A founder, a martyr, and a simple parish priest
My normal newsletter prep time was colonized by other work this week. I apologize for the late arrival. We’ll skip the commentary and do a truncated link roundup this week.
These Seven Days…
…in the Ordinary Form
It is the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings are Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23, Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11, and Luke 12:13-21.
This week’s readings pull no punches, and are a rebuke to anyone who holds that the “hard sayings” have been buried in the new lectionary. Opening with the famous exclamation, “Vanity of vanities!”, and closing with the parable of God’s smiting of the rich man who “store[d] up treasure, this is a 10-minute tour through some of Scripture’s strongest admonitions against attachment to worldly goods and concepts.
In between, at Colossians 3:5, there is an interesting editorial note at the end of the list of worldly sins: “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.” Other translations have “covetousness” here for “greed.” The disordered and disproportionate desire for earthly goods is identified by the Apostle as a sin not just against liberality or even temporal justice, but against the divine justice of the virtue of religion. And so here we can see why attachment to riches and sensuality gets so much attention throughout Scripture: It’s not nitpicking, but an understanding that covetousness is the seed of false worship, both in the form of the objects we covet and the idols and ideologies we raise up to justify our greed, which is one of the gravest sins we can commit against the Lord.
Tuesday, August 6, is the Feast of the Transfiguration. The Catholic Encyclopedia reports, with a certain tone of contempt, that the feast “probably originated, in the fourth or fifth century, in place of some pagan nature-feast, somewhere in the highlands of Asia.” The celebration has played a significant role in the liturgical calendar of the Armenian church for nearly 1500 years, and other Eastern churches have appended octaves and vigils to it. It was extended to the entire Latin church by Pope Callixtus III in celebration of the defeat of the Turkish siege of Belgrade in early August, 1456.
Teacher and student: Pietro Perugino (top, c. 1500) and Raphael (bottom, 1518-1520, his last painting) both tackled the Transfiguration.
Thursday, August 8, is the Feast of St. Dominic (his traditional feast is Sunday, August 4). Founder of the Order of Preachers, St. Dominic was born in north-central Spain in 1170. On a journey through southern France in 1203, the young Dominic was distressed at spiritual and temporal damage done by the Albigensian heresy. He was inspired to found an order to combat the heresy—one that would be marked by the charism of eloquent and persuasive preaching, but that would be supported also by its poverty and humility. The resulting Order of Preachers was one of the two great reforming mendicant orders (along with St. Francis’s Friars Minor) to be established in the era.
When he wasn’t avoiding being named a bishop, St. Dominic grew his order, spread devotion to the rosary, and advised popes—including being named the first Master of the Sacred Palace, an office (now called Theologian of the Pontifical Household) that has been held by a Dominican for the intervening eight centuries. St. Dominic was canonized only 13 years after his death, with Pope Gregory IX saying that “that he no more doubted the saintliness of Saint Dominic than he did that of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.”
This animated short, produced for the 800th anniversary of the Order of Preachers, is one of my favorite pieces of modern evangelical creativity. The imagery comes from a legend about Dominic’s mother, who is said to have “made a pilgrimage to the Abbey at Silos, and dreamt that a dog leapt from her womb carrying a flaming torch in its mouth, and ‘seemed to set the earth on fire.’” The story, while evocative, is probably a retcon from the popular pun on the name of the order, Domini canes, or “hounds of the Lord.”
The unmistakable colors of El Greco, c. 1605.
Friday, August 9, is the Feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross—patron of our eldest daughter. Born Edith Stein in 1891, she was martyred at Auschwitz on this day in 1942. As a young atheist and proto-feminist, Edith was a rising star in the German academy, studying under the celebrated Edmund Husserl and interacting with Martin Heidegger. However, sexism stunted her career; meanwhile, she discovered the mystical and theological work of St. Teresa of Avila. Swept away by the great saint, Edith was baptized on the first day of 1922, after which she spent a decade teaching and writing in Catholic institutions.
In 1933, she consummated her long-held desire to follow St. Teresa into the Carmelite Order under the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. As the Nazis’ antisemitic program tightened its grip on Germany, the order evacuated her and her sister to the Netherlands. Shortly thereafter, though, the Dutch bishops released a letter condemning Hitler’s regime, in response to which the Nazi authorities rounded up ethnic Jewish converts who had previously been protected by the Church. Only two weeks later, both on account of her Jewish heritage and in odium fidei, Teresa Benedicta was gassed.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is one of the patron saints of Europe.
…in the Extraordinary Form
It is the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. The Epistle is Romans 8:12-17 and the Gospel is Luke 16:1-9.
Ok, this one’s hard: the parable of the unjust steward. To be honest, the Church Fathers’ commentaries I can find don’t shed much light. The interpretation provided by the Church in the New American Bible is that the write-downs the steward permitted to his master’s debtors were, in fact, his own usurious commissions. Thus he was forgoing his profit, forgiving poor men’s debts, and currying favor with them in anticipation of his imminent unemployment.
The best commentary I can find is actually the little intro in the St. Andrew Missal:
Just as the landowner of whom the Gospel speaks, God, before making us His heirs in heaven [in reference to the Epistle], has wished to test our fidelity by giving us the management on earth of both temporal and spiritual goods. But like the steward, we have dissipated by sin the talents which God entrusted to us.
Therefore, [we] should imitate the foresight of the steward who, by means of his master’s riches, prepared friends unto himself. Especially by almsgiving they should secure the testimony which the poor will bear their benefactors at the moment when all will have to give an account of their stewardship to the divine Judge.
The introit is the Suscepimus, Deus from Psalm 48 (47 D-R):
Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio templi tui: secundum nomen tuum, Deus, ita et laus tua in fones terrae: justitia plena est dextera tua. / Magnus Dominus, et laudibilis nimis: in civitate Dei nostri, in monte sancto ejus. Gloria patri…
We have received Thy mercy, O God, in the midst of Thy temple; according to Thy name, O God, so also is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth: Thy right hand is full of justice. / Great is Lord, and exceedingly to be praised, in the city of God, in his holy mountain. Glory be…
Proceeding from a jubilant heart, this Introit is a song of thanksgiving for God's merciful love, for all the graces which have become our portion in the midst of His Temple, in the Church which He founded. Who can comprehend the greatness of His gifts; who can number them, from that first great grace of divine adoption in Baptism, to that of the present day, when the Eucharistic Saviour again implores mercy upon us and makes us more intimate partakers of the sonship of God! Never shall we be able to praise and glorify this great God as He deserves.
Thursday, August 8, is the Feast of St. John Vianney (Sunday, August 4, in the 1969 calendar). Born in 1786, Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney’s childhood was marked by the tumult of the French Revolution, which severely complicated his preparations for the priesthood. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the young saint’s educational struggles with typical discretion:
His difficulties in making the preparatory studies seem to have been due to a lack of mental suppleness in dealing with theory as distinct from practice — a lack accounted for by the meagreness of his early schooling, the advanced age at which he began to study, the fact that he was not of more than average intelligence, and that he was far advanced in spiritual science and in the practice of virtue long before he came to study it in the abstract.
The Curé d'Ars took his name from the tiny town of 230 where his bishop assigned (re: buried) him. The stories about him are too many to mention, but what marks them all is the simplicity of his ministry: countless hours (often 16 to 18 per day) in the confessional, devotion to the Blessed Mother, public celebration of the divine office, extra-liturgical sermons for ongoing catechesis. The result was a spiritual transformation of the town and the region, which had been devastated by the revolution, and international celebrity which attracted tens of thousands to east-central France.
The patron saint of parish priests died in 1859 and was canonized in 1905.
My family was blessed to be able to venerate the heart of St. John Vianney when the relic passed through Pittsburgh a few months ago.
Those Seven Days…
The cost of progress.
David A. Bell@DavidAvromBellReading the responses to my thread on Peggy Noonan, it's amazing to me how many people believe that the French revolutionary government committed "genocide" in the Vendée. What happened in the region was hideous and unforgivable...
West Bank Story.
Let it be so.
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