Saintly Shenanigans

The greatest site in all the land!

If Benedict and Anne (aka “Hannah”) started a Business would it be “Benihana”? February 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 2:49 pm

Just as I predicted it was another trounce — poor Nicholas Ferrar didn’t stand a chance against Harriet Tubman and she goes on to square off against either Therese of Lisieux or Martha of Bethany in the Saintly 16 round making it, if I am not mistaken, the first all-women head-to-head.  Stay tuned for that one!  Wanted to let all of you my the few, the proud followers of these Shenanigans that after a delightful visit with family in the San Diego area I have now begun in earnest the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes conference.  This afternoon was a session for rectors and deans to consider the future of the church.  Surprisingly we had no easy answers.  We were then forced, forced I tell you!  to go on a dinner cruise around the San Diego harbor.  I met some great people including the supreme executive committee of Lent Madness, the Rev’s Tim Schenck and Scott Gunn.  I really do admire what they are doing and hope that you are following their efforts which you can see here.  Do have a look around the whole website — it includes a most recent article about a subversive group which tried to co-opt the whole concept with a “Papal Madness,” bracketing the upcoming election of the next pope.  The nerve!  But now, on to more serious things, the task at hand:  choosing between Benedict of Nursia and Anne.

Not sure why there’s a German stamp with Benedict on it, but I rather like it

Benedict of Nursia:  whose real name was “Benedetto da Norcia” — doesn’t that have a much more melodious ring to it?  I believe Benedetto means “Well-said” or “Well-spoken.”  And hey, talk about coincidences!  It’s time to cue up the Twilight Zone music — how creepy is that that Benedict shows up on the day Pope Benedict (or as I’ll always remember him — Cardinal Ratzinger…) steps down.  Hmmm… are the LM supreme executives psychic or what!

Benedict was born to a noble Roman family in the town of Nursia in today’s Umbria in 480; he died in 547.  His twin sister Scholastica also went on to become a saint and, if we’re lucky, we may learn more about her in a future Lent Madness.  But not this year.  Hearing a call to leave worldly life behind, Benedict left his studies in Rome at an early age.  He took his old nurse (not to be confused with his hometown of  Nursia)  with him as a servant and they settled down to live in a small town, Enfide.  He met a monk, Romanus of Subiaco, who gave him the monk’s habit and encouraged him to become a hermit for three years (no mention of what happened to the nurse…).

During these three years of solitude Benedict matured spiritually and won wide respect.  Many sought him out for counsel and spiritual advice.  He founded 12 monasteries, and, eventually, founded the great Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, which lies on a hilltop between Rome and Naples.  Benedict’s greatest achievement is his Rule of St. Benedict which stresses moderation and balance in all things:  worship, work, study, recreation.  Much of Anglican spirituality is based on Benedict’s rule, including the rhythm of worship found in our Daily Office.  Benedict’s Rule became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason, Benedict is often called the founder of western monasticism.

Hmmm…that smile looks vaguely familiar!

Anne:   pretty much everything that follows about her is prefaced with “legend has it…”  or “tradition says…” because we actually know nothing, nada, zip about Anne.  She is not mentioned in the Bible.  Not once.  Tradition says she is the mother of the Virgin Mary (therefore, as legend has it, Jesus’ granny).  The only reference to her in anything remotely biblical is in the New Testament Apocrypha in the book of — hold your hats for this one! — the Protoevangelium of James (what the…??).  I get to show off my smattering of Greek here:  it means the “First Gospel of James.” 

In Hebrew “Anne” would have been “Hannah” and there is a great OT story about Samuel whose mother Hannah prayed for a son even though she was beyond child-bearing years.  Here, interestingly, the Islamic Qur’an picks up with another “legend has it:”   Anne is revered in Islam as a highly spiritual woman and the mother of Mary.  She is described as a woman who remained childless into old age (here’s the connection with the OT Hannah), prayed for a child hoping for a son and when a daughter was born she named her Mary and realized this daughter was God’s gift to her.

Musings:  Now much as I love legends and traditions and can go on and on myself finding meaning in names, metaphors, and cross-cultural similarities, the story of the at-best-legendary Anne just doesn’t hold a candle for me to the real-life Benedict.  Benedict’s influence was felt throughout the church, setting the tone for monastic life to this day.  We Anglicans owe much to him as well in our own understanding that life is to be lived in a balance of work, play, and prayer.  In one of our discussions today at this conference we examined the role of the church during times of massive change, how sometimes the church is at the forefront of that change and sometimes — sometimes simultaneously — it holds and safeguards what is deep and true and constant.  Monastics such as Benedict embody that aspect  of church during times of change — times such as we are living through today.  My vote without hesitation today goes to Benedict — Benedetto da Norcia.

To vote, go here and and scroll to the bottom of the page.


Another Drubbing, I Suspect (Nicholas Ferrar VS Harriet Tubman…Seriously??) February 27, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 8:14 pm

Yesterday’s match-up, predictably if you ask me, ended in the biggest drubbing to date. Florence Li-Oi handily took out Chad (left him hanging, get it?…). IMHO poor Chad never stood a chance. That means Hilda will have to fight extra hard to uphold the Celtic banner. If I were an odds-maker I would bet that day’s match-up will follow a similar course as yesterday’s:  in the Ferrar vs Tubman bracket I predict Tubman will hand old Nicky his lunch.

St. John the Evangelist Church at Little Gidding

Nicholas Ferrar was born in the late 16th century to a wealthy family. They were chief investors in the Virginia Company and when it went bust Nicholas and his family moved to a small town in Huntingtonshire named “Little Gidding.” They embraced the vows of poverty (when life hands you lemons…), ceaseless prayer, good works, and following the offices of the Book of Common Prayer. They actually went through the entire Psalter (that’s all 150, count ’em! 150 psalms!) each day. Yowser! Nicholas was ordained deacon by Bishop Laud. He understood his calling to be that of service, not of administering the sacraments.

T.S. Eliot’s poem “Little Gidding,” from his Four Quarters, takes its name from the community established by Ferrar.

This quote from her says it all…

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the 1820’s. She worked as a field hand but managed to esc then turning  around to help members of her family escape as well. She went on to lead any others on to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Not letting the passage of he Fugitive Slave Act deter her she continued to lead people on to slavery, pushing on into Canada. She earned the nickname “Moses” and the signal for her arrival on the Railway was the singing of “Go Down Moses.

During the Civil War she volunteered to help the Union forces, first as a cook and nurse, then later as a spy and  armed scout.  She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, guiding the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina, liberating over 700 slaves.  After the war she retired to her family home in Auburn, New York where she also worked for women’s suffrage.

Musings: are you kidding me?  I thought yesterday’s match-up was a no-brainer, but a 17th century deacon who led a quiet, contemplative life vs one of the giants of American history who put her life on the line on a frequent basis?   I’m pretty clear about who I’m voting for (in fact already cast my vote for Moses).  This rather (IMHO) skewed match-up does beg the question, though, “what is a saint?” and the answer very clearly is they come in wide assortment and variety — from those who lay down their lives to those who try to live a simple, good life, serving Jesus Christ in the best way they can in the circumstances in which they find themselves.  That really is the key:  we are all of us called to be saints; to do so means to use what is available to us in the best way we can to serve Jesus in the world today.  “They are all of them saints of God and I mean, God helping, to be one too” (Hymn 293).

To vote, go here.


Ok, I Goofed — there is another Celtic Saint (VS the First Anglican Woman Priest) February 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 5:30 pm

How quickly we come to rely on new forms of technology and how grumpy we (well, I…) become when something we couldn’t have imagined a mere few years ago suddenly, temporarily, becomes unavailable. I am speakig of WiFi in airplanes. All the recent fligts I have taken have offered that capability. So, I thought logically, I will have a good 5+ hours in a plane yesterday en route to the CEEP conference in San Diego and I can then finish up and post my musings on the Battle of the Martin Luthers as well as getting a jump start on today’s Chad vs Florence Li Tim-Oi. “Is there WiFi on this fligh?” I asked the flight attendant after bording. Imagine my outrage (“What!!!??” spoken inwardly) that there was none. What kind of a retrograde airline is that! (And yet the idea of getting on to the internet at 35,000 feet airborne would have been unimaginable jut a few short years ago. Heck – the idea of the internet was unthinkable earlie in my own lifetime!). So I didn’t post (or even vote — gasp!) yesterday, but I see that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. won in what the Lent Madness people describe as a brutal battle. Even they admitted yesterday’s match-up was, I believe their word of choice was “diabolical”). Today passions will, hopefully, be less inflamed.

Chad of Lichfield: yes, yes, I now realize — Hilda was not the only Celtic saint in this year’s Madness. Chad is a 7th century sort of guy, which qualifes him. Since his story is really complex, mirroring the political intrigues of the day among the various kingdoms that make up the current UK, I refer you directly to the Lent Madness site for a better depiction. He was a 7th century monk and ultimately became Bishop of the Northumbrians, Mercians, and Lindsey People (great names, right?). If you do go to the LM site for better info about Chad I’m sure you’ll see more than a few references to voting and hanging chads…

Florence Li Tim-Oi: her nickname could be Rev’d Rosie the Riveter. Why? Well, as you may recall, during World War II when men were off fighting, women took over jobs that before (and after, for a long time…) were considered “men’s work.” But since there were no men to do it women stepped in as lumberjacks, factory workers, professional softball players, and, in the case of Florence and the Potuguese colony of Macau — priests.

In those days (1930’s) women were allowed be ordained as “deaconesses.” Florence was among them. When war came in the ’40’s, Macau filled up with Chinese refugees. A need was identified: there were not enouh priests to celebrate the Eucharist, so the local bishop, Ronald Hall, consulted with several theologians and found no objection to ordaining Florence priest.

Aftr the war when word got out that a woman had been ordained, in order to calm the ensuing storm, Florence Li Tim-Oi relinquished her license to officiate, but never renounced her vows. She continued her work as a lay minister, ultimately moving to Canada in the early 80’s where once again she could take up her priestly vocation. She died in the early 90’s, living long enough to see women’s ordination accepted in much of the wider Anglican Cmommunion.

Musings: I gotta go with Florence Tim-Oi this go-around. While I love me some Celts this one comes under the “no-brainer” heading for me personally. I love it, now, when I tell young girls “when I was your age girls couldn’t even be acolytes,” seeing their eyes get wide as saucers in disbelief because they don’t ever remember a time when all 7 sacraments were not open to all of humanity, regardless of gender. And how proud I am that the Episcopal Church has now said all 7 sacraments are available to all humanity regardless of sexual orientation as well. The Holy Spirit continues to nudge us, push us, forward. Some day we will fully understand what it means that we are all created in the imgage of God.

To vote go here, and remember to scroll to the bottom of the page, click the circle next to your saint of choice and then click “vote.”

Sorry, no pictures today ;-(


No Contenders on Saturday and Sunday… February 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 5:42 am

It’s quite late and I’m only just getting to my Shenanigans.  That’s because today was filled with Parents Weekend activities at my daughter’s college.  I confess to you my the few, the proud, the saintly Shenanigans blog followers that I indulged in the sin of Parent-of-a-Sophomore-Condescension today.  Inner eye-rolling at the Parents-of-Freshmen-Angst.  Exhibit A:  “Will the Career Services office help my son/daughter find the right internship this summer which will open the door for his/her successful career path and ultimate life happiness?”  Exhibit B:  “My daughter/son is a bio major and wants to study abroad.  His/her mentor doesn’t have all the answers about how to fit his/her sequence of required courses into a semester in London and the International Study office tells us to talk to the mentor.  What I hear you saying is that my son/daughter has to work all this out by him/herself????” (Unspoken response:  “OMG… Yes ma’am.  Your kid is in college now.  Please remove the the whirring sound of your helicopter blades from over his/her head.”).  Okay, so I exaggerate a tad.  Just a tad.  And also admit that gross caricature was,  to I hope a lesser degree, me just a year ago.

Yes, I can be snotty.  I confess to you and the Lord Jesus Christ…

One of the things I do so love about visiting the lives of the saints is learning and re-learning just how very human they all were too.  I find comfort in knowing that John Donne spent some years as a wastrel and Ignatius of Loyola was a self-impressed military officer.  I’m sure there was probably a saint or too who also committed the sin of stooping to the Mommy Wars (Augustine of Hippo’s mom Monica comes to mind…).

Well, this being a weekend, there are no brackets today or tomorrow.  I am delighted to report that John Donne did move on to the Saintly Sixteen round, leaving Agnes of Rome in the dust.  I am trying to get a head start on my posts and my musings about the play-offs scheduled for this coming week.  I have my thoughts on Monday’s Battle of the Martin Luthers saved and hope to put a dent in Tuesday’s Chad vs Li Tim while watching the Oscars tomorrow night.  All of this uncharacteristic doing things in advance is because I will be attending the annual Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes conference this coming week with a rather fulsome schedule of workshops and seminars.  I am really looking forward to it.  I hear the annual CEEP conference is one of the best and I hope to learn a lot about stewardship, long-range financial planning for congregations, building endowments and the like.  Rumor has it the Lent Madness folks will also be there!  I hope to have a chance to meet them.

Meanwhile, if anyone is experiencing Lent Madness withdrawal, the thoughtful supreme executive committee of LM has provided some weekend filler.  You can access it by going here.


Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls (it will either be for John Donne or Agnes of Rome) February 22, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 2:03 pm

I may have been a tad optimistic about yesterday’s match-up between Samuel Seabury and Hilda of Whitby’s being fairly equal.  It was not.  Whitby handed Seabury his hat in the biggest LM roust yet (79% to 21%).  So off she goes to hold her own against Ignatius of Antioch and may the best woman win 😉

Today’s unlikely pairing is a 16th/17th century metaphysical poet and priest and yet another early church martyr.  As follows:

(Dunne wrote a poem “The Flea.” Got “some” is meant to be ambiguous)

John Donne was born into a Catholic family in London in 1572 during a strong anti-Roman Catholic period.  To quote one source “Religion would play a tumultuous and passionate role in John’s life.

John entered Oxford at age 11 and also studied at Cambridge.  He never received a degree due to his Catholicism.  He next studied law at Lincoln’s Inn and then went on to spend most of his inheritance on women, books, and travel (not surprisingly most of his love lyrics and erotic poems come from this era).

A turning point in Donne’s life came when his brother Henry was arrested for harboring a Catholic priest, then dying of the plague in prison.  John began to question his Catholic faith – and wrote some of his best writings on religion.  At 25 he was appointed private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England and went on to become a Member of Parliament in 1601.  John lost his job with Egerton, though, and was thrown in jail when it was discovered that he had secretly married Egerton’s 16 year old niece Anne More.  Eight years later they finally reconciled (and Ann’s father coughed up her dowry).  Ann gave birth to 12 children in 18 years (yikes!!!), finally dying after the birth of #12.  Donne switched from love poems to more religious subjects, though he expressed his deep grief over Anne’s death in “17th Holy Sonnet.”

At some point Donne converted to Anglicanism (sources disagree about the actual date) and was also (by the way…) ordained as a priest in 1615.  He gained the reputation of being a great preacher in addition to his vast literary skills.  He became Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1621, and it was there during a severe illness in 1624 that he wrote “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions,”   (better known today as “No Man Is an Island”).  As his health continued to fail him he became obsessed with death; shortly before dying he delivered a “pre-funeral sermon” “Death’s Duel.”  Donne died in 1631 and was buried at St. Paul’s.  His tomb survived the Great Fire and can be visited in Wren’s “new” cathedral to this day.  John Donne was a prolific writer, poet, and satirist, chief among the Metaphysical poets.  His work fell out of favor for a time but was revived in the 20th century and influenced such modern poets as W.B Yeats and T.S. Eliot (whom Donne defeated in Lent Madness’ Play-in Round).

Agnes is almost always depicted holding a lamb. That’s because her name sounds like “Agnus” which is Latin for “lamb.”

Agnes of Rome (not to be confused with Agnes of Assisi, Agnes of Bohemia,  Agnes of Montepulciano, or Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (aka Mother Teresa) …

I am shamelessly copying the write-up of Agnes in Calendar of Saints: Lent Madness 2013 Editionbecause it’s really good.  Concise, to the point and mercifully sparing us the graphic martyr details some of the other sources seem to relish in.  You can paste that in your search engine and then find it on Amazon and you can order it direct to your electronic devise for the low, low price of just $4.99.  That way if you get stuck in doctor’s waiting room or bored on a long flight you can whip out your kindle or iPad or what have you and learn even more about our wonderful saints.  So here is the shortened version of Agnes’ prematurely shortened life:

“Under orders from the Emperor Diocletian, in 304, the giant politico-military machine of the Roman Empire went to work to rid itself of the troublesome subversives called Christians.  Many children were the innocent victims of this efficient blood purge.  Agnes of Rome is a famous example.

She was reared a Christian, and though just a young teenager when the persecution began, Agnes wished to witness for the faith.  A Roman official was attracted to her and might easily have saved her life.  He offered her jewelry and many pleasant gifts if she would renounce the Lord and her parents and worship the Roman gods.  Infatuated by the innocent girl, the official then attempted to seduce her.  She resisted and he became enraged.  He had her tortured and publicly stripped and abused.  At the culmination of this hideous ordeal she was killed with a sword.

The Roman world was stunned by the story of Agnes’ suffering, much as our world was stunned by The Diary of Anne Frank.  In the next generation, when Christianity was made legal, a shrine was erected to her honor in Rome.’”

Now I have to point out that there are several rather different versions of Agnes’ story (google “Agnes of Rome” sometime and see what you get!).  I have even heard some speculation that she wasn’t actually a real person at all but simply the embodiment of the Lamb of God (“Agnus Dei” – get it?).  One of my favorite stories from the annual St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School’s blessing of the animals event took place several years ago.  As I worked my way through the chaotic gathering of finned, furred, and frantic creatures (“Bless Hermie the Crab and the boy who loves him…”) a girl thrust a large, plush lamb at me.  “What’s its name?”  I asked.  “Jesus,”  she replied, then– slight pause – “Lamb of God.”  I swear no one can make this stuff up and it’s one of the reasons I love what I do!

Musings:  Um, the story of the young girl who would rather be martyred than a) renounce Christ and b) be married off to a pagan – that has a slightly familiar ring to it, doesn’t it?  Could it be – no, we couldn’t possibly have just read that same story less than a week ago?   Really?  Two early church virgin martyrs in less than a week but no St. Stephen?  Only one Celtic Saint?  So last Friday we get Lucy (who defeated John the Baptist, John the Baptist!!!) and this week we get same-story-different-girl Agnes.  If there is any justice in this world this John shall not undergo the same fate as The B did.  I am voting for John the Donne because I like his writings and want him to avenge John the Baptist.  (Yeah, okay, I am writing this with my tongue stuck firmly in my cheek!).

Vote early (but not often) and encourage your friends and family to vote here.


The Bishop and the Abbess: Sammy and Hildy square off February 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 4:34 pm

So on we plod toward the Saintly Sixteen!  The bottom right bracket was filled in yesterday by Oscar Romero’s sending Elizabeth Ann Seton packing — but come on, really, did she even have a chance???  This means Oscar will be taking on Lucy.  Too bad we can’t place little wagers because if we did I’d wager that Romero will sweep Lucy in the next round, thus vindicating John the B.   Today’s match-up may be a bit more of a nail-biter; strong cases can be equally made for Samuel Seabury and Hilda of Whitby.  And wonder of wonders, neither one is a martyr!

Samuel Seabury stained glass window at All Saints, Fort Lauderdale. Hey! That’s in our diocese! Who knew?

Samuel Seabury:  was the first bishop and second Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church.  Born in 1729, he grew up in Connecticut and studied theology at Yale.  He moved to Edinburgh to study medicine, going on to be ordained deacon, then priest, in England.  Returning to the Colonies, Seabury served as rector of several churches in New Jersey and New York.  Before and during the Revolutionary War, Seabury remained a staunch loyalist.  After the Revolution, however, Seabury became loyal to the new government.

He moved back to Connecticut where, a few years later, he was elected bishop.   But there was one “slight” hitch:  without any bishops on this side of The Pond to consecrate him, he had to go to England in search of episcopal (that’s “bishop-y”) hands to be laid on him.  Back in not-so-jolly England he was not met with warm hands, but rather– as Gomer Pyle used to say, “suh-prize, suh-prize, suh-PRIZE”–  with a  cold shoulder.  The official reason was something about Seabury’s not being able to swear allegiance to the king being now an, ahem, American.  But I suspect it had more to do with political noses being out of joint (oh doesn’t it just always…).

Ever ones to stick it to the English, a group of Scottish bishops who refused to recognize the authority of George III (“Non-juring bishops” is the buzz phrase we had to remember on pop quizzes back in seminary) said “come on up, Sammy boy, we’ll take a wee dram o’single malt and then take care ‘a  ye!”  So he was consecrated bishop by the affable Scotsmen with a not-too-hidden agenda and could now go back to the US and ordain priests and deacons.  The Brits, fearing a way too lovey-dovey-toward-Scotland attitude springing up in the American church eventually conceded the inevitable and consecrated the second US bishop (William White) so now the newly-named Episcopal Church could go on its merry way ordaining deacons and priests, and consecrating bishops as we saw fit.  We have even saw fit to consecrate  — gasp!– women bishops  (something the CofE has yet to do…).

Samuel Seabury’s legacy also includes contributions to the first American Book of Common Prayer (1789).  He brought a strong commitment to the Eucharist as well as an understanding that the Eucharist should be the main service of the week.  It took much of the rest of the church another almost 200 years to catch up with him, but I’m delighted that even back in my own old mid-Atlantic stomping grounds you will no longer find Morning Prayer (Rite I of course)  on Pentecost because it happens to be the 3rd Sunday of the month…

Samuel Seabury went home to God in 1796.  We Episcopalians owe him a lot.

The ruins of Hilda’s abbey at Whitby. This is about how close I came to it when on sabbatical with my then 11 and 6 year old kids. We got there just as it closed and then had trouble finding a place to stay, settling on a somewhat sketchy B&B. My kids don’t have good memories of Whitby…

Hilda of Whitby was born in 614 and raised in the Northumbrian (northeast England) court of King Edwin after she was orphaned.  Along with the rest of his court, Hilda was baptized on Easter, 627.  We know nothing about Hilda from the time of her baptism until she was 33 years old.  What we do know of her comes the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English.

We pick up the Hilda thread at age 33 when she is already, presumably, a nun.  She has answered Aidan of Lindsifarne’s call to return to Northumbria.  Having learned the traditions of Celtic monasticism, Hilda eventually founded an abbey/monastery at Whitby on the rugged coast of the North Sea.  The communal life of the abbey was conducted in the Celtic style, focusing less on hierarchy and more on community.  Those abbeys were co-ed:  men and women, whose roles were not as rigidly delineated as in other church eras, lived separately in small houses but worked and worshiped together.  Hilda was by no means the only female leader of such a community back in the day.  As many others did, the community of Hilda’s Whitby abbey lived by the Celtic values of holding goods and property in common, focusing on the Christian virtues of peace, charity, study of the Bible, good works and hospitality.  Hilda herself was known as a skilled administrator, highly energetic and a woman of great wisdom; kings sought her out for advice.

In 664, King Oswiu called for a synod, the first of its kind in the British Isles, to be held at Whitby.  By that time Britain was characterized by two forms of Christianity:  the Celtic and the Roman.  Oswiu saw the need to settle two particular issues:  the method for establishing the yearly date of Easter and the style of the “tonsure” (the bald spot in a monk’s hairdo).  As often happens with “small issues,”  these actually carried a far deeper level of meaning  (remember the first great schism in the church took place over adding – or not – the word “and” to the Nicene Creed: “…the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and (or not) the Son…”).

In the end, the Roman side won, thus setting the  course for the British Isles eventually to become part of the hierarchical structure of the Roman church.  Until… — but that’s another story for another day.

Celtic Spirituality never really went away, it continued just under the surface of so much of British/Scottish/Welsh/Irish spirituality for centuries.  I for one don’t believe it’s an accident that so much mystical literature comes from these Isles (think of elves and leprechauns, King Arthur, The Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and most recently Harry Potter).  I for one rejoice that our Celtic underpinnings  have now re-emerged with such overt vigor in a time when we so clearly need a spiritual emphasis on community, the goodness of creation, and the preservation of the natural world.

Musings: Before I reacquainted myself with Samuel Seabury and Abbess Hilda I was sure I would be voting for Samuel.  I have had a grudge against Hilda for a long time.  Don’t get me wrong, there is so much about her that I love:  her strength, energy, wisdom and her embodiment of the Celtic values I so cherish.  My grudge came not from her personally but rather from the outcome of the Synod, which for many years I held Hilda personally responsible.  I have often wondered what would have happened if the Celtic way ultimately “won out” over the Roman and since, I had to blame somebody, I blamed Hilda.  I saw the Roman victory as her being the victim of her own generously hospitable nature.  The one committed to hospitality always makes the guest feel at home and have the last word.  In my ruminations I would even go so far as to mentally call Hilda a pushover, thinking that she had let the people with the Roman viewpoint just walk all over her!

But in preparing today’s Shenanigans post, I have reassessed my hardline view.  Can the blame really be Hilda’s?  She wasn’t the one who ultimately acquiesced to the Roman view after all; she was one of many who attended that Synod.  And how often when we make a small compromise (for surely the date of Easter and the shape of a monk’s bald spot must have seemed small at the time) do we have an inkling of what it will eventually lead to?   No, I’ve been grossly unfair to Hilda over the years and so I have decided she’s getting my vote today.   Besides, she’s the only Celtic saint in this year’s Madness.  Samuel, thank you that we now have our own American bishops (it would be tedious to have to  keep schlepping people off to Scotland to be consecrated) and a huge thank you for your emphasis on Eucharist, but I’m casting my vote with Hilda this time.  Besides, if she advances, I can vicariously have a grudge match against the Ignatius who defeated the Ignatius I voted for!

To vote, go here


The Battle of the RC’s (Though one started life as an Episcopalian…) February 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 3:56 pm

We now have the first pair to move on to the “Saintly 16”:  by defeating Thomas Tallis yesterday, Janani Luwum moves on to square off against Jonathan Daniels.  Maybe if the Lent Madness people had run the photo of Joe Van Moyland as Tallis in The Tudors my boy Tommy might have had a better chance.  Ah well, so it goes in Madness…  Actually yesterday’s Shenanigans inspired me to watch The Tudors so I’ve now seen episodes 1 &2.  Glad I didn’t live in those days!

Today we have a giant of Liberation Theology (and another modern day martyr)  up against the founder of the parochial school system in the US.  The LM people just don’t want to make it easy for us, do they?  I was lulled into thinking this would be a cakewalk with the first two brackets (Jonathan Daniels vs Macrina and J the B vs Lucy in case you’ve already forgotten).  But no, noooooooo.  So who are these two Roman Catholics who’ve so cruelly been pitted against each other?  Read on, read on:

The statue of Archbisohp Romero over the great west entrance of Westminster Abbey

Archbishop Oscar Romero was born into a poor family El Salvador in 1917.  Of course the vast majority of Salvadorans were (and still are…) extremely poor.  Just 13 families owned 40% of the land; most people earned under $100 a year.  Oscar felt a call to be a priest from a very young age and was eventually able to get the needed education ending up in Rome where he was ordained in 1942.  He was called back to serve the church in El Salvador a few years later, becoming Bishop of Santiago de Maria in 1975.  Romero was appointed Archbishop of El Salvador in 1977.   The choice of Romero was not popular among the progressive clergy, those working for human rights, because Romero was extremely conservative and much in favor with the government.

In favor, that is, until he experienced a radical conversion a month after his consecration.  A close friend of his, Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande who actively worked for human rights, was assassinated (many clergy, nuns, and other progressives were being jailed, tortured, and murdered at that time).   Romero’s awakening began with these words:  “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought ‘if they have killed him for doing what he did then I too have to walk that same path.'”  Romero urged the government to investigate Grande’s death but he was ignored.

From then on Archbishop Romero became a champion of the poor and began speaking against poverty, social injustice, torture and assassination.  His prophetic sermons were broadcast each Sunday and he became known as the “Voice of the Voiceless.”  On March 23, 1980 his sermon included these words, ““Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies…The harvest comes because of the grain that dies.”  He was assassinated the following day while celebrating mass in a hospital chapel.

Archbishop Oscar Romero’s statue, along with  that of Janani Luwum, is one of the ten 20th century martyrs above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey.  The others are:  Maximilian Kolbe, Manche Masemola, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, Martin Luther King Jr, Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esther John, Lucian Tapiedi and Wang Zhiming.

This is a much nicer depiction than the one you usually see, IMHO.  No reason the women saints need to look all frumpy-dumpy!

Elizabeth Ann Seton was born into a wealthy Episcopal New York family in 1774 (her maternal grandfather was an Episcopal priest).  She grew up in an environment in which charitable works were the norm, often accompanying her stepmother to bring food to the homes of those in need.  Elizabeth was married at age 19 to a prominent export-import dealer, William Seton, and they had five children.  In 1804, however, William experienced a double blow:  his business teetered on bankruptcy and he became seriously ill.  They decided to go to Italy for his health, but he was placed in quarantine when they arrived and died soon after.

Elizabeth and her children stayed with her husband’s friends Filippo and Anna Filicchi in Livorno, Italy for a time after William’s death.  It was through Anna that Elizabeth became drawn to the Roman Catholic church.  She was particularly compelled by the Eucharist.  Soon after she returned to the US she converted, eventually being confirmed in1806 by Bishop John Carroll, the only Roman Catholic bishop in the US at the time.  During that era there was a very strong anti-Catholic bias in this country, so much so that when word of her conversion got out families withdrew their daughters from the academy Elizabeth had started to support herself and her children.

By a stroke of luck — or grace — she was befriended by members of the Sulpician order of brothers whose mission was educating the young.  With their help and support she moved to Emmitsburg, MD where she founded both a school — which gave rise to the parochial school movement which still thrives throughout the US today — and an order of nuns, the Sisters of Charity.  It was at that time she became known as “Mother Seton.”

Elizabeth Ann Seton died in 1821 and is buried at the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg.  She is the first native-born American to be canonized in the Roman Catholic church.

Musings: Much as I respect and admire Mother Seton, my vote goes to Archbishop Romero today.  Mother Seton’s legacy is still strong today — how many children have come through the halls of parochial schools, how many who otherwise would have had a sub-standard education.  The Sisters of Charity continue to do great work to this day.  But we have to choose.  There was a song by the Lovin’ Spoonful in the 60’s (note, I didn’t say “do you remember a song by the Lovin’ Spoonful.” I have learned the hard way that the majority do not remember songs from the sixties because they weren’t around yet!) which could be the theme song of Lent Madness:

Did you ever have to make up your mind,
And pick up on one,
And leave the other behind,
It’s not often easy and not often kind,
Did you ever have to make up your mind?

This is, of course, particularly hard on Meyers/Briggs perceivers “P”s.  But choose I must and I am going with Archbishop Romero.  His is such a powerful story.  He was favored by the government in power but his conversion was so compelling he could no longer refrain from preaching the true Good News of Jesus Christ, despite the cost.  If he advances to the next round (as I suspect he will…) we might look a little deeper into the part the US played in Latin America in the 70’s and 80’s.  Not a pretty picture…

To vote, go here.  And remember, scroll to the bottom of the Lent Madness page this takes you to, click on the circle next to your favorite saint’s name, then click on “vote.”  Vote early, but do not vote often or the saints will weep and the supreme executive committee of LM will block you!