Friday, September 8, 2017

On Blessed Alan de la Roche and the Rosary

Dominican Friar Blessed Alan de la Roche on the Rosary

"Blessed" Alan de la Roche, O.P. (1428-1475) was a 15th Century friar who is considered to be the restorer of the Dominican Rosary. Although Alan has no official Church feast day, he is unofficially honored on September 8th, which is also the feast for the Nativity of Mary.

According to Dominican tradition, St. Dominic (1170-1221) founded the Rosary in 1208 as a meditative prayer which sought to spiritually combat the Albigensian heresy (which believed that only spiritual realities were good and vehemently opposed God taking flesh in Jesus Christ).  But this meditative Marian prayer featuring just the Angelic Salutation and the Evangelical Salutation  fell into disuse during the 14th Century during the era of the Black Death in Europe.

In the mid 15th Century in a Dominican monastery  in Brittany, Alan de la Roche experienced visions from the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Lord which eventually convicted him to revive and renew the Dominican Rosary.  De la Roche was not the perfect emissary for this divine mission.  At one point, Jesus appeared to De la Roche and said: "You have all of the learning and understand that you need to preach my mother's rosary, and you are not doing so. The world is full of devouring wolves, and you, unfaithful dog, know not how to bark."  The latter phrase was a pointed wake up call to a Dominican like Blessed Alan, as the Order of Preachers held the moniker "Dog of God" (Latin domini canus which sounds similar to Dominicanus)

Blessed Alan stressed the 15 mysteries of the Dominican Rosary, rather than the alternative of 50 clauses of the Carthusian Rosary.  Moreover, the 150 Hail Marys imitated the 150 psalms of the Old Testament, which harkened back to the proto-origins of the lay Marian psalter. Blessed Alan was successful at renewing popular devotion to the Rosary and reinvigorating the Confraternity of the Rosary. The Confraternity featured "after death" benefits for Rosarians. Thus Blessed Alan de la Roche may be considered one the greatest champions of the Rosary to ever live. 

Although Blessed Alan wrote an instructional pamphlet Book and Ordinance regarding the renewal of the Dominican Rosary, about 1/3 of  the Vatican documents were lost after Napoleon sacked the Vatican archives from 1810-1813.  So much of quotable material about Blessed Alan comes from St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716) whose 18th Century works True Devotions to the Blessed Virgin and The Secret of the Rosary were buried in a field in France for over 125 years, thereby escaping the irreligious impulses of the French Revolution. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Fatima Seer Sister Lucia on the Rosary

Fatima Seer Sister Lucia on the Rosary

Post Scriptus: One reader of this post repeatedly inveighed "You must be out of your mind" concerning credence to Our Lady of Fatima. Of course, it was a shrill anti-Catholic screed. Regrettably the writer of the ad hominem comment lacked the testicular fortitude to attach a name or any means to colloquy. Some profession of faith--not! The poster must have been out of his mind if he was seeking to convince anyone of his conviction. God bless his little heart.

Pope St. John Paul II on How Our Lady of Fatima Saved His Life

Pope St. John Paul II on How Our Lady of Fatima Saved His Life

Friday, May 12, 2017

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on Prayer

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVII, on Prayer
Pope St. John Paul II was so convicted that the Blessed Virgin Marry saved his life as the first apparition of the lady in white was on May 13th 1917 and he was shot on May 13th 1981. One year after the assassination attempt, JPII gave one of the bullets lodged in his body to be melded into the crown of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

President Trump on Freedom

President Trump on Freedom and God

As President Trump commemorated the 2017 National Day of Prayer by signing Executive Orders protecting religious liberty, he noted where this fundamental first freedom is derived.

Remembering English Martyrs

The Catholic Church commemorates May 4th the forty Martyrs of England and Wales. In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, England's Queen Elizabeth I intended supplant the old religion (Roman Catholicism) to the new religion loyal to the crown Anglicanism.  

From the Act of Supremacy in 1558 when Elizabeth ascended the throne to 1570 there were no Catholic martyrs for the faith.  But the English crown shifted their modus operandi  after Pope Pius V's bull Regnans in Excelsis  which excommunicated Elizabeth, the English crown began to crack down.  Five Catholics were slain for treason for plotting to overthrow the sovereign.

However, there were a slew of anti-Catholic laws which were promulgated.  In 1571, the English Crown denied the Holy See any jurisdiction, publishing anything from the Pope, forbidding "poperies" like crosses, rosaries and Agnus Dei from the the pope.  

Elizabeth also commanded that the Book of Common prayer be used in all churches.  Later, it became punishable to not attend Church of England services, draw anyone away from the state religion, teach without the blessing of an Anglican bishop or even celebrate the Catholic Mass.  In 1585, it became a capital crime to go abroad to be ordained as a Catholic priest.

One could rightly point to the 283 Protestants who were killed for their faith under Mary I were also martyred for their faith, during  an unfortunate era of intolerance in Christendom. May we now remember to have unity on essential thing,  liberty on dubious things and charity for all.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Celebrating Passover with Pesach Funk

What an exuberant way for Jews to celebrate their freedom for their bonds in Egypt!

Aside from the ritual Passover meal, observant Jews keep kosher by cleaning their kitchens of anything that is hametz (the fermented product from five grains: wheat, rye, spelt, barley and oats).  

 Many Ashkinazi Jews will also avoid eating kitniyot, foods that include corn, beans and lentil, as they expand when they are heated  Conservative rabbis overturned the kitniyot prohibitions in 2015

Such dietary conscientiousness stems from following the Torah and remembering that Jews needed to flee their slavery in Pharaoh's Egypt in haste with no time to allow for leavened bread to rise.

Matzah is kosher because it is a quickly baked cracker and has no time for fermentation leavening to occur.  

Some find keeping kosher for Passover to be more of a crunch than others. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick on Life

St. Patrick on Raison D'Etre

But it is dubious if St. Patrick had such snarky savages to convert as Hans Fiene illustrated in Lutheran Satire.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Celebrating St. Leander of Sevilla

St. Leander of Sevilla (524-600 AD) was instrumental in instituting the recitation of the Nicean Creed during the Mass. Leander sought to combat confusion over the heresy of Arianism, which balked at the 324 AD Council of Nicea declaration that that God the Father was one in being with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity Jesus. This practice of clearly professing the tenants of faith in the Nicean creed spread from Spain to throughout the Universal Church.

St. Leander came from a very devout Catholic family, like all of his siblings,  in present day Cartegena, Spain.  Leander first became a Benedictine monk and later was named the Bishop of Sevilla in 578.   Leander's brothers St. Isadore and St. Fulgentius followed him as bishops of Sevilla.  Leander's sister St. Florentina was a Abbess oversaw 40 convents and 1,000 nuns.

St. Leander presided over the third Council of Toledo in 589 which decreed the consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity.  Leander also created an important rule for nuns on prayer and the renunciation of the world. 

St. Leander's influence was much broader than the Iberian engendering the ire of a local king.  To further combat Arianism amongst the Germanic rules in Iberia at the time.  By praying to God through the mediation of Our Lady, Leander sought graces in his apostolate.  His selfless prayers were answered and Leander achieved colossal conversions of Arian Christians, including Visogoth king's son. 

King Leovigild was enraged at these attacks and killed his own son while exiling Leander to Constantinople.  It was there that Leander become close friends of the Papal Legate, the future Pope Gregory V, who he encouraged to write Moralia, a famous commentary on the Book of Job.

[L] Pope Gregory V presenting St. Leander with Moralia

In Spain, St. Leander is considered to be a Doctor of the Church. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Churchy by Sarah Condon

Churchy [Mockingbird 2016 180 p.]  is a  non-fictional version of chick lit which shares Sarah Condon’s unvarnished personal vignettes that seeks to lead readers towards retrospective religious reflections. It is published by Mockingbird Ministries, which strives to connect the Christian faith with the realities of everyday life in fresh down-to-earth ways. No one will mistake Sarah Condon’s Churchy musings as mundane faith history.

"St." Flannery O'Connor
Churchy’s subtitle is “The Real Life Adventures of a wife, mom and priest”.   Truth be told, she thinks that the real title ought to have been: “Churchy Prodigal Daughter Who Is the Worst” which packs in a lot of theology, but those leitmotifs were already taken. Clearly, Condon is influenced by Southern Goth, as demonstrated by her reverence to “St.” Flannery O’Connor. This honorific should be no surprise as she attributed sainthood to Whitney Houston in prior Mockingbird articles 

Condon is an Episcopal priest who is married to another Episcopal priest pastoring a  parish in Houston Texas.  Sarah Condon’s ministry has included hospital ministry, in the dreaded “Liver Floor” filled with alcoholic patients in need of organ donations.

Rev. Sarah Condon 
After hearing Sarah speak at a retreat, I was prepared for her irreverent, earthy rhetoric (but the harshest epithets published were “holy shit” and “bullhockey”) to accompany her vivid story telling.  I noted that a couple of the vignettes were reworked into part of her speaking repertoire.  

Since my Roman Catholic tradition neither has many married clergymen (much less priestesses), I was interested in understanding her vocation as well as appreciating the strains of family life with clerical duties.   Honestly, this angle was not clear.  Most of Churchy seemed drawn from the lens of a Churchy mother who was wont to extrapolate theological truths from the quotidian.

Condon’s view on her vocation was not crystal clear. In the introduction, she noted that: 

“Josh [her husband] and I are both Episcopal priests. But most Sundays, you will see me in the pews with my children. On occasion, I stand behind the altar and celebrate communion.”  

As someone who understands sacramentality as a key distinction between the laity and the ordained, it seemed like  a nonchalant approach to take a priestly vocation yet to only feel obliged to “stand behind the altar” from time to time. 

Regarding her role as an off hours hospital chaplain, Condon conceded that she often hears the awkward inquiry: “What do you do for a living?”  She modestly asserts that she utters  a ratio 70%-30% stupid to wise things while “bumbling around” hospital wards. This underplays  the vital mission of just being present to  those who may be on the precipice of death. Such companioning in Christ echoes tenants of Ignatian spirituality which Pope Francis has been championing during his papacy.

In the chapter which contains the Cereal Aisle Stranger section, Sarah Condon wrote: 

“And there is the issue of me telling strangers what my husband and I do for a living while standing in front of a row of Fruit Loops.” 

Kind of surreal small talk in the Cereal Section. Yet the way that Sarah described the query as being about what they did for a living rather than refer to their priestly vocations or ministries. That particular turn of phrase niggled at me.

Condon’s later  reflections on her household concluded: 

“Meanwhile, I bring in some income with writing and part-time ministry work, put food in the crock pot, spend an incredible amount of time with my children and talk on the phone to my mom, a lot.”  

Sarah’s description of her role is a dose of honesty mixed in with a good measure of self-deprecating humor. However, it begs a poignant question –Should ordination be deemed just a part time job or a vocation of sacerdotal service to the people of God?  It is certainly unusual for a priest to be married to a priest while raising a family. I again wonder about how there can be sufficient self sacrifice to the needs of the faithful. Can active priests really be part-timers?

Irregardless of that dialectic, Sarah Condon does not easily fit into feminist stereotypes. In reflecting on her early attitudes towards her marriage that:

“[I]t was easier to think of myself as a woman liberated from role of ‘wife’ than it was to think of myself as a co-signer in covenant of sickness and health.” 

That liberated attitude along with being a priest being married to a priest might lead one to believe that Condon had totally signed unto the feminist agenda. Yet Condon rues the Episcopal Church’s expectation that of a  feminist art installation as a spiritual superhero who be both a real mother as well as a mother in ministry. Sarah also chaffed at feeling as if women priests are figuratively shoved through male shaped boxes, as exemplified as being required to complete an ordination exam as she was in the midst of a first trimester miscarriage. 

Condon does work in some theological concepts in layman’s terms.  She jars her readers attention with the theological precept that: “Humanity is a clown parade of jackwagons.”  Her vivid illustration of low anthropology contrasted with high Christology. This highlights how God loves us flawed sinful men and women but his only Son redeemed us through his Cross and resurrection. She also explores how “If your boss thinks you’re awesome then you’ll become awesome has a nexus with the imputed righteousness of Christ. 

There were two poignant thoughts which I gleaned from Sarah Condon’s Churchy self-reflections.  As she was being shadowed as a hospital chaplain, she was ministering to a family who had decided to withdraw life support for a dying loved one.  Condon wondered why her mentor returned to the terminal patient’s room and whispered consoling phrases into her ear.  That taught her that she was at the most important time in a person’s life–the deathbed.  Moreover, Condon noted that hearing is the last sense to go, so it is always worth whispering love into the ears of the dying. It called to mind St. Faustina Kowalska’s recommendation to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet at a death bed.

The other striking idea Condon borrowed from her friend's bon mot.   While at a ecumenical pastors meeting in New York City, they were discussing which were their "target audiences" for planting ministries. Many participants suggested going after youth groups. But her friend puckishly suggested: “We’d like to get more middle-aged divorced women”, which underlined the need to minister to the broken-hearted. This vision sees church as a field hospital tending to those wounded and suffering from life’s battles. 

While I suspect that I was not part of Churchy’s “target audience”, I can appreciate how Sarah Condon’s witty writing desultory anecdotes and contemporizing gospel lessons might inspire a modern metanoia.  To wit, Lady Gaga  sought Rev. Sarah Condon to hear her preach before performing at the Houston Super Bowl.   

Sarah Condon  should be commended for writing Churchy as an honest soul searching book as well as expressing a willingness to see God in all things