Thursday, October 04, 2007

Frenchy: most admired, least imitated

Francis by Zurbaran
Professor Gerhard B. Ladner, in his class on early and medieval church history at UCLA, commented that Francis was, perhaps, the most admired and least imitated of all the saints.

There are wonderful posts on Francis (here and here and here and here and here). My thanks to the online company of the faithful who nurture, challenge, and care about one another.

I would like to draw your attention especially to the post by Fr. Jake. He has the lyrics there. Here is the video meditation on Surely We Can Change, David Crowder Band, Remedy (2007):

Dear Francesco,
Please pray for us; we are making such a mess of it all. Help us to see, to really see and know and understand, God's gracious love manifest in all creation. May we see Christ in friend and foe, enemy and stranger, wherever we go. Give my fond regards to the wolf of Gubbio. Thanks.

--the BB

Update: Fr. Jake credits Bob Carlton, and I hereby do the same.

Another old poem

I am reminded

daily and repeatedly—

silliness redeems

September 26, 2003
Part of my urban haiku series
--the BB

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Lord, have mercy

Entsündige mich mit Isop, daß ich rein werde; wasche mich, daß ich schneeweiß werde.

Ímé én vétekben fogantattam, és bûnben melengetett engem az anyám.

Purea ahau ki te hihopa, a ka ma ahau; horoia ahau, a ka ma ke atu i te hukarere.

Curăţeşte-mă cu isop, şi voi fi curat; spală-mă, şi voi fi mai alb decît zăpada.

Окропи меня иссопом, и буду чист; омой меня, и буду белее снега.

Asperges me hyssopo et mundabor; super nivem bealbabor.

Purifícame con hisopo, y seré limpio;
lávame, y seré más blanco que la nieve.

'Shame' hardly does it justice. But it is a start. How does the country, the state, cleanse itself of the pollution of Cheneyism?

--Josh Marshall

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

V. Favorably with mercy hear our prayers;
R. O Son of David, have mercy upon us.
V. Both now and ever vouchsafe to hear us, O Christ;
R. Graciously hear us, O Christ; graciously hear us, O Lord Christ.

The Officiant concludes

Let us pray.

We humbly beseech thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon our infirmities; and, for the glory of thy Name, turn from us all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and confidence in thy mercy, and evermore serve thee in holiness and pureness of living, to thy honor and glory; through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[From the Supplication, BCP 1979]

--the BB

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Everyday’s Most Quiet Need

Gustave Caillebotte,
Boatman in a Top Hat, 1877-78.
Private Collection.

It is autumn when life seems bittersweet. I am in something of an elegiac mood (as you have seen lately). A poem from a great parting:

A Poem for Memito
That I Might Grieve

In the rare still moment when I do not flee the

Savage ripping of heart’s flesh, sign of grief,
Here in a midnight moment that Sonnet from the Portuguese
Assails my bastion of busyness, my need to numb.
Love, how I miss the quiet tenderness we shared, the
Lively wit that brightened discourse, and wove the

Bittersweet moments of our lives into shared story!
Useless to deny the loss, or how I miss the wonderfulness
That sparkles in the complexity of you, dear heart.

Looking in at your new world, our shared home, from the
Outside, I find each new configuration a reminder—my
View has changed, this is not my home. You first found that
Encouraging, but I wanted to scream, “Dammit, I speak of my pain!

There is, for me, a vast emptiness no foggy shroud can
Hide; the house has become for me a shell, and this
Especially when you are not there. Yet I am glad that it
Embraces and expresses you. I’ll claim the trees!

Bill, it is no wonder people shake their heads with amazement
Each time they utter, “Twenty-four years.” We journeyed long
Together, yet how brief, how brief! Sometimes it seems
To collapse into a moment, I hardly seem to have met you.
Easy to admit I flee the pain, we all know it. Today, tonight,
Reaching for life I face this death. I walk, with new friends or

Alone in the fresh air and sunshine, feeling the bay’s breeze,
Facing the fact that I must grieve, I stopped all other activities
To think about loss, about you, to read and write some poetry.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was not the first in the Norton Anthology,
Rather the one where I was forced to pause. You used her lines to

Describe your feelings, for me I know and I suspect for someone new.
“Everyday’s most quiet need” sums up so much of all your heart
Aspires to, and mine. We are so alike and so different! In
Truth I do believe my love for you shall grow, even now in
Heart-sore moments, bearing fruit in eternity. I miss you. Be well!

July 9, 2002
(c) 2002 by PES

The poem above does not represent my current mood. It is a visitation and a remembrance.

I am happy to report that the friendship of those years together has survived, the love remained constant, and we continue to take joy and comfort in each other's company. It is better that we live apart but we do not live estranged. Thanks be to God, for we are blessed beyond measure.

--the BB

Creativity and Certainty

Trompe L'oeil, Salem (Germany) from Wiki

John Bradshaw has an interesting comment about creativity in his book Healing the Shame That Binds You. He writes:
Richard Bandler [one of the founders of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP)] suggested that one of the major blocks to creativity was the feeling of knowing you are right. When we think we are absolutely right, we stop seeking new information. To be right is to be certain, and to be certain stops us from being curious. Curiosity and wonder are at the heart of all learning. Plato said that all philosophy begins in wonder. So the feeling of absolute certainty and righteousness causes us to stop seeking and learning. (Page 14)

Immediately before that paragraph Bradshaw states "For me, the greatest human power is the creative power."

Rather than offer a comment on this, I offer the prayer for the newly-baptized:
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.

--the BB

Monday, October 01, 2007

Feast of St. Remigius

The Baptism of Clovis I by St. Remigius
Painted by the Master of St. Gilles (c. 1500)
courtesy of Wikipedia

Today is the fesat of Saint Remigius, also known as St Rémi or St Rémy, Bishop of Reims and Apostle to the Franks, who helped convert Clovis, King of the Franks, baptizing him in 496. The Franks eventually tried to "out-Catholic" the Pope, so this was one of those turning points in the history of both the Church and Europe. Remigius had some help in this famous conversion from St Vedast and from Clovis' Catholic Burgundian wife Clotilde.

Gregory of Tours claims that three thousand Franks were baptized with Clovis. My favorite part of the tale is Remigius instructing Clovis to bend his neck and to "Worship what you have burned, and burn what you have worshiped."

I leave to other souls to tell more of this chap but had to post something since I woke up and thought, It's Rémi's day, then turned the calendar on my bedroom wall.

O God, by the teaching of your faithful servant and bishop Remigius you turned the nation of the Franks from vain idolatry to the worship of you, the true and living God, in the fullness of the catholic faith: Grant that we who glory in the name of Christian may show forth our faith in worthy deeds; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

--the BB

Sunday, September 30, 2007

If you were to imagine....

If you were going to write fantasy fiction (which is what I am up to in most free waking and non-working hours) about some parallel world, what religions might you imagine?

Would any of them resemble Christianity as we have known it?

If not, what sources would you draw on?

If so, how might this faith be enacted (by which I mean first of all an Incarnation or parallel "Christ event"), how understood, how proclaimed, how lived in community? What would you tweak and make different? Remember you have full authorial license and it's fiction, for heaven's sake.
I realize these are unfair questions. I have been doing this and, because I wish to retain copyright on my stories, I cannot really reveal my answers except on the most cursory level.

The tales I write grow out of stories I told in the early 1970s. I have not abandoned those roots but have developed, altered, deepened, and enriched them. One of the most delightful imaginative exercises was teasing out a "pagan" mythology, the belief system of the world into which my young Christian hero from this world finds himself taken, without his consent. Like many folks I have known, he practices two faiths, accepting the imagery of the new world while still saying his rosary and, later on, baptizing his children. As in many indigenous traditions (or Hinduism) the many "deities" or holy ones are all understood as manifestation of the one Ultimate Reality, so the faith is not really polytheist. The various "gods" function more like friendly saints to whom one might turn for help or guidance, some heavenly assistance in the area that is their specialty. A folk religion with strong ethical elements, sufficiently vivid that I find myself thinking in its imagery.

But then there is a Christ event in that world and the missionaries come. When they meet the protagonist of my first two books they find someone already Christian! I have not gotten to that encounter as I am working on the background for all this, the family trees and interrelations of my principal characters and their children (and grandchildren) and the whole spread of Christianity (missionary history) in that region.

Since it is a fantasy world, I could play with the context of their Christ, and I get to do outrageous things like making the Church egalitarian from the get-go. My chief Apostle to the region where my tales take place is a woman and she is elected the first archbishop. No one gives it a second's thought. And why should they?

Sin and evil are not denied but the faith of that world is far less atonement-centered than the late medieval theology that has plagued us lo these many centuries. Mysticism is more central, and the path of self-giving love is prominent. But then, the choice between power and domination or love and community is a constant theme of all the stories. It seems I never get away from the abiding question: who is Lord, Jesus or Caesar? Our answer obviously determines how we live.


If you were to imagine a new faith, or an old faith that you could embrace with joy, what might it look like?

What would be your John 3:16?

Your Lord's (or Lady's) Prayer?

What would be (or already are) the virtues of your favorite saint?

Have fun!
--the BB