Thursday, January 31, 2013

On How Popes View Their Role

Cleaning up my hard drive, I came upon this, that I had saved a very long time ago.  I still think it instructive.




41. Yet before proceeding to explain these matters, that principle which Leo XIII so clearly established must be laid down at the outset here, namely, that there resides in Us the right and duty to pronounce with supreme authority upon social and economic matters.[27] Certainly the Church was not given the commission to guide men to an only fleeting and perishable happiness but to that which is eternal. Indeed "the Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix without cause in these temporal concerns"[28]; however, she can in no wise renounce the duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office, but in all things that are connected with the moral law. For as to these, the deposit of truth that God committed to Us and the grave duty of disseminating and interpreting the whole moral law, and of urging it in season and out of season, bring under and subject to Our supreme jurisdiction not only social order but economic activities themselves.
If you can bear to read the whole thing, it's here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mystics: Dangerous People?

Over the weekend I came across two seeming oxymorons. The first was a pattern for knitting a lace tea cozy. Lace tea cozy? Gimme a break!

The other had to do with the word, mystical.

Here’s a Catholic priest the Vatican is accusing of mysticism. This is from the UK newspaper, The Daily Mail and came to my attention via Father Andrew Stephen Damick. Emphases mine.

Pope finally launches crackdown on world's largest illicit Catholic shrine and suspends 'dubious' priest

The Pope has begun a crackdown on the world’s largest illicit Catholic shrine – by suspending the priest at the centre of claims that the Virgin Mary has appeared more than 40,000 times.

Benedict XVI has authorised ‘severe cautionary and disciplinary measures’ against Father Tomislav Vlasic, the former ‘spiritual director’ to six children who said Our Lady was appearing to them at Medjugorje in Bosnia.

The Franciscan priest has been suspended after he refused to cooperate into claims of scandalous sexual immorality ‘aggravated by mystical motivations’.

He has also been accused of ‘the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspected mysticism and disobedience towards legitimately issued orders’, and is suspected of heresy and schism.

(You can read the rest here.)

Mystical, in Eastern Christian parlance, means not available to the senses. Thus, the Holy Communion is really, truly, mystically, the Body and Blood of Christ. In Holy Baptism, we are mystically grafted into Christ; we cannot actually see the sacred Body into which we become incorporated; we only see the process in symbol. Our worship is mystical participation in the ceaseless worship of heaven. The saints and angels are mystically present with us, but we only see them symbolically, too (icons).  And so on and so forth.

In other words, in Orthodox Christianity, we have no distinct category of people whom we label as mystics. We’re all “mystics”. Even infants in arms, even the not-so-devout, we all practice mysticism.

In Western parlance, mysticism means having direct experience of God; direct, as distinct from through the Scriptures or through the Pope or through anything whatsoever.  The word mystic implies a person of advanced spirituality, mature in prayer and/or meditation, who after long years of effort has acquired something special the rest of us do not have because he actually experiences God firsthand.

Of course mysticism in this sense is problematical in the West, because strictly speaking, Western theology does not logically allow for any direct, two-way relationship with the immutable, changeless God.  In Catholicism, especially, it is a disquieting phenomenon when people assert they have a direct relationship with God, because that leaves out the Pope.  He no longer controls that.

So with that in mind, one can sort of see how "mysticism" could be a charge levelled against someone.  But really, now.  Some of the people Catholics have canonized have been called, and revered especially as being, mystics: Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, Catherine of Siena... the list is long.

So while I'm glad the Pope has cracked down on this lucrative fraud (and I wonder what took him so long), I'm left bewildered by the charge against this priest of "suspected mysticism".  What's with this?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Germs in the all-Pure Body and Blood of Christ - Really????

I heard on the news over the weekend that the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, due to the current flu epidemic, has suspended offering the consecrated wine to its faithful. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

So That's That for Another Year (I Hope)

Medical Appointments Checklist

√ Dentist . . . . . . . . . No new cavities

√ Cardiologist . . . . . Increased 1 med

√ Ob-gyn . . . . . . . . All good

√ Ophthalmologist .  Cataracts may need surgery next year

√ Mammogram . . .  Clear. MRIs yearly from now on

√ Dermatologist . . . Moles are harmless

√ Optical shop . . . . First-ever bifocals ordered

I'm especially pleased I'll be getting MRIs from now on instead of regular mammograms.  It'll hurt less!  But more importantly, an MRI can catch cancer 3 years or more before it shows up on an X-ray.  Think how it would bolster your flagging confidence, if anything showed up, to know you got a three-year headstart on it!  Especially if your mother, daughter, or sister ever had breast cancer, you may be eligible; please ASK.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Does This Lady Look Familiar?

Well, she isn't who she looks like. (To me, she does, anyway.) She's my Aunt Pat and she lives in Kalamazoo. And the man with her, looking remarkably like his late father, is, or at least used to be, my Cousin Billy; of course, he's William now.

A Radiant Soul

You know how, when you meet a truly holy person, it's so wonderful it makes you want to cry?  (Okay, if you're a man, it may not, but if you're a woman, it does for sure.)  Well, I met one of those yesterday in the waiting room where I went for my annual mammography - which thank the Lord came out clear. 

She was waiting to have a sonogram, as her mammogram had shown some sort of anomaly.  (But her sonogram showed nothing to worry about.)  Somehow we struck up a conversation and she was telling me about her children.  The younger boy, 20 months, is a Down's Syndrome kid.  I started to say I was so sorry, but then checked myself, remembering that every Down's Syndrome person I've ever met has been a joy and a delight, lacking in guile, lacking in malice, lacking in so much of the poison the rest of us seem to absorb gradually from our environment.  She said it seemed to her the heavens had opened and God had reached down and given her this baby.  I said the very first person who ever introduced herself to me in my current parish and welcomed me was a teenager with Down's Syndrome.  She said she wasn't so delighted when the baby was first born, because she was so scared.  "You didn't know ahead of time?" I asked, and I asked it because I somehow felt so hungry to hear her say exactly what she did say:  "No, and it wouldn't have made any difference.  I don't believe in that sort of thing."   She went on:  "First the doctors told us our baby had Down's Syndrome.  Then they told us he had two holes in his heart, and all our thoughts about Down's went out the window.  Who cared about that?  All we cared about was, please let that baby live!" 

She talked about searching for a children's book that she could read to her then three-and-a-half year old boy, to help her explain to him about his baby brother.  "Finally we found one, and read it to him, and as we were trying to assure him that little Nicholas would still be able to play with him and walk and run, and would love him very much, that boy turned to me and said, 'Mom, it's all part of the plan!'"

Of course it was the acceptance in that statement that made it so beautiful.  We agreed it must be a deviation from God's plan because God isn't like that, to plan such things.  But in another sense, in the sense that God knew about this from before any of us was born and allowed it to happen, in that sense, it could be called His plan.  At least He incorporated it into His plan.

A third young woman in the room had by now joined the conversation.  Her mammogram had been abnormal and she was waiting for a repeat test.  She said she wasn't too worried about it, "because I've had this before, and it wasn't cancer.  It was pre-cancerous and they just took it out."

So the young mother said, "I'll keep you in my prayers.  What is your name?"  So we all introduced ourselves, and all promised to pray for one another.  Her name is Tracy and the other woman is Anne. 

Somehow the two of them began talking of their ages.  Tracy said, "I'm about to turn 37.  And sometimes when I look in the mirror, I don't know who that is looking back at me!"

"I'll tell you who it is," I said.  "It's a radiantly beautiful woman, whose beauty proceeds from the heart!"

We'd all begun to sniffle some time before this, but then Tracy burst into tears and I bawled and Anne blinked hard.  And beautiful Tracy jump-started my stalled, empty soul.

She doesn't know it, but her sheer goodness and her prayers will affect not only me, but all the people I am going to have to deal with in the next few days, people toward whom I was feeling very short-tempered, but now it's okay.  Everything is okay.  Everything is much, much more than just okay.

Kyrie, eleison!   

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Uncle Dick

Went to see Mom yesterday. My brother Mike came, too. About an hour into the visit, and only because his name came up in conversation, Mom remarked, "Uncle Dick died." That's my father's older brother. She didn't know how or of what or when, only that his girlfriend had called her on Friday. That would be yesterday, we asked? Or last Friday?  She wasn't sure.

My cousin says he suffered a massive stroke on Christmas and died the next day.  He was 93.

Anyway, this is distressing on two counts, and I am also wondering whether I'll go abroad this year, after all.

Here's a photo of my uncle at Thanksgiving, beating the pants off of nearly everybody at Scrabble - except his sister, Aunt Pat, who used all her letters (so says Cousin Cindy) on her first turn.  He looks very, very much like my father, and she looks more than a little like Grandma Jones (their mother).

And here is my uncle's obit, not that it will interest many outside our family...

Richard Wilson "Dick" Jones, Lansing, Age 93, died December 26, 2012. Mr. Jones was born March 25, 1919 at Fort Sill, OK, the son of Major Leland H. and Nora Smiley Jones. He grew up in East Lansing, MI and Crystal Falls, MI. He graduated from Graveraet High School in Marquette, MI and from Michigan State College in 1941 with a B.S. degree in civil engineering. He served in the Army Air Corps in World War II as an aircraft maintenance officer in the 486th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force in England. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and was stationed at an Air Force depot in Chateauroux, France. He was a structural steel engineer and was employed by the Mississippi Valley Structural Steel Company, Amercel Structures, the Planet Corporation and BOC division of General Motors. He was a longtime member of the First Presbyterian Church of Lansing, having served as an elder and a deacon and played in the bell choir. He was preceded in death by his wife of 52 years, Marie Lundquist Jones in 1995 and his brother, David L. Jones in 2008. He is survived by twin sons, Steven and David of Anchorage, AK; one sister, Patricia A. Ehrlich of Kalamazoo; one sister-in-law, Barbara Jones of Springfield, Virginia; two grandchildren, Derek (Carrie) Sheets and Morgan (Christopher) Browne; and his special great-grandson, Austin Sheets. The funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, December 31, 2012, at First Presbyterian Church of Lansing, with the Rev. Anne Weirich and the Rev. Charles Herrick officiating. Interment will follow in Deepdale Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be held from 3-5 p.m. Sunday at the Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel. Those desiring may make donations to the First Presbyterian Church Endowment Fund, 510 W. Ottawa St., Lansing, MI 48933, in memory of Mr. Jones.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Feast of St. Basil the Great

Tuesday, 01 January

We awoke in the morning to the sound of many small voices singing, hundreds of them, from every branch and perch in the neighborhood.  "Who has arrived?" I asked, heading for the window.  Robins! A whole flock of robins, chirruping for blocks around.

And the main attraction?  The giant holly tree at the corner of our house, laden with tens of thousands of berries.

"Poor tree," I said.  "They'll eat all your berries."

"They couldn't possibly eat that many!" said Demetrios.  "Not even this many robins could do that."

But the Holly Tree nodded and said, "That's what I'm here for."

By time we left for church, not a single berry was left; the birds were reduced to searching the berries on the ground, to see if any were edible. 

By time we got back from church, there wasn't a robin in sight.

The Holly Tree nodded and said, "Happy feast day!"

There's another holly out back, a different sort; the robins left it alone.