Monday, October 15

Biblical Evidence for Catholicism is the great website operated by Dave Armstrong, a comprehensive collection of articles (his own and others) covering just what the title suggests. Dave has published a book with the same title. It's available through the publish-on-demand operation called 1stBooks . Click here or here for more information.
Why the Episcopal Church is in trouble: Exhibit 476(a): Read this letter from October 8 written by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church regarding the military response to the terrorist attacks. No, it's not that he's against them that's striking. It's that the whole letter is such an excellent example of Missing the Point, of what most Western Christian denominations have devolved into: in response to problems, let's form a commission:

As I shared with the House [a meeting of bishops]while we were in Burlington, I have asked the Rt. Rev. Arthur Walmsley, retired Bishop of Connecticut, to coordinate the activities flowing out from our statement. [ On Waging Reconciliation] Arthur has graciously agreed to give us time through the March meeting of the House of Bishops to serve as Coordinator of the House of Bishops Reconciliation Initiative. At the March meeting we will look at what has already been accomplished and consider future strategies, which are being developed over these next months.

Huh? They're going to talk more about the war in March?

Do read the letter. Laugh. Cry. And mind you, I'm not picking on Episcopalians here. I've had my say on the Catholic bishops, as well. Go to the homepage and click on the article called Swords? Ploughshares?

Here's a good piece on the whole Bert/bin Laden thing from The National Review by Andrew Stuttaford. Good quote:

It may have been an accidental triumph, but who cares? Western culture, represented in this case by the unlikely standard-bearer, Evil Bert, had once again humiliated its dim, dismal, and demented opponents, fools who would run a world, but cannot operate a PC

A Delta flight was diverted when two men were spotted at the back of the plane, huddled together and speaking a foreign language.

They were Jewish. They were praying.

This comes the day after a plane was diverted to Indianapolis, after a flight attendant found a "powdery substance" on the plane. It was talcum powder. This, in turn, comes a day after a situation in which people reported yet another "powdery substance" on yet another plane that turned out to be confetti from an opened greeting card.

"People are really being careful and sensitive," said the Aviation Director of the Charlotte Airport.

I guess that's one way to put it.

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

What a woman. Brilliant, articulate, passionate and, above all, deeply in love with God. St. Teresa of Avila is one of the most powerful answers we have to the accusation that the Church is irredeemably sexist at its core, both in terms of her life and in the devotion accorded to her over the past five hundred years.

She's also a pretty vivid answer to the accusation that the spiritual life of Christians somehow strips us of our humanity and uniqueness. In fact, when you look at all the great saints, made so what the faithful have sensed God has accomplished in them, one of the things that will strike you is their utter humanity. Of course, there's such a thing as hagiography and myths and legends that spring up around figures that render them rather other-worldly. But for the most part, the most revered saints are those who have nothing to hide: St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Therese of Lisieux, and, of course, Teresa are all keenly aware of their faults, so the way they open themselves to the power of God working in their lives becomes all the more inspiring and accessible for it.

One of the most interesting aspects of Teresa's life is that she really didn't get rolling, spiritually speaking, until mid-life. She was over forty when, after years of life in the convent, years during which she prayed with varying degrees of interest and commitment, she finally began to give herself over to God in meditation and contemplation, and it bore fruit....the fruit was, of course, her spiritual writings as well as her reform of religious life. While Cathleen Medwick's biography of Teresa has its faults - not enough exploration of her mysticism - I found it a rather good introduction to her life and exploration of the wretched politics she had to wade through in order to follow her call to reform the Carmelites.

A brief aside: Teresa's story, like the story of every other great figure in the Church, reminds me of a truth. As a critic of many church institutions, especially schools and religious ed programs, I get a lot of well-meaning people telling me that it's all okay, we just need to work on fixing these institutions from the inside ...you know...get on the school boards, get involved, and so on. Well, that works sometimes, but when things really get terrible, the history of the church tells us, over and over, that working from the inside has its definite limits. Most real, positive change in the Church and its institutions has come from doing something brand new.

That's what Teresa did. The Carmelite convents of her day had become little more than boarding houses for wealthy unmarried women. The "cloister" was a joke, and "poverty" was what happened when your family's gift of sweets ran out for the month. Teresa tried to fix this from the inside, but it didn't take her long to realize that something else was really needed: starting new convents dedicated to simplicity, asceticism, and contemplation. So she did.

For more information on St. Teresa of Avila, go here , and for a list of sites devoted to her, go here.

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