Saturday, 31 August 2013

Whose Responsibility is Catholic Community?

I found something interesting on the Venerabile website.

Seminaries still perform the same function, providing intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation for those discerning and preparing for priestly ministry. To those three areas of formation Blessed John Paul II added a fourth in his Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (PDV) - that of human formation. Of course human formation had always gone on in seminaries - living in community provides that to a significant extent, but PDV made it more explicit and hence gave it a greater focus.

But, apparently, a person told me today, that a fifth pillar of training, besides, intellectual, spiritual, pastoral and human formation is going to be added. This fifth area is community building.

I need to find out more about this with a written source. It seems that the problems of the lack of lay involvement in parishes has led to an idea that priests need to learn how to create parish communities. If this is true, this leads back to the older idea, way pre-Vatican II, and not the American experience on the prairies, that it is the priest's duty to create a parish community, making the priest the locus of all activity.

I firmly disagree with this emphasis, and have written about the dire need for adult appropriation of the Faith on my blog over and over. Look under the tag catholic thinking.

In the not-so-distant past, unless the laity organized themselves at the level of the family into the domestic Church, religion did not survive in many countries.

The father as the head of the family, and the religious head of the home who passes on the Faith, with the wife to the children through many means, is an ancient idea. This is a corner-stone teaching in Catholic cultures. The Jews have this ideal as well, and perhaps, my families roots in that religion on one side, added to the awareness of the integral role the father plays in the domestic Church.

Matriarchies do not create strong Catholic families or real Catholic cultures. Our Church is patriarchal from top to bottom and from bottom to top, as created by God Himself in the Old Testament Covenant and in the New, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. To say that Christ was a prisoner of His own culture and time is a modernist heresy, which denies that God created the models of society and the Church.

Now, in this culture in England and in some places in the States, (not Ireland, where youths have fallen away more), one sees a resurgence of the Millennials interested in religion, to the point where many youths are more religious than their Gen-X parents, but have no place to live out that religion in the non-religious homes. Is it the priest's duty to provide a domestic church?

The fact that seminaries may start putting the onus on priests to provide these places for youths is worrying, as a priest cannot be a superman, providing not only what he In persona Christi  needs to provide, but family rootedness in religion as well.

The laity are being massively irresponsible in not passing on the Faith to their own children and providing an environment for Faith to grow. Why should the priest take over what are the duties of the parents? 

The Faith has always been family based, which is why over the centuries, the Popes have taught of the sacredness of family life as against other models, including the evil societal structures of socialism and communism, which undermine that primacy of family life.

Without strong Catholic families, the resusancy times would have seen the end of Catholicism in England. 

The fact that many of the laity do not get involved in parish life, except in the obvious liturgical roles, has baffled me in England. My dad over 40 years ago, was helping with the finances of more than one parish as a volunteer, outside his full-time job with the military. He helped in cub scouts. He was president of Serra Club.  My mother helped in the school and in the woman's club. Both were in the choir. My mom held the choir picnics, and help organize the Christmas bazaar, making things all year round. And, they did other things in the larger community, as well as in the parish, plus raising four children, and sadly, losing four. 

I grew up in a family of active lay people, volunteering for many aspects of parish life. And, lay involvement in my family goes back over 100 years, as my Great-Grandfather, a lay person, was made a Knight of St. Gregory and given other accolades by more than one Pope for his services to the Church.

What has happened is a real weakening of the Church at the base, and what needs to change quickly is the realization that without the domestic Church, there will be no institutional Church.

What happens if the institutional Church is persecuted by fines and imprisonments within our life-times as a result of the legal pressures of many issues regarding religious freedom and freedom of conscience?

Priests in England may be like John Wesley on horseback, moving from parish to parish, being the only sacramental source for hundreds of miles around.

The families broken by divorce are one cause of the demise of the domestic Church, but contraception and apostasy, relativism and consumerism undermine daily Catholic observance. Another huge problem are mixed-marriages, where the parents do not agree or cannot share the Faith. This use to be frowned upon as not viable. There has been in recent times a tremendous laxity in this regard, and poor sacramental marriage prep. 

To expect the priest to be the creator of communities is a false hope and a waste of seminary training time. Priests for centuries in mission countries preached the Gospel, said Mass, performed the sacraments, and it was up to the laity to provide community.

I have brought pies and meals to the ill in my parishes. I have volunteered and done child catechesis, Holy Communion prep, Confirmation prep. Marriage prep, RCIA, I have entertrained groups in my home, and done catering for parish events. I have worked for pro-life and Catholic political issues.

If the lay persons do not learn their Faith and take over the community functions, including teaching, as many priests are not teachers. then the Church will continue to decay, not only from the top down, as in some countries, but from the bottom up.

Whose responsibility is the creating of Catholic community?

Monday, 26 August 2013

Has Change Shattered Our Faith?

Can we answer 'yes' now?

At a local Church that I sometimes attend Mass in is a rather good bookshelf with books that people can borrow. I borrowed a few books, one entitled, 'What to Do When the Man you Love is an Alcoholic', because I know a few, another called 'Fatima: The Great Sign' which seems to be an excellent introduction and overview of the Fatima message, a book about interesting Christian initiatives started in community centres and finally this little nugget pictured above.

'Has Change Shattered Our Faith?' is a worthy historical document examining the 'great leap forward' undergone by the Catholic Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, especially during the hazy if 'optimistic' 1970s. It is worth juxtaposing this little book with Fatima: The Great Sign because while the message of Our Lady of Fatima holds up spiritual realities to the Church in anticipation that the Church's hierarchy and clergy would forget them or desire to erase them (the reality of Hell, Pugatory, Heaven, the need for penance, reparation and conversion of life, the Real Presence, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, etc), this little book was trying to deal with the implications of a tumultuous time in the Church's history with platitudes and obfuscations.

Calming the Fears in the Storm

So what of this little book, 'Has Change Shattered Our Faith?'. Well, it sets itself in the time it was published, 1976. It is an extraordinary 'damage limitation exercise' that seeks to calm fears over the dramatic changes that the Church witnessed in Her liturgy, catechesis and culture. Even the title is pretty contradictory. 'Things are looking up!' is the cry, even though the book itself acknowledges that the faith of many had been 'shattered' by the upheavals of the 1970s. It's as if the authors of the little articles included in the book are saying, 'Calm down, calm down, everything is okay!' to parishioners as they leave the Church in droves because they cannot stand the imposition of the new liturgy, or embrace a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll instead because the Church has committed suicide.

While the message of Fatima remains a beacon of hope for the Church in what continues to be an age of apostasy and unbelief, the message of the 'Hopeful Look at the Church Today' continues to be wearing thin. It is, infact, as if Fatima remains an open rebuke to a Church's attempt to turn its back on its tradition as Our Lady appears and more or less says, "Wait! Hell still exists!" The very first secret Our Lady gives the children is the horrifying vision of souls falling into Hell. Meanwhile, the facts on the ground of the fallout of the 'cultural revolution' in the Catholic Church have been well documented by the LMS, among others in terms of baptisms, weddings and ordinations and the rest.

The first essay is entitled, 'Our Faith: Has Change Shattered It?' by Leonard Foley, O.F.M. He begins...

'I keep breaking my resolution not to give reasons for changes in the Church. I should have learned by now that the problem is not an intellectual one, to be solved by "explaining." It is a matter of feelings: fear, anger, frustration, insecurity, disappointment, a sense of being betrayed. "The Church" was once something you could be sure of. It gave you definite answers, yes and no, black and white. No matter how people changed, the Church didn't change.

Now, one man said to me, they've made it into a night club (trumpets at Mass). Priests and nuns leave and get married, laymen distribute Communion, St Christopher gets dropped, you don't have to abstain from meat on Friday, Jonah wasn't in the whale and hardly anybody goes to Confession anymore. You never have Benediction, and the rosary is "out". They've moved the Tabernacle to God knows where and the statues have disappeared from many churches.

Not priests, but parish councils and liturgy committees run the parishes. There aren't enough nuns left to teach Catholic schools. You never hear anything about hell anymore, and so on and so forth.'

Imprimatur: The then Archbishop Joseph F. Bernadin
Sound familiar, Catholics of 2013? Gently, and with all the pastoral warmth he can muster, Foley tries to ease the fears, anxieties and tensions of the remaining Catholics who haven't apostasised by 1976.

Firstly, he says that explaining the changes to people does not work and that he can only tell people 'his own feelings' on it. Secondly, he compares his time with that of the time when he was ordained a priest, when a 'good solid system' was in operation - pope, bishop, pastor, superiors, catechism, Sunday observance, no meat on Friday, parish societies, clear directions to clear goals. There was no thought of making any great changes'. Thirdly, he puts the changes in the context of the second world war, television, the atomic bomb, the election of Blessed Pope John XXIII and picking up a copy of Hans Kung's 'The Council, Reform and Reunion' (as if these major events and Hans Kung are intrinsically linked).

The Split

He then, however, goes on to describe 'the split'. The 'split' is interesting because he says:

'Here, already people parted company. There just seem to be two kinds of people: those who are - to use a good work and a bad word - adaptable and/or itchy for change, which they feel can be progressive, healthy, besides being exciting; and on the other hand those who are - to use a good word and a bad word - dependable and/or set in their ways.'

People 'parted company' in the Mystical Body of Christ. He assesses the liberal and the conservative in pretty neutral tones, being charitable to each. Of traditional Catholics he says...

'They are not alarmists; they just don't want good things spoiled, stolen, destroyed.'

Let us recall that this unofficial 'split' which is rarely acknowledged in our times didn't just affect the laity but priests, bishops, nuns, friars, monks and cardinals. What we see today with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate is the resounding, recurring echo of that 'split'. In other words, the 'traditional Catholic' is a creation of the Second Vatican Council or, at least, a creation of the 'spirit' in which it was executed. It is easy for us today to forget this. Prior to this dramatic epoch in the Church's history, there were 'Catholics'. The 'traditional Catholic' did not exist as a concept. It remains, to this day, a concept over which there is still tenacious debate.

There then begun a battle over what it meant to be a Catholic. The innovations went to the very soul of Catholicism. How could it not affect or 'shatter' Catholic souls or the faith of these souls? These were a group of people who simply refused to believe that the 'progressive' movement known for visibly hacking the Altar from the gradine of the Church on a global scale was wise or even the logical fruit of Vatican II. The radical movement 'forward' (a rallying cry of many a communist) left people behind because the raptured architects and rupturous builders of it forgot that as much as God calls us to go forward does He call us to turn back to Him. That is what repentance is. It means to return, to turn around, to the Lord, not to turn to the future, not to turn to ourselves, not to turn to one another, but Ad Deum.

So back to 'the split'. Foley says...

'I think what happened was this. The leaders of the Church - priests, brothers, nuns - divided into two groups without realising it. One group became very interested in reading all that the theologians and Bible schoilars had to say about the Church today, religion today. They went to meetings, conventions lectures etc. They had a great time discussing the beautiful (to them) developments. And as ideas developed, they got them gradually. Over a period of 10 -15 years, they had absorbed many new ideas. If they - or again, let me stay with my experience - if I, for instance were to compare my awareness, outlook, ideas in 1970 with those I had in 1960 without any experience of the years between I would have been very surprised at myself.

On the other hand, other traditional leaders in the Church - priests, brothers and nuns - had an instinctive feeling that something was wrong, dangerous, about the new emphases. Some were so busy they had no time for reading and study. In any case, for many reasons, they did not have the same experiences as those described above. And so, rightly or wrongly, they were, say in 1970, as far away from some of their fellow priests, brothers and nuns as I was from my 1960 self. Many of the laity divided in the same way. But it seems that the majority not accustomed to different opinions in the Church were, and simply are, confused, scandalised and unhappy.'

In other words, not only were some so moved by their 'experiences' that they began to see the Church's leap forward as progress, but priests ordained before the Second Vatican Council who disagreed with the changes were divided from those who saw within its implementation an improvement on the Church of yesteryear. Not only this, but priests ordained before the Council, by 1976 saw themselves, their ministry and the Catholic Faith they adhered to in a radically different way seemingly divorced from that which they had hitherto known. Yet...yet, the answer that this was due to the different 'experiences' of priests is flawed because of the simple fact that those who wept over the changes imposed on the Catholic Church (and who faithfully stayed) lived in the same time, experienced the time and the culture, but simply held onto that which their generation had held as sacred! The author continues...

'For a while it seemed that the breath of fresh air in the Church was being enthusiastically inhaled by one and all. Popular speakers, the Catholic press in general exuded euphoria, glowed with euphoria. But apparently the explanation didn't take with lots of people. Some of them came to adult [re-]education classes (most did not) and were seldom convinced of the wisdom of the "new" approach. People's native caution, the whole emotional atmosphere in which they were raised, the obvious mistakes that were made in some cases, made people feel that "they" were tampering with the foundations and there was danger that the whole building would fall down.'

Addressing the concerns

At this point, you can't help wondering whether Fr Leonard is either in denial of the reality the Church faced and still faces, or whether he believes in the way the Council was implemented, or whether he is just being loyal and obedient to those who implemented it. You can almost hear him crying on the inside...

'Recently, I have had some experiences that have helped me appreciate how the "old" Church feels. Just as some of my old friends are appalled by guitar Masses, bouncy music and "togetherness" at Mass, so I am scared out of the ball park by the exuberance and expressiveness of the new "charismatics". I know they are holy, Spirit-filled people. I know they are bringing in thousands of people, especially younger ones, to a new experience of Christ (I should say Jesus). But their emotional expressiveness appals my cold Irish-German temperament, their zeal to get me "in" turns me off, and their rhetoric irritates me. I finally know how my cousin Eileen feels about A Mighty Fortress is Our God ("Damned Protestant hymns!" she mutters, charging out of church). 

So I have some sense of how traditional Catholics feel, even though I would probably be considered a fuzzy liberal by some of my Franciscan confreres (and an outdated square by others).

So, was faith destroyed by the changes? 

'People with a strong faith - whether they buy the new approach or not - seem to be able to handle the confusion. Faith for them is simply a giving on oneself to God [...] Words and rituals may change, but my faith stands beyond these things.'
'Faith is inside. It is caught, not taught. It is lived, not memorized. It is a divine spark, not a human creation. It can no more be destroyed from without than the God whose presence it reveals. Now if faith is this inner indestructible reality, external problems, confusion and change should be relatively easy to handle.'

Okay, so what about those people whose faith cannot withstand the Catholic Church issuing a category five hurricane on its members? Unfortunately, Fr Leonard doesn't answer that question. In other words, a 'good' Christian, a faithful disciple accepts the changes with a face of flint and goes along with it, even if he or she can't stand it. The 'good' Christian doesn't leave. Fine, but what happens to all those men and women without the personal faith of St Monica and for whom the Church was a Rock, entirely dependable and unchanging in Her character? What of those who get the general impression the Church doesn't stand for what it stood for, no longer exists for what it existed for and has had its true mission, as well as its most missionary and constant signpost  - the Mass of Ages - relegated to a dusty archive somewhere in the walls of the Vatican? No answer. On top of this we now know that if you really want to destroy Faith, you can do so by allowing the infiltration of the Church by pederasts who abuse the Church's children and destroy not just the faith of those children, but the faith of many others by covering the whole thing up.

Is it not the case that by the time that this book was promulgated, having received an Imprimatur from the then Archbishop, later Cardinal Joseph F. Bernardin, that the damage had already been done and that those who remained faithful to the Church out of love were 'strong' enough to cope with seeing and hearing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being turned around and often turned into a Eucharistic circus while priests ad-libbed the Mass in the vernacular and stopped talking about sin, salvation, heaven, hell, purgatory and all the things mentioned by Our Lady at Fatima?

Words of Advice

In a way St Monica is a good illustration of the loving mother who patiently waits for her own prodigal son, St Augustine, to return to the true Faith, entangled as he was, in so many sins, heresies and dominated by so many passions contrary to it. Ironically, that is how the Church stands today. Our Lady, meanwhile, truly is the Mother of the Church who implores her children to come home, to repent, to love her Divine Son.

At Fatima her advice was clear: 'Pray, do penance, make sacrifices for sinners', 'wear the Scapular' and the Miraculous Medal, live the Faith, pray the Little Office, convert sinners, 'pray the rosary', work for the salvation of souls, go to Confession regularly, receive the Blessed Sacrament for what it truly is, the Body and Blood of the Lord, stop offending God, do good and avoid evil, for He is already too much offended. These are all part and parcel of the message of Fatima. This is Catholicism.

The advice of Fr Leonard writing in 1976 is to 'remember the mixed-up Church is still Jesus's visible body', 'go for the genuine people', look for sound teaching and buy a copy of the Vatican II documents, 'don't leave your parish church' and 'don't let your faith be overcome by bitterness'.

What strikingly different messages and words of advice these are. Compare the words of the Churchman and the words of the Mother of our Saviour. I am convinced that the enduring power of the vision of Fatima lays not just in the simplicity of Our Lady's words, told as they were to simple shepherd children, but the strikingly supernatural and miraculous nature of the Fatima event. In an age in which even in the highest ranks of the Catholic Church, the supernatural, Divine and vertical is downplayed and the earthly, human and horizontal is emphasised, Fatima endures in the hearts of many Catholics, as does Lourdes and other sites of Marian devotion and pilgrimage. It is no wonder that sites like Medugorje and Garabandal attract so many pilgrims despite a lack of official Church approval. Could it be because at a time when the Church has stopped talking of Divine things, things that speak to the soul of our need for salvation, that there remains within modern man and woman a thirst for the supernatural, for clarity, for doctrine, for timeless truth that they struggle to find within the parish Churches?

The question that remains for those from the 1970s to the present day who tried so hard to assuage the fears, anxieties and confusion of those who, regardless of whether the Church believes their faith was 'shattered', either left the Church or neglected to teach it to their children, who went on to become men and women without faith, is this: When will you accept, like St Augustine of Hippo, that it is never too late for the Church to turn around 180 degrees, for its hierarchy, its bishops, cardinals, priests and even the pope, to reject that which damages faith, which causes confusion, especially in the liturgy in which Catholics gather to worship and praise God? For, as we know from the Friars of the Immaculate, those who embrace what those who came before us embraced are no longer met with soothing words, but suspicion, derision and the abuse of the ecclesiastical law in the process of their forceful restriction.

It is never too late to turn the Lord

It took so many prayers and tears of a loving mother for Augustine to accept that he was in the wrong, that he was just a man, that beside God there are no other gods, that He alone could save him and turn him into the man who would one day say, at the end of every homily, 'Let us turn to the Lord'. After the 1960s, the Catholic Church turned its back on well over 1500 years of Her holy traditions, with fatal consequences for Her life, mission and the souls in Her care. Many priests, many friars, some Cardinals and some Bishops have realised that folly of leaving the sacred behind in purusing a horizontal vision of the Church that so often ultimately leads to the denial or a misrepresentation of all that the Magisterium of the Church still holds to be true concerning Salvation.

Has change shattered our faith? That is really not the right question. A more apt question is this: What kind of a father, or guardian, would risk shattering the faith of his children? In answering that question, you will know whether the dramatic upheavals and changes executed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council documented within this post were from God, the Eternal Father, or not. Because Pope Benedict XVI declared the Mass of Ages to be 'never formally abrogated' Priests, Bishops and Cardinals, as 'Fathers in God' to the flocks entrusted to them, should surely ask that question, rather than just going 'forward' blindly, heedless of the appeals of the Mother of God made at Fatima for purity of Faith, and, having asked that question, should surely act accordingly. To priests, to Cardinals, to Bishops: It is never too late. It is never too late, to turn back - not back in time, but out of time, out of space, turn back, back Ad Deum, to God who gives joy, once more, to your youth.

Bank Holiday Book Reviews

A few years ago, I discovered Lord of the World, by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson. This book is becoming a book with a cult following. I want to highlight that one and None Other Gods, a lesser known, but worthy read.

I grew up with Benson's books on my parents' bookshelves, as my paternal grandfather was an Anglophile, and we had Benson, Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse, and many other great authors virtually staring down on me from those shelves when I was toddling around with a sippy cup.

I remember my grandfather's old legal bookcases, the ones with the glass doors and wooden knobs. He died when I was very young, but his heritage of reading, as well as that gift of culture from the real intellectuals on my mother's side, inculcated in me a love of good literature as well as the treasuring of religious books.

Benson's books in early days were all in hardbound, but when I was an adolescent, these began to appear in paperback, with gaudy, Hollywood-esque covers. How could a young person not be captivated by Come Rack! Come Rope!, The Queen's TragedyThe King's Achievement or Oddsfish with technicolor drawings on the front, like those horrible Barbara Cartland love stories?

I was a Mary, not a Martha in those days, and my mother had to take books away from me in the long summer holidays and put them on top of the fridge, which I could not reach, in order to get me to do my chores first.

Benson's world was England, which became my world, as I sat on the white and purple pansied, cotton, ruffled coverlet draped over my bed in my girly room, (after I had finished daily chores), devouring tales which included Edmund Campion making a début, courageous women in flowing gowns hiding priests in secret, small spaces behind wainscoting, and courtly scenes of intrigue surrounding a romantic, dying king.

At that time, in the hot summer days of steamy Iowa, the windows in my room were bombarded by the stupid, giant June bugs hitting against the screens of those windows which overlooked the front garden, a view complete with tall red and silver maple trees, so still in the heat; red spiky flowers which attracted the hummingbirds; and sprinklers emitting a soft chug-chug sound, while spraying arcs of water over the lawn. But, my imagination reached far away to dark grey, treacherous, 16th century London; the Tudor-manicured green, rural English landscapes in which nestled the great Catholic recusant houses; and terrifying Tyburn.

Two books seem to me, however, to be written more for adults than for dewy-eyed twelve-year-old girls. These are Lord of the World and None Other Gods. I want to recommend these now.

Lord of the World, a science fiction novel, is simply, prophetic. The fact that it was written in 1907 astounds one, as the milieu created is absolutely contemporary to us now. I shall not drop spoilers for those who have not read it, but I read it three times in 30 months a few years ago. I may read it again soon. And, Benson's writing remains a standard for us all.

Of course, I am known for re-reading great books, having read Little Dorrit, Middlemarch, Daniel Deronda, Great Expectations, Barchester Towers,  Till We Have Facesetc. too many times to remember the exact count, and this does not include all the Austen books I have read umpteen times, or others on my favourite list. I have book binges on Benson, Austen, Eliot, Thackeray, Trollope, and Dickens regularly. The longer the books, the better, but Benson wrote comparatively short novels, so one can read these quickly.

Mgr Robert Hugh Benson
The second book to be emphasized in this post is None Other Gods. This odd tale, written in 1911, actually explained the life of St. Benedict Labre to me, that mysterious "Fool for Christ", better than any commentary of his life possibly could.

The tale, which does not appeal to some, as it seems too improbable, reveals a journey towards holiness which I found stunning. Again, I read it awhile ago, twice, in a twelve month period, and I am reading it again.

Benson understood men and women as flesh, blood, and spirit. His people are not anaemic. Through his characters, his stories reveal the Incarnation of Christ affecting the decisions of various men and women, and the role of the Church Militant, tales all composed in accessible sentences. He understood the hard road to holiness, to spiritual perfection, be it for Charles II or Mary Tudor, or Frank, the main character in the second book highlighted.

This summer is almost over, but if some of you still have a holiday, think of taking Benson's books to the beach or mountains or your reading corner. Search for them on Google and you'll find these two are even online.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Rethinking The New Evangelization

St Augustine of Hippo
The call to new evangelization cannot be a static one. As Catholics, we have a duty to know our audience, our target groupings. And, I am convinced we are not addressing the youth of today in the mode which they need.

Too often, evangelization either is too banal, that is, watered down to the lowest common denominator; or it is an attempt to bring people out of serious sin by attacking the sins; or it is the speaking of Jesus as Saviour again outside of context of the larger perspective of what is means to be human and what it means to know a particular God.

I have been thinking about St. Augustine and his importance to our Catholic world today. He wrote in a similar time-the great destruction of a civilization which had endured for hundreds of years. He also bought a philosophical approach to all that chaos.

The Hebrews experienced much the same situation over and over and over. Either they were destroying old civilizations, or their own was being destroyed by whatever conqueror was the most powerful.

The reason for my ruminations is that we need, desperately, Catholic minds which can stop addressing the moral questions, stop addressing the ethical questions, and go back further to the basic questions of the existence of God and the nature of what it is to be human.

St Thomas Aquinas
Now, obviously, we need the ethical discussion, so prominent among good Thomists, as Aquinas, like Aristotle, who dealt with vice, virtue, law and so on, but the world we are dealing with now is one of agnosticism and atheism. Those people deserve better discussions than what we have been able to give. Starting with morals is not the way to converse with atheists or agnostics, who lack a moral structure and may not even believe in one, except relativism. 

There are few great Catholic minds which can address the basic questions youth ask today. Here are a few of those questions. 

Is there a God?

What would be the meaning of being human?

What is the relationship between men and God?

Why are we here?

Do you ever doubt?

Why do you want to be a Catholic?

Augustine wrote his City of God in direct response to pagans, agnostics, and even atheists who were blaming Catholics for the fall of Rome. Hey, folks, this will happen again and I do not see the bright spark, a new Augustine, who can address the entire question of the nature of man, the City of God and the secular city in terms of basic principles. Phenomenology is too personalistic for this discussion. We need to revisit the Greeks, the Romans, all part of our heritage. We need to go back to the basics, or we shall continue to lose yet another generation.

Apologetics has been so slanted towards ethics, towards morality, that it has set aside the first principles. As humans and as Catholics, we must be able to discuss metaphysics at this level. Aristotle, Aquinas, the neo-Thomists, even educators, such as Montessori, all of whom are part of my mindset, my history, used the scientific method of rational discourse.

This is no longer accepted by many, and we cannot meet physicists, politicians, academics of any kind with language they no longer accept.

We must go back further. And, I do not mean Duns Scotus, who was more popular than Aquinas for a very long time. Nominalism is limited as well. We must go back and ask the basic questions of believing, of the supernatural, of God Himself. We must evangelize at this level, and not merely the moral or ethical one.

Those Millennials who ask the basic questions have no framework for morality because they have no philosophical framework. Benedict, the Pope Emeritus, was the man of the time, reminding us that Augustine was not only a theologian, but a philosopher. We need to look at him again in that light, and at those Doctors of the Church who helped the Church develop doctrine from the basic principles.

The reason we must think in different terms is that we are witnessing the chaos of the death of Western Civilization and to speak in any terms purely from moral or ethical viewpoints will not speak to the hearts of those completely at a loss, at sea in chaos.

That is what the Moslems do - speak only in ideological, so-called moral terms. This type of approach does not speak to the very essence of who a person is and who God is. Imposing law without the reasons for such begs the question of religion.

I read and hear too many high-ranking priests, bishops, theologians, especially moral theologians, who do not have the proper perspective of the problem of basic principles, because their own training was so limited. Try and find excellent philosophers in seminaries who are orthodox and can engage at this level of thinking.

When one answers the questions of who man is and Who God is, then the moral and ethical questions fall into place

I hope God raises up some great metaphysical minds in this era. I hope and pray that both clergy and laity can learn to evangelize from basic principles. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary Move to Permanent Home

The new religious community of the Personal Ordinariate, the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, have a permanent home for the first time since they were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church on New Year’s Day. They are to move on Tuesday (August 27) into a convent in Birmingham which is the former home of the Little Sisters of the Assumption.

Mother Winsome, the Superior of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, said: “We are absolutely overjoyed to have been given the opportunity to live in this convent. We have prayed long and hard and the Lord has opened up this way for us. It is a gift from God.”

The community, established as part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham adopting the Benedictine rule, includes eleven sisters who had been part of the Anglican Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage Oxfordshire and one, Sister Carolyne Joseph, who belonged to an Anglican community in Walsingham.

With no endowments to keep them afloat financially, the sisters have been living for the last eight months as guests at an enclosed Benedictine abbey on the Isle of Wight. “The abbess and the community there shared their Benedictine life with us and welcomed us into their hearts in the most wonderfully generous way”, Mother Winsome said. “It has been a life of complete harmony and joy and it will be a wrench to leave. But we are pleased beyond measure that our journey of faith has taken this new direction”.

The provision of Benedictine hospitality through retreats is central to the community’s charism. Their intention is to earn a living at their new home by offering retreats and the ministry of spiritual direction.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Queenship of Mary

As an American moving to England in very early 1985, (although I had visited it before that in 1980 for a long visit), I was taken off guard one day when a Catholic man said to me, "Well, do you have a personal love for the queen?"

I had to stop a second and gather my wits. I said to him that as an American Catholic, I only had one queen and that she is the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth. We had an interesting discussion on the nature of queenship. My loyalties to Mary, Our Mother, were and are, of course, deep and abiding. To realize, after I moved to England, that I had to adjust to some sort of loyalty to a contemporary queen was interesting.

As a conservative, traditional Catholic, I had no problem, when I had residency in England,  honouring the Queen of Great Britain, but this honour was not the same as that which I give to Mary, as the present queen does not have allegiance to the Catholic Faith, nor is she the Mother of God, or even an earthly representative of a Catholic state.

We actually have a personal relationship, through Christ, with Mother Mary, Queen. We can speak to her in prayer and ask her intercession. And, although, I actually represented the Catholic Church in London at two things which were attended by the Princess Royal and aristocrats, I most likely will never be introduced to the present Queen of Great Britain in order to beg her for favours, such as citizenship, for example.

I have met and was introduced to one prince, in Rome, a long time ago, and other aristocrats in other places, but when one says "queen" to me, I think firstly of the Queen of my heart, the Theotokos.

If I were a citizen of Great Britain, of course, the present queen would have my allegiance, as due to her state.

This comment started a process of thought on the Catholics during the reign of the Protestant kings and queens of England--how they must have understood queenship clearly, but with struggles.

To the Queen of my heart, I give loyalty, allegiance, honour, praise, and love.

Today, I am reminded that at this time, I only have one queen, and I hope she takes me as her lowliest servant, a mere kitchen maid, or lowly scribe, to serve her now and forever.

My queen is alive and lives in heaven, body and soul. Amazingly, I can shout, "Long live the Queen".

Friday, 16 August 2013

By The Press Divided

Between 1983 and 1985, a series on the BBC revealed the treachery among family members during the English Civil War. Being a huge fan of Tim Bentinck and Robert Stephens, I watched the entire first series and second series; the title was By the Sword Divided.

Now, the great gulf of emotions and political allegiances of the Lacey Family are highlighted in this series.
The entire, horrible truths of family members betraying family members jolts one into reality. When I watched it in those years, I knew this type of hatred for good and for truth would happen again and split families forever. To me, the series was prophetic.

The series emphasizes the deep seated religious convictions of both the Parliamentarians, or Puritans, and the Anglican and Catholics, the Royalists. The family as depicted is fictional, although there are Laceys in English history. One could change the name to Langton, Grenville, Throckmorton, Hopton, Noel, or even Villiers and understand the divisions in families across England those ten years, many divisions which have lasted to this present day in the families which have survived.

Modern historians read the Civil War as class warfare of the lower and growing middle class against the aristocracy, which is revisionist, Marxist history.

The reality of religion becomes less important to these Marxists, who judge all wars as based on money and status. 

Not so. When I watched the series, and having studied the Civil War as a history major, my first degree, I was shocked at the hatred within families totally founded on Calvinism or Anglicanism, or Roman Catholicism. Having visited some of these places where the battles were fought, and realizing how many Catholics were involved in supporting the Royalist cause, I began to see that the real meaning of the Civil War was not the rising middle class and their hold over Parliament, which, of course, aided the Calvinist cause, but the absolute hatred of the established Church and the Monarch, who represented that Church.

As I watched the series so long ago, my thoughts were on the splitting of the Catholics in America and England into two classes: the Obedient Ones and the Rebellious Ones. Those who try to be obedient to the Catholic Church form a small minority as against the majority who compromise and deny the necessity for daily conversion.

Catholics who refuse to be a sign of contradiction in the world have capitulated to the secularists.

Do not live in la-la land thinking those who love Rome and Her Teachings will not see the day when families are torn apart in the name of religion, false and true.

It has already happened to some of us. I also recommend this book below, which I have in a box in storage in Illinois.

The fight now is in the press, in the liturgy, in the lack of leadership both in the clergy and laity. We have only to blame ourselves.  I see bloggers and other journalists taking sides-the Obedient vs. the Rebellious. Those among us who insist on reading and writing own opinions or new age, or protestant interpretations of Catholic Teaching, are continuing the Civil War in England and adding to the coming splits,which will be deeper and more tragic.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Litany of Our Lady

V/ Lord, have mercy.
R/ Lord, have mercy.

V/ Christ, have mercy.
R/ Christ, have mercy.

V/ Lord, have mercy.
R/ Lord, have mercy.

V/ Christ, hear us.
R/  Christ, graciously hear us.
V/ God, the Father of Heaven,
R/ have mercy on us.
V/ God, the Son, Redeemer of the world,
R/ have mercy on us.
V/ God, the Holy Spirit,
R/ have mercy on us.
V/ Holy Trinity, One God,
R/ have mercy on us.

R/ for ff: pray for us.
Holy Mary,
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of virgins,
Mother of Christ,
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother most admirable,
Mother of good counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Saviour,

Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honor,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower of ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of Heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the Sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,

Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of Peace,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
R/ spare us, O Lord,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
R/ graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world.
R/ have mercy on us.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R/ That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 Let us pray. Grant, we beg you, O Lord God, that we your servants, may enjoy lasting health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, be delivered from present sorrow and enter into the joy of eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Feast of St Maximilian Kolbe

'Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.' (St John 15:13)

So it is that today, 14 August, we celebrate the Feast of St Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Auschwitz, model of Franciscan poverty, true son of Mary, Priest who sought only the Heart of Jesus, exemplar of Christian self-sacrifice and advocate for the Faithful in Heaven.

With Blessed Titus Brandsma, with St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and others, Maximilian Kolbe shines as a beacon of hope in the horror of the concentration camps established by the Nazi regime in the century marked by bloodshed, fraternal hatred and totalitarian systems that reduced mankind to rubble.

The world disputes the holiness and charity of some Saints, but before the example of St Maximilian Kolbe, the world falls silent in the story of his sublime act of self-sacrifice. The world disputes the holiness of Pope Pius XII, but can say nothing of reproach for the Franciscan friar who stepped in place of a Jew who was condemned to die, saying, "He has a wife and family, I am a Catholic Priest, take me instead." His reputation will never tarnish or fade. With one act of love he sealed his fate as an icon of Christian love, fidelity to Jesus, lover of the Jewish people and unique pastor to the persecuted people of the ancient Covenant.

According to Wikipedia...

'Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv., (Polish: Maksymilian Maria Kolbe; 8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941) was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II. Kolbe was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Blessed Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement. Pope John Paul II declared him "The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century". Due to Kolbe's efforts to promote consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.'

Like Blessed Titus Brandsma, St Maximilian Kolbe evangelised through the media and produced tracts and devotional articles that could propagate the Catholic Faith, especially against the attacks of Freemasonry upon the Church and the World. According to Wikipedia, 'the Immaculata friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques in publishing catechetical and devotional tracts, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. Kolbe also used radio to spread his Catholic faith and to speak out against the atrocities of the Nazi regime. He is the only canonized saint to have held an amateur radio license, with the call sign SP3RN.'

The Church now has St Maximilian as a holy intercessor before the Throne of God, to aid Christians to live lives of love and service. He will always point us to Jesus and most especially to the Blessed Mother of God, who was always his refuge and strength in times of trial. Even in the concentration camp, St Maximilian would sing hymns and antiphons to Our Lady. St Maximilian was chosen at a tender age to be consecrated to the Mother of God. Biographies of the Saint testify that when he was but a child, 'I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a Child of Faith. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.'

Kolbe's Gift is a new play about the Saint of Auschwitz

And so it was that on this day in 1941, his childhood vision having been brought to its fruition, having offered his life as a ransom for his Jewish fellow prisoner, St Maximilian was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid. His body was cremated the following day on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady.

There is currently a play showing in London about the life of the Saint and the Jewish man who, following 'Kolbe's Gift', always had reverence for, devotion to, gratitude to and deep love for the Franciscan Conventual who set him free.

The play in London's Ten Ten Theatre is called Kolbe's Gift, telling the story of St Maximilian Kolbe and Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man in whose condemned place, the Martyr of Auschwitz stepped and took, for the love of God and neighbour. St Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Reconsidering the Assumption

The Dormition of the Theotokis by Svitozar Nenyuk
The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the feast when the Church commemorates Mary's assumption of body and soul into heaven. As the young Immaculate Virgin said yes to God's call, her body was the first temple for the Son of God. Catholics believe that Mary's holy body now enjoys full union with her Son in eternal glory.

Taylor Marshall wrote an interesting essay "Did the Virgin Mary Die? The Answer May Surprise You" which sought to use art, iconography and writings of the Early Church Fathers to clear up any ambiguities from Pope Venerable Pius XII's dogmatic declaration Munificentissimus Deus (1950). Marshall concluded that Mary was laid in the tomb and hear death when her soul was detached from her earthly body but that her Assumption from living a sinless life that was totally oriented towards Christ that the Lord allowed for the Assumption of her body into heaven.

Moreover, Marshall concluded that sin Mary died without sin that she was given dominion over Purgatory as prophesized in Ecclesiastes 24. Orthodox Christianity also revere the end of Mary's life on earth. In the Eastern Churches, The Dormition of the Theotokis or, to use more contemporary parlance, "the Falling Asleep of the God-bearer" is sn as a transformation of Mary's life into a heavenly and immortal existence without the shadows of gloom or death.

 There is a persistent legend among Orthodox Christian believers that all of the disciples, save Thomas who was preaching in India, were present for Mary's dormition and burial. These disciples were said to guard the tomb for three days. On the third day, Thomas saw Mary's body rising to heaven. Mary greeted him as "My friend" as Thomas was escorted by angels to proclaim the assumption.

This tradition echos the Church of Jerusalem's sense that Mary's dormition had a deep sense of the resurrection. Marshall's musing that Mary's death involved separation of her soul from her body as well as appreciating the Assumption compliments the Eastern Christian's notions of the Dormition of Mary. Sola Scriptura Protestants probably have problems with theology premised on this Dormition tradition, particularly on practices not christologically focused.

However, the Early Church clearly revered this dormition/assumption before the scriptural canon was determined. The solemnity is not a quasi-deitization of Mary but a recognition of her place in salvific history and points to Christ.

Pope Francis meets with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II
One of the lesser appreciated virtues of Vatican II is for the Roman Catholic Church to appreciate the riches from the Eastern Church.

It is worth noting that when Pope Francis (as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio) was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he also acted as the Ordinary of the Eastern Rite Catholics in the region. Cardinal Bergoligio was known for trying to close the 1000 year estrangement with the Orthodox Christianity and advocated on behalf of the Orthodox while in dialogue with the Argentine government. So it would not be surprising if Pope Francis' papacy features more appreciation of the riches of Christian faith from the East.

Prayer for the Assumption of Mary Father in heaven, all creation rightly gives you praise, for all life and all holiness come from you. In the plan of your wisdom she who bore the Christ in her womb was raised body and soul in glory to be with him in heaven. May we follow her example in reflecting your holiness and join in her hymn of endless love and praise. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, 12 August 2013

A Potpourri of Guilds, Shoemakers, Henry V, and Fish

Since Valletta was a commercial hub, several confraternities or trade guilds were instituted in this church. They included guilds of shopkeepers, meatsellers, fishmongers and greengrocers.
On the feast day of their patron saints, St Crispin and St Crispinian, the members of the guild of cobblers and harness-makers used to donate a pair of shoes to their spiritual director, the merchants, tavern-keepers and cooks gave their rector a barrel of wine, while the drapers, tailors and weavers presented their spiritual director with a cassock.
...from The Times Malta, found here
In the Church of St. Paul Shipwreck, one can find guild altars. Of course, the British have a special connection to St. Crispin, from Shakespeare's Henry V.

    WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
        But one ten thousand of those men in England
        That do no work to-day!

    KING. What's he that wishes so?
        My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
        If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
        To do our country loss; and if to live,
        The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
        God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
        By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
        Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
        It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
        Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
        But if it be a sin to covet honour,
        I am the most offending soul alive.
        No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
        God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
        As one man more methinks would share from me
        For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
        Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
        That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
        Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
        And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
        We would not die in that man's company
        That fears his fellowship to die with us.
        This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
        He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
        Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
        And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
        He that shall live this day, and see old age,
        Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
        And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
        Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
        And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
        Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
        But he'll remember, with advantages,
        What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
        Familiar in his mouth as household words-
        Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
        Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
        Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
        This story shall the good man teach his son;
        And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
        From this day to the ending of the world,
        But we in it shall be remembered-
        We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
        For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
        Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
        This day shall gentle his condition;
        And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
        Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
        And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks 

        That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Now, I was thrilled when I was asked to be a member the Guild of Titus Brandsma, and I am still honoured at being allowed to add my thoughts to this page.

For me, this saint supports me by his prayers, in a difficult time, when more and more anti-Catholicism is hitting the blogging community.

I have spammed and deleted more comments on my blog in the past three months than in the past two years because of nastiness, threats, and just plain maliciousness.

Now, when one belongs to a guild, to a larger group, one does get strength merely knowing that people out there attempt to do the same thing for the same reasons.

So, what are the motivations for a guild, and how do we support each other?

Firstly, we all love the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. We love the Trinitarian God.

Secondly, we all try and be orthodox, not giving a personal interpretations of the Gospel or doctrine, but the real deal.

Thirdly, we love the Mass and most of all, the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Fourthly, we are not naive. As journalists, despite what Ms. Feinstein said in America about only real journalists being those who get a salary, (rofl), we are aware of the great evils which beset our Church, and we write as the Church Militant to share the truth and support each other.

Fifthly, we encourage each other's gifts, be it five loaves or fifty loaves, one fish or a hundred fish.

Lastly, we love our readership, and attempt to meet needs in the Church, which includes clear writing which involves catechesis.

In medieval times, guilds formed a necessary part of society for physical and spiritual support.

Guilds had chaplains, as we do, and chapels, which we don't. However, we can pray for each other. I remember visiting the guild chapels in Malta above, and marvelling at the feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood one could absorb just standing in front of their altars, even after hundreds of years.

I am fortunate to live 200 feet away from a shrine to Blessed Titus Brandsma. I can pop into the church and pray for all my confrères, even though I do not light candles for all, which would cause a raging fire.

Let us remember each other in prayer as the days get darker for us all.  I believe that Blessed Titus would be very pleased to know we are supporting each other in prayer on a regular basis, for all of our needs.

God bless this Guild. And, if you want to read more about shoemakers, take a look at a little play found at this place.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein

Today is the Feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein. I reproduce for readers this biography of the Saint, courtesy of the Vatican website. With Blessed Titus Brandsma, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross stands as a martyr in defence of life, love, liberty the Catholic Church and the Jewish people. St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us...

"We bow down before the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein, an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a personality who united within her rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century. It was the synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that are still hurting ... and also the synthesis of the full truth about man. All this came together in a single heart that remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God." These were the words of Pope John Paul II when he beatified Edith Stein in Cologne on 1 May 1987.

Who was this woman?
Edith Stein was born in Breslau on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family were celebrating Yom Kippur, that most important Jewish festival, the Feast of Atonement. "More than anything else, this helped make the youngest child very precious to her mother." Being born on this day was like a foreshadowing to Edith, a future Carmelite nun.

Edith's father, who ran a timber business, died when she had only just turned two. Her mother, a very devout, hard-working, strong-willed and truly wonderful woman, now had to fend for herself and to look after the family and their large business. However, she did not succeed in keeping up a living faith in her children. Edith lost her faith in God. "I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying," she said.

In 1911 she passed her school-leaving exam with flying colours and enrolled at the University of Breslau to study German and history, though this was a mere "bread-and-butter" choice. Her real interest was in philosophy and in women's issues. She became a member of the Prussian Society for Women's Franchise. "When I was at school and during my first years at university," she wrote later, "I was a radical suffragette. Then I lost interest in the whole issue. Now I am looking for purely pragmatic solutions."

In 1913, Edith Stein transferred to G6ttingen University, to study under the mentorship of Edmund Husserl. She became his pupil and teaching assistant, and he later tutored her for a doctorate. At the time, anyone who was interested in philosophy was fascinated by Husserl's new view of reality, whereby the world as we perceive it does not merely exist in a Kantian way, in our subjective perception. His pupils saw his philosophy as a return to objects: "back to things". Husserl's phenomenology unwittingly led many of his pupils to the Christian faith. In G6ttingen Edith Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler, who directed her attention to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, she did not neglect her "bread-and-butter" studies and passed her degree with distinction in January 1915, though she did not follow it up with teacher training.

"I no longer have a life of my own," she wrote at the beginning of the First World War, having done a nursing course and gone to serve in an Austrian field hospital. This was a hard time for her, during which she looked after the sick in the typhus ward, worked in an operating theatre, and saw young people die. When the hospital was dissolved, in 1916, she followed Husserl as his assistant to the German city of Freiburg, where she passed her doctorate summa cum laude (with the utmost distinction) in 1917, after writing a thesis on "The Problem of Empathy."

During this period she went to Frankfurt Cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. "This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot. "Towards the end of her dissertation she wrote: "There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God's grace." How could she come to such a conclusion?

Edith Stein had been good friends with Husserl's Göttingen assistant, Adolf Reinach, and his wife.
When Reinach fell in Flanders in November 1917, Edith went to Göttingen to visit his widow. The Reinachs had converted to Protestantism. Edith felt uneasy about meeting the young widow at first, but was surprised when she actually met with a woman of faith. "This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it ... it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me - Christ in the mystery of the Cross."

Later, she wrote: "Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes."

In Autumn 1918 Edith Stein gave up her job as Husserl's teaching assistant. She wanted to work independently. It was not until 1930 that she saw Husserl again after her conversion, and she shared with him about her faith, as she would have liked him to become a Christian, too. Then she wrote down the amazing words: "Every time I feel my powerlessness and inability to influence people directly, I become more keenly aware of the necessity of my own holocaust."

Edith Stein wanted to obtain a professorship, a goal that was impossible for a woman at the time. Husserl wrote the following reference: "Should academic careers be opened up to ladies, then I can recommend her whole-heartedly and as my first choice for admission to a professorship." Later, she was refused a professorship on account of her Jewishness.

Back in Breslau, Edith Stein began to write articles about the philosophical foundation of psychology. However, she also read the New Testament, Kierkegaard and Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. She felt that one could not just read a book like that, but had to put it into practice.

In the summer of 1921. she spent several weeks in Bergzabern (in the Palatinate) on the country estate of Hedwig Conrad-Martius, another pupil of Husserl's. Hedwig had converted to Protestantism with her husband. One evening Edith picked up an autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila and read this book all night. "When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth." Later, looking back on her life, she wrote: "My longing for truth was a single prayer."

On 1 January 1922 Edith Stein was baptized. It was the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, when Jesus entered into the covenant of Abraham. Edith Stein stood by the baptismal font, wearing Hedwig Conrad-Martius' white wedding cloak. Hedwig washer godmother. "I had given up practising my Jewish religion when I was a 14-year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God." From this moment on she was continually aware that she belonged to Christ not only spiritually, but also through her blood. At the Feast of the Purification of Mary - another day with an Old Testament reference - she was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel.

After her conversion she went straight to Breslau: "Mother," she said, "I am a Catholic." The two women cried. Hedwig Conrad Martius wrote: "Behold, two Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit!" (cf. John 1:47).

Immediately after her conversion she wanted to join a Carmelite convent. However, her spiritual mentors, Vicar-General Schwind of Speyer, and Erich Przywara SJ, stopped her from doing so. Until Easter 1931 she held a position teaching German and history at the Dominican Sisters' school and teacher training college of St. Magdalen's Convent in Speyer. At the same time she was encouraged by Arch-Abbot Raphael Walzer of Beuron Abbey to accept extensive speaking engagements, mainly on women's issues. "During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I ... thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one's mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world... I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to `get beyond himself' in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it."

She worked enormously hard, translating the letters and diaries of Cardinal Newman from his pre-Catholic period as well as Thomas Aquinas' Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate. The latter was a very free translation, for the sake of dialogue with modern philosophy. Erich Przywara also encouraged her to write her own philosophical works. She learnt that it was possible to "pursue scholarship as a service to God... It was not until I had understood this that I seriously began to approach academic work again." To gain strength for her life and work, she frequently went to the Benedictine Monastery of Beuron, to celebrate the great festivals of the Church year.

In 1931 Edith Stein left the convent school in Speyer and devoted herself to working for a professorship again, this time in Breslau and Freiburg, though her endeavours were in vain. It was then that she wrote Potency and Act, a study of the central concepts developed by Thomas Aquinas. Later, at the Carmelite Convent in Cologne, she rewrote this study to produce her main philosophical and theological oeuvre, Finite and Eternal Being. By then, however, it was no longer possible to print the book.

In 1932 she accepted a lectureship position at the Roman Catholic division of the German Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Munster, where she developed her anthropology. She successfully combined scholarship and faith in her work and her teaching, seeking to be a "tool of the Lord" in everything she taught. "If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him."

In 1933 darkness broke out over Germany. "I had heard of severe measures against Jews before. But now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on His people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine." The Aryan Law of the Nazis made it impossible for Edith Stein to continue teaching. "If I can't go on here, then there are no longer any opportunities for me in Germany," she wrote; "I had become a stranger in the world."

The Arch-Abbot of Beuron, Walzer, now no longer stopped her from entering a Carmelite convent. While in Speyer, she had already taken a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 1933 she met with the prioress of the Carmelite Convent in Cologne. "Human activities cannot help us, but only the suffering of Christ. It is my desire to share in it."

Edith Stein went to Breslau for the last time, to say good-bye to her mother and her family. Her last day at home was her birthday, 12 October, which was also the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Edith went to the synagogue with her mother. It was a hard day for the two women. "Why did you get to know it [Christianity]?" her mother asked, "I don't want to say anything against him. He may have been a very good person. But why did he make himself God?" Edith's mother cried. The following day Edith was on the train to Cologne. "I did not feel any passionate joy. What I had just experienced was too terrible. But I felt a profound peace - in the safe haven of God's will." From now on she wrote to her mother every week, though she never received any replies. Instead, her sister Rosa sent her news from Breslau.

Edith joined the Carmelite Convent of Cologne on 14 October, and her investiture took place on 15 April, 1934. The mass was celebrated by the Arch-Abbot of Beuron. Edith Stein was now known as Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce - Teresa, Blessed of the Cross. In 1938 she wrote: "I understood the cross as the destiny of God's people, which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody's behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord in the sign of the cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery." On 21 April 1935 she took her temporary vows. On 14 September 1936, the renewal of her vows coincided with her mother's death in Breslau. "My mother held on to her faith to the last moment. But as her faith and her firm trust in her God ... were the last thing that was still alive in the throes of her death, I am confident that she will have met a very merciful judge and that she is now my most faithful helper, so that I can reach the goal as well."

When she made her eternal profession on 21 April 1938, she had the words of St. John of the Cross printed on her devotional picture: "Henceforth my only vocation is to love." Her final work was to be devoted to this author.

Edith Stein's entry into the Carmelite Order was not escapism. "Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone." In particular, she interceded to God for her people: "I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is great comfort." (31 October 1938)

On 9 November 1938 the anti-Semitism of the Nazis became apparent to the whole world.

Synagogues were burnt, and the Jewish people were subjected to terror. The prioress of the Carmelite Convent in Cologne did her utmost to take Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce abroad. On New Year's Eve 1938 she was smuggled across the border into the Netherlands, to the Carmelite Convent in Echt in the Province of Limburg. This is where she wrote her will on 9 June 1939: "Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being his most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death ... so that the Lord will be accepted by His people and that His Kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world."

While in the Cologne convent, Edith Stein had been given permission to start her academic studies again. Among other things, she wrote about "The Life of a Jewish Family" (that is, her own family): "I simply want to report what I experienced as part of Jewish humanity," she said, pointing out that "we who grew up in Judaism have a duty to bear witness ... to the young generation who are brought up in racial hatred from early childhood."

In Echt, Edith Stein hurriedly completed her study of "The Church's Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Cross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942." In 1941 she wrote to a friend, who was also a member of her order: "One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: 'Ave, Crux, Spes unica' (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope)." Her study on St. John of the Cross is entitled: "Kreuzeswissenschaft" (The Science of the Cross).

Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt Convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people."

Together with many other Jewish Christians, the two women were taken to a transit camp in Amersfoort and then to Westerbork. This was an act of retaliation against the letter of protest written by the Dutch Roman Catholic Bishops against the pogroms and deportations of Jews. Edith commented, "I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this. ... I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress." Prof. Jan Nota, who was greatly attached to her, wrote later: "She is a witness to God's presence in a world where God is absent."

On 7 August, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It was probably on 9 August that Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, her sister and many other of her people were gassed.

When Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne on 1 May 1987, the Church honoured "a daughter of Israel", as Pope John Paul II put it, who, as a Catholic during Nazi persecution, remained faithful to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness."
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