Triduum of All Hallows

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This is  recycled from a few years back:

Sometimes it is hard to think of Halloween as the start of a Christian Triduum, but it is. It is the beginning of Hallomas and the eve of All Saints Day , which is followed by All Souls Day. Halloween many times takes on the feeling of paganism, and its customs and solstice link do indeed trace back to many pre-Christian festivities. Christians were not the first to be concerned with the spirits or souls of the departed. Halloween as commemorated reflects much of the incorporation of ancient festivals with Christian beliefs. Commercialism too, has shaped this modern holiday just as it has distorted Christmas into a shopping season, and Saint Patrick’s day into a celebration of alcohol.

Many times Hallomas ends on its first day, Halloween. It is the costumes and parties and candies that are advertised; and it is the remembrance of the deceased that is forgotten. The traditional belief of Halloween is that the veil between the material and spiritual world becomes thin. Oddly that day of candy from a religious standpoint was traditionally a day of fasting. Halloween borrows from many traditions around the world though so it is easy to see how that fast got misplaced. It also east to see how, especially in northern climates how this day is associated with the thinning of the veil between life and death. It is the transition of the long days of light to the dark days of winter. It is the trees shedding their leaves. It is the harvesting of the last harvest of the season. It is the cycle of life that is so visible in most northern European climates. One only has to look around to see how that veil is thinned. That change in nature does take on its own spiritual quality and the commercial and pedestrian celebration of Halloween is a festive acknowledgement of that change. But if one only celebrates that end of fall or change of season, Halloween becomes dead as winter. Halloween is not the celebration, it is after all just the beginning of the celebration.

Halloween translates to “the eve of All Saints day” where the church celebrates all saints. It acknowledges all of those faithful who have led exemplary lives. It is a day of remembrance for those who have not been canonized, or for those who do not have a recognized day of their own. It is a day for famous, and those known only by a few family members. It is that celebration of the communion of saints, a day to ask for those saints to intercede for us, to pray for us, and us to offer our prayers and petitions to them. It is a day dedicated to saints,the holy innocents, and martyrs. It is a day of church triumphant. It is good to remember those who have been triumphant on their journey, those who have had a bountiful harvest and who were victorious over “the evil spirits” that are so humorously portrayed on Halloween.

The third day of All Hallows pays tribute to the souls that perhaps stumbled a bit on their journey. Those that perhaps did not make all of the right choices, the ones that were perhaps tricked in life. All Souls day is one for those that struggle and the consolation that even a sinner is loved. It is a day devoted to those souls in purgatory, those that hope to be raised to heaven and those who depend on our prayers and intercessions.

The Triduum is a look at  all souls, all the faithful departed whether saints or sinners, serious topics thankfully lightened by a very festive celebration; but it is easy to get tricked into ignoring these souls while being bribed by candy. In that Halloween phrase “trick or treat”, perhaps there is an echo of both the day of all saints and souls; it is the saints that did not fall for life’s tricks, while perhaps some souls were a bit to attached to the treats that they lost sight of the perils. The disguises of Halloween do after all mimic the disguises and deceptions of life. Art does indeed imitate life.Trick or treat can be rephrased to the more sober and biblical “I present to you a blessing and a curse.” Jack-O-Lanterns with their candles do illustrate body and soul and the procession of masked characters is a drama of the procession of life as most everyone eventually realizes their season for collecting treats has passed. Eventually one must pass from one side of the door to the other, from asking the questions to giving the replies or simply observing and growing in these seasons of life.

(note: I know the word triduum isn’t being used 100% correctly here, it is being used to draw similarly to the Easter triduum. I guess trilogy might have been the correct choice, but that word doesn’t have the same effect.)

In defense of the taxman

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Lk 18:9-14
Please, let me argue for the taxman. No one likes the tax collector, they didn’t like him in the first century we don’t like them in the twenty first. Tax collectors are unpopular. What can we say about the Pharisee today, can we comment about what he said in the front of that temple? Certainly we read his words, but can we really dislike him as much as the tax collector? Where are our experiences, where do we draw our empathy? Sure, his prayer is boisterous and superficial. He pats himself on the back, and he certainly does not grovel? He was held in esteem in life, and prays like a person privilege. He says thank you a lot, he is polite. He doesn’t say pardon me, and he doesn’t say help me. But what of the taxman?

‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’

The taxman had no self-esteem, he was esteemed by no one. He took money from the poor and gave it to the rich. The rich didn’t care much for him because of the prejudices by which he made his livelihood. They didn’t like money handlers much, such a dirty profession. His own people didn’t care for him either. First, he took their money. Second he gave it to an invader. Third those coins had the image of a pagan god. Finally the taxman profited from the tax transactions: he skimmed a little for himself. So, how can anyone defend him? The taxman is despicable without a single redeeming quality. Right?

‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

Well, what if that man had not taken those taxes? Would the emperor accept that, would the peasants get to keep their money? Would a massive army do battle for free? The taxman kept the peace. He was the broker between the invading empire and the conquered people. He collected enough tax for the emperor to keep the armies at bay, and not so much for his kinsmen to riot or revolt. Upon paying taxes, his neighbors might have made a snide remark but they did not draw their swords. The taxman had to carefully strike a balance, and to do so he had to be a great observer with eyes and ears always open. He could not rely on the words coming from the emperor’s camp, and he could not focus on the response of the taxpayer. Who then could he have turned to? That might give reason for his presence in that temple. His was a prayer of necessity and he had no to turn to but God. In his prayers he explains his plight, of doing what had to be done, no matter how unpopular. He prayed that he made the right choices, because neither side would offer the correct response. That is the reason for a broker, and why a broker would pray to hone their skills. To hone those skills did not infer the taxman would increase their wealth. If the taxman lived in luxury, then the emperor suspected a cheat. The prayer was for balance, and good judgement, and forgiveness; that is what he needed to survive. Now, what did that Pharisee pray for?

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 150

Father Isaac Jogues, Father John de Brébeuf and their companions.

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“Do not be afraid.
You are worth more than many sparrows.”

In the Acts of the Apostles Luke tells of the beginning of the spreading of the New Testament throughout the ancient world. While spreading this gospel message had its difficulties, the Apostles were familiar with the variety of cultures and philosophies and languages of that day.It was the world they knew, even though it was about to undergo the miraculous transformation that is the New Testament. In the light of these Acts of the Apostles, ponder the “acts” of Father Isaac Jogues,  Father John de Brébeuf and their companions.

They were Jesuit Priests from France, bringing the New Testament to a new continent,and a new world of which they had no experience. North America of the 1600’s was entirely different from Europe. It was a vast wilderness sparsely colonised by small groups of Europeans. It’s indigenous peoples were so culturally different from  Europeans. The Iroquois and Huron Indians of New York and New England had a cultural lifestyle different from anything in Europe. Their language was totally unrelated from the languages of the Jesuits, and their clothing like nothing they had ever seen.

In Luke’s  Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles could present Christ to the pagans in their own language, and explain Christ to people with cultures and beliefs they knew. Saint Isaac Jogues did not have this luxury, yet knew these people were children of God and worthy of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Knowing that, they were determined to use every resource to deliver that message. In delivering that message they were tortured, and imprisoned. Isaac Jogues wrote of his torture: “These tortures are very great, but God is still greater, and immense.” To prevent Fr. Jogues from consecrating the host his captors cut off several fingers. Escaping torture and being sent back to France, St. Jogues still had the need to deliver the gospel of Christ to these Indian people despite the language  and cultural barriers. Despite a hostile reception and despite torture.

In the return trip to the new world Fathers Isaac Jogues,  John de Brébeuf and their companions were eventually martyred. Yet in death, they were not defeated. Ten years later, Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the same village where Isaac was martyred. She is Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, a young woman born of Indian heritage. Saint Kateri was also ridiculed for desiring to follow that gospel message Isaac Jogues and his companions had delivered. She is the Jesuit victory, the victory of Christ. Many of the Indian tribes, especially in eastern Maine, embraced that Gospel of Jesus delivered by  saints Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf ,and their companions; and they continue to follow that gospel today. Those Jesuits knew these indigenous people of a new world were children of God and worthy of the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

San Francesco

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Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone had a unique approach to discipleship. In his day the church wielded much power and influence and many in its leadership roles fell prey to the sins of power. Giovanni Francesco in fact was not much different from these priests. Though he was a member of the laity he came from a family of wealth and in his youth he too was victim of the sins of wealth. He had the reputation of a party loving and carefree soul. In his youth Giovanni dreamed of joining the elite of his day, he dreamed of becoming a knight. Way back then battles were fought almost at the drop of a hat, many times between two neighboring cities.

The slight Giovanni Francesco did indeed succeed in getting his wish; he became one of the proud knights in defense of his city. Sadly though the aspiring warrior fell from his high horse, and  and his wounds were serious enough to put an end to his military career. As so often happens with Saints in training, serious setbacks lead to grand changes. In a gospel sense out of death comes a new life and so this happened to Frank. Frank discovered a little church that was as broken as he was, and he set out to repair it. And so he did. He used his money to replace its stones, refurbish its beams, to polish its furnishings. The repairs he made to that little building seemed at the same time to repair him and he began to see that Church rebuilt in a new light.

Stories rarely go from bad directly to good, there are nearly always little twists that lead to challenges, and this one is no different. The little twist is Francesco’s father; it seems the wealthy business man was worried about his sons path. Francis’s new hobby both consumed funds and led Frank away from following in the family business and away from a livelihood. A tug of war ensued and the battle concluded with builder Frank ripping off his clothing and tossing them at his Father-merchant as a way dramatic declination of his inheritance and family lifestyle. Surprisingly Francis did not end up in a mental institution, though had they existed he likely would have.

In one event Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone renounces family wealth and in another he embraces poverty. That second encounter was the result of an encounter of a leper. With these series of events Frank goes from playboy to beggar /church-troubadour . Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone’s changes were undeniably a dramatic series of events yet the biggest shock is the events of this crushed knight reformed a mighty , powerful, though somewhat corrupt Church. Saint Francis used his experience (aka transformation) of rebuilding a church and his personal embrace of poverty to rebuild a Church by restoring it to its original gospel message. He saw in rebuilding that small structure his calling to rebuild that large organization. He rebuilt a church both with a small and capital “C”. In rebuilding the church by replacing its stones he saw the path to rebuild the larger Church by stripping away all that masked its beauty.

Francis wasn’t a priest, he lacked that training. He was a preacher and a Deacon with the role of aiding the church. A helper, a healer. He didn’t learn his theology in a classroom; he learned it through life and through nature. He did not live segregated from people; he and his friars lived among people. He did not display material wealth; he refused it and relied on only God to provide him and his group with what they needed. Through poverty he found a way to live the gospel and deliver that gospel message to others. His way or order eventually became the one of the largest in the Church. Through a dramatic poverty he fed the flock. His reformation of the church was a counter-reformation to the Protestants as his rebuilt the Church rather than divide it. As his spiritual Journey began with an infirmary, one aspect his order was known for was the building of hospitals for those who were poor. Francis is also the patron saint of ecology as so much of his vision of God came through nature. Isn’t it odd how falling off a horse could lead to such a grand victory?

Angels Gabriel,Michael ,Raphael

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“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Angels are important. They are the messengers of God. Without the angel Gabriel, would Mary have received the message that “the Lord is with you.” It is the angel Gabriel that tells Mary ” Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God” and it is the angel Gabriel who told Mary “and behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” The Angel Gabriel said to Mary; The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

Angels are important, and the messages they deliver are important. Angel Gabriel is the message of Gods strength. How often it was that Mary must have prayed for Gods strength, and how vigilant she must have been to receive Gods message and messenger. Through the messenger Gabriel Mary listens about of a child conceived by God, and that listening to Angels is important; if you don’t listen to the angel of God, then chances are you will fall prey to the messages of his opponent. Mary prayed to God and listened for Gods messenger, she awaited an Angel.

Gabriel is the angel “the strength of God”, an answer to prayers to Gods strength. Michael is the angel “who is like God”: Quis ut Deus! Michael battles Satin, the angel Michael is that of a warrior in search of an opponent, a protector and guardian. Prayers to Saint Michael the Archangel are for protection. Gabriel’s symbol is the horn delivering Gods message to Gods people, Michael’s is the sword for the defense of those people from the devil Satin.

The Angel Raphael is the message of Gods healing, or the prayer “God, please heal” and the message “God has healed.” From John, Chapter 5: “And an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under.” The angel is Raphael. As simply human, people make mistakes. As people in battle with a devil enemy, people fall in battle and are wounded. We are subject to human frailties, disobedient, sinful, and easily deceived; we are victims of our human nature. It is the angel Raphael who delivers the message of Gods healing.

Angels are important; they are the messengers of Gods strength, protection, and healing. Throughout the bible, both old and new testament, are encounters with Angels. In the ancient world they were attentive to the works of angels. Over time though the image of angels has shifted through art  and legend, cultural influences, and folklore that the theology of Angels can easily be obscured. That is sad because if the role of an angel becomes lost, there is always the danger that the message they are to deliver also might be lost; and the messages delivered by these messengers, Angels, are supremely important.