"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Sermon for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost

“Jesus said, ‘They need not go away. You give them something to eat.’” From the Gospel according to St. Matthew, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Every year around Easter or Christmas you are bound to see it on the convenience store news rack—a cover article in Time or Newsweek about the REAL Jesus. These magazines promise to debunk the “Sunday school version” of Christ by revealing the “Jesus of history” as reconstructed by modern scholars. These issues are usually among the year’s best-selling. Clearly many Americans suspect that what they’ve been told about Jesus from the pulpit isn’t the full story. After all, didn’t the Church cover up the Gnostic gospels for centuries? Doesn’t the Vatican have a “Secret Archive”? Let’s face it: The DaVinci Code struck a chord with a lot of Americans. It is not surprising that millions of readers want to learn what “unbiased” experts have to say about Jesus of Nazareth.

Unfortunately, much of what Hollywood and the news media tell the American people about the “Jesus of history” is a far cry from objective fact. In truth, many of the scholars who do “historical Jesus” research are deeply hostile to traditional Christianity. Some of today’s most popular books on the subject were intentionally written to undermine and reconstruct the religious beliefs of their readers. Their authors hope to replace the Christ proclaimed by the Church with an alternative Jesus that better reflects their own “enlightened,” “humane,” or “progressive” values. The result is a new and improved American Jesus, custom designed to guide our quest for personal fulfillment: Oprah, Dr. Phil and Deepak Chopra all rolled into one.

Of course, this newly-fabricated Jesus still bears some resemblance to the Christ of the New Testament. Like the Biblical Jesus, the Jesus of Time and Newsweek calls us to social justice, reassures us when we are anxious and urges us to reach out to the despised and the lowly. But this “revised” Jesus no longer strains our intellects with claims of divinity or challenges our preconceptions by working real miracles. We no longer have to believe Jesus fed multitudes with the contents of a child’s lunchbox, that he calmed a stormy sea, or raised the dead, or walked out of his tomb on Easter morning.

The hypothetical Jesus created by modern scholars is chiefly a moral teacher and social activist. He might inspire us to become better people, but he will never claim to be our “savior.” I suspect this is his most attractive quality for many people. After all, we Americans are an independent bunch. We want to meet Jesus on our own terms. We like being spiritually and morally challenged, but not too much. We appreciate some help along the path to salvation—whatever “salvation” might be—but in the end we want to do the “saving” ourselves. It is no coincidence that this new Jesus--an all-inclusive, non-judgmental, wandering Jewish wise man—perfectly meets the demands of today’s “spirituality” marketplace. I am reminded of what Aaron said when Moses caught the Israelites with the golden calf: “The people gave their gold to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

Make no mistake about it: this “new model Jesus” is an idol of our own devising. Although he bears a superficial resemblance to the Lord of all creation, this manufactured Jesus is as hollow and perishable as Aaron’s golden calf. Every generation or two intellectuals who want to remake Christianity have to retool and come out with a new version of their hero. The Christ of the Bible is “the same, yesterday, today and forever,” but it seems American culture prefers a Jesus who comes with periodic “upgrades.” We are eager to download “Jesus 2.0.”

I will admit that I sometimes despair at the misinformation about our Lord and our Faith that circulates today. We all know people whose souls are starving for lack of knowledge of our Lord. But how can we share the good news about Jesus—the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus of the Church, the Jesus who saves from sin and death—when so many people think they have already learned the truth about Him from a bestselling novel or a PBS documentary? It is difficult not become discouraged. But take a look at today’s Old Testament lesson. Listen to what Ezra prays: “Thou art a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and didst not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a molten calf … and had committed great blasphemies, thou in thy great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness.” It is certainly true that many sincere people have been tricked into following a false Jesus. Millions today bow down today before a man-made image. Yet the God who rained down manna even upon the disobedient children of Israel will not forsake the lost of our own time. He will provide for them food enough.

The crowds that gathered around our Lord as he taught in the villages and countryside of Palestine didn’t have the faintest idea who He really was. No doubt they each projected their hopes and dreams onto him as surely as our contemporaries do today. Even his closest disciples didn’t truly understand Him until they had experienced His Passion and His Resurrection. Yet Christ never turned away those who sought Him. In compassion Jesus even looked after their physical needs, as he does in our Gospel lesson today. But the miraculous feeding of the 5000 was a mere shadow of what was to come. Shortly after this miracle, Jesus told the crowd that the true food and true drink he offers are His precious Flesh and Blood. He promised that those who partake of this holy food will abide in Him for eternal life. The real Jesus wants to give Himself to us, forging a bond so complete that “nothing, neither death nor life … neither things present nor things to come … nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In a few moments God incarnate will share His divine life with us at this altar. You and I will taste the only true food and drink one can experience in this life. Yet there are millions of our fellow Americans who are spiritually starving and do not know it. They think they know Jesus because they have read some second-rate scholarship or watched a cable news special. In fact what they have received is a Styrofoam Jesus. He is not the only-begotten Son of the Father. He is not the one who died on the cross for us and rose again, trampling down death by his own death. Spiritual life cannot be nourished by a bloodless, simulated Jesus. The real Jesus yearns to feed these lost sheep. But how is he going to do that when the sheep don’t realize they need to be feed?

Christ tells us the same thing He told those disciples long ago: “You give them something to eat.” You and I—the people of St. Vincent’s Cathedral Church—are called to take “the living bread that came down from heaven” to those who need it. That is a serious responsibility. I don’t know about you, but I find this a very daunting assignment. Just look at all the lies and distortions and ignorance that pass for “enlightened opinion” these days. I’m just one man in suburban Texas. How much difference can one person really make?

Our Lord Jesus simply points to the five loaves and the two fish. Through Christ’s power his first disciples used a trivial amount of earthly food to satisfy the hunger of thousands. The Lord imparts that same divine power to his Church today, so we can offer millions the food that leads to eternal life. Fortunately, you and I can start small and we won’t have to go very far. I am certain that everyone here knows somebody whose soul is starving to know what we can tell them about our Lord and Savior. These people may not yet realize what they are hungering for, but that is what they need. Their hearts will never be truly satisfied until the Styrofoam Jesus our culture offers them is replaced by the real, flesh and blood Redeemer. Of course, sharing the Good News is not always easy, and some people aren’t going to like what we have got to say. But if you have ever seen a soul come to life again after being nourished by the knowledge and love of God, then you know this is worth doing. That is what happens when mortals eat the bread of angels, and it is a thing of beauty. I do not know if there will be twelve basketsful left over when every man, woman and child on earth has feasted on Christ, but let’s do whatever we can to find out. May God give us the grace to carry the real Jesus out into the world until all have tasted of his goodness and are satisfied. Amen.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Bell Tower at St. Vincent's is Done!

The new campanile of St. Vincent's Cathedral is virtually complete and the out building is finally roofed and painted. It looks really nice! There is still some work going on inside the tower, but I think the temporary electronic carillon will be operational in just a few weeks. Thanks be to God! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bishop Spong Opines on Everything under the Sun

For those interested in what the one-time ECUSA bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong, might be up to these days, have a look at these recent comments reported by the IRD. One highlight:

"The oldest part of the Bible is only 3,000 years old, Spong stated, while the Earth is 4 billion years old and humans may have existed for 2 million years.

'Is it possible that a 3,000-year-old book captures the truth of God for all time?' Spong sarcastically asked. In fact, he said, the Bible 'assumes as truth the limited knowledge that people had in that period of history.'

Dismissing orthodox Christians as credulously simplistic, Spong claimed that beliefs about God descending onto Mount Sinai or Jesus ascending into Heaven were based on archaic assumptions of a 'three-tiered universe' that placed God and Heaven right above the clouds.

Even if Jesus were ascending at the speed of light, he still would not have yet left our galaxy after 2,000 years, Spong chuckled, crediting this clever observation to the late astronomer Carl Sagan."

Read the entire story here. There is also a NewJersey.com story on the event and Spong's present thoughts here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

New Classical Anglican Alliance for the Western Hemisphere

Canon Kendall Harmon has posted news on his blog, Titusonenine, about the formation of a Council of Anglican Provinces of the Americas and Caribbean. The press release includes the organization's "Covenant of Understanding." This same blog includes a story from "The Christian Challenge" that quotes several leading Anglican leaders welcoming the formation of this pan-American entity. For example, Nigeria’s Archbishop Akinola warmly welcomed the new alliance: “The formation of this new regional body should be greeted with applause and strong support from across the Communion.” Archbishop Yong Ping Chung of South East Asia echoed Akinola’s welcome, adding, “What is wonderful is the coming together of many different groups. We are very encouraged to see this level of cooperation.”

From the CAPAC Press Release:

Following a conference July 6-8 in Nassau that gathered dozens of leaders from across North and South America and the Caribbean, plans for a new body committed to the historic Anglican faith and formularies have been announced. Inspired by the effective witness of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), Archbishops Drexel Gomez and Gregory Venables announced plans for the formation of the Council of Anglican Provinces of the Americas and Caribbean (CAPAC).

Initial steps organizing CAPAC were taken by the two Archbishops and the Moderators of the US and Canadian Networks leading to the creation of a body that will “enable coordination, cooperation, collaboration, and communication, and to encourage mission as well as resource theological education and ministry of the Gospel in the Caribbean and the Americas.” It has become necessary because of the confusion and theological chaos that has been introduced in the region by the unilateral actions of the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) and the Anglican Church of Canada, who have departed from historic Anglican faith and practice. The ensuing conflict has drained huge amounts of energy and resources from the mission of the church around the world. CAPAC is being organized to re-energize mission and ministry in the region.

The Covenant of Understanding signed by the four leaders will be shared with their provinces/organizations for discussion and ratification. Archbishop Drexel Gomez said, “This is important for the future of the faith. As we move ahead, it must be on an agreed theological foundation. We envision CAPAC not only to build on the theological foundation of Anglicanism, but also to seek to collaborate with structures like the Instruments of Unity and the Panel of Reference.”

Read the entire Press Release and Covenant on Titusonenine.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

St Mary the Virgin: Singularly Graced by God

The following essay by Randall Foster will appear in the next issue of The Deacon, the quarterly newsletter of St. Vincent's Cathedral, Bedford, Texas.

“When Christians from East and West through the generations have pondered God’s work in Mary, they have discerned in faith that it is fitting that the Lord gathered her wholly to himself: in Christ, she is already a new creation in whom ‘the old has passed away and the new has come’. Viewed from such an eschatological perspective, Mary may be seen both as a type of the Church, and as a disciple with a special place in the economy of grace.” From Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, a recent “agreed statement” of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

On Monday, August 15th, the St. Vincent’s community will gather at 7 PM to celebrate one of the major festivals of the Church year. We will give thanks and praise to God for the life and ministry of the Blessed Virgin Mary, joining our voices to those of more than a billion fellow Christians in honoring the mother of our Lord. Two millennia ago an inspired young woman from Nazareth once proclaimed that “all generations shall call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). Each year the fifteenth day of August sees Mary’s prophecy gloriously fulfilled. Eastern Orthodox Christians have celebrated the Dormition (the “falling asleep”) of the Virgin in the middle of August since at least the seventh century. During the Middle Ages Christians in Western Europe began observing that same day as the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, which commemorates the miraculous taking of the Virgin Mary--body and soul—into Heaven at the conclusion of her earthly life. Although this feast was removed from the original Book of Common Prayer during the English Reformation, an increased appreciation for the mother of our Lord in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries lead to the restoration of the feast of St. Mary the Virgin in many Anglican provinces, including our own. There are other feast days honoring Our Lady on the liturgical calendars of East and West, of course, but August 15th clearly remains the principle Marian feast of the universal Church.

What is it about the figure of Mary that has inspired such devotion? Why is she, among all the people who have walked the face of the earth, honored by Christians second only to Christ himself? And what exactly will we commemorate when we gather in mid-August?

For me the answer to these questions lies in a single Greek word: Theotokos. This word literally means “God-bearer,” though it is often rendered in English as “Mother of God” (from its Latin equivalent, Mater Dei). Theotokos was the definitive title conferred upon the Blessed Virgin at the third great ecumenical council held in Ephesus in 431 A.D. But please note: although this title honors Mary it is ultimately a statement about Jesus Christ. Whenever we honor the Virgin as “God-bearer” we confess our faith that the Child she bore was and is truly God incarnate. By humbly and freely choosing to bear in her own flesh the Lord of creation, Mary entered into a more intimate relationship with God than anyone had ever known. As a result of her extraordinary communion with God and by a special grace given by Him, Mary was able to gift her Son with the genuine, perfected humanity that would bear our sins on the cross and conquer death at the empty tomb. How can we possibly glorify the salvific work of the Son without honoring His mother’s obedient offer of herself for God’s saving purposes? This is the font from which all authentic Marian devotion springs.

Every Marian feast, properly understood, is an affirmation of the nature of Christ and a celebration of His saving work. If the child Mary carried in her womb was not Emmanuel, “God with us,” then the Annunciation was simply the delusional fantasy of a young Jewish girl. If St. Elizabeth was mistaken in calling her kinswoman “the mother of my Lord” then the Visitation was a mere social call. If it is inappropriate to greet Our Lady as Theotokos then Christmas should be a time of mourning rather than joy, since the baby Mary bore would have had no power to save. By God’s gracious will, Mary occupies a pre-eminent place in salvation history. Whenever we properly honor the Theotokos, we honor the one who prepared her, chose her, and called her to that unique role. Every Hail Mary is a benediction upon the Incarnate Word, “the fruit of her womb.”

The great Marian feast of August commemorates the Blessed Virgin Mary’s entry into eternal glory after a life of faithful service to God. The ancient Tradition of the Church tells us that Mary received one final grace from God when her time on earth was complete: God gathered her to Himself in the fullness of her person, body and soul, so that she might abide in glory with the One who is both her Son and her Savior. By this final mystery Mary becomes a sign of hope for all humanity, participating now as she does in the kind of intimate fellowship with God that all the redeemed await with eager longing. Sacred Tradition does not tell us exactly how or where the “assumption” or “dormition” of Our Lady took place, nor do we know what the metaphysics underlying it are. The ancient and medieval Church considered this final blessing upon Mary to be a mystery beyond human comprehension and made no effort to explain exactly how a person’s body could be taken into Heaven. I will make no effort to do so either. It is noteworthy, however, that no church anywhere in the world has ever claimed to possess her mortal remains. You and I are clearly not meant to understand the “mechanics” of Mary’s passing into the arms of her Creator and Redeemer. This much we do know: as a disciple Mary was singularly graced by God and she remains so forever, enjoying an unparalleled communion with our Lord. And she prayerfully waits for us to join her in that divine fellowship. That is what the universal Church celebrates every year on the fifteenth of August. Please be sure to join us this year.

Michael Liccione on the Pope's "Program"

Michael Liccione has posted an interesting essay on Pope Benedict's "program in office" on Pontifications. Liccione's entire essay may be read here. An excerpt:

"The way to restore the Church's credibility today, for believers and unbelievers alike, is for Catholics in general to become genuine Catholics again: to form a more intentional community by anchoring life and history in 'solid spiritual references.' That is why the still-new pope is so interested in improving both the celebration of the Roman liturgy and ecumenical ties with the Orthodox. Solid indeed, and ancient in pedigree. That is why, beyond all motives of ecclesiastico-political self-interest, he is so uncompromising in his opposition to EU secularism and the ever-widening 'culture of death.' ... Benedict wants to re-interiorize Catholicism by a spiritual ressourcement replacing the polluted waters of progressivism and materialism with sap drawn anew from the healthiest old roots. It's the vision of Vatican II, but minus all the breathy optimism about that world which entered the Church with a vengeance when her windows were opened. It's time to clean up a lot of what blew in."
Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 18, 2005

Saint Macrina, Abbess

" Thou, O Lord, hast freed us from the fear of death. Thou hast made the end of this life the beginning to us of true life. Thou for a season restest our bodies in sleep and awakest them again at the last trump. Thou givest our earth, which Thou hast fashioned with Thy hands, to the earth to keep in safety. One day Thou wilt take again what Thou hast given, transfiguring with immortality and grace our mortal and unsightly remains. Thou hast saved us from the curse and from sin, having become both for our sakes. Thou hast broken the heads of the dragon who had seized us with his jaws, in the yawning gulf of disobedience. Thou hast shown us the way of resurrection, having broken the gates of hell, and brought to nought him who had the power of death--the devil. Thou hast given a sign to those that fear Thee in the symbol of the Holy Cross, to destroy the adversary and save our life. O God eternal, to Whom I have been attached from my mother's womb, Whom my soul has loved with all its strength, to Whom I have dedicated both my flesh and my soul from my youth up until now--do Thou give me an angel of light to conduct me to the place of refreshment, where is the water of rest, in the bosom of the holy Fathers. Thou that didst break the flaming sword and didst restore to Paradise the man that was crucified with Thee and implored Thy mercies, remember me, too, in Thy kingdom; because I, too, was crucified with Thee, having nailed my flesh to the cross for fear of Thee, and of Thy judgments have I been afraid. Let not the terrible chasm separate me from Thy elect. Nor let the slanderer stand against me in the way; nor let my sin be found before Thy eyes, if in anything I have sinned in word or deed or thought, led astray by the weakness of our nature. O Thou Who hast power on earth to forgive sins, forgive me, that I may be refreshed and may be found before Thee when I put off my body, without defilement on my soul. But may my soul be received into Thy hands spotless and undefiled, as an offering before Thee."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bishop Iker's Reflections on Anglican Unity

The Rt Rev'd Jack Leo Iker, bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, has just published his reflections on "What holds the Anglican Communion together?." After a review of the "Four Instruments of Unity," the bishop's conclusion is crystal clear:

"The Episcopal Church will have to decide in June 2006 at the General Convention if we will comply with the teaching of the Communion or if we will "walk apart" (as the Windsor Report expresses it) and leave the Communion. The Anglican Church of Canada will have to make the same decision at their General Synod in 2007. After these decisions are made, the Archbishop of Canterbury will have to decide which Bishops are to be invited to the Lambeth Conference and which Bishops will not be participants.

One way or another, a decision will have to be made that will affect us all. It is expected that General Convention will try to "fudge" the issue and have it both ways: to say that we intend to remain in the Anglican Communion, but continue to ordain active homosexuals and bless same-sex unions. I doubt that the Primates of the Communion will be willing to accept that. Already more than half of them are in broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church because of all this.

I repeat what I said in addressing this at our Diocesan Convention last year. If the Episcopal Church decides to walk away from the Anglican Communion, this Diocese will not depart with them.

Pray for the Church, for our unity and witness. Pray for our leaders, that we will comply with the mind of the Anglican Communion and the historic teaching of the Church of God throughout the world."

The bishop's entire reflection may be found on the diocesan web site here. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Pope Is Asked To Address Evolution

The N.Y. Times reports today:

Three scientists, two of them Roman Catholic biologists, have asked Pope Benedict XVI to clarify the church's position on evolution in light of recent statements by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, an influential theologian, that the modern theory of evolution may be incompatible with Catholic faith. The scientists asked the pope to reaffirm earlier statements on the subject by Pope John Paul II and others "that scientific rationality and the church's commitment to divine purpose and meaning in the universe were not incompatible." It is crucial, their letter says, "that in these difficult and contentious times the Catholic Church not build a new divide, long ago eradicated, between the scientific method and religious belief."

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University, wrote the letter on behalf of himself and the two biologists, Dr. Francisco J. Ayala of the University of California, Irvine, a former Dominican priest, and Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University, a Roman Catholic who has written on the reconciliation of science and faith. Cardinal Schönborn's remarks, which appeared Thursday in
an essay on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, were prompted in part by an essay Dr. Krauss wrote in Science Times in May on the compatibility of religion and evolution. The Vatican press office, contacted Tuesday, had no comment on Cardinal Schönborn's article.

Personally, I believe today's article misrepresents Cardinal Schoenborn's stance on evolution. When you read the Cardinal's op-ed piece, what he in fact insists on is that the "neo-Darwinian" view that animals evolved as a result of "an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection" is unacceptable for Christians. He rightly states that the Church teaches that the hand of the living God directed the emergence of life on earth, no matter how long it took. Our world shows the marks of divine design, not mere random chance. It strikes me that practically any Christian would have to agree with that. Surely the fact that God created heaven and earth and is the Lord of life is not negotiable for Christians, no matter how liberal they are--isn't it? Benedict XVI has already put it beautifully himself: "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

What Theologian Am I? Anselm, Apparently.

For those who enjoyed the "What is your theological world view?" quiz I linked last week, try this one: What theologian are you? I rather thought Augustine would come first for me, with Anselm in second place. But it turns out that I am more Anselmian than I thought. Cur Deus Homo, like Augustine's Confessions, immediately touched my heart and mind when I first read it years ago. I am rather surprised that Schleiermacher and Calvin ranked above 50% for me. Just for the record, I do not consider myself a devotee of either gentlemen. Take the quiz yourself here. My own results were as follows:

"You scored as Anselm. Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period. He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'

Anselm 100%
Augustine 87%
Karl Barth 67%
Friedrich Schleiermacher 67%
John Calvin 60%
Martin Luther 60%
Jonathan Edwards 53%
Jürgen Moltmann 47%
Charles Finney 47%
Paul Tillich 27%"Posted by Picasa

New Home Ground for the St. Vincent's Eagles

There is more construction activity at St. Vincent's Cathedral. The new football field behind the cathedral's Upper School (where I teach middle schoolers during the academic year) was being provided with its sod today. Soon we shall see the mighty Eagles triumphing over their rivals on the new turf! Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 11, 2005

Benedict XVI on Benedict of Norcia

An excerpt from the Pope's Angelus message yesterday:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Tomorrow the feast of St. Benedict of Norcia is celebrated, patron of Europe, a saint who is particularly dear to me, as can be intuited from my choice of his name. Born in Norcia about 480, Benedict's first studies were in Rome but, disappointed with city life, he retired to Subiaco, where he stayed for about three years in a cave -- the famous "sacro speco" -- dedicating himself wholly to God. In Subiaco, making use of the ruins of a cyclopean villa of the emperor Nero, he built some monasteries, together with his first disciples, giving life to a fraternal community founded on the primacy of the love of Christ, in which prayer and work were alternated harmoniously in praise of God. Years later, he completed this project in Monte Cassino, and put it in writing in his Rule, the only work of his that has come down to us.

Amid the ashes of the Roman Empire, Benedict, seeking first of all the kingdom of God, sowed, perhaps even without realizing it, the seed of a new civilization which would develop, integrating Christian values with classical heritage, on one hand, and the Germanic and Slav cultures on the other. There is a particular aspect of his spirituality, which today I would particularly like to underline. Benedict did not found a monastic institution oriented primarily to the evangelization of barbarian peoples, as other great missionary monks of the time, but indicated to his followers that the fundamental, and even more, the sole objective of existence is the search for God: "Quaerere Deum." He knew, however, that when the believer enters into a profound relationship with God he cannot be content with living in a mediocre way, with a minimalist ethic and superficial religiosity. In this light, one understands better the expression that Benedict took from St. Cyprian and that is summarized in his Rule (IV, 21) -- the monks' program of life: "Nihil amori Christi praeponere." "Prefer nothing to the love of Christ."

The entire message may be read here.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sponge Bob Visits the UCC

Do please take the time to view the photo essay posted by the UCC News on Sponge Bob Squarepants' visit to the UCC's National Offices. "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."
The photo essay may be found here . Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Final Phase of Tower Construction

The cranes are coming down at the bell tower! As they complete the last phase of the construction of our campanile, the massive cranes that have been attached to the superstructure are being dismantled. The image above was taken this evening by RDF and you can see that one set of the "legs" of the crane on the nearest side has been removed. The bell system is not yet installed, but hopefully we are only a few weeks away from the sound of bells. Posted by Picasa

A Prayer for London

This photo of St. Paul's during the Blitz serves as a reminder that the people of London have triumphed over great adversity in the past, and with God's help will again undoubtedly acquit themselves with honor.

O MERCIFUL God, and heavenly Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men; Look with pity, we beseech thee, upon the sorrows of thy servants the people of London, for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy; endue their souls with patience; comfort them with a sense of thy goodness; lift up thy countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Proof that I really am an "Evangelical Catholic"

I took an amusing survey on line this afternoon that is meant to categorize one's theological worldview. Of course, they didn't have "Anglo-Catholic" as a category and I turned out as a "Roman Cathlolic", but a species of evangelical was a very close second for me. Hence I was reassured that my own self-understanding as an "evangelical Catholic" is not far from the mark. You can see my results below. On the whole I really am a hybrid of Catholic traditions and "evangelical holiness" (which is a descendant of Anglicanism, after all). You can take the test yourself here.:

"You scored as Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic 89%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan 86%
Neo orthodox 79%
Reformed Evangelical 54%
Fundamentalist 50%
Classical Liberal 39%
Charismatic/Pentecostal 32%
Emergent/Postmodern 25%
Modern Liberal 14%"

Friday, July 01, 2005

Pope Benedict on RC/Orthodox Relations

Last Wednesday, at the liturgy for the solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, the Pope made some interesting comments regarding Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy in his homily. They were addressed to a delegation from the Patriarch of Constantinople. I find them most encouraging.

"The pallium is an expression of our apostolic mission. It is an expression of our communion, which has its visible greatness in the Petrine ministry. Linked with the unity, as well as with the apostolicity, is the Petrine ministry, which gathers visibly the Church of all parts and of all times, defending in this way each one of us from sliding into false autonomies, which too easily are transformed into internal particularizations of the Church and can so compromise her internal independence. Together with this we do not want to forget that the meaning of all the functions and ministries is, at the end, that "we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," so that the body of Christ will grow "and build itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:13,16).

In this perspective I greet from my heart and with gratitude the delegation of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, which is sent by ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, to whom I address a cordial remembrance. Led by Metropolitan Ioannis, it has come to our feast and participates in our celebration. Even if we still do not agree on the question of the interpretation and of the capacity of the Petrine ministry, we are however together in the apostolic succession, we are profoundly united with the others by the episcopal ministry and by the sacrament of the priesthood and we confess together the faith of the apostles as it is given in Scripture and as it is interpreted in the great Councils.

In this hour of the world, full of skepticism and doubts but rich in the desire for God, we acknowledge again our common mission to witness together Christ the Lord and, on the basis of that unity that is already given to us, to help the world believe. And we entreat the Lord with all our heart to guide us to full unity so that the splendor of the truth, which alone can create unity, will again become visible in the world."

The entire homily may be found here. But that is not all. Zenit also reports that the Pope pushed ahead on Thusday during an audience with the Orthodox delegation:

"During today's audience, Benedict XVI thanked Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, as "he is dedicating himself to reactivate the work of the [Catholic-Orthodox international mixed commission]." "It is my firm determination to support and encourage this work," the Pope said. "The theological search, which must address complex questions and find solutions that are not reductive, is a serious commitment, from which we cannot exempt ourselves. If we cannot ignore that the division makes less effective the most holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature, how can we exempt ourselves from the task of examining our differences with clarity and good will, addressing them with the profound conviction that they be resolved?"

Benedict XVI added that "the unity we seek is neither absorption nor fusion, but respect for the multiform fullness of the Church which, according to the will of her founder, Jesus Christ, must always be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." Finally, the Bishop of Rome manifested the richness that the Eastern Churches contribute, in particular the Orthodox, to the Catholic Church itself. Quoting the Second Vatican Council decree on ecumenism, "Unitatis Redintegratio," Benedict XVI concluded: "It is hardly surprising, then, if from time to time one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of a mystery of revelation than the other, or has expressed it to better advantage. In such cases, these various theological expressions are to be considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting."

In another piece today, Zenit also reported that the Pope quoted the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. "Benedict XVI said: "Within the Church particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it." Because of this, the Holy Father said he hoped that "the Petrine ministry of the Bishop of Rome is not seen as a stumbling block but as a support on the journey toward unity." After praying the Angelus, the Pope and several members of the Roman Curia lunched in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse, with the Orthodox delegation from Constantinople."

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