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Archive for the ‘Year of Mercy’ Category

He’s in The Loyola Kids Book of Saints. 

"amy welborn"

 

 

In 2010, the Church experienced the same close juxtaposition of the the Lazarus Gospel and this saint as we did this year. B16 commented:

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 16: 19-31), Jesus tells the Parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus. The former lives in luxury and egoism and when he dies, he will go to hell. The poor man on the contrary eats the food left over from the table of the rich man, and at his death he will be brought by angels to his eternal dwelling place with God and the saints. “Blessed are you poor”, the Lord proclaimed to his disciples, “for yours is the Kingdom of God” (Lk 6: 20). But the message of the parable goes further. It reminds us that while we are in this world we should listen to the Lord who speaks through the Sacred Scriptures and to live according to his will, otherwise after death it will be too late to repent. This parable teaches us two lessons: the first is that God loves the poor and comforts their humiliation; the second is that our eternal destiny is conditioned by our attitude, it is up to us to follow the path that God has laid out for us in order to attain life and this path is love, not intended as a feeling but as service to others in the charity of Christ.

By a happy coincidence, tomorrow we shall be celebrating the Liturgical Memorial of St Vincent de Paul, Patron of Catholic charities, on the 350th anniversary of his death. In 16th-century France, he himself keenly perceived the strong contrast between the richest and the poorest of people. In fact, as a priest, he had the opportunity to experience the aristocratic life and life in the country, as well as the dregs of society in Paris. Encouraged by the love of Christ, Vincent de Paul knew how to organize permanent forms of service for marginalized people, giving life to the so-called “Charitées” and “Charities”, that is the groups of women who gave their time and belongings to the most marginalized people. Some of these volunteers chose to consecrate themselves completely to God and to the poor, with St Louise de Marillac, and St Vincent, Founder of the “Daughters of Charity” the first female congregation to live a consecrated life “in the world”, with the common people, including the sick and the needy.

 

More about St. Vincent de Paul:

 

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Early this past summer, Cardinal Sarah gave a talk at a conference in London in which he suggested that priests take another look at the ad orientem posture during Mass.

Many, many blog posts and articles have been written and passed around since, and I’m sure there are more to come if, indeed, some priests and bishops have been inspired by Cardinal Sarah’s gentle suggestion that if one is going to revisit the practice, the First Sunday of Advent would be a good time to do so.

I have written quite a bit on this matter before, and in a minute, I’ll link to some of those older blog posts, but for the moment, I just want to share some of what I’ve been thinking about on this score in the wake of the Cardinal’s talk and the fallout from it.  I offer these points in the hopes that they’ll be a help to the people in the pews who might be seeing this posture for the first time and are confused by it, as well as for priests who might be considering it.

  • This shouldn’t be a big deal. Both postures are permitted – and ad orientem is even assumed by the rubrics in the sacramentary.
  • If you see a priest celebrating Mass this way, don’t be shocked or offended. It doesn’t mean he hates you or thinks he’s better than you are. He’s praying. For you.
  • Celebrating Mass in this posture – facing the same way as the people in the congregation – was the norm for most of Catholic history. It is still the way the liturgy is celebrated in most Eastern Catholic Churches (not Maronite Rite, in my experience), Eastern Orthodox Churches and even in some High Anglican parishes and some Lutheran churches. Here, for example, are photos of  Lutheran services:
  • Source of photo on left. Photo on right. 
  • To flesh out this last point – here’s a blog post from a Lutheran blog on liturgy expanding on the logic of ad orientem.
  • So why did versus populum become the norm in Latin Catholicism? Many reasons, but when you read the literature of the liturgical movement on this score, the idea was that in turning the priest around (in conjunction with the vernacular) , the people would understand more of the Mass and feel more connected to the action at the altar. There is more, but I think that is the simplest way to look at it.
  • But as is always the case, change produces unintended consequences. We can argue about this all day – and who knows, we might! – but in my mind, the primary and quite negative consequence of versus populum has been pervasive expectation that the personality of the priest has an important and even central liturgical function.
  • In other words, ironically, the act which was supposed to involve the people more rendered the person of the cleric more important.
  • In the Mass, the priest is, of course, of central importance because he serves as in persona Christi. But the genius of the Roman liturgy historically is that the ritual supports his role at the same time as it buries and subsumes his individual personality under vestments, prescribed movements and words, not to speak of the roles that other ministers play. He does not wear his own clothes or say words of his own choosing. He must be present, but everything about what surrounds him in the moment points us to Christ, not this individual human being.
  • Which now brings us to possible complaints about this posture. These are simply an intensification of the complaints one hears about priest-celebrants all the time, and are reflective of the misplaced expectations congregations sometimes have of priests and which, in turn, I think are fed and enabled precisely by the versus populum posture, especially if a priest encourages it by his own liturgical stylings.
  • This childish notion that one’s experience of the liturgy is somehow dependent on whether or not Father is looking at us when he is praying to God is just that. Childish. Add to that concerns about how much he smiles, how friendly and welcoming he is, the jokes he tells and how relaxed he is, and you have, not The Most Well-Educated Laity in History at Mass, but a bunch of needy infants.  It also puts an inordinate amount of pressure on priests. Not only are they shoved up on pedestals, they are considered deficient if they fail to  warmly crack jokes and make eye contact in the process.
  • I’ll also be so bold as to offer some suggestions to parishes and priests considering incorporating this posture into liturgy.
  • Don’t make a huge deal of it. Explain things simply. Emphasize historical continuity, that the rubrics assume it, and that many, many other Christians experience worship in this way. Explain the purpose is to help everyone focus on God as a community. Extra points for mentioning that this is the way Thomas Merton celebrated Mass.
  • Consider making a joke or two about how the congregation might be relieved not to have to study your face through the entire Mass or something. I know! A joke!
  • Start with daily Mass, school Masses or special Masses for smaller groups.
  • Don’t elevate this change to The Most Important Thing About Our Parish. If it is a new initiative, consider coupling it with another new mission-oriented, Work of Mercy-type  initiative for the parish. (or 2!)
  • Catechize, explain thoroughly, but don’t clutch the podium, heave deep apologetic sighs, and generally act as if you expect the worst.

 

"amy welborn"

 

As I said, I’ve blogged on this before. Here are some links.

From a previous iteration of the blog, I crowdsourced for feedback on ad orientem in non-Catholic Christian traditions. 

Back in 2008, I had three days in a row of focused discussion of this issue.

First – and actually, this is one of my favorite blog posts – I posted a photograph of a TLM, and just asked people to respond to it. I called the post “Necessary Conversations” because I wanted to encourage people on all “sides” to express their responses and listen to each other.

The next day, I reflected on those responses. At the end of the post, I highlighted one of the responses to the photograph, a response I still think about when I’m in the pew, and the priest in chasuble passes me in the entrance procession:

I see a man offering a sacrifice. The man has a cross on his back.

The third day, I reflected a bit on clericalism in this context.

Finally, I’m going to reproduce part of a two-year old blog post here, just because I like it and it encapsulates so much of what I want to say pretty succinctly:

As it happens, last weekend, we attended Mass in South Carolina, and this happened:

"amy welborn"

It was at Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island. Stella Maris is a lovely, tiny church.  I had hoped that it might be a little less crowded this time, since the summer season was, of course, over, but it was not to be.  The place was packed, with, I believe, the overflow area packed as well.  Fortunately, we got there just in time to get a seat in the main body of the church – which, as I said, is tiny and historic.  It can’t be physically expanded…so they just have to pack them in in whatever way they can.

Tons of servers, good music, solid, focused preaching. Post-Mass prayers, which, in my limited experience, are becoming more and more common in the southern Catholic churches.

And, of course,  the Eucharistic Prayer prayed ad orientem. The fact is, the sanctuary is too small to accommodate another freestanding altar, and that is just fine.  It was all done matter-of-factly with no fuss and it didn’t seem that the engaged, loudly-singing congregation felt excluded, alienated and crushed by clerical privilege, but who knows, I could be wrong.

 

 

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This past week, the fruits of some past labors came to fruition all at once. That’s the way it is in writing, even in the age of so much instant publication. What you write today will come to light in a year or so, which means if you’re writing religious stuff, you’re often off, liturgical-year wise, writing about Christmas in May and Easter in November.

Last week, I mentioned that I received my copies of Praying with the Pivotal Players. Right now, you can get it as part of the entire study program and order it individually through the WOF website. It’s on Amazon, but I have no idea when it will actually be available.

"pivotal players"

Then on Saturday, I received a box containing my copies of the 2016 Advent devotional Daybreaks published by Liguori. This is an annual publication, and I’m honored to join the roster of authors who have contributed in the past. A Spanish language edition will also be available – and I also wrote the Lent 2017 devotional as well. 

Advent 2016 Daily Devotional

 

Lent Daily Devotional

So if you are responsible for ordering such materials for a diocese, school or parish..please consider this!

Sunday the 18th, the Living Faith daily devotional was written by me.   Before that, I’d contributed the September 4 devotion.

Also last week, I made De-Coding Da Vinci available in pdf form. More here. 

Also …with the feast of St. Francis of Assisi coming up, remember that I have copies of Adventure in Assisi to sell – signed or not, your choice! Go here for information on that. 

assisi

 

And now…time to get to work this Monday morning on things that will be published next fall…

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The full text of Pope Francis’ homily:

Following Jesus is a serious task, and, at the same time, one filled with joy; it takes a certain daring and courage to recognize the divine Master in the poorest of the poor and to give oneself in their service.  In order to do so, volunteers, who out of love of Jesus serve the poor and the needy, do not expect any thanks or recompense; rather they renounce all this because they have discovered true love.  Just as the Lord has come to meet me and has stooped down to my level in my hour of need, so too do I go to meet him, bending low before those who have lost faith or who live as though God did not exist, before young people without values or ideals, before families in crisis, before the ill and the imprisoned, before refugees and immigrants, before the weak and defenceless in body and spirit, before abandoned children, before the elderly who are on their own.  Wherever someone is reaching out, asking for a helping hand in order to get up, this is where our presence – and the presence of the Church which sustains and offers hope – must be.

Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded.  She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that “the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable”.   She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created.  For Mother Teresa, mercy was the “salt” which gave flavour to her work, it was the “light” which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.

 

The articles at Angelus News – the Archdiocese of Los Angeles – are all very good, including this one by David Scott.

One of the most telling aspects of the Missionaries of Charity is how challenging it is to find information about their present activities online. They do not have a dynamic, smooth online brand or platform, they are not on social media, and it is even hard to just find a list of their locations. In fact, it’s impossible. This is the best I could do – on a web page devoted to volunteering with the MOC.  

I was interested in finding out if and how local news covered the MOC in their area in light of the canonization. It wasn’t an exhaustive search, but here’s some of what I found:

In Washington, DC:

At the Missionaries of Charity facility in Northeast Washington, he now helps care for 51 ill and aging men and women alongside 34 nuns and nuns-in-training. It is a place apart from the rest of Washington, secluded from curious neighbors by expansive gardens. And it is a place suffused with veneration for Mother Teresa, who will become a saint in the Catholic Church on Sunday….

…When their founder officially becomes Saint Teresa of Calcutta at a canonization Mass at the Vatican on Sunday, her nuns will celebrate all over the world – including in the District, where they maintain a presence in three locations.

There’s a contemplative order, a few nuns devoted to prayer, not works. There’s a facility the nuns operate for homeless single mothers in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood. And there’s the nursing home, on a hill overlooking in the Woodridge neighborhood, near the District’s eastern border.

NYC:

The sisters live in a brick building with a banner of St. Teresa’s centennial stamp from 2010 hanging outside the front of the home facing a housing project. The sisters live without computers and wash their clothes by hand. They avoid pageantry for the good they do—rarely granting interviews or permitting media to enter the convent.

“We’re doing God’s will for us because this is our vocation,” said Sister Clare, who entered the Missionaries of Charity in 1979.

“We will only have true joy and peace when we do what God wants. So we’re called to this life and God has given us the grace to live this life. When this is your vocation, you receive a joy to be with the poor. It is true there are many sacrifices, but also many joys. If we live it, we will have joy.”…

 

…Past the garden, an entrance to a soup kitchen and homeless shelter awaits. Some 80 men and women, sitting at tables in separate rooms, are led in prayer before enjoying an early lunch of pasta with pie or cake for dessert.

Painted in royal blue, the walls of the eating area sport pictures including ones of St. Teresa and another of Jesus at the Last Supper as well as prayers such as the Hail Mary written on poster-size paper. Upstairs from the eating area is the homeless shelter for 18 men, who arrive at 4 p.m. and leave before 6 a.m. Two volunteers oversee the shelter at night.

“The sisters are really kind and wonderful to the volunteers. They are helping the poor with food and clothes as well as their spiritual lives,” said Cesar Mateos, a teacher for children with special needs in Spain who was volunteering in the Bronx for the month.

Norristown, PA:

Mother Teresa herself founded the house in 1984 — one of 17 in a division that covers the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada — at the request of the local archbishop.

Since that time, a rotating group of four sisters has lived in the house and fulfilled the vows of the order: chastity, poverty, obedience and free service to the poorest of the poor.

“All our work is immediate service,” said Sister Regis. “We are not going for continuous work, that someone else can do. Today the person is hungry, today the person has no place to stay.”

Along with an army of volunteers from are Catholic parishes, the order runs a soup kitchen that serves lunch most days. The community also operates an emergency women’s shelter with 16 beds and holds Sunday school for children. The sisters are also missionaries, providing services in tandem with evangelizing and prayer.

San Francisco (story is from 2015)

Six days a week the Missionaries of Charity and volunteers serve a home-cooked dinner to about 100-150 mostly homeless people, many of whom live near or under the freeway that passes over the intersection of Potrero Avenue and Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco. The Missionaries cook the meal at their home at 55 Sadowa, near St. Michael’s Korean Church. They serve the food around 4 p.m. every day but Thursday, the sisters’ dedicated day of prayer. The tables are set up just outside the fence of the ballfield at James Rolph Playground. The sisters help in many ways, including cutting fingernails and trimming beards and hair.
The Missionaries of Charity, founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in 1950, came to San Francisco in 1982, when Blessed Teresa established a novitiate in a convent adjacent to St. Paul Church. Shortly afterward, the Missionaries opened a hospice for AIDS patients, the Gift of Love, now located in Pacifica, and a home for pregnant women, Queen of Peace.

And finally, in Kentucky. If you click through to any of these stories, include this o Kentucky. If you click through to any of these stories, include this one. I had no idea there was a Missionaries of Charity foundation in rural eastern Kentucky:

Typical days include about six hours of visiting with the sick and needy.

Among those who received a visit from the sisters on Tuesday were Carol and Roy Church.

Roy has a number of health problems and is recovering from recent foot surgery. As he reclined on a small bed in the front room of their home, Sister Suma Rani took a peek at his dressings.

“Time to cut,” she told Carol Church, pointing to the long nail on Roy’s big toe. “Be careful.”

They chatted about how each member of the family was doing, the coyotes that howl at night and the bear that ambled across the family’s front yard.

The nuns offered a bit of advice about a struggling teenager and, before they left, they prayed.

“That’s the best part,” Carol Church said.

She said the nuns have given them food, helped get repairs made to their ceiling and floor and cared for their children at their summer Bible camp.

“They have done so much for us,” she said. “They do for everybody around here.”

Missionaries of Charity in America

 

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Simeon Stylites may have heard a vocational call to stay in one spot for most of his life, but his feast day is all over the place, calendar-wise. He’s on the Roman calendar for January 5, although in this country the celebration of St. John Neumann would dominate that day – as if we’d be celebrating a Pillar Saint at all…Various Eastern Christian groups celebrate him on different days, but even though I have him for January 5 in the Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints, I wanted to chat about him a bit today…since Byzantine Catholics celebrate him on September 1. 

The question might come up – why include this nutty guy in a book of saints for children in the 21st century at all? Isn’t he a little scary and off-putting? Don’t we want the kids to feel that Christianity is normal and fun and won’t make them weird?

Nope. Christianity, to take a Chestertonian sort of position, is both the most normal thing in the world and the weirdest. It is normal because it alone reflects the whole of life and reality as it is, but since the World dwells mostly in denial of this reality, yes, Christianity is weird. The sooner kids understand that paradoxical dynamic, the better.

Further, Catholic spirituality is all about seeing the movement of grace everywhere. Read the great spiritual writers. They will advise you to seek God in all that happens to you: in those who hurt you, in those who mock you, in suffering and in witnessing what seems strange and even insane.

This kind of radical spirituality – dwelling on a platform on a pillar for decades – is unusual, but St. Simeon Stylites was not the only figure who embraced it. There were others, some saints, some not. St. Simeon is important for us because September 1, which coincides with his feast, begins the Byzantine Catholic liturgical year. 

So just a couple of pages from the book. He’s in the section, “Saints Are People Who Surprise Others.”

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— 1 —

Some of you might have heard an NPR story that ran last week about the town of Geel, Belgium. For hundreds of years, Geel has practiced radical hospitality towards the mentally ill and mentally disabled:

The integration of people with mental disorders into Geel society has fascinated scholars for centuries. In 1862, Dr. Louiseau, a visiting French doctor, described it as “the extraordinary phenomenon presented at Geel of 400 insane persons moving freely about in the midst of a population which tolerates them without fear and without emotion.” Nearly 100 years after that, an American psychiatrist named Charles D. Aring wrote in the journal JAMA, “The remarkable aspect of the Gheel experience, for the uninitiated[,] is the attitude of the citizenry.”

Early psychiatrists who observed Geel noticed that the treatment prescribed for mental patients was, in fact, no treatment at all. “To them, treating the insane, meant to simply live with them, share their work, their distractions,” Jacques-Joseph Moreau wrote in 1845. He and others advocated for that communion. “In a colony, like in Geel, the crazy people … have not completely lost their dignity as reasonable human beings.” In the next half-century, many would uphold Geel’s model as the best standard of practice for mental disorders.

This story is a very useful antidote to the current popular notion that it’s only recently that Catholics have learned how to be merciful, that in the past, the Church was all about building walls and elevating doctrine above pastoral care and looking inward.

How interesting that somehow, in this doctrinally “strict” culture in which no one supposedly understood what it really meant to follow Christ because the Mass was in Latin said quietly by the priest with His! Back! To! The! People!...this happened.

In the mid-14th century, Geel erected a church in Dymphna’s honor; it was built on the spot where she was buried. Around this time, rumors spread about disturbed individuals who were cured upon visiting Geel. As these accounts circulated, people began bringing disturbed family members, hoping for their own miracle. And many embattled souls made it to Geel on their own.

A building contiguous to St. Dymphna Church was built to accommodate the troubled pilgrims. Soon enough, the capacity of this structure was exceeded. Church authorities appealed to the citizens of Geel, who responded in a way that would eventually designate Geel as “the charitable city”: They welcomed mentally ill strangers into their homes.

The Geel community showed remarkable compassion, particularly for an era when most any sort of psychological aberration was viewed as being due to demonic influence or possession. Ronald J. Comer’s Abnormal Psychology mentions the typical techniques of the time for dealing with the psychologically aberrant. Exorcisms, of course, were performed. “Holy water” or “bitter drinks” might be administered. If these remedies failed to produce results, the ensuing therapy could consist of flogging, scalding, stretching of limbs, or starvation. It was hoped that these extreme measures might expunge the iniquity.

In contrast to these measures was the Geel way, in which the mentally ill, who were called “boarders” instead of “patients,” became a valued part of the community. Many of the boarders helped with agricultural labor. They were allowed to go about the village, and some even became regulars at local taverns. Some boarders stayed in Geel for only a few months; others stayed for the rest of their lives.

The boarder population peaked in the year 1938, when the number reached 3,736. About 1,600 remained by the late 1970s. Geel now has some 500 boarders and a total population of about 35,000.

For hundreds and hundreds of years, Geel was heavily influenced by purported miracles and the supernatural influence of Dymphna. This changed when St. Dymphna Church was closed by French revolutionary armies in 1797. Although the church would reopen, there was a paradigm shift after the French Revolution, as mental illness became the “concern of doctors, and not of pastors,” according to Eugeen Roosens, author of Mental Patients in Town Life: Geel — Europe’s First Therapeutic Community.

 

— 2 —

Here’s a nugget for the New Evangelization:

Southern Baptist congregations are also losing members who are leaving the faith altogether. The losses here are worse than to evangelical churches. Sure, some people who grew up with no religion convert and join an SBC church. But for each convert, the SBC loses three of its youth who grow up to have no religious affiliation.

Not all who leave the SBC do so for other conservative or moderate churches. There is about three percent who join liberal Protestant churches. There is also a couple percent who join a non-Christian religion. Southern Baptists rarely bring in members from either group.

The only net-gain for the SBC are from Catholics. Very few who grew up in an SBC church convert to Catholicism. Southern Baptists are able to bring in about two Catholics for every one they lose to the Catholic Church.

 

— 3 —

I may have mentioned this before, but if you are on Instagram, consider adding the African Catholics account to your feed. It will greatly expand your churchy vision.

 — 4 —

Earlier this week, we took a little Georgia foray. The boys had spent the Fourth in Florida and I went to fetch them. On the way back we stopped in Albany and Columbus.

We had stopped in Albany last year  – after our Warm Springs visit – at the Ray Charles memorial downtown. It was blistering hot, so we didn’t linger. This time, after a meal at the Yelp-recommended Pearly’s Famous Country Cooking – super friendly have a blessed day service –  we stopped at the Chehaw Park, which featured a small zoo.

And again – shockingly for midday in the beginning of July – it was super hot and the animals responded in kind. But – we didn’t pay any admission because of our zoo membership here, and I wouldn’t have stopped if we had to pay, anyway.

So it was worth a 30-minute stop that wasn’t out of the way on the journey somewhere else to see a bunch of gators, some chameleons, two beaded lizards, a few other interesting reptiles, some meerkats and a rhino. But not worth a separate trip, for sure. Especially if you ever, you know, visited a zoo before.

— 5 

Then Columbus. Well, let me explain something first.

If you are traveling from Birmingham to the not-panhandle of Florida, there are three ways you can go.

First, you can head down 65 to Montgomery, then take a state highway to Troy, then Dothan, then cross over to Florida, catch I-10 and drive east. I did that once and swore never again. Horrible. The road between Montgomery and Dothan is slow and going around Dothan is hellish. I’m convinced the Dothan city fathers and mothers keep it that way to encourage you to just give up on driving, stay a while and spend some money.

Secondly, there is a more diagonal path out of Birmingham on a highway 280 that takes you down towards Auburn, then across the border to Columbus, by Albany and then catching I-75 somewhere, perhaps Tifton. I had never taken this way because I didn’t know how fast the state roads were. I had visions of stopping at stoplights in small towns every five miles.

Last, there is straight interstate. This is the longest, mile-wise, and Google Maps hardly ever recommends it, but it’s also usually the fastest. I-20 across to Atlanta, the 75 down to Florida. Because you can go, er, 70 mph, it’s quicker than any of the others if there are no traffic issues. Recently, though, they have been doing construction south of Atlanta, and that Google Maps shows lots and lots of red in that area, which I experienced when I took them down last week, so when I returned with them, I thought we’d go the Columbus way, not only because I thought it was time to give it a chance, but also because I wanted to see Columbus.

(I had thought about doing Andersonville this trip – but ultimately decided it needed more context and time to process the awfulness, and this wasn’t the moment for that.)

As it turns out, you can go pretty fast on much of the route -the speed limit is 65 for big stretches of it. The only aggravating part of it to me was between Albany and 75, which seemed interminable on the way down, but that might be because it was dark and I was ready to stop.

6–

Anyway, Columbus.

Columbus is on the Chatahoochee River, which also flows up around Atlanta…a big river. It’s also the home of the huge Fort Benning, so there’s a substantial military presence and identity in the town. Our primary destinations were two this time: the National Infantry Museum and the riverfront.

The first is large and designed to impress. The exhibits are very well done, absorbing and not jingoistic at all. We didn’t see all of it because we didn’t arrive until 3:45 and they close at 5, but we did get a good look at their most well-known exhibit “The Last 100 Yards” and exhibit halls that traced the history of the infantry. I learned a few things – like in the days of the calvary, horses were sorted by color for different units to better identify them.

Part of “The Last 100 Yards” exhibit

IMG_20160705_162328

The WWI Trench exhibit was very good and helpful for understanding. 

(Note – the museum is free, but donations encouraged)

There’s also a Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, which I would like to hit next time.

Then it was down to the Riverfront, and we saw once again how the presence of water really helps a downtown – something we don’t have here in land-locked Birmingham. It’s not as park-like as the Greeneville, South Caroline riverfront and not as busy and commercially vibrant as Chattanooga, but it’s not dead either, by any means. There’s a whitewater rafting service that runs the rapids – but it didn’t seem like a very long course, unless I wasn’t understanding the set-up. The same service runs a zipline across the river, so you can zip from Georgia to Alabama, if you like.


Riverfront, white water course..on right, turbines and in background one of the many former cotton warehouses and mills that lined the river. 

 

It was nice – we might return – it’s only 2.5 miles from Birmingham, and there’s a state park nearby: Providence Canyon, which is apparently impressive, but also educational since it’s not the result of millenia of natural erosion, but of poor 19th and early 20th century farming practices. It’s also (they say) best to see it when the leaves are off the trees. And probably not so damn hot. So we’ll wait for late fall/winter for that…

— 7 —

We’ll be on another short day-or-two trip next week, so stay tuned on Instagram and Snapchat (amywelborn2) for that.

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

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…The Church rejuvenates…

(Why theology is good, and history helps.)

The title and first words (because that’s where they get the titles from) of a new statement from the CDF on charisms and new movements. Presented today, it was signed on May 15, Pentecost.

It’s not a long read, and it’s very good and helpful, particularly as we navigate through theses times in which we are continually presented with a vision of Church life that implies on a regular basis that the institutional Church and the Holy Spirit are at odds.

Not so:

In summary, from an examination of the biblical texts regarding the charisms, it emerges that the New Testament, while not offering a complete systematic teaching, presents affirmations of great importance that orientate ecclesial reflection and practice. One must also recognize that we do not find a univocal use of the term “charism”; rather a variety of meanings are observable, which theological reflection and the Magisterium help us to understand in the context of the complete vision of the mystery of the Church. In the present document the attention is placed on the binomial highlighted in paragraph 4 of the Dogmatic ConstitutionLumen Gentium which speaks of “hierarchical gifts and charismatic gifts”. The relationship between them appears close and well-articulated. They have the same origin and the same purpose. They are gifts of God, of the Holy Spirit, of Christ, given to contribute, in diverse ways, to the edification of the Church. He who has received the gift to lead in the Church has also the responsibility of keeping watch over the good exercise of the other charisms, in such a manner that all contribute to the good of the Church and to its evangelizing mission, knowing well that the Holy Spirit distributes the charismatic gifts to whomever he desires (cf. 1 Cor 12:11). The same Spirit gives to the hierarchy of the Church the capacity to discern the authenticity of the charisms, to welcome them with joy and gratitude, to promote them generously, and to accompany them with vigilant paternity. History itself testifies to the multiform action of the Spirit, through which the Church, “built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the capstone” (Eph 2:20), lives her mission in the world.

….

The hierarchical and charismatic gifts, therefore, appear united in reference to the intrinsic relationship between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Paraclete is, contemporaneously, the one who distributes efficaciously, through the sacraments, the salvific grace offered by Christ dead and risen again, and He is the one who bestows the charisms. In the liturgies of the Christian East, especially in the Syriac tradition, the role of the Holy Spirit, represented by the image of fire, helps to make this experience plainly manifest. Indeed the great theologian and poet Ephrem the Syrian said “the fire of compassion descends / and takes the form of bread”,[42] indicating not only the Spirit’s action relative to transforming the gifts but also relative to the believers who eat the Eucharistic bread. The Eastern perspective, with the efficacy of its images, helps us to understand how, drawing near to the Eucharist, Christ gives us the Spirit. The same Spirit, then, by way of his actions in believers, feeds the life in Christ, leading them anew to a more profound sacramental life, above all in the Eucharist. In such a manner, the free action of the Holy Spirit in history reaches believers with the gift of salvation and at the same time animates them so they may respond freely and fully with the commitment of their lives.

I think this paragraph is quite strong and a good reminder to all of us about discernment and living out faith in Christ.

…15. If, in the exercise of the hierarchical gifts, the offer of Christ’s grace, to the whole People of God throughout history, is assured, nonetheless, each individual member of the faithful is called to accept and correspond to this grace personally in the concrete circumstances of their lives. The charismatic gifts, therefore, are freely distributed by the Holy Spirit, so that sacramental grace may be fruitful in Christian life in different ways and at every level. Because these charisms “are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church”,[61] through their diverse richness, the People of God are able fully to live their evangelical mission, discerning the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.[62] The charismatic gifts, in fact, enable the faithful to respond to the gift of salvation in complete freedom and in a way suited to the times. In this way, they themselves become a gift of love for others and authentic witnesses to the Gospel before all mankind.

I appreciate that this document, produced over the signature of Cardinal Müller, CDF Prefect, pulls in the insights of Eastern Christianity – so important when speaking of the Holy Spirit.

Not being a theologian, and in particular not knowing a lot about this area of ecclesiology, I do wonder about something that struck me as missing from the discussion of evaluative criteria: issues related to closedness, secrecy and participation. It is alluded to in (e) and (h)  – that openness to other charisms as well as an understanding of the social dimension of charisms matters.  But it seems to me there is another level of this, and perhaps it is simply my fairly militant non-joiner personality at work here, but what turns me off of so many new movements and such is the elevation of the movement above the Church in terms of one’s own identity – in which being a part of the Neo-Catechumenate, Communion & Liberation, Opus Dei, the Charismatic Movement – is who you are more than simply being Catholic.

Historical detail is not normally a part of documents like this, but hopefully as others work to explain it, the Church’s historical experience in this area will be a part of those efforts, because they are so helpful in fleshing out the point: the times when the institutional church has acted imprudently, either with repressive  harshness or laxity in relationship to charisms, movements that have gone off the rails (and there have been many), movements that have patiently endured and borne fruit and even movements that have had their time, been fruitful in a particular moment, but have receded, not because they “failed,” but because their purpose was borne out of and for particular needs that are no more.

All in all, it’s a welcome, balanced corrective to the current wave of false dichotomies and straw men arguments that suggest that the institutional Church is, almost by nature, opposed to the usually vaguely-defined work of the Spirit – unless, of course, it’s the particular representative of the institutional Church whose doing the talking at the moment.

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