Tag Archives: Rome

Maundy Thursday – Foot Washing

From God’s Politics blog by Jim Wallace and friends via Sojourners

When Pope Francis Washes Women’s Feet, Arguments Follow. Who’s Right?
by David Gibson 04-15-2014

>On Thursday evening, in a familiar reprise of an ancient rite, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., will wash the feet of 12 men, all seminarians — a re-creation of Jesus’ action at the Last Supper when he washed the feet of his disciples and, according to Catholic doctrine, formally instituted the priesthood.

That same evening, thousands of miles away, Pope Francis will also observe the Holy Thursday rite, though not in a cathedral like Morlino but at a center for people with disabilities. There he will wash the feet of a number of residents, all lay people and perhaps some of them women and even non-Christians or nonbelievers.

Francis did something similar last year, shortly after his election, when he stunned church observers by traveling to a juvenile detention center outside Rome and washing the feet of 12 young people, two of them women and two of them Muslims.

More than a few tradition-minded Catholics were aghast at the pope’s example and they welcomed Morlino’s effort to hold the line against innovations, at least in his Wisconsin diocese.

“The Church’s law says that only men may be the recipients of this foot washing,” wrote the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a scrappy blogger popular with the Catholic right. “Morlino’s guidelines” — that his priests must wash the feet of 12 men or not do the foot washing at all — “do nothing but reiterate the Church’s laws, which bishops and priests are obliged to follow.”

So who’s correct?

Is the pope a dissenter? Or are Morlino and others being legalistic? What does the foot washing ritual represent, anyway?

There are no simple answers to those questions, though the weight of history and custom — not to mention authority — seems to be on the pope’s side.

An ancient rite

Accounts of Christian foot washing rituals go back as far as the sixth century. As Peter Jeffrey writes in his 1985 book, A New Commandment: Toward a Renewed Rite for the Washing of Feet, there were generally two forms: the “Mandatum Pauperam,” or washing of the feet of poor people, and the “Mandatum Fratrum,” the washing of the feet of “the brothers.”

Neither were part of the Holy Thursday liturgy, and popes and clerics routinely washed the feet of poor people as a sign of service and humility. In convents, as well, “woman washed feet and had their feet washed,” and they washed the feet of guests and children, said Rita Ferrone, the author of several books about liturgy and a consultant to U.S. dioceses on liturgical matters.

“Foot washing does have a long tradition,” Ferrone said, “and it didn’t exclude women up until 1955.”

That’s when Pope Pius XII simplified the Holy Week rites, a reform that included folding the foot washing ritual into the Holy Thursday Mass before marking Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday.

The problem is that back then, Catholic women were not allowed into the restricted space near the altar and, unlike today, they could not have any part in the Mass. So the rule was that 12 chosen men — “viri selecti” in the Latin — would have their feet washed by the priest or bishop.

With that change, the foot washing rite also came to be seen as a kind of re-creation of the Last Supper and the institution of the priesthood.

“The tradition was not to have it be a dramatization of what Jesus did at the last Supper but to be a response to the command to humble service,” Ferrone said.

Modernizing reforms

While the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s ushered in numerous reforms, including of the liturgy, the rule on only washing the feet of men was never addressed.

But in the 1970s, in an effort to reflect the new openness of the church, bishops and priests in many dioceses simply ignored the old regulation and began washing the feet of lay people, including women. Sometimes there were a dozen, sometimes more.
Indeed, there is a photograph of Pope Francis, when he was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, washing the feet of women with babies, some of whom were breast-feeding.

Today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledges the letter of the law but stresses that the rite aims to signify both charity and “humble service” rather than a re-enactment of the foundation of the priesthood. It drops any reference to washing the feet of 12 people (the number of the disciples) and notes that “it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world.”

So in that sense, it is a return to a more ancient tradition, and very much in line with what Pope Francis is doing.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, said Tuesday that Francis’ decision to include women and nonbelievers was meant as a gesture “to embrace those who were on the fringes of society.” The official rules, he said, can sometimes be a distraction from “the profound messages of the Gospels and of the Lord of the Church.”

Still, this is the Catholic Church, and rules are rules. Even though a Vatican spokesman last year said Francis’ decision to wash the feet of women and Muslims on Holy Thursday was “absolutely licit” because it did not entail a sacrament, canon lawyer Edward Peters said that Francis set a “questionable example” by ignoring church law.

Peters, a blogger popular with church conservatives and a supporter of the rule, said it would be better to change the rule rather than risk undermining the rule of law by flouting it.

There are, of course, others who would like to see the current rule maintained and enforced the way Morlino does, and not just to maintain good order in the church.

“This is being used by those who wish to make a point about holy orders being reserved to men,” Ferrone said. The debate over the Holy Thursday foot washing, she said, “becomes yet another occasion for people who would like to see women excluded from the sanctuary.”

David Gibson writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS.


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April 17, 2014 · 15:31

Why were the Christians in Rome so poor? The lions ate all the prophets!

Why were the Christians in Rome so poor?  The lions ate all the prophets!

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March 12, 2014 · 00:34

Leaving The Vatican At Night

Is Pope Francis Leaving Vatican At Night To Minister To Homeless?  A recent interview with Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the “Almoner of His Holiness,” raised speculation that the Pope joins him on his nightly trips into Rome to give alms to the poor, and it turns out that the rumors are probably true.

A knowledgable source in Rome told The Huffington Post that “Swiss guards confirmed that the pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women.”

Krajewski earlier said, “When I say to him ‘I’m going out into the city this evening’, there’s the constant risk that he will come with me,” and he merely smiled and ducked the question when reporters asked him point-blank whether the Pope accompanied him into the city.

He’s not the only Pope known for nocturnal wanderings. There are stories of Pope John XIII sneaking out to enjoy the beauty of Rome in the evenings, and reports tell of Pope Pius XII dressing as a Franciscan during WWII to help smuggle Rome’s Jewish population to safety. More recently, Pope Benedict XVI popped out unannounced to visit an art exhibit.

When Pope Francis was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, he was known to sneak out at night to break bread with the homeless, sitting with them on the street and eating with them to show that they were loved.  And we love him for doing it now.

Dec 02, 2013

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How Strong is Pope Francis (article in the New Yorker)

NOVEMBER 7, 2013

by Amy Davidson

On Wednesday, Pope Francis went into St. Peter’s Square, where a crowd had gathered, and saw a pilgrim who has certainly been met in his life with averted gazes, and worse. His skin was covered with hundreds, maybe thousands, of bulbous tumors that contorted his features. Francis embraced him, touched his face, and prayed with him. There is a picture of him kissing the man’s head, where there is no unmarked skin and tumors push through his thin hair. (This is the result of a disease called neurofibromatosis.) The image was electrifying, in a way that mercy can be. But it took on more significance as a stage in what many people are hoping is Francis’s own pilgrimage.

The day before the embrace in the square, the Vatican released a “preparatory document” for an Extraordinary General Assembly, to be held in October, 2014. Francis has asked a synod of bishops from around the world to come to Rome and talk about families. (The official title is Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization.) The bishops are also supposed to answer a questionnaire about modern families, the actual ones in their communities. More than that, they have been asked, according to Vatican Radio, “to share it as widely as possible”—with laypeople, too. A pilgrim can also be a pollster, asking questions along the way. There are thirty-nine of them in the document, including these:

5. On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex

a) Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?

c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?

d) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

What Francis seems to be looking for is not a doctrinal or political response to same-sex unions but a pastoral one: taking modern families as they are and live, and seeing how the Catholic Church can be part of their lives. (There is not a question about how best to lobby legislatures.) The synod, according to the document, is meant to address “concerns which were unheard of until a few years ago.” Its summary of these concerns is not in all respects liberal; it mentions “forms of feminism hostile to the Church,” and emphasizes the indissolubility of marriage. And certain situations that it calls novel, like that of single parents and of dowries “understood as the purchase price of the woman,” have been less unheard of than unheeded.

But there are the seeds of something radical here. There is, for one thing, an attempt to get past pretense. It asks how many people “in your particular church” are remarried, or separated, or are children whose families aren’t the kind in church picture books, and how to reach and include them. In terms of abortion, it asks how people could be persuaded to accept the Church’s teachings—but also how good a job churches are doing at teaching them about “natural” means of family planning, like the rhythm method. Mercy was also a word that came up, with regard to families living “irregular” lives.

It’s not too early to wonder if that synod could be a landmark moment for Francis’s papacy, and his Church. Francis has begun a discussion about the Church’s priorities, notably in an interview with a Jesuit magazine in which he wished the Church away from its obsession with issues like homosexuality. Now his bishops will be coming to him. Many of them are making a very different noise than the one we have heard from their Pope. The greetings might be stranger and more difficult ones than any Francis has experienced in St. Peter’s Square. And the synod will likely require a different sort of leadership than we’ve entirely seen from him. Francis has shown that he can come down hard on, for example, Germany’s Bishop of Bling, who was using church funds for expensive flights and to renovate a luxurious residence. But maybe the weight of the Church will defeat him. It won’t be enough to be an example and provocateur, or some humble mendicant.

How strong a Pope is Francis? The picture of his kiss of the disfigured man was called beautiful, because, if one is to be honest, many people who couldn’t look away from it might not have been willing to look at all if the Pontiff were Photoshopped out, and the man were there alone. It is one thing, though, to admire a Pope for living the way most people couldn’t. It is another to have one who looks at the way most people do live, and embraces them.


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Pope Blesses Harley-Davidson Bikers At Vatican

2:42pm UK, Sunday 16 June 2013

Pope Francis blessed scores of Harley-Davidson riders who went to the Vatican to celebrate the manufacturer’s 110th anniversary.

Pope Francis blesses the Harley Davidson bikers from his Popemobile in Rome

Thundering Harley engines nearly drowned out prayers that were recited as the Pope greeted crowds before Sunday mass at St Peter’s Square.


Thousands of bikers in their trademark leather Harley vests stood alongside tens of thousands of Catholic worshippers.

T-shirts with pictures of Pope Francis are hung over a Harley-Davidson bike in Rome

The Pope blessed the “numerous participants” of the two-day pro-life rally – the centrepiece of which was Francis’ Mass.


Harley owners from around the world descended on Rome for the anniversary.

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Hans Kung – The Paradox of Pope Francis

from the National Catholic Reporter

The paradox of Pope Francis

Hans Kung | May. 21, 2013
Who could have imagined what has happened in the last weeks?

When I decided, months ago, to resign all of my official duties on the occasion of my 85th birthday, I assumed I would never see fulfilled my dream that — after all the setbacks following the Second Vatican Council — the Catholic church would once again experience the kind of rejuvenation that it did under Pope John XXIII.

Then my theological companion over so many decades, Joseph Ratzinger — both of us are now 85 — suddenly announced his resignation from the papal office effective at the end of February. And on March 19, St. Joseph’s feast day and my birthday, a new pope with the surprising and programmatic name Francis assumed this office.

Has Jorge Mario Bergoglio considered why no pope has dared to choose the name of Francis until now? At any rate, the Argentine was aware that with the name of Francis he was connecting himself with Francis of Assisi, the world-famous 13th-century downshifter who had been the fun-loving, worldly son of a rich textile merchant in Assisi, until at the age of 24, he gave up his family, wealth and career, even giving his splendid clothes back to his father.

It is astonishing how, from the first minute of his election, Pope Francis chose a new style: unlike his predecessor, no miter with gold and jewels, no ermine-trimmed cape, no made-to-measure red shoes and headwear, no magnificent throne.

Astonishing, too, that the new pope deliberately abstains from solemn gestures and high-flown rhetoric and speaks in the language of the people.

And finally it is astonishing how the new pope emphasizes his humanity: He asked for the prayers of the people before he gave them his blessing; settled his own hotel bill like anybody else; showed his friendliness to the cardinals in the coach, in their shared residence, at the official goodbye; washed the feet of young prisoners, including those of a young Muslim woman. A pope who demonstrates that he is a man with his feet on the ground.

All this would have pleased Francis of Assisi and is the opposite of what Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) represented in his time. In 1209, Francis and 11 “lesser brothers” (fratres minores or friars minor) traveled to Rome to lay before Innocent their short rule, consisting entirely of quotations from the Bible, and to ask for papal approval for their way of life, living in poverty and preaching as lay preachers “according to the form of the Holy Gospel.”

Innocent III, the duke of Segni, who was only 37 when he was elected pope, was a born ruler; he was a theologian educated in Paris, a shrewd lawyer, a clever speaker, a capable administrator and a sophisticated diplomat. No pope before or after him had ever had as much power as he had. Innocent completed the revolution from above initiated by Gregory VII in the 11th century (“the Gregorian Reform”). Instead of the title of “Successor of St. Peter,” Innocent preferred the title of “Vicar of Christ,” as used by every bishop or priest until the 12th century. Unlike in the first millennium and never acknowledged in the apostolic churches of the East, the pope since then has acted as the absolute ruler, lawgiver and judge of Christianity — until today.

The triumphal pontificate of Innocent proved itself to be not only the high point but also the turning point. Already in his time, there were signs of decay that, up until in our own time, have remained features of the Roman Curia system: nepotism, favoritism, acquisitiveness, corruption and dubious financial dealings. Already in the 1170s and 1180s, however, powerful nonconformist penitent and mendicant orders (Cathars, Waldensians) were developing. But popes and bishops acted against these dangerous currents by banning lay preaching, condemning “heretics” by the Inquisition, and even carrying out the Albigensian Crusade.

Yet it was Innocent himself who tried to integrate into the church evangelical-apostolic mendicant orders, even during all the eradication policies against obstinate “heretics” like the Cathars. Even Innocent knew that an urgent reform of the church was needed, and it was for this reform that he called the glorious Fourth Lateran Council. And so, after long admonition, he gave Francis of Assisi permission to preach. Concerning the ideal of absolute poverty as required by the Franciscan rule, the pope would first seek to know the will of God in prayer. On the basis of a dream in which a small, insignificant member of an order saved the papal Basilica of St. John Lateran from collapsing — so it was told — the pope finally allowed the Rule of Francis of Assisi. He let this be known in the Consistory of Cardinals but never had it committed to paper.

A different path

In fact, Francis of Assisi represented the alternative to the Roman system. What would have happened if Innocent and his like had taken the Gospel seriously? Even if they had understood it spiritually rather than literally, his evangelical demands meant and still mean an immense challenge to the centralized, legalized, politicized and clericalized system of power that had taken over the cause of Christ in Rome since the 11th century.

Innocent III was probably the only pope who, because of his unusual characteristics, could have directed the church along a completely different path, and this would have saved the papacies of the 14th and 15th centuries schism and exile, and the church in the 16th century the Protestant Reformation. Obviously, this would already have meant a paradigm shift for the Catholic church in the 13th century, a shift that instead of splitting the church would have renewed it, and at the same time reconciled the churches of East and West.

Thus, the early Christian basic concerns of Francis of Assisi remain even today questions for the Catholic church and now for a pope who, indicating his intentions, has called himself Francis. It is above all about the three basic concerns of the Franciscan ideal that have to be taken seriously today: It is about poverty, humility and simplicity. This probably explains why no previous pope has dared to take the name of Francis: The expectations seem to be too high.

That begs a second question: What does it mean for a pope today if he bravely takes the name of Francis? Of course the character of Francis of Assisi must not be idealized; he could be one-sided, eccentric, and he had his weaknesses, too. He is not the absolute standard. But his early Christian concerns must be taken seriously even if they need not be literally implemented but rather translated into modern times by pope and church.
•Poverty: The church in the spirit of Innocent III meant a church of wealth, pomp and circumstance, acquisitiveness and financial scandal. In contrast, a church in the spirit of Francis means a church of transparent financial policies and modest frugality. A church that concerns itself above all with the poor, the weak and the marginalized. A church that does not pile up wealth and capital but instead actively fights poverty and offers its staff exemplary conditions of employment.
•Humility: The church in the spirit of Innocent means a church of power and domination, bureaucracy and discrimination, repression and Inquisition. In contrast, a church in the spirit of Francis means a church of humanity, dialogue, brotherhood and sisterhood, hospitality for nonconformists; it means the unpretentious service of its leaders and social solidarity, a community that does not exclude new religious forces and ideas from the church but rather allows them to flourish.
•Simplicity: The church in the spirit of Innocent means a church of dogmatic immovability, moralistic censure and legal hedging, a church of canon law regulating everything, a church of all-knowing scholastics and of fear. In contrast, a church in the spirit of Francis of Assisi means a church of good news and of joy, a theology based purely on the Gospel, a church that listens to people instead of indoctrinating from above, a church that does not only teach but one that constantly learns.

So, in the light of the concerns and approaches of Francis of Assisi, basic options and policies can be formulated today for a Catholic church whose façade still glitters on great Roman occasions but whose inner structure is rotten and fragile in the daily life of parishes in many lands, which is why many people have left it in spirit and often in fact.

While no reasonable person will expect that one man can effect all reforms overnight, a paradigm shift would be possible in five years: This was shown by the Lorraine Pope Leo IX (1049-54) who prepared Gregory VII’s reforms, and in the 20th century by the Italian John XXIII (1958-63) who called the Second Vatican Council. But, today above all, the direction should be made clear again: not a restoration to pre-council times as there was under the Polish and German popes, but instead considered, planned and well-communicated steps to reform along the lines of the Second Vatican Council.

A third question presents itself today as much as then: Will a reform of the church not meet with serious opposition? Doubtless, he will thus awaken powerful opposition, above all in the powerhouse of the Roman Curia, opposition that is difficult to withstand. Those in power in the Vatican are not likely to abandon the power that has been accumulated since the Middle Ages.

Curial pressures

Francis of Assisi also had to experience the force of such curial pressures. He who wanted to free himself of everything by living in poverty clung more and more closely to “Holy Mother Church.” Not in confrontation with the hierarchy but rather in obedience to pope and Curia, he wanted to live in imitation of Jesus: in a life of poverty, in lay preaching. He and his followers even had themselves tonsured in order to enter the clerical state. In fact, this made preaching easier but on the other it encouraged the clericalization of the young community, which included more and more priests. So it is not surprising that the Franciscan community became increasingly integrated into the Roman system. Francis’ last years were overshadowed by the tensions between the original ideals of Jesus’ followers and the adaptation of his community to the existing type of monastic life.

To do Francis justice: On Oct. 3, 1226, aged only 44, he died as poor as he had lived. Just 10 years previously, one year after the Fourth Lateran Council, Innocent III died unexpectedly at the age of 56. On July 16, 1216, his body was found in the Cathedral of Perugia: This pope who had known how to increase the power, property and wealth of the Holy See like no other before him was found deserted by all, naked, robbed by his own servants. A trumpet call signaling the transition from papal world domination to papal powerlessness: At the beginning of the 13th century there is Innocent III reigning in glory; at the end of the century, there is the megalomaniac Boniface VIII (1294-1303) arrested by the French; and then the 70-year exile in Avignon, France, and the Western schism with two and, finally, three popes.

Barely two decades after Francis’ death, the Roman church seemed to almost completely domesticate the rapidly spreading Franciscan movement in Italy so that it quickly became a normal order at the service of papal politics, and even became a tool of the Inquisition. If it was possible for the Roman system to finally domesticate Francis of Assisi and his followers, then obviously it cannot be excluded that a Pope Francis could also be trapped in the Roman system that he is supposed to be reforming. Pope Francis: a paradox? Is it possible that a pope and a Francis, obviously opposites, can ever be reconciled? Only by an evangelically minded, reforming pope.

To conclude, a fourth question: What is to be done if our expectations of reform are quashed from above? In any case, the time is past when pope and bishops could reckon with the obedience of the faithful. The 11th-century Gregorian Reform also introduced a certain mysticism of obedience: Obeying God means obeying the church and that means obeying the pope. Since that time, it has been drummed into Catholics that the obedience of all Christians to the pope is a cardinal virtue; commanding and enforcing obedience — by whatever means — has become the Roman style. But the medieval equation, “Obedience to God equals obedience to the church equals obedience to the pope,” patently contradicts the word of the apostle before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem: “Man must obey God rather than other men.”

We should then in no way fall into resignation; instead, faced with a lack of impulse toward reform from the top down, from the hierarchy, we must take the offensive, pushing for reform from the bottom up. If Pope Francis tackles reforms, he will find he has the wide approval of people far beyond the Catholic church. However, if he just lets things continue as they are, without clearing the logjam of reforms as now in the case of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, then the call of “Time for outrage! Indignez-vous!” will ring out more and more in the Catholic church, provoking reforms from the bottom up that will be implemented without the approval of the hierarchy and frequently even in spite of the hierarchy’s attempts at circumvention. In the worst case — as I already wrote before this papal election — the Catholic church will experience a new ice age instead of a spring and run the risk of dwindling into a barely relevant large sect.

[Theologian Fr. Hans Küng writes from Tübingen, Germany.]

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Follow Me

It’s said that once when, Sir Francis Drake, was attempting to recruit a number of young men for an upcoming exploration, he gathered them around and told the group that if they came with him they would see some of the most marvellous things their eyes could ever behold.

Sandy white beaches, ripe juicy exotic fruits, foreign peoples, priceless treasures, and spectacular landscapes. And he told them that this wild adventure could be theirs if they came with him.

Yet not a single one of them enlisted for the journey.

The next day a different group came out. Drake told them that if they came with him they would encounter storms that would terrify them into tears. Winds would hammer them and blow them off course for months. Water would frequently be scarce. In short, danger would always be their constant companion.

Drake concluded by declaring that if they could handle these things, the joys of exploration would exceed their wildest dreams. Every single one of them in the group joined Sir Francis Drake that day, some did not even go home to say goodbye to their families, they just boarded the boat eager for the journey.

What made the difference in these two groups? Why did the first group turn down the mission and the second jump at the chance? Was the second group different and more adventurous than the first? The answer is: No. It is not the men who had changed; it was the message. The first spoke of rewards; the second spoke of challenges. The first offered comfort; the second promised suffering. The first tempted them with things; the second seduced them with an experience unlike any other.

I like to think that Sir Francis Drake discovered what Jesus knew all to well. Jesus offered his disciples a challenge and a change and their lives would never be the same again.

There’s a legend told of Simon Peter who was crucified in Rome 30 years or so after Christ.

The story goes that the night before his death, he had a dream – a nightmare, if you like – in which he was back on the shores of Lake Galilee with Jesus inviting him to follow him.  But this time, in his dream, Peter refused and turned his back upon his Master & kept on fishing.

In this dream, he saw Jesus walk away sadly.

At that, Peter woke up, shaken, tearful, agitated because, at first, he thought his dream had been true.

But when he realised that it wasn’t real, he gave thanks to God.

How terrible it would have been, he thought, if that really had been the case.  He would have missed the great days of teaching, preaching and healing; he would have missed that memorable night in the Upper Room; gone would have been the grief of denial then the joy and freedom of being forgiven; there would have been no excitement and exhilaration on the Day of Pentecost; he would not have experienced the fatigue yet rewarding work in the early Church….. nor even the persecution and now his martyrdom for the faith.

If he had said “no” to the invitation “follow me!”


“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside,
He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”


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Telemachus was a monk who lived in Asia Minor about the year 400 AD. During his life, the gladiatorial games were very popular.  The gladiators were usually slaves or political prisoners who were condemned to fight each other unto death for the amusement of the spectators.  People were fascinated by the sight of blood and gore upon the arena floor.

Western Roman Emperor Honorius, depicted on th...

Western Roman Emperor Honorius, depicted on the consular diptych of Probus (406, Aosta, CIL 1, 6836) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Telemachus was very much disturbed that the Emperor Honorius, who was a Christian, sponsored the games and that so many people who called themselves Christian went to see them.  What, he wondered, could be further from the Spirit of Christ than the horrible cruelty of the gladiatorial games?  The bishops and priests spoke against them, but most people were deaf to their message.

Telemachus realised that talking about this evil was not enough.  It was time to do something.  But what could he actually accomplish – one lone monk against the whole Roman Empire?   He had no power.  And the games had been part of Roman life for centuries.   Nothing that he could possibly do would ever make a difference.

For a long time, Telemachus agonised about the problem.  Finally, he could not live with himself any longer.  For the sake of his own soul he decided he had to obey the voice of Christ within him – regardless of the consequences.   He set out for Rome.

When Telemachus entered the city, the people he met had gone mad with excitement.  “To the Coliseum!”, they cried out.  “The games are about to start.!”

Telemachus followed the crowd.  Soon he was seated among all the other people.  Far away in a special place he saw the emperor.

The gladiators came out into the centre of the arena.  Everybody was tense.  Everybody was silent as the two men faced each other.   The men drew their swords.   The fight was about to be on!   One of them would probably die within a few minutes.  Who would it be?

At that moment Telemachus rose from his seat and ran down onto the arena floor.   He held high the cross of Christ that he carried and threw himself into a position between the two gladiators.

“In the name of our Master,”, he cried, “Stop fighting!”

The two men hesitated.  Nothing like this had ever happened before.  They did not know what to do.  They put up their swords for a moment.

The spectators were furious.  Telemachus had robbed them of their entertainment.  They yelled wildly and stampeded toward the centre of the arena.  They became a mob.  With sticks and stones they beat Telemachus to death.

Far down in the arena lay the battered body of the monk.  Suddenly the mob and the spectators who had remained in their seats grew quiet.  A feeling of revulsion at what had been done swept over them.  Emperor Honorius rose and left the Coliseum.  The people followed him.  Abruptly the games were over.

Emperor Honorius sensed the mood of the crowd that day.  His ears were opened by the death of Telemachus.

His tongue was loosened as well.  He issued an edict forbidding all future gladiatorial games.  And so it was, that in about the year 404 AD, because one individual, filled with the love of Christ, dared to say, “No!”, all gladiatorial games ceased.

To hear we require a functioning organ of corti inside the ear.  defective corti will not produce sound that is audible

A similar thing might be said about the sense of sight. To see properly we require not only a well formed and clear lens, we require an optic nerve that is undamaged, one that is able to translate the complete signal from the eye to the brain.

Jesus is able to heal all these things when they are damaged  – indeed the gospels tell us of so many of his miraculous acts of healing

And as it is for the physical senses of sight and hearing, so it is for the spiritual senses of sight and hearing.  He can make us look at those in need with the eyes of compassion; he can unstop our ears so that we hear the cries for help from the unloved and the unfulfilled.  He touches our spiritual senses that we might act in love with mercy and justice in our hearts.

He can open our ears and our eyes and make the sensory signals that come to us from every direction get through to our spiritual centre, to that place where they can be translated from meaningless words and visions to the words and deeds of a living faith.

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Pope Francis 1


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Golda Meir

The Meenister’s Log

Lovely story about Golda Meir, late Prime Minister of Israel, who was once in Rome and awaiting an audience with Pope Paul at the Vatican.

Being somewhat overwhelmed by the prospect of a Jew visiting the Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, she said to a monsignor as she waited to meet the Pope, “Just think, Golda Meir, daughter of a poor Milwaukee carpenter, going in to talk with the head of the Church.”



“Watch your language,” said the Vatican official, “Carpentry is considered a very esteemed profession around here”

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