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Monday, May 31, 2010

John of St. Samson, O. Carm. (fr. Jean Moulin)

Carmelite lay brother and reformer of the Observant Carmelites in the 16th century.

John of St. Samson was born in 1571 to a family of relatively comfortable means in Sens, France. At three years of age John contracted small pox which led to the resultant blindness with which he lived the rest of his life. His parents both died when John was 10 years of age at which time he went into the care of a maternal uncle. It was in these years with his uncle the a great gift in music became apparent in the young John.

In 1597 John went to live with his brother in Paris and remained there for four years during which time a deepening of his life of faith occurred, notably a greater commitment to prayer as well as devotion to the Blessed Mother.

With the death of his brother in 1601 John gradually fell into dependence upon the goodwill of others and finally near destitution. During this time John made a practice of regularly visiting a Carmelite church at Place Maubert, eventually spending there several hours every day. Despite the social stigma attached to his disability and poverty John gradually developed positive relationships with local parishioners as well as certain of the Carmelite friars.

Through friendship with a young friar named Matthew Pinault John was eventually offered a position in the parish playing and teaching organ in exchange for a room. Gradually his spiritual gifts were increasingly recognised and a group of young friars and lay people formed around him; together the studied scripture and discussed matters spiritual. The Carmelite Reform was underway at this time and John felt stirred to ask for admission to the Order as a lay brother.

John was admitted to the Order and was invested as a novice in 1606, taking the Carmelite habit at the Carmel in Dol, Brittany and the name 'John of St. Samson', after the Breton saint Samson who was first bishop of Dol.

In 1612 John moved to the community in Rennes and remained there until his death in 1636. "Over these 24 years John was the keystone in forming friars in the spirit of the Order... His writings... lay out the fundamental principles that were to guide the [Order's] Reform.

(From ``At the Fount of Elijah - The Carmelite Tradition`` by Wilfrid McGreal, O. Carm., Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999. p. 72-76.
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Friday, May 28, 2010

A Great Catholic renaissance in Ukraine may be at risk
by John L Allen Jr on May. 28, 2010

On any countdown of terrific Catholic stories over the last twenty years, the renaissance of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine would have to be near the top of the list. Numbering some five million faithful, about ten percent of the Ukrainian population, Greek Catholics follow Orthodox liturgical and spiritual traditions but have been in full union with Rome since the 16th century.
Under the Soviets, the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine was the largest illegal religious body in the world, and one of the most persecuted. The legendary Ukrainian Cardinal Josef Slipyi, who spent two decades in the gulags, once said that his church had been buried under "mountains of corpses and rivers of blood." During his 2001 visit to Ukraine, John Paul II beatified 27 Greek Catholic martyrs under the Soviets -- one of whom had been boiled alive, another crucified in prison, and a third bricked into a wall.
Given that history, the church's recovery in the short span of time since the Soviet Union imploded has been nothing short of miraculous. In 1939, the Greek Catholics boasted 2,500 priests; by 1989, the number had fallen to just 300. Today it's back up to 2,500, with 800 seminarians in the pipeline. Greek Catholics played key roles in the "Orange Revolution" of 2004/05, which for a brief, shining moment, promised to bring democracy and the rule of law to Ukraine.
In many ways, the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine has become a global model for the evangelization of culture.
Today, however, Catholicism in Ukraine may once again be at risk, as a new government has come to power which seems bent on reviving Soviet-style authoritarianism. On May 18, an official of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the successor to the KGB, visited the rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv -- the only Catholic university in the former Soviet Union, which means it's the only Catholic university in twelve time zones. The police official warned the rector, Fr. Borys Gudziak, against students participating in illegal anti-government protests. (Gudziak, by the way, is a 50-year-old Ukrainian-American born in Syracuse, New York, who holds a Harvard doctorate in Slavic and Byzantine Cultural History.)
The SBU official also insisted that Gudziak sign a letter and then give it back, presumably to be placed in police archives. Gudziak refused, charging that asking people to sign letters and turn them over to the police was a classic KGB technique for recruiting collaborators.
(Gudziak's description of the experience can be found here, which he says has no precedent in Ukraine since independence in 1991: New Government Pressures UCU)
As proof that the May 18 visit was not a one-off event, consider that Gudziak's cousin Teodor, a layman and mayor of a city in Western Ukraine, was recently arrested on bribery charges – despite the fact that he actually has video of plainclothes policemen breaking into his office to plant forged documents. Consider, too, that staffers at the Ukrainian Catholic University got calls from the SBU on their cell phones this week, a none-too-subtle way of saying "We know how to find you," and that when President Viktor Yanukovich visited Western Ukraine on Wednesday, where the bulk of Catholics are concentrated, the university conveniently lost its electrical power. Faculty and students have been using the Internet to inform the world of what's happening in the country -- and that, of course, requires electricity.
All this is especially alarming because the Ukrainian Catholic University is a fascinating place, with much to offer the broader enterprise of Catholic higher education around the world. For example, the university has launched a "Center for Spiritual Support of the Handicapped" in conjunction with the L'Arche Community, a new movement in Catholicism founded by Canadian layman Jean Vanier, which fosters friendships with people who have physical and mental disabilities. Gudziak says the theory is that contact with the handicapped ought to be an integral part of theological formation. Next month, the university will break ground on a new dormitory, where the spiritual life will be inspired by L'Arche.
Gudziak says that L'Arche is a perfect fit for a society recovering from the systematic deception and lack of trust associated with the Soviet period -- because, he said, "the handicapped do not have masks."
So far, Western reaction to the pressures facing Gudziak and his fellow Greek Catholics has circulated mostly in conservative circles, among hawks already convinced that Putin and his allies in the former Soviet sphere are sliding back into Cold War-era patterns. In principle, however, this is not an ideological question, but a matter of religious freedom and human rights, as well as solidarity with fellow Catholics at risk -- wherever that risk originates.
On Wednesday, I reached Gudziak by phone at his office in Lviv to discuss the situation facing the university and the church.
* * *
How would you describe the general situation facing the Catholic Church in Ukraine today?
The Church enjoys freedom, but it's still getting up off its knees after the devastating blows of the Soviet period. The Roman Catholic Church was decimated under the Soviets, and the Orthodox Church was also persecuted and circumscribed. The Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine was outlawed outright and driven into the catacombs. All the churches in the country lost some or all of their infrastructure, and in the case of the Greek Catholics some of that infrastructure was taken over by the Orthodox.
We still face unresolved problems from the Soviet era. For example, many church properties have never been returned. The Greek Catholic Church was legally banned, but never fully legally rehabilitated. Churches themselves, meaning our liturgical buildings, have mostly been returned, but many monastic properties, academic and educational institutions, hospitals, and publishing houses have never been restored.
Our biggest challenge is to emerge from a situation in which great numbers were killed, martyred, and an even greater number of people were maimed -- either physically, or spiritually and psychologically. They lived in a context of systemic fear, which produced a vast breakdown in trust. For example, there were many collaborators with the KGB, but no one ever really knew who was collaborating because these were always secret arrangements.
That legacy of fear and a lack of trust is bad for the whole society. It's bad for business, because who's going to invest if they can't be sure of what's going to happen to their money? It's bad for law and the legal system, it's bad for medicine, it's bad for everything. Today many Ukrainians don't trust doctors, for example, because the quality of medical care is often low and medicines aren't readily available. Many products in our society are counterfeit.
In general, there's still a great tentativeness in the society. Qualities that define Americans -- freedom, problem-solving, being proactive -- aren't really valued here. In the Soviet context, they were reflexes that could get you into trouble. The saying in the Soviet era was, 'Initiative is punished.' People held back, waited until the dust settled, before they acted. That's not so much a conscious decision as it something that's deeply in the marrow of the people.
That tentativeness affects the Church too?
It affects the life of the Church and the mission of the Church. As Christians, the core of our spiritual life is to foster a life of love among persons. The highest model, of course, is the Holy Trinity, and our relationships of love with other people are based on the fact that they're created in the image and likeness of God. Love requires vulnerability. When we love, we have to sacrifice, we take the risk of being rejected and of suffering.
Yet in Ukraine, we still have a social context in which vulnerability means great, often heroic risk. Not only is it unrealistic, but it's inhuman and un-Christian, to expect that all members of the church will be martyrs all the time. People get worn out by their history and by the systematic injustices and lawlessness of everyday life. As a result, people close up. They hide behind facades, masks, and walls. The church in Ukraine is called to break through those walls, but our people are as susceptible to the psychological pressures of the past as anyone else.
After twenty years in Ukraine, I'm beginning to understand that Biblical image of the forty years of wandering in the desert. That wandering is not just physical and geographical, but also spiritual and cultural. If forty years stands for two generations, it would mean we're about halfway to normalcy – to living in a house of God where there is no fear.
Are you still moving in the right direction?
Unfortunately, in recent months this process has not only stopped, but we've had several strong jolts in the opposite direction. Almost every week there's something new. The memory of the old system is in the sinews of the people, and right now there's a lot of curling in across the board.
Can you give an example?
Here's one that really affects young people. Corruption was fairly blatant in some sectors of society under the Soviets, when in a sense it was a way of cutting through the bureaucracy. In the early post-Soviet period, what happened is that the bureaucracy remained intact but there wasn't any more fear of Soviet repression, so corruption went wild. Education is a classic case in point: For decades, students had to pay bribes to get into a university. Around the middle part of this decade, the going rate to get into medical school was about $10,000, and bear in mind that this is in a country where the average salary is under $200 per month. As a result, many Ukrainians went abroad to earn money to pay the bribes for their children, which breeds incredible social dislocation. For example, a mom might go to Italy to earn money for the bribe for the oldest child, so the younger kids grow up without a mother. That's so common there's a term for it -- "social orphancy."
In 2008, the Minister of Education at the time, an Orthodox physicist named Ivan Vakarchuk, instituted a general entrance exam for university admissions across Ukraine, more or less like the SAT. It became the sole criterion for admissions, and it worked. The bribes stopped. It meant that a child from the most backward, rural part of Ukraine could be admitted to our equivalents of Cornell or Cal-Tech on a level playing field. The new government, however, quickly dissolved that reform, and it's not surprising that many university rectors welcomed that move. After all, they benefitted from the old system. The Ukrainian Catholic University was one of only two of some 170 universities in Ukraine that publicly opposed it.
This sort of thing is happening all over. In the business sector, shakedowns are on the rise. It was fairly common before the Orange Revolution, and now it's happening again. Business owners are getting calls from these guys who are back in power, saying, 'Remember me?' It might be the new police chief, or the guy running the tax authority, or somebody from what our people call "the forces" – meaning the state police, the Security Service of Ukraine (former KGB) and other agencies. All the top officials in these jobs have changed in the last three months.
To be sure, during the Orange era, there was still corruption, and the police units were not cleaned up. Today, however, the new government represents the country's oligarchic clans, and the corruption is again becoming much more pervasive and overt. I know there's a lot of concern about what's happening in the business community.
I should say there's also a new climate of censorship in the press and on TV, and some prominent journalists here and abroad have spoken out about it.
In the West, we have the impression of growing nostalgia for the Soviet era, symbolized recently by the erection of statue of Stalin in Eastern Ukraine – the first time that's happened since the fall of the Soviet Union. Do you sense more people looking back on the Soviet period fondly?
I don't know if there really is a strong sense of nostalgia, but I would say that the Ukrainian leadership is following Putin's direction in revisiting the critique of the Soviet period. Today, the semi-official line is that sure, Stalin made mistakes, but he also made the Soviet Union great. The fact that he killed millions, in fact tens of millions, isn't talked about. The fact that he helped start the Second World War with the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact isn't talked about -- instead, he's the great "generalissimo" who defeated Hitler. The new Minister of Education in Ukraine recently said that textbooks in Russia and Ukraine ought to be brought into harmony, which essentially means teaching the Soviet version of history.
My sense is that the country right now is stunned, because these moves from the new government have come incredibly quickly and systematically.
Let's talk about your situation. Since you were visited by an agent of the SBU on May 18, have there been any further developments?
Today I was called by the presidential administration, and they proposed a meeting with the head of the SBU. They said this was all a gross misunderstanding, that nobody gave the local authorities orders to do this sort of thing. They said they want to straighten it all out. This is primarily related to the publicity this has generated, because I know my memo has circulated around the world. It was picked up by The Economist, and a number of embassies have taken an interest in it. Today, the story was front-page news in a number of Ukrainian newspapers. What happened certainly is remarkable. There is no precedent during the 19 years of Ukraine independence for what I was asked to do. Since the rectors of the other universities in the country have been silent, leaders such as Vakarchuk believe that they have given in. In 2001, during the authoritarian period under President Kuchma, the SBU wanted my vice-rector, a woman in charge of student affairs, and me to inform on our students. In recent years this kind of pressure was unthinkable.
The big picture right now is that there's growing pressure from the center on all structures in society to keep people in line.
Are you worried about a broader crackdown on the Catholic University?
It could happen. Today, a number of our middle level staff persons received calls on their cell phones from the SBU. That's not illegal, but this kind of thing gives people the creeps. How would you react if all of a sudden you got a direct call from the CIA or the FBI, with prying questions? Even in the basically law-abiding United States, that would wake you up! Yesterday students were telling me that some of them are afraid to blog and to post commentaries because the SBU keeps track of blogs, organizes defamatory responses (as now is happening in our case), and monitors bloggers. The students are afraid of retribution -- for example, that their parents might lose their jobs.
This morning, when President Yanukovich came to Lviv for the first time to convene a meeting of all of Ukraine's governors, the electricity was disconnected at our main building. I think the fact that we are using technology to communicate with the world about our difficulties leads the authorities to fear that we are the center of some kind of revolution, and presidential security required that we be closed down. In fact, all we want to do is to teach peacefully and normally, to do research and to minister to the social needs of this troubled land.
The methods of pressuring people in this society are well known and never forgotten, and some of the perpetrators are alive and well and once again in power. There's every reason to think this is a real danger.
What's truly surprising is that there are 170 universities and almost 700 other institutions of higher education in this country, but only one rector has been approached by the SBU and has spoken up. Could what happened really be unique to me, or is it that other rectors are just folding under pressure?
What do you think?
I think it's most definitely the latter. Bear in mind that the rectors of state universities here are basically employees of the Minister of Education, their programs are accredited by the ministry, and their budget is determined by the ministry.
I don't think the visit by the police was just for me. This sort of thing was once quite routine, and it's becoming so again. The only surprise is that I refused to go along with the procedure.
You think you may face growing pressure because you refuse to play ball?
Right, especially because we've been one of maybe two or three places that have spoken out, in a country with hundreds of institutions of higher education. There's certainly precedent for targeting universities. In Belarus, for example, the independent European Humanities University founded in 1992 was closed down in 2004, and in 2005 moved to Lithuania because it got in trouble with the government. In St. Petersburg, the European University was harassed and closed down for a while in 2008. They have plenty of ways of getting at you – fire codes, tax law, security codes, and so on.
Personally, I've been threatened before. In 2001, during a TV broadcast, it was suggested that when the rectors of universities whose students participate in unsanctioned protests are American citizens, those rectors should be deported.
You think the crackdown is about the reassertion of old Soviet controls, and not specifically anti-Catholicism?
That's part of the mix too. The new Minister for Education in Ukraine has said that Western Ukrainians are not real Ukrainians, culturally, confessionally, and linguistically. That's not just an isolated gaffe, but a consistent theme in his articles and books. He's known as an anti-Catholic agitator. He may be extreme, but he's not alone. Our president, for example, broke with protocol -- he actually violated the law -- when he didn't have an ecumenical service for his inauguration. Instead, the prayers were said exclusively by Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow. The president so far hasn't met with any religious leaders except from the Moscow Patriarchate. Essentially, we've got a state church developing, and the Greek Catholics are the ones most heavily criticized by that state church.
How can American Catholics help?
First of all, we want to ask for prayers. The resurrection of the Church in Ukraine was a miracle and a grace, and solidarity in prayer creates a conduit for that grace.
Second, American Catholics can write and speak out -- write your congressman, your senator, the Ukrainian embassy in Washington and the President of Ukraine himself. We expect provocations and a defamation campaign, so ask these officials to protect our security and our freedom.
Third, we could really use some financial help. We live hand to mouth ... we get no government support, and the church in Ukraine is very poor. The pressure we're facing today takes up our time and energy, and distracts us from fund-raising. About 85 percent of our expenses have to be met through fundraising, because tuition payments from students only cover about 15 percent of our cost. Because we're so young, we have no endowment or alumni.
The Ukrainian Catholic Educational Foundation, which is based in Chicago, is a great source of support for us.
* * *
A final thought occasioned by the Gudziak interview, and the situation facing Catholicism in Ukraine.
One reason that these developments have not galvanized much Catholic interest in the West is that the rise to power of the Yanukovich government in February more or less coincided with the explosion of the sexual abuse crisis in Germany, which quickly brought Pope Benedict XVI into the center of the storm. Tight focus on the scandals has made it difficult to tell any other Catholic story, and other stories gain traction only to the extent that they have something to say about the crisis.
In the case of Ukraine, finding a connection is actually not as much of a stretch as it might seem. In fact, the growing pressure facing Greek Catholics has implications for a key point about the Vatican's response to the sexual abuse crisis: The question of cooperation with the police and other civil authorities.
In the United States and Western Europe, the failure of bishops over the decades to report crimes by priests to the police, or to turn over personnel files and other records voluntarily to civil probes, is one of the most appalling dimensions of the crisis. It has cemented impressions that the church for too long regarded itself as "above the law." Many observers in the West, both inside and outside the church, have insisted that the Vatican should impose a universal policy of reporting sexual abuse charges to the police, and full cooperation with all civil investigations. (A recent "layman's guide" to handling sexual abuse allegations from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith moved in that direction, stipulating that "civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.")
Such a policy amounts to a no-brainer in parts of the world where the rule of law holds, and where the police enjoy basic public trust. But consider what it might mean in a place like Ukraine -- where the police and security forces are often seen as corrupt and subject to political manipulation, and where Catholics in particular regard them as agents of a hostile regime trying to hobble the church. (Gudziak, for example, says he believes himself to be under regular surveillance by the SBU.)
In that context, a binding requirement under canon law of cooperation with the police could seem self-destructive.
What this suggests is that Vatican ambivalence over the years about mandating cooperation with the police might have some basis other than sheer denial about the sexual abuse crisis, or the usual Roman desire to keep the church's dirty laundry under wraps. In part, it may also be a reflection of the complexities of crafting policy for a global church, in which solutions that seem obvious in some parts of the world can generate real headaches in others.
That's obviously no excuse for the church's failures, but it may at least go some distance towards an explanation.
[John Allen is NCR senior correspondent. His e-mail address is]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, O. Carm.
From her writings 'On Revelation' and 'On Trials'

Come, Holy Spirit

You, the Word, are most wonderful, working through the Holy Spirit to fill the soul with yourself, so that it is joined to God, grasps God, tastes God and absorbs nothing but God.
The Holy Spirit comes into the soul signed with the precious seal of the blood of the Word and of the slain Lamb; or rather that very blood urges it to come, although the Spirit moves itself and desires to come.
The Spirit which moves in itself is the substance of the Father and of the Word, and it proceeds from the essence of the Father and the good will of the Word; it comes into the soul like a fountain, and the soul is immersed in it. Just as two rushing rivers intermingle in such a way that the smaller loses its name and is absorbed into the larger, so the divine Spirit acts upon the soul and absorbs it. It is proper that the soul, which is lesser, should lose its name and surrender to the Spirit, as it will if it turns entirely toward the Spirit and is united.
This Spirit, dispenser of the treasures which lay in the lap of the Father, and guardian of the deliberations which pass between the Father and the Son, flows into the soul so sweetly and imperceptibly that few esteem its greatness.
It moves itself by its own weight and lightness into all places that are fitting and disposed to receive it. Its word is heard by all in the most attentive silence; through the impetus of love, the unmoved yet most perfect mover infuses itself into all.
You do not, O Holy Spirit, stand still in the unmoved Father or in the Word, and yet you are always in the Father and in the Word and in yourself and in all blessed spirits and creatures. You are the friend of the created because of the blood shed by the only-begotten Word, who in the greatness of his love made himself the friend of the created. You find rest in creatures who are prepared to receive you, so that in the transmission of your gifts they take on, through purity, their own particular likeness to you. you find rest in those creatures who absorb the effects of the blood of the Word and make themselves a worthy dwelling place for you.
Come, Holy Spirit. Let the precious pearl of the Father and the Word's delight come. Spirit of truth, you are the reward of the saints, the comforter of souls, light in the darkness, riches to the poor, treasure to lovers, food for the hungry, comfort to those who are wandering; to sum up, you are the one in whom all treasures are contained.
Come! As you descended upon Mary that the Word might become flesh, work in us through grace as you worked in her through nature and grace.
Come! Food of every chaste thought, fountain of all mercy, sum of all purity.
Come! Consume in us whatever prevents us from becoming consumed in you.

- Liturgy of the Hours,
Vol. III. Catholic Book Publishing Corp.: NY, 1975. P. 1428-1430.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Ethiopian Orthodox pilgrims gather in Aksum to celebrate the feast of Mary of Zion. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Ethiopia, from the Greek meaning “land of burned faces,” possesses one of the world’s oldest cultures. Though it has survived the tumultuous 20th century intact, this ancient Judeo-Christian culture has entered the new millennium weakened by the encroaching forces of modernity, especially globalization and secularization.

About 43 percent of the nation’s 78 million people belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a dominant force that has shaped Ethiopia’s people and defined its culture for more than 16 centuries. Yet, this church is losing ground to the proselytization among its members by evangelical Christians from the West — whose numbers have tripled in less than 15 years — and to a burgeoning Sunni Muslim population in the country’s south and southwest, who now account for more than a third of Ethiopia’s people.

Christian origins. A thousand years before Christ, Semitic peoples from the Arabian Peninsula crossed the Red Sea, settled in the Horn of Africa (modern Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia) and intermarried with the local people.

From the city of Aksum, a civilization emerged and expanded, encompassing territory (at its peak around the year A.D. 500) from the southern Arabian Peninsula to the source of the Nile. Little evidence of early Aksum remains, but some historians believe that this empire also controlled the trade routes between Africa and Asia for centuries.

The character of Aksum changed in the early fourth century when the emperor, Ezana, declared Christianity the official state religion. Influenced by his tutor, Frumentius, Ezana had embraced the Christian faith and later installed his former tutor as Aksum’s first bishop. Ordained to the episcopacy by Athanasius, the sainted patriarch of the Egyptian city of Alexandria, Frumentius established filial bonds with the Egyptian church that remained for centuries. Until the middle of the 20th century, a Coptic (derived from the Greek for “Egyptian”) metropolitan archbishop governed the Ethiopian church.

Ezana is also credited with obtaining the most important symbol of Ethiopian Christianity, the Ark of the Covenant. According to an ancient Ethiopian tradition, the Jews of Aksum guarded the Ark on an island refuge. It had been carried from Jerusalem to Aksum by Menelik, the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a figure Ethiopians and Eritreans claim as their own.

A century after Ezana and Frumentius, Aksum received a number of Syrian monks who opposed the Christological decrees of the Council of Chalcedon (451). Among these monks were nine men who made a profound impact on the life of the church of Aksum. In addition to their monastic way of life, these “Nine Saints” brought with them the Christology, liturgy and customs of the Syriac church of the Eastern Mediterranean world. They also bolstered links with Chalcedon’s Coptic opponents in Egypt and severed ties with the churches of Rome and Constantinople, which supported Chalcedon.

The Ethiopian Orthodox rejection of Chalcedon is remembered even today. The church’s official name includes the word “Tewahedo,” which in the liturgical language of Ge’ez means “being made one” and refers to the unity of Christ’s humanity and divinity in one nature. Today, theologians agree this conservative Christological position — which is shared by the Armenian Apostolic, Coptic, Eritrean, Malankara and Syriac Orthodox churches — reflects cultural, linguistic and philosophic differences more than differences in matters of faith.

Decline. It has often been reported that the rise of Islam in the neighboring Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century led to the decline of Christian Aksum. Yet the hospitality offered by the emperor of Aksum to the family of the Prophet Muhammad — who fled pagan persecution in Arabia — may have contributed to the preservation of the Christian faith in the Horn of Africa.

According to tradition, the pagan princes of Arabia offered Aksum a large bounty for the repatriation of Muhammad’s family, but Aksum’s emperor refused to betray the exiles. According to the Imperial Crown Council of Ethiopia, “this act was possibly a key event in the survival of the young Islamic religion; the prophet deeply appreciated this act of compassion. He instructed his followers to leave the Ethiopians in peace and exempted Ethiopia from jihad. This in turn allowed Ethiopian Christianity to survive intact.”

Nevertheless, Arab Muslim merchants eventually wrested control of the Africa-Asia trade routes from Christian Aksum, whose residents later abandoned their ports on the Red Sea coast and migrated to the interior, settling in the highlands. Eventually, the Ethiopians lost control of what is now the Eritrean coast, ties to Europe were dissolved and a process of southern expansion began. As the former capital of Aksum declined, Christian monks in the 10th century moved the Ark of the Covenant to the uninhabited island of Tullu Gudo, where it remained in secret for generations.

The Zagwe dynasty, a family of kings who ruled Ethiopia after the ninth or tenth centuries, governed what remained of Christian Ethiopia from the town of Roha. The name of the capital was later changed to honor King Lalibela (who reigned in the late 12th and early 13th centuries), who is now famous for commissioning the city’s rock-hewn churches.

Members of a choir gather in Addis Ababa for Timkat, the feast of the Epiphany. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In a dream, the king envisioned a “New Jerusalem,” a city of churches built in his realm to compensate for the loss of Jerusalem to Islamic forces in 1187. The king assembled a massive crew of laborers, which included the best available masons and craftsmen in the world, who excavated from the earth the complex of ten churches. His queen is credited with an additional church, which she commissioned to honor her husband after his death.

The churches of Lalibela display remarkably different architectural styles — confusing experts for decades. Strolling through the maze of churches, the visitor encounters imposing fortresslike structures, classic basilicas and tiny chapels. Classical columns support the edifices of some, while carved Arabesque windows adorn others.

Crises. Though largely isolated from the Christian world, Ethiopia remained a part of Europe’s consciousness. In the 14th century, Dominicans traveled there with the hope of establishing communion between the Ethiopian Orthodox and Catholic churches; their mission failed.

Ethiopia’s contacts with Christian Europe increased during the reign of Emperor Zara Yacob (died 1468). Known for his statecraft, Zara Yacob also reformed the Ethiopian church and lent his support to its monastic and missionary efforts. He instituted the feast of Mariam Zion that, in its commemoration of the presence of God in the Ark of the Covenant and in the Virgin Mary, illustrates best the unique spirituality of Ethiopian Orthodoxy.

Invited by Pope Eugene IV to full unity with the Catholic Church, Zara Yacob sent a delegation of clergy to Florence, where in 1439 a council was held to discuss the reunification of the various Eastern churches with Rome. These few representatives of the Ethiopian church declared the healing of the breach, but real communion between the Ethiopian Orthodox and Catholic churches never took place.

Long periods of harmony, punctuated by occasional scuffles involving matters of trade, marked premodern Ethiopia’s relations with Islam. Muhammad instructed his followers to live in peace with the Christians of Ethiopia, “a land of righteousness where no one was wronged.” But his words were not always heeded.

Beginning in 1529, Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, a Muslim general from the Ethiopian vassal state of Adal, ravaged the Ethiopian realm, sacked its cities, pillaged its churches and monasteries — including Aksum’s Church of Mariam Zion — and forced thousands to submit to Islam. The general’s victories nearly destroyed Christian Ethiopia.

Eventually, the beleaguered Ethiopian emperor, Dawit II, appealed to the Portuguese for military assistance. The Portuguese arrived in 1540, too late to save the emperor, who died in battle five months earlier, but not too late to save Ethiopia. The Portuguese killed al-Ghazi and his army collapsed.

The Portuguese envoy included a company of Jesuits, who quickly began to challenge the position of the country’s Orthodox Church. They translated the Catholic catechism into Amharic (the vernacular of the Amhara people, who dominated Ethiopian culture), set up schools for the nobility and formed alliances with the politically influential.

To preserve the integrity of Ethiopian Orthodoxy, Emperor Gelawdewos authored his Confessions, in which he outlined the fundamental faith and dogma of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia. His efforts, however, failed to prevent his successors, emperors Za Dengel and Susenyos, from embracing Catholicism.

In a public ceremony in 1626, a Portuguese Jesuit, Affonso Mendes, formally declared the union of the Catholic and Ethiopian Orthodox churches. Appointed patriarch by Pope Gregory XV, the Jesuit latinized the Ethiopian liturgy, aligned Ethiopian customs and disciplines with Rome and replaced the Ethiopian calendar with the Gregorian.

When Emperor Susenyos implemented these changes, civil war erupted. Distraught, Susenyos abdicated in favor of his son, who restored the Orthodox Church. Susenyos died two years later. In 1636, the Jesuit patriarch was expelled and the Orthodox union with Rome was dissolved. Later emperors burned Catholic works, expelled or executed Catholic missionaries and forbade Catholics to enter the country.

Soured by its experiences with Christian Europe, Orthodox Ethiopia retrenched, jealously guarding its borders and culture as the rest of the continent fell to Europe’s colonizers. Not until the late 19th century would a powerful Ethiopian state, buttressed by its Orthodox monasteries, emerge from centuries of self-imposed isolation.

Modern challenges. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ethiopia’s emperors enlisted the aid of Orthodox clergy to reach out to non-Orthodox Ethiopian peoples, such as the Kunama, to deepen among them a sense of national identity. This attempt to assimilate some of Ethiopia’s estimated 100 distinct ethnic groups — who speak at least 80 languages — coincided with the call for greater autonomy for Ethiopia’s church from the Coptic. Prominent members of the court lobbied especially for the appointment of native bishops.

In 1929, the Coptic Orthodox metropolitan archbishop of Addis Ababa ordained four Ethiopian monks as bishops. Later, with the support of Emperor Haile Selassie, an agreement was reached for the election of an ethnic Ethiopian as metropolitan archbishop upon the death of the Coptic incumbent.

In 1948, the Coptic pope chose the ichage, or head, of the Debre Libanos Monastery as the first Ethiopian archbishop of Addis Ababa. Eleven years later, Abune Basilios was elevated to the rank of patriarch in Cairo’s Cathedral of St. Mark. Today Abune Paulos, who was elected in 1992, guides what remains Ethiopia’s largest and most influential religious community.

Ethiopia is celebrated for its many ancient monasteries, foundations established by men who, in the footsteps of the early desert fathers, fled the world to fast, pray and celebrate the Qeddase, the eucharistic liturgy of the Ethiopian church. These monasteries also played a significant role in shaping the development of the Ethiopian nation, culture and identity. Monks even participated in the nation’s volatile political life.

In the 19th century, as Ethiopia’s emperors and nobles waged war to defend or extend the nation’s borders, large monastic estates provided entire communities with education, employment, security and social assistance. With their vast landholdings, significant social prominence and influence with the court, monasteries wielded considerable power and eventually earned the enmity of jealous rivals.

In 1974, a group of military officers overthrew the aged Haile Selassie and, in a 17-year period, instituted a number of harsh, Marxist-inspired economic and social reforms. Known as the Derg, the revolutionaries eliminated the monarchy and the nobility and stripped the monasteries of their land and their traditional privileges and rights, “thus depriving them of the resources and rights necessary to look after orphans, support the underprivileged, supply emergency aid and provide leadership in community affairs,” writes one scholar of the period, Joachim Persoons. “In many cases,” he continues, the “monasteries’ role as protectors of the nation’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage was seriously affected as well.

“Within one generation, the general public has taken for granted that monasteries are impoverished and regard monks as alien to society, which is not historically correct.”

Because of this Marxist rupture, tensions are now developing between the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy and its faithful. In the past, the priest or monk functioned as the community’s leader and adviser. Today, Ethiopia’s young Orthodox Christians no longer perceive the priest as the only source of wisdom. Often better educated than the clergy, they turn to their own experiences to find answers to life’s complexities. Meanwhile, as in the rest of Africa, evangelical Christians are succeeding in winning new converts.

Some attribute the success of the evangelical movements to the effective use of women evangelizers who engage in one-on-one outreach efforts, particularly with those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. Some converts — many of whom feel marginalized from the dominant Amhara and Tigre groups — also believe the Western-funded evangelical movements are more dynamic and possess a clergy better equipped to help them negotiate their Christian identity with the modern world.

To counter this trend, the Orthodox Church has initiated a program to strengthen the education of its priests and deacons, sponsoring clergy training centers throughout the country, but focusing on the rural clergy. Currently, eight centers operate in various eparchies and plans to create an additional 15 centers are in the works. Each center conducts two four-monthlong training sessions per year. Each session enrolls up to 60 participants, all of whom are under the age of 40 and have an eighth-grade education or higher.

While traditional priestly formation in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church emphasizes memorization, celebration of the liturgy and the administration of sacraments, program participants learn about alleviating poverty, gender equality issues, public health concerns and environmental conservation. They also learn about modern agricultural techniques and about the importance of speaking with parishioners about taboo subjects, such as sexual behavior and H.I.V./AIDS. The program also hopes to strengthen clergy’s interpersonal and communication skills as well as deepen their own spiritual lives.

“Our clergy [need] to be more aware of what’s going on around the world rather than just the Ethiopian situation,” says Dr. Nigussu Legesse, who until recently served as the commissioner of the Development and Interchurch Aid Commission of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, which sponsors the clergy training centers.

“We’ve had a social revolution in this country,” he adds. “That’s why we’re trying to expand this program. Clergy members don’t have to be left behind in their parishes and monasteries. We want to bring them back to the mainstream of education and development in the country.”

Michael La Civita is CNEWA’s assistant secretary for communications.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saints Helen and Constantine! Pray for us.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saint Basil the Great, Early Church Father and Doctor of  the Church, Holy Spirit

The Works of the Holy Spirit

This excerpt from St. Basil the Great's landmark work On the Holy Spirit (Cap. 9, 22-23: PG 32, 107-110), written about 360AD, is used in the Roman Liturgy's Office of Readings during the days between the Feast of the Ascension and Feast of Pentecost, on Tuesday of the 7th week of Easter. It is a marvelous expression of faith in the Holy Ghost as fully divine, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. It also describes the works of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life.

The titles given to the Holy Spirit must surely stir the soul of anyone who hears them, and make him realise that they speak of nothing less than the supreme Being. Is he not called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, the steadfast Spirit, the guiding Spirit? But his principal and most personal title is the Holy Spirit.

To the Spirit all creatures turn in their need for sanctification; all living things seek him according to their ability. His breath empowers each to achieve its own natural end.

The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but we can know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole universe, but he gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each according to the measure of his faith.

Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in his mighty works. The whole of his being is present to each individual; the whole of his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he remains unchanged; his self giving is no loss to himself. Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give.

The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.

As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God. Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations - we become God.- Basil of Caesarea

Monday, May 17, 2010

St Cyril of Jerusalem
The living water of the Holy Spirit
The water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.
In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous.
The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.
The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.
As light strikes the eyes of a man who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.
There are many forms of work, but all of them, in all men, are the work of the same God. In each of us the Spirit is manifested in one particular way, for some useful purpose, alleluia.
You are Christ’s body, and each of you a limb or organ of it. In each of us the Spirit is manifested in one particular way, for some useful purpose, alleluia.

Lord, may the power of the Holy Spirit come upon us,
and make us able to keep our minds faithfully attuned to your will
and to live holy lives.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our Father in Carmel, St. Simon Stock (16 May),
Pray for us!
Blessed Feast of the Ascension of Jesus to All!!!
In HIM, b. John

A sermon for the Feast by St. Augustine:

No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven
Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.
Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.
Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.
He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.
These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.
Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.
Blessed Feast of the Ascension of Jesus to All!!!
In HIM, b. John

Métis Communities

Robert Tinker
Métis author, Warren Cariou.
Robert Tinker

The Métis are one of Saskatchewan’s founding people and have contributed to Saskatchewan’s social, cultural, economic and political fabric. Métis settlement in what is now Saskatchewan predated the development of an agrarian society by over 100 years. In the later 18th and early 19th centuries, the Métis plied their various skills in the fur trade. After 1821 and the consolidation of the Canadian fur trade, and until the age of the railway, Métis traders criss-crossed what is now Saskatchewan in vast caravans of Red River carts. The Métis also helped missionaries bring Christianity to the prairie west and the region’s First Nations. They were also bison hunters and plainsmen par excellence. Métis women became renowned for their skill in beadwork and embroidery, particularly through the flower beadwork motif. During the 1870s, with the consolidation of the prairie west into the new Dominion of Canada, the Métis patrolled the Canada-USA border to prevent a Fenian invasion; they also helped survey the region and paved the way for agrarian settlement, serving as guides and scouts; and during the Numbered Treaty (Treaties 1–7) process, they acted as interpreters.

In the settlement period (1896–1929), many Saskatchewan Métis persisted as squatters on Crown land and were known as “Road Allowance People.” In the early years of agrarian settlement, Métis women delivered many of the pioneers’ babies, while others tended the sick through the use of traditional medicines and remedies. Despite being a marginalized and dispersed population, Saskatchewan’s Métis served in the Boer War (1899–1902), World War I (1914–18), World War II (1939–45), and in the Korean War (1950–53) in proportions much larger than the general population. They also began to move to the cities after World War II, contributing to the province’s gradual urbanization; some were forced onto Métis farms by the CCF government in the late 1940s and early 1950s. During the modern era, Saskatchewan’s Métis laboured to build strong self-determining communities through education and training.

This is the documented history of Saskatchewan’s Métis; their past can also be elucidated through both oral history and the archaeological record. In the oral tradition, as told by Elders, the Métis were a proud and independent people who “owned themselves,” hunted bison, spoke their own Michif language, were stewards of the land, danced and jigged to spirited fiddle rhythms, told stories, had reverence for the elderly and the young, and were deeply religious. The archaeological record also provides insights to the Métis’ past inhabitation of what is now Saskatchewan: fur-trade post sites such as Cumberland House, Métis wintering or hivernant sites such as Petite Ville (an hour northeast of Saskatoon) or Chimney Coulee in the Cypress Hills, or remnants of Métis Road Allowance communities such as those at Crescent Lake (near Yorkton) or Katepwa (near Lebret) provide glimpses of how previous generations of Métis interacted with their environment, what they ate, and how their material culture progressed.

The spatial distribution of Saskatchewan’s Métis is diverse. They live throughout the province, particularly in four urban centres: Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, and North Battleford; recent statistics indicate that the Métis are overwhelmingly an urban population. However, they also live in the following towns and villages: Beauval, Buffalo Narrows, Cole Bay, Green Lake, Ile-à-la-Crosse, Jan’s Bay and Turnor Lake in the northwest; Cumberland House and La Ronge in the northeast; Archerwill, Batoche, Big River, Cochin, Debden, Duck Lake, Leoville, Meadow Lake, Nipawin, Pine House, St. Louis, Spiritwood and Yorkton in the centre-parkland; and in the southern plains, Lebret, Lestock, Fort Qu’Appelle and St. Victor-Willow Bunch. The Métis have also lived in the province’s urban centres since the fur trade. In fact, the two oldest continuously inhabited communities in Saskatchewan—Cumberland House (1774) and Ile-à-la-Crosse (1778)—are Métis communities. In addition it was a Métis, James Isbister, who founded Prince Albert, the province’s third largest centre, in 1866.

There has not been, despite attempts in the late 1990s, a thorough enumeration of Saskatchewan’s Métis. The 2001 Statistics Canada Census indicates that there are approximately 40,000 Métis in Saskatchewan, but the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN–S) maintains that their number is closer to 80,000. An accurate enumeration for the province’s Métis community is vital, however, as both the federal and provincial governments provide program funding based on population to the MN–S and its affiliates. Between the 1991 and 2001 census, there was a significant increase in the province’s Métis population, owing to both a high birthrate and a large increase in the number of people self-identifying as Métis–as a result of increased awareness of Métis issues and of the perception that holding Métis status bestows specific benefits not available to the non-Aboriginal population.

Families, both nuclear and extended, are the main structure of Métis society. Métis family genealogies are traced through patrilineal descent. However, both matrilineal and patrilineal kinship ties have been important, especially since family clans were usually composed of sisters and their families, who often lived in close proximity. Even today, it is not uncommon in Métis families for maternal cousins who are raised together to consider themselves brothers or sisters. Saskatchewan’s Métis are a mixture of Red River fur-trade and bison-hunting families who emigrated to the region from Manitoba after the Red River Resistance (1869–70), of fur-trade families that emerged in what is now Saskatchewan, and of First Nations, European and Euro-Canadian intermarriage into these Métis families. The ancestry of Saskatchewan’s Métis is primarily Cree, Saulteaux, French Canadian and Scots-Orcadian; however, many Métis have English, Dene, Dakota, Iroquois, Lakota, Nakota and Dakota roots. Most traditional Métis family names are either of French-Canadian or Celtic-Orcadian origin; however, many Métis now have First Nations, Ukrainian, Scandinavian or German surnames. While the term “métis” means mixed, the Métis see themselves as a distinct Indigenous people, one of three constitutionally recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada under the Constitution Act, 1982, s.35.2, and not merely as an amalgam of different parts.

The social, cultural and economic dynamics facing the Métis vary and are dependent on locale. This socio-economic landscape ranges from remote northern communities, which focus on traditional lifestyles, to timber-producing, ranching and farming communities, and finally to urban centres. Despite such variation within the province’s Métis community, there are some consistent socio-economic trends. For instance, the Métis have a younger population, lower levels of educational attainment, higher levels of poverty, poorer health, and often suffer from a greater number of pathologies and face greater social displacement than the non-Aboriginal population. Therefore, the sociological landscape of Saskatchewan’s Métis is markedly different from that of the non-Aboriginal population. Despite such discrepancies, Métis agencies have been working to address these problems, and since the 1980s have made great inroads towards ameliorating the social conditions. For instance, largely through Métis educational and training programs, a developing Métis middle class consisting of educators, administrators, entrepreneurs, government workers and skilled trades people has emerged and is primarily concentrated in the province’s three largest centres.

The Métis’ contribution to Saskatchewan’s cultural life has been profound. Some of the more prominent Métis cultural events in Saskatchewan include Back to Batoche Days, the Prince Albert Métis Fall Festival, Lebret Métis Days, the John Arcand Fiddle Fest, and Palmbere Days (Palmbere Lake). Some of the Saskatchewan Métis cultural ambassadors include Janice Acoose (author), John Arcand (fiddle player), Rita Bouvier (poet), Bob Boyer (artist), Maria Campbell (author/playwright), Warren Cariou (author), Don Freed (singer/songwriter), and Andrea Menard (actor/ singer). Traditional storytellers such as MN-S Senator Gilbert Pelletier and medicine person/ activist Rose Richardson are also ensuring that traditional Métis stories are being preserved.

There are significant cultural areas within the province’s Métis community. In the province’s north, for instance, the cultural orientation of the Métis closely mirrors that of the local First Nations: Dene in the northwest, and Cree in the northeast. In central and southern Saskatchewan, the cultural makeup of the Métis is largely different from those living in the north in that they do not generally engage in traditional lifestyles and are less likely to speak an Aboriginal language. There are also linguistic variations among the province’s Métis. In the northwest, a form of Michif with a significantly higher Cree content than the southern variety is spoken in Ile-à-la-Crosse, Beauval, Buffalo Narrows and Pinehouse. In Cumberland House, Swampy Cree is the first language of many Métis. In the centre-parkland (Cochin, North Battleford, Meadow Lake, Debden, Big River, Prince Albert, Archerwill, and Yorkton) and along the southern plains (Lebret, Fort Qu’Appelle, and Willow Bunch), Michif-Cree, which is a mixture of French nouns and Cree verbs, was the first language of many Métis prior to the 1950s and the advent of urbanization. Finally, in Batoche, Bellevue, Duck Lake and St. Louis, Michif-French, a dialect of Canadian French, was traditionally spoken. Métis community groups and institutions such as the Gabriel Dumont Institute are working to revitalize Métis languages.

The Métis have traditionally been a deeply religious people, with their own patron saint, St. Joseph. Religious adherence among contemporary Métis is difficult to discern; however, they generally practice Christianity, traditional Aboriginal spirituality, or a mixture of these two systems. Pilgrimages such as those to St. Laurent, near Duck Lake, continue to attract many Métis, particularly the elderly. Marian devotion is particularly strong in Ile-à-la-Crosse. Many Métis also exclusively practice Aboriginal spirituality through the burning of sweetgrass/sage, attending cleansing sweats, and giving thanks through the offering of tobacco.

The Métis have always had a tradition of political activism. In fact, as early as the 1870s the Métis had a governing council at St. Laurent (near Batoche), with Gabriel Dumont serving as its president. After the 1885 Resistance, most Métis disengaged from public life; however, in the 1940s they began to organize collectively through various political lobbies—the predecessors of the modern MN–S. Today, the MN–S is a parallel government that represents the political, social justice, cultural and economic interests of the province’s Metis. Since the 1990s, the MN–S and its affiliates have worked towards self-government for the province’s Métis community. This is primarily done through strategic partnerships with government, such as the tripartite process with the federal and provincial governments, and through the Métis Act, which strengthens the bilateral process between the province and the MN–S. At present, the MN–S is seeking to establish a Métis land base, with full resource extraction rights, in the province’s northwest corner in order to implement full Métis hunting rights across the province (these currently exist only in the north) and to ensure the proper stewardship of Métis heritage—as in the agreement with Parks Canada to manage Batoche National Historic Park.

In mainstream politics, the province’s Métis generally support the New Democratic or Liberal parties; as part of the larger Aboriginal vote, they will play an increasingly large role in Saskatchewan’s political life in the decades ahead. Future challenges for the province’s Métis include reforming the criminal justice system, preserving their languages and culture, maintaining and increasing access to education and employment, improving their standard of living, building self-governing communities, and establishing effective political leadership.

Darren R. Préfontaine

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Plains Cree, one of my ancestral languages, and the Lord's Prayer :)

Blessed Kateri, Please pray for us.
Our Lord Jesus with Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows

Toñ Periinaan, dañ li syel kayaayeen kiichitwaawan toñ noo. Kiiya kaaniikaanishtaman peetoteiie kaandaweetaman taatochiikateew ota dañ la ter taapishkoch dañ li syel. Miinaan anoch moñ paeñiinaan poneeiiminaan kamachitotamaak, niishtanaan nkaponeemaanaanik anikee kaakiimaiitotaakoyaakuk kayakochii'inaan, maaka pashpii'inaan aayik ochi maachiishiiweepishiwin. Kaaniikaaniishtamawiiaak, kishokishiiwin, kaakichiteemiiak kiiya aniie, anoch ekwa takiine.



Kigichiiteiimitiinaann Marii,
ekichiiteiimit, Li Bonjeu wiya
avik twa. Ekichiitakishoyenn
kiya ki tuu lii fam, ekwa
kiichitwaawaanaa mawishwaanaa
kapimotaatayenn kataak Jeyzus.
Kiichitwaawann Marii, Mer di
Bonjeu, ayamiieshtemoinaann
sheemaak ekwa atinapoyaako. Answichil.

Death of Fr John (Aidan) Mulcahy, O.Carm.

It is with sadness that the Irish Province records the death of Fr John Mulcahy on May 10th, 2010, its oldest member and just a month before his 95th birthday. Born in 1916 in Limerick, Fr John joined the Carmelites and was professed in 1934, and was ordained priest on his 25th birthday in 1941. After a brief time in Terenure College he was appointed to the Carmelite Community in Moate where he was to spend the rest of his life and more than 60 years of priestly ministry. Fr John, who had a tremendous love for the Irish language, became a much–loved and well known figure in Moate and its surrounding area where he was a valued confessor. Ar dheis Dei go raibh a anam.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Saint Nino, Enlightener of Georgia
Pray for Us!

Monday, May 10, 2010



(Also known as Catherine Tegakwitha/Takwita.) Known as the "Lily of the Mohawks", and the "Geneviève of New France" an Indian virgin of the Mohawk tribe, born according to some authorities at the Turtle Castle of Ossernenon, according to others at the village of Gandaouge, in 1656; died at Caughnawaga (Kahnawake), Québec, Canada, 17 April, 1680. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin who had been captured by the Iroquois and saved from a captive's fate by the father of Tekakwitha, to whom she also bore a son. When Tekakwitha was about four years old, her parents and brother died of small-pox, and the child was adopted by her aunts and a uncle who had become chief of the Turtle clan. Although small-pox had marked her face and seriously impaired her eyesight and her manner was reserved and shrinking, her aunts began when she was yet very young to form marriage projects for her, from which, as she grew older, she shrank with great aversion. In 1667 the Jesuit missionaries Fremin, Bruyas, and Pierron, accompanying the Mohawk deputies who had been to Quebec to conclude peace with the French, spent three days in the lodge of Tekakwitha's uncle. From them she received her first knowledge of Christianity, but although she forthwith eagerly accepted it in her heart she did not at that time ask to be baptized. Some time later the Turtle clan moved to the north bank of the Mohawk River, the "castle" being built above what is now the town of Fonda. Here in the midst of scenes of carnage, debauchery, and idolatrous frency Tekakwitha lived a life of remarkable virtue, at heart not only a Christian but a Christian virgin, for she firmly and often, with great risk to herself, resisted all efforts to induce her to marry. When she was eighteen, Father Jacques de Lamberville arrived to take charge of the mission which included the Turtle clan, and from him, at her earnest request, Tekakwitha received baptism. Thenceforth she practised her religion unflinchingly in the face of almost unbearable opposition, till finally her uncle's lodge ceased to be a place of protection to her and she was assisted by some Christian Indians to escape to Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) on the St. Laurence. Here she lived in the cabin of Anastasia Tegonhatsihonga, a Christian Indian woman, her extraordinary sanctity impressing not only her own people but the French and the missionaries. Her mortifications were extreme, and Chauchtiere says that she had attained the most perfect union with God in prayer. Upon her death devotion to her began immediately to be manifested by her people. Many pilgrims visit her grave in Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) where a monument to her memory was erected by the Rev. Clarence Walworth in 1884; and Councils of Baltimore and Quebec have petitioned for her canonization. On 22 June 1980, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II; her feast day is celebrated on 14 July.

BLANCHE M. KELLY Transcribed by Mary and Joseph P. Thomas In memory of Eugene LaBombard The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIVCopyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton CompanyOnline Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin KnightNihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., CensorImprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A little comedy to start your week

Sunday, May 9, 2010

THANK-YOU MOTHER, and all Mothers, this Mother's Day!!!

[Ethiopian Theotokos]

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Fire of God's Love is greater than all things.
"God is Love" - I need to believe it or I cannot live.
Love b. JC

In two weeks comes the memorial of one of my dearest saints, Peter Celestine. Amazing just how many hermits there have been in history and that actually show up on the record books (although many many more likely were never seen nor heard of in this life :)

Also coming up is the feast of Joan of Arc, a woman whom I've grown to love greatly in recent years. Her example to women I know, young and old, is outstanding!

Love to you! b. JC

This week has seen the Memorial of the Carthusian Martyrs who died at the English Reformation, as well as the Eastern Church feast of the Righteous Prophet Job; I love both feasts because I love the Carthusians, and I received my own hermit's habit on the feast of Job three years ago. Praise be to God for His generosity! May we be his light in the world! Amen!

(JOB - by Fra Bartolomeo)

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, naked I shall return again. Yahweh gave, Yahweh has taken back.
Blessed be the name of Yahweh!";
"Does Job fear* God for nothing?" - Job 1: 21; 9
*respect / trust