Wednesday, July 17
If you haven't gotten around to reading the two books suggested below (you haven't? Shame.), reader Tom sends along this link to an article about Augustine and the Eucharist.
Another story, with a happier ending, from Dallas - a little girl who was locked in a closet by her parents was finally adopted by another family - the family that sought to adopt her when she was born, but whose attempt was overturned on a technicality.
As the French Revolution entered its worst days, sixteen Discalced Carmelites from the Monastery of the Incarnation in Compiegne offered their lives as a sacrifice to God, making reparation to him and imploring peace for the Church. On June 24th, 1794, they were arrested and thrown into prison. Their happiness and resignation were so evident that those around them were also encouraged to draw strength from God's love. They were condemned to death for their fidelity to the Church and their religious life and for their devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Singing hymns, and having renewed their vows before the superior, Teresa of St Augustine, they were put to death in Paris on July 17th, 1794.
Their story is, of course, the inspiration for Poulenc's opera The Dialogue of the Carmelites which was, in turn, based on a play written by George Bernanos.
A more detailed article about the Martyrs can be found here.
After living this life for 17 years, his identity was revealed; some say that he was recognized by a sacristan, others that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the people and said: "Seek the man of God." To avoid discovery, Alexis fled and took ship for Tarsus, but a tempestuous wind drove his ship to Italy.He went to Rome and to his father's house, where he found that his parents were still living. He did not make himself known, nor did anyone recognize him, and when he asked for lodging he was given permission to sleep under the staircase of his own sumptuous home; and so he lived, begging his bread in the streets and working in the kitchen, where he was often insulted by the servants and sharing crumbs of what was rightly his.Seventeen years later while Pope Innocent I was celebrating Mass before the emperor, he heard a voice saying: "Seek the man of God." Guided by the selfsame voice, he and the emperor went to the house of Euphremian, but when they arrived they found Alexis dead. His body was lying clothed in rags beneath the staircase, and in his hand he was holding a parchment that gave his name and history.
The Tampa piece is laughably dreadful, as the reporter talks to these older folks in Sun City about their group, but never once mentions what might - just might - have motivated their organizing efforts - the adventures of their own Bishop Lynch and his generosity towards triathletes. Can't offend your sources in the institution, you know.
The problem that confronts VOTF is the issue of what to do. Not to be uncharitable, but the dynamic reminds me of a group of students at a high school outraged by some administration action who gather, full of rage and vigor, determined to "do something" only to discover, after many hours and drafts of statements, that there is just not a whole lot they can do that will impact The Man and not just end up punishing themselves in some way.
Let's look at this carefully. The problem in Boston, as elsewhere, but with a particular depth in Boston, has been the reassignment of sexually predatory priests. These actions, in turn, are expressive of other problems, some of which we agree on, others of which we don't. I think we can agree that we see, at the very least, a hierarchy concerned for external image and the protection of clerics and unconcerned with holiness, the demands of the gospel and the safety and innocence of children. Agreed? Okay. So what can VOTF do about this?
The hard answer seems to be - nothing. Except put pressure, perhaps. But if it's pressure in the wrong direction, it will be worse than useless. But what would be the right direction?
Two things, it seems to me, neither of terribly threatening to sensible people. First, lay people should be involved in the assignment of priests at the diocesan level. Notice, I'm not saying that lay people in parish should be hiring their own priests. Some dioceses do have systems in which parishes can outline what they want in their priest personnel, but you know, you get the same thing every time: they all want Jesus Christ, and he's just not available. No, I simply think lay people should be a part of personnel boards and have access to all the information that clerics on those boards have.
Secondly, I think lay people should have major control of church finances. All the way up, but let's just start with parishes which are, after all, supposed to have financial councils with some actual power - many don't. Church finances should be completely open affairs, and lay people should be the major players in use of it. It is, after all, our money.
(All of that besides sexual abuse review boards, of course).
What I really, really don't want to hear are panaceas to the virtues of lay people and women over the next few days, as if their greater "involvement" (whatever that means) would have prevented any of this. In some cases, it could have, but we've seen enough lay people (including women) being willing to welcome priest perpetrators as their pastors and don't, for a minute think that there aren't lay people and women out there who knew about abusers and stayed silent - from housekeepers to school principals - many have been culpable. The perpetrators and their protectors are, of course, ultimately responsible for their sins, but there are lots of enablers out there, many of them lay people and many of them women.
Another idea, floated here before, is the public vetting of names of potential bishops. It is my understanding that lay people already play a limited role of being asked to suggest names of priests with bishop potential or comment on various names, but those lay people are all individuals involved in the Church and to some extent part of the hierarchy. A posting of "bishop banns" would be very helpful. An honest reading of history shows that laity have been involved in the selection of bishops quite frequently through history - that doesn't make it automatically the ideal, for civil authorities have also been uh - involved - in episcopal appointments throughout history, as well, and I don't think we want George Bush picking the next Archbishop of Boston. Through many centuries, the laity elected bishops (as well as called individuals in their communities to the priestly ministry). I don't think many of us would be hot for total lay election of bishops in today's world, given the certainty that the manipulation and cynicism of contemporary politics would invade the system, but you have to think - a system that produced St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and countless others as priests and bishops couldn't be all bad.
Or perhaps the lesson that we all need to learn is that God can work through any structure. Certainly whatever structure we have should express our sense of the Church as the Body of Christ and all that means, and some structures are closer to that ideal than ever. But we shouldn't mistake calls for structural change as solutions and answers to problems that are rooted, in the end, in the failure to recognize Christ as the head of that body.
We do not believe in a blood thirsty God who hungered for our suffering, to see us pay. It was not God who crucified Jesus, it was us.But Jesus is the one who travels with us, and before us, accompanying us and leading us. No suffering we endure, no cross we carry is foreign to God because he came to carry it before us. And we take up ours and follow. Gregory is on the same wavelength, yet the pain that comes in the healing process is simply the pain of being human, it is not somehow sent by God, but it is used by God.
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