Archive for the ‘St. Thomas Aquinas’ Tag

A Ghost Story?   Leave a comment

Above:  Parsonage, Hopewell United Methodist Church, Appling County, Georgia, May 2014

Image Source = Google Earth

My bedroom window was one immediately to the right of the front door.

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I am, to a great extent, a product of the Northern Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  I make no apologies for this reality.  Mysticism is not dominant in my spirituality; I have strong Thomistic tendencies.  Furthermore, although I assume that the universe is teeming with life, I do not think that any space aliens create crop circles on this planet.  I like Ockham’s Razor.  Nevertheless, I recall some incidents I cannot explain rationally, at least easily.

This is the story of one of them.

From June 1982 to June 1985, my father was the pastor of the Hopewell and Crosby Chapel United Methodist Churches, in southern Appling County, Georgia.  We lived in the countryside, a few miles outside Baxley, the county seat.  I attended the Fourth through Sixth Grades at Appling County Elementary School.  The parsonage was a ranch-style house on the same lot as Hopewell Church, facing Red Oak Road.

Above:  Hopewell United Methodist Church and Parsonage, May 25, 2017

Image Source = Google Earth

The Fellowship Hall was not as wide when we lived in the parsonage.  Also, there was an open-air corridor between the Fellowship Hall and the rest of the church facility.  Furthermore, there was no roof over the back patio in 1982-1985.

The parsonage is a ranch-style house, complete with a study off the kitchen and at the carport door, a rarely-used front door, a dining room-parlor opposite the den, and four bedrooms and two bedrooms on the right side of the structure.

One school night, between 7:30 and 8:00, I experienced an event I still cannot explain.  It happened within that half-hour; at that time one of the television stations in Savannah aired Family Feud, with Richard Dawson as the host.  The evening of which I write, I left my bedroom and walked toward the den.  I heard the game show in the den and my sister’s music in the parlor.  Then, briefly, I did not hear the music and the television.  Silence surrounded me.  I heard the voice of a small child inviting me to go outside and play.  Then I heard the music and Family Feud again.  I said nothing to anybody about this at the time.

I know this story to be true, but I do not know what caused it to happen.  I probably never will.  The answer, I assume is natural, not supernatural.  As a matter of principle, I reject the category of “supernatural.”  All that is not artificial is natural, I affirm.  Some of what is natural defies explanations that fit much of the rest of it, though.

As I have evolved spiritually from Low Church Protestantism into my current configuration (Anglicanism, mixed with Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, mainly), I have added dashes of Eastern Orthodoxy.  I have become critical of my Western heritage’s tendency to try to explain more than it can correctly.  I have accepted the Eastern Orthodox openness to mysteries that theology or empiricism can never apprehend.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANNA ELLISON BUTLER ALEXANDER, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACONESS IN GEORGIA, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY HART MILMAN, ANGLICAN DEAN, TRANSLATOR, HISTORIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUVENAL OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MARTYR IN ALASKA, AND FIRST ORTHODOX MARTYR IN THE AMERICAS, 1796

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER THE ALEUT, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MARTYR IN SAN FRANCISCO, 1815

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Feast of James Woodrow (January 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  James Woodrow

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JAMES WOODROW (MAY 30, 1828-JANUARY 17, 1907)

Southern Presbyterian Minister, Naturalist, and Alleged Heretic

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Let the Church show herself the patroness of learning in everything…and let her never be subjected by mistaken friends, to the charge that she fears the light.

–James Woodrow, November 22, 1861; quoted in Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Vol. 1, 1607-1861 (1963), 508

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Above:  Logo of the Presbyterian Church in the United States

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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James Woodrow, brother-in-law of Joseph Ruggles Wilson (1822-1903) and uncle of President (first of Princeton University then of the United States of America) Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via two authors.  For this post I draw from Clayton H. Ramsey’s article about Bethany Presbyterian Church, Greene County, Georgia, in the Autumn 2018 issue of Georgia Backroads magazine.  I also derive information from the first two volumes of Ernest Trice Thompson‘s magisterial three-volume work, Presbyterians in the South (1963-1973).  I also derive information from Journals of Southern Presbyterian General Assemblies.

James Woodrow, a native of England, spent most of his life in the United States.  He, born in Carlisle on May 30, 1828, emigrated with his family as a youth.  He graduated from Jefferson College, Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1849.  Then he studied under naturalist Louis Agassiz at the Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard.  After teaching in Alabama, Woodrow was a professor at Oglethorpe University, Midway, Georgia, from 1853 to 1861.  He taught geology, botany, chemistry, and natural philosophy.  Our saint also took a few years off to earn graduate degrees at the University of Heidelberg.  When he graduated in 1856, he could have become the Chair of Natural Sciences at Heidelberg, had he accepted the offer.  Woodrow studied theology after returning to Oglethorpe University.  He became a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (Old School) on October 15, 1859; the ordination occurred at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Greene County, Georgia.

Columbia Theological Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina, created an endowed professorship, Woodrow’s next job, in 1861.  Judge John Perkins, of Mississippi, provided the funding for the position, with the intention that the Perkins Professor of Natural Science refute Evolution and prepare seminarians to do the same.  Woodrow, who started the job in late 1861, insisted on academic freedom, though.  He also carried into the professorship his conviction that God could not contradict himself in the Bible and in science, and that any seeming contradiction between the Bible and science must result from the misinterpretation of scripture.  This position left Woodrow, who refused to dismiss rock layers and fossil records, open to accepting Evolution, which he did by 1884.

The Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (PCCSA) formed at First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia, on December 4, 1861.   Wilson became a charter member of the new denomination.

The Civil War disrupted elements of church life in the South.  Columbia Theological Seminary closed for most of the conflict.  Furthermore, The Southern Presbyterian did not always go to the presses.  Woodrow remained busy, though.

  1. He edited The Southern Presbyterian.
  2. He became the Treasurer of the PCCSA’s Foreign Mission Committee in 1861.
  3. He became the Treasurer of the PCCSA’s Home Mission Committee in 1863.
  4. He taught chemistry at the College of South Carolina.
  5. He managed the Medical and Chemical Confederate Laboratory, which made silver nitrate for wound care.

In December 1865, after Confederate defeat, the PCCSA renamed itself the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS).

When Columbia Theological Seminary reopened and The Southern Presbyterian resumed publication, Woodrow’s roles at them resumed, also.  He was one of the more progressive members of his denomination; he favored friendly relations with the “Northern” (actually national) Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  As Woodrow became more accepting of Evolution, he moved in a direction opposite of that of the PCUS.  By 1884 his alleged heresy had become so controversial that the seminary closed for two years, reopening in 1886.  The seminary board requested in 1884 that Woodrow resign; he refused.  The heresy trial, held at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Greene County, Georgia, in 1886, ended in an acquittal.  Nevertheless, the seminary board fired our saint on December 8, 1886.

The PCUS General Assemblies of 1886, 1888, 1889, and 1924 passed resolutions taking the position opposite of Professor Woodrow.

Life went on for James Woodrow, who remained prominent in the PCUS.  He, the editor of The Southern Presbyterian consistently since 1866, continued in that role until 1893.  On the side, he continued to teach at the University of South Carolina, where he had been on faculty since 1869.  The seminary board forbade Columbia students to attend his lectures, though.  Woodrow went on to serve as the President of the University of South Carolina from 1891 to 1897.  Furthermore, he was, for a time, the President of the Central National Bank, Columbia.  In 1896, when the Presbytery of Charleston sought to prevent African-American men from becoming ordained ministers, Woodrow sided against the presbytery and with the Synod of South Carolina.  The General Assembly supported the position of the synod.

Woodrow retained the ability to create controversy at the end of his life.  The General Assembly of 1901 elected him the Moderator for a year.  The following year, at the General Assembly, our saint offended many in his sermon; he recognized the Roman Catholic Church as a Christian organization.  The General Assembly of 1902 passed a resolution NOT to print his sermon.

Woodrow, ailing in 1906, had surrendered his leadership roles in the church.  That year, as he neared death, the Board of Directors of Columbia Theological Seminary passed resolutions praising him for his piety and orthodoxy.

Woodrow, aged 78 years, died in Columbia, South Carolina, on January 17, 1907.

The General Assembly of 1969 affirmed:

Neither Scripture, nor our Confession of Faith, nor our catechisms, teach the creation of man by direct and immediate acts of God as to exclude the possibility of evolution as a scientific theory.

Woodrow would have approved.

Good science should always overrule bad theology.

The Christian Church has a mixed record regarding science, faith, and reason.  On the positive side are giants such as James Woodrow, Nicolaus Copernicus, and Galileo Galilei.  The Society of Jesus has a venerable tradition of astronomy.  One may reach back as far as St. Clement of Alexandria (d. 210/2015), the “Father of Christian Scholarship,” who affirmed the value of truth, whether or not of Christian origin.  One may also continue that line through his pupil, Origen.  When one skips a few centuries, one arrives at St. Albert the Great (d. 1280) and his student, St. Thomas Aquinas, who affirmed the compatibility of faith and reason.  On the negative side are figures such as St. Robert Bellarmine (who confronted Galileo and whom I will never add to my Ecumenical Calendar) and William Jennings Bryan (who, likewise, has less probability than  a snowball in Hell of joining the ranks at my Ecumenical Calendar).

All this is easy for me to write, for I am unapologetic product of the Northern Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the best of Roman Catholic tradition.  My intellectualism and my acceptance of science inform my Christian faith.  God is not the author of confusion.  Furthermore, God does not deceive us with manufactured fossils and rock layers meant to test our faith.  God cannot lie, but human beings are capable of misunderstanding.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 6, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

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God of grace and glory, you create and sustain the universe in majesty and beauty:

We thank you for James Woodrow and all in whom you have planted

the desire to know your creation and to explore your work and wisdom.

Lead us, like them, to understand better the wonder and mystery of creation;

through Jesus Christ your eternal Word, through whom all things were made.  Amen.

Genesis 2:9-20

Psalm 34:8-14

2 Corinthians 13:1-6

John 20:24-37

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 738

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The Joy of Lectionaries   1 comment

Orderly Reading of Scripture

SUNDRY THOUGHTS is the oldest of my eight weblogs.  Four of its spinoffs are ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS; LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS; ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS; and the cleverly-named (with a nod to St. Thomas Aquinas) BLOGA THEOLOGICA.  I like to alternate between writing about saints and writing based on lectionary-based devotions.  The latter is the only Bible study method I have maintained for years–about a decade now.

I have already published new content for the complete church year that will begin in Advent 2019 at the first three spinoff weblogs listed above.  My thoughts have turned toward saints again, hence the drafting of new posts for saints with feast days in January.  My thoughts have also turned to lectionaries for church year 2020-2021 and later, due to my preference for planning.  I have written Years A and B of the Will Humes four-year lectionary, leaving Years C (2020-2021) and D (2021-2022).  And, at BLOGA THEOLOGICA, I have written all but a little of the now-abandoned, two-year lectionary from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966).

With half of the Humes lectionary behind me and the Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970 accomplished, I have a plan for the next few years:

I will complete the Humes lectionary by writing Years C and D at the three devotional weblogs I key according to date and copy and paste those posts into BLOGA THEOLOGICA, also.

After that, I will write the three-year lectionary (Sundays, mainly) of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, from the Lutheran Service Book (2006).  I will post at the three devotional weblogs I key according to date and copy and paste those posts into BLOGA THEOLOGICA, too.

For the next two yeas, at BLOGA THEOLOGICA, I will write the two-year lectionary found in A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948).  Given the absence of collects in that volume, I will use the collects from the Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947).

Next, at BLOGA THEOLOGICA, I will write the two-year lectionary found in The Book of Common Worship (Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1946).

I invite you, O reader, to visit these weblogs and find much useful reading.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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Feast of Leon Bloy, Jacques Maritain, and Raissa Maritain (November 4)   4 comments

Above:  The Flag of the French Republic

Image in the Public Domain

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LÉON BLOY (JULY 11, 1846-NOVEMBER 3, 1917)

French Roman Catholic Novelist and Social Critic

godfather of

JACQUES MARITAIN (NOVEMBER 18, 1882-APRIL 28, 1973)

French Roman Catholic Philosopher

husband of

RAÏSSA OUMANSOV MARITAIN (1883-NOVEMBER 4, 1960)

Russian-French Roman Catholic Contemplative

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The worst evil is not to commit crimes, but to have failed to do the good one might have done.

–Léon Bloy, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 477

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If Christians were to renounce…the desire for sanctity, this would be an ultimate betrayal against God and against the world.

–Jacques Maritain, quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 503

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It is an error to isolate oneself from men….If God does not call one to solitude, one must live with God in the multitude, must make him known there and make him loved.

–Raïssa Maritain, quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 480

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Alors il leva les yeux sur ses disciples et dit:

Heureux vous les pauvres, car le royaume de Dieu à vous!…

Mais malheur à vous, les riches, car vous avez votre consolation.

Luc 6: 20 et 24, La Sainte Bible, Nouvelle Version Segond Révisée (1976)

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As Léon Bloy understood, Jesus said,

Blessed are the poor

and

Woe to you who are rich.

The novelist, who internalized that value system, railed against the dominant social value that says

Woe to you who are poor

and

Blessed are the rich.

Bloy, born in Notre-Dame-de-Sanihac, France, on July 11, 1846, grew up an agnostic hostile to Roman Catholicism.  His father was Jean-Baptiste Bloy; our saint’s mother was Anne-Marie Carreau.  In 1869 Bloy converted to Roman Catholicism, however.  He was a frequently controversial figure with a temper, which he brought to bear on social ills, including greed, injustice, materialism, and anti-Semitism.  Our saint also led a difficult, impoverished life.  His writings did not sell well, and poverty contributed to the deaths of two of his children.  The self-critical novelist died at the age of 71 years on November 3, 1917, in Bourg-la-Reine, France.

Bloy did, despite his self-recriminations for having done too little for God, help to bring the Maritains to faith.

Jacques Maritan, born in Paris, France, on November 11, 1882, became a prominent philosopher.  He, raised in a Protestant family, had lost his faith by the time he matriculated at the Sorbonne in 1899.  Yet the search for the truth still mattered to Maritain.  At the Sorbonne he met and fell in love with another troubled seeker, Raïssa Oumansov.

The Oumansov family, formerly of Rostov and Mariupol, the Russian Empire, was Jewish.  The family, with daughters Raïssa and Vera, had moved to Paris in 1893, to escape official anti-Semitism and to provide better educational opportunities for the daughters.  Raïssa, as an adolescent, lost her faith.  She sought the truth in vain at the Sorbonne (1900f).  She did, however, meet Jacques Maritain when he asked her to sign a petition protesting the Czarist government’s treatment of socialist students.

The Maritains, married in 1904, eventually became despondent over having not found the truth that they made a suicide pact.  They agreed that they would take their lives if, within a year, they did discover the meaning of life.  Bloy befriended them, though, and led them, as well as Vera Oumansov, into the Roman Catholic Church.  He stood as their godfather in 1906.  Jacques, Raïssa, and Vera eventually chose to become Oblates of St. Benedict, and to make vows of perpetual chastity.

Jacques immersed himself in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas and spent much of his life applying Thomism to the modern world.  He, a professor at the Institut Catholique, Paris, from 1914 to 1939, offended many conservative Roman Catholics by favoring constitutional government and opposing the Spanish fascist leader Francisco Franco.  Jacques, with Raïssa acquainted with Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, also favored what he called “Integral Humanism,” or the infusion of Christian values into the world via what he called “Lay Spirituality.”  Jacques, an opponent of the Vichy government, taught in the United States and Canada from 1940 to 1945.  After World War II he served as the French Ambassador to the Vatican.  During that period (1945-1948), he befriended Angelo Roncalli, the Nuncio to France.  Roncalli went on to become St. John XXIII, Bishop of Rome, in 1958.  Jacques taught at Princeton University from 1948 to 1960.

Raïssa became a poet and a contemplative.  She understood that God was calling her to share in divine suffering, and kept a spiritual journal.  She died on November 4, 1960.  Jacques had her spiritual journal published posthumously.

Jacques, as a widower, joined the Little Brothers of Jesus, the order Blessed Charles de Foucauld founded in the Algerian desert in 1933.  Jacques became a notice at Toulousse in 1961; he made his vows nine years later.  Pope St. Paul VI recognized our saint in person at the Vatican in 1965.  The Supreme Pontiff presented our saint with a copy of the Vatican II document on the Church and the Modern World.  Jacques, aged 90 years, died in Toulousse on April 28, 1973.

Part of the meaning of life is to help each other live faithfully, to glorify God, to enjoy God, and to show the light of Christ in our lives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Spiritual Paths   3 comments

Above:  My Desk, December 19, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Christian spiritual directors have, for some time, understood the variety of spiritual types, related, quite often, to preferences in prayer styles.  The last time I read deeply in the field, I learned that the middle two characters of one’s Myers-Briggs personality type often correlate to a preference of a certain style of prayer.

Another way of classifying spiritual types comes from Roman Catholicism:

  1. The Path of Intellect (Thomistic Prayer), in the style of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Teresa of Avila;
  2. The Path of Devotion (Augustinian Prayer), in the style of St. Augustine of Hippo;
  3. The Path of Service (Franciscan Prayer), in the style of St. Francis of Assisi; and
  4. The Path of Asceticism (Ignatian Prayer), in the style of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The test for determining one’s spiritual type takes only a few minutes.  A one-page document with fourteen rows and four columns requires one to look at a row of four words and rank them (“1” to “4,” “1” meaning least descriptive and “4” meaning most descriptive of oneself at the time).  Then one tallies each column.

My spiritual type has changed.  In the middle 1990s, when I was in my twenties, I was, first and foremost, a Thomist.  I have forgotten what the second, third, and fourth rankings were, but I was definitely on the Path of Intellect.  This morning I took the test again.  My scores were as follows:

  1. The Path of Asceticism–48;
  2. The Path of Intellect–43;
  3. The Path of Devotion–30; and
  4. The Path of Service–19.

Asceticism, according to this definition,

involves imagining oneself as part of a scene in order to draw some practical fruit from it for today.

It also entails a certain rigor in spiritual discipline.

The Thomistic preference for spiritual order applies to me.

Spiritual growth over a lifetime entails both change and constancy.  I, as a Christian, embrace that principle as I affirm another one:  one’s spiritual path must flow through Jesus.  Furthermore, to assume that one’s spiritual path in Christ is the only proper path for all people is in error.  In fact, one’s spiritual path in Christ in the present may not be one’s spiritual path in Christ five years from now.  In my case, the new preference for asceticism is consistent with my embrace of minimalism.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF RAOUL WALLENBERG, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF CHICO MENDES, “GANDHI OF THE AMAZON”

THE FEAST OF ROBERT CAMPBELL, SCOTTISH EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ADVOCATE AND HYMN WRITER

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Feast of Leo XIII (July 20)   3 comments

Above:  His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII

Image in the Public Domain

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GIACCHINO VINCENZO PECCI (MARCH 2, 1810-JULY 20, 1903)

Bishop of Rome

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I want to see the church so far forward that my successor will not be able to turn it back.

–Pope Leo XIII, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 308

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That successor, St. Pius X (1903-1914), turned the Church back for more than half a century, until Popes St. John XXIII (1958-1963) and Blessed Paul VI (1963-1978) presided over the Second Vatican Council (1959-1965).

One of the patterns in organized Christianity since the Enlightenment has been conflict between traditions (especially in theology) and the modern world.  Sometimes, as Leo XIII understood well, conflicts have been unnecessary–even detrimental to the Church, while having their origins in the Church.

Giacchino Vincenzo Pecci, born in Carpinto, near Rome, on March 2, 1810, came from lesser nobility.  At an early age he manifested a keen intellect, which he used throughout his life.  Pecci, studying at Viterbo (1818-1824), the Roman College (1824-1832), and the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics (1832-1837), joined the ranks of priests in 1837.

Father–later Archbishop, Bishop, and Cardinal–Pecci engaged with the realities of industrial Europe.  He, the Titular Archbishop of Damietta in 1843 and simultaneously the nuncio to Belgium (1843-1846), served as the Bishop of Perugia (1846-1878).  Our saint, Cardinal Pecci from 1853, modernized the curriculum of the seminary in his diocese, encouraged Scholastic theology, and, by 1878, had become the Camerlengo of the Church.  In 1878, Blessed Pius IX, a reactionary Supreme Pontiff who preferred Medieval Catholicism, favored the divine right of kings, considered constitutional government incompatible with Christianity, and practiced Anti-Semitism, died.  Pecci, as the Camerlengo, was in charge between Popes. In February 1878 he became the next Pope as Leo XIII.  He was 67 years old and not in the best of health.  The man predicted to be a stop-gap Pope served for a quarter of a century, until 1903, dying at the age of 93.

Leo XIII stood firmly within Roman Catholic tradition, for better and worse.  In some ways he was quite conservative when he should not have been.  He sought the restoration of Papal temporal power, the Index survived, and, in 1896, the Church declared Anglican holy orders invalid, for example.  Yet Leo XIII was also relatively progressive.  In 1879 he elevated Father John Henry Newman (1801-1890), suspected of heterodoxy, to the College of Cardinals.  (How conservative must one have been to call Newman too liberal?)  This decision upset many conservatives in the Church.  When Leo XIII recognized the French Third Republic he scandalized French Roman Catholic monarchists.  Lifting Blessed Pius IX’s ban on Roman Catholics voting in Italian elections was another indication of liberalism.  Roman Catholicism and representative government, Leo XIII declared, contradicting his predecessor.

Economic justice was crucial, Leo XIII.  He condemned Marxism, communism, and laissez-faire capitalism.  The Pope wrote in favor of labor unions, the right of collective bargaining, a living wage, and safe working conditions.  All of this was a matter of ethics and the dignity or work, for the Supreme Pontiff.

Leo XIII was also open to science and scholarship.  He encouraged some critical scholarship of the Bible (St. Pius X did not encourage any.), reopened the Vatican Observatory, opened the Vatican Library to scholars without regard to creed, and encouraged Roman Catholic scholars to do their work objectively.  The author of 86 encyclicals in 25 years stood within the strain of Roman Catholicism that found faith and reason compatible.  That strain included St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), whose theology Leo XIII had long encouraged people to study.

Leo XIII, while affirming his papal authority (of course), engaged the non-Roman Catholic Christian world.  The 1896 decree about the invalidity of Anglican holy orders was a setback, but he did call non-Roman Catholic Christians “separated brothers.”  St. John XXIII (1958-1963) did the same in a more ecumenical age.  Leo XIII also invited “separated brothers” to reunite with Holy Mother Church.

Leo XIII would have made St. Justin de Jacobis (1800-1860) glad.  The Pope encouraged evangelization, especially outside Europe.  Leo XIII also favored educating indigenous priests, an effective strategy in missions.

Leo XIII, aged 93 years, died at the Vatican on July 20, 1903.  He was simultaneously conservative and liberal, by the standards of his time.  He foreshadowed reforms that started decades after his death.

Consider ecclesiastical politics, O reader.  The reactionary Pius IX is a Blessed, on the path to canonization.  Leo XIII is not even a Venerable.  Pius X, slightly less reactionary than Pius IX, is a full saint.  The less one says and writes about Pius XII, a Venerable, the better.  John XXIII, who opened Vatican II, is a full saint.  (How can Pius X and John XXIII both be full saints?)  Paul VI, who concluded the Second Vatican Council, is a Blessed.  The very nice John Paul I, who forgot to take his medicine and therefore had a brief Pontifficate, is a Venerable.  And John Paul II is a full saint, due to a fast-tracked canonization process.  To some extent one can identify the legacy of Leo XIII in each of his successors.  The legacy of Leo XIII is especially strong in Pope Francis.

I, as an Episcopalian, a member of a church with valid holy orders, belong to a tradition that teaches that history makes saints.  I count legacies, not miracles.  I, one of those “separated brothers” of whom Leo XIII and St. John XXIII wrote and spoke, hereby enroll Leo XIII, Servant of the Servants of God, in my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DE CHERGÉ AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS OF TIBHIRINE, ALGERIA, 1996

THE FEAST OF EUGENE DE MAZENOD, BISHOP OF MARSEILLES AND FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE MISSIONARIES, OBLATES OF MARY IMMACULATE

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANZ JÄGGERSTÄTTER, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND MARTYR, 1943

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH ADDISON AND ALEXANDER POPE, ENGLISH POETS

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Almighty God, you have raised up faithful bishops of your church,

including your servant Pope Leo XIII.

May the memory of his life be a source of joy for us and a bulwark of our faith,

so that we may serve and confess your name before the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Meister Eckhart (March 23)   Leave a comment

eckhart

Above:  Eckhart of Hochheim

Image in the Public Domain

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ECKHART OF HOCHHEIM (CIRCA 1260-1327/1328)

Roman Catholic Theologian and Mystic

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Do exactly what you would do if you felt most secure.

–Eckhart

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I conclude that certain ecclesiastical leaders chose to ignore that advice.

Eckhart, born at Hochheim, near Gotha, Turingia, Holy Roman Empire, circa 1260, was a mystic.  Like certain mystics before and after his time, he incurred the wrath of ecclesiastical authorities seeking to safeguard their power.

Eckhart joined the Order of Preachers, or the Dominicans, when he was what we would today call a teenager.  From 1293 to 1302 he studied theology at St. Jacques, Paris; he graduated as a master (meister).  Two years later he became the provincial minister of the order in Saxony.  From 1314 to 1322 our saint taught and preached in Strasbourg.  Next he preached in Cologne for years.  He was the most popular preacher in Germany.

In 1326, however, the charge of heresy fell upon Eckhart.  His theology, though, was fairly orthodox.  One of the influences on Eckhart’s theology was St. Thomas Aquinas (canonized in 1323), his favorite author.  Another major influence on Eckhart’s theology was St. Augustine of Hippo.  Eckhart’s main doctrine was the birth of God the Son (Christ) in the soul, signifying the mystical union of the divine and the human.  This union, he wrote, was the highest human goal and occurred via a union of wills.  This union of wills came about via grace, not human merit.  He always affirmed the necessity of the Church and of the sacraments.  Furthermore, in true orthodox fashion, Eckhart argued that rituals and good works were spiritually useful only when one was inclined toward God.

So what did Eckhart allegedly do wrong?  He wrote and uttered statements that seemed to undermine the authority of the Church.

Seek God and you shall find him.  Indeed, with such an attitude, you might step on a stone and it would be a more pious act than to receive the body of our Lord, thinking of yourself.

–Eckhart

That statement is orthodox, is it not?  Anyhow, Eckhart’s use of Neoplatonist language (He was in the vein of St. Thomas Aquinas, recently canonized.) opened him up to false allegations of pantheism.  He was really in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Holy Mother Church pressured Eckhart into recanting the allegedly heretical propositions in 1327.  On March 29, 1329, Pope John XXII issued a bull (an appropriate term for the document) condemning those 28 propositions and mentioning Eckhart as being deceased.  Our saint had died in the good graces of the Church, which had abused him.

You may call God love, you may call God goodness.  But the best name for God is compassion.

–Eckhart

Pope John XXII and others who condemned Eckhart should have paid attention to that piece of wisdom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBERT THE GREAT AND THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Almighty God, you gave to your servant Meister Eckhart

special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus:

Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God,

and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent;  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 119:89-96

1 Corinthians 3:5-11

Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 721

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