall of the staircase filter light through the well and illuminate the brick and mortar used to seal it.

Why does a tiny town on top of a plateau of volcanic rock (or “tufa”) have such a thing? For the same reason it has such a stunning duomo! After the troops of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V sacked Rome in 1527, Pope Clement VII was held hostage in Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome’s holy fortress, for six months. He finally escaped dressed as a servant and took refuge in Orvieto. It was the perfect spot with its vantage point over the valley.

It didn’t, however, have a reliable source of water without descending from the plateau, something the Pope feared could be a issue if it were sieged. To solve the problem before it existed, Pope Clement VII commissioned Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, a visionary young Italian architect, to create a well that was at that time called “Pozzo della Rocca”, “Well of the Fortress”. Research had already been done to find the most suitable spot for a well and so the design and construction of Pozzo della Roca was begun immediately. It was finished 10 years later in 1537, under the reign of Pope Paul III.

It wasn’t until the 1800′s that the well got its new name, as it reminded some of the “well” or “cave” in Ireland called “St. Patrick’s Purgatory”.


(I always like these vintage books more for the art than the text….)

Finally, you might be interested in this, dug up from the Internet Archive: A Rhymed Life of St. Patrick by Irish writer Katharine Tynan:

Irish nationalist writer Katharine Tynan was born in Clondalkin, a suburb of Dublin, in 1859. She was educated at the Dominican Convent of St. Catherine and started writing at a young age. Though Catholic, she married a Protestant barrister; she and her husband lived in England before moving to Claremorris, in County Mayo. Tynan was friends with W.B. Yeats and Charles Parnell.

Involved in the Irish Literary Revival, Tynan expressed concern for feminist causes, the poor, and the effects of World War I—two sons fought in the war—in her work. She also meditated on her Catholic faith. A prolific writer, she wrote more than 100 novels, 12 collections of short stories, reminiscences, plays, and more than a dozen books of poetry, among them Louise de la Vallière and Other Poems (1885), Shamrocks (1887), Ballads and Lyrics (1891), Irish Poems (1913), The Flower of Peace: A Collection of the Devotional Poetry of Katharine Tynan (1914), Flower of Youth: Poems in Wartime (1915), and Late Songs (1917). She died in 1931.

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