Monday, 31 October 2011

Theological dissonance.

There is a thundering theological dissonance between this (the "Libera me"  - the version of which from Faure's Requiem was sung beautifully by the choir last night at the All Souls Mass at St Michael and All Saint's Edinburgh) :

Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda: 
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra. 
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem. 
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo, dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira. 
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra. 
Dies illa, dies iræ, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde. 
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem. 
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved.
That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.

and this (the Post Communion collect for All Souls Day from Exciting Holiness used at the same service) :

God of love,
may the death and resurrection of Christ
which we have celebrated in this Eucharist
bring us, with all the faithful departed,
into the peace of your eternal home.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ,
our rock and our salvation,
to whom be glory for time and for eternity.

On the one hand, a God who shall judge the world by fire, who make us tremble and fear The Wrath of God.  On the other,  a God of Love who draws us through the death and resurrection of the only begotten Son into the peace of our eternal home.  The two ideas have their own validity (though I have to say I prefer the modern theology but adore the Faure music - my own inner theological dissonance.) but they simply don't sit comfortably side by side in the same liturgy.  One of the challenges facing any practising liturgist is how to mesh the best of tradition with the best of the new.  And sometimes you just have to admit that the mesh is not actually possible.  There's many a Remembrance Sunday that simply never uses "I vow to thee my Country" because the sentiment nicely wrapped in Holst is utterly foreign to modern culture and sensibility.  It all works fine if you treat the music simply as a mood setter and ignore its theology, cloaked in luscious notes and hidden in generally incomprehensible Latin (just don't print the English translation in the order of service).  If you think that the meaning of what we sing with our lips is just as important as what we say aloud, then there is a problem.  Then you have to choose - Ancient or Modern?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

For All the Saints


This Sunday in sunny Edinburgh, we are keeping the Feast of All Saints (one of our 2 dedication fesitivals) rather than the Umpteenth Sunday after Trinity. Traditionally, this is kept on November 1, followed by All Souls' Day on November 2
The festival of All Saints really began in the West on May 13, 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome (a wonderful pagan temple and a quite pleasant Church) to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated in Rome ever since. There is evidence that from the fifth until the seventh centuries in certain places there were sporadic celebrations on 13 May to remember the holy martyrs. However, some maintain that it has to do with the pagan observation on 13 May of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of All Saints on the shared date and theme of "all the dead".

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III of an oratory in St. Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world", with the day moved to 1 November and the 13 May feast suppressed.  This usually fell near the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to  Lemuria, but with overtones of a harvest festival. The Irish, having celebrated Samhain in the past, did not celebrate All Hallows Day in November, as historical documents suggest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring: the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches in Ireland celebrated the feast of All Saints on April 20.  Typical of the Irish to do their own thing!

The November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1 by the time of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops", which confirmed its celebration on November 1. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484).
The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it acts as a general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the Saturday between October 31 and November 6. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. 

Protestants generally regard all true believers as saints and, if they observe All Saints Day at al,l they use it to remember all Christians both past and present. In the United Methodist Church, All Saints' Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November. It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those that have died that were members of the local congregation.  In many Lutheran churches, All Saints' Day and Reformation Day are observed together on the Sunday before or after those dates, given that Reformation Day is observed in Protestant Churches on October 31. Typically, Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" is sung during the service. The observance of Reformation Day may be immediately followed by a reading out of the names of those members of the local congregation who have died in the past year in observance of All Saints' Day.  In English-speaking countries, the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn "For All the Saints" by William Walsham How. The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The Eastern Orthodox follow the earlier tradition of commemorating all saints collectively on the first Sunday after Pentecost.  The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo VI "the Wise" (886–911). His wife, Empress Theophano—commemorated on December 16—lived a devout life. After her death in 893, her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her. When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to "All Saints," so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honored whenever the feast was celebrated. According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of All Martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not.

"Almighty God,
you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
   in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
grant us grace so to follow your blessèd saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen"

St Paul's and all that.

Now here's a thought:

Play with it.  Reflect on it in regard to the recent shenanigans around St Paul's Cathedral in London.  The establishment of the Church closing the over-priced museum (sorry, I mean Cathedral) for longer than the Luftwaffe ever managed to do.  The media loving Canon who first issued a welcome (albeit, the normal and insipid one that any parish priest uses to any weirdly dressed placard bearer who stops outside St Whatsits to demonstrate against the evils of haddock farming in the Utter Hebrides - "Of course you're welcome in this church" (even if you do look like Tarzan, smell like Cheetah and walk like Jane - hey we're Anglicans!) ) resigns because he can't reconcile himself to the collective responsibility for legal action that may lead to Inspector Knacker of the Yard clearing the protesters off the premises with riot gear on.  It is to quote George Carey (a rare occurrence for me) a "debacle".  I very much doubt that Jesus thinks much of any of the participants.  The Chapter have behaved stupidly in siding with the City authorities.  Giles Fraser has as usual indulged in "lovable maverick" grandstanding.  And all of course in the name of Christ.  With full media hoopla.

Says it all really.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Fresh Expressions of Church

I know they all go on about "Fresh Expressions of Church these days but my personal preference is for...

...stale expressions (obviously)!  Happy SS Simon & Jude btw!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Myers Briggs and Prayer.

This is for all of us who ever had to be cod-analysed by Myers-Bloody-Briggs fans during our training or selection.

At least we now have some idea of what to pray!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Yorkshire Saints and Nachos!

File:St John Thwing Window (NigelCoates) Aug 2007.jpg

The obscure saint for today is St John of Bridlington (see ) depicted above in the Parish Church of All Saints Thwing (his hometown).  If you know anyone having a difficult labour (no, not Ed Milliband!) he's your designated intercessor.  It's also The International Day of the Nacho. It began in the 1990s in the United States and Mexico to celebrate the invention of nachos by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya in 1943 in Piedras Negras, Coahuila.  So that'll be a very traditional Mexican dish then?  To be fair, it was aimed at tourists.

Piedras Negras is just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. One day in 1943, the wives of ten to twelve U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan in nearby Eagle Pass were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, and arrived at the restaurant after it had closed for the day. The maître d', Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, invented a new snack for them with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles, added longhorn cheddar cheese, quickly heated them, and added sliced jalapeño peppers. He served the dish, calling it Nachos especiale - "Special Nachos".

Anaya went on to work at the Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras, which still uses the original recipe. He also opened his own restaurant, "Nacho's Restaurant", in Piedras Negras. Anaya's original recipe was printed in the 1954 St. Anne's Cookbook.The popularity of the dish grew throughout Texas. The first known appearance of the word "nachos" in English dates to 1949, from the book A Taste of Texas.  

Never minds nachos - after quiche for tea I want some real food before bedtime.  Ho to the Chinese!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Of Arians and hernias!

How about a little Arianism?  This fine fellow is St Artemius of Antioch, martyr and patron saint of hernias whose festivals is today.  Funny how piety can drive people to acts of immense courage even if it is misguided.  That said, although during the reign of the Emperor Julian the Apostate Artemius was a fanatical Arian, hunting and persecuting monks, nuns and bishops (including Saint Athanasius), prayer and the horror of the persecutions, converted him to Orthodox Christianity. He became a strong supporter of the faith, and turned on pagans, including the Emperor Julian. He was accused by pagans of destroying idols, arrested, taken to Antioch, tortured and martyred.  Just goes to show that there is always hope for even the most aggressively inclined of us.  The enemy of Christ become the martyr willing to die.  Even Qaddafi?  Possibly - who knows?  Well, God obviously.  Judgement, grace and mercy are entirely God's prerogatives and it is not for us to prescribe the boundaries of God's love.  Do that and we might easily put ourselves beyond it's reach.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The first Pope in Scotland.


Never mind St Luke or much piety, tomorrow is the birthday of the 1st Pope to visit Scotland - Pius II aka Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini. In 1435 he was sent by Cardinal Albergati  on a secret mission to Scotland. The journey to Scotland proved so traumatic he swore that he would walk barefoot to the nearest shrine of Our Lady from their landing port. This proved to be Dunbar (where I will be today), and the nearest shrine was 10 miles away at Whitekirk (I'll drive through it en route to lunch at North Berwick). The journey through the ice and snow left Aeneas afflicted with pain in his legs for the rest of his life. In Scotland he had his second natural child, the other one having been born in Strasburg.  A rather lively lad, but actually a fairly competent medieval Pope.  It's also Martina Navratilova's birthday and the anniversary of the composer Gounod's death (he wrote some nice stuff  including his famous Ave Maria - including the National Anthem for the Vatican City!).  Bless 'em all for giving some fun to the world in various ways.  one as author, one through sport and one through music.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Teresa of Avila

My favourite woman saint is the wonderful Carmelite, Teresa of Avila.  Bernini's sculpture is a wonderful picture but is even more stunning in reality when you see it in the  side chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria.  The French portrait of 1827 is magnificently romantic, but the one with the dove is probably the most life like, being a copy of a painting of the Madre made when she was 61.  Much could be said about her but I love this little poem of hers and will let her words give a taste of the strength, wisdom and humour of the lady herself.  Enjoy her!


Just these two words He spoke
changed my life,
"Enjoy Me."

What a burden I thought I was to carry -
a crucifix, as did He.

Love once said to me, "I know a song,
would you like to hear it?"

And laughter came from every brick in the street
and from every pore
in the sky.

After a night of prayer, He
changed my life when
He sang,
 "Enjoy Me." 
St Teresa of Avila

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Our Lady again.

Icon of the Mother of God of Yakhrom
Just to show that I am positively and universally Catholic in my Marian devotion (and October is traditionally the month of the Rosary), here's something from Holy Russia for 14 October.

The Yakhrom Icon of the Mother of God appeared to a holy youth Cosmas, while he was accompanying his master, a sick landowner. They had stopped on the bank of the Yakhrom River, not far from Vladimir, and the sick man fell asleep. Cosmas suddenly saw a bright light coming from a nearby tree, and heard a voice, "Attend and understand the words of life. Live a God-pleasing life and seek the joy of the righteous, and then you will delight in eternal blessings." The light had come from an icon of the BVM.

Cosmas took the icon and placed it on his master, who was immediately healed. After this, when Cosmas's term of service expired, he went to the Kiev Caves monastery. After he was tonsured, he amazed even the experienced monks by his spiritual efforts.

Years later, St Cosmas was told by an angel to return to the place where he had found the icon. He took the wonderworking icon with him to the bank of the Yakhrom River where he had found the icon. At once, the place was again filled with light. St Cosmas built a monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God, and placed the Yakhrom Icon within it.

 Here's an icon of St Cosmas in the sake of balance

Our Lady of Fatima

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. All very apocalyptic was the message - but hey, it was 1917 and it must have looked like the end of the world was very near with WWI in full swing and the Bolsheviks arising in Petrograd.  The Angel Prayer is a good 'un: 

O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.

Whatever one might think of the dancing Sun or the "secrets", intercession for the salvation of the world by the most Holy Trinity can't really be faulted theologically by anyone.  So, it might be a prayer you feel you could make.  "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray WITH us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

Gay marriage in Scotland

I've made no comment on the current media stramash on the Scottish Guvinment's consultation on Same Sex Marriage up till now, but it's been interesting watching the apparently unlikely alliance of the Roman Catholic and Free Churches ("Nae chance" approach) and also the reaction to the sharp critique offered by the Provost of St Mary's Cathedral Glasgow ("You lot embarrass the Christian community")  The Primus of the SEC has given what I regard as a nicely judged contribution in today's Hootsmon snoozepaper:

I acknowledge the absolute right and freedom of those opposed to the idea to let the appropriate authorities know what they think.  It's called democracy.  If they expect it to be uncritically adopted, then they are seeking a theocracy, which I never liked since studying Politics and the Continental Reformation at Uni.  Zwingli and Calvin didn't run City States with a good record for tolerating theological diversity and their heirs would be as assuredly bad at it as they were.  The Holy Camping Stove of St Andrews is quite right.  Freedom to bless and affirm, with a conscience clause allowing those faith groups who conscientiously disagree to not participate, strikes as an entirely reasonable, mature approach.  Welcome to the modern world, O Church leaders who hanker after an age when you were kow-towed to.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Symeon the New Theologian


I don't like St Wilfrid much, so I'll ignore him today and go for a different saint.  Hey, it's my blog, not the SEC's:-).  According to the Greek Orthodox Calendar, today is the Feast day of St Symeon the New Theologian.  Symeon wasn't a massive fan of the Episcopate as he encountered it.  I mean he wrote;

They (the bishops) unworthily handle My Body
and seek avidly to dominate the masses...
They are seen to appear as brilliant and pure,
but their souls are worse than mud and dirt,
worse even than any kind of deadly poison,
these evil and perverse men! (Hymn 58)

He was also a strong believer in direct personal experience of God as a prerequisite for teaching or leading and was rather inclined to disregard ordination as a requirement for hearing confessions and absolving the penitent. He was in some ways the Patron Saint of the Charismatic Movement.

In his Discourse XXVIII Symeon wrote about the light of Christ and its power to transform:
It shines on us without evening, without change, without alteration, without form. It speaks, works, lives, gives life, and changes into light those whom it illuminates. We bear witness that "God is light," and those to whom it has been granted to see Him have all beheld Him as light. Those who have seen Him have received Him as light, because the light of His glory goes before Him, and it is impossible for Him to appear without light. Those who have not seen His light have not seen Him, for He is the light, and those who have not received the light have not yet received grace. Those who have received grace have received the light of God and have received God, even as Christ Himself, who is the Light, has said, "I will live in them and move among them." (2 Cor. 6:16).

May the light of Christ transform us into that same light to change the world into the image of his glory.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Thomas Traherne

October 10 is the commemoration of the English poet and divine Thomas Traherne (1637-1674).  Here's a taste of his stuff.

A Serious and Pathetical Contemplation of the Mercies of God

For all the mysteries, engines, instruments, wherewith the world is filled, which we are able to frame and use to thy glory.

For all the trades, variety of operations, cities, temples, streets, bridges, mariner's compass, admirable picture, sculpture, writing, printing, songs and music; wherewith the world is beautified and adorned.

     Much more for the regent life,
     And power of perception,
     Which rules within.
     That secret depth of fathomless consideration
     That receives the information of all our senses,
     That makes our centre equal to the heavens,
      And comprehendeth in itself the magnitude of the world;
      The involv'd mysteries of our common sense;
      The inaccessible secret of perceptive fancy;
      The repository and treasury of things that are past;
      The presentation of things to come;
      Thy name be glorified for evermore.

      O miracle of divine goodness!
      O fire! O flame of zeal, and love, and joy!
       Ev'n for our earthly bodies, hast thou created all things.
      All things visible, material, sensible.
      Animals, Vegetables, Minerals,
      Bodies celestial, Bodies terrestrial,
      The four elements, Volatile spirits,
      Trees, herbs, and flowers,
      The influences of heaven,
      Clouds, vapors, wind,
      Dew, rain, hail and snow,
      Light and darkness, night and day,
      The seasons of the year.
      Springs, rivers, fountains, oceans,
     Gold, silver, and precious stones.
      Corn, wine, and oil,
       The sun, moon, and stars,
       Cities, nations, kingdoms.
And the bodies of men, the greatest treasures of all,
For each other.
What then, O Lord, hast thou intended for our Souls,
who givest to our bodies such glorious things!
Enjoy and reflect - God made all of us and all of it is good.  It's only our twisted human visons and misunderstandings that make it so "evil".  That twistedness (which you can call original sin) distorts us and our actions so severely that the world and others and God suffer.  If we let divine Grace in Christ change, transform and re-order "our unruly wills and affections", then God's will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Sunday a day of rest?

Old Saint Paul's viewed from the balcony at the back of the church
I spent the morning preaching and celebrating at the Good Shepherd Murrayfield (babies and the baptising thereof was left to the Deacon Brenda!) and then went to lecture on the history of St Michael and All Saints where I am officially attached.  Most illuminating it was too!  Curates with rich wives, mega wealthy High Church spinster sisters, social outreach to fallen women - good rollicking stuff!  Tonight I had a fancy for Evensong and tootled off to Old St Paul's where Anglican chant and Stanford in A reminded me that I am at heart a "Stale Expressions of Church" man, rather than a "Fresh Expressions" fiend!  Then a fish supper for my tea - life is good!

Be still and know.

Here's a thought for the day that I thought was worth sharing:
I create a pool of inner quiet through meditation and contemplation. I create a place of peace within me that I can call on throughout my day. I give myself time to sense the meaning of my life. Unless my mind slows down, I will not be still enough to know through direct experience. I will not have the inner peace to come in touch with deeper and deeper layers of self. If I accumulate and accomplish all that I set out to but lose my ability to enjoy, then I have bought into a fool's paradise. Then I will simply be surrounded by riches that I am unable to appreciate. I will take good care of myself today. I recognize that an important part of taking good care of myself is to give myself the quiet time I need and deserve in order to be happy.
I give myself the quiet I need.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  Mark 8:36-37

Time for a wee quiet lurk with God, I think.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The day thou gavest...

Luckily, this will not be my problem at Murrayfield tomorrow!  Organ & choir, Hymns Old and New and a baptism (the deacon does that!)  Today was marked the "Booking of the Honeymoon".  France, a cottage and a swimming pool are the key ingredients.  And we sorted the wedding hymns.  And the Liturgy will be modern Scottish - but no keech like "handsel" will be involved and there will be a confession and proper prayers for the bride and groom before the Eucharistic prayer starts and nae clergy wandering aboot after the consecration to bless us.  The Liturgy gurus of the Province can experiment away with the laity if they like - neither of us intends our nuptial mass to be a liturgical experiment. (I was very anti vivisection as a youth!  I ain't gonna be no liturgical guinea pig!)  They did that to us when I was a student at Coates Hall and to this day I dislike that ring bound folder thing they call the Scottish Daily Office.  If you need an Office book, a lectionary, a guide to the lectionary, a bible, something with a collect and a hymn book to say mattins with an office hymn then you need to get your act together and produce something more workable.  Moi, je prefere l'Office SSF.  All you need is a bible and a hymnal and a lectionary.  And you're off!  The beauty of the Roman Office is that everything is in one volume.  Perhaps our liturgical gurus might take note of that!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Why I am not a Rector (and neither was St Francis).


Just recently, I've been doing quite a lot of church stuff.  And was reminded why I am happier as a Self Supporting Minister.  Office bearers moaning about other office bearers being too officious, encroaching on their area of responsibility and uttering the immortal incantation: "I'll speak to the Rector about it".  Members of the congregation barneying over disabled parking with others who also drive the disabled to Church.  Again the response "We'd better get the Rector to sort it out".  Being somewhat free of the structures, I don't have to put up with the expectation of having to sort out the petty squabbles of other wise intelligent and devout adults who ought to be able to sort this keech out without needing  the assistance of a priest who is called upon to act like a kindergarten superintendent.

But I've also had to pray for someone who's just been diagnosed with bowel cancer, another who was beaten up by the Israeli police whilst protecting Arab orphans under his care were caught up in a bit of a riot.  And stand in for a colleague who got whisked off for a check up when her pulse went all irregular.  Give tea to a distressed RC priest who'd had no support from his brethren.  Real stuff, not church c**p.

So I reflect on this and my own impatience with the Church:

From the first known letter from St Francis of Assisi to all Christians:
 "O how happy and blessed are those who love the Lord and do as the Lord himself said in the gospel: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your neighbor as yourself. Thereofore, let us love God and adore him with pure heart and mind. This is his particular desire when he says: True worshipers adore the Father in spirit and truth. For all who adore him must do so in the spirit of truth. Let us also direct to him our praises and prayers, saying: "Our Father, who are in heaven," since we must always pray and never grow slack.

    Furthermore, let us produce worthy fruits of penance. Let us also love our neightbors as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will recieve from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve. We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be sinple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to very human being for God's sake. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end. He will permanently dwell in them. They will be the Father's children who do his work. They are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace gladly to renounce the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfect joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Little Flower

"Thérèse of Lisieux is the patron saint of people with AIDS, aviators, florists, illness(es) and missions."  (An odd mix indeed!) According to one of her biographers, Guy Gaucher, after her death, "Thérèse fell victim to an excess of sentimental devotion which betrayed her. She was victim also to her language, which was that of the late nineteenth century and flowed from the religiosity of her age." Thérèse herself said on her death-bed, "I only love simplicity. I have a horror of pretence", and she spoke out against some of the Lives of saints written in her day," We should not say improbable things, or things we do not know. We must see their real, and not their imagined lives."

I always regarded devotion to "the Little Flower" as a sign of soppy piety, but can accept Gaucher's analysis as a reason to look beyond my gut reaction and take her insights more seriously.  These are some of her thoughts I agree with.

"Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles, surrounded by a crowd of illusions, my poor little mind quickly tires. I close the learned book which is breaking my head and drying up my heart, and I take up Holy Scripture. Then all seems luminous to me; a single word uncovers for my soul infinite horizons; perfection seems simple; I see that it is enough to recognize one's nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God's arms. Leaving to great souls, to great minds, the beautiful books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because 'only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.' "

"For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. . . . I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers.... I do like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me." 

"O Father in Heaven, Who through St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, dost desire to remind the world of the Merciful Love that fills Thy Heart, and the childlike trust we should have in Thee, humbly we thank Thee for having crowned with so great glory Thine ever faithful child, and for giving her wondrous power to bring unto Thee, day by day, innumerable souls who will praise Thee eternally.

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, remember thy promise to do good upon earth, shower down thy roses on those who invoke thee and obtain for us from God the graces we hope for from His infinite goodness. Amen"