Tag Archives: Catholic Church

virgin on the ridiculous

 

A theology teacher at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne, IN, 38-year-old Jessica Hayes has a special love for her faith.

It was so deep for her that she spent years soul-searching and praying for guidance in her life.

“I had been praying about it for years, trying to seek God’s will for my life and not really finding it in any of the paths that I sought before. It was really a consideration of which things brought me the most joy and where my greatest happiness was.

It seemed that all of those loves converged on this one thing where I could still be living in the world and be a part of the lives of my students and be studying and teaching and involved in a parish life, but I could also give myself more completely by making this total commitment of my life to serve the church in whatever capacity is needed and whatever capacity my own gifts are available for,” Hayes said.
Hayes made the decision to become a consecrated virgin and to wed Jesus Christ in a ceremony held in the Catholic Church:
A consecrated virgin is different from a nun in that they don’t live in a convent or take vows of poverty and obedience, reports the Daily Mail. Like nuns, however, they do take a vow of chastity.

Hayes hopes her example will inspire others:

“I’m so happy to have had so many witnesses (at the wedding) because there may be others that the Lord is calling in this way that have now heard of this life and can consider it in their prayer.”
She acknowledges that now that she has made such a public commitment to living a life of chastity and never being able to marry another living person, she will feel “an encouragement” to “live consistently” in her words and deeds that express her love for Jesus.

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Grannies

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Joanna Moorhead
theguardian.com, Wednesday 26 November 2014 11.03 GMT

Pope Francis’s speech at the council of Europe, where he described the continent as ‘a grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant’
The love-in with Pope Francis is over; or at least it is as far as this Catholic feminist is concerned. On Tuesday he addressed the European parliament in Strasbourg, 27 years after a speech there by his predecessor John Paul II. That was an historic occasion, and this week’s speech was widely touted as something similar: a groundbreaking moment for the pontiff to lay out his stall on Europe and its political direction.

First came entirely laudable entreaties: European politicians, he said, should pull together a united response to assist the boatloads of impoverished and miserable people who come in search of a new life, rather than leaving them to drown on the high seas. There should be more jobs, and better conditions for workers. Europe was failing in these respects, and he wanted it to pull its socks up.

So far, so very good indeed. But then came his massive faux pas. Speaking of the need for Europe to be invigorated, he described the continent as a “grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant”, and went on to say it risked “slowly losing its own soul”.

Pope Francis surrounded by bishops
‘Few other world leaders are exclusively surrounded, as Pope Francis is, by men.’ Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images
His phrase was so badly judged on so many levels, but perhaps most shocking of all is that none of his many advisers realised how insulting an analogy this was, and failed to persuade him to take it out of his speech. Any other world leader, surely, would have had someone in his entourage who was enough in touch with female feelings and sensibilities to realise that being negative about older women because of their lack of ability to bear children, and suggesting that they were no longer active, enthusiastic, lively and life-giving, was a complete no-no. But then again, few other world leaders are exclusively surrounded, as Pope Francis is, by men (many of them elderly, though I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that means they are people with reduced potency or lack of energy).

What makes the pope’s derogatory words about grandmothers all the more shocking is that he was apparently very close to his own grandmother, from whom he has said he learned a great deal; and also because he has been a witness to the formidable campaign mounted by the grandmothers of the disappeared in his own country, Argentina, during the dirty war.

From an internal political point of view, it is a bad misstep: all over the world, older women are the backbone of the Catholic church. They are its flower arrangers and cleaners, its priests’ housekeepers and its soup kitchen operators, its fete organisers and its catechists. They are also, if my parish is anything to go by, and I am sure it is, the majority of congregants at its masses: they are its spiritual well; its practical and operational workforce. Older women are a constituency that the pope insults at his peril, and he should have known that; and if he didn’t, there should certainly have been someone there to explain it to him.

Worst of all, of course, his negative labelling of older women suggests that underneath all the warm displays of touchy-feely understanding, behind his appealing reluctance to judge, and alongside his impressive championing of the rights of the poor, Pope Francis is not so very different from the other male-centric leaders of the Catholic church. The value that has been put on women through centuries of Catholic history, from the Virgin Mary onwards, has been one that is tied up with their ability to bear children: de-linking them from this one-dimensional view of what it is to be female is a move that is desperately needed in the Vatican. From the Pope’s tone it doesn’t sound as though he’s going to provoke any revolutions on that front, however mould-breaking he may be in other areas.

Most of all, though, his words suggest that he needs a smart woman to look over his speeches before he delivers them; and he might want to spend a bit of time listening to that smart woman’s views about the real lives of real women, particularly older ones, in the real world.

Fertility isn’t everything, Pope Francis, and grandmothers are one of the most vibrant forces on the planet, as the Catholic church should have discovered through centuries of its own history.

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

 

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Children in Church (via CatholicVote)

Children in Church (via CatholicVote)

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July 2, 2014 · 12:14

And then there were……. none?

Time for good deeds from the dying Catholic church
Amid shame and scandal, the church’s clerics do little or nothing; it needs another ecclesiastical convulsion

Kevin McKenna
The Observer, Saturday 15 March 2014 20.00 GMT

A woman of faith strolling elegantly through her 70s spoke to me last week about betrayal and hypocrisy. This lady’s Catholicism has nourished and sustained her every day of her life but now, though her faith remains, her respect for the people who lead her church has vanished. In its place there is only anger and bitterness.

Just over a year after Cardinal Keith O’Brien was forced to resign as leader of the Catholic church in Scotland, the consequences of decades of abuse and lies by priests and bishops have been laid bare.

The revelation last week that around half of the Catholic parishes in the west of Scotland may have to close in the next few years owing to a shortage of priests seemed at first to be shocking. But this has been whispered for years now and did not surprise those of us who have witnessed the slow withering of the Catholic church.

In Scotland, it is now barely fit for its purpose of bringing souls to their saviour and providing light and hope in places where there is none. It has nothing to say any more about the issues of the day and, frankly, who would listen anyway?

There are, currently, only two men training to become priests from the from the church’s west of Scotland heartlands. In less than a generation, it is expected that barely 40 priests will remain. This is an optimistic figure as few Catholic families remain who would happily hand their sons into the care of this sick and corrupt institution. Meanwhile, the church will continue to haemorrhage serving priests disillusioned with their vocation or because they ought never to have been there to begin with.

Those of us who had hoped to see some signs of penitence or, at least, self-awareness from the hierarchy following the O’Brien scandal are still waiting. Catherine Deveney, the journalist who broke the O’Brien story in the Observer, has since told of her treatment at the hands of the officers of her church.

She has received abusive correspondence from senior clergymen and a “horrifying” letter written by the church’s director of communications, Peter Kearney, an individual who wields a baleful and disproportionate quantum of influence in the church and who similarly has long outlived his usefulness.

Leo Cushley, a Vatican message boy with next to no pastoral experience, has been parachuted into the top job in Scotland. He has said or done little of significance since his appointment, apart from a couple of Homes & Gardens-type press interviews. Do not expect that state to change soon

Another prelate, Archbishop Mario Conti, now lives in gilded retirement in a £750,000 grace-and-favour mansion on Glasgow’s South Side. His decade-long tenure as leader of the city’s Catholics passed without any distinction whatsoever, save for a bizarre and camp obsession with the shinier excesses of Italian culture, about which, of course, they talk of little else in the pubs and clubs frequented by his people.

Less than a mile from Conti’s Ponderosa, food banks are doing a brisk trade, while secular agencies seek action on the plight of 250,000 Scots children living in poverty. Well, at least someone is responding to them, even if the Catholic church isn’t.

On Tuesday morning, the Very Reverend Dr Andrew McLellan, former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, will discuss, for the first time, the details of the remit of the McLellan commission, established to undertake a critical review of all aspects of Safeguarding policy, procedure and practice within the Catholic church in Scotland. A more appropriate setting for this event would have been a recently locked stable with a big horse galloping gaily down the road into the distance.

Few doubt that McLellan will bring diligence and integrity to his task, but unless his remit includes looking at the causes and effects of priestly sex abuse in the Catholic church in Scotland it will achieve nothing.

Here are three main causes: a catastrophic failure of leadership stretching back 60-odd years; a recruitment policy that appeared to have been influenced by Willy Wonka and a pathological and sinister hatred of homosexuality. This simply drove many young, broken and fragile gay Catholics into the priesthood where they were expected to subsume their wretched sexuality in a life of celibacy and denial.

It was a tragic mixture of self-delusion and resentment and would leave many of them prey to the wickedness that lurked in the dark heart of this thoroughly discredited institution. Denial, self-delusion, bitterness, resentment and intimidation: the hallmarks of the Catholic church in Scotland.

Even in this its darkest hour, though, the church has a shining opportunity to make something good of its straitened circumstances. Many of the churches that may have to shut were built brick by brick by the poor Irish immigrants who revived Catholicism in Scotland. The land upon which they stand and the grand homes that were built to house their priests were purchased with the help of their self-sacrifice. More than 50,000 people have used a food bank to feed themselves this year while child poverty in Scotland has reached obscene levels.

As a good act of contrition and reparation for the damage it has caused to Scotland and the betrayal of its own, the Catholic hierarchy must give these properties back to their people for the purpose of providing succour to the poor, alms to the traveller and solace to those in distress.

Travelling through Lewis and Harris the other week, not for the first time I had cause to admire the stripped-down and spare beauty of the Free Church of Scotland. Unencumbered by careless devotions to forgotten saints and moving Madonnas, it continues to provide wisdom and discernment to those whom it touches. It is closer to what St Peter and St Paul thought God’s church should look like than that which Rome has constructed.

The Scottish Catholic church requires another ecclesiastical convulsion. In this, it would join with its brothers and sisters in the reformed traditions, minus a lot of the baggage it clung on to after the first one.

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Seven is too young for the fixed rules of confession Published on 18 February 2014 Colette Douglas Home

Every Saturday morning there were pews of us, row after row of wriggling children.

We shuffled along shiny wooden benches, first in one direction then the other as we approached what John Cornwall has called “The Dark Box” in his new book of the same name. It’s better known as the confessional.

Catholic children were introduced to sin at the age of five. By six, we could differentiate a venial sin from a mortal one. A white lie was venial. Were we to die with its mark on our soul, we would go to purgatory where we would burn but only for a short time. A mortal sin would, however, condemn us to the fires in hell for all eternity.

That was a lot for a small child to cope with when it was drilled into me that missing mass on Sunday was a mortal sin. What would happen if I was sick one Sunday or if my parents took me on holiday? They might have said it was fine but I knew it wasn’t.

Oh, the terror then of crossing the road in case a car ran me down before I had the chance to confess. The writer Frank O’Connor immortalised his First Confession in a short story of that title. Aged seven, he’d contemplated murdering his bare-foot, shame-making grandmother and was “scared to death of confession”.

His terror abated when the priest confided: “Between ourselves, there’s a lot of people I’d like to do the same to, but I’d never have the nerve.”

I never met a father confessor with such a sense of humour. It’s hardly surprising, considering what the priests had to endure. What torment it must have been to sit hour after hour while hundreds of small children poured out their piffling misdemeanours.

What was it all about? Why were small children set on this path? Why make us feel bad so young? Why bring such negativity into our lives when we were barely out of junior infants?

After our first confession, truly carefree childhood was over. And the crazy thing is that the practice still goes on. Look at the furore the Scottish Government’s plan for a named person for each child has generated. Imagine sending your children off weekly to spill out their list of sins. A named adult pales into insignificance in comparison with this incursion on family life.

The children are no longer seen in a confessional box, though I would prefer its uncomfortable anonymity to the cosier face-to-face arrangements that replaced it.

In The Dark Box, John Cornwall, a writer on Catholicism, reveals that the regime I grew up in was introduced only in 1910 by a Pope called Pius X. Until then, confession was annual and didn’t start younger than at 12 to 14-years-old.

Making it weekly from the age of seven was an experiment that predated any real understanding of child development. We can but wonder what effects have trickled through the generations.

That said, I don’t entirely regret that it happened to me. There are upsides.

Who, in this confessional age, can doubt that we all get something out of dumping the bad stuff and being forgiven? To tell all and to receive absolution is very powerful.

At seven-years-old, the tales of heaven and hell and angels and devils and the notion of a soul that was Persil-white on Saturday and grimy-grey by Wednesday was grist to the imagination. Life is never dull when eternal hell-fire nips at your heels.

Don’t take my word for it. Read Joyce, Waugh, Toibin and Edna O’Brien. Though he came to Catholicism later, read Graham Greene too.

Growing up, as our lives became more complicated, there was comfort to be had. We could go into any church anywhere and anonymously tell all, knowing that within minutes we could walk out with a clean slate.

Remorse was necessary as well as a determination not to repeat the offence. These are not high hurdles when your conscience is troubled. I thought it was a clever psychological tool. And yet it was my generation that abandoned it in droves.

When the sexual mores of the congregation parted company with Roman Catholic teaching, confession in the European church collapsed. Cornwall reports that in America only 2% of Catholics attend it.

Meanwhile, turn on daytime television and confession is to the fore. People spare us nothing about their intimate lives. Open any magazine and there is a page of personal admissions and moral conundrums in search of answers.

We shouldn’t be surprised. John Cornwall’s book reveals that the practice of publicly confessing major wrong-doing in order to seek forgiveness and gain readmission to the community goes back to the early Christians and beyond into Jewish tradition. Prayer, penitence and charity were the route back to the fold.

So have Catholics made an error in abandoning confession in such large numbers over the years? I think not, not if the reason for their absence is that they no longer respect the Church’s rules on, for instance, sexual morality. If people don’t believe they have behaved sinfully, what would be the point in confessing?

At present, we are all more likely to turn to therapy for the peace of mind we seek.

For most people discontentment is not a matter of feeling guilty about their behaviour. It is more that we are puzzled about why we do what we do. We wonder why, when we are so fortunate in the world’s terms, contentment eludes us.

We go in search of explanation and understanding. We go in search of a better understanding of ourselves. It is, in the West at least, a more individualistic journey.

And yet there is an appetite for something larger, a shared faith and sense of belonging. It was evident in the millions of young people in South America who turned up to see the new Pope say mass.

He seems to bring a new ethos and different approach. Time will tell if it lasts. There have been many changes since I was a child, yet one tradition persists.

Seven is still considered to be the age of reason. It still marks the age at which Catholic children make their first confession and yet we know now that it isn’t good to give children such fixed rules so young.

We also know, sadly, about the incidences of child abuse that have dragged the church into disrepute. It was, John Cornwall writes in his book, the private access of the confessional that offered an opportunity to abusers. It was an opportunity to spot the vulnerable ones.

I find it strange to look back at a system that I was taught to believe was set in stone by God himself only to discover it was an initiative by a man, albeit a Pope. That same Pope Pius X also banned orchestral music and forbade women to sing in choirs.

He closeted trainee priests without newspapers or books or even lay teachers. He cut them off from family and contact with women.

And we wonder where it all went wrong.

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The Doctrine of Feline Sedentation

The Doctrine of the Feline Sedentation…

How would the Church of England deal with “the cat sat on the mat” if it appeared in the Bible?

The liberal theologians would point out that such a passage did not of course mean that the cat literally sat on the mat. Also, cat and mat had different meanings in those days from today, and anyway, the text should be interpreted according to the customs and practices of the period.

This would lead to an immediate backlash from the Evangelicals. They would make it an essential condition of faith that a real physical, living cat, being a domestic pet of the Felix Domesticus species, and having a whiskered head and furry body, four legs and a tail, did physically place its whole body on a floor covering, designed for that purpose, which is on the floor but not of the floor. The expression “on the floor but not of the floor” would be explained in a leaflet.

Meanwhile, the Catholics would have developed the Festival of the Sedentation of the Blessed Cat. This would teach that the cat was white and majestically reclined on a mat of gold thread before its assumption to the Great Cat Basket of Heaven. This would be commemorated by the singing of the Magnificat, lighting three candles, and ringing a bell five times. This would cause a schism withthe Orthodox Church which would believe that tradition would require Holy Cats Day [as it would be colloquially known] to be marked by lighting six candles and ringing the bell four times. This would be partly resolved by the Cuckoo Land Declaration recognising the traditional validity of each.

Eventually, the House of Bishops would issue a statement on the Doctrine of the Feline Sedentation. It would explain that traditionally the text describes a domestic feline quadruped superjacent to an unattached covering on a fundamental surface. For determining its salvific and eschatological significations, it would follow the heuristic analytical principles adopted in dealing with the Canine Fenestration Question [How much is that doggie in the window?] and the Affirmative Musaceous Paradox [Yes, we have no bananas]. And so on, for another 210 pages.

The General Synod would then commend this report as helpful resource material for clergy to explain to the man in the pew the difficult doctrine of the cat sat on the mat.

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The End? (from “Forward”)

Published Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Have We Reached the End of Traditional Religion?
Jews and Christians Alike Are Straying From Affiliation

By Jay Michaelson

Changing Church: ‘The Catholic Church seems to be doubling down on its most conservative teachings. You know something’s changing when Rush Limbaugh calls the pope a Communist,’ writes Jay Michaelson.

Maybe the Christian Right is right. For almost 40 years now, they’ve been warning us that we’ve entered the wilderness, that traditional religion is being eroded. Did 2013 prove them right?

Item One: the Rise of the Nones. This phenomenon — nearly 20% of Americans listing “none” as their religious affiliation — was first documented in 2012, but only in 2013 did it emerge as a demographic and political fact, impacting how we vote, how we live and what we think about political issues. Strikingly, there are more and more Nones the younger the demographic sample gets. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 32% are Nones.

Item Two, or perhaps One-A, is the Pew Research Center’s survey of American Jews, which showed that 20% of American Jews (there’s that number again) consider themselves “Jews of no religion,” and that their non-religious Judaism is not a deep or sticky enough of an identity to be sustainable.

Third, even among non-Nones (Somes?), religious affiliation appears to be growing more polarized: There are now more fundamentalists, more liberal-to-atheists and fewer mainliners in between. Denominationally, this means fewer Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Conservative Jews and Reform Jews — and more evangelicals, Pentecostals, ultra-Orthodox and non-denominationals.

Mega-churches are spreading — it’ll be interesting to see whether charismatic forms of Judaism will mimic their success — and old-line churches are dwindling. It seems that the center cannot hold.

And then there’s the Pope. Under Benedict XVI, who resigned amid swirling rumors of sexual and financial scandals in the Vatican, the Catholic Church seemed to be entering a second Counter-Reformation, doubling down on its most conservative teachings and, by way of enormous “charitable” organizations, working to eviscerate legal protections for women and sexual minorities.

Now, Pope Francis tells us he won’t judge gay people, that the church is too obsessed with sexuality and that untrammeled capitalism is immoral.

You know something’s changing when Rush Limbaugh calls the pope a Communist.

Finally, even among those who still profess religious belief, the LGBT equality movement has caused a striking moderation in views. Staying with the Catholic Church for a moment, over 60% of church-going Catholics in America support same-sex marriage (compared to over 80% of Jews), which is above the national average. Even younger Evangelicals, galvanized around the Emerging Church movement, are beginning to say “live and let live” when it comes to gays, although they remain as staunchly anti-abortion as ever. Taboos are falling.

And at the same time, the influence of the so-called Christian Right is at a low point. Think about it: A few years ago, when we talked about conservative Republicans, we talked about the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council. Now, we talk about the Tea Party. Yes, many Tea Partiers are just warmed-over Christian Rightists. But the rhetoric is different, the issues are different and the churchmen aren’t calling the shots.

Clearly, no one factor explains all of these disparate trends. We still don’t know why Americans are becoming more like Europeans when it comes to matters of (un-)belief: secular culture, science, the excesses of “bad religion,” interfaith marriages and so on. It may just be a matter of survey respondents feeling more comfortable saying “None.”

Nor do we really know what the future holds, for Jews or anyone else. We can speculate that the growth in secularism and the concomitant growth in fundamentalism are related — but which is the horse and which is the cart?

It does seem, though, that 2013 was a year in which traditional religious affiliation underwent significant change. Is this the dawning of a new, liberal age, in which America finally starts to look a little more like the rest of the Western world?

Don’t count on it. American religion is nothing if not resilient. It is malleable enough to change with the times, and if anyone ever does declare war on Christmas, they will lose. We remain a weirdly religious country.

There are signs of innovation and renewal, too — forms of religion which focus on the pastoral and the personal, rather than the dogmatic. And these values are timeless. No matter how shopworn and threadbare our religious language sometimes becomes, the mystery and tragedy of human experience still remains — and so religion endures. Remember, even that famous sermon about losing one’s religion begins, “Oh, life, it’s bigger — it’s bigger than you…”

Jay Michaelson is a contributing editor to the Forward.

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Chris Okotie (via Nigeria Metro)

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Nigeria Metro “Catholics will go to hell, Pope Francis is the Anti-Christ” – Chris Okotie
Dec 2, 2013.

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Pastor Chris Okotie left his congregation shocked on Sunday (yesterday) when he said that all Catholics in the world will go to hell when they die because they are worshippers of Satan and are led by a Pope who is Anti-Christ and a friend of the Devil.

The fifty-five year old pastor made this controversial statement while he was preaching in his church, Household of God Church in Ikeja, Lagos. He said the Catholic church was a counterfeit church created by Satan. He accused catholics of bowing to idols and crucifying Jesus by eating His flesh and drinking His blood every Sunday.

“They are not Christians and have never been,” Okotie insisted, to the wide-eyed shock of his congregation.

“They don’t know Jesus. They believe that when they eat bread on Sundays, they are eating the body of Jesus. It’s ritual.”

He said Pope Francis is Anti-Christ, doing the bidding of the devil and that it was only a matter of time before the Catholic church came out to declare full service to Satan.

He urged his congregation to save the Catholics by evangelizing to them. He added that all he was saying wasn’t out of disrespect. Rather, he was showing respect for the word of God.

He added that it was only fair that those who knew the truth should bring it to those who didn’t in the Catholic church. He said that Pope John Paul II, one of the most revered popes in recent Catholic history, had handed over the Catholic Church to Mary, earthly mother of Jesus, and that the current Pope (Francis) had done the same thing, instead of surrendering it to Jesus Christ Himself.

He said that, while he didn’t write the bible, it was obvious that Catholics aren’t Christians and they do not serve the same Christ he preaches about in the bible. He added that Catholics didn’t even believe in hell, but in purgatory (“the purgatory that they invented,” he added)

Pastor Chris Okotie has been married twice, and divorced twice, and he announced that there would be a beauty pageant to announce the most beautiful woman in his church next Sunday. His yearly “Grace Programme” will also hold next Sunday.

The former music star, who is now a politician of sorts has always been a controversial character in Nigeria. He once said that it was the devil who informed him that he was going to be a preacher. Pastor Chris Okotie once said the famous Prophet T.B. Joshua was the son of the devil and his congregation will wind up in hell.

Pastor Chris Okotie has announced frequently in recent times that God has anointed him to be president of Nigeria. Alas, the prophecy hasn’t come to fruition yet, as he has lost in the two presidential elections he contested in.

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Feast of St. Stephen the Deacon

 

“Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be; even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church”
‘Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

ststephenpainting

Martyrdom of St. Stephen – by Bernardo Daddi, A.D. 1324

The second day of Christmas is the Feast of St. Stephen, the First Deacon, “a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost,” whose story is recounted in Acts 6-7. The Apostles laid hands on him and ordained him with six others, and Stephen, “full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people,” and went to preach among the Jews, some of whom “were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit that spoke” Other Jews, though, “suborned men to say, they had heard him speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the ancients, and the scribes; and running together, they took him, and brought him to the council. And they set up false witnesses, who said: This man ceaseth not to speak words against the holy place and the law.”

In his disputation with the Jews, he spoke of Moses and the Prophets, challenging them.

Acts 7:54-59
…hearing these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed with their teeth at him. But he [Stephen], being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. And they, crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears and with one accord ran violently upon him. And casting him forth without the city. they stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not his sin to their charge: And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord. And Saul was consenting to his death.

He was the very first martyr of the Church Age, stoned to death by the Jews, including Saul — the future St. Paul. St Fulgentius of Ruspe gives us a beautiful reflection on St. Stephen and on St. Paul, who murdered him when he was still known as Saul:

…Strengthened by the power of his love, [Stephen] overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in Heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition. Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exults, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of Heaven.

The Epistle Reading at today’s Mass will be the Book of Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59, and the Gospel reading, Matthew 23:34-39, continues the theme of persecution and the killing of prophets.

St. WenceslausBecause St. Stephen was the first Deacon, and because one of the Deacons’ role in the Church is to care for the poor, St. Stephen’s Day is often the day for giving food, money, and other items to servants, sevice workers, and the needy (it is known as “Boxing Day” in some English-speaking parts of the world).

Fittingly, then, St. Wenceslaus (right) came to be associated with Stephen’s Feast. The Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslaus,” which uses an old medieval melody — that of the 13th century song about springtime, “Tempus adest floridum” (click here to hear melody) mentions this Feast as it tells a tale of charity. St. Wenceslaus was a Bohemian prince born ca. A.D. 903 during a pagan backlash. He was persecuted by his mother, Drahomira, and his brother because of their hatred for his Christianity, and was eventually killed by his brother in front of the doors of the Church of SS. Cosmas and Damian in A.D. 938. Many miracles have been attributed to his intercession, and he is now the patron of Czechoslovakia (his Feast is on 28 September). The lyrics to the carol are:

Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me, if you know it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me food and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
You and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
Through the cold wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread now in them boldly,
You shall find the winter’s rage freeze your blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.

Tell your children the story of “Good King Wenceslaus,” and remind them to think of him when they see footprints in the snow…

Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), the only wren found in EuropeAn Irish custom on this day concerns the wren’s association with treachery, and, more specifically, the ancient Irish folk tale of the wren betraying St. Stephen by chattering and revealing his location as the Saint hid in a bush. Not too long ago, sadly, the wren was hunted by boys on this day — not for food, but for “revenge.” The boys — called “Wren Boys” or “Mummers” — would blacken their faces or dress in straw masks, hunt the tiny, loud bird (click here to hear him chatter), tie its body to a pole decorated with holly and ribbons, and go door to door with the it, collecting money at each house, which money which was later used to host a dance for the entire town. Now this “Going on the Wren” hunting custom is gone (thankfully), but a live, caged wren or a wren figurine serves the purpose, most often in parades. Songs, of course, are sung, too. One version of a Wren Song:

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the firs
Although he was little, his honor was great
Jump up me lads and give us a treat.

We followed the wren three miles or more
Three miles of more, three miles or more
Through hedges and ditches and heaps of snow
At six o’clock in the morning.

Rolley, Rolley, where is your nest?
It’s in the bush that I love best
It’s in the bush, the holly tree
Where all the boys do follow me.

As I went out to hunt and all
I met a wren upon the wall
Up with me wattle and gave him a fall
And brought him here to show you all.

I have a little box under me arm
A tuppence or penny will do it no harm
For we are the boys who came your way
To bring in the wren on St. Stephen’s Day.

St. Stephen is the patron of stone masons, those with headaches, and, curiously, horses. The reason for this last is unknown, but this patronage is very ancient, and in rural cultures and olden times, horses are/were blessed, adorned, and taken out sleighing, and foods for horses were blessed to be fed to them in times of sickness. St. Stephen is most often represented in art at in deacon’s vestments at his martyrdom, with a pile of rocks, with a wounded head, etc.

A note about this day and the next and the next: each of the first three days following the Feast of the Nativity commemorates a different type of martyrdom, and by remembering each type of martyrdom that was endured, you can remember the order of these Feasts:

The Feast of Stephen on the 26th recalls the highest class of martyrdom — that offered by both deed and the will — or “martyr by will, love, and blood.”

The Feast of St. John the Evangelist on the 27th recalls the second highest class of martyrdom, a sort of dry martyrdom — the martyrdom offered by those we call “confessors,” i.e., people who suffered for the Faith, would die for the Faith, but, in fact, didn’t have to. He was a martyr by “will and love.”

The Feast of the Holy Innocents on the 28th recalls the sort of martyrdom in deed, but not of the will as they were too young to form such a desire. They were martyrs by blood alone, but it is said that “that God supplied the defects of their will by his own acceptance of the sacrifice.”

Note, though, that the term “martyr” is almost always used exclusively for those who’ve actually died for the Faith, not for confessors.

On an historical note, the Feast of Stephen was once offered in honor of all deacons, and the Feast of St. John was offered for all priests, while the Feast of the Holy Innocents was offered for all choirboys and students. Because older practices of the same time period were associated with revelry and pranks, these clerical feasts came to be associated with the same, and so many abuses crept in that these feasts were known as the “Feasts of Fools.” There came to be a “Feast of the Ass,” too, held in honor of the donkey that is so important to the Christmas story and the Flight into Egypt. These were all finally squelched (after many years of trying!).

Reading

By St. Fulgentius of Ruspe (b. 468)

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of His soldier. Yesterday our King, clothed in His robe of flesh, left His place in the Virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today His soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

Our King, despite His exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet He did not come empty-handed. He gave of His bounty, yet without any loss to Himself. In a marvelous way He changed into wealth the poverty of His faithful followers while remaining in full possession of His own inexhaustible riches. And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth ot heaven; shown first in the King, it later shone forth in His soldier. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment.

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.

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Third Vatican Council

Pope Francis Condemns Racism And Declares That “All Religions Are True” At Historic Third Vatican Council
December 5, 2013 · by Diversity Chronicle

For the last six months, Catholic cardinals, bishops and theologians have been deliberating in Vatican City, discussing the future of the church and redefining long-held Catholic doctrines and dogmas. The Third Vatican Council, is undoubtedly the largest and most important since the Second Vatican Council was concluded in 1962. Pope Francis convened the new council to “finally finish the work of the Second Vatican Council.” While some traditionalists and conservative reactionaries on the far right have decried these efforts, they have delighted progressives around the world.

The Third Vatican Council concluded today with Pope Francis announcing that Catholicism is now a “modern and reasonable religion, which has undergone evolutionary changes. The time has come to abandon all intolerance. We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone. Even atheists acknowledge the divine. Through acts of love and charity the atheist acknowledges God as well, and redeems his own soul, becoming an active participant in the redemption of humanity.”

“Through humility, soul searching, and prayerful contemplation we have gained a new understanding of certain dogmas. The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God” Pope Francis declared.

In a speech that shocked many, the Pope claimed “All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them. What other kind of truth is there? In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful. Today, we no longer judge. Like a loving father, we never condemn our children. Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us. We all love and worship the same God.”

One statement in the Pope’s speech has sent traditionalists into a fit of confusion and hysteria. “God is changing and evolving as we are, For God lives in us and in our hearts. When we spread love and kindness in the world, we touch our own divinity and recognize it. The Bible is a beautiful holy book, but like all great and ancient works, some passages are outdated. Some even call for intolerance or judgement. The time has come to see these verses as later interpolations, contrary to the message of love and truth, which otherwise radiates through scripture. In accordance with our new understanding, we will begin to ordain women as cardinals, bishops and priests. In the future, it is my hope that we will have a woman pope one day. Let no door be closed to women that is open to men!”

In addition to the Pope’s sweeping calls for tolerance and a new progressive understanding of Catholicism, he condemned racism, raising his voice and pounding the podium in front of him. Pope Francis spent over an hour castigating anti-immigrant politicians, parties and individuals. Wagging his finger sternly with righteous indignation, the Pope shouted “Racism today is the ultimate evil in the world. When Italians, Spanish or French turn back the boats of African migrants seeking a better life, are they not like the inn keeper who told Mary and Joseph that there was no room for them and the infant Christ? These migrants are children of God and we are commanded to love them!”

His voice loudly echoing through St. Peter’s basilica, the Pope stated “those who would dare to turn immigrants away, be they legal or undocumented, turn their backs on Christ himself! A racist is not a true Christian. A racist casts aside his humanity to become a beast, a demon! He is the embodiment and personification of evil, a Satan!”

To a chorus of thunderous applause, Pope Francis stated “because Muslims, Hindus and African Animists are also made in the very likeness and image of God, to hate them is to hate God! To reject them to is to reject God and the Gospel of Christ. Whether we worship at a church, a synagogue, a mosque or a mandir, it does not matter. Whether we call God, Jesus, Adonai, Allah or Krishna, we all worship the same God of love. This truth is self-evident to all who have love and humility in their hearts!”

In a announcement that shocked many people, Pope Francis warned that “those who seek to deny a home to the migrant, to the African and the Muslim, risk their membership in the church. We will consider excommunication for those whose souls willingly dwell in the darkness and evil of intolerance and racism. Satan himself is a metaphor or a personification, for the collective evils of mankind. Today, these evils manifest foremost as racism, intolerance, religious persecution and bigotries of all kinds.”

A couple of prominent Catholic cardinals have responded to Pope Francis’ declarations by leaving the church. Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria asked, “what do we stand for if we declare that truth is relative? On the contrary, truth exists independently of our personal feelings. All of this talk of love and tolerance is hollow if we have no identity of our own, if we stand for nothing. I charge that Francis has become a heretic, and that he is not a valid Pope. Indeed, Francis is no longer even a Catholic. The seat of Saint Peter is vacant. I am now a Sedevacantist. I should have become one long ago. The Vatican has embraced ecumenism in the past, but worse than that, it has now embraced moral relativism on abortion and homosexuality. At the same time it is embracing moral absolutism in favour of illegal immigration and cultural genocide against Europe.”

In his most controversial statement, Cardinal Arinze said “Islam has overrun my own country, and now it threatens to overrun Europe. Some parts of Nigeria now live under Islamic Sharia law. Catholics there are no longer free to practice their faith publicly. Francis is a fool if he thinks that his liberal immigration policy will end well. He has betrayed western civilization. Vatican City will one day become a giant mosque if things continue in Europe along their present course. Those in the West who ignore this truth, do so at their own peril.”

In an angry and vitriolic rant revealing deep self-hating tendencies, the African Cardinal Arinze stated “There is nothing wrong with Europeans who want to protect their borders. The problem is that there is not enough border control and the immigration policies are far too lenient in Europe. Is it racist to desire to preserve one’s own home? Why is it racist to want to preserve your own culture and a future for your people and your children? Have white people gone stupid today?”

This much is clear, the Catholic Church has made a decision to rejoin humanity and to reject intolerance and extremism. The church has lost a few narrow-minded bigots, with reports of some small parishes and a few cardinals and bishops defecting, but Pope Francis has gained the friendship of the world. Pope Francis deserves praise for taking a humane stand in defence of human rights and against bigotry.

Copyright © 2013 Diversity Chronicle All Rights Reserved.

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