Thursday, August 08, 2013

Thoughts between Sixtus and Laurence


I am not sure why Archbishop Pozzo went back to Ecclesia Dei but I think it is significant that his successor as Almoner to the Holy Father Msgr. Konrad Krajewski has a reputation for going around Vatican City collecting left over food, even from the Pope's own table, to redistribute to Rome's hungry. Apparently beggars taunt stingy ecclesiastics by asking, 'What would Pope Francis say?'

Yesterday was the commemoration of the martyrdom of St Sixtus II and his companions  and Saturday is the feast of St Laurence the deacon, Pope Sixtus' 'Almoner' who would have been martyred with his Pope and four other Deacons, except he was sent to collect 'the treasure of the Church of Rome'. During the days between the two feasts he gathered all the poor, the widows, the orphans, the sick together, all who the Church cared for and brought them to the Emperor, crying out, "Behold the treasure of the Church of Rome, O Emperor". Consequently the Emperor not best pleased had him slowly barbecued to death.


There is a sub-story to these last few days of Laurence's life, which is that he sent to his native Valencia the Holy Grail, which still exist today, and apparently is a 1st century Palestinian chalice. It was never returned to Rome and was used by Pope Benedict on his visit to Spain. One can imagine Laurence quite frenetically trying to organise things before his death, safeguarding the sacred, trying to send some people away from Rome, organising continuing care for the poor during the sede vacante brought about by Sixtus' martyrdom, and presumably knowing he wouldn't be around to see the new Pope, who from the moment of his election would be a marked man and would probably also perish in Valerian's persecution. For Laurence, I suspect as prepared for his end must have thought it was more or less the end of the Roman Church.

It is interesting that Sixtus' companions were actually deacons and not presbyters. Following my last post someone asked what should we do with a Church crisis. The obvious answer is, "Do whatever he tells you".

The Church has a real credibility problem, if people do not believe in her teaching, then they will not believe in her, if they do not believe her they will not believe in Christ and are lost. The deacons of Rome where essentially the Church's administrators, assisting the Pope in the Liturgy but also involved in preparing the sacrifice, the care of sacred things and the discipline of the Church, in the Roman Rite, unlike many of the Eastern Rites they were the ones who proclaimed the Gospel. It is worth remembering St Francis was a deacon, not a priest. I suspect what we should do is what Pope Francis seems to be doing and what Francis and Laurence did and what I hope the Pope intends Msgr. Krajewski to do: to gather the poor and to serve them.

There are two very obvious things Jesus tells us to do, one very much ad intra "Do this in remembrance of me" speaking of the Eucharist to the Apostles but to the disciples it is ad extra. he says feed, clothe, visit. It is not just that we should do charitable things, it is about a movement away from self, it fits in with the Great Commandment: loving God and our neighbour in place of ourselves. Replacing self love with altruistic love for God expressed through our neighbour. That is the Gospel.

In the 20th Century the State took away from the Church much of those carefully built up social care organisations built up over the centuries, it was these that gave us credibility both to ourselves and to the world.
After the Second Vatican Council the Church became obsessed by itself, it became Churchy, obsessed by talk of internal structures; the roles of laity, clergy, religious, forever talking about the minutiae of theology; talking about the liturgy rather than praying it, talking about scripture rather than living it, debating morality rather than actually being moral. The nadir in England was the Intelligence Squared debate 'Is the Catholic Church a force for good?' The overwhelming response was, "No, it is not", it was not even considered good, that was hardly surprising. Scandals and inaction, the failure to do much that touches the lives of ordinary men and women have allowed the Church, our Bishops and Clergy to become the butt of humour rather than the 'Light of the Nations', for the media except as a source of negative news the Church has nothing to offer.

Christians need to reach out to the poor  to learn to love, the Church needs to reach out to the poor in order to be the Church. The poor give the Church the dignity of meaning, otherwise we are just a pious club, a talking shop, if we do not give food for starving bodies we have nothing to give to starving souls. We must have need to show love tangibly, the Word needs to be made flesh.

21 comments:

Physiocrat said...

Here's a question. Our parish is targetted by a team of well-organised beggars from, probably, Romania. What to do? The police have been called on one occasion. What to do? They actually seem to be quite well off.

The best I can think of is to arrange a rota of collectors to stand outside the church on Sundays and collect for a proper charity to provide competition so that they do not collect anything.

Why beggars come to Sweden is a bit of a mystery as it is quite expensive to provide oneself with the basics and most people do not have money on them, especially small change, the highest value coin is about £1 and the majority of coins are worth 10p, and nearly everything is paid for with cards. Beggars would need to get card readers if they were to stand a chance of collecting anything much.

Martina Katholik said...

“Replacing self love with altruistic love for God expressed through our neighbour. That is the Gospel.”

That´s a very shortened gospel, isn´t it? What about: repent, go and sin no more? Show your real love for God by giving up sin? “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14, 15
I´m always missing the words “sin” and “repentance” and "God´s justice" in the modern preaching of the gospel.
Only repentant sinners go to heaven, all others go to hell.

There are 13 other ways of showing our love for our neighbor beside feeding the poor. I never heard a sermon about them, too.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Martina,
Yes, as short as 'et incarnatus est'.

The Greek word the Gospel use is 'metanoia', to turn around, you can't do that except by God's Grace, we are not Pelagians, I hope!
If we do not do what Jesus tells us we will certainly go to hell, feeding the hungry etc is not primarily for those in need but medicine for the 'rich', it opens us up to Grace, it is first step.

Nicolas Bellord said...

I was interested to see your picture of the Pope elevating the Holy Grail. I saw this Holy Grail sitting in a glass case on the altar at San Juan de la Pena on the southern slopes of the Pyrenees - there is a monastic church dating from 920. There was no mention of what this chalice was supposed to be. However it is interesting in that it appeared to be a rather ordinary glass cup which had then been given a very ornate mount to make it into a chalice. To my mind that puts an end to the cup/chalice controversy!

Fred Brown said...

With the deepest respect: We live in a decadent society. No one goes physically hungry, unless they have mental health issues and have slipped through the social care net. The poor are not like the poor from any other period in history. They are hungry for meaning, for truth, not for beans and chips. They instantly see ‘giving’ as a guilty conscience, a cover for a lack of meaning on our own part.

‘The poor will always be with you’ As a person brought up and still living with the poorest in our particular society I can assure you giving money, time etc to the poor will not bring them to the truth of the Gospel. No one goes physically hungry or without any essential for life, unless they have mental health issues and have slipped through the social care net. Besides, they instantly see ‘giving’ as a guilty conscience, a cover for a lack of faith on our own part. They are longing for a voice to tell them that there is meaning to life. One that transcends the pap they are being fed by society, one they instinctually know to be false.

There’s a reason why the faith is being obliterated in South America. Middle class, half-baked theologians (Liberation Theologians) decided to cover their guilt for not being physically poor by focusing on feeding the physically poor, with the fruits of this world, rather than the next. The faithful did not give up on religion. They simply moved to heretical North American sects. They give them hope, telling them that this present world is passing away and is unimportant. While we focused, almost exclusively, on ‘social justice’ Not unimportant, but it must come from the Gospel, a response to the Gospel not an excuse for it. This means they must have the faith before all else. For example, children die in the most horrific way, and not just at the hands of men, everyday in South America. The protestant sects give them a creed that brings meaning to such realities, while we give a little embarrassed cough! They are looking for meaning; they are hungry for truth not bread.

‘It is not just that we should do charitable things, it is about a movement away from self,’ Such an approach is not a move away from self, but deep into the comfortable zone of self. ‘Will we be persecuted by the world for feeding the poor?’ No. ‘Will we be persecuted for preaching the true faith?’ You see my point? What the poor need is dogma, truth. We can’t feed the world with bread but we can fill them with the hope that comes from truth. Look to the martyrs – were their bellies full or empty before they were tortured to death for proclaiming the truth? Only when we put the horse before the cart will there be sufficient bread for everyone. Or we could continue to use the poor as a prop for our own lack of faith and courage?

Worse, there is a suggestion here that we have somehow neglected the poor up until now. The Church is the biggest aid provider, including education, in the world. Even in our own country there is no area of charity that the Church is not already deeply involved in, what more can we do? Or is this a case of ‘It’s just too horrible! Let’s loose ourselves by focusing on doing so we don’t need to face the pain’?

With the deepest respect, we should take care we do not fall into Ultramontanism.

Fred Brown said...

With the deepest respect: As a person brought up and still living with the poorest people in our particular society I can assure you giving money, time etc to the poor will not bring them to the truth of the Gospel. No one goes physically hungry or without any essential for life, unless they have mental health issues and have slipped through the social care net. Besides, they instantly see ‘giving’ as a guilty conscience, a cover for a lack of faith on our own part. What they are longing for is a voice to tell them that there is meaning to life. One that transcends the pap they are being fed by society, one they instinctually know to be false. ‘The poor will always be with you’

There’s a reason why the faith is being obliterated in South America. Middle class, half-baked theologians (Liberation Theologians) decided to cover their guilt for not being physically poor by focusing on feeding the physically poor, with the fruits of this world, rather than the next. The faithful did not give up on religion. They simply moved to heretical North American sects. They give them hope, telling them that this present world is passing away and is unimportant. While we focused, almost exclusively, on ‘social justice’ Not unimportant, but it must come from the Gospel, a response to the Gospel not an excuse for it. This means they must have the faith before all else. For example, children die in the most horrific way, and not just at the hands of men, everyday in South America. The protestant sects give them a creed that brings meaning to such realities, while we give a little embarrassed cough! They are looking for meaning; they are hungry for truth not bread.

‘It is not just that we should do charitable things, it is about a movement away from self,’ Such an approach is not a move away from self, but deep into the comfortable zone of self. ‘Will we be persecuted by the world for feeding the poor?’ No. ‘Will we be persecuted for preaching the true faith?’ You see my point? What the poor need is dogma, truth. We can’t feed the world with bread but we can fill them with the hope that comes from truth. Look to the martyrs – were their bellies full or empty before they were tortured to death for proclaiming the truth? Only when we put the horse before the cart will there be sufficient bread for everyone. Or we could continue to use the poor as a prop for our own lack of faith and courage?

Worse, there is a suggestion here that we have somehow neglected the poor up until now. The Church is the biggest aid provider, including education, in the world. Even in our own country there is no area of charity that the Church is not already deeply involved in, what more can we do? Or is this a case of ‘It’s just too horrible! Let’s loose ourselves by focusing on doing so we don’t need to face the pain’?

With the deepest respect, we should take care we do not fall into Ultramontanism.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Fred,
Your remarks could well come from the mouth of the rich man who didn't recognise Lazarus at his door, he of course ended up in hell because his blindness.

We here feed between 65/75 people each day at the moment, foodbanks in this city deal with even larger numbers, the Gospel is not concerned with the worthiness or otherwise of the recipients of food, simply that in obedience to the Gospel, we do it.

It is all too easy to excuse oneself. If we do we must suffer the consequences: judgement.

nickbris said...

Mr Cameron,our Old Etonian leader who has never experienced a shortage of anything has said that the Teachings of Jesus are not for him and he will be hanging on to his riches.

George said...

Father,

There is such a strong "anti-poor" sentiment among Traditional Catholics.

Ultimately I think it comes from a blindness to evil nature of Capitalism. Catholics (especially Trads) have lost all perspective on the moral economy.

They are more laissez-faire than the staunchest Whigs during the Irish Potato Famine. Fred's comments about today's poor could be taken from the Whigs of the 19th Century.

Martina talks about exposing sin and repenting. Yes, indeed. Let's start exposing the sins of human exploitation, wage slavery, and usury. Let's start repenting and making reparations for our sins.

There are four BIG SINS, Martina, which cry out to Heaven for vengeance. You, like so many modern Whig Catholics, like focusing on only two of the four.

Reginald said...

In my opinion Fred Brown has made a good point.Is Luke 16 the appropriate Gospel verse ?
How about: "...when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men." (Matthew 6:2)

Deacon Augustine said...

Fred Brown, there are many people in this country who do not have mental health issues, but still do fall through the social care net. Homeless young men are legion and they are always put to the back of the social housing waiting lists.

While there may be some hostel places for them, many prefer to live in tents or boxes because the hostels are rife with fleas, bed bugs, violence, pimping and prostitution (I'm sure the hostels in Portsmouth are not out of the ordinary in the degree of their degradation.)

A square meal or even a cup of soup can make the world of difference to the quality of a day in the life of these people.

Of course they need the Gospel above all else, but I have never found that people are very willing to listen to anything when all they can hear are their bowels groaning - wondering where their next meal will come from.

Quite apart from the hungry there are all those who are broken and hurting, isolated and lonely. An unexpected experience of human warmth and kindness can open the door to trust and friendship - that is often the opening that God uses to prepare hearts to receive the Gospel.

We can have all the beautiful liturgies in the world, but if we don't go out from them and get involved in the mess and grime of needy people's lives then we have missed the point - we would not be serving Christ. We would have stifled the "missa est" at the Church door. The point of our Baptism is that every single one of us is called to be a missionary, called to serve those in need, called to love our neighbour too. That is Traditional Catholicism.

Cosmos said...

George,

The majority of "trads" that I know are distributists. But, if the choice is between an atheist, progressive, statist, socialist system and an amoral, but highly regulated capitalist system--and that does appear to be the real choice--I agree that most of them would go for the latter. Nonethelss, Trads give a lot of money to charities. In America, statistics show that conservative states are more generous towards charities than liberal states. (http://clearwater.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/whos-more-geneours-republicans-or-democrats.)

You also claimed "Let's start exposing the sins of human exploitation, wage slavery, and usury. Let's start repenting and making reparations for our sins." The fact is, I am just trying to get by-- I have no capital, own no slaves, and suffer the effects of of usery. You aren't talking about "our" sins, and I bet you aren't even talking about your own sins. You are talking about some other guys sins. You can't repent of someboby else's sins. Calling out someone else's evil and looking for goverenment solutions is not Christianity.

As far as Fr. Blake's post, I think that the big problem is our modern, humble Church does not breed enough vocations; who is going to give his entire life to a Church that is not unique? The triumphalist old Church was much more successful with charities because it produced vocations, and consecrated celebants are uniquely able to serve charitably. Priests and nuns are able to give themselves, their time, and their money without divided loyalties. Catholic lay peple demand much more pay, benefits, and free time for the same "service." You can say it should be different, but even St. Paul acknowledged this reality.

George said...

Cosmos,

Yes, we may not formally engage in the immoral activities of defrauding workers of just wages or practicing usury.

We do, however, give the Capitalists moral cover. By "we" I mean the Catholic Anglo-sphere.

The commenters on this thread may not be part of the Catholic "Conservative" intelligentsia, formally warping Catholic theology to support Capitalism. But they are affected by it, apparently.

Are we to assume that all the Gospel is timeless, except the sections commanding us to care for the poor?

It smacks of something the liberals would say about the Gospels. (e.g. Christ didn't address women's liberation because of the social mores of the times, or some other claptrap.)

And certainly caring for the poor includes directly feeding, clothing, and consoling. But it also includes condemning, or at the very least ceasing to give moral protection to, the usurious Liberal Capitalist system.

Just another mad Catholic said...

Dear Father

I believe that Fred and Martina hit the nail on the head, simply feeding the poor isn't a end in and of itself, the salvation offered by Christ needs to come front and center instead of clerics acting like social workers in a collar Alla Giles Frasier.

We must also recognize as Mother Theresa did that poverty comes in many different forms; spiritual as well as material. The fact that many clergy seem not to believe in the Gospel, having become 'far to educated for that 1st century mumbo-jumbo' accounts for the spiritual poverty of the late 20th Century the vacuum of which is being filled by new age heresies, a resurgent paganism and the foul religion of islam.

For those of you who are truly concerned with helping the poor I suggest this, instead of merely feeding the poor why don't you find people who feel called to the religious life and have them set up a hostel where homeless young men can stay whilst dealing with the issues that landed them on the streets in the first place (strict rules of course)and helping them to help themselves.

Whilst not being overly preachy (the Habit is evangelistic itself) make sure that each room has a Good Bible, a Crucifix mounted on the wall, Prayer cards as well as a Rosary and instructions, makes sure that the Hostel has a Chapel and beg, borrow and plead for a Priest to come and say Mass Daily, that way you perform both the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy.

As for the charge of being a trad-capitalist, well I guess I'm guilty, so long as someone has made their money without sinning in the process I'm not that fussed about capitalism, the market seems to have worked in reducing the price of many goods and services (could the average office clerk in 1950 afforded to go to Prague?) whereas government interference tends to drive the prices of those same goods and services up and therefore hurting the poor and hindering economic activity, capitalism generally allows people the freedom to use their talents in the way that suits them.

Physiocrat said...

Capitalism is in itself sinful since it breaches a whole raft of commandments, notably those in Chapter 25 of Leviticus. Distributism is the way to economic justice but distributists have almost invariably been lazy and failed to think about what fiscal and legislative structures would be needed to bring about a distributist economy. Lay people need to work on the latest Social Teaching encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

As for vocations, they are not going to happen without a liturgy that inspires them. In 90% of Catholic parishes, the liturgy is not up to the task. Vocations come in the 10% where it is.

Supertradmum said...

We forget that we, the laity, are the Church and the beatitudes, corporal works of mercy and spiritual works fo mercy are for us individually to carry out. I notice that there is less real charity in Europe because of socialism. The idea that it is an institutional duty to take care of the poor whether it is the Church or the government misses the point. If every middle class and wealthy person in the world adopted one poor family or an aged poor person, there would be no poverty. Christ left the poor with us on purpose, for our own salvation.

I asked a priest here in Ireland why there were so many beggars, and he said they all had houses and food, but used their money for drink and drugs. He said the government takes care of basic needs, but the families or the beggars themselves have allowed the addictions. So sin is at root of much of the real beggary here.

I myself am in what one would call straightened circumstances, but for a real beggar, I would buy a sandwich and juice or milk. If one wants only money, I do not give. I also know from a survey in NYC that some beggars make 1,000 times a year more than I do begging. Interesting.

But, we are our brothers and sisters keepers, not some office in London or Dublin or Washington.

And, when I taught in Catholic institutions, my salary was just at the top of the poverty bracket. I know some good people who work for much less for the Catholic cause. Of course, I am not referring to England and government subsidized falsely Catholic schools, but real ones, which teach the real deal and kids how to live and think like Catholics.

Yes, we all have a duty, all. But, imo, some of the worse poverty is hidden, as Mother Teresa said when she visited Manchester. That is the poverty of isolation and loneliness...

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

Using terms such as “Right wing” and “Left wing” have always been, IMNSHO, substitutes for intelligent thought. After all, it’s so much easier to slap on a label instead of thinking. I would need an accepted definition before I would use such vagueness in a discussion.

The use of the term “Traditional Catholics” by George adds weight to this contention.

George said...

Capitalism and Socialism are both evils proceeding from the divorcement of Catholicism from the economy and politics.

Jeremiah, by Traditional Catholic - I was referring to many of the people attracted to otherwise reverent liturgy and solid doctrine, except when it comes to the moral economy. I don't mean to condemn anyone. We are so many generations removed from actual Catholic orthopraxy in economic matters that we have almost no point of reference to make criticism.

But we are unaware of how distorted our souls our by Liberalism.

Such a major metanoia would be required to reorient Catholics to a proper understanding of economics and politics.

Politically we are oriented on the supreme concept of RIGHTS. The Old World (the Catholic World) was oriented along RESPONSIBILITIES.

Physiocrat said...

George, well pointed out. Rights come from duties observed. Our rights arise as a result of everyone else exercising their duties.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

George,

Thanks for the free lesson. Honestly, I’m not dopey, but I struggle with a term like “actual Catholic orthopraxy in economic matters” and as for “major metanoia” , it is quite beyond me. Call me uneducated, but I don’t know a single person who talks in that way and I truly have never heard such stuff inside a Catholic church or seminary or school, but I will take you at face value in spite of that.

You and I are different, I would never presume to speak for millions of people I’ve not met. And, look, you should realise it’s simply not an “attraction to reverent liturgy and solid doctrine”, so seem to many think it’s all about “feeling”. It’s not, it is the way I was educated and taught about my Faith, which I have not lost, Deo gratias, in spite of many attempts on it by modernist priests. The solid, orthodox and approved doctrine I learnt from the good Fathers has always helped me to correct modernists (read liberals) quite easily, using ordinary Catholic language, with the odd bit of Latin remembered or heard in church.

My soul is defo not distorted by liberalism, please do not tell me it is. In fact my position on Liberalism is identical to that of Fr Felix Sarda y Salvany, which he details in his book El Liberalismo es Peccado (Liberalism is a Sin), first published in 1886. It’s a extraordinary coincidence that I am re-reading it right now although I’ve owned it for years.

Tan books state categorically “no Catholic book on the market is more potent than What is Liberalism”. I agree. It is written in straightforward English by Condé Benoist Pallen, an eminent American Catholic and author. It’s easy to understand (in translation), it can be bought at Amazon. It is also available here : http://www.liberalismisasin.com/index.htm. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand what the battle for souls is about.

Singalong said...

I have presumed to send in this Comment to the Daily Mail which they may or may not publish, it will be interesting to see.

This article is taking Fr. Ray`s remarks completely out of context. The facts are that he DOES help the poor, he DOES turn a blind eye to them sleeping on his premises, he DOES feed them, and let them interrupt services. He was giving an honest factual account of what it is like in detail to try and help alcoholics and people on drugs, and how difficult it can be, but HE STILL DOES SO.

Should he pretend that heavenly music is playing in the background, and incense is swirling around the discarded beer bottles, and the used syringes? I am sure he wants more people to help, but to do so with their eyes open to the realities they have to deal with.