Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Pastoral Plan of Saint John Vianney

See the article, St. John Vianney's Pastoral Plan, by Reverend John Cihak, from homiletic & pastoral review.

France, after the Revolution, was exhausted, secular, suspicious, and lukewarm in faith. John Vianney (1786 1859), came to Ars, a town where faith was weak and where people "worked hard and played hard" in a fashion similar to our own day. They were too busy to pray regularly or come to Mass on Sunday, but they had plenty of time to get drunk and revel all night.

St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, created this pastoral plan to recover his flock.

  • He set out to save his own soul first. His "spirituality" was simply that of being a priest. He took his vows seriously. He didn't start his career by being a saint, but he started it with the intention of sanctity.

  • He tried to be approachable and available. He walked around his parish, often in prayer, and would approach everyone, discussing everyday matters of interest to the people. He found out about the lack of faith of the children, the causes for the social ills of town, and everyday worries of the people. He didn't have an abstract idea of his parish, nor did he set out to change the world: he was only concerned about individuals.

  • He lived ascetically with a deep prayer life. His inspiration was the Desert Fathers: he lived simply, wore a coarse cassock and plain shoes, had bare furnishings, and ate simple food. He knew that he was powerless, and that only God would work through him. He was committed to regular prayer life and penitential practices. His goal was to do the Father's Will and he prayed for the conversion of his flock.

  • He put most of his energy into the already faithful families; they would then help spread the fire of faith.

  • He beautified his church, even spending his own money to have an exquisite altar and vestments of the finest materials. He wanted his church to be attractive as possible. The liitle expense of having a beautiful church led to a great increase of alms-giving to the poor. He had a great love of the Mass and showed it. He was precise and reverent. He strove to put the same love of the liturgy in his parishioners. His spent many hours a week working on his homily; his preaching was on the basics of the Faith, and he used everyday descriptions of life and colloquialisms that would be familiar to his flock. He personally taught Catechesis; he didn't consider it just a formality.

  • He addressed the root problems, not the symptoms. People considered Sunday to be a day of work, and he would refuse to accept absence for Mass due to work, he did this also for Holy Days of Obligation. Too many people spent most of their free time in taverns, and he worked hard to close them down, even to the point of paying tavern owners to close them. As a result, poverty and dissolute life decreased

  • He developed in his parishioners a strong prayer life and works of mercy. He founded women's groups dedicated to regular prayer in homes and promoting charity. He depended on the women to convert the men and boys. He had evening prayer meetings for those too busy in the morning. He organized parish missions and it was here that he discovered his gift of being a Confessor. At his own expense, he sent girls to school to become teachers. He built a home for orphans and street children.

  • He had a strong priestly identity. He spent himself in the service of others, without counting the cost. He was not a social worker, manager, psychologist, or center of a cult of personality, but a Priest in the service of God.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A New Jail, A New Kind of Prisoner

Last night I met a woman who works for an Evangelical Protestant Bible ministry to women in jail. She holds a weekly Bible study group for women in the Saint Louis County Justice Center, in Clayton, Missouri.


This is the huge 1,232-bed Saint Louis County Justice Center, completed in 1998. It is far larger than the older jail it replaced, and dominates this part of downtown Clayton.

The woman who teaches Bible study says that most of the women she meets in jail are there for mainly minor charges: unpaid traffic tickets, passing bad checks, petty theft, and selling illegal drugs. Nearly all of these crimes are financially motivated, since these women have recently become poor. I was shocked when she said that the most common reason for this poverty was legal gambling. These women had gambled their paychecks away, had lost their jobs due to excessive times spent in casinos, and had resorted to debt, illegal drug sales, sale of their assets, and stealing to get money to continue gambling. According to a friend who works with homeless women in this jail, there is a strange demographic split of the imprisoned: the men here are primarily minority, the women are primarily white. Men tend to be violent and underprivileged men tend become even more violent, and nearly all of the jail population used to be male. But now we have a perverse new equality: more women are going to jail. A great Feminist victory, no doubt.

Our American system of government gives great freedom to its citizens, but imposes harsh penalties on those who trespass on the law. In particular, the two types of freedom granted are freedom of doing business and freedom of personal behavior. Legal gambling is the flourishing of both kinds of freedom: casinos can operate openly, while gamblers can legally spend their money as they see fit. Our system of government, however, is merciless to those who break the law; our laws are enforced by a huge police force and court system. Our system which has both great freedom and harsh control leads to the strange situation -- people are encouraged to live life on the edge, yet are punished harshly when they almost inevitably step over the edge. This is hardly an ideal system of government: shouldn't people be taught and encouraged to do what is right in the first place? And shouldn't the State do what is right also?

But is gambling a sin? From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2413: "Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant." Many Protestant denominations, however, consider the addictive quality of gambling, like alcohol, sufficiently dangerous to prohibit their members for partaking in it. Our jail example does shows the great increase in sinful gambling behavior: the inability to meet needs. I've met a number of people who've lost all of their assets in gambling.

A basic Catholic principle for living a just life is to avoid the occasions of sin. It's far easier to do what is right if you avoid the people, places, or things that lead to sin. Most people, even if attracted to excessive gambling, wouldn't go into the bad part of town to enter a gambling establishment of questionable legality. When Las Vegas had just about the only legal gambling in the United States, there were many people who would go there on vacation; but it wasn't a weekly or daily habit for them. Numerous legal casinos increase the occasion and attractiveness of gambling: they are conveniently located, have many amenities, and have safe and well-lit parking lots. Therefore, we should expect a large increase in the number of gamblers and money spent on gambling. Likewise, the easy accessibility of pornography over the Internet and pay-television has led to a huge increase in pornography addiction.

Back when gambling houses were rare and illegal, there were a few corrupt politicians who received favors from gaming operators and looked the other way. This is inevitable, and tolerance of a small amount of illegal gambling is preferable to a harsh totalitarian state. But in these more democratic days, the whole voting population is now bribed. Gaming was reintroduced top-down, with huge tax revenues promised to "help our children". It is typically local governments who propose new casinos, and who dream of huge tax increases.

In 1986 Missouri started a state lottery, promising that its revenues would go to schools. In 1994, so-called "riverboat gambling" started in the state, limited to only games of skill; loss of gambling revenue to Illinois led to a great deregulation of gambling in Missouri. In 1998, the new, larger jail was opened, to house women who committed crimes because of gambling losses.

Gambling was legal twice before in American history. In both cases, the major factor was the state lotteries. The first wave of gambling were lotteries used to support the colonial governments and to pay for the new Puritan universities: Harvard and Yale amongst the other Ivy League schools. This led to widespread professional gambling; the result was great impoverishment and declining economies. This was halted by a Great Awakening of Protestants in the 1830s, a movement that also opposed slavery. The state lotteries reappeared after the Civil War to help pay for Reconstruction, this period also led to organized betting on horse races. Both the lottery and the ponies were eventually proved to be corrupt; moralists realized that poverty was crushing, and that the economy was stagnant due to the productivity losses of gambling. It was outlawed nearly everywhere by 1910. Our current legal gambling era was started once again by the state lotteries, followed by Las Vegas, and then the entire country.

This is what we have: far more people are addicted to gambling. They spend their days and evenings being unproductive. Their wealth is transferred to others, with no net additional goods or services being produced. People are losing their homes, declaring bankruptcy, divorcing, becoming impoverished, and going to jail. This is what we could have: the economy will collapse, and we will become a nation of papers. We will become a nation crushed under by sin and immorality.

Plato's Republic argues that morality is just as important to the State as it is to each individual. But we live in an era where morality is not taught in schools, and morality is declared irrelevant to the Law; this is about the greatest stupidity that I can imagine. Wake up, folks.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What is your Philosophical Anthropology? - A quiz.

You scored as Classical Humanist. You are traditional and orthodoxy is very important to you. You are most likely Catholic, or else your religion is ancient, with a long continuous tradition. You have a good sense of humor and like to take things easy. You aren't a very exciting person, but are dependable. You think that people need to cultivate the virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. You think that the study of science is good, but don't often keep up with the products of technological progress. You believe that the study of history has great application to understanding current events. You think that people can govern themselves most of the time, and that government needs to be mainly small; however, you do not expect too much of government. Your favorite philosophers are Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Augustine of Hippo, and Thomas Aquinas.

Classical Humanist

100%

Enlightenment Optimist

13%

Existentialist

0%

Pessimist

0%

What's your Philosophical Anthropology?
created with QuizFarm.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Photos of Old Saint Stanislaus Seminary

The missions to half of the United States started HERE, at the Saint Stanislaus Seminary, of the Society of Jesus, in Florissant, Missouri, about 20 highway miles northwest of downtown Saint Louis. The Jesuits left in 1971, and this is now the Pentecostal Gateway College of Evangelism.



This is the Old Rock Building, built by hand by the Jesuits seminarians and brothers out of rock they cut themselves from the bluffs overlooking the nearby Missouri River. It replaced an earlier log structure. In its earlier days, this seminary of 999 acres was self-supporting, like the monasteries of old. This was one of the first seminaries west of the Mississippi River.

The school that was to become the seminary was founded in 1823 by eight Belgian Jesuits, at the encouragement of Bishop Louis DuBourg of the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas, and U.S. President James Monroe. The missionaries built a log school for Indian children, and 17 years later opened the seminary.

This was the home base of Father Pierre De Smet, who traveled 200,000 miles on foot, mule, and boat, and made 19 ocean crossings in his missionary journeys.



Thousands of Jesuits lived and studied in these buildings.



This covered walkway is an example of the excellent detail found in classic Catholic buildings.



The imposing chapel.



Detail of the pediment of the chapel, showing the popular motto of the Society of Jesus " AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM" ("for the greater glory of God").



This little hill, the Memorial Mound, is an Indian burial mound and was also the Jesuit cemetery for the entire Missouri Province. Some remains and the tombstones were removed in 2002, the remains going to Calvary Cemetery in Saint Louis. Father Pierre De Smet was buried here; but only a few fragments of his skeleton were recovered. Most of the Jesuits were reinterred in a mass grave. The mound has not been fully excavated.



An old mausoleum on the grounds. Above the doorway is the Angelic Salutation.

The chaos in the culture following the Second Vatican Council led to the quick demise of the seminary. The combination of sexual libertinism, changing catechesis and liturgy, psychological experimentation, and great wealth, killed vocations.

The Collection of the Western Jesuit Missions, at Saint Louis University, opened in 2003: http://www.sjweb.info/world/museum_west_missions/index.cfm

An archive web site describing the Museum of the Western Jesuit Missions, that used to be housed in the Old Rock Building: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/jesuit/mwjm.htm

More photos of the Collection: http://www.geocities.com/davidjsuwalsky/

[UPDATE: see the newer article on the Collection of the Western Jesuit Missions.]

Map of location

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It's the Other Mary

In Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code,Jesus is said to have been secretly married to Mary Magdalene, and their descendants live to this day, protected by a secret society, and attacked by the Catholic Church and Opus Dei monks.

Amy Welborn has a commentary on writings by Stephen J. Shoemaker, an author who has studied the Gnostic texts that spawned Mr. Brown's novel. Shoemaker has authored the recent book The Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption,

Apparently, in the Gnostic texts, Jesus is very close to, even intimate with, a woman named Mary. He holds her in higher esteem than even His own Apostles. He wants her to hold a central place in His religion. Modern commentary on the Gnostic texts was done by Protestant theologians, starting in the 19th century, and they just assumed that this Mary was the Magdalene, although this Saint isn't explicitly mentioned as such. The texts, however, don't mention that Jesus married this Mary or had children with her; that is just recent Masonic speculation. This speculation led to further recent Feminist speculation that the Apostles were jealous of this Mary, that they usurped her power, persecuted her, and hid the truth about her, which leads to Dan's bestselling story.

But better evidence is that this Mary, "most blessed among women", is none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary; an idea that any good Protestant theologian worth his salt wouldn't even think of. This is a Mary who is blessed among women, intimate with Jesus, greater than the Apostles, and holds a central part in the Religion, exactly what Catholics and Orthodox say regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Someone ought to write a bestselling novel about this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Photos of the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France

Here are photos of the oldest Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis that is still an operating parish.



The Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, is in downtown Saint Louis, Missouri, situated on the high terrace overlooking the Mississippi River. It is on the grounds of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial of the National Park Service, site of the world-famous symbol of Saint Louis, the Gateway Arch.

This is perhaps the most famous church in Saint Louis, being so close to Arch, and also due to its age and importance. This is also a popular wedding location.

The church is made of native limestone, with a sandstone facade. In gold letters on the pediment is the Tetragrammaton: the Hebrew letters YHWH, the Holy Name of the Lord given to Moses. Below this is the Trinitarian statement "DEO UNI ET TRINO".

A plaque on the facade reads:

BASILICA OF SAINT LOUIS, KING


ON THIS LOCATION THE FIRST CHURCH IN ST. LOUIS,
A SMALL WOOD STRUCTURE WAS BLESSED ON JUNE 14,
1770. SIX YEARS LATERS IT WAS REPLACED BY A
LARGER CHURCH OF WHITE OAK TIMBERS BLESSED
AND USED FOR DIVINE SERVICE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN
EARLY SUMMER 1776. IT ALSO SERVED AS THE
CATHEDRAL FOR THE INSTALLATION OF BISHOP LOUIS
DUBOURG, THE BISHOP OF LOUISIANA AND THE
FLORIDAS, WHO TOOK UP RESIDENCE HERE JANUARY 5
1818. LITTLE MORE THAN TWO MONTHS LATER ON MARCH
29, 1818, THE CORNERSTONE FOR A BRICK CATHEDRAL WAS
BLESSED AND PLACED. THE BRICK CATHEDRAL WAS DESTINED
TO REMAIN UNFINSHED WAS SUPPLANTED BY THE
PRESENT STONE CHURCH. BISHOP JOSEPH ROSATI, CM,
BLESSED THE CORNERSTONE ON AUGUST 1, 1831 AND
SOLEMNLY CONSECRATED THIS CHURCH ON OCTOBER
26, 1834. ON OCTOBER 18, 1914, THE TITLE OF
"CATHEDRAL" CEASED WHEN THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL
LOCATED ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE CITY WAS
BLESSED. HOWEVER, ON JANUARY 25, 1961, POPE
JOHN XXIII DESIGNATED THIS HISTORIC CHURCH
A BASILICA, THEREBY CONFERRING ON IT WORLDWIDE
RECOGNITION. TODAY THIS IS THE BASILICA OF
SAINT LOUIS, KING, POPULARLY:

THE OLD CATHEDRAL

PLAQUE ERECTED BY KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS, 1916.
REPLACED: 1982



The neo-classical interior of the church is quite bright; due to clear-glass windows and a white color scheme. The sanctuary has a fairly traditional arrangement, with altar rail and central Tabernacle. The church at one time had a high altar, since removed; the old Crucifix is relocated in the back of the church. A large Crucifixion painting is now over the altar. The church has three altars; the altar of Saint Joseph on the left, and Mary on the right. Noontime masses during the work week are well-attended, with many tourists visiting the Arch and office-workers who walk here during lunch. This church is also highly indulgenced, and was once the Cathedral for half of the United States.


Here is the baptismal font, under an old restored painting of King Louis IX that was a gift from the King of France. Reconciliation is given on weekdays at 11:30 a.m. in the confessional box to the left.


A statue of Saint Joan of Arc. The old Bishop's cathedra is seen here on the altar.


The church is in downtown Saint Louis, in the oldest part of the City, near the river. Behind the church you can see the offices of KMOX radio; the Adam's Mark Hotel, and the Mansion House center. The flag is at half-staff in memory of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.


Here is a view of the Saint Louis riverfront, under the Gateway Arch, near the Basilica. Pierre Laclede and Auguste Choteau founded Saint Louis on this site in 1764, making this the last colonial city in North America. Earlier French settlements were situated on bottomlands next to the river, but this was set on high ground to avoid flooding. The river at this location is narrow, deep, and swift, making travel difficult; and the Chain of Rocks falls about eleven miles north of here was a barrier to navigation. Goods destined to go west of Saint Louis had to be unloaded here and shipped by land to the Missouri River. The Eads Bridge in the background opened to rail traffic in 1874. Although the steamboat trade is long gone, the river remains a highway for huge barges carrying commodities.

Old Cathedral
209 Walnut Street
Saint Louis, MO 63102

Sunday, September 11, 2005

"They don't build 'em like that anymore."

Actually, YES, they DO build them like that; NOW.



This is a photo of Anheuser-Busch Hall—a new building—on the campus of Washington University in Saint Louis, located about eight highway miles west of downtown Saint Louis. This building was constructed in 1995-1997 and is in the traditional style of the older buildings on this college campus. It is also the first of several new buildings on the campus in the traditional style.

This replaces the Modernist-style Mudd Hall, built in 1972. That older building, destroyed a mere 25 or so years after it was built, is not missed, according to the Washington University Law Quarterly:

The old law school building, Seeley G. Mudd Hall, was dedicated in 1972, but it quickly became inadequate, unliveable, and obsolete. Mudd Hall was reportedly an award-winning example of the hopefully now extinct architectural style of "Neo-Brutalism," but its facilities were "not designed for today's needs in legal education." Deficient facilities, however, were only a small part of its problem. In addition to the brown liquid (sometimes affectionately called "Mudd sludge") some classroom ceilings leaked, the building from its first days was cold, musty, and foreboding. The accreditors colorfully described the deficiencies of Mudd Hall as follows: "A population of about 800 people . . . are crushed into 60,000 square feet of space. The sweaty and noisy propinquity in the offices, corridors, and toilets--literally everywhere in the building--reminds one of a Manhattan subway at rush hour. . . ." - 76 Wash. U. L.Q. 1


I recall that building—the stark grey concrete; a bare courtyard devoid of vegetation; no decoration at all except for numerous flyers taped to the walls, long, tiring ramps going places where level floors would suffice; no detail on a human scale; restrooms seemingly hidden; ugly carpeting; a cold soul-grinding machine.

What is called Modern Architecture ended around 1972; with some saying that its symbolic end was the destruction of the ill-designed Pruitt-Igoe housing project in Saint Louis. Earlier modern architecture had—sometimes—a graceful and even cheerful appearance, but the last products of this style were inhumane. This style loved vast concrete courtyards, devoid of vegetation, and although numerous benches are placed in these spaces, no one would sit and linger; I recall one such courtyard in downtown Clayton, Missouri: stark and empty of all life. The deconstruction of persons' psyches and alienation of their minds from all earlier influence of family, patriotism, and religion, were to be facilitated by these stark and brutal buildings. At this time, money dried up for new construction; the 1970s was a dreary decade of decline; new architecture of this kind was fortunately some of the last made.

Consider the times: in 1972, the radical Left had just won the cultural battles of the 1960s, and universities were the vanguard of political change. The concrete monstrosities of this era were the architectural equivalent of Che Guevara raising the red banner after victory in battle. They had won, and this building proved it. And it was in buildings such as these that the great revolution in American politics and jurisprudence of the 1970s started. Gone was the idea that the Law had to be moral: no, Positive Law gave absolute power to victors, and tradition and virtue would have no part in it. Quickly, the Law changed; abortion was made a universal right. Divorce was made no-fault, causing endless misery for broken families. 'Children's rights' led to sex education and pressure to lower or eliminate the Age of Consent and also facilitated the break-up of families through intervention by the State. Families themselves would be redefined to include homosexual and even possibly group arrangements. The Church was to be eliminated from the public stage. Via punitive judgments, the Courtroom was turned into an all-powerful regulatory agency that effected massive cultural change, and overstepped the democratic legislative process. 'Personhood' was divorced from 'Humanity' leading to euthanasia and infanticide. Could an architectural style influence someone's thinking?

The other structure on campus from the end of the Modern era is the Mallinckrodt Center, a student union; it is also made of plain unadorned concrete; but some years ago, the oppressive character of this building's interior was lessened by large, historical photographs, including an amusing photo of 1920s-era coeds in the Flapper fashion.

It is not insignificant that the new law school had been called the "Promised Land" by Wash U. Law students, in anticipation of leaving the old building behind. The Gothic style is the very embodiment of a warm, rational, artistic humanism that also raises the spirit towards Heaven. Arguably, this style is the pinnacle of architectural development: rationally, it is superbly efficient in producing strong, yet airy buildings; and artistically, it is both beautiful in itself and is a canvas for the decorative arts. Gothic stands between two worlds: the Romanesque and Byzantine, bulky but rich in artwork, and the Modern, plain but technologically advanced—but Gothic alone combines the two in one style. This is not surprising, for the style developed during the High Middle Ages, the era of Saint Thomas Aquinas, where both Faith and Reason, and the love of beauty were regarded. That a building, deeply symbolic of a forgotten, but still felt, Catholicism, can be called a "Promised Land", signifies much; for the Church is the spiritual New Israel.

Washington University was cofounded by William Greenleaf Eliot, a Unitarian minister, and the University still shows its Puritan roots by its utter contempt of pre-Concilliar and post-Humanae Vitae Catholicism. William Eliot's grandson was the writer and prominent Anglo-Catholic convert T.S. Eliot. Perhaps Washington University shouldn't so closely embrace Gothic, which is also known as "The Catholic Style". Good architecture could inspire someone to make a similar conversion!




So Washington University in Saint Louis can still do great Gothic architecture. What about the Church? Why can't she? The University, as an integral part of the Puritan-Liberal Establishment, is secure and it is hard to conceive of any lawsuit that could deprive it of its property. How can improper sexual behavior lead to a lawsuit if the University claims that it promotes universal sexual expression? Certainly, it is immune to the charge of hypocrisy. Besides, its graduates wrote the law and appear before the bench in the courtroom, which is a strong defense. The Church is still alien to American culture. I fear that the risk of making great Catholic buildings again may be too great in this country, due to potential loss in an unjust punitive lawsuit. We must first change ourselves, and then the culture.

Photo of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary



Here is a photo of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Photo of Our Lady's Grotto


Here is a photo of Our Lady's Grotto, a little Marian shrine and park area built around a natural cave and spring (also known as Kenrick Cave) in Shrewsbury, Missouri, about eleven and half miles southwest of downtown Saint Louis, Missouri. It is located near Curé of Ars Church and the Cardinal Rigali Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, formerly Kenrick Seminary. This little shrine is located on the north side of the entrance driveway to the church, with a path leading to the cave opening, and a stone-lined channel leading the spring water away. This shrine's location in the woods, in a hollow, with a spring that flows year-round, means that the temperature here is cool, even on hot Saint Louis August days. The grotto has a park bench and planted flowers.

The cave is large enough to crawl into, if you are willing to get wet from the flowing water that covers the floor of this spring. Many years ago I used a powerful flashlight, and peering into the darkness of the cave, saw the red reflection from the eyes of a small animal peering back at me. Another beautiful spring is located nearby in the southeast corner of Blackburn Park. The former Cardinal Glennon Seminary is nearby, it is now known as Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

Springs have great spiritual significance, both in Scripture and in heathen religion, as a symbol of life and cleansing. The constancy and clarity of springwater is in contrast to aboveground waters, which are often unreliable, turbid, and foul.


Map of location

from Psalm 103 (104)

Qui emittis fontes in convallibus ut inter medios montes fluant
Ut bibant omnia animalia regionum et reficiat onager sitim suam
Super ea volucres caeli morabuntur de medio nemorum dabunt vocem


Thou sendest forth springs in the vales: between the midst of the hills the waters shall pass.
All the beasts of the field shall drink: the wild asses shall expect in their thirst.
Over them the birds of the air shall dwell: from the midst of the rocks they shall give forth their voices.

"Do not despise low places, thence flow springs," says Saint Augustine of Hippo, regarding the Apostolic Life.


The photo was taken on August 15, 2005, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Photos of Old Saint Ferdinand's Shrine in Florissant, Missouri





Old Saint Ferdinand's Shrine, built in 1819-1821, is believed to be the oldest Catholic church between the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains. The facade and belltower date from 1881; the interior was renovated in 1966 after a fire. It is no longer a parish church, but remains consecrated, however, the Blessed Sacrament is not reserved here. This is a log building, with a brick exterior. This is the first place where Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne had a school in the Saint Louis area, before she moved to Saint Charles, Missouri. The Jesuit missionary Peter De Smet was ordained here. Under the altar is a wax effigy containing the relics of Saint Valentine.

Florissant is one of the oldest communitites in Missouri, in north Saint Louis County, and is located about 17 and a half highway miles northwest of downtown Saint Louis City. The streets in Old Town Florissant have Saints' names. Many historic buildings, including one dating from 1790, still exist in this neighborhood.


The old school, built in 1888, is now a museum



The rectory, built in 1840



The facade of the church. The marker to the right of the entrance reads:

THIS CHURCH WAS BUILT IN 1821,
AT THE THEN FRONTIER OF OUR BELOVED LAND
AND
DEDICATED TO THE
SACRED HEART OF JESUS
WITH
ST. FERDINAND AND ST. JOHN REGIS
AS SECONDARY PATRONS

THE ST. LOUIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
FOURTH DEGREE
KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS
AFFECTIONATLY PLACED THIS MARKER
ON JUNE 14TH 1925.



The convent, built in 1819, is where Mother Rose Philippine Duchesne lived from 1819 to 1827 and from 1834 to 1840.


Statue of Saint Ferdinand, in front of the convent



Statue of Mother Duchesne



Behind the church



Back of the convent, showing what appears to be an old well



The garden behind the rectory



Coldwater Creek, near the church



The area adjacent to the Shrine is Spanish Land Grant Park, and contains the remains of the early settlers of Florissant. The graves are unmarked. A monument reads:


FLORISSANT

FRENCH TRAPPERS DISCOVERED THE FERTILE VALLEY FORMED BY
THE RIVIERE DE BICHE AND CALLED IT FLEURISSANT. THEY STAYED TO
TILL THE RICH SOIL AND BUILD A VILLAGE HERE ON THE EAST BANK
OF THE STREAM THE AMERICANS WOULD LATER CALL COLDWATER
CREEK THE COMMON FIELDS STRETCHED FROM THE WEST BANK TO
THE MISSOURI RIVER WHILE THE COMMONS SURROUNDED THE
VILLAGE ON THE REMAINING THREE SIDES. WHEN THE LAND WAS
TRANSFERRED TO SPAIN, THE VILLAGE WAS KNOWN AS SAN
FERNANDO AND IN 1786 FRANCOIS DUNEGANT WAS NAMED THE
MILITARY AND CIVIL COMMANDANT OF THE VILLAGE.

ERECTED BY
THE BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL WOMEN'S CLUB
OF FLORISSANT
IN CELEBRATION OF 200 YEARS OF GOVERNMENT
ON OCTOBER 19, 1986


Address:
1 Rue St. Francois
Florissant, MO 63032


Phone: 314-837-2110

The shrine is open on Sundays 1-4 PM, April thru December.


Newer photos of the shrine can be found here, here, and here.

Lay Eucharistic Conference to be held October 1st, 2005

The conference, "The Feast of Faith: The Eucharist in the Thought of Pope Benedict XVI", will be given by Rev. C. Eugene Morris, on Saturday, October 1st, 2005, at the Cardinal Rigali Pastoral Center in Shrewsbury, Missouri.

Fr. Morris is Director of Worship and Assistant Professor of Sacramental Theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, and is host of the show "Sacraments, Sacramentals and the Sacramental Life of the Church" on Covenant Network Catholic radio (AM 1080 WRYT and AM 1460 KHOJ)

Schedule:

9:00 AM, Holy Mass
10:00 AM, Refreshments
10:30 AM, Talk
11:45 AM, Lunch
1:00 PM, Talk
2:00 PM, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction
3:00 PM, End of conference

Registration fee is $15 and includes refreshments and a box lunch. Payment must be received by Wednesday, September 21st.

Send name, address, phone number and check, payable to Archbishop's Committee On Eucharistic Adoration, to:

Archbishop's Committee On Eucharistic Adoration
6603 Christopher Dr.
St. Louis, MO 63129

For further information, contact Mary or Rose at (314) 846-8207 x200

Location:
Cardinal Rigali Center
20 Archbishop May Drive
Saint Louis, MO 63119

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Presentation on Cloning Given at Cardinal Rigali Center

"Stem Cells and Cloning: Facts vs. Fiction" was held at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shewsbury, Missouri, on Tuesday, August 30th, 2005. Principal speakers were John F. Morris, Ph.D., and Wesley J. Smith, J.D., and attendees included Archbishop Burke and numerous priests, professionals, and civic leaders of the diocese. This presentation was sponsored the St. Louis Archdiocesean Respect for Life Apostolate and Missouri Right to Life.

Dr. Morris' presentation provided a scientific view of cloning, and various misconceptions about cloning that are portrayed by the media and prominent politicians. He talked about stem cells, which are primitive cells found in the body which can grow into various organ tissue, such as heart, brain, muscle, etc. The cells can be collected and coaxed into various tissues for the treatment of, for example, heart disease. Adult stem cells are not necessarily taken strictly from an adult, but are also present in umbilical cords, baby teeth, and so forth; these types of cells are limited in that they cannot grow into any arbitrary cell, but only into restricted types, based on where the stem cells were taken. However, adult stem cell research has been very successful, leading to numerous cures in both animals and humans. But because adult stem cells can't be coaxed into any arbitrary cell type, researchers want to do research on embryonic stem cells, which may grow into any type of cell found in the body.

The moral problem is that to get embryonic stem cells, an embryo has to be destroyed. Embryos are human life in a very early stage of development. A scientific problem is that stem cells taken from any random embryo will probably be rejected by the patient, or become a tumor, since the genetic code of the patient and embryo are different. So far, all embryonic stem cell research has failed to provide effective treatment of disease in either animals or humans.

This gives rise to researchers' desire to clone the patient: creating an embryo identical to the patient, from which stem cells may be harvested. Since cloning has become controversial in the public mind, pro-cloning researchers have developed a new name, somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT to describe the cloning process. Beware of any group that has to change the names of things regularly!

However, even cloning doesn't create an exact genetic equivalent, since the egg cell itself has its own genetics and composition, different from the patient's mother. Another problem is that these eggs have to be taken from healthy young women, and in large numbers. This could lead to exploitation of these donors, not to mention the negative medical side-effects of this collection, especially if this cloning becomes widespread.

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt stated his support for cloning by saying that a cloned embryo is not human because it wasn't formed by a sperm and egg, even though a clone could eventually develop into a fully adult human. And a voter, Mr. Governor. So Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned large mammal, wasn't really a sheep? In fairness, though, the governor has a good record on Pro-Life issues, and only recently has this science developed, and only recently has the philosophy of the Culture of Death been understood as encompassing such areas as cloning. Gov. Blunt needs to think more about the moral implications of this research.

Some researchers say that a cloned embryo is not really human because it was created with the intention of destroying it before it develops into an adult human. They call this "therapeutic cloning" instead of "reproductive cloning", although the cloning process is the same. This is a ridiculous argument, and inconsistent. Scientists, especially biologists, deny teleology, or the 'Final End' of things, but here they are using teleology to justify themselves. And saying that another human can define the Final End of another human, even a tiny one in early development, strikes me as arrogant to the extreme, and even sacrilegious, making oneself God.

Wesley Smith's presentation was about the philosophy of the Culture of Death. He was a longtime friend, coauthor, and collaborator with Ralph Nader, who is apparently quite sincere, whether or not you agree with his politics,

Smith is a man on fire. He shows righteous indignation and anger at the Culture of Death. He stated his speech with a story about how he originally was mainly interested in euthanasia issues: but someone invited him to go to breakfast the next day, and meet with some people who were interested in the problem of cloning, insisting that after breakfast he would write a book against cloning. Smith says that he wasn't interested in that subject, just euthanasia. However, at the breakfast, he found out that abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and animal rights are all share the same negative philosophy of humanity. And yes, he did write a book on the subject.

In his study of medical ethics, he has discovered that the mainstream of ethicists make a distinction between a "human" and a "person". A "human" is determined by biology, so embryos, infants, or a man in a coma are humans. A "person", however, is a moral agent, capable of making moral choices, and therefore is given value by others. These views come from secular materialism which denies the Spirit and objective values; and from Utilitarian philosophy, that seeks the greatest good for the greatest number of persons. In this theory, an intelligent animal, advanced computer program, or a space alien landing on Earth can all be considered persons, while infants, and humans in comas are not. Smith said that if ever he meets a space alien, then he will decide if it is a person or not, but thinks that such speculation is not helpful, and instead thinks that this new ethics will lead to atrocity.

Catholic thinking says that all humans are persons, and this dignity is innate, and not just given value by other humans.

Smith says that all of the Pro-Life problems today come from this new ethics, where professional ethicists, judges, and politicians determine whether or not someone is a person and if they deserve rights or death.

Under the new system, all manner of killing is justified, and isn't really limited to extreme cases.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Procession in Times of Tribulation

From the Roman Ritual, 1964

All: Ant. Rise up, O Lord, and help us, * and deliver us for your
name's sake.

P: We have heard, O God, with our own ears * the things which our
fathers told us.

All: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy
Spirit.

P: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, * world
without end. Amen.

All: Ant.: Rise up, O Lord, and help us, * and deliver us for
your name's sake.

P: Lord, have mercy on us.
All: Lord, have mercy on us.
P: Christ, have mercy on us.
All: Christ, have mercy on us.
P: Lord, have mercy on us.
All: Lord, have mercy on us.

P: Holy Mary, Mother of God.
All: Pray for us.
P: Saint Michael,
All: (etc.)
Holy angels of God,
Saint Joseph,
Saint John the Baptist,
Saint Peter and Saint Paul,
Saint Andrew,
Saint John,
Saint Mary Magdalene,
Saint Stephen,
Saint Ignatius,
Saint Lawrence,
Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity,
Saint Agnes,
Saint Gregory,
Saint Augustine,
Saint Athanasius,
Saint Basil,
Saint Martin,
Saint Benedict,
Saint Francis and Saint Dominic,
Saint Francis Xavier,
Saint John Vianney,
Saint Catherine,
Saint Theresa,
All you saints of God,

P: Lord, be merciful,
All: Lord, save us.
P: From all harm,
All: (etc)
From every sin,
From all temptations,
From everlasting death,
By Your coming among us,
By Your death and rising to new life,
By Your gift of the Holy Spirit,

P: Be merciful to us sinners,
All: Lord, hear our prayer.
P: Guide and protect Your Holy Church,
All: (etc)
Keep our Pope and all the clergy in faithful service to Your Church.
Bring all people together in trust and peace.
Strengthen us in Your service.

Amen.

P: Our Father (the rest inaudibly until:)
P: And lead us not into temptation.
All: But deliver us from evil.

Then psalm 19 is said; or in place of it psalm 90.

May the Lord hear thee in the day of tribulation: may the name of the God of Jacob protect thee. May he send thee help from the sanctuary: and defend thee out of Sion. May he be mindful of all thy sacrifices: and may thy whole burnt offering be made fat. May he give thee according to thy own heart; and confirm all thy counsels.

We will rejoice in thy salvation; and in the name of our God we shall be exalted. The Lord fulfill all thy petitions: now have I known that the Lord hath saved his anointed. He will hear him from his holy heaven: the salvation of his right hand is in powers. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God. They are bound, and have fallen; but we are risen, and are set upright. O Lord, save the king: and hear us in the day that we shall call upon thee.

P: God is our refuge and our strength.
All: A helper in all tribulations.
P: Lord, save your servants.
All: Who trust in you, my God.
P: O holy God! O holy strong One! O holy immortal One!
All: Have mercy on us.
P: Help us, O God, our Savior.
All: And deliver us, O Lord, for the glory of your name.
P: Lord, heed my prayer.
All: And let my cry be heard by you.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.
Almighty God, do not disdain your people who cry to you in their affliction, but for the glory of your name be pleased to help us who are so sorely troubled. Show us, O Lord, your inexpressible mercy, blot out our transgressions, and graciously deliver us from the condemnation they deserve.

We entreat you, Lord God, grant us, your servants, the enjoyment of lasting health of body and mind; and by the glorious intercession of blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, free us from present sorrow and give us everlasting joy.

Graciously hear us, O Lord, in our tribulation, and turn away the stripes of your wrath which we justly deserve. God, our refuge and our strength and source of all goodness, heed the holy prayers of your Church, and grant that we fully obtain whatever we ask for in faith; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Virtue is Lacking

In the very first sentence of Plato's Dialogue of Meno, Socrates is asked by Meno, "Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor practice, then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what other way?"

In other words::
1) Virtue can be taught; or
2) Virtue is gained by practice; or
3) Virtue is a part of human nature; or
4) Virtue is against human nature

All of the philosophies of the world created since this dialogue was written in about 380 B.C. have generally assumed just one or another of these four views of virtue and human nature.

The chaos now in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina shows the great and horrible flaws in American culture. Rioting, gunfire, rape, looting, gang warfare, and general lawlessness rule the day in the city.

Understandably, these people are starving, dying of thirst, and many need urgent medical care and general sanitation. I would think that stealing food when starving is not sin, or even a crime; for justice demands this. But the situation goes far beyond this, people are settling old scores and violently doing whatever they want, with no regard for others.

Some would say that desperate times call for desperate measures, but a virtuous person does not act with desperation, but keeps his emotions in check.

Much of the political Left in the United States thinks that virtue is a part of human nature, and that only society makes people act contrary to virtue. People with this point of view do not blame the people who are causing chaos in New Orleans, saying that they are just responding to social injustice. Likewise, the hurricane itself is seen as being caused by the injustices of current political system, due to global warming and the lack of government spending on infrastructure in ethnic minority cities. Ironically, both Leftist Europeans and radical Islamicists are delighting in their schadenfreude, saying that the United States is getting what it deserves, because of the war in Iraq and America's cultural and economic hegemony.

Much of the political Right in the United States thinks that virtue is against human nature, and that vigorous law enforcement is needed to keep order. They want to use the military to impose order on the rioters, with shoot-on-sight orders against looters. Overwhelming force is needed to control the people who are acting like animals.

Why won't we, or why can't we just teach and encourge people to do the right thing, with no need for either reward or punishment? To do what is right just because it is the right thing to do? Why must we make excuses for those who don't do what is right? Why must we always resort to force against those who get out of line?

American culture says that virtue is either a part of human nature or is against it. This goes very well with American public philosophy and religion, which was originally Puritan. The Puritans thought that a man's salvation was predestined, and that a man can actually know, with certainty, whether he is saved or not. The elect, saved, or elite knew that the others were damned and needed force to keep them in order. The more enlightened of that group, such as the Universalists, think that all are saved, in a democratic fashion, and all bad behavior is to be excused as a failure of society. So where does virtue fit in here? Is it even relevant in this worldview? American Catholics, Neo-Conservative and Liberal alike, unfortunately subscribe to these views, for both views stem from the same source, which unfortunately is not Catholicism.

The Catholic view of man is that he is good, but wounded. He has the Moral Law written deep in his heart, but that we ignore this in-built morality by pride and weakness of will. We can teach about virtue, and there are ways to strengthen good moral behavior so that we can become more virtuous. Catholicism teaches about the rewards and punishments of good and bad behavior, but above all, she teaches that we should love the Good for its own sake, and do right for its own sake.

The Puritan Ethic is the Work Ethic, which revolves around the gain or support of either money or power. This is not the Catholic Ethic, which gives force to all of the virtues, both natural and supernatural. A Catholic is not certain of his salvation, and must be virtuous, in every way possible.

Meno asks Socrates if virtue can either be taught or gained by practice. Contemporary American culture ignores these questions, for several reasons. Virtue is certainly not taught in American schools, neither in public schools nor in most Catholic schools. Virtue is not practiced, either, as is well-demonstrated here.

Virtue, which is inseparably linked to morality, is not taught in public schools because it is believed to be too closely tied to religion, and Thomas Jefferson's "high wall of separation between Church and State" is not to be breached. But a truly 'multicultural' education would see that virtue is seen in almost identical ways by all of the great cultures of the world, and is indeed a part of what can be called 'ancient wisdom'. This, however, is not the goal of multicultural teaching, which instead mainly desensitizes students about sexual and cultural immorality and purposefully alienates them from their received religious background. Even our legal system, under the philosophy of "Positive Law", denies that the law should be moral.

The great cult of individuality, where every man is King and Pope, (and even God, in New Age thinking), is what is taught in schools today. Self-Esteem is worshiped. "I will not serve" is the attitude that develops, and so force will be inevitably needed to keep people in line.

C.S. Lewis describes humanity as a fleet of ships on the sea. They have three different sets of sailing orders: how each ship is to keep afloat, how the ships should cooperate with each other, and where the ships are headed. The last, which describes the End of man, is far too close to religion for comfort, so we substitute a nebulous New Age "Self-Actualization", or Conquest of Nature (including Human Nature), or Success as the End of mankind. We do not teach how the ships should cooperate; so force is needed to keep them in line. Likewise, how the ships should be kept afloat is not taught, for everyone should follow their own conscience, ill-formed as it may be.

Moral Relativists on the Left say that there are no objective virtues, and instead people should do whatever they think is right, and that any teaching of virtue, even in a rational Socratic manner, is imposing moral views on students. Captains of Industry on the Right think that the Classical Virtues, which emphasizes Justice and Temperance, will deprive them of their riches and their revenue streams. Even governments of all types are now filled with greed, maximizing tax revenue from gambling and other vice.

Puritan values have left our country rich, powerful, but also impoverished. Enlightenment values have made us selfish and egotistical. Marxist values have divided our nation into struggling factions within our institutions and families. New Age values have made us demonic. The Classical Virtues of Plato and Aristotle, amplified and expanded on by the Church have been nearly forgotten, but the spark is still alive.

Socrates was battling against the moral relativists, against the rich and powerful, and against the immoral. Plato, who wrote his dialogues, showed very plainly that Virtue can be objectively known, even though it was hard to do, and that even the wicked could be brought to a rational understanding of justice. The Church, which recognized the truth of both faith and reason, uses the ideas of these classical philosophers in its moral system. Sadly, modern sects deny reason at times, or deny objective truth. But Catholics know that virtue can be studied, in a rational manner, and not be tied to religion.

The chaos in New Orleans is due to lack of virtue.

It is up to Catholics, who almost alone in the United States still have a vestige of teaching and practice in Virtue. it is lost nearly everwhere else, so we have to get to work! All that is needed now is a few saints in the world.