A Sermon from St. Umilta of Faenza

28 September 17 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Saints, Spirituality

“I’m like a fish resting in the ocean. The waves rush over the little fish, and the great storms buffet; but this fish goes on swimming, knowing capture is impossible, and the storms just make this fish leap with more agility.”

“That’s what I do in this world that is a troubled sea. The great currents arrive, and I sail below them. I take shelter in You, God, and let them pass by. Then my soul finds wings in the arms of Christ on the cross, and I rush up, Jesus, into Your protection and saving grace.”

“When I stop and remember that I’m with You, I don’t fear the currents. I conquer them by navigating through them to Your peace, and I come out of all the storms unharmed.”

St. Umilta of Faenza (1226-1310) is known for her mystical writings, including her sermons. She is considered to be the founder of the Vallumbrosan nuns. 

An excellent biography of this strong, versatile woman can be found on the Monastic Matrix website.

 

Water Buffalo Theology

26 April 09 | Posted in Animals, Arts and Letters, Friends, Spirituality

The Rev. Dr. Kosuke Koyama, a Japanese Christian theologian who was a proponent of contextual theologies rooted in the experiences of everyday people, died March 25, 2009 in Springfield, Mass. Koyama, 79, taught at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.

His 1974 book, Water Buffalo Theology, was “one of the first books truly to do theology out of the setting of Asian villages,” said Donald Shriver, president emeritus. kosuke-koyama-2

As a missionary in northern Thailand, Koyama said he was inspired to write the book as he listened to the “fugue of the bullfrogs” while watching farmers working with water buffaloes in the rice fields.

“The water buffaloes tell me that I must preach to these farmers in the simplest sentence structure,” he wrote. “They remind me to discard all the abstract ideas and to use exclusively objects that are immediately tangible. ‘Sticky rice,’ ‘banana,’ ‘pepper,’ ‘dog,’ ‘cat,’ ‘bicycle,”rainy season,”leaking house,’ ‘fishing,’ ‘cockfighting,’ ‘lottery,’ ‘stomachache’–these are meaningful words for them.”  water-buff-3

Directed at the concerns of peasants, the book points out that Christianity and Buddhism do not communicate; rather Christians and Buddhists do. Rev. Dr. Koyama advocated seeing God “in the faces of people” to achieve good neighborliness among religions.  He spoke of trying to “season” the Aristotelian roots of Western theology with Buddhist “salt.”

Besides Water Buffalo Theology, Dr. Koyama wrote 12 other books including Three Mile an Hour God (1980) which reflects his thought that God moves at walking speed through the countryside.

Kosuke Koyama was born on December 10, 1929 in Tokyo.  In 1945, as American bombs rained down on Tokyo, he was baptised as a Christian. He was struck by the courageous words of the presiding pastor, who told him that God called on him to love everybody, “even the Americans.”

Once, in discussing death, Rev. Dr. Koyama recalled the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. He said Jesus would be with others the same way: “Looking into our eyes and heart, Jesus would say: ‘You’ve had a difficult journey. You must be tired, and dirty.  Let me wash your feet. The banquet’s ready.'”

St. Columba and the Loch Ness Monster

11 November 08 | Posted in Animals, Arts and Letters, Events, Global Catholic, Saints

St. Adamnan, the biographer of St. Columba, recorded an encounter with the Loch Ness Monster in 565 A.D. colm-cille.JPG

St. Columba was on his way to visit with the Pictish king in Inverness, came upon some Picts burying the remains of one of their people. They told Columba that the poor man had been bitten and mauled to death by a water monster.

The dead man’s boat lay on the other side of the water.  Columba ordered one of his followers to swim across and retrieve the boat.

One of his companions, Lugneus Mocumin, stripped down to his tunic and plunged into the water.

The monster saw him swimming, and having tasted blood, broke the surface of the water and made for him. Everyone who was watching was horrified, and hid their eyes in terror.

In the words of St. Adaman: “The monster suddenly rushed out and giving an awful roar, darted after him with its mouth wide open, as the man swam in the middle of the stream.”

St. Columba raised his hand, made the sign of the Cross and “commanded the ferocious monster saying, ‘Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed.’ Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and feld more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes.”

The Pope’s Cats

6 October 08 | Posted in Animals, Arts and Letters, Vatican

Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as Told by a Cat (Ignatius Press, 2008) is a children’s book written by Chico with the “aid” of Italian journalist, Jeanne Perego. popecat.JPG

The book, which has been translated into 10 languages and has sold 12,000 copies in the U.S., tells of young Joseph Ratzinger’s childhood love for all furry animals and the adult cardinal’s deep bond with the narrator, who lives in the Bavarian village of Pentling.

Chico’s owner, Rupert Hofbauer, confirmed the substance of the book and said that Chico, now 10, misses his old friend, who has not been back to visit since becoming pope.

“Sometimes Chico goes over there on his own,” Hofbauer said in a telephone interview, “and sits on the door sill or walks through the garden.” chico.JPG

When Cardinal Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he tended to the cats that frequented the garden of the congregation’s building in the Vatican and bandaged their wounds.

But he could not bring his two beloved cats when he moved into the papal palace. Rome’s animal rights commissioner protested the ban on pets, and urged the Vatican to “give the two papal cats access to the Apostolic Palace.”

Though Benedict is the first pope to be written about by a cat, he falls squarely within a long Vatican tradition.

According to The Papacy: An Encyclopedia by Philippe Levillain, Pope Paul II, in the 15th c. had his cats treated by his personal physician. Leo XII, in the 1820s, raised his grayish-red cat, Micetto, in the pleat of his cassock. And according to The Times of London, Paul VI, from 1963 to 1978, is said to have once dressed his cat in cardinal’s robes.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, has two silver tabbies named Raphael and Gabriel. Mahony believes that cats are perfect pets for clergymen “because they are wonderful companions. There is a spirituality about them. Their presence is very soothing.”

Pope Benedict’s publicly announced fondness for cats has resulted in one of Rome’s hottest selling tourist momentos–a little cardinal hat for cats.  The hat goes for $15 in stores such as Barbiconi, which specializes in clergy robes and accessories. 

Cardinal Mahony’s cats both have cardinal hats, given to him during a recent trip to Rome.

But currently, Pope Benedict XVI must abide by the rule against pets in the Vatican apartments, “although one cardinal has a dog and everyone in Rome knows it,” said Cardinal Mahoney.

Fr. Theodore Hesburgh on Evolution

30 September 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, U.S. Catholic

Father Theodore Hesburgh, 91, the president of Notre Dame  from 1952-1987, was known for his work on many of the biggest social issues of the day: equal rights, the ethical application of scientific advances, justice and academic freedom. thesburgh.jpg

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Fr. Hesburgh answered a question on evolution:

WSJ: You wrote that you and the popes you represented at the IAEA had deep appreciation of the sciences. Now, a m0vement, supported by some Catholics, is fighting the teaching of evolution.

Fr. Hesburgh: I have no problem at all with evolution. I think God can create in any way he wants. If he wants to create through an evolutionary process, it wouldn’t happen without him, because he has to put beings there in the first place. But it could be a very simple kind of life, and it could evolve, as I think it did, through various, different, more-complicated organisms until eventually you get to a point where there is a human being. That requires at least one act of God, to create an immortal soul. Evolution can’t create a spiritual and immortal moral soul.

I’m not afraid of science, because the more I learn from science, the more I know about God and his creation.