Archive for April, 2008

St. Benedict

“The Lord expects us to respond daily with deeds to his holy teachings”, he says (Prol. 35). Thus, the life of a monk becomes a fruitful symbiosis between action and contemplation “so that God may be glorified in everything” (57,9).

In contrast to facile, egocentric self-realization, which is often exalted today, the first and irrenuciable commitment of a disciple of St. Benedict is the sincere quest for God (58,7) along the humble and obedient way shown by Christ (5,13), to whose love nothing and no one should come ahead (4,21; 72,11), thus becoming, in the service of others, a man of service and peace.

In the exercise of obedience as an act of faith inspired by love (5,2), the monk achieves humility (5,1), to which the Rule devotes an entire chapter (7). In this way, man conforms ever more to Christ and attains true self-realization as a creature in the image and likeness of God.

[Pope Benedict XVI about St. Benedict from here. I encourage you to read the whole speech.]


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Let’s Make A Visit

Fr. Mark has a good post about spontaneous visits to Christ in the Eucharist (here).

I remember when I got my first place in Baltimore. I went walking around the neighborhood (Bolton Hill). It was a typical summer day in Baltimore, hot and humid. I walked passed the church on the corner and checked the door to see if it was open, it was. Inside it was cool, dark and quite (just as i like it). I took a seat in a pew to cool off and pray. I noticed a man sitting in a pew in front of me, he seemed to have the same idea. He took out a cigarette and lit it… I remember saying to myself, ‘Now that’s what a neighborhood church is supposed to be like, a place of quite prayer where you can share a cigarette with Jesus.’ (I smoked at the time however I resisted the temptation to light up in church even though I had dreams about doing the same)…

As a rule that church was always open during regular business hours. This meant that anything of value was either bolted down or in the safe (which also meant there was barely any decoration). It is a shame that churches have to lock their doors. But as Fr. Mark says, a few years ago churches were barely ever empty…

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[For all the Vampires out there….]

1 And you, when you were dead in your offences, and sins, 2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief: 3 In which also we all conversed in time past, in the desires of our flesh, fulfilling the will of the flesh and of our thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest: 4 But God, (who is rich in mercy,) for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, (by whose grace you are saved,)

6 And hath raised us up together, and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places, through Christ Jesus. 7 That he might show in the ages to come the abundant riches of his grace, in his bounty towards us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; 9 Not of works, that no man may glory. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them.

11 For which cause be mindful that you, being heretofore Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh, made by hands; 12 That you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the conversation of Israel, and strangers to the testament, having no hope of the promise, and without God in this world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you, who some time were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, the enmities in his flesh: 15 Making void the law of commandments contained in decrees; that he might make the two in himself into one new man, making peace;

16 And might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, killing the enmities in himself. 17 And coming, he preached peace to you that were afar off, and peace to them that were nigh. 18 For by him we have access both in one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners; but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God, 20 Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone:

21 In whom all the building, being framed together, groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord. 22 In whom you also are built together into an habitation of God in the Spirit. [Ephesians 2]

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I recently read a review of Anne Rice’s new book, “The Road to Cana.” But more importantly I found out that she is not going to publish another vampire story which she initially said she was willing to write.

I have to admit that I am indeed saddened. Of course I respect the consecration of her work to Christ. And I commend her on striving to follow God’s will. I just wish that it included a Catholic vampire story. (But not my will…)

She wants to use her writing as a tool for Evangelism. Well, there is no other genre of literature better equipped for Evangelism than the vampire story. It has only been recently that vampires have suffered from the modern preoccupation of calling what is evil, good and what is good, evil. And do not mistake something which is intrinsically evil as something intrinsically other. Vampires are us, what we become (monsters) when we turn our backs to God and give ourselves over to unbridled passions, our lusts and selfishness, our nihilism. In this way vampire stories are at their core Catholic. Built into the conventions of the genre is Catholic theology; light/darkness, blood/life, life/sacrifice, undeath/damnation, soul/immortality, instinct/vice, sin/slavery, the sacramentals (holy water, crucifixes, rosaries, etc…).

Since vampires represent human nature how is redemption possible? Within the conventions of the genre it is not. Once you are a vampire you are always a vampire, there is no cure, no redemption. But this can lead to fairly one dimensional characters (pure evil, however witty). [This is why Milton gave Satan the best lines.] And why Mrs. Rice let Lestat suffer guilt. Others have tried in different ways to overcome this problem. Take the characters of Angel and Spike. But both characters suffer from what amounts to emasculation or an identity crisis. They are vampires but either can’t be a vampire (Spike’s chip) or do not want to be (Angel’s soul), except when convenient.

When one reads Rice’s Vampire Chronicles you can’t help but ask yourself, would I risk eternal damnation for immortality and vampiric gifts? It is scary to think that I might actually care so much about this “sterile promontory.” The distinction between good and evil should always be clear.

So, it is obvious that in writing a Catholic vampire story one would include a story of redemption. But is a “saved” vampire still a vampire? Aren’t we as baptized Christians made into a new creation? The cruse has been removed and we have been glorified. So the key here is to make the post-vampire character even more powerful and glorious than the conventional vampire but sans the need to kill and all other evil. We are sustained by the once for all sacrifice of Jesus and His flesh and blood. He is Life. We are no longer slaves to sin and our fleshly impulses. We are through Him (and His life, death, resurrection) brought into the life of the Trinity in Heaven.

I think the story of the “Catholic” vampire is viable. It is after all our story. And I think it would be even better if the redemption of the character were to coincide with the Parousia, the final defeat of evil, a new creation of humanity, earth and heaven….

Mrs. Rice pray on it.

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