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Saturday, October 30, 2010

ART, ARCHITECTURE & FAITH: Antonio Gaudí a Saint?

Could Antonio Gaudí Be Declared a Saint?

Miracles Have Been Attributed to His Intercession

BARCELONA, Spain, OCT. 29, 2010 ( In addition to designing Barcelona's Church of the Sagrada Familia, which Benedict XVI will consecrate Nov. 7, architect Antonio Gaudí is attributed with miracles that could lead to his canonization.

On Tuesday, members of the Pro-Beatification of Antonio Gaudí Association held a press conference to report on the cause for the architect's beatification.

They noted that they have received numerous personal testimonies from around the world that Gaudí's intercession brought together broken families, cured illnesses, fostered profound conversions to Catholicism, and found jobs for the unemployed.

In fact, speaking to journalists in the crypt of the Church of the Holy Family, the association representatives expressed confidence that the architect will be beatified by June 10, 2016, the 90th anniversary of his death.

The promoters of this process of beatification clarified that it depends on the Vatican Congregation Saints' Causes, and, ultimately, on the will of God.

However, one of the association founders, Josep Maria Tarragona, explained that they have given themselves that "horizon of work" because there is already evidence of a "trustworthy miracle."

This reference to a possible miracle concerns the inexplicable cure of a disease of the retina claimed by Montserrat Barenys, of the city of Reus, where Gaudí was baptized on the day after his birth.

A report of this alleged miraculous cure of the eyesight will be transmitted to the archbishopric of Tarragona, which encompasses Reus.

The association members also highlighted the testimony of Ramon Amargant, who says he was cured miraculously from an ulcer on his hip through the intercession of Gaudí.

In process

The association was born in 1992 through the enthusiasm of five laymen convinced of the sanctity of the artist and with an initial budget of €300 ($417).

The diocesan phase of the cause for canonization took place in Barcelona between 2000 and 2003. In July 2003, the process of beatification opened in Rome.

Silvia Correale is the postulator, Father Lluís Bonnet is the vice-postulator and Father Vincenzo Criscuolo, is the relator.

Father Bonnet, pastor of the Holy Family church, explained at the press conference that the association now hopes that the Congregation for Saints' Causes will confirm that Gaudí lived the Christian virtues heroically, that his intercession has indeed propitiated a miracle, and that the Pope will declare him venerable.

The priest said that in 2012 he plans to give to the congregation a documented biography of the architect that will amount to between 1,200 and 1,444 pages.

For his part, the president of the association, architect Josep Manuel Almuzara, said, in reference to the Sagrada Familia church, that "behind this marvelous church there is a marvelous architect for his art and also for his Christianity."
Aspiring Architect turned Monk is Canonized

Brother Rafael Found Sanctity in Everyday Life
By Carmen Elena Villa

ROME, JULY 22, 2009 ( A Cistercian monk proposed by Pope John Paul II as a model for youth... [has been] canonized.

Blessed María Rafael Arnaiz Baron, known as Brother Rafael, [was] recognized as a saint along with four others [on Oct. 11, 2009]. He is the youngest of the group, having died at age 27 in 1938.

The postulator of his cause, Cistercian Sister Augusta Tescari, spoke with ZENIT about his life, affirming that he found sanctity in the midst of renunciation and sacrifice, as well as the joy of contemplative life, "with the style and the simplicity of a youth."

"A pictorial style because he describes his experience as if he were painting," she explained. "His spirituality is very simple, centered on the Eucharist, the greatness and goodness of God -- in the dominion of God over his life."

Rafael Arnaiz was born in Spain in 1911 and studied at a Jesuit school. From a very young age, he showed remarkable sensitivity to spiritual themes, as well as interest in painting and art.

His studies, however, were soon interrupted by illness. When he recovered in 1922, his father consecrated him to Our Lady. At age 19, he began a degree in architecture in Madrid. "It was a very turbulent era in which anti-clericalism was ablaze," Sister Tescari noted.

In 1932, Arnaiz left aside his studies for a few days to do the spiritual exercises. During that retreat, he felt called to become a Cistercian monk. At age 23, he was accepted in the monastery of St. Isidro de Dueñas.

"I am not moved to make this life change by sadness, nor suffering, nor disappointment, nor disillusion with the world," he said when he entered the order. "What the [world] can give me I have. God in his infinite goodness has given me in life much more than I deserve."

Gazes from heaven

Surrounded by Gregorian chant and the murals of the Trappist monastery, Brother Rafael felt that the vocation responded to his deepest longings.

"Singing as they sing, with this fervor, it is not possible that Our Lady would not be pleased by them," he wrote. "I believe that in these moments, the Queen of Heaven must gaze upon her sons with tenderness."

He spent hours writing his mother -- she would collect his letters in a book after his death -- and his uncles, the dukes of Maqueda.

Sister Tescari recounted that reading his letters "above all those to his uncles, he seems to be their spiritual director. He was not a disciple of his uncles; rather, they were disciples of his."

"Days pass in the monastery," Brother Rafael would write. "What does it matter? I do not see great things, I don't see miseries, I don't see snow, I don't distinguish the sun. The world is reduced to a point, to the point of the monastery and in the monastery, only God and myself."

Despite his contentment in the monastery, diabetes would force him to leave three times.

"This seemed to him almost a betrayal by God, but little by little he accepted the will of the Lord and stayed in his house a year and a half to recover," Sister Tescari explained. "He again asked to enter the monastery, [now] as an oblate because he couldn't follow the entire rule. […] He was accepted as a guest. He felt so strongly that he had the vocation that that is why he was accepted."

Inside and out

The simplicity and humor of Brother Rafael's letters do not diminish their theological depth and the telling of his experiences in the monastery, as well as his love for the Lord and Our Lady.

In 1934, he received the white habit, something he told his mother with great joy: "I am very happy. […] I am all dressed in white, at least on the outside. Now I am going to try to be the same on the inside, which is what really matters."

His reflections are interspersed with commentaries to make his readers laugh: "The cowl makes me very hot," he wrote, "When summer comes I'm going to melt little by little and one day they are going to look for Brother María Rafael and only find his habit."

Diabetes finally took his life April 26, 1938. His cell in the monastery is preserved as a place of prayer and recollection for the monks of the community.

John Paul II offered Brother Rafael as a model during the '89 World Youth Day in Spain. He would proclaim him blessed in 1992.


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On the Net:

More information (in Spanish):

Canadian Society

Diversity bites back

The secret to a politicial underdog's success

Last Updated: October 30, 2010 2:00am

Now that a few days have passed and the cliches have been exhausted, can we please explain what really happened in Toronto this week?
Yes, I know that those of you reading this pretty much anywhere else in Canada claim you can't stand and don't care about Toronto, but whether you like it or not, the place matters. Biggest city, massive influence and all that.
The truth of the election of the right-wing populist — he's not really a conservative — Rob Ford says far more about the entire nation, indeed about all of North America, than it does about one city in Ontario.
Ford was the ultimate outsider and he beat George Smitherman, who was the consummate insider. Ford may be wealthy, but he coaches football, detests the spending of public money, doesn't grasp, let alone enjoy, politically correct language and was backed by talk radio and the tabloids.
His opponent, on the other hand, adores spending our cash, is the darling of the politically correct and was championed by the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and, indirectly, by the CBC.
Ford's campaign was handled by his brother, by strategist Nick Kouvalis, and by volunteers who were often political novices, while Smitherman was in the hands of one of the most expensive consulting groups in Canada and had the public endorsement of the Liberal Party machine and even little Justin Trudeau.
Then comes one of the most delicious political ironies in decades. Multiculturalism bit back. The very diversity that the left has claimed to support dared to think, speak and vote for itself and decided that a man of the people was preferable to a man of the people's masters.
Ford not only won, he smashed his opponents and was declared Toronto's mayor within eight minutes of the polls closing.
The chattering classes are claiming this was because the white, angry, male and suburban people voted for him. Some did. But it takes more than that to win.
What these liberal dinosaurs refuse to grasp and are too insecure to accept is ethnic Toronto is conservative. Smitherman is gay and speaks of his husband. Many Muslims, Tamils, West Indians, Africans and others responded with an electoral "not our values."
Then Smitherman's pals tried to paint Ford as a racist. The alleged victims of the man replied that Ford had always been with them when they needed him and while he might say "oriental" instead of "Asian" and make the occasional, albeit positive, generalization, his pragmatic and colour-blind street politics were preferable to the left's racial obsession.
"Stop patronizing us," was this voting answer.
Ordinary people were mobilized and it's deeply significant that the bitterest responses to Ford's triumph came from white, upper-middle-class lefties and not from the great mass of ordinary Torontonians.
The most telling remark all week was from the increasingly desperate and sad Bob Rae. "I don't really know Rob Ford," he said. "We live in different worlds."
Exactly, Bob, exactly.
The lessons are obvious. Canadians want their country back and politicians need to stop apologizing for appealing to traditional values and common-sense economics. The support is out there if you'll only have faith and trust democracy.

Read Michael Coren's blog at

Divine Providence - Catherine of Siena

From a dialogue on Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin
How good and comforting is your spirit dwelling in all men, O Lord

With a look of mercy that revealed his indescribable kindness, God the Father spoke to Catherine:

Beloved daughter, everything I give to man comes from the love and care I have for him. I desire to show my mercy to the whole world and my protective love to all those who want it.

But in his ignorance man treats himself very cruelly. My care is constant, but he turns my life-giving gifts into a source of death. Yes, I created him with loving care and formed him in my image and likeness. I pondered, and I was moved by the beauty of my creation.

I gave him a memory to recall my goodness, for I wanted him to share in my own power. I gave him an intellect to know and understand my will through the wisdom of my Son, for I am the giver of every good gift and I love him with a father's constant love. Through the Holy Spirit I gave him a will to love what he would come to know with his intellect.

In my loving care I did all this, so that he could know me and perceive my goodness and rejoice to see me for ever. But as I have recounted elsewhere, heaven had been closed off because of Adam's disobedience. Immediately after his sin all manner of evil made its advance throughout the world.

So that I might commute the death consequent upon this disobedience, I attended to you with loving care—out of provident concern I handed over my only-begotten Son to make satisfaction for your needs. I demanded supreme obedience from him so that the human race might be freed of the poison which had infected the entire earth because of Adam's disobedience. With eager love he submitted to a shameful death on the cross and by that death he gave you life, not merely human but divine.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Baptists are fined, beaten, their Bibles seized, all for praying "without authorisation"
Police raids a home, breaking up a celebration, terrorising and taking the names of those present. In the following days, some of the victims are beaten and threatened again. Five are accused of "teaching religion", and sentenced to heavy fines. Baptists complain unsuccessfully of the abuses inflicted upon them.

Tashkent (AsiaNews/F18) – In Uzbekistan, Baptists are systematically persecuted, beaten, victims of raids and illegal Bible seizures by police officers—several members of community have been heavily fined just for praying together. In the Central Asian country, any activity by unregistered religious groups, like praying, is "illegal".
Baptists in Samarkand told the Forum 18 news agency that on 15 August about 20 police officers raided a private home during a celebration. People were struck, threatened, videotaped against their will; Bibles were even torn from the hands of children. Police eventually took down everyone's name, and seized the passport of Veniamin Nemirov, the owner of the house. Forum 18 reported that police detained, summoned and intimidated some of the same people a few days later. On 17 August, one Vladimir Abramov was beaten because he refused to sign a statement.
During the raid, police seized Bibles, hymnbooks and other religious literature. The Religious Affairs Committee refused to return them, saying that only registered religious groups can use them. Since Baptists in Samarkand are not a recognised group, the material is "illegal".
On 21 September, a judge imposed heavy fines (the equivalent of 7 to 11 months of wages) on five Baptists (Veniamin Nemirov, Vladimir Abramov, Alisher Abdullaev, Mikhail Lyubivy and Lyubov Lyubivaya) for taking part in an unauthorised religious service and for "teaching religious beliefs without specialised religious education and without permission from the central organ of a [registered] religious organisation".
The convictions were upheld on 14 October by the Appeal Court in Samarkand. Theoretically, the decision means that teaching one's religion to one's children is illegal.
The five Baptists are not taking the decision lying down. They told the court that Article 29 of the Uzbek constitution guarantees "freedom of thought, speech and convictions." They also complained about the beating they received and the intimidation they had to endure.  
The authorities, for their part, have denied all the allegations and have refused any investigation into the claims made by the Baptists.


Malankara Catholicos of the East abdicates

His Holiness Maran Mar Baselios Marthoma Didymos I
KOTTAYAM (IOH) - The great shepherd of Malankara decided to step down.

It is in a special session of the Holy Episcopal Synod that was convened at the Catholicate Palace, Devalokam, Kottayam, today that the Pontiff decided to disclose on his abdication.

"The Almighty allowed me to lead the Church for the last five years. Looking back, I consider everything as grace of God. I love the Church and the people of God. I also thank all of you, who stood as strong support to me during these years", said the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan to the members of the Holy Episcopal Synod in the preface of his speech.

"For the rest of my life, I want to retreat in prayer and wish to set aside myself from all administrative responsibilities", carried on the Catholicos.

Twenty Metropolitans including Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios attended the meeting.

A meeting of the Holy Episcopal Synod will officially convene tomorrow. Details of the abdication will be released to the media thereafter.

The reigning Catholicos himself will consecrate his successor. With this His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Didymus I will have the rare honor of being the sole Catholicos of Malankara, who has been consecrated by his predecessor and of consecrating his successor as well.

Historians will depict this father as the great skipper, who depended on the power of prayer than secular administrative skills to lead the children of God. Great meeting at Kottayam and two flawless Malankara Associations bear witness to the above said fact.

Fathers of Unborn Children

Shut Out: Fathers of Unborn Children have No Legal Say Whether their Children Live or Die

Commentary by Hilary White
ROME, October 27, 2010 ( – What is the first thing that pops into the minds of ordinary people when they hear the word "abortion"? If you have been lucky, or blessed, enough to have seen through the common rhetoric of our death-cult culture, you may answer something like, "…kills an unborn child." But, sadly and despite our continuing efforts, the world at large has not yet made that connection.
No, what most people think spontaneously when they hear the word is "women's rights." The issue of "rights" in abortion rhetoric is the first and last one in any debate on the subject.
I was not involved in the pro-life movement, nor was I even paying much attention, when the Chantal Daigle case was making headlines in Canada, but the decision of the Supreme Court in Tremblay v. Daigle (1989) found that a fetus has no legal status in Canada as a person, either in Canadian common law or in Quebec civil law. While Canada has no positive law about abortion, the status of the unborn child is firmly established: there isn't one.
Between the legal non-status of abortion and the legal non-existence of the unborn child, the question in the Daigle case that was under debate at the time, was, "should a father have any rights?" In Canada, the Supreme Court decided, No.
Recently, I have been interested in the development of a small but growing backlash against the abortion lobby's assertion that there is only one person, and one person's rights, involved in abortion. In law around the world, the decision to have an abortion is entirely, and legally exclusively, the woman's. No one, neither her parents nor her doctor can, so the logic goes, be allowed to influence her. And that goes triple for the father of the child.
Today, I was watching an interesting set of videos made by a UK group called who are attempting to reverse the trends of misandry that have grown in law and public opinion in the last 50 years.
I don't agree, of course, with all the conclusions in these videos [crude language alert] which assert among other things that the solution to all these problems is the development of a male contraceptive pill. But the points being made, from the point of view of the monstrous injustices to men created by the sexual revolution, are not made often enough.
As I was watching, I was powerfully reminded of two incidents I experienced when I was working in Toronto and giving talks in local Catholic high schools. I was often able to surprise the kids by telling them that the legal situation in Canada gave absolutely no rights to men to have any say in whether their children live or die.
I usually related the story of a man I once spoke to on the phone who had called our office asking for legal help. He and his girlfriend were refugees from Honduras, and had no idea what the laws were in Canada.
The man's girlfriend was pregnant and was living in a woman's shelter. These places are often run by the hardest core of radical feminists, and they had arranged for her to have an abortion (immigrant/refugee women, many of whom don't speak English, are often told by social workers that they will be deported if they have a child, that their child is "illegal").
This poor man, who was in Canada having fled Honduras during one of their political difficulties and who could not risk being sent back, asked me, begged me, to tell him what he could do to save his child's life and get his girlfriend some other kind of help. I was forced to tell him that in Canada, he had no legal rights whatever and if he tried to intervene to save his child, he could be arrested and probably deported.
When I told the kids in the class about this, they were silent. They had only ever been taught (in a Catholic school) to consider the 'rights of women' aspect of the abortion laws. They had no idea that the law was so unbalanced and had not been provided with any sort of stock response to the concept that men are suffering grave injustices because of legal abortion.
At the end of one of these talks, a nice kid in one of the grade eleven classes was asked to escort me to the next class. He was tall and gangly and was tremendously good looking, but looked so sad; his face would have made you burst into tears. He quietly and very politely thanked me for having brought the subject of men's rights up in the talk.
He felt very strongly about it, he said, because his own girlfriend had had an abortion the year before. He said that he had wanted to help raise the child and that his parents had agreed, saying they would help too. But he was shut out of the discussion and his child was dead.
He was 16.

Indonesia tsunami

Indonesia: Catholic villages hardest hit by tsunami October 29, 2010

"As a diocese, we rented a boat that will depart for the islands tomorrow carrying humanitarian aid," he said. "A team of Caritas is already in the tsunami zone and is working alongside the four priests and four nuns who live in the area. The religious are working on the frontline in helping and bringing comfort to the population." Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Dominican Vicariate of St. Vincent Liêm

25th Anniversary of Establishment

of the Vicariate of St. Vincent Liêm, OP in the North America Continent.

Oscar Wilde's Long Conversion

The Long Conversion of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is widely celebrated as an artist persecuted for his homosexuality, a sort of protomartyr for the cause of gay rights. The current celebration of Wilde as gay martyr is certainly one legitimate interpretation of his life, but it oversimplifies his complexity; indeed, it ignores the major movement of his life, a life that may also be seen as a long and difficult conversion to the Roman Catholic Church.

"I am not a Catholic," said Oscar Wilde. "I am simply a violent Papist." This statement, like so many of Wilde's outrageous paradoxes, conceals a sober truth beneath its blithe wit. Another example would be his jest that, of all religions, Catholicism is the only one worth dying in.
Many of these recent works do tell part of Wilde's story well. He was homosexual, promiscuously so, and his downfall was precipitated by his passion for a younger man. It was this young man, Lord Alfred Douglas, who in one of his poems called their desire "the love that dare not speak its name." The tale of their romance has classic, even operatic, features — objections by the beloved's family, separation and exile, brief reunion before the lover's death. The heart left unmoved by their story would be hard indeed.
Yet this sad accounting fails to give us the whole of Oscar Wilde. He was prosecuted for "acts of gross indecency with other male persons, " found guilty, and sentenced to two years in prison at hard labor. But Looking back over his life more than a hundred years later, we can be forgiven for seeing the irony in such statements, for Wilde's fascination with Catholicism, its mysteries and rituals, did set the stage for his death-bed conversion. And we can certainly perceive justice in the fact that the man who cracked such jokes also believed that life imitated art: ultimately, then, the joke was on him. Wilde's name is much in the air these days. There are stage plays about his life, a recent feature film starring Stephen Fry and Jude Law, and articles in the national press. The centenary of his premature death in 1900 at age 46 was widely celebrated in the literary and gay communities with moving testimonies to Oscar Wilde, the persecuted genius and gay man, victim of a repressive and judgmental social order. his reading during his imprisonment included works by St. Augustine, Dante, and Newman. When he emerged from prison, injured and in poor health, he fled across the channel to France to reunite with his lover. But his first act on his release had been to write to the Jesuits begging to make a six-month retreat at one of their London houses. Wilde is celebrated as the center of a circle of unconventional poets and artists known as decadents and aesthetes. But looking a little past these labels we find that many of these men became sincere converts to Catholicism — Wilde being among the last of them, and entering the Church only in his final moments of life.
So the current celebration of Wilde as gay martyr dilutes his complexity and ignores the major movement of his life, a life that may more accurately be seen as a long and difficult conversion. But why this long conversion, and in what larger context?

Catholicism had held Wilde's interest all his adult life. Born in Dublin in 1854 to a Protestant Anglo-Irish family, Wilde came at age 20 to Oxford University in England, where he was taught by the critic and novelist Walter Pater. Under Pater's influence Wilde became fascinated — aesthetically, at least — by the mystery of Catholic ritual, and took to attending Mass regularly. One of Wilde's friends was David Hunter-Blair, a recent convert, who paid Wilde's way on a sojourn in Rome that included an audience with Pope Pius IX. Hunter-Blair had hopes of converting Wilde, but Wilde was apparently moved only to a kind of romantic excitement at this close brush with the dangerous Catholic Church.
Dangerous? Roman Catholicism was to poetic souls a sort of aesthetic temptation, while to many proper Englishmen the Roman Church was still the Whore of Babylon, the Anti-Christ. (It is well to remember that it had been less than fifty years since the Emancipation Bill that allowed Roman Catholics to hold public office in England, only thirty years since the defection to Rome of John Henry Newman and other prominent Anglicans, and just a few years since the First Vatican Council under Pius IX had debated and defined the dogma of papal infallibility — a dogma that must have seemed to many an outbreak of medievalism at the very birth of the Age of Darwin.)
Hunter-Blair's evangelizing efforts had no immediate effect, and the two men parted, Hunter-Blair taking Holy Orders and Wilde turning to the literary world of London. Wilde was forthright about his motives: "To go over to Rome would be to sacrifice and give up my two great Gods: Money and Ambition." His entrance into London society was spectacular: his dandified dress, pronouncements on fashion, and opinions on art were exquisite and sensational. He published poems and stories and made a lecture tour of America in 1882. (The story goes that when asked by a U.S. customs agent if he had anything to declare, Wilde replied, "Only my genius"). In the 1880s he married, fathered two sons in two years, and published several books of stories for children (truly moving fairy tales of sacrifice and death and life beyond the grave that are well worth reading today). But the 1890s were to see Wilde's great rise and sudden fall.
His novel of 1891, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was a tremendous success. The "hysterical" reaction of the critics, as one modern editor calls it, only served to intensify the sensation and the sales. A typical review condemned it as "a poisonous book" full of "moral and spiritual putrefaction," which "constantly hints, not obscurely, at disgusting sins and abominable crimes." The device at the book's center sounds as if it might be simply a bit of cleverness. A beautiful young man exclaims to a painter: "I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose?... Oh, if it were only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now!" Of course, the wish comes true. But what makes the fable frightening, what makes it more than a neat trick, is Wilde's careful portrayal of a sensitive man numbing himself to all feeling for others, of an ego turning monstrous, of a soul choosing evil. In Dorian Gray, Wilde is still a wit and an aphorist, but in the service of a profound theme, a theme that lies at the heart of Catholicism: the ruin of the soul brought about by sin.
There are hints in the novel at elements we now see as autobiographical. The young man, Dorian Gray, frequents opium dens and has furtive relationships that are clearly homosexual, all the while maintaining his mask of youthful purity. There is a young woman, driven to suicide by Dorian's betrayal of her — we can't help but wonder whether she represents Wilde's wife, Constance, raising two children and managing the house while her husband lived out his hidden life. Dorian even attends Mass, drawn (as Wilde was) by the "eternal pathos of human tragedy" represented in the sacred rite. But all the while, up in a locked room of his home, behind a curtain that Dorian now and again pulls aside in fascinated horror, the face in the portrait grows more malevolent. Dorian realizes that "it had been like conscience to him. Yes, it had been conscience. He would destroy it." But when Dorian takes up a knife to stab the picture, he himself dies.
Another work of what a modern critic calls "morbid intensity" is Wilde's play Salome, a treatment of the story of John the Baptist's death. This, too, was a sensation, without even getting onto an English stage. In 1892 it was denied a license for production in London on the grounds that it portrayed biblical characters, a thing forbidden by law. The play (written in French by Wilde) was published in France in 1893 and in an English translation in England in 1894 — with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley, the pre-eminent artist of the English Decadence. The princess Salome is a virgin tormented by lust for the prophet Jokanaan, whose unassailable chastity acts on her as a powerful aphrodisiac. Salome dances for the lustful Herod, her mother's husband, and asks as her prize the head of Jokanaan. As she kisses the lips of the prophet's severed head, even Herod realizes that "she is monstrous... she is altogether monstrous," and orders his soldiers to kill her.
Wilde's partnership with Beardsley on Salome is notable, for the young artist was a match for Wilde in both prodigious talent and scandalous reputation. Beardsley's illustrations for the play are replete with phallic imagery and sneering hermaphroditic figures. Even more so than Wilde, Bearsley wanted to shock: he once famously remarked that "Nero set Christians on fire, like large tallow candles; the only light that Christians have ever been known to give." Yet Beardsley, soon diagnosed with tuberculosis and condemned to a slow, lingering death, became a Catholic in 1896. Another of Wilde's Oxford acquaintances who also converted to Catholicism, the poet Lionel Johnson, had this to say of Beardsley's religious experience: "His conversion was a spiritual work, and not a half-insincere aesthetic act of it.... He withdrew himself from certain valued intimacies, which he felt incompatible with his faith: that implies much, in these days when artists largely claim exemption — in the name of art — from laws and rules of life." In Beardsley's last letter to his family, which opens with the words "Jesus is our Lord and Judge," he asked that his drawings be destroyed. Beardsley died in 1898, at age 25.
As for Dorian Gray and its connection to Wilde's eventual conversion, the novel sits at the intersection of several fictional and actual spiritual paths. The fictional Dorian is partly coaxed into his amoral aestheticism and self-regard by reading a "poison book," a yellow-backed novel written by a Frenchman. The book he had in mind, Wilde later affirmed, was a novel of the French Decadence published in 1884 entitled A Rebours (in English, "Against the Grain" or "Against Nature"). A Rebours chronicles the life of a fictional aristocrat who gives himself over to the most perverse pleasures he can dream of. A Rebours was a daringly new sort of fiction and worked powerfully on Wilde's literary imagination. He wrote, "the heavy odor of incense seemed to cling about its pages and to trouble the brain." The fictional hero of A Rebours , as Wilde well knew, ends contemptuous of everything and unable to have faith in anything except — perhaps — "the terrible God of Genesis and the pale martyr of Golgotha...." The novel ends with his prayer, "Lord, take pity on the Christian who doubts, on the unbeliever who would fain believe...." Seven years after A Rebours was published, its author, J.-K. Huysmans, sought out a priest. In 1892 he returned to the Church and in 1900 became an oblate at a Benedictine monastery. His last three works were religious novels with Catholic settings. As for the sincerity of his religious faith, a modern editor of his work attests that he "put the doctrine into effect... in six months of atrocious agony, heroically borne, that preceded his death from cancer."

So in many respects we see that Wilde was thinking like a Catholic about sin and conscience, and even (judging by his fairy tales for children) about love and redemption. And we see too that many of Wilde's acquaintances and peers had converted to Catholicism: the list would eventually include Robbie Ross, a young Canadian who claimed that Wilde had introduced him to homosexuality, and who was later to play the role of loyal friend in Wilde's darkest moments. But at this point Wilde's personal life was caught up in its "morbid intensity," far too much an imitation of his art. Just as Dorian Gray was being published, Wilde met a young man who was to excite in him the greatest passion of his life, one that would speed him down the path to ruin and disgrace. Lord Alfred Douglas was a beautiful youth, an Oxford poet, the son of Sir John Sholto Douglas, the Eighth Marquess of Queensberry (the same Marquess who in 1867 had established the modern rules of boxing). Like Dorian, Alfred let his beauty and good name mask a secret life that Wilde only too willingly shared. Together they explored the unseen side of Victorian London — the haunts of male prostitutes, blackmailers, and opium addicts. As time passed, they allowed themselves more and more public displays of outrageous behavior.
The sportsman father of the handsome son spoke out against them and badgered them, on one occasion even bursting into Wilde's home. Early in 1895 he left a calling card at a London club addressed to "Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite [sic]." Whatever his prowess in the boxing ring, the athletic Marquess was clearly no match for Wilde in a war of words, so Wilde (against good advice) decided to bring an action for libel against him. Wilde had at the time two hit plays running in London. He had everything to lose — and he lost it. Why, then, did he take the Marquess to court? Perhaps his fatal flaw lay in desiring attention for himself, no matter what the venue. Perhaps he was so confident in his ability to give a very public verbal thrashing to a philistine like the Marquess that he couldn't resist. Or perhaps he was remembering the celebrated libel trial of 1878 between his friend, the painter James McNeill Whistler, and the art critic John Ruskin. That trial had been a sensation, pitting as it did the the champion of new art against the voice of the English art establishment.
Whatever the reason behind it, the trial of the Marquess for libel lasted only two days, for on the third day Wilde's counsel, realizing that the defendant had abundant evidence of the fact of Wilde's sodomy, withdrew the action. That very afternoon the Crown issued a warrant for Wilde's arrest on charges of gross indecency. His first trial ended when the jury returned an undecided vote. Wilde was released on bail but refused to follow his friends' advice to flee to France (Lord Alfred had already fled). A new trial was begun, and on May 25, 1895, Oscar Wilde was found guilty of sodomy. In September of the same year he appeared again in court and was declared bankrupt. A single episode from this time illustrates how broken-hearted he was: as he emerged from his bankruptcy trial, Wilde was exposed to the insults of a sizable crowd. In the midst of this mayhem, Wilde's young Catholic friend, Robbie Ross, stepped out of the crowd and with deliberate politeness tipped his hat to the fallen man. Wilde was deeply moved by this one small gesture of sympathy: "Men have gone to heaven for less."

Oscar Wilde, convicted of sodomy, was sentenced under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 to serve two years of hard labor at Reading Gaol, and his time in prison brought Wilde once again face to face with the Catholic themes of sin and suffering. Now they were purged of any tinge of romanticism and exoticism — they were facts of daily life. Wilde's sensitive nature was tortured by the cruelties he witnessed in prison: the anonymous shame of the inmates, the frightened faces of children torn from their parents, the execution of a young soldier convicted of murder. He spent his free time reading and writing. The writing was to result in two works quite different from what he had done before: The Ballad of Reading Gaol and De Profundis. Wilde's need to find meaning in the midst of suffering was acute. Perhaps it was from reading Augustine or Dante or Newman in his cell that he began to write in a new voice and on a new theme.
Was Wilde ready for conversion at this point? On his release from jail in May of 1897 his request to the Jesuits of Farm Street for a six-month retreat was refused. Wilde wept at the news. No doubt the Jesuit Fathers had reservations about accepting a man of Wilde's notoriety, but we can't help but wonder what effect six months of traditional Ignatian spirituality would have had on this sensitive man. Whatever might have happened at Farm Street did not happen, and Wilde's conversion was again postponed. He left for France, where for a time he was reunited with Lord Alfred, until lack of money and threats from both their families (the Marquess threatening Alfred with exclusion from his will, Constance Wilde threatening Oscar with exclusion from his two sons) separated them once and for all.
The year 1898 saw the publication of The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Wilde's imprisonment and his alienation from friends and society are clearly at the root of this poem, but while the author's experiences were bitter, the poem is not. Gone are the arch aphorisms and mocking paradoxes of his earlier work; gone is the hopeless sense of sin that finds no redemption. The Ballad tells of the execution that Wilde witnessed at Reading Gaol, and conveys the inhuman isolation that the condemned man felt as he awaited his death. Here Wilde's latent Catholic sentiments reveal themselves unequivocally. The poem condemns the petty censoriousness and miserly justice of this world, but not from the pose of anti-bourgeois snobbery that might be expected of an artist, nor in a fit of vindictiveness over society's harsh treatment of the author. Rather, he returns to a tone that he used to good effect in his fairy tales for children, one of compassion:
Ah! Happy they whose hearts can break And peace of pardon win! How else may man make straight his plan And cleanse his soul from Sin? How else but through a broken heart May Lord Christ enter in?"
In 1899 Wilde traveled in Europe, an exile. In 1900 he was briefly in Rome with his companion Robbie Ross. They attended Masses and papal audiences, and Wilde received a blessing from Leo XIII that, he thought, even had a physically curative effect on him. As he joked to Ross, he was "a violent Papist," but he left Rome as he had come, still an admirer of sacred art and sacred ritual, of piety and the papacy, but not yet a Catholic. His health deteriorating and his drinking excessive, Wilde left Rome for Paris, where the final scene of his long conversion would be played.
On November 28,1900, as Wilde lay dying on his bed in Paris, Robbie Ross called in a priest, an English Passionist, Father Dunne. Wilde was given conditional Baptism and was anointed. For a short time he emerged from delirium into lucidity, and Father Dunne, examining him, was satisfied that Wilde freely desired reception into the Church. Wilde died a Catholic on November 30.
The poet's great antagonist, the Marquis of Queensberry, died in the same year. On his deathbed he too was received into the Catholic Church. And the object of the poet's self-destructive passion, Lord Alfred Douglas, became a Catholic in 1911 and remained firm in the Faith until his death, though his later writings betray a conservatism that is distasteful and uncharitable.
Does life, then, imitate art? There is a satisfying symmetry to the story of Wilde's celebrity, his arrogance, his fall, and his humble acceptance of redemption, but we should resist the temptation to turn his life into a moral allegory. There is but a little room here for Catholic triumphalism, just as there is but a little room for an interpretation of Wilde's life that canonizes him as a gay saint. Unfortunately, most recent treatments of Wilde's life reduce him to the latter category: Stephen Fry's recent movie makes but one mention of Catholicism (and that entirely unconnected to Wilde himself). But if we can't simplify Oscar Wilde for our own convenience we are left asking — what was he then?
All of these: writer, wit, voluptuary, gay man, failed father and husband, sensitive soul, laughing stock, broken heart, eleventh hour Catholic convert.


McCracken, Andrew. "The Long Conversion of Oscar Wilde." (April 2003).
Reprinted with permission of the author, Andrew McCracken.
Andrew McCracken is head of the Library Department and teaches Church history at Notre Dame Regional Secondary School in Vancouver British Columbia. Andrew McCracken was on the Executive Board of the Catholic Education Resource Center until 2006.
Copyright © 2003 Andrew McCracken

Síocháin - Peace (in Irish)

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Canadian Prime Minister Visits Ukrainian Catholic University

Canadian Prime Minister Visits Ukrainian Catholic University

26 October 2010, 15:18 | International relations | 0 |   | Code for Blog |
During his official visit to Lviv, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper visited the Ukrainian Catholic University and met with the students and teachers of the institution.
In his address to the students of UCU, the Canadian prime minister stressed the principles and values shared by both Canada and Ukraine. "The cornerstones of the Canadian foreign policy are  freedom, democracy, human rights, and supremacy of law.  And first of all, the freedom of speech for which Gongadze died. We believe that democracy, human rights, and supremacy of law are impossible without freedom; therefore, when Ukraine joined the community of free countries, we were the first to sincerely rejoice. Now, we try to be not just observers but friends who help to follow the way to democratic reforms both at the official level and at the level of ordinary citizens. No one could predict the two previous decades and no one knows what will be in future but now is a wonderful time to live. What will become of your country depends upon your generation. Remember that you have friends in Canada who admire and respect your aspiration for freedom, your spirit of national self-determination, and the courage of its people, a courage that has never deserted you, even in the darkest nights of your long history," noted the prime minister.
The rector of UCU, Fr. Borys Gudziak, presented the community of UCU to the prime minister, the Ambassador Plenipotentiary of Canada in Ukraine Daniel Caron, and the Canadian delegation which included representatives of the parliament and Ukrainian organizations and the media. "It is a small university that follows the trajectory of Christ, which is descent to those most needy, which can be expressed in a translation of Plato or aid to people in need. I am proud of our students and it is a great pleasure for us to welcome you as Canadians help to bring about many changes both in Ukraine in general and in the Ukrainian Catholic University," noted the rector.
The program of the visit to Lviv was developed according to the wishes of the Canadian side. In addition to UCU, Steven Harper visited St. George's Cathedral and the Prison at Lontskoho Street Museum where he left a note in the honorary guestbook.


Measure science by contribution to common good, Pope suggests

The value of science in the 21st century will be measured by "the scientist's ability to search for truth and apply discoveries in a way that goes hand in hand with the search for what is just and good," Pope Benedict XVI said on October 28.

Speaking to members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Holy Father remarked that during the 20th century, two extreme attitudes toward science arose. Some people expected science to solve all the problems of mankind, while others grew to fear scientific progress because of frightening developments such as nuclear weaponry. Neither approach is reasonable, the Pope said: "Scientists do not create the world; they learn about it and attempt to imitate it, following the laws and intelligibility that nature manifests to us."

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.


Pontifical council implements Pope's call for 'Court of the Gentiles'

In his 2009 year-end address to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict reflected on the role of the 'Court of the Gentiles' at the temple in Jerusalem: it was "a free space for the Gentiles who wished to pray there to the one God, even if they could not take part in the mystery for whose service the inner part of the Temple was reserved." He added:

I think that today too the Church should open a sort of "Court of the Gentiles" in which people might in some way latch on to God, without knowing him and before gaining access to his mystery, at whose service the inner life of the Church stands. Today, in addition to interreligious dialogue, there should be a dialogue with those to whom religion is something foreign, to whom God is unknown and who nevertheless do not want to be left merely Godless, but rather to draw near to him, albeit as the Unknown.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Msgr. Peter Fleetwood discussed how the Pontifical Council for Culture is implementing the Pope's call for a 'Court of the Gentiles': debates, meetings, and dramas are planned, beginning with meetings in Paris at the Sorbonne and UNESCO.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

SOCIETY: Catholics, Orthodox Share Secularization Concerns

Catholics, Orthodox Share Secularization Concerns

Affirm Duty to Awaken Consciences
RHODES, Greece, OCT. 27, 2010 ( Representatives from both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Europe are sharing concerns about the secularization of society.

The warned about the dangers derived from a secularized society, "without points of moral reference and without a plan worthy of the human person," in a final communiqué of the 2nd Catholic Orthodox Forum.

The forum took place Oct. 18-22 in Rhodes, on the theme "Church-State Relations: Theological and Historical Perspectives."
It was presided over by Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and by Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE). Some 17 delegates from the council participated, and as many other representatives of the Orthodox Churches.
The participants affirmed, "It is not possible to lay the foundations of coexistence without establishing a relationship with the objective reality of the human being, with the need to be open to the whole reality in which he is integrated, which is not just reduced to the quest for material well-being, but which includes the search for the meaning of life through a never ending spiritual quest."
They added, "The image of the human being that is projected in public speeches and in the media is often foreign to the quest for truth, while the satisfaction of subjective desires is valued exclusively."
"The juridical order on which states are erected and, hence, relations between citizens, cannot depend on people's changing opinions, or on the action of pressure groups," the communiqué stated.

It stressed that this order "must be based on intangible human values," that are "innate to the human being" and "preceding the law and the state."
The Forum addressed some topics in particular: the Church-state relationship from the theological and historical point of view, the way in which Churches live their relations with the state; the common good and the service/diakonia of the Church to society.
The communiqué noted that in Europe the system of separation with cooperation between the Church and the state is the most widespread.
It added that this separation must be understood "as separation of the political and religious fields, and not in the sense of a reciprocal ignorance, impossible to apply."

Harmonious cooperation

"Independence and reciprocal autonomy must allow for a specific and harmonious cooperation between the two institutions," the participants stated.
In this context, they added, the Churches "wish to participate more actively in the ethical and moral debates that affect the future of society."
The participants affirmed, "It seems important to us to confirm that our countries of Europe cannot break off their Christian roots without destroying themselves and that the ethical challenges are determinant for our future in a globalized world."
"The Churches have the duty to awaken consciences," they asserted, "and to defend the dignity of the human person created in the image of God," confirming in particular "the right to conscientious objection for medical staff, whom no one can oblige to practice abortion or euthanasia."
The communiqué particularly mentioned "the notable differences" existing between the Churches in regard to their material conditions of life:" Some "are financed with state money, others have a system of ecclesiastical tax imposed by law, others take recourse exclusively to the donations of the faithful."
It acknowledged that "in some countries of Europe, the Churches continue to wait for the restitution of the goods that were confiscated by the Communist regime, something that would enable them to fulfill their pastoral, charitable and social mission."
Finally, the forum participants insisted on liberty of education, affirming that the duty of education belongs to parents.

They stated that the Church "has the constitutive right to offer an education that is in conformity with the Christian principles of the families that have requested it."
The 3rd Catholic Orthodox Forum will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2012.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

English Dominicans

English Dominicans in Santa Sabina, Rome

fr. Lawrence Lew was in Rome recently for the 10th Anniversary celebrations of the Dominican Volunteers International program, which was inaugurated by fr. Timothy Radcliffe in 2000. There will be a report about this on Godzdogz in a few days time. The DVI meeting took place in Santa Sabina, which includes the 5th-century basilica given to St Dominic in 1219. The priory, which has a 13th-century cloister and a wing built by Pope St Pius V, is home to the Master of the Order and his Curia. Many great saints of the Order, including St Dominic, St Albert the Great, St Thomas Aquinas, and St Hyacinth have lived at Santa Sabina. At the moment, four brothers of the English Province live and work there. It is unprecedented for so many English Dominicans to be living concurrently in this historic priory of the Order.

 Santa Sabina

From the Province of England currently (all in the photo below along with fr. Lawrence, l. to r.):

Bruno Clifton, student in Sacred Scripture;

Robert Ombres, Procurator General;

Mark Edney, President of the International Dominican Foundation; 

Allan White, former Provincial, and socius to fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa and now to fr Bruno Cadoré.

English Dominicans in Santa Sabina


A "baker" feeds hungry North Korean children
George Rhee, a South Korean with British passport, has opened three small bakeries, one near the coastal city of Sonbong, in North Korea. Thanks to his efforts, 2,500 children are fed free each day, keeping the pangs of hunger away. Meanwhile, North Korea's regime asks South Korea for food aid as its situation becomes desperate.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – As the food crisis in North Korea goes from bad to worse, a small Christian NGO has opened three bakeries that are feeding the children of some 20 schools, one in the North Korean city of Sonbong, near the Chinese border.
"If we did not provide these buns the children would go hungry," said the charity's founder, South Korean-born George Rhee, who is quick to point out, "All of our food gets to the children. None goes to the North Korean army or government".
The food crisis in North Korea is desperate. North Korean authorities have asked the South for 500,000 tonnes of rice and 300,000 tonnes of wheat in exchange for concessions on family reunifications.
After the election of Conservative President Lee Myung-bak, the North's Stalinist regime refrained from asking for more aid. The recent request is a sign of how desperate the situation is in a country caught between a failing economic policy and the world's embargo over its nuclear weapons programme.
Rhee, 52, is a minister in the Assemblies of God Church. He is also the founder of 'Love North Korean Children', an institution that grew out of his own childhood experiences.
As one of eight children, six brothers and a sister, he experienced the effects of his father's land reclamation business going bust. Penniless, his parents were forced to put him and his twin brother in a children's home, a cruel place where the children often went hungry. It was this that made Rhee decide that he wanted to help the children of North Korea.
At first, he wanted to open an orphanage, but the government would not let him. "They say North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is our father, so there is no need for orphanages. So then I decided to open a bakery," Rhee said.
Rhee first visited North Korea in 2002, and opened the charity's first bakery the following year, in Rajin, close to Sonbong. Now he also runs a bakery in Pyongyang, and this year opened a new bakery in Hyangsan. He also hopes to open more bakeries in North Korea.
His Christian faith has inspired his action. "There is a lot of interest in what we are doing. I am hopeful that we will be able to raise more money to open more bakeries," he said. "The North Korean government says we can. The only question is money," he added.
Given his firsthand experience, he is also in a position to confirm the stories coming out of the North. "I have even seen dead children in the streets. The situation for children in North Korea is terrible," he stressed.
Rhee also strongly backs South Korea's tough line, as he believes most of the South Korean charities were naive, unable or unwilling, to prevent the North Korean government from diverting much of the food they provided to its million-strong army.
"I support President Lee Myung-bak in this," Rhee said. "These South Korean organisations were foolish" in not monitoring where food and other supplies were going.



Stiff sentences for Vietnamese lay activists

Six Vietnamese Catholic activists were convicted and sentenced for "disturbing public order, disorderly conduct, and attacking state security officers" after a quick trial in which defendants were deprived of their rights to a lawyer.??

Two defendants received 12-month sentences, while the other four were sentenced to 9 months in prison for their role in clashes that took place in May when police assaulted a funeral procession. The Catholic activists were charged with inciting the disturbance. Protesting their innocence, the defendants said that police had charged a peaceful procession, after a series of disputes over the ownership of cemetery ground.

Hundreds of police in riot gear with guard dogs were deployed in front of the Da Nang courthouse to deter protesters who were engaged in a sit-in on the street outside the building.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Theology of the Body

Theology of the Body Testimony: A Protestant Defends Marriage with TOB
By Andy C.
I was first introduced to Theology of the Body while working with my evangelical ministry in 1998. I met Christopher West at a Conference in Denver, and we immediately hit it off. Even though I am not Catholic, we both saw clearly that our common faith in Jesus Christ was the best context for the restoration of sexually broken persons. He handed me an unabridged copy of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. As a theologically-aware Protestant, I poured myself into it...and John Paul II knocked me out.
This Pope had a keen grasp of masculinity and femininity, and proclaimed the truth that no matter how far we have fallen, the gift of self remains and needs to be given, whether single or married. John Paul II's mastery on the subject won me over; he wove strands related to gender and sexuality into a beautifully rich tapestry.
Eleven years later, Christopher and I reengaged on the "gay marriage" issue, and he invited me to attend the "TOB 1: Head and Heart Immersion Course." I might have re-titled it: "Full Protestant Immersion into All Things Distinctly Catholic." I loved it! Not only was I surrounded by earthy, funny and serious Roman Catholics, I began to grasp how fundamentals of the Church like a high view of the Eucharist, Mary, and the communion of saints were key to the healing of persons. Most importantly, I grasped the sacramental nature of the union of male and female — the gift and the grace of whole heterosexual unions upon all who encounter them. The course reminded me of why we must make our marriages work and keep fighting to retain marriage's true definition in the culture!
After the week-long "Head and Heart Immersion Course," I was tremendously impacted by this heightened awareness of marriage as sacrament. I dreamt for two weeks of the heavenly consummation to which marriage points. It was awesome. I have rarely woken up as heavenly-minded, and as ardently in love with my wife. The courses I have been able to take with TOB Institute have had a profound impact on the work I lead, Desert Stream Ministries. Studying the Theology of the Body has benefited us enormously, in both our pastoral and prophetic emphases. In setting forth John Paul II's work clearly, TOB Institute has helped our ministry secure a more whole and integrated theology for our task of training the laity to heal the sexually broken in the context of the local church. One intern of ours returned to her native Thailand emboldened to restore marriages broken by sexual sin; another will return to Puerto Rico in order to bring TOB to youth and young adults.
Theology of the Body is helping to assemble a prophetic army of truth-tellers and intercessors who now have tools to engage meaningfully with the culture. I am happy to say that my fellow TOB 1 students from last year's June course have been among the most responsive of the few thousand who join us twice a year in our 40 days of prayer and fasting for marriage. As we fight for its true definition throughout the U.S. and in the nations of the earth, I am honored to partner prayerfully with my new friends from the extended TOB family. Our ministry lives out the message that these things can only be done by prayer and fasting.
Andrew Comiskey is the Founder and Executive Director of Desert Stream Ministries. Please visit for more details.
Desert Stream Ministries provides Christ-centered help for those struggling with sexual and relational problems. He has written several books based on his experience with avoiding homosexual relationships and behaviors, and gives seminars to those who wish to be free from such relationships and behaviors. He is considered to be a prominent ex-gay leader, and has appeared as a guest on the 700 Club. Andrew and his wife have four children.

CHURCH: Maronite Monks of Adoration

Most Holy Trinity Monastery, Petersham, Massachusetts

. . . live the traditional contemplative life following in the footsteps of our monastic father St. Maron, of St. Sharbel (a Maronite hermit canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977), and St. Nimatullah al-Hardini (a teacher of St. Sharbel, canonized May 16, 2004 by Pope John Paul II )

Like other cloistered orders, our principal work in the Church is a life of prayer and sacrifice consecrated to God, in union with Jesus Christ—a life of silence, "solitude in community", liturgical prayer and work. But the special orientation of our form of monasticism is Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, so characteristic of St. Sharbel and St. Nimatullah al-Hardini's spirituality.

"In the East, monasticism was not seen merely as a separate condition, proper to a precise category of Christians, but rather as a reference point for all the baptized, according to the gifts offered to each by the Lord; it was presented as a symbolic synthesis of Christianity." (Pope John Paul II: "The Light of the East", no. 9)

In any truly contemplative vocation there is the Marian dimension. We strive to imitate the Blessed Virgin of the Scriptures who lived a life of silent adoration of her Divine Son, all the while pondering the meaning of His life "in her heart." (Lk. 2:19)

Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks to us through the Church which He established. Therefore: We submit to our Holy Father, the Pope, and to the Magisterium and the Canon Law of the Church. At the very heart of our monastic life is full fidelity to the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, life at this Eastern Catholic Monastery is to be seen first and foremost as Roman Catholic, though not of the Latin rite; a life in which one strives for the perfection of Gospel living as a Roman Catholic Christian. Further, we give homage, respect and obedience to His Beatitude, the Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and to the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Maronite Catholic Church and their instructions and directions.

As monks of the Maronite Catholic Church, we chant daily-in-English the Divine Office and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the Maronite rite.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Testerian Catechism

Testerian Catechism

 Tradition attributes St. Francis of Assisi with the powerful quote: "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary!" This statement is very Franciscan in its spirit and has certainly been lived by the members of the Franciscan orders. One Brother, Jacobo de Testera, certainly provided a very literal example of this adage. He was one of the first missionaries in Mexico, well before the languages of the indigenous peoples had been learned. Jacobo pioneered a technique that used pictorial stories to describe basic teachings and spread the Gospel. These catechisms were therefore called Testerians. One of these Testerian Catechisms, from 1524, has been added to the World Digital Library; an internet project to make significant primary materials from across the world available to as many people as possible.

The full text is available here

VIETNAM: Trial against Catholics

Trial against six Catholics from Dau, deprived of their homes and beaten by police
by Emily Nguyen

Case dates back to events that took place in May when police blocked the burial of a woman in the old parish cemetery, until then on government list of historic sites to be protected, but later billed for destruction, along with all the houses in the parish, to create a tourist center. The bishop spoke of "Hunting the faithful."

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Thousands of Catholics gathered yesterday at the Redemptorist monastery in Thai Ha, in Hanoi to pray and express their support for six parishioners of Dau who will be put in trial in two days time. The trial is seen as a new attempt by the judicial system to persecute those who refuse to see their rights to truth and justice trampled on.
This can be evidently seen in the 16 page report of the Bureau of Investigation of Cam Le, Da Nang which according to the Vietnam Criminal Code, will serve as the basis for the indictments against six parishioners accused of "inciting riots, falsely accusing the government, disrespecting the nation, breaking and ridiculing the law, and instigating others to violate it".
It all started earlier this year, with the local authorities' decision to demolish all the houses in the parish of Con Dau, created 135 years ago to build a tourist center, without offering a fair compensation or support for re-housing. The area includes the parish cemetery and covers an area of 10 hectares, about a mile from the church. For 135 years it has been the only burial place for the faithful and, in the past, it was among the historical sites protected by the government. Until March 10, when security agents have placed a sign at the entrance of the cemetery with the inscription "No burials in this area". When a parishioner went to protest, the head of the police sprayed tear gas in his face, causing him to pass out.
On May 4, during the funeral procession for Mary Tan, 82, police intervened to prevent the burial in the cemetery. For almost an hour there were clashes (pictured) between 500 Catholics and agents, with many wounded and 59 people arrested. The coffin was taken to the family of the woman and was later cremated, against the wishes she had expressed, to be buried next to her husband and his family members, in the parish cemetery.
On May 6, in a pastoral letter, Bishop of Da Nang, Joseph Chau Ngoc Tri, spoke of a "manhunt" of the faithful by the police.
In July, Nam Nguyen, a Catholic parish Con Dau, he died a few hours after being released by police. In the months leading up to his arrest and death he had been detained, threatened and beaten by officers.
Nevertheless, state media have praised the officers for their forbearance and self-control, describing them as victims of an organized gang of parishioners, driven to violence by the six believers who are being tried.
And finally, October 22, just days before the trial, two lawyers, Duong Ha and Cu Huy Ha Vu who on several occasions had expressed support for the cause of the six Catholic and had volunteered for their defense, were denied permission to defend them.



From "JESUS: An Experiment in Christology"

Submitted to Mabiala Kenzo, Ph.D. -



                Dominican theologian Edward Schillebeeckx (henceforward ES) states from the outset (44) that "an individual human being is the focal point of a series of interactive relations to the past, the future and his or her own present… All this is true of Jesus as well – which is why the starting-point for any Christology or Christian interpretation of Jesus is not simply Jesus of Nazareth, still less the Church's kerygma or creed.  Rather it is the movement which Jesus himself started in the first century of our era; more particularly because this Jesus is known to us, historically speaking, only via that movement."  This is the gist of ES's introduction to his study of how it is that people can know Jesus today.

"These Christian congregations put the emphasis not on 'Christ died', but on '… died for our sins', nay, more 'died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures' (1 Cor. 15:3); or again 'died, but was raised' (Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:3-4).  To speak of Jesus in the language of faith is to express what the (indeed) historical Jesus had come to signify for his disciples and how this is anchored in Jesus himself.  History and empirical knowledge (information, therefore) are present here – but present as interpreted in the language of faith (44).

ES states that the historical record left to us of Jesus is a record of an experience that was fundamentally one of faith; the early Church describes relations with Jesus as relations that changed lives radically and in fact transformed personal as well as social realities.

 The only knowledge we possess of the Christ event reaches us via the concrete experience  of the first local communities of Christians, who were sensible of a new life present in them, which they regarded as a gift of the Pneuma, the Spirit; an experience of new life in the embrace of the Spirit, but in remembrance of Jesus.  That is why I said that the proto-Christian movement centred around Jesus is the inescapable and historically reliable point of departure.  We cannot in isolation ask 'Who was Jesus of Nazareth?'… (45)

                ES builds his study of Jesus around the experience of the proto-Christian community and attempts to avoid grasping on to ideas about Jesus that were to develop at later stages in the Church's history. This is an interesting approach and one that captures my attention immediately because it challenges me to, in a sense, see Jesus for who his contemporaries saw him to be.  I have never been invited to such a reflection upon Jesus that really considers the man and his personal impact on those in direct personal encounter with him walking among us in the flesh.   

…Even a historian, asking himself this question, cannot ignore the actual effect of the man – itself part and parcel of a historical process of tradition or a religious and cultural situation-context – on the one hand upon a group of contemporaries who became his disciples, and on the other hand on those who saw him in quite a different light, while evincing just as extraordinary a reaction – one that cost him his life… So the historian is bound to ask: What manner of man must this have been who could trigger such extreme reactions: on the one hand, unconditional faith, and on the other, aggressive disbelief?  That the Romans, faced with the possibility of political agitation in an occupied territory, should have him crucified says much about our human record of injustice.  That the Jewish authorities should hand him over is only explicable (leaving human passions aside) if from a Jewish viewpoint and by conventional standards Jesus had somehow acted in a fundamentally un-Jewish fashion where religion is concerned (giving himself out to be 'messiah' is not enough to account for this: there were a number of other messianic pretenders in those days, and yet they were not put to death for it)...(45)

ES here sets the stage for the reader's consideration of Jesus as a social figure who simply does not fit, and his not fitting in with the social order of the day created a certain political and religious necessity for his murder.  Schillebeeckx is laying the groundwork for establishing how peculiar a character this Jesus is and how we need to take hold, today, of what his peculiarity really meant on the ground so to speak, and why/how it is that Jesus continues today to have some level of social impact around the world. 

…On the other hand there were the disciples, who believed in Jesus, responded unreservedly and positively  to him and did so in such a way that after his execution they could not articulate the experience that underlay their response except by reaching out for the most varied, most evocative, most lofty religious ideas and codewords available in the Jewish and Gentile worlds: son of man, eschatological prophet, messiah or Christ, 'son of God' (in both Jewish and its Hellenistic meaning), 'lord' (the Jewish mar and Hellenistic kyrios), and so forth – evocative titles, some of which were full of meaning for Jewish Christians but were simply unintelligible to Christians from the Gentile world (for instance 'son of man; messiah), reason enough for them to disappear from the Greek-speaking churches (son of man, for example) or lose all depth of meaning (45-46).

The early Christians' common faith experience prompted them to choose the most lofty terms by which to refer to Jesus "to be able to some degree express in words their past and present experience with Jesus and arising from him (46)."  A real encounter with Jesus persists in the lives of individuals in the community from generation to generation although it is an experience  of this same Jesus with new 'particulars' personal to each individual who has this encounter in his or her own cultural/historical context.  This is what would likely be deemed today 'contextual theology'.   

It is interesting to notice the structure of this community experience, which itself links the 'new life' of the local congregation, present in virtue of the Spirit, with Jesus of Nazareth.  Pneuma and anamnesis, Spirit and recollection of Jesus, are experienced as a single reality… John's gospel thematizes the link between Pneuma and anamnesis (recollection or remembrance)… when it makes the Lord say that the Spirit when he comes will bring all things to their remembrance (Jn. 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14).  The local congregation's pneumatic experiences are intrinsically bound up with the memoria Jesu.  There is an organic connection between the present, the here-and-now of the communal experiences (Pneuma), and the Jesus 'past' (recollection) (46-47).

ES suggests that it is Scripture that today in fact mediates to us the clearest image of who Jesus was to his contemporaries because of its varied and multifaceted accounts of the man, but that too creates a problem.  The problem faced by the Christian today when reading Scripture is that clearly the Jesus there represented is Jesus as interpreted by the writer.  There are in Scripture as many faces of Jesus as there are authors, notwithstanding the inherent correspondences between the various accounts given of his life and works.

The experience of the first Christian congregations, inseparably associated with first-hand contact with Jesus and later, through the memoria Jesu, with a continuing fellowship with the Lord, is therefore the matrix of the New Testament as a written text.  And thanks to that, the earliest Christian congregations, with their experience, are historically accessible to us; they afford, at the historical level, the most reliable access to Jesus of Nazareth.  What the historical Jesus has left us is not in the first instance a kind of résumé or bits and pieces of preaching about God's approaching dominion, nor a kerygma or string of verba et facta ipsissima, that is, a pure record of precisely what he did as a historical individual or a number of directives and wise sayings that can fairly certainly be picked out from the Gospels.  What he did leave – only through what he was, did and had said, simply through his activities as this particular human being – was a movement, a living fellowship of believers who had become conscious of being the new people of God, the eschatological 'gathering' of God – not a 'sacred remnant' but the firstborn of the gathering together of all Israel, and eventually of all human kind: an eschatological liberation movement for bringing together all people, bringing them together in unity.  Universal shalom שָׁלוֹם (47-48). 

Historical context and culture are today acknowledged as bearing significant influence upon individual and/or communal understanding of events and experiences.   Certainly then the first followers of Jesus and their perceptions of him were affected by their own cultural and historical contexts;

 "Awareness of this fact that every religion, the Christian one included, is conditioned by cultural-cum-historical factors substantially relativises the absolute character of values as currently apprehended…  So the Christian's response to the question of Christian identity can never be a total identification with the culture – even the religious culture – which surrounds him and in which he participates; nor indeed can the faith of the Christian be identified completely with the most official articulations of it, although the mystery of faith which they enshrine is validly and truly expressed in them.  Because of this tension between the mystery of faith and its articulation, conditioned by the religious culture, there is need not only for a historical approach to dogma and a hermeneutic evaluation of primitive Christianity and its subsequent development, but also for sociological enquiry that will size up ideologies in a critical spirit… Every religious movement is ipso facto something inextricably involved in a historical and cultural process.  The recurrent question here is: Does it preserve a critical, creative tension vis-à-vis this, its own socio-cultural world?  This may be ascertained by tracking down the particular Christian variant through which it participates in the movements of the whole culture, or else from the absence of such a variant" (49)…       



   "We can see this tension present in the earliest belief- and creed-structure of the New Testament.  From all the complexes of tradition merging together there, however diverse their origins might be, it becomes evident that the first Christians found salvation in Jesus – salvation that was conclusive and was imparted by God.  In the light of this experience they named that saving reality the Christ, the son of man, the Lord, and so forth.  Thus they applied certain key concepts already current in their religious culture to Jesus, concepts which were 'vacant', so to speak, and acquired their Christian meaning only when applied to him (49-50)…". 

Jesus being understood as the "very essence of final salvation" was given these already existent titles but the Christian community now attributed new meaning to these names "filling them out with recollections of his life and death here on earth" (50)… 

It must be said, therefore, that the criterion for the designation or identification of Jesus in the New Testament was not the meaning already attached to the existing title, but Jesus himself" [within the context of peoples' daily lived experience of Him].  "It is the disciples' way of expressing their conviction that in him they had found their final salvation; and they do it in rather strange conceptual terms so as to put into words the peculiar nature of it (50)." 

Jesus as a man lived in a particular social, cultural, religious, linguistic, political, etc. context and the record of his life that we have in the Gospels, even the words chosen to communicate these stories about his life are charged with the reality of the context in which the authors wrote; take note of the fact that there are as many Christologies in the New Testament as there are authors who gave an account of Jesus' life.  This fact cannot under any circumstances be ignored by the modern reader or theologian which begs the question, what is a reliable account of the life of Jesus if there exists such a thing (51)?  There is a tension, who is the actual historical figure of Christ as compared with the figure described to us in various ways in the Scriptures?  The answer to this question of the plurality of Christ images we have received is twofold:

a)      On the one hand [they derive from] the various religious and cultural circumstances of those who became Christians and

b)      on the other hand, the amazing fascination exerted in all sorts of ways upon his disciples by Jesus' person, life, message, and death (51)."

… If we ask what is meant by the 'eschatological salvation' given us by the crucified-and-risen One, to give substance and content to this we have to point to Jesus of Nazareth himself, his person and his whole career and course of action up to and including his death (52)." 

That having been stated, ES asserts that in all of the New Testament there is "no trace… of a non-dogmatic representation of Jesus anywhere… Jesus is to be found there only as the subject of confession on the part of Christians" thus, in the face of such a diversity of interpretations of the person of Jesus ES asks "What is the constant factor that will create unity within this variegated whole?"  The New Testament presents diverse Christologies; the 'gospel within the gospel' concept does not work due to confessional/denominationally based interpretations, etc.; there's no certainty that relying upon 'the oldest tradition' to come down to us regarding Jesus' life is the most accurate source of witness because, amongst other things, there is no way to ascertain which traditions are, in fact, oldest let alone their reliability; we can derive very little from the Gospels about Jesus' inner life and psychology so that is not a reliable source of information; Jesus' sayings and acts in Scripture are the result of selective choice on the part of authors so that is not a complete image of him; finally, "No constant unitive factor is provided by credal statements and homologues in the Bible [either].  How quickly [for example] the expression 'son of man' disappears, does it not?  It does not turn up in a credal affirmation anywhere (55)." 

        Schillebeeckx's final assertion regarding the best representation of Jesus with which we are left in the world today is "the Christian movement itself" (56): 

In other words a Christian oneness of experience which does indeed take its unity from its pointing to the one figure of Jesus, while nonetheless being pluriform in its verbal expressions or articulation.  'You yourselves', Paul writes to the Christians at Corinth, 'are… an open letter from Christ – written not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts' (2 Cor. 3:2-3).  By unity of experience I mean not an individual or individualistic religious experience of Jesus… but a community experience, in the sense of an ecclesial or collective experience which obliges people to define the ultimate meaning and purport of their lives by reference to Jesus of Nazareth or, to put it in traditional and equally proper terms, which causes people to interpret Jesus' life as the definitive or eschatological activity of God in history for the salvation or deliverance of men and women.  The constant factor here is that particular groups of people find final salvation imparted by God in Jesus of Nazareth (56).

As Canadian Christian philosopher and media expert Marshall McLuhan[1] put it, "The medium is the message", and that could not be more true according to Edward Schillebeeckx; who Jesus was then is who Jesus is now and we see the reality of who He is in the life of the people of God in the context in which they live out that relationship with Him today:

That is to say, one cannot formalize a kerygma, for instance, 'Jesus is Lord'.  One has to make Jesus the prescriptive, determining factor in one's life in accordance with changing situations, cultural, social, ecclesial; and in that context one will proceed to live out, experience and put into words what 'making Jesus the determining factor' really entails in this precise moment (56).

        In other words the Scriptural teaching that "Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever", seems to suggest to Schillebeeckx that clinging to ideas or expressions of who and what He was to past generations and in specific cultural/social circumstances does not necessarily communicate the reality of who Jesus IS for us now, in this moment, in our own personal context/cultural circumstances.  The People of God need room to move and breathe, so to speak, in order to be able to articulate their own encounter with the Living Jesus today.  The Christian person's encounter with Jesus in ancient Israel was concrete, real, and true to his/her context, the Christian's encounter with Jesus today must be equally concrete, real, and true to his/her context.  Ultimately ES seems to be arguing that there is no 'historical Jesus' to hold on to, and that the Jesus who matters is the Jesus we can know in the here and now while looking to what our brothers and sisters in Christ have left us as a valuable, but not in all cases 'normative', experience of Jesus.  This view, by extension, leads to questions regarding the authority or usefulness of Scripture across generations of believers.  To this ES responds that the New Testament provides norms for Christian life because it remains the constant witness the Church has to the experience of Jesus by the first believers and represents a very wide range of encounters that give us examples today of the breadth of experience there can be amongst believers in their various contexts (58-59).  By this Schillebeeckx seems to be suggesting that the New Testament is authoritative as God's Word for the guidance of the Church, BUT the New Testament being a text written by the first believers is a text from the believing community and thus has its authority not over the people of God, but from within the people of God thus making the Church's experience of Jesus almost as authoritative a revelation of who Jesus is as the Bible; this sounds like the Catholic juxtaposition of "Scripture and Sacred Tradition". 

[1] Please see: Marshall McLuhan Biography: .