Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sir, Yes, Sir, Deacon Payne!

"It's results we want ... You can profess Chalcedon or you can take a beatin'." [Tip: Gerard Augustinus]

Tertullian, BXVI, & Non-Violence

Over at Vox Nova, Henry Karlson distills down what Benedict XVI says about Tertullian regarding non-violence. Or, shall we say about radical Christian non-retaliation?

Union with God (EWTN)

This is a low key but (for me) useful series centering on St. Francis de Sales' teaching on devotion. I've been slowly going through it over the past month or two as spare half hours come up. The blurb: "Explore St. Francis de Sales 'Introduction to the Devout Life' with Fr. Frederick Miller."

It might be a bit elementary for the other 'Teers and readers. I thought it really started to get practical around Episode 8.

Much of this seemed rather more like confirmation than instruction per se, as in, "So that's what's happening!"

If you feel so led!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Mimetic Theory & Rene Girard

This post is for some of our visitors of late who may not be familar with the list on Mimetic Theory & Rene Girard down the side panel of our blog... This blog is dedicated to advancing MT along with the Roman Catholic Church's teaching that is using anthropology as a new language partner.

Mimetic Theory & Rene Girard - along the side panel of this blog.

Cornerstone Forum - Gil Bailie

Are the Gospels Mythical? First Things - Rene Girard

Christological Truth About History - Gil Bailie

Violence & The Sacred - Gil Bailie (part 1)

Mystery of Sin - Gil Bailie (part 2)

NPQ Interview Rene Girard

Touchstone Interview Rene Girard

Religion & Violence - Gil Bailie

Girard Without the Cross? - James Williams

Girard Among the Girardians - First Things

Colloquium On Violence & Religion - COV'R

We strongly encourage visitors to check out these links.

DC Dawn Patrol

Back in January, I wrote a post lauding the Joan-of-Arc spirit of Dawn Eden. What a treat it was to get to spend some time with her yesterday evening. Knowing she would have last night open, Dawn invited a number of frequent visitors and comment-writers at her blog, The Dawn Patrol, to share a "kaffeeklatsch".

It was a chaste thrill having an espresso, talking with others (who now have faces as well as monikers), and getting a picture taken with her (see above).

Come back when you can stay longer, Dawn!

By the way, the kaffeeklatsch happened on G. K. Chesterton's 133rd birthday -- nice.

Pope's Jesus of Nazareth - Good Samaritan

From the Jesus of Nazareth in Chapter Seven, Pope Benedict XVI takes up the story of the Good Samaritan. (p 197)
And now the Samaritan enters the stage. What will he do? He does not ask how far his obligations of solidarity extend. Nor does he ask about the merits required for eternal life. Something else happens: His heart is wrenched open. The Gospel uses the word that in Hebrew had originally referred to the mother’s womb and maternal care. Seeing this man in such a state is a blow that strikes him “viscerally,” touching his soul. “He had compassion” – that is how we translate the text today, diminishing its original vitality. Struck in his soul by the lightning flash of mercy, he himself now becomes a neighbor, heedless of any question or danger. The burden of the question thus shifts here. The issue is no longer which other person is a neighbor to me or not. The question is about me. I have to become the neighbor, and when I do, the other person counts for me “as myself.” (my emphasis)

If the question had been “Is the Samaritan my neighbor, too?” the answer would have been a pretty clear-cut no given the situation at the time. But Jesus now turns the whole matter on its head: The Samaritan, the foreigner, makes himself the neighbor and shows me that I have to learn to be a neighbor deep within and that I already have the answer in myself. I have to become like someone in love, someone whose heart is open to being shaken up by another’s need. Then I find my neighbor, or – better – then I am found by him.

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gardening Contribution

As per Athos' post below. The house of Porthos is at least trying to do its part . . .

Courtesy of Lady Porthos, who, though not Christian, has a sort of thing for Our Lady. Blurry, amateurish digiphoto courtesy of Porthos.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day +

Anamnesis - Remember Who You Are
Brothers Aramis and Porthos know my fondness for Distributist ideas and ideals. But on this Memorial Day in the United States, and elsewhere around the world, it is easy to forget the connection between our agrarian heritage -- our biblical mandate of good stewardship of the Earth and every person's closeness to the need to grow food, whether we recognize it or not.

We laud the work of such farmers as the Yeoman Farmer, whose blog provides a well needed wonderful dose of wisdom, faith, and reality. (Go and read!)

But this Memorial Day, may I humbly implore you to carve a scant fifteen minutes from your (all too) busy schedule to watch this video by Matthew Kraus.

Make it part of your devotional time today. It may change your life.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost +

The Pentecost - 1596-1600 - El Greco
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Church, Sex, & Illuminati Enemies

"What is frightening is the conjunction of massive technical power and the spiritual surrender to nihilism. A panic-stricken refusal to glance, even furtively, in the direction where meaning could still be found dominates our intellectual life. " -- René Girard

"This is precisely what the primitive sacred does: it’s the mysterium conjunctionis in this strange way. It’s always an oxymoron. It’s the world in which madness and ecstasy, in which violence becomes ecstatic, madness becomes ecstatic. The difference between madness and joy vanishes. And all other differences vanish: the difference between pleasure and pain; between life and death; between male and female vanish in the heart of this frenzy." – Gil Bailie

I ask forgiveness in advance for this long post, but the topic calls for more words than usual.

WE LIVE IN AN AGE OF SCANDAL. Perhaps not the quintessential age of scandal, but our age of scandal. The Church holds strong views on such topics as sexuality, procreation, marriage, and “disordered passions,” although these views go largely unheeded, unnoticed, or dismissed. Without the Catholic Church to draw the line in the sand firmly and consistently this world of scandal would have no way of knowing anything for certain. Is this cruel? It is actually the greatest kindness given to a fallen and wayward human race. But for many who are suffering from the ravaging effects of sin-sickness, the Church and her truth is a red flag waved before a bull that wants nothing more than to charge at any obstacle it perceives.

Does the Church hate or revile such persons made imago dei? Of course not. Yet the converse is clearly not true: those who promote lifestyles that do not generate love and life appear on a hell-bent mission to destroy all the good that the Catholic Church holds precious and of vital importance to the salvation of all people.

Mimetic theory of René Girard sees “negative imitation” and the breakdown of sexual distinctions as symptoms of cultural crisis: a “crisis of distinctions” that constitutes a “sacrificial preparation” leading to cultural collapse. Are the enemies of Catholic truth, marriage, and family conscious of taking part in such an enterprise? Hardly. When caught in such behavior and thinking, lucidity and righteousness are concomitant with viewing one’s enemy (i.e., the Catholic Church) as completely evil and deserving destruction. This is the opposite of how the Church sees those who hate her: it is one-sided “hate affair" that does not perceive their own demise if they are successful in destroying their enemy.

A "hurry-up" microcosm of this gradient is seen in the murderer who, finally, kills himself. This shows the hatred for what it truly is, self hatred turned outward: a lost soul who could not find or accept the forgiveness that would set free. Where else but the Church can this forgiveness be found? We are humans who need the corporeal, the visible, the actual -- not disembodied spirits of some gnostic dream!

Probably nowhere today is this the case as in the area of those who simultaneously want to break down all mores around promiscuous sex of all kinds and want explode the “domestic church” – marriage and the family – from within it and by changing definitions of them.
Regardless of what the medical and research communities have to say, the self-appointed enemies of the Catholic Church and the family are out to break and despoil human normalcy at any cost.

I am going to state clearly and unequivocally that these sexual-political movements are categorically a state of histrionic “negative imitation,” using the phrase of René Girard, with the Catholic Church and her truth. It is an ontological “stiff-arming” that goes to the very heart of a person at odds with the matter of which we are created, the design in which we are created, the God who so created us, the common good to which we are beholden, and even the person himself or herself who harbors such obdurate inclinations. In short, it is "flipping off" Natural Law and saying, “I can be whatever I want to be! Just see if I won’t!”

On a cultural scale, in the west we see a panoply of new, disturbing, and tyrannical laws -- nothing short of a 300-pound “canary in the mineshaft.” A symptom that tells us that the west – the EU, the United States, Canada – is experiencing cultural disintegration. The tying of the hands of the vast majority of denizens of the west by the oligarchical illuminati of Enlightenment secular rationalism who are spearheading the effort to criminal – criminalize! -- normalcy is based on luciferian logic of the first order, as well as one of the greatest religious foes of the Christian faith ever fanned by the flames of hubris; namely, Gnosticism.

But these illuminati wouldn’t be bothered with such tripe and piffle charges from the benighted people of faith who cling to the Barque of Peter. They know what is “good” for the human race …

The Catholic Church, the last and greatest bastion of revealed truth, is in for great attacks in the present and future days by persons who are too blind to see that they are bowing at the altar of an unholy, pagan heresy (Gnosticism) that will, inevitably, take them – and the rest of western civilization and all worthy of cherishing and holding onto – back to slavery and sterility of the worst kind. (The unwitting politicians who “go along to get along” with the policies of the illuminati are mere dupes.) The English Reformation of Henry VIII will perhaps look pleasant by comparison.

But the Church prays for these souls hell-bent on the destruction of all that is true, beautiful, and good. Let us not lose heart! We have lived through persecution and tribulation in this world as Christ’s representatives. Our Lord assures us:
“They hated me (too) without cause … I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble; but take courage, I have conquered the world” [Jn 15:25, 16:33]

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pope's Jesus of Nazareth - Peter's Confession

This quote, from Chapter Nine, takes up Peter’s Confession:

The great period of preaching in Galilee is at an end and we are at a decisive milestone: Jesus is setting out on the journey to the Cross and issuing a call to decision that now clearly distinguishes the group of disciples from the people who merely listen, without accompanying him on his way – a decision that clearly shapes the disciples into the beginning of Jesus’ new family, the future Church. It is characteristic of this community to be “on the way” with Jesus – what that way involves is about to be made clear. It is also characteristic that this community’s decision to accompany Jesus rests upon a realization – on a “knowledge” of Jesus that at the same time gives them a new insight into God, the one God in whom they believe as children of Israel…

… The disciples are drawn into his solitude, his communion with the Father that is reserved to him alone… They are privileged to see what the “people” do not see, and this seeing gives rise to a recognition that goes beyond the “opinion” of the people. This seeing is the wellspring of their faith, their confession; it provides the foundation of the Church. – p 290-291

Chapters could be written from a single page, even single paragraph of this book and this is no exception. A couple points for me: the word, decisive: decision used in the above passage. The origin comes from the word decide c.1380, from O.Fr. decider, from Latin decidere "to decide," lit. "to cut off," from de- "off" + cædere "to cut". Sense is of resolving difficulties "at a stroke." Like the word sacrifice, to decide brings us to a critical (or a more accurate word may be crucial) anthropological aspect of being human. We are called to decide, to leave behind one existence for another. It is interesting how today we find all sorts of justifications to put off making critical decisions, but Jesus continues to demand that we follow him, and his way always goes by way of the Cross.

There is also something here that makes me think of vocation - marriage - calling. At some point we arrive at a time where Jesus asks us for a decision that costs nothing more than our lives.

Like the ripple effect when a pebble is tossed into a lake, Jesus starts with a small core group of disciples sending them forth to make disciples of the whole world. And this discipleship is not grounded on opinion, but rather by witnesses.

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI

What Makes You Come Alive?

Oh Athos, I do believe you are onto something. Simply put, your previous post, Wars and Rumors of Wars is signaling a need - a need for us to examine our survival as a species - a need for an encounter with something, or rather someone outside of the return to the mimetic doubling of the world. What strikes me today is how important it is to begin to see the world differently, to see the world through the lens of a Girardian anthropology – suddenly all sorts of bewildering events of the times or ‘sciences’ are put to right – such things as violence, evolution, politics, life, death, the old sacred and sacramental existence.

One important aspect to Girard’s anthropology is the in-breaking of the Incarnation and how this is our only hope from the rivalry and violence. And so it is from this perspective we must ask ourselves, who (or rather, whose) are we and why are we?

Soren Kierkegaard said: “It is easier for a person who is not a Christian to become a Christian than it is for a person who is a Christian to become a Christian.” This statement can be true because so often we Christians allow the culture to subsume our calling, which is to be, as we are made, in the likeness and image of God – that is being church for the world.

In this strange world of Catholic blogs I am often led to wonder, are we Catholics who are American or are we Americans who are Catholic? It does make a difference. Is our ontology political/economic or are we religious beings? Not to trivialize a visit to the ballot box, oh no, however when all our substantial thought is focused on the political/economic (or philosophic) are we not falling into a possible state of trivializing the religious within us and then how we are allowing our ‘person’ to be broken into by the still small voice of God.

As we venture (as a species) from the old (primitive) sacred to the sacramental it is a growing imperative that we pray on this Howard Thurman challenge, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” What makes you come alive, not from the standpoint of the old sacred, which anthropologically would have one spiraling back into the vicious cycle of mimetic doubling and violence (or worse, Nietzsche’s eternal return); but what makes you come truly alive sacramentally? I so often hear the demand for answers, even amongst ourselves, as if obtaining these empirical answers are what life is all about and yet we forget about … the question and the mystery of coming alive. It is through this new partnership of anthropology and theology that will help us live into this on-going mystery of coming alive.

If this post speaks to you then may I suggest that you go right out and pick up one of the following books today!

Violence Unveiled by Gil Bailie

I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard

The Girard Reader by Rene Girard

Banished from Eden by Raymund Schwager

Jesus of Nazareth: How He Understood His Life by Raymund Schwager

And of course the 3 Massketeers’ choice selection:
The Dionysus Mandate: A Fable of Desire & Death by Walker Hunt Golding

This is just a sampling of the many books out there. Of course you can glean much in a visit to one of the numerous blogs and websites on Rene Girard. The 3 Massketeers have listed some of the sites on our sidebar and this again is only a sampling of sites. The important thing is in the asking and in the remembrance: how are you coming alive sacramentally today – breaking from the mimetic doubling that the “world” would have you engaged in?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Lest we lie at our ease, it is imperative to remember that René Girard has posited that terrorism has now reached a pandemic, global scale. A "rivalry" so vast, that the United States has become a model in the "model/rival" scenario of mimetic theory and is, thus, simultaneously admired and loathed by those who seek to destroy the nation.

Case in point: a prophecy more than a blueprint is now published for taking down America.

What is imperative in such tumultuous times is to avoid at all costs falling into a true "crisis of the doubles," as Girard has coined the phrase. This is what occurs when the model -- in this case, the United States -- begins to mimic the ways and wiles of its rival; namely, those who are amazingly fascinated positively and negatively with the USA at one and the same time.

This may prove extremely difficult to do, for although our land is still "Christ haunted," it has been a long, long time since we took seriously such things as the Ten Commandments, the prophetic writings, and the Sermon on the Mount. The nullity of our values is a vacuum aching to be filled. A rival with such strong ties to the "primitive sacred" is tailor-made for us to fall into a true doubling rivalry.

My brother in Christ, Aramis, has been chiding Porthos and me to read Banished From Eden – Original Sin and Evolutionary Theory in the Drama of Salvation for some time. From what I've read, it should be required reading by those planning "Homeland Security" all the way down to concerned parents and educators.

If violence accounts partly for the rapid growth of the brain size of homo sapiens, we must begin to come to grips with the entrenched nature of violence in the human race. Only then do we have a prayer of recognizing the Way, the Truth, and the Life out of such violence: his name? Jesus Christ. His means? The Catholic Church, Sacred Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium, and the grace of the Sacraments.

Only humble acceptance of such saving grace through faith can prepare the remnants of western civilization for the days ahead.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

See You After Work, Honey!

La Belle Dame Sans Merci: John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

The Three Massketeers, after all, must leave our fair ladies now and anon to clear the countryside of dragons, assist at the Blessed Sacrament, and bring home the bacon.

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese - From Death to Life

The holocaust continues, thanks to a new generation of crusaders against the least seen, heard, and most vulnerable victims.

The good news is when a Saul of Tarsus falls to his knees -- or in this case, her knees. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, acclaimed feminist scholar and historian, started out strongly supporting women's "right" to abortion, but over the years, she became an outspoken defender of life.

The Eleonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History at Emory University, Dr. Fox-Genovese was the founding director of the Institute for Women's Studies. She was raised in a nominally Christian home and only after many years did she feel herself drawn to the Catholic Church. She finally decided to attend Mass at the Cathedral of Christ in Atlanta. She writes, "There, directly in front of me, was ... a Lord whom as yet I barely knew and who nonetheless seemed to hold me fast."

Much to her colleagues' dismay, she wrote Feminism is Not the Story of My Life in 1996. Dr. Fox-Genovese died January 2, 2007 "after a long illness," as it is said. One might say, alternatively, she victoriously entered into full communion with the Church Triumphant after a successful and faithful "transvaluation of values" of the culture of death to the values of culture of life abundant.

For the story of Dr. Fox-Genovese's conversion in her own words in First Things, go to A Conversion Story

Chavez the Accuser

Knowing How to Point a Finger
The president of Venezuela, Victor Chavez, apparently is taking the priest-king mantle upon himself in accusations against the Church here. Astonishing how relevant the work of René Girard -- mimetic theory -- is to the machinations of politicians. Especially to the "atheist" types who claim no such influence on themselves. Our Lord has a word for them in the Gospel of John, chapter 8. That bit about "your father was a murderer and a liar from the beginning."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Journey Outward - Journey Inward

The True Rhythm of the Saints
Water Lilies (The Clouds) - Claude Monet
1903; Oil on canvas; Private collection
All the appeals to custom, to tradition, to authority, to the positive teaching of religion, to the gestures repeated since childhood are not meant to compel reason nor to supplement it, but to protect it against the vertigo of the imagination. And the only people to be scandalized are, in the words of St Augustine, ‘Those who do not know how rare and difficult a thing it is for the fleshly imagination to be subdued by the serenity of a devout mind.' -- Henri Cardinal DeLubac*

".... (Jesus) withdrew from there ... to a lonely place apart" -- Matthew 14,13a

*via our friend, Gil Bailie.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Posting Problems

This is an edit of a post pointing out the new design of Anchoress's blog.

For some reason, comments were disabled in my post. (I think the comment disabling might have happened in the signing-in process, but I don't know.) I'm not sure how to fix it, but apologies in the mean time!

(2nd edit: Comments worked in the test post. Try this one again.)

(3rd edit: Fixed, I think.)

(4th edit: Yeah. If this ever happens to you, check the "Post Options" menu under the text area and make sure it's on "Allow")

Beating (Not So) Dead Horses

"We can no longer blame the favorite institutional scapegoats beaten to death by our master thinkers of the last two centuries. These beasts of burden have all collapsed long ago, just like Nietzsche's famous horse in Turin. One can go on beating dead horses for several decades, no doubt, especially in graduate seminars but, even there, there will be an end. No one can really believe that our families, the class system, the male gender as a whole, the Christian churches, or even a repressive university administration might be responsible for what is going on." - René Girard

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" -- Monty Python
PBS, that refined repository of rehashed secularist orthodoxy, is running a series called Secret Files of the Inquisition. Natch, it ratchets up the anty in the area of "evidence" against the big, bad Catholic Church as a certifiable target for abuse, scorn, and general destruction. "We've got a live one, boys!" one can almost hear. The usual historiographical drivel is trotted out and paraded. From Father Neuhaus's blog,
“It’s the usual recycling of the juvenile pap about ‘The Black Legend,’” [Neuhaus' friend] said. I surfed onto five minutes of last night’s episode, and she is right. There was a Franciscan friar preaching to an apparently clandestine gathering of village folk and the voice-over declaimed: “He spoke to them in their own language rather than the Church-approved Latin, which was considered utter blasphemy.” That would have come as a surprise to St. Francis, the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), and the thousands of others engaged in preaching missions throughout Europe.
But rather than merely defend Mother Church, perhaps it is better to remember a different set of facts. During the entire 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition fewer people
died (perhaps 4,000) than during a single day of the American Civil War. Crocker notes:
"The comparison isn't flip, for the issues were similar -- defining what it meant to be a Spaniard (or an American) and the limits of dissent (either in religion or in the right to self-determination, states' rights, secession, and slavery) ... Between 1551 and 1600, for example, the Spanish Inquisition claimed an average of four lives a year -- making Spain by far Christendom's safest haven in this time of religious strife. [228-229]
By comparison, more than 150,000 of the peasantry died in two years of German peasant religious civil warfare between 1524-1526 -- sixty-five times the number of deaths the Spanish Inquisition claimed in its first ten (and by far its worst) years [Ibid, 249].

This is not to allay the wrongs and wrong-headedness of the Inquisition, but to point out that the hellfire that Martin Luther set loose in Germany deserves at least as much historical attention as the Inquisition (which examined future saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross for their orthodoxy).

But somehow, I don't expect PBS to do that. The Da Vinci Code has shown the true Victim of our age, and all modernism's slings and arrows are pointed at Mother Church.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Sacred (Faithful) - Rossetti, PRB

The Girlhood of Mary Virgin - Dante Gabriel Rossetti
[PRB 1849, Tate Gallery, London]

Rossetti's first major oil painting and the first to be exhibited with the mysterious letters 'PRB'. The models for Our Lady and her mother were Rossetti's sister, Christina, and their mother. It is replete with symbols -- Mary Virgin and St. Anne are embroidering a lily, symbol of purity, on a crimson cloth; a pile of books inscribed with the cardinal virtues; a seven-thorned briar and seven-leaved palm branch are tied with a scroll etched with tot dolores tot gaudia ('so many sorrows, so many joys'). And a child angel lightly touches the temporal plane, St. Joseph prunes a vine, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove looks piercingly with its jet black eye.

The Profane -Mariana - John Everett Millais, PRB

Mariana - Sir John Everett Millais
[1851, The Makins Collection]

This scanned image of Millais' great Pre-Raphaelite painting does not do credit to the hues and shades in the original or a better print. He exhibited it at the Royal Academy in 1851, giving it no title. Instead, he gave only a few lines from Tennyson's poem, Mariana:
She only said, 'My life is dreary --
He cometh not,' she said,
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary --
I would that I were dead.'
Millais derived the stained glass in the painting from windows in Merton College Chapel, Oxford. The garden was from Thomas Combe's garden, also in Oxford.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Vox Nova

Amy Welborn lifted up a newish blog entitled Vox Nova. The diverse group says about itself:
We are writing to humbly request your help in getting the word out about our new Catholic social/political blog. We are a group of faithful Catholics of very different political persuasions--from libertarians to distributists, from capitalists to anarchists, from conservatives to collectivists. We are united in our conviction that Jesus Christ is the center of the universe and the full revelation of humanity to itself. As Catholics committed to the tradition and magisterium of the Church, we seek to provide smart and informed commentary and debate on culture, society and politics from the Catholic perspective. Because of the diversity of the contributers (mothers, professors, students, fathers, laborers, immigrants), this blog is sure to be uniquely interesting and lively.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"I Am European"

(By Athos)

Charles Coulombe gives simply the most bracing analysis, clarion-call, and call-to-arms I have read heretofore on not giving up on the pays réel, the real Europe, Catholic and Royalist vs. the pays légal, the dyspeptic EU.

(Thanks to young Andrew Cusack.)

Away From Nihilism

And By A Lawyer, Too

In 2004, after a stint as an evangelical lawyer expounding the merits of natural law theory, J. Budziszewski converted to the Catholic Church. Even earlier, finding himself being swept by the currents of nihilism toward a vortex that readers of René Girard know something about, he caught the rope of Christian belief to extricate himself from a sticky end. You can read about it in his own words here.

What he says about the "stupidity of the intelligent" is too good to recap; you deserve to read it for yourself.

Right Reason interviews Budziszewski about his book, Natural Law for Lawyers.

Pope's Jesus of Nazareth -- References to St. Francis

As some know, I am part of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO), formerly known as the Third Order of St. Francis. So when I came upon this reference to St. Francis and the Third Order in Pope Benedict's new book, Jesus of Nazareth, I couldn't resist blogging the comment.

Jesus of Nazareth – Pope Benedict XVI
Chapter 4 – Sermon of the Mount
The Beatitudes

“Blessed are the poor in spirit – theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

But it may be a good idea – before we continue our meditation on the text – to turn for a moment to the figure whom the history of faith offers us as the most intensely lived illustration of this Beatitude: Francis of Assisi. The saints are the true interpreters of Holy Scripture. The meaning of a given passage of the Bible becomes most intelligible in those human beings who have been totally transfixed by it and have lived it out. Interpretation of Scripture can never be a purely academic affair, and it cannot be relegated to the purely historical. Scripture is full of potential for the future, a potential that can only be opened up when someone “lives through” and “suffers through” the sacred text. Francis of Assisi was gripped in an utterly radical way by the promise of the first Beatitude, to the point that he even gave away his garments and let himself be clothed anew by the bishop, the representative of God’s fatherly goodness, through which the lilies of the field were clad in robes finer than Solomon’s (cf. Mt 6:28-29). For Francis, this extreme humility was above all freedom for service, freedom for mission, ultimate trust in God, who cares not only for the flowers of the field but specifically for his human children. It was a corrective to the Church of his day, which, through the feudal system, had lost the freedom and dynamism of missionary outreach. It was the deepest possible openness to Christ, to whom Francis was perfectly configured by the wounds of the stigmata, so perfectly that from then on he truly no longer lived as himself, but as one reborn, totally from and in Christ. For he did not want to found a religious order: He simply wanted to gather the People of God to listen anew to the word – without evading the seriousness of God’s call by means of learned commentaries.

By creating the Third Order, though, Francis did accept the distinction between radical commitment and the necessity of living in the world. The point of the Third Order is to accept with humility the task of one’s secular profession and its requirements, wherever one happens to be, while directing one’s whole life to that deep interior communion with Christ that Francis showed us. “To own goods as if you owned nothing” (cf. Cor 7:29ff.) – to master this inner tension, which is perhaps the more difficult challenge, and, sustained by those pledged to follow Christ radically, truly to live it out ever anew – that is what the third orders are for. And they open up for us what this Beatitude can mean for all. It is above all by looking at Francis of Assisi that we see clearly what the words “Kingdom of God” mean. Francis stood totally within the Church, and at the same time it is in figures such as he that the Church grows toward the goal that lies in the future, and yet is already present: The Kingdom of God is drawing near…

-- pg 78-79

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Little Backbone, Please?

A brave or at least pugnacious high school-age Englishwoman is going to court to stand up for the Christian faith this summer. Aren't we finished with scapegoating the Way, the Truth, and the Life yet?

"The darkness of mythical origins give way to more decorous forms of befuddlement and self-deception, those of philosophies and ideologies. There is a sophisticated darkness of modern knowledge that is continuous with the darkness of mythology, and it is fitting that it would rely more and more on mythological expression, on the Oedipus myth, for instance, that may well be the myth par excellence of our post-Christian and neo-pagan confusion." - Rene Girard [via Cornerstone Forum "Quote of the Day"]

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my -- Capitalism and Marxism and Liberation Theology OH MY

“What is real?” he mused in the speech, hours before heading back to Rome after five days in Brazil, the world’s most populous Catholic country. “Are only material goods, social and economic and political problems ‘reality’?” Without agreeing first on God, he argued to the bishops, society is unable to tackle the problems of poverty and social injustice.

“Just structures are,” he said, “an indispensable condition for a just society, but they neither rise nor function without a moral consensus in society on fundamental values.”

“Where God is absent — God with the human face of Jesus Christ — these values fail to show themselves with their full force: nor does a consensus arise concerning them,” he said.

To see the Times article click here.

He also raged with equal fire against Marxism and capitalism. By focusing solely on material concerns, he said, they “falsify the notion of reality by detaching it from the foundational and decisive reality which is God.”

“Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves,” he said. “And this ideological promise has proven false.”

Marxism, he said, left “a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction.” Capitalism, he said, has failed to bridge the “distance between rich and poor” and is “giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.”

Without specifically mentioning liberation theology by name, Benedict, in his speech to the bishops, criticized Catholics who argue that the church’s supreme moral duty is to denounce and resist social injustice. As the Vatican’s senior official on matters of doctrine and faith, he led efforts in the 1980s to stamp out the movement, then quite influential in Latin America, and on Sunday he again warned the clergy not to permit such concerns to eclipse their spiritual duties.

“This political task is not the immediate competence of the church,” he said. “Respect for a healthy secularity — including the pluralism of political opinions — is essential in the authentic Christian tradition.

“If the church were to start transforming herself into a directly political subject, she would do less, not more, for the poor and for justice.”

Link to Zenit for the full address.

Everyone, on all sides, even in the pews, shout and demand action and justice, yet few seem to heed THE Good News, as in the Gospel reading today: John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

"To the Next Generation?"

6th Sunday of Easter +
One of the most striking things Gil Bailie, author, lecturer, prophetic voice has said is, "It only takes two or three generations of not adequately passing on the Tradition to our children for them to 'go to seed,' 'go native,'" or words to that effect. Bailie says in his work, "The Famished Craving,"
Here in this society, which is an anti-intellectual society, the young people -- the “new generation” -- not by any means all, but some -- are beginning to experiment with the Dionysian in a noticeably American way. That is to say, “Skip the Nietzsche, skip the Heidegger, and get straight to the crazy frenzy. Crank up the rock-and-roll, and see where it will take us.
Any attempt to answer the question of the purpose of human life was abandoned some time long ago in the twentieth century, as the prophetic Bailie knows. At the website of his Cornerstone Forum, he once quoted German theologian Max Picard who wrote:
"Christ came so directly from silence into the word . . . that the whole world between silence and language -- the world of mythology -- was exploded and bereft of its significance and value. The characters in the world of myth now became demons stealing language from man and using it to cast demonic spells. Until the birth of Christ they were the leaders of men, but now they became the mis-leaders, the seducers, of men." [Flight from God, 1934]
But the world has changed. The gods of the fallen and violent human psyche have once more taken ascendancy in the west. Like the elves who are leaving Middle Earth in J. R. R. Tolkien's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, the influence of the Catholic Church in western civilization finds itself being beaten back on two fronts: the neo-pagan from among the west's own generations and the Saracen by means of immigration and explosive birth rates.

Against this forlorn historical backdrop come the words of the Psalmist, limning the alternative in stark contrast to what has taken place but might not have.
Attend, my people, to my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth:
I will open my mouth in story,
drawing lessons from of old.
We have heard them, we know them,
our ancestors have recited them to us.
We do not keep them from our children;
we recite them to the next generation.
The praiseworthy and mighty deeds of the LORD,
the wonders that he performed ...
What he commanded our ancestors,
they were to teach their children;
That the next generation might come to know,
children yet to be born.
In turn they were to recite them to their children,
that they too might put their trust in God.
And not forget the works of God,
keeping his commandments. [Ps 78, 1-7]
Over ten years ago, Bailie stated in his work on The Divine Comedy, "The genuine goal of my being ought to be the legitimate object of my longing." Who knows? Perhaps the strait jacket of Shariah is just what an impious and rebellious west needs in the eyes of the biblical God. Exile and punishment helped Israel shape up until and after Cyrus of Persia released them back to the Promised Land. Perhaps the west needs a taskmaster with a scimitar for a while.

Perhaps then the Gothic spire, the monastic bells, the guild, and the "source and summit of the Church" will look pretty good once again.
"Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him." [Jn 14,23]

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Dawning Within the Young Republicans

Dawn Eden is at it again. If you are not getting over to view her blog regularly, you are missing out. Check out her talk to the Young Republicans. Here is a short except:

As you know, being Republicans in New York City, there is the so-called counterculture – the feminists, global-warming fanatics, gay-marriage proponents, abortion activists, and so on – and then there is the real counterculture. The real counterculture are those who are working to preserve the moral values that are at the foundation of western civilization. As a longtime rebel, I was attracted to chastity because where the real counterculture lies, chastity is pretty close to ground zero.

Holy Mount Athos

My, my Ath, you keeping this place of your name sake for yourself? Imagine a small Greek island of 20 monasteries. I vote that we make the Holy Mount Athos our retreat this year. What do you think?

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Ossuary at the Romanian Skete Prodromos on Mount Athos.

Lest we think surfing the net is of utmost importance and we have all the time in the world to get around to the Two Great Commandments ...
(Thanks to Art Smuggler via Daniel Mitsui.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

CT & Beckwith Interview

Readers may be keeping up with the momentous conversion of Dr. Francis Beckwith, leading evangelical Christian, to the Catholic Church. This candid and cordial interview with Christianity Today is enjoyable and informative. Too, it resonates with the stories of many who enter full communion with Christ's "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sarkozy - New Leader in France

I do not usually post political articles however it seems, even to me, that the result of the election in France could have major implications throughout the world.

Here are a couple excerpts from conservative blogger, Cranmer on Sarkozy, the newly elected President of France.

The new Président de la République inherits from Jacques Chirac stagnant wages, a lagging economy, and pockets of civil unrest in the impoverished suburbs populated largely by immigrants. Some of these immigrant youths rioted and torched cars very recently, mainly in protest at their poverty and alienation. Monsieur Sarkozy referred to them as ‘scum’, and has pledged himself to be tough on immigration, to cut taxes and unemployment, to limit the disruption to public services during strikes, to cut public sector staff – in short, to abandon the French model and perform the radical surgery necessary for France to compete in a global market.

Setting aside his ‘Thatcher with trousers’ agenda, the election of Monsieur Sarkozy is a very significant development for two main reasons. Unlike most of the French ruling class, Monsieur Sarkozy is not an énarque – he did not go to the Ecole Nationale d'Administration. He is the son of a Hungarian immigrant and a French mother of Greek Jewish origin, and was baptised a Roman Catholic. He will be the first son of an immigrant to rule modern France, and he intends to do it his way.

He has voiced consistent opposition to Turkey's bid to join the European Union, and the Turks have just had their European dreams ended for as long as Monsieur Sarkozy occupies the Elysée Palace. It is not merely his disapproval of the imminent involvement of the military to reassert Turkey’s secularism, but he has a profound distaste for ‘political Islam’, which he perceives to be antithetical to the founding principles of the Fifth Republic. He also intends to scupper any notion that France will be the recipient of Muslim-Turkish migrant workers, and would doubtless invoke the amended French Constitution to do so.

Monsieur Sarkozy has come to power declaring: ‘I am not in favour of any kind of censorship, whether of men, ideas or religions’.

Hamas Kidnaps Mickey Mouse

Oh, the Horror
Hamas forces Mickey Mouse at gunpoint (just out of camera range) to rant, telling kids to do their bit for the liberation of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem or be answerable to Allah.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Pre-Raphaelite Artist - Millais

The Blind Girl (1856) -- Sir John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896)

"Millais was in essence a great craftsman, and was not in any way an intellectual. He was a Victorian hearty, with a love of hunting, shooting, and fishing. Throughout his life he remained at heart a large enthusiastic schoolboy. He was a devoted father, and was particularly indulgent to his daughters. He had the gift of inspiring loyalty and affection amongst a wide circle of friends. Fellow artists who one would not expect to be sympathetic to Millais the artist regarded Millais the man with affection, Edward Burne-Jones was amongst his admirers. The artist himself did not feel that he had compromised his standards. In later life he said ‘ I may honestly say that I have never consciously placed an idle touch upon canvass; and that I have always been honest and hardworking.’ This is not the comment of a cynical, financially motivated individual.

"This is one of the painters most outstanding early Pre-Raphaelite works dating from 1854-1856, combining fidelity to nature, & social comment. The beauty of the picture makes it easier for the viewer to sympathise with the blind girl. The lack of any assistance to young, disabled beggars like the girl. The background landscape is not of a single area, being a combination of Sussex, & the home of Millais wife Effie near Perth. The painter always had difficulties in combining figures with landscapes, but in this picture combines both most successfully."

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Throwing Stones & Political Power - Part II

In his book, Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong, William Kilpatrick recounts how in the 1970's the "values clarification" movement lent academic and "social science" legitimacy to what Benedict XVI calls "the dictatorship of relativism." The new presupposition was that it was now a moral wrong to impose values on children. One was to let values ooze from the individual child like droppings of a noble savage. Once again, the academics, far from questioning such unheard-of practices, instead gave their stamp of approval to the zeitgeist from which they came: "peace, love, (dope)."

In the relativist world of Values Clarification, there are no right or wrong answers. Or right or wrong values, for that matter. This is Commandment Number One in the world of Values Clarification, the brain-child of the (pagan) Renaissance, turned Enlightenment, turned Romanticism, turned nihilism, turned ouroboros.

Just think if we taught chemistry this way. "Okay, class, go into the lab and start creating your own compounds. If you should happen to blow yourself up ... well, at least it will be an authentic search."

From these perfumed meadows of a Rousseau-esque idyllic fantasy world came the present "crisis of distinctions" (R. Girard) in which the west is floundering: the individual is everything; marriage is a convention of personal preference with no definition; child-bearing and child-rearing a ridiculous waste of personal time, effort, and money; and selfhood whatever I damn well please. From this we get such arbitrary, give-away-the-store legislation as Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007.

"Hate crime," you see, is defined as anyone who balefully believes, says, or proposes anything against Values Clarification Commandment Number One (above). Or, as Dymphna says, "some victims are more equal than others, and any situation where the federal government can stick its nose is now an improvement over local law enforcement."

I was going to begin sharing some good news in Part II, but I can see that it will have to wait. However, those who have reached into both the New Testament and the scholarly work of Girard's mimetic theory know that unbaptized political power inevitably turns into a way to find new victims to sacrifice. In other words, new attempts at a very old way of scapegoating others in order to feel good about ourselves. The only -- the only -- way of avoiding this recurring pattern is the Way, truth, and life of Christ the King in humility and service.

In Part III, I will play "Dr. Cornelius" from C. S. Lewis's Prince Caspian and let you know a great secret: faith, hope, and charity exist and can be found in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, built upon Peter by the living, Eucharistic Lord, Jesus Christ. There is a bright, shining world above and beyond the dodgy world of relativism that is presently eating up itself.

Prelude to a Harry Potter Summer

Before adults have the delightful and confusing experience of seeing hundreds (if not thousands) of prepubescent children with huge, hundreds-of-pages-long books perched on their laps, heads down, and reading as if for their very lives, this is the best analysis of the Harry Potter phenomenon I have read.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Benedict's Hopeful Vision?

Gil Bailie continues to chronicle the pathetic downfall of Europe in his recent blog, ”Surrendering Europe”. For many of us, the difficulty lies in seeing how the gaping maw of secular and nihilistic Europe that long ago jettisoned its healthy Christian moorings can possibly pull itself back from the edge of self-annihilation via childlessness, rejection of life-long marriage, and the disposal of the family. The futuristic dystopian vision of childlessness and civil war is aptly and fearfully depicted in Alfonso Cuarón's film, Children of Men (2006).

Perhaps it is living long enough to recall a time when the definition of marriage was obvious, families with three or more children routine, and abortion a shameful aberration; but it is a dismaying time. Add to that the Saracen not outside the gate, but demanding shariah on European streets and in its municipalities ... well, it is no wonder that death knells are sounding across the blogosphere.

It is providential that we have a Pope who has taken it upon himself to help Europe come to itself, "slopping the swine" and bereft as it presently is "in a far country." We see in Benedict XVI God's man and Saint Peter's successor a man who loves what once was Christendom and has decidedly not given up on it.

That said, however, Hilaire Belloc, the great and largely forgotten 20th century man of letters (1st History, Oxford) and friend of Chesterton, saw the sad state of England coming more than a half century ago. According to Paul Likoudis (Ed. @ The Wanderer):

"England's condition was especially serious, Belloc warned, for the effort to cut the English from the traditions of the race through a 'Reformation' was now four centuries old and England was on the precipice of a brutal neo-paganism as a consequence ... To Belloc, only a person who thinks with the Church could see, looming on the horizon, the Neopagan Barbarian ready to storm the broken gates of Christendom" (Saint Austin Review, Sept.-Oct. 2003, 9-10).

England's cliffs of Dover long ago turned their backs on Mother Church. Only time will tell if BXVI will live long enough to see his hopes fulfilled, and the Father welcome his footsore and beaten down prodigal trapsing back to the gladsome Farm of truth, goodness, and beauty. Only time will tell; till then let us watch and pray "more than watchmen for the morning -- more than watchmen for the morning."

Throwing Stones & Political Power - Part I

Or, How to Play 'King of Accusing'

One of the astounding insights made by René Girard is the foundation of kingship and priesthood, or, more to the point for our days, political power. In his intuition of the "generative" power of violence, the accusatory gesture indicates who is the safe-to-dispose-of victim and the crowd circles ready to pounce. At this moment, the victim has every eye upon him or her -- an amazingly dangerous, and potentially powerful place to be. If this person can harness that power, interrupt the crowd's expelling or murderous momentum for just long enough, he or she can turn their violence intentions upon a different, "surrogate" victim. Then, the originally accused one becomes not the crowd's victim, but its king or priest -- the one who designates and accuses for the crowd.

When I was a new kid in the second grade at a different school, I was victim-fodder: an outsider, no friends yet, no advocates. I had sized up the hierarchy, the "pecking order" on the playground, however (little kids may be inexperienced, but even young human beings know what's what). What I didn't see coming was the rock thrown at me from behind. Thunk. Right behind my ear. It didn't really hurt, and, in a way, I was expecting it. But what scared me was the blood on my hand when I felt the place the stone struck. My blood.

That's when I started screaming bloody murder, which brought the teacher on-duty during recess over to me. She accompanied me, crying up a storm, into the infirmary to get patched up, and find out who did it.

After the (slight) wound was bandaged, I was asked who did it. I remember seeing an older kid standing where the stone might have come from (from behind, and out of my range of vision), the only candidate whom I could see, and I accused him. A teacher fetched the accused perpetrator of the crime. He denied throwing the stone. I shouted, "He did it!" even louder (crying, angry, righteous). And he didn't deny it any more.

DID he throw the stone? I don't really know. Maybe he figured that he didn't want to be involved any longer with this crazy little new kid who was yelling and crying and pointing his finger at him. Too nutty and uncool. So, he took the rap instead.

The thing is, we both won. He got to look "bad" for throwing it at me (even if it was someone else), and I got to show I was capable of being an accuser. Whoa -- that's power for a new kid in a different school. Better not mess with him any more.

Why am I telling this sad, sordid little schoolyard tale?

Because the news is filled with this same story today -- ad nauseam. Particularly in the realm of "hate crimes" and the stance of the Catholic Church on abortion, homosexuality, and other areas where the Church teaches that matter arranged in a unique and irreducible manner by an informing rational soul matters.

In Part II, I will address why the Church is neither the stone-throwing victimizer nor the hoarder of political power, but rather the only hope for a world filled with both. Peace. +

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Be of Good Cheer - Part II - Let Us Not Be Deceived - Getting to Know Ourselves

The following is an excerpt from Gil Bailie's Emmaus Road Initative January 2006 talk, Human Nature & Human History

St. Gregory of Sinai said: "If we do not know what we were like when God made us, we shall not realize what sin has turned us into".

One need not believe as we Catholics do that grace perfects nature to believe as Christians and Jews always have, that creation is the Creator's first act of self-disclosure. And that precisely human nature bears the stamp of its Creator … (I)n as much as we are made in the image and likeness of God we receive our existence from God and the existence we receive is not that of a blank slate. On the contrary, it is highly specified and though it is indeed endowed with freedom, there are real limits to its ability to remake itself in its own image, the tendency at work in the modern project and the predominate theme of the post-modern one. We are made in the image and likeness of another - which means we are made to imitate another. We could only become who we are by becoming like someone else. And the closer that someone else is to God the better; and the question is, how close can we get? Christianity is the answer to that question.

"Desire,” Rene Girard tells us, “is always the desire to be another.” Whether one's desire is being mediated by the latest popular TV personality or the reigning National League batting champion or by Christ our deepest and defining impulse is to adopt as our own the attributes of another. "Choice always involves choosing a model," Girard writes, "and true freedom lies in the basic choice between a human and a divine model." We have to have a human model and we are made in the image and likeness of God. St. Paul said that Christ is the image of the invisible God. Jesus says, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14: 9)


By the way, the Gospel reading today, May 3rd, happens to include this last statement from Jesus.

Life & Death Matters

It seems the ER gang will have to change their paradigm. Newsweek and a gaggle of researchers stumble upon when death is really still alive.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Be of Good Cheer - I have Overcome"

Daniel in the Lion's Den - Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1615;
National Gallery of Art, Washington

There are times when culling evidence of the demise of western civilization on the internet that one senses an overwhelming feeling of dismay. Saint Augustine and his faithful ones may have felt similarly during the collapse of the empire of Rome; perhaps those too who heard or read Joseph Stalin's reputed question, "How many divisions does the Pope have?"

As the waning season of Easter draws to a close, the events surrounding Our Lord's Resurrection may seem a bit distant. But we should not let them be! The naysayers, the wreckovators of the Church, the relativists and neo-gnostics roam, looking for the unwary and the down-hearted, the superficial and the vacuous as tasty morsels and fellow travelers to join them down the vortex of despair and ruin.

Appearances are extremely deceptive. The Roman Empire is gone, but what filled its shell but the Catholic Church? Where are Stalin's divisions now? Yet dialog between the "two lungs" of Christendom has never been so hopeful!

So, "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid"[Jn 14,1]. The One who was raised also said, "In this world you shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" [Jn 16,33].

The God revealed by Jesus Christ, the God of glorious salvation history in the biblical narrative, is the Lord of history. Rarely do His people see how the salvation will take place, but, in hindsight, they revel in His doings, sing them in song, praise Him in glory, and worship Him in holiness.

Let us not flag in our worship, praise, song, or revelry. Remember Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse, and the words of the Mother of God to Alfred:
"I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

"Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope? ...

"But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go (merrily) in the dark."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Archbishop's Special Delivery

And It Isn't a Nosegay

Gerald Augustinus at The Cafeteria is Closed reports that the Holy Father is lending support to Genoa's Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, the president of the Italian bishops' conference, in the face of death threats: most recently, a bullet in the mail. Not "soft coercion." Not a subtle message. Point blank clear: message received.

Once again we note that the Catholic Church, in supporting the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, the "domestic church," and the common good, draws the usual lynch-mob of miscreants and degenerates. They understand that their "special interests" (read: neo-pagan, anti-Christ agenda) are only confronted by Catholic truth. Who else? Please show me if I'm wrong about that. We're supposed to forgive, turn the other cheek, not return evil for evil. They certainly don't have to. Any means -- political, judicial, ecumenical, death threats -- any means to disassemble the foundations of civility, sanity, and hope for humanity.

Catholic World News reports that Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who had preceded Archbishop Bagnasco as president of the Italian bishops' conference, told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that Italian Church leaders would not be silenced by threats. “We will speak even more clearly and forcefully," he vowed.

For the clearest, most lucid expression of why support for our Church leaders matters and such violent threats cannot be ignored, pick up a copy of David P. Lang's superb slim volume, Why Matter Matters [Our Sunday Visitor, 2002]. Hint: Genesis 1, 31.