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Romero: conservative, archbishop, radical, martyr, pop saint, Saint

Friday, October 19th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Pope Francis recently canonized him — this is my belated tribute ]
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  • The Economist, El Salvador’s most famous martyr, Óscar Romero, is canonised
  • The Atlantic, What Óscar Romero’s Canonization Says About Pope Francis
  • **

    He was already a popular saint. For years the faithful have congregated every Sunday for mass by his tomb in the crypt of the cathedral in San Salvador, inspired by the man they called San Óscar or San Romero de América. Now it is official. On October 14th in Rome, Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero was canonised, almost 40 years after he fell to a gunman’s bullet while finishing a private mass at a chapel that is today a site of pilgrimage. He had recited the 23rd Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

    As the archbishop read the Gospel, the assassins pulled up to the chapel. As he raised the consecrated bread and wine, the gunman fired a shot to the heart.

    **

    The Economist’s graphic, above, gets it wrong. It’s not the struggle, signified by the familiar raised, clenched fist that grabs the halo of sanctity, it’s the diminutive (humble) figure in clerical garb, his hands holding a cross and giving a blessing on whom the halo descends, as noted by Pope Francis.

    The theological and political twists and turns of Romero’s life are succinctly presented in my heading, with further details in the two articles.

    What I have wanted to illuminate here, however, is the sacramental nature of the arch bishop’s martyrdom, assassinated while saying Mass. Cavanaugh has an entire, brilliant book, Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ demonstrating torture in S America as the inverse of sacrament, the attempt to wipe out all traces of the body of Christ present in those who receive it in the Eucharistic sacrament, and the martyrdom of Romero is a summation and eloquent proof of Cavanaugh’s thesis.

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    As I mentioed here before, in Of sacrifice and martyrdom, I have a particular interest in eucharistic martyrs, ghaving served Mass often enough, kneeling on the paving-stones of the lady chapel of Brightwell church near Wallingford, Berks — or is it now Oxon?

    There in the Lady Chapel, embedded in one of those stones, is the brass of a priest of Brightwell, who too was assassinated while saying Mass.

    The brass might as well be illustrating the holy death of Saint Oscar Romero, archbishop and martyr.

    **

    Oscar Romero, ora pro nobis.

    Contexts for Catholic Church child abuse & cover up

    Monday, August 27th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — responding to E.J. Dionne Jr. and others in a similar plight ]
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    You may consider this post a response to E.J. Dionne Jr.‘s Washngton Post op-ed, It’s becoming harder to explain why I’m still Catholic

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    The Catholic Church is being hammered, nailed — there’s even a crucifixion echo there, but no, that won’t work here — for its extensive clerical — priests, yes, but nuns too — child abuse, long covered up and mushrooming under that cover..

    The focus is on the Catholic Church, as though Catholicism itself were the problem. In its bureaucratic structure, it surely is — but the message in the second panel of this DoubleQuote, a quote from one of Billy Graham‘s grandsons, should remind us that the rot is found outside as well as inside the Catholic tent:

    Worse!
    And btw, they don’t have (repressed!) celibate clergy!

    **

    That’s to say, don’t keep the “conversation” focused on the Catholic tent, as though it’s all on Pope Francis, when it’s not. And this second one is to remind us of the very real spiritual implication of the abuse for those who commit, or by extension permit it, for instance by assigning a known pedophile priest to a new parish where he can continue his practice de novo — as Dionne mentions in his opening salvo.

    Here in the second panel is Christ’s response to all such:

    **

    If we bear in mind Christ’s personal and divine identification with the innocent, the victims, the gravity of the situation will not be lost. And if we can take Tullian Tchividjian’s word for the state of affairs in Protestant circles — he has a somewhat checkered past — then maybe we can escape the Catholic silo so prevalent in current news reports, and search more broadly for similar manifestations across faiths (and “none”) laterally, and vertically in terms of psychological drivers, generational descent, and so forth.

    This is no time for blame-calling within the box.

    Holy Fire, California and Jerusalem

    Monday, August 20th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — curiosity interest: high — actionable: negative ]
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    California fires, wild and holy:

    /a>

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    As a California resident, I keep a weather eye open on the terrible fores that have been and are ravaging the state this season. Among them, the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest has caught my attention by its name, which piques my theological curiosity.

    Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, first name Forrest [“rr”], stands accused of fire-starting the 22,986-acre Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest.

    Clark was arrested a day after the fire began and investigators said there is evidence suggesting he was the one who started it.

    His cabin in the Holy Jim area was the only one of 14 standing after the fire burned through the community, the Orange County Register reported the day after he was taken into custody.

    After conferring with Clark’s counsel, the judge made the decision to suspend the criminal proceedings until they assess whether the defendant is mentally competent to stand trial.

    **

    In Jerusalem, meanwhile:

    Orthodox tradition holds that the Holy Fire happens annually on the day preceding Orthodox Easter, in which a blue light emanates within Jesus Christ’s tomb (usually rising from the marble slab covering the stone bed believed by some to be where Jesus’ body was placed for burial) now in the Holy Sepulchre, which eventually forms a column containing a form of fire, from which candles are lit, which are then used to light the candles of the clergy and pilgrims in attendance. The fire is also said to spontaneously light other lamps and candles around the church. Pilgrims and clergy claim that the Holy Fire does not burn them.

    By Benoit Soubeyran from Montpellier, France – Holy Fire in Jerusalem 2018-04-07, CC BY 2.0:

    **

    But still, Holy Fire? Whence the “holy” in Orange County?

    Apparently, there’s a Holy Jim Canyon Trail with a waterfall, but then, who is Holy Jim?

    And it’s here that we meet one of those anthropological curiosities whereby the concept of the sacred unites the two ends of the spectrum. From Wallace Black Elk I learned that the Lakota word wakan, generally translated sacred, means something like the beware: high voltagee warnings you can see where high tension cables would be dangerous for the unaware, but powerfully useful for lighting whole cities..

    Here’s the explanation for Holy JIm:

    Nature was profaned here by the swear words flooding from the mouth of “Cussin’ Jim” Smith or “Holy Jim” as he was renamed by tightlaced government surveyors who mapped the canyon in the early 1900s.

    Cussin’ Jim! Tightlaced Holy!

    And Forrest Clark, too, was noted for his “outbursts” in court:

    For the third time, the state of California tried to formally charge Forrest Gordon Clark with arson – Clark is suspected of setting the Holy Fire in Orange County – and for the third time, Clark’s erratic behavior caused a judge to stop the normal proceedings, ending with a suspension of the charges so Clark’s mental health and competency can be examined.

    **

    In its own way, the Holy Fire in Jim’s canyon has as much place in the spectrum of sacredness as the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre does, sliding in, so to speak, by the back door..

    And mightn’t that also be an example of enantiodromia?

    O Mary, don’t you weep — Aretha Franklin, RIP

    Friday, August 17th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — an evening respite from Trump and co, to remember and celebrate a great voice ]
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    If you have or can make the time to listen to one Aretha Franklin song this deay in which she died, let it be this — O Mary, Mary Don’t You Weep — you can follow along with the lyrics here:

    The song tells the Gospel story of Mary, Martha, and their deceased brother Lazarus, whom Jesus calls by name back from the dead, first telling Mary “Don’t you weep” as though resurrection were the most natural thing in the world — Lazarus, returned from the dead, walked “like a natural man”. From the Torah, we find the sub-story — Pharaoh‘s army drowning in the Red Sea after it tried to pursue the fleeing Israelites. Aretha wants to stand on the rock where Moses stood, and witness the drowning.

    Now the thing is, when the Israelites saw Pharaoh’s army drowning, they sing — as Aretha also sings.

    Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

    The Israaelite’s song can be summed up by this line:

    The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.

    Blam! Splat!

    **

    The angels, who have been watching the whole scene from a higher perspective than the Israelites, are also about to sing — they are renowned for their choirs, and in the contest between Israel and Egypt, they’re distinctly pro-Israel — when the LORD intervenes:

    How dare you sing for joy when My creatures are dying?

    May I suggest that the angels are (not unlike music) like rivers passing through us, watering the souls of men, they are within us, and to the extent that we can partake of their refreshment we will be the better for it. Hopefully this metaphorical interpretation will avoid such vexed issues as mortal-like shoulder-blades supporting immortal shimmering wings and so forth —

    — now the stuff of such commonplaces as greetings cards, to be reclaimed perhaps for their beauty, but not as definitions of “how angels look” — more as referring us to a higher octave of reality to which we may aspire, gracing us as grace responds..

    Angels, not unlike music — hence the frequent references to angelic choirs.

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    The weeping Madonna of Akita, Japan

    As Wiki tells us:

    A weeping statue is a statue which has been claimed to have shed tears or to be weeping by supernatural means. Statues weeping tears which appear to be blood, oil, and scented liquids have all been reported. … These events are generally reported by some Christians, and initially attract some pilgrims, but are in most cases disallowed by the Church as proven hoaxes.

    O Mary, don’t you weep?

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    O Mary, don’t you weep!

    May Aretha flood our banks with her song.

    Sunday surprise: Eucharist above, below and beyond

    Sunday, July 15th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — have you time to spare for a little beauty? ]
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    Prof Emily Steiner of the University of Pennsylvania posted this image, which she described as of the “Stunning mosaics in the apse of S. Maria in Trastevere, attributed to Pietro Cavallini (c.1240-1330)”:

    Dr Steiner attributed the photo to “the talented @pdecherney” — her colleague at U PEnn, Dr Peter Decherney.

    **

    When I first saw this image, only the top half was visible on my screen, a fine, and I’m no expert, possibly world renowned, and yes, as Dr Steiner says, stunning mosaic of Christos Pantokrator, Christ the ruler of the universe if I’m not mistaken — and again, I’m no expert, and willing to take instruction.

    But stunning, yes. Christ, a mosaic, stunning. Art at the service of praise, beauty as a window on the divine, .

    And then, perhaps an hour later, but lapses of time are mended in this realm, I saw the whole image, sized to fit my screen.

    **

    And thus the bottom half —

    — with, brightly lit, even moreso if it were possible than the Christ in mosaic above it is, a small table — an altar, with three priests, and more in the wings, celebrating what looks to be the Eucharist — thought I suppose it might also be Vespers — and again, some expert could say whether the central celebrant is, by his zucchetto or skullcap, a cardinal, bishop, or maybe monsignor.

    No matter the celebrant’s rank, he is, as celebrant, at the vanishing point — both the central point of attention photographically, and the point where the priest acts in the person of Christ, in persona Christi, thus himself, his persona, vanishing at the vanishing point.

    Do this in memory of me, Christ said to his disciples at the Last Supper before his crucifixion, in words of sacrifice, previsioning his body about to be broken on the cross the next day — and down the centuries priests have broken bread as he did, speaking his words in his place, Take, eat, this is my body.

    In the consecration, with these wrds, bread and wine become invisibly the body and blood of Christ, which we may remember, digest and allow to transform us.

    It is this which makes the celebration of the Eucharist, in Catholic terms, “the source and summit of the Christian life”.

    **

    And then, between this focus on the priest celebrant below, and the Christ all-ruling above, there is a mysterious relationship, each reflecting the other as in duet of mirrors — above, below and I invite you to envision, beyond.

    Taking us, to switch religious traditions.. into the upper room with that one and self-same Christ

    **

    Eucharist: literally, thanksgiving!

    May your Sunday bring you cause for such thanksgiving..


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