Unfortunately the final rule announced today is the same old, same old. As we said when the proposed rule was issued, this doesn’t solve the religious conscience problem because it still makes our non-profit clients the gatekeepers to abortion and provides no protection to religious businesses.The easy way to resolve this would have been to exempt sincere religious employers completely, as the Constitution requires. Instead this issue will have to be decided in court.
When it comes to religious liberty, the Department of Health and Human Services is acting like a kid who doesn’t want to eat his lima beans. Our Constitution and laws require them to protect religious exercise, but they really don’t want to, so they are trying every trick in the book to avoid doing so. But we will keep suing until the courts make HHS comply with its obligations.
From the Becket Fund’s statement today:
The final rule fails to fix the HHS employer mandate’s fundamental problems:
Non-profit religious employers are still dragooned into acting as gatekeepers to abortion
Self-insured religious groups must hire administrators that pay for abortifacients and contraceptives
Religious business owners still have to provide abortion-inducing drugs or pay up to millions of dollars in fines
Legend (or marketing) has it that on this day in 1789, Baptist minister Elijah Craig “invented” bourbon when he aged whiskey inside charred oak barrels.
In June of 1929, however, when Kansas was still very much a dry state, the American Dialect Society’s journal American Speech ran “a record of the wet words and phrases” still in use among the Kansan people, compiled by American folklorist Vance Randolph.
“I know very little about liquor myself,” he writes, “and doubtless my classification of these terms has faults which will be apparent to the initiated, but I have set down the items exactly as I have heard them in casual conversation during the past four months.”
Whiskey is sometimes called donk or mule because of its powerful “kick,” and the term forty-rod whiskey is said to imply that a man cannot walk more than forty rods after taking a drink of it, although another school of thinkers contends that a drink of this beverage actually causes the run forty rods before he can stop himself! Panther-sweat, monkey-swill and rat-track whiskey are less easily classified, to say nothing of a number of more or less vulgar terms which are best omitted here. . . .
The only bonded liquor that I ever hear mentioned nowadays is whiskey, usually known as drug-store whiskey or prescription whiskey, a reference to the fact that physicians in the adjoining state of Missouri sometimes prescribe whiskey, and the Missouri druggists are allowed to fill the prescriptions, since there is no “bone-dry” law in Missouri. . . .
I do not think that many of my Kansas acquaintances care much for mixed drinks nowadays, but am told that some of them make Manhattan and Martini cocktails by adding alcohol to the prepared flavoring extracts which may be purchased freely. . . . Some of the French and Italian miners are said to put alcohol into their black coffee, but it appears that the native Kansan does not favor this practice.
He concludes optimistically:
So much for the wet words still current in the Sunflower State . . . A collector who frequented the “joints” and roadhouses, and deliberately sought the society of our less temperate classes, could no doubt gather a great many more items, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to carry out such a study at present. One of the village ministers tells me that this liquor-jargon is in very truth a dying language, and that in fifty years an American college boy who encounters such a word as booze in his reading will have to look it up in the dictionary!
As a friend pointed out, such a student in the 1970s was much more likely to drink some, in a bar called the Library.
A South Carolina valedictorian garnered wild applause after he ripped up his pre-approved speech and delivered the Lord’s prayer at his high school graduation on Saturday.
The act was apparently in protest of the Pickens County School District’s decision to no longer include prayer at graduation ceremonies, Christian News reported. Officials said the decision was made after the district was barraged with complaints by atheist groups. . . .
“Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today,” he said. “I’m so glad that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age.”
“And I think most of you will understand when I say…” he paused. “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”
The auditorium began to erupt with applause and cheers.
Earlier this month, Christopher Warner at the Catholic World Reportinterviewed Archimandrite Robert Taft, S.J., a Byzantine Catholic priest and professor emeritus of Oriental Liturgy at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, about Catholic-Orthodox relations and the prospects for future unity:
CWR: Most Catholics probably envision future unity between the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church as a re-installment of one world Church organization with the pope of Rome at the top of the governing pyramid. A look at history shows that such a model never existed, so what could Orthodox-Catholic communion actually look like if it were achieved? A renewal of Eucharistic communion? The possibility of an eighth ecumenical council? A resolution for the dating of Pascha/Easter?
Taft: What it would look like is not a “reunion” with them “returning to Rome,” to which they never belonged anyway; nor us being incorporated by them, since we are all ancient apostolic “Sister Churches” with a valid episcopate and priesthood and the full panoply of sacraments needed to minister salvation to our respective faithful, as is proclaimed in the renewed Catholic ecclesiology since Vatican II and enshrined in numerous papal documents from Paul VI on, as well as in the wonderful Catechism of the Catholic Church. So we just need to restore our broken communion and the rest of the problems you mention can be addressed one by one and resolved by common accord.
. . .
CWR: How could the papal claims of Rome be modified in a way that would be both acceptable to the Orthodox Churches and faithful to the tradition of the Catholic Church? Do you think the jurisdiction issue really is a hang-up for the Orthodox since they also practice cross-jurisdiction throughout Western Europe, the Americas, Australia, and East Asia?
Taft: The new Catholic “Sister Churches” ecclesiology describes not only how the Catholic Church views the Orthodox Churches. It also represents a startling revolution in how the Catholic Church views itself: we are no longer the only kid on the block, the whole Church of Christ, but one Sister Church among others. Previously, the Catholic Church saw itself as the original one and only true Church of Christ from which all other Christians had separated for one reason or another in the course of history, and Catholics held, simplistically, that the solution to divided Christendom consisted in all other Christians returning to Rome’s maternal bosom.
Vatican II, with an assist from those Council Fathers with a less naïve Disney-World view of their own Church’s past, managed to put aside this historically ludicrous, self-centered, self-congratulatory perception of reality. In doing so they had a strong assist from the Council Fathers of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church whose concrete experience of the realities of the Christian East made them spokesmen and defenders of that reality.
In this context I would recommend the excellent new book by Robert Louis Wilken, The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press 2012). Professor Wilken, a convert to Catholicism who is a recognized expert on Early Christianity and its history and literature, shows that Early Christianity developed not out of some Roman cradle but as a federation of local Churches, Western and Eastern, each one under the authority of a chief hierarch who would come to be called Archbishop, Pope, Patriarch, or Catholicos, each with its own independent governing synod and polity, all of them initially in communion with one another until the vicissitudes of history led to lasting divisions.
Police in Jerusalem beat, choked and handcuffed an 85-year-old Coptic priest during a widely reported altercation in the Old City almost two weeks ago, which also involved several Egyptian diplomatic officials, a video revealed. . . .
The incident occurred on Saturday, May 4, the day before the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church’s observance of Easter. The head of the Coptic church in Ramallah, Father Arsanios, who lives in Jerusalem, was leading a group of visiting dignitaries to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City when he found himself being subdued by a group of policemen stationed to manage the holiday crowds. . . .
As that group tried to enter, Arsanios said, they were suddenly accosted by the police, who “threw one priest on the stairs and one of the officers stomped on him like a dog.”
“We didn’t do anything,” he added. “They pulled at me, beat me all over and when I was on the ground, put handcuffs on me.”
The six-minute video begins with Arsanios already in a physical struggle with the police, after which an officer puts him into a choke hold from behind and throws him to the ground as a crowd of police, residents and tourists look on. Arsanios briefly lost consciousness during the alternation [sic], was treated at a Jerusalem hospital and was subsequently released without serious injury.
What holiday is this:
Before lunch, reap,
After lunch, weep,
And in the evening, leap?
- Belarusian riddle about Radonitsa
Today Slavic Orthodox throughout the world observe (in Russian) Radonitsa, the Day of Rejoicing. A sort of eastern “All Souls Day,” it is devoted to prayers for the departed, often before a meal consumed at the gravesite of a loved one (the photo above was taken in a Belarusian cemetery).
Among other things, Radonitsa marks the beginning of “marriage season,” as weddings may not be conducted during Great Lent, Holy Week, Pascha, or Bright Week.
Prayers for the dead are very important in the Orthodox tradition, and as such we have several days marked for them throughout the liturgical year. As Fr. Schmemann writes,
Praying for them we meet them in Christ who is Love and who, because He is Love, overcomes death which is the ultimate victory of separation and lovelessness. In Christ there is no difference between living and dead because all are alive in Him. . . . Loving Christ, we love all those who are in Him; loving those who are in Him, we love Christ: this is the law of the Church and the obvious rationale for her of prayer for the dead.
It is truly our love in Christ that keeps them alive because it keeps them “in Christ,” and how wrong, how hopelessly wrong, are those Western Christians who either reduce prayer for the dead to a juridical doctrine of “merits” and “compensations” or simply reject it as useless.
However, because of the great and central importance of the Feast of Feasts, memorial services for the dead are forbidden between Holy Thursday and Antipascha (the first Sunday after Pascha): “the first opportunity after Pascha to remember the dead is on the second Monday of Pascha. However, because in Orthodox countries a number of monasteries follow the custom of fasting on Mondays, the feast is often celebrated on Tuesday, so that all may partake of the paschal foods (which are intentionally non-fasting).”
Though it often gave scandal to the pious, religious holidays were drinking days. The close connection in Russian culture between religious observances and alcohol consumption is evident in a folk tale about a village drunkard who dies and seeks admission to heaven. St. Peter at first tries to send him away, but the drunkard retorts: “I drank and praised God with every swallow, but you denied Christ three times, and you are in heaven!” He similarly reduces to shame and silence St. Paul, Kings David and Solomon, Nicholas the Wonder-worker, and others, and had to be allowed a seat in heaven.
From Pascha til the Feast of the Ascension, we sing “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life”—sung sober or otherwise, it does seem fit to ring out over actual tombs.
Timothy Flanders, writing about the twentieth-century movement toward unity between the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches (who split over Christological disagreements after the Council of Chalcedon in 451), says that Protestant models of ecumenism paved the way:
It was within the WCC that two visionaries from each church met and began to collaborate—Nikos Nissiotis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Paul Verghese of the Malankara Indian Orthodox Church (later Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios of Delhi). This work with the WCC helped galvanize the Orthodox to meet together at Rhodes in 1961—and also invite the Miaphysites. In 1963, when the WCC Faith & Order Commission met, Swiss Reformed Protestant Lukas Vischer began working closely with Nissiotis and Verghese to eventually organize the first formal Orthodox-Miaphysite consultation in 1964, in which the bulk of the division was overcome in matter of days.
Virtually as soon as the two church families managed to come into contrastive dialogue with each other in this century, it was realize that physis . . . was being used in different ways in our different churches.
In matter of days a division and misunderstanding that had lasted nearly fifteen hundred years—almost sixty generations!—was viewed in an entirely new and promising way, almost resolved then and there. And this was due in large part to the encouragement, sponsorship, and support of Protestant Christians through the WCC. Moreover, can not the Protestant openness to diversity in doctrine (no doubt to a fault at other times) be seen as a strength in the midst of intransigent myopia holding tenaciously to old prejudices? Indeed, this very cooperation with Protestants has helped the Orthodox rediscover their own tradition more fully. A more mature understanding of the Church canons, for instance, has been brought to bear on mainstream Orthodox theology.
Orthodox Christians have often been divided on the WCC, many seeing it with suspicion and hostility. The Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC was created in 1998 in an attempt to assuage Orthodox concerns about ecclesiology, social and ethical issues, interconfessional prayer, and the WCC’s structure and decision-making process. Nearly all Orthodox Churches remain WCC members today.
Dallas Willard, a prominent philosopher on a “quiet quest to subvert nominal Christianity” (according to a 2006 CT profile), died today after losing a battle with cancer. He was 77. . . .
According to Gary Moon, executive director of the Dallas Willard Center at Westmont College, Willard died early Wednesday morning, but “awakened to a full experience of the reality of the Kingdom of the Heavens he described so beautifully. Fittingly, his last two words were, “‘Thank you.’”
Writing on the necessity of inner transformation in 2006, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. had this to say of Willard:
The first thing to do is to trust our Christian friends who have died with Jesus Christ when they tell us it’s going to be okay if we do it, too. This, in my judgment, is one of the greatest services offered to the church by our Christian friend Dallas Willard.
He is a brilliant, modest, immensely experienced Christian older brother, calling to us from the Resurrection side of things. His books all call out, in one way or another: Come on over. It’s going to be okay to die first. You have to do it, and you can do it. Not even Jesus got a resurrection without a death, and he’ll be at your side when you surrender your old life. Trust me on this. If you die with Jesus Christ, God will walk you out of your tomb into a life of incomparable joy and purpose inside his boundless and competent love.
US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Turkey on Sunday to re-open Orthodox clergy schools near Istanbul that authorities have kept closed for more than 40 years.
“It is our hope that the Halki seminary will open,” Kerry said during a press conference in Istanbul after two days of talks on the Syrian crisis and the Mideast peace process.
Kerry said he discussed religious freedom in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey and the possible re-opening of the theological schools in talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The Halki seminary, where Orthodox clergy used to train, is located on an island off Istanbul and was closed in 1971, after Turkey fell out with Greece over Cyprus.
Those wishing to learn more about the state of religious freedom in Turkey can do so here (though I do not endorse HALC on all issues).
On Sunday, Kerry met with His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. From the transcript:
SECRETARY KERRY: It’s such a privilege to talk with somebody who has been such a voice for tolerance, a voice for interfaith understanding, who most recently visited with His Holiness Pope Francis and was at his investiture, and who has consistently talked out about protecting rights of minorities, protecting religious rights, and who is struggling for larger understanding in the world. . . .
PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW: Thank you, Your Excellency.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you for my reception. And he gave me a beautiful rosary that the Pope gave him that’s been blessed by the Pope and by him, and I will carry that with great, great privilege. . . . Thank you, Patriarch.
PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW: Thank you. So have a nice life.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has reacted to the Boston terror suspects on his favorite social media platform, Instagram (this is my own translation):
Tragic events have happened in Boston. As a result of the terrorist attack people have been killed. We have previously expressed our condolences to those living in the city and the people of America. Today, as reported by mass media, during an attempted arrest a certain Tsarnaev was killed. It would have been logical if he had been detained and an investigation carried out, and all the circumstances and the degree of his guilt figured out. Apparently, special services at any cost were needed to calm society. Any attempt to make the connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs, if they are guilty, are in vain. They grew up in the U.S., their attitudes and beliefs were formed there. It is necessary to seek the roots of evil in America. The whole world must fight terrorism. This we know better than anyone else. We wish recovery to all the victims and share the Americans’ feelings of sorrow. #terroristattack #Boston #investigation
“Methodism isn’t just a religion for Sundays—no faith is only a faith for Sundays. There were a lot of things during the week which one attended. Methodism is a pretty practical faith; there were the mothers’ sewing meetings and the guilds for young people.” . . .
Although she was married to Denis Thatcher 27 years ago in Wesley’s own chapel in the City of London, she has since moved towards Anglicanism and I asked her about this shift.
“You know, John Wesley would of course say that he was a member of the Church of England, and the service he believed in was the Church of England service; but it was too high for the kind of evangelical work he was doing.
“Methodism is the most marvellous evangelical faith and there is the most marvellous love and feeling for music in the Methodist Church which I think is greater than in the Anglican Church. But you sometimes feel the need for a slightly more formal service and perhaps a little bit more formality in the underlying theology too.
“So throughout my life I have felt the need for both things, to some extent for the informality, for the works you do; but always I found myself groping out for more of the actual teaching of the religious basis. As I say, I went for something a little more formal. I suppose it’s first one’s belief and then one’s background.”
She denies that this move was in any way a rebellion. The need for the formal and the evangelical came to rest for her in the Church of England, “but not the real High Church”, she adds.
Yesterday, February 28, Orthodox Christians observed the feast day of John Cassian, the fourth/fifth-century monastic saint known for his writings on the Desert Fathers and his responses to Augustine’s anti-Pelagian works.
Technically, however, his feast day is February 29, a distinction that inspired many curious Russian folktales explaining why his was the awful luck to be feasted only on leap years. From Linda Ivanits’ Russian Folk Belief:
Cassian, behaving with characteristic lack of compassion, refuses to help a poor peasant pull his load because he does not wish to appear in heaven with soiled garments; [Saint] Nicholas, on the other hand, helps the peasant and arrives in heaven dirty. As a result, God rewards Nicholas with two feast days per year, and punishes Cassian by granting him only one every four years.
“Characteristic lack of compassion” because, in the Christo-pagan syncretism of the early Russian Church, the saint somewhere became a quasi-demonic figure. While elsewhere John Cassian was called “the Roman,” in Russia he became Kas’ian Nemilostivyi, Kasyan the Unmerciful.
According to one belief, Cassian sits motionless on a chair with downcast eyebrows that reach his knees, unable to see the world. On February 29, however, he lifts his eyebrows and looks at the world. . . .
His true feast day was called “Kasyanov Day,” on which peasants often refused to leave the house or do any work at all for fear of attracting his evil eye. “Касьян на что ни взглянет – все вянет”—whatever Cassian glances at, wilts (it rhymes in Russian).
I don’t at all mean to dishonor the venerable saint, of whom I am personally quite fond, but the chance to pass on a story about ungroomed eyebrows protecting superstitious peasants from the evil eye of a persnickety saint is much too good to pass up.
Okay, probably not, but while we’re discussing the intersection of religion and Playboy bunnies here at First Things, I thought I’d share this curious artifact:
The heraldic image above actually comes from the Hastings Hours (a private devotional book) in the British Library. Evidently, the Hastings’ family coat of arms is comprised of argent a maunch sable (or, black sleeve on a silver background). So the negative space between the sleeve that looks like the Playboy Bunny is just pure negative space. And that oddly shaped black thing is a sleeve, like the ones on a shirt but imagine a long, swooping medieval sleeve.
The golden writing around the blue belt (actually the symbol of the Order of the Garter) says Honi soit qui mal y pense: Shame be to him who thinks evil.
His All-Holiness closely cooperated with the Pope during the tenure of Pope Benedict, issuing joint statements on contemporary problems facing humanity and realizing official exchange visits, but above all resuming in 2007 the conversations of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches (established in 1980 and interrupted in 2000).
Statement by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew At the Announcement of the Retirement of Benedict XVI, Pope of Rome (February 11, 2013)
It is with regret that we have learned of the decision by His Holiness Pope Benedict to retire from his Throne, because with his wisdom and experience he could have provided much more to the Church and the world.
Pope Benedict leaves an indelible mark on the life and history of the Roman Catholic Church, sealed not only by his brief papacy, but also by his broad and longstanding contribution as a theologian and hierarch of his Church, as well as his universally acknowledged prestige.
His writings will long speak of his deep theological understanding, through his knowledge of the Fathers of the undivided Church, his familiarity with contemporary reality, and his keen interest in the problems of humankind.
We Orthodox will always honor him as a friend of our Church and a faithful servant of the sacred proposition for the union of all. Moreover, we shall rejoice upon learning of his sound health and the productivity of his theological work.
Personally, we remember with emotion his visit to the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate over six years ago, together with the numerous encounters and excellent cooperation, which we enjoyed throughout the duration of his primatial ministry.
From the Phanar, we pray that the Lord will manifest his worthy successor as the head of the sister Church of Rome, and that we may also continue with this successor on our common journey toward the unity of all unto the glory of God.
Federal prosecutors today [February 5] urged a judge to sentence Amish bishop Samuel Mullet to life in prison for coordinating a series of beard-cutting attacks on victims who shunned the bishop and his teachings. …
“There is no doubt that Mullet Sr. wanted, agreed with and encouraged all of these attacks,” the prosecutors wrote. “And for that reason, it is remarkable that he continues to deny his own culpability while throwing the other defendants under the proverbial bus, especially when some of these defendants are his children, his nephews and his clergymen.”
The document offers a sharp contrast to one filed by defense attorney Edward Bryan, who urged Polster to sentence Mullet to a prison term of two years or less, based on the minimal harm to the victims.
Mullet is the founder and leader of a breakaway Amish settlement near Bergholz, Ohio whose practices have been harshly criticized by many in the Amish community. According to the New York Times, at least some of the attacks were in response to a large gathering of Amish bishops’ refusing to honor Mullet’s shunnings:
Shunnings should occur only after months of discussion and a near-unanimous vote of the congregation, Mr. Hershberger said. Normally, other Amish groups respect the decision and tell the offender he must make amends with his original church. …
Some 300 bishops from three states gathered in 2006 in Ulysses, Pa., to discuss the issue. They appointed a committee, including Mr. Hershberger, that made the rare decision not to honor Mr. Mullet’s decrees.
There has also been testimony alleging that Mullet pressured female members of the community into having sex with him, which his lawyer has not denied.
Perhaps most strangely, federal prosecutors chose to apply a recent hate crimes law to the case. While defense lawyers argued that ”turning a personal vendetta within the Amish community, and related attacks, into a federal hate-crimes case” was a stretch, the jury agreed with the prosecution that the attacks were “an effort to suppress the victims’ practice of religion.”
“It’s all religion,” he told television reporters recently. “That’s why we can’t figure out why the sheriff has his nose in it.”
While this may seem like a quirky story of no consequence, Ohio State University legal scholar Douglas A. Berman thinks otherwise:
“No matter how insular your community, no matter how unique the kind of criminal activity is within that community, the federal government has a strong interest — and will go to court to protect that interest — in applying national laws,” he says.
This seems to be a part of the present administration’s snarling hostility to religion. And one must admit the defendant makes a politically apt target. This “bishop” sounds like a first-class thug, and he heads a splinter group in what is itself a very small, conservative, insular religion… But this is taking liberal detestation of religion to an absurd extreme. What happened to government neutrality? Could a sentencing recommendation this far off the wall possibly have come about without at least an element of anti-religious bigotry?
¿Serías capaz de perdonarlo? Could you forgive him?
Director of the Centro Católico Multimedial, Fr. P. Sergio Omar Sotelo Aguilar, S.S.P., premiered the first chapter of his film Hermano Narco on Sunday in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City as part of a campaign to encourage forgiveness amidst the violence of the drug war.
The ten-minute segment, which can be seen here, tells the story of thirteen-year-old Miri, who, despite family members’ urging her on to vengeance, comes to forgive the drug dealers who killed her parents, even hugging one of them as he crashes her parents’ funeral.
Sotelo acknowledged that such a scene might be improbable in real life, but insisted that “as mystical and utopic as it may seem, this project comes out of real-life stories.”
He told of one woman he met who decided to forgive her son’s killer.
“She said: ‘I don’t want to see anyone else’s children killed. That is why I pardoned my son’s killer,’ ” Sotelo recalled.
“The message of ‘Hermano Narco’ is that we should strive for common good among Mexicans. Enough with the violence among brothers, enough with the injustice among brothers … Violence begets more violence. Today we launched a message that said: the most profound sentiment, the one that will transform violence is forgiveness,” said Fr. Sotelo in a report from NPR.
The remaining eleven chapters will be released once a month over the course of the coming year. The series “seeks to transform the hearts of criminals, but especially the heart of those who suffer the consequences of these types of tragedies.”
Anti-crime crusader Isabel Miranda de Wallace had a different view: “I don’t think people can forgive if they don’t even know what happened to the victims, if justice hasn’t been done.”
De Wallace led a decade-long fight to bring to justice the gang that kidnapped and killed her son.
But they haven’t been sentenced yet, and they delayed so long in telling where they left her son’s body that the lot was built over by the time authorities could search it. …
“There are a lot of people who cannot even mourn because we haven’t found the bodies of our relatives,” she said, “so how are you going to go through the process of loss and reach forgiveness if you can’t even get justice?”
The Mexican government estimates that 47,515 have been killed in drug-related violence since former President Felipe Calderón began Operation Michoacán in 2006, though some suggest the administration routinely undercounts.
In a story that seems equal parts Father Ted* and TheBoondock Saints, three young men robbed an Irish monsignor and his housekeeper on Monday evening in a flurry of hammer-waving, cross-signing,and warm Gaelic hospitality:
One of the raiders, who spoke with a Traveller and Dublin accent, stood over them wielding a hammer while another of the gang said: “We want the money, she’ll be the first to get the blow with this hammer.”
The robbery took an unusual twist when one of the men asked the priest and his housekeeper if they wanted a cup of tea.
“One of the men standing over me with a hammer asked us if we wanted a cup of tea, which we declined. My housekeeper was terrified; it was the worst ordeal she had ever experienced,” Msgr. Michael Cooke said.
He also described how one of the men kept blessing himself and saying ‘Father, forgive me’.
Travellers are a predominantly Roman Catholic nomadic minority living mainly in Ireland who face significant discrimination throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom. American readers may remember the 2007 FX series The Riches, a fictionalized account of a Traveller family living in the U.S.
The thieves stole two mobile phones, Msgr. Cooke’s car keys, and one hundred euros. The monsignor did not say whether he has forgiven the trespassers.
*For the benighted souls unfamiliar with the show, I present one of its most iconic scenes:
Art Dailyprofiles Natalia Tsarkova, an Orthodox Christian who happens to be the Vatican’s official painter:
Tsarkova arrived in Rome in the early 1990s and began doing portraits of Roman aristocrats, who introduced her at the Vatican where her background captured the attention of late pope John Paul II.
“He spoke Russian with me. He said ‘Long live Russian art!’” remembers the now 45-year-old, thumping her fist for emphasis with the same glee as the late pontiff.
John Paul II made great strides in rebuilding relations with the Russian Orthodox Church and Tsarkova said she too feels she can play a role.
“I feel like a small bridge between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. I am like a diplomat with art.”
Tsarkova has done portraits of John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, the recently canonized Fr. Giacomo da Ghazir Haddad, and many others. Some of her paintings can be seen here.
While Tsarkova paints in the classical western style, crossing artistic boundaries between east and west is not alien to the Vatican. Readers might be interested to know, for example, that the Papal Archbasilica itself is partly decorated in a somewhat Byzantine manner:
The BBC recently conducted an interview with Tsarkova, in which you can catch glimpses of her current endeavor, a painting of St. George slaying a dragon, and her pet owl, Rufus.
A year-long celebration marking 1,700 years since the Roman Empire granted Christians religious freedom will start on January 17 in the Serbian city of Nis, where Roman emperor Constantine the Great was born. …
On the opening day of the celebrations a concert of spiritual music performed by the choir of Sretenjski Monastery from Russia will be held at the National Theatre in Nis in the presence of Serbian Patriarch Irinej and President Tomislav Nikolic.
Planned events include an exhibition on Christianity in Niš through the Ages, a play about the Emperor called Constantine: The Sign of Angels, and public lectures on a variety of related topics. In preparation for the jubilee, the Serbian Orthodox Church hosted a conference on the Edict of Milan and religious freedom this past May, an English write-up of which can be read here.
Constantine is sometimes mistakenly thought to be the Emperor who made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire; while the Edict did protect Christians from persecution, it wasn’t until the reign of Theodosius sixty-seven years later that Christianity became the legitimate imperial faith.
There has been some controversy about whether Pope Benedict will attend any of the planned events. Orthodox Christianity is by far the majority religion in Serbia (as of 2002, roughly 85% of the population is Orthodox, with Catholics in a distant second at 5%), and memories of recent Orthodox-Catholic hostilities remain fresh in many minds:
The patriarch [of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Irinej], however, reiterated that there were problems that could make the pope’s visit to Serbia problematic, such as security issues, “bearing in mind the still fresh memories of World War II and also of the recent wars that had taken place in the Western Balkans”.
Whether the pope makes it to Niš or not, Catholic faithful are expected to turn out in droves:
It’s expected that more than 100,000 believers will join the liturgy due to be held by the Catholic Church on September 21st. Because of the large numbers, the organisers are considering whether it might be possible to hold it on the runway of Nis’s Constantine the Great Airport.
The official English language website for the jubilee can be found here.
One of my favorite things about the Yale Glee Club, of which I was a member for three years, is its attention to and care for old student songs. Every member upon joining is given a Yale Song Book, full of things like “Gaudeamus Igitur,” “‘Neath the Elms”, and, of course, “Bright College Years.” A friend recently pointed out to me a song that appears only in older editions that I thought worth sharing:
The Pope he leads a jolly life,
He’s free from every care and strife;
He drinks the best of Rhenish wine,
I would the Pope’s gay life were mine.
He drinks the best of Rhenish wine,
I would the Pope’s gay life were mine.
But he don’t lead a jolly life,
He has no maid or blooming wife,
He has no son to raise his hope,
Oh! I would not be the Pope.
He has no son to raise his hope,
Oh! I would not be the Pope.
The Sultan better pleases me,
His life is full of jolity,
He’s wives as many as he will,
I fain the Sultan’s throne would fill.
He’s wives as many as he will,
I fain the Sultan’s throne would fill.
But still he is a wretched man,
He must obey the Al-Koran,
He dare not drink one drop of wine,
I would not change his lot for mine.
He dare not drink one drop of wine,
I would not change his lot for mine.
So when the maiden kisses me,
I’ll think that I the Sultan be,
And when my Rhenish wine I tope,
Oh then I’ll think that I’m the Pope.
“The Pope” is apparently actually a translation of a German drinking song, so be sure to file this away somewhere for next year’s Oktoberfest. Aspiring musicians can find sheet music for the Yale version on page five here.
Monument to Tsiolkovsky in Borovsk, Russia. Nearly all monuments to him depict him looking to the heavens.
Here’s one for all the folks who think scientific progress and mysticism are at war with one another:
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the father of the Russian space program, was a brilliant scientist and engineer, but his motivation and drive came from his philosophical convictions, his belief in humanity’s destiny to leave the Earth and colonize the universe, and his vision of a deep unity between man and the cosmos.
The real protagonist of Carey’s film is Tsiolkovsky’s mentor, Nikolai Fedorov, who taught that science would make us immortal. The film shows how the Russian space program was strongly inspired by Cosmist philosophers and mystics, who believed that we should evolve into super-humans who could leave our overcrowded planet to colonize the universe.
Giulio Prisco is writing about George Carey’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door, a documentary about the less than rational origins of the Soviet space program.
One problem is that Cosmism not only sounds like religion, but was actually a spinoff of Russian Orthodox Christianity. This may upset those space enthusiasts who are also militant atheists but, as recently noted by Charlie Jane Anders on io9, smug atheists should read more science fiction. “A lot of the best science fiction is intensely ‘cosmic,’ conveying just how huge and unknowable the universe is, and how little we still understand it,” says Anders. “In a sense, the huge cosmic imagery of science fiction resembles some of the best religious paintings.”
Not having watched the documentary, I’m not sure what Prisco means by “a spinoff of Russian Orthodox Christianity,” but if Old Believers in Space was a plausible alternate title, Carey missed one heck of an opportunity.
Archaeologists in Turkey are uncovering well-preserved remains of Myra, home of the beloved St. Nicholas in the third and fourth centuries. From the New York Times:
Archaeologists first detected the ancient city in 2009 using ground-penetrating radar that revealed anomalies whose shape and size suggested walls and buildings. Over the next two years they excavated a small, stunning 13th-century chapel sealed in an uncanny state of preservation. Carved out of one wall is a cross that, when sunlit, beams its shape onto the altar. Inside is a vibrant fresco that is highly unusual for Turkey.
The chapel’s structural integrity suggests that Myra may be largely intact underground. “This means we can find the original city, like Pompeii,” said Nevzat Cevik, an archaeologist at Akdeniz University who is director of the excavations at Myra, beneath the modern town of Demre.
Myra, already largely abandoned by the thirteenth century, appears to have been buried in river sediment after several heavy seasons of rain, which accounts for the consistent quality of preservation throughout the chapel. Much of the remains are under existing buildings in the modern Turkish city of Demre, making further excavation difficult; thus far they’ve been buying property from willing local residents.
Cevik was in the news a few weeks ago when he called on the Vatican to return the bones of St. Nicholas to Demre. His relics remain in the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy, where they’ve been since they were taken from Turkey in the eleventh century during the Byzantine-Seljuq wars.
Yesterday saw the first ‘service’ of The Sunday Assembly, London’s first atheist church.
Priding itself on its tagline ‘live better, help often, wonder more,’ The Sunday Assembly is the brainchild of Sanderson Jones and musical comedian Pippa Evans, and aims to take the best things about religion and religious ceremonies, but to do it without all the god-talk. Or, as Sanderson himself has put it, it’s “a godless congregation that will meet on the first Sunday of every month to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life.”
The first ‘service’ was held yesterday morning at the deconsecrated church The Nave in north London, and featured a talk by children’s author Andy Stanton and was shaped around the theme ‘Beginnings’.
For those wondering what a profane liturgy might look like, the Sunday Assembly has posted an outline on its website:
The Order of Service
To begin with we are following a format which people are familiar with and it is just going to get better from there as we hone the heck out of it.
Welcome / notices
English children’s author Andy Stanton was the guest of honor yesterday (which, perhaps unbeknownst to attendees, was Christmas Eve for Christians following the Old Calendar—с праздником!). Due partly to press coverage from Gawker and CNN, attendance was high, and some have already suggested they move to a larger venue.
However, the most prescient take on the new organization comes from attendee Nick Julius, who yesterday tweeted, “The race is on… What will cause our first schism?”
As we mentioned way back in September, readers in the New York area might be interested to attend this year’s Annual Father Alexander Schmemann lecture on January 18th at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, where Peter Brown, noted scholar of late antiquity, will deliver a lecture on “Constantine, Eusebius, and the Future of Christianity” after being awarded Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, by the Seminary’s Board of Trustees and faculty. According to the seminary’s website, “the lecture will focus on how Christians approach the study of history.”
A review of Brown’s seminal Augustine of Hippo: A Biography can be found here, and of his most recent work, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, here.