Friday, May 30, 2008

Professor Gilbert (and Fr Paul) -- "The Timisoara Incident"

De unione ecclesiarum has become one of my must check sites. Professor Gilbert's study of Ecumenical John Bekkos is both enlightening and thought-provoking from many perspectives. For the Catholic westerner, it succintly raises awareness of the roots of the Schism and the political and theological issues at stake. For the eastern Catholic and the Orthodox, it confronts with the vitality and breadth of Eastern theology and spirituality that belies the Palamite-only interpretation that has been in vogue in the last few centuries.

Now joined by "Fr Paul", the blog promises only to become stronger. A must read, is Fr Paul's assessment of the “Timisoara incident” is well worth reflective reading and prayer.

To wit., Stop everything and go read it now!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Day to Remember - A Day to Pray

From the Scripps News Service, this sad reminder and warning.

A Book I Missed

I just came accross Relgious Information Service of Ukraine report about a book by Bishop Paul Peter Jesep of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Kyiv-Patriarchate entitled, "Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America -- The Republic of Faith without Wisdom".

If anyone is familiar with this book, please comment. I would like to know your opinions.

History's Mis-teries - Mistaken Misconceptions

Hat Tip to Touchstone's Anthony Esolen for a promising "part one" on "How to Tell a Barbarian" and the sited Weekly Standard article by Charlotte Allen, "A Dark Age for Medievalists".

But a few generations ago the basic "darkness" of the middle ages was the complete absence of any knowledge about the Byzantine world. The misconception about the West was whether there really were any "dark ages" as the anti-Catholic Gibbons postulated. In our post-modern "enlightened" times, anything European, Christian, or Catholic is apparently open to any sort of opprobrium available.

For real history and objective analysis, I recommend:

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods Jr

The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark

Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger & Marcello Pera (Previously lauded by yours truly)

Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures by Pope Benedict XVI & Marcello Pera (Also ramblingly lauded here)


What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza (This book might profitably be read in conjunction with How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization as they are almost parallel projects in many ways.

UPDATE: Part II of the Barbarian Study is out.

Update Update: Part III of the Barbarian Study is now also out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

From the Historic Annals of World War II

Kalimafi tip to Fr Z

Keep liquid away from your mouth when watching this.

(Some people have way TOO MUCH time on their hands; thank God!)

Interesting Stuff from MercatorNet

Three snippets from three thought provoking essays over at MercatorNet.

We live in an age in which the media are scrupulously rigorous in self-censoring when it comes to the terrible social crime of offending women, gays, people of colour and natives. Only one identifiable group – white heterosexual men (if they’re Christian, so much the better) – is considered fair game for overt collective prejudice.

Identifying active misandry is easy. One has only to imagine the same words, image or falsehood or failure to report attached to any other identifiable group, and the imbalance becomes clear.
From Misandry is the Message.

The state must hold that mothers and fathers are completely interchangeable. Biological parents married to each other become officially equivalent to one parent plus their lover. The state will be indifferent as to whether children have any connection with their biological parents.
From Beyond Same Sex Marriage.

While “human dignity” is an idea which certainly requires extensive clarification and precise definition, “respect for persons” and “autonomy” are as squishy as a wet sponge. I would have thought that a Harvard prof would be more discerning. For instance, are dolphins or chimpanzees “persons”, too? Should Japanese fishermen be jailed for violating the person rights of minke whales? And is a sleeping person autonomous? A comatose person? A two-day-old infant?
Note: This essay's links also reward pursuit.

From Human Dignity, What a Stupid Idea!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Our Deacon Hits Another Homer!

Our Deacon preached yesterday for the Greek Catholic Feast of All Saints. As usual, he managed to be both humble and profoundly spiritual in focusing on the essential things we all need to recall. Below are his notes from a wonderful sermon that both makes me proud and jealous at the same time. (Remember, there are occasions of pride and jealousy that are not necessarily sinful!)

Today, the Sunday after Pentecost, we remember all the Saints. The saints are all described at the end of the Gospel reading. Every righteous one that has ever lived, that has ever pleased God, that has ever struggled with his sins, that has ever truly believed in the resurrection, is described today. Jesus says,

"Everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children or lands for My Name's sake, shall receive a hundred fold and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first."

This describes in component parts the life that pleases God, the life that we are called to. We are to abandon that which mires us down and separates us from God. We are to avoid the near occasion of sin that easily lures us, and even father or mother or sister or brother, if they separate us from God. In most cases this is not be necessary. Jesus is not telling us to leave our father and mother behind with enmity or hostility. Indeed we try to love them and honor them, whether they honor God or not. But it is a value judgment here; it is a set of priorities.

At Pentecost, the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Holy Spirit to all in the Church, makes us capable of being part of this choir of Saints. The Holy Spirit helps all persons to attain to the knowledge of God and live lives of righteousness. Jesus showed us how to live, and He lived according to His commandments, and caused Himself to be risen from the dead.

Remember the promise: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” The gift of the Holy Spirit enlightens us; He strengthens us, and allows us to do the will of God, and to obtain the promise. Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven."

As St. John Chrysostom said, “He is not here addressing his original disciples only but every one of us who follows after his disciples in accord with their witness to him.” This is a fundamental characteristic of righteousness, to confess the Lord Jesus Christ.

And how do we confess Him?

We confess our Lord with our words, with our actions, with our priorities, and by how we interact with people. What we say is important and how we act is important. Are we gentle with our words to others, as Jesus was gentle to those he loved? Do we show respect to our loved ones by how we address them, particularly in public, as Peter showed to the Lord he loved.

There are some other obvious things that come to mind. We can confess the lord by showing that we care about the Church, that we live our life in a moral way. The entire media world in the U.S. has gone off as into Sodom and Gomorrah, but we cannot follow along as if their standard is ours. We must have the courage to stand against it, to do our best to stand against every form of immorality and vice. This is the confession of Christ.

Faith without works is dead. There is no dichotomy between action and belief. We are all human and we all stumble along the way. Nevertheless, God is generous in his love to us. He as sent the Holy Spirit as our Comforter to help us in our weakness as we fight the battle against Satin and his demons.

But if we do not live according to what we say we believe, then we are not confessing Christ. The Holy Spirit will help us in all things, at all times. If we do not live righteously we are not confessing Christ. Christ says He will confess us before His Father, if we live according to His will, and confess Him in this life.

But He won't confess us before His Father if we do not live righteously. I this causes your heart to pause, then we can ask the Holy Spirit to be with us all the more. God has provided us everything we need, and today we celebrate all the saints who have endured to the end, as examples for us.

In the middle of today's Gospel it says, "He that taketh not up his cross and followeth after me, the same is not worthy of me." I continually admire the lives of the saints, and the writings of the Church Fathers. They ceaseless speak of our lure to sin and God's great mercy to direct us to truth. We see their righteousness, their personal struggle with their personal demons, and how God’s mercy brought them home. We see their struggles, and we should compare their struggles to our own. However, the Saints are both a reproach against us, yet also an encouragement to us.

The Saints have all endured, whatever age in time they lived. They had the same difficulties with sins that we have. They were given the same grace that we have been given, the same truth, the same God, the same Holy Spirit. And they fought the good fight, and endured; they finished the course.The same Holy Spirit enlightens us, and will live within us if we live according to His commandments.

May God help us to confess Christ in everything we say and everything we do. Amen.

Thanks be to God for such good men as our own Deacon David!

Monday, May 12, 2008

From the Patriarch of Antioch website

These are excerpts

Address of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios IIItoHis Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
(Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, 8 May 2008)

Most Holy Father,

May the Lord be blessed for this day which allows us this long-awaited meeting with Your Holiness, in the company of several Hierarchs, members of the Holy Synod of our patriarchal Melkite Greek Catholic Church, together with Superiors General and Mothers General of our religious Orders, priests from among our secular and regular clergy, and a goodly number of our faithful, including ministers, deputies, businessmen, and also fathers and mothers of families, all glad to be taking part in this pilgrimage, the memory of which will live on in their minds and in the annals of our Patriarchate.
Collegiality: strength and unity

A strong, united Church means, ad intra, effective and affectionate collegiality between the Patriarch and the Hierarchs who are members of the Holy Synod. It means a Church where love is the bond that unites the faithful with their pastors and with each other.

It also means a Church strong in its faith, that precious deposit that we must be capable of transmitting to younger generations. We have invented and popularised a saying in our community, “A Church without young people is a Church without a future. Young people without a Church are young people without a future.”
Ecumenical role

The other aspect of the ad extra mission of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church is its role in the ecumenical journey towards Christian unity.

Our Church has always been conscious of this role. The history of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Antioch, in full communion for close on three hundred years with the Church of Rome that “presides in love,” has been marked by many vexations. In particular, it has had to live in the catacombs for about one hundred and thirty years. Indeed, we are a Church of martyrs and confessors of the faith, especially in Lebanon and Syria. There are, standing before you, Most Holy Father, descendants of martyrs.

Absolute communion with Rome

These were martyrs for unity, martyrs of communion with Rome, that communion which was, and still is for us, an historic, existential choice for commitment, that is both effectual and emotional, a definitive and irreversible constituent of glory and humility.

Orthodox and Catholic

However, that communion with Rome does not separate us from our Orthodox ecclesial reality. We say this with profound humility, a deep ecumenical awareness and a touch of humour: we are an Orthodox Catholic Church.

Read it all here.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Articles and Posts of Interest

Sandro Magister reprints an article on a visit to the Holy Mountain. It catches the spirit of a pilgrimage with impressionistic beauty.

A representative paragraph:

There is the scent of the East, of Byzantium, at Megisti Lavra. There is the aroma of cypress and incense, the fragrance of beeswax, of relics, of ancient things mysteriously near. Because the monks of Athos don't suffer the passage of time. They tell you of their saints, of that Saint Athanasius who planted two cypresses at the center of the Megisti Lavra; who with Herculean strength built the catholikon; who shaped the monasticism of Athos; as if he had not died in the year 1000 but just yesterday, as if they had met him personally and not long ago.
The Vatican Information Service has more on the Armenian Catholicos's visit to the Holy See.

An interesting note here is that at least the English translation seems to have transferred Pentecost from Sunday to tomorrow (Saturday).

Witness the following:

After the Patriarch's greeting, the Pope addressed the assembly. Referring to tomorrow's solemnity of Pentecost, Benedict XVI affirmed that, on this day, "we will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church. (...) If our hearts and minds are open to the Spirit of communion, God can work miracles again in the Church, restoring the bonds of unity. Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church to the full realization of the Father's plan, in conformity with the will of Christ".
I guess daylight savings time and a smaller environmental (read: GREEN) footprint have a way of working their own magic.

And Finally, hat tips to several websites and bloggers for picking up on the Torn Notebook blog posts by Wei-Hsien Wan. Wan has posted a three part discussion on the Church Fathers and Unity. These are accurate and thought-provoking for any serious Christian pondering the Unity of the Faith. The links are first here, and then here, here and here.

No snippets, just go and read them!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Holy Father Praises Vitality of the Melkite Church

Holy Father Praises Vitality of the Melkite Church
VATICAN CITY, 8 MAY 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received 300 members of the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate, headed by His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, who are on pilgrimage to Rome.

The Pope praised "the vitality of the Melkite Church, despite the difficulties of the region's social and political situation", affirming that "on drawing near to the beginning of the year dedicated to St. Paul, I cannot forget that the seat of your patriarchy is established in the city of Damascus, on the road to which the apostle lived the event that transformed his existence and opened the doors of Christianity to all the nations".

The Holy Father used the occasion of the Pauline Year to invite the patriarch to carry out "an intense pastoral outreach" to awaken in the faithful "a new impetus to know ever more closely the person of Christ, thanks to a renewed reading of Paul's writings". This focus," he emphasized, "will also guarantee a thriving future for the Melkite Church".

"In order to ensure the evangelical dynamism and unity of the communities, as well as the proper functioning of the ecclesial work in the patriarchal Churches," Benedict XVI observed, "the role of the Bishops' Synod is of primary importance. That is why it is necessary, every time the right allows for it, above all when it has to do with questions related to those same bishops, to give this venerable institution and not only the Permanent Synod, the standing it merits".

Referring to ecumenical outreach, the Pope recalled that "the commitment to the search for unity of all Jesus' disciples is an urgent obligation" and therefore "everything possible must be done to tear down the walls of division and mistrust that prevent us from achieving it. Nevertheless, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the search for unity is a task that concerns not only a particular Church but the entire Church, in respect of its nature".

"I also appreciate," he added, "your good relations with the Muslims (.) as well as your efforts to resolve, with a sincere and objective spirit of fraternal dialogue, problems that may arise. (.) In line with Vatican Council II, the Melkite Church has sincerely sought mutual understanding and the promotion and a shared defense of social justice, moral values, peace, and freedom with the Muslims to the benefit of all".

On achieving its mission in the troubled and at times dramatic context of the Middle East," he concluded, "the Church finds itself faced with situations where politics plays a role that is not indifferent to its life. That is why it is important to maintain contacts with the political authorities and institutions and the different political parties. Nevertheless, it does not fall to the clergy to dedicate themselves to a political life. That is the duty of the laity. The Church, however, should propose the light of the Gospel to all so that all may dedicate themselves to serve the common good and so that justice may always prevail, so that the path to peace for all peoples in this much loved region may be opened".


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Catholicos Meets the Pontifex Maximus

Hat tip to Rocco! Whispers in the Loggia highlights the visit to the Holy See by Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II. (or we could say, Gregory visits Peter)

The Armenian people were the first nation to embrace Christianity, and the Armenian Apostolic Church has a beautiful Liturgy and spirituality, unique and inspiring in its freshness and its connection with the past. Amongst other countries, the Armenian Church has members in the US and Canada*.

It should also be noted that the Armenian people have suffered devastating purges over the centuries in the defense of their Faith, particularly in the last century. Their heroic strength in holding to the Faith is a powerful witness to the Gospel! Below are a few YouTubes featuring the Armenian Church.

Let us all pray for the Unity of the Faith and the restoration of full communion between all of the Apostolic Churches!

The YouTube below is the Lord's Prayer in Armenian.

*While in Canada some years ago, I had the honor of meeting Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, now Bishop of the USA's Western Diocese. Truly, he is a holy man!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

MercatorNet on the Austrian Monster

In life, we are most shocked when evil appears in circumstances so unimaginable to moral people that we are dumbfounded when we hear of it. Our outrage, our abhorrence at barbarity causes within us a sorrow that wells up from the depths of our humanity. How could this happen? How could anyone so besmirch their human nature as to commit such atrocities?

This is the topic of a MercatorNet essay on Josef Fritzl. Read it. Ponder it. Pray about it.