• The Canonisation of Charles de Foucauld, and Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries

    Today Charles de Foucauld is being canonised. The Frenchman who turned away from God and then back toward him in a way that led to his martyrdom in Algeria in 1916 will now be known as St. Charles de Foucauld.

    I’ve noted my own contact with Muslims over the years, but in the case of de Foucauld the connection is different, coming through Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. A priest from South Carolina named Leonard Tighe pointed out to me the following:

    “I am just beginning to do a project on the life and spirituality of the newly named Saint Charles de Foucauld. I am just looking at sources that influenced him in his long journey to conversion, and the Elevations were given to him at age 14 for his first Communion. They would deeply influence him in his later years also. This is the first I have ever seen or read any part of this in English. I would hope and like to include some parts of the texts in my future work…Thank you so very much for this masterpiece of work. I had no idea it existed and I am excited to use it. 

    Fr. Leonard Tighe

    As it happens it is the first complete translation of the work in to English AFAIK. This #straightouttairondale article notes in particular:

    The best illustration of Bro. Charles’ insight is his meditation on the Visitation of the Virgin to her cousin Elizabeth. Inspired by Bossuet’s Elevations sur les mystéres, he did not dwell on Mary’s readiness to help her elderly cousin Elizabeth. In his eyes it was not so much a visit of practical charity to assist her cousin in the last months of her pregnancy and at the birth, although Mary goes to her and this is important.

    But something else was far more important: “Mary set out to sanctify St. John, to proclaim the Good News, to evangelize him and to sanctify him, not with words but by bringing Jesus to him in his home, in silence…”.8

    This point deserves further development: “John the Baptist was sanctified, and with him, the whole of Zechariah’s family, not through words or an invitation to conversion that would in any case have been impossible, but simply through the presence of the Son of God within her. From before his birth, therefore, Jesus is Saviour with his presence alone. Continuing along the lines of Bossuet, Bro. Charles extends this form of sanctification to all souls.

    “Just as Mary sanctified John by going to his home and bringing Jesus himself, the living Gospel, within her, a soul that is filled with Jesus can bring salvation. With regard to the Visitation, Bossuet notes that as soon as she is filled with the Holy Spirit she is full of love, and that this is what happens to every soul: it possesses love to the extent that it lives on Jesus”.9

    The specific set of elevations he is referring to is Elevations on the effects which the Incarnate Word produces on men immediately after his Incarnation. I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that I was astonished at Bossuet’s take on this event when I translated it.

    The Elevations are in the last stage of serialisation; you can follow them here. It was a blessing for me to translate them and for them to be connected to such a dedicated man.

  • The Wetland Way, Week 2, Saturday: Some Get to Shop, Some Get Stuck Meeting with an Ambassador — Chet Aero Marine

    George found it quite a challenge in getting Darlene up and going the next day, which in turn had the same problem with Terry. They barely made their appointment with the Vidameran embassy to try to finalise a visit with King Francis. Once they got there, though, they found their hurry unjustified, as the Vidameran […]

    The Wetland Way, Week 2, Saturday: Some Get to Shop, Some Get Stuck Meeting with an Ambassador — Chet Aero Marine
  • How the Church attacks its own — UnHerd

    When Anthony Trollope submitted the manuscript of Barchester Towers, the publishers rejected it as over-the-top. They thought the Church of England couldn’t possibly behave in this kind of way. 1,495 more words

    How the Church attacks its own — UnHerd
  • Why the Ukrainians Didn’t Evangelise

    In 1988 my church aided (that’s an understatement) the resettlement of twenty-four Ukrainian Pentecostal refugees. For me it was part of the experience of a lifetime: I had my first contact with the Soviets on a commercial level the previous year, and visited Moscow and what was then Leningrad in April. Getting to know the Ukrainians was both educational and heart-warming. After years of reading and hearing about the persecuted church, to actually get to know people who had experienced it was not to be missed.

    What we found was a people who had been through a lot but were a lot more fun than we expected. What they went through depended upon the generation. The older people had it very hard, quite a few of them had done hard time in Siberia or ended up in “orphanages” because their parents were in prison. The younger people had had it easier: the Khrushchev and Brezhnev years saw the easing of persecution, but they were still barred from higher education unless they became communists (on the outside at least, there were many opportunists in those days) and joined the Young Pioneers. Most did not, but they had no problem participating in the “underground” economy, which came as a surprise for law-obsessed Americans. Life was not bad but they left because they never knew what would come next.

    It’s fair to say that, from an activity standpoint, American Evangelicals have two “pillars”: stewardship and evangelism. The Ukrainians were innocent of both. I discussed in my piece Losing the Church Property, or Why the Romanians Don’t Tithe the reasons why Christians in countries like the Soviet Union and communist Romania did not practice stewardship as we have understood it. It seemed strange that something like evangelism, which has such strong support in the New Testament, wasn’t on their agenda, or at least not on their agenda in the way we thought it should be.

    But it wasn’t strange. Christianity, certainly the way they practiced it in underground, unofficial churches, was illegal in the Soviet Union. In the later years the police turned a blind eye to what they were doing (they were unable to do that with the way they drove their cars) but the spectre of being shut down was there all the same. They had to be guarded in what they said and to whom they said it. They were marked people, and in some ways that was their evangelistic technique. But their house churches were free from state control (which is more than the Russian Orthodox Church could and can manage) and enough people were either born or converted to get church growth even in the circumstances they were in.

    Today we’re told by people like Tim Keller that we need to be “winsome” to evangelise those around us. Stepping away from the class problem, for our Ukrainian friends, it was simpler: the state was against them, they had to fly under the radar. In this country (and how this works out depends upon what part you’re in) we live in the anarchists’ dream, one I described in my piece Why the Spanish Civil War is Still Important:

    To these a great new truth seem to have been proclaimed.  The State, being based upon ideas of obedience and authority, was morally evil.  In its place, there should be self-governing bodies–municipalities, professions, or other societies–which would make voluntary pacts with each other.  Criminals would be punished by the censure of public opinion.

    Today we have the same type of enforcers, using public opinion as a backstop, intimidating the rest of us. How this will translate into legal force remains to be seen, although as they rise in the system it is inevitable. (It’s hard to make a clean distinction between the two, in the Soviet system snitches and public opinion could be brought to bear as well.) Those who simply live the commands of Our Lord will be subject to disadvantages, just as their Ukrainian counterparts were.

    How people like Keller–to say nothing of those who teach more conventional soulwinning–plan to deal with this problem is hard to say at this point. Widespread evangelism, like revival, requires a fairly open society, and that’s what’s slipping away these days. It’s certainly not the end of the spread of the Gospel, as the Chinese and Iranians know all too well. But it’s a game changer for everyone.

  • The Real Problem with @timkellernyc

    It’s been quite a back and forth between First Things James R. Wood and Tim Keller on the latter’s evangelistic idea and the effect that it has on whether he’s stuck with the Gospel or not. Wood’s basic premise is that Keller’s method is past its sell date due to changes in the culture; Keller’s response is that the Northeast wasn’t a “neutral” culture to Christianity to start with.

    As a South Floridian, I’m very much aware of the hostility of that culture (which in turn was brought there by people from the Northeast) to Evangelical Christianity. It’s been that way long before Keller showed up in New York and will continue in that way for the foreseeable future. On the other hand I think that, while Wood is probably right about the shifts in culture vs. the potential to evangelise same, both are blind to the key point of the whole debate: who are we actually reaching out to?

    When I worked for the Church of God, I spent some time with our church people in the Northeast and specifically in the New York City area. We have some really great people there, but the vast majority of them are not white. By New York standards they’re not wealthy either, but they’ve accomplished more in the short time they’ve been in this country than their Scots-Irish counterparts have done in three centuries. Their success in life was one of the major inspirations for my piece What Working for the Church of God Taught Me About Race, which would, if taken to heart, blow a great deal of the political and ecclesiastical paradigm we’re wrestling with in this country out of the water.

    It’s fair to say that Keller, being the Reformed type that he is, had a “higher” demographic (at least in terms of AGI) than the Churches of God were reaching. The problem with this, however, is exactly the same as the Anglicans are struggling with: the higher you go in this society, the more your parishioners are expected to conform–and will if their careers depend upon it–to what the world’s idea happens to be. If you’re trying to be “winsome,” you will adapt, but sooner or later you’ll either realise that you’re in a no-win game or you’ll cross the line.

    It’s a similar (but not identical problem) I discussed in my piece Squaring the Circle of Anglican/Episcopal Ministry. Ministering to an elevated demographic, Anglican/Episcopal churches have not, IMHO, figured out how to break the cycle of elevation/liberalisation/apostasy, and something tells me that Keller hasn’t either. The obvious solution is for us to focus our efforts on the “poor in spirit,” to use Our Lord’s expressive phrase, but a great deal of Evanglicalism isn’t prepared to do that. (One group that has done so successfully is the Assemblies of God, but the way they vote doesn’t appeal to our elite wannabees.)

    It’s a hard pill to swallow, Tim (and James for that matter,) but the sooner we take the medicine, the better we will feel in the long run.

  • The Wetland Way, Week 2, Sunday: Lunch with the Canon — Chet Aero Marine

    When Serelia became a nation, King Albert—for reasons as mysterious as Constantine—decided to break with the Masonic tradition of Beran and adopt a form of Christianity in Serelia. So bishops and clergy of the Anglican Communion from Verecunda came in and formed the Church of Serelia, with himself as its head. It became and continued […]

    The Wetland Way, Week 2, Sunday: Lunch with the Canon — Chet Aero Marine
  • What Do You Expect? This is Russia!

    My family business‘ adventure with the Russians began in 1987, when I went to Washington to visit, with my first Russian representative, the then Soviet commercial consulate. The two of us met in the same hotel where Ronald Reagan had been shot six year earlier; the consulate was just around the corner. While walking here we discussed the scandal they were having over the Soviets using the consulate as a listening post. His opinion? “What do you expect? This is Russia!”

    That’s the sentiment I’ve had in reflecting on George Weigel’s piece on Fr. Alexander Men and the current state of Russian Orthodoxy:

    In the last decades of the U.S.S.R., Fr. Men became a prominent reformist voice in Russian Orthodoxy, a spiritual adviser to Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov, and a magnet for conversions to Christ among the Russian intelligentsia. Communism, Men preached, was a “colossal historical pathology” that had “virtually destroyed” Russian culture; the damage it had done “lives on in people’s souls.” To help repair that damage, a post-communist Russian Church had to repent of its degrading cooperation with Soviet power. Out of that repentance, he hoped, would come a Russian Orthodoxy whose Christocentric voice would help build a renewed Russian civil society.

    I don’t think that either Weigel or Men had it quite figured out.

    The first problem is with Orthodoxy itself: it was born in Caesero-Papism and it endured in this state for over a thousand years. The fact that today we find Orthodoxy divided by ethnicity doesn’t change that heritage. As Moscow observed many years ago, it is the “Third Rome,” which has achieved what the first two have lost. Adding to that problem is Orthodoxy’s concept of itself. If you listen to really serious Orthodox people long enough, you come to realise that their idea is that Christ didn’t come to save people as much as he came to start a church, and if you’re outside of that church, you’re outside of Christ. (Thus, the Russian troops burning Bibles in the Ukraine.)

    In the early years, the relationship between the Tsar and the Russian Orthodox Church was more symbiotic. When the Church, for example, decided that they were not “the Joneses” of the Orthodox world and decided that one should cross oneself with three fingers and other practices, people like Avvakum and the Old Believers took it hard from Tsar and Patriarch alike.

    It was Peter the Great who made the ROC a department of the state. He saw the Church as an impediment to the westernisation of the country. His model was none other than the Church of England, which he noted was under the “broad seal” of the monarch. He came back to Russia, the Patriarch died, and he abolished the Patriarchate, replacing it with the Holy Synod. This state of affairs persisted until 1918, when the Tsar was gone and the Patriarch was restored, just in time to be bulldozed by the Bolsheviks.

    Now of course we have the best (or worst) of both worlds; the ROC is ruled by the Patriarch, but the Church is very much a department of the government. Russia’s two attempts at democracy in the last century failed miserably. Democracy just doesn’t happen: it is the result of a long process of change in a country, and neither Russia (or China) were able to get it off of the ground. The fact that Americans, who are in serious danger of losing their own democratic system, are completely incapable of understanding this, and continue to make mistakes pursuant to this error, only show that we have wasted a great deal of time and money raising up the elite that we have.

    The United States has two options: it either needs to understand that certain parts of the world will be under some kind of autocracy, or it needs to be prepared to spend blood and treasure to change things. Given that many of these places have nuclear weapons (we have facilitated Iran in that regards) the results of that campaign are unthinkable. (The fact that we can’t afford such a campaign should also give us pause.)

    Alexander Men was a brave man who gave his life for what he believed in, but the history of his church and his country was against him from the start. My second Russian rep told me that he didn’t think that Russia would change because it was too “Orthodox.” Now everybody knows what he was talking about; the serious question now is what to do about it. Our elites have messed this situation up; we need to look elsewhere for answers.

  • Bishop Rick Stika Keeps His Priests Down

    The cry for relief goes unanswered:

    Priests of the Knoxville diocese asked a papal representative last year for “merciful relief” from the leadership of Bishop Rick Stika. More than six months later, they have received no response to their request, and there has not been any conclusion to a Vatican investigation into Stika’s leadership.

    “Our experience of our appointed bishop varies among us, but the undersigned do share a common awareness that the past twelve years of service under Bishop Stika have been, on the whole, detrimental to priestly fraternity and even to our personal well-being.” 

    This isn’t normal in an episcopal type of church government, even with the mediocre quality of bishops we have these days. I wrote about Stika’s profligate ways last year, both fiscally and otherwise. At the time I noted the following:

    This is a key issue for Ultramontane Roman Catholicism in general.  When bad things happen, there are few places to turn because the famous Catholic penchant for subsidarity isn’t reflected in their own structure.  The result is that bishops and parish priests can become “little Caesars” with limited accountability to those whom they’re supposedly serving–the people of God.

    That’s certainly playing out here. Getting “redress of grievances” in a system like this is difficult at best, especially with the current Occupant of the See of Peter being the “biggest little Caesar” of them all.

    Personal note: I have a friend who is active in the Knights of Columbus. His council (and a few others) still have their own council buildings. The Diocese has expressed an interest in taking this and moving them to diocesan venues, but he and his fellow knights know better. Truly “worthy knights” indeed.

  • The Wetland Way, Week 1, Tuesday: Independence and a Meeting

    It was a fine day to become a nation, and the Drahlan Kingdom wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity after a long war of independence. The sun was …

    The Wetland Way, Week 1, Tuesday: Independence and a Meeting
  • The Supreme Court Looks to Void Roe v. Wade, and My Misjudgment of Brett Kavanaugh

    Nearly fifty years after our nation’s last nervous breakdown, a breakthrough:

    The Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court and obtained by POLITICO.

    The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes:

    “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he writes in the document, labeled as the “Opinion of the Court.” “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

    If true, it is the most explosive thing to happen in that time.

    In the meanwhile, we have this:

    A person familiar with the court’s deliberations said that four of the other Republican-appointed justices – Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – had voted with Alito in the conference held among the justices after hearing oral arguments in December, and that line-up remains unchanged as of this week.

    I had my doubts about Kavanaugh coming through on this:

    But another is an unmistakable conclusion from the last fracas over his social life: Kavanaugh is a party animal.  That in turn leads one to believe that Kavanaugh will never overturn Roe v. Wade outright.  Why?  Party animals, especially preppy ones, need abortion.  At his level in society, such things are not moral issues to be decided but problems to be fixed.  Abortion may be the final option available, but for such things option it is.

    But, as of now, he has.

    This is going to be ugly. But I am pleasantly surprised. It’s worth noting that the justices didn’t find a right to life in our Constitution, but plan to return the matter to the people’s elected representatives, both federal and state. Those elected representative have obtained a fifty year reprieve on the subject, as was the case with contraception. Our elected representatives hate topics like this, but this is what they’re paid to do, and it’s time they do it. Much of what is wrong with this Republic stems from the way the legislative branch has been able to hand off the hard decisions to the judiciary, and this is one less they can slough off.

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