Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Mystic, Warrior, Leader, Conundrum

Today is the feast day of St. Joan of Arc, and I just don't know what to make of her.

I like to think of myself as a fan of church history, but I spend a lot more time on the church fathers and first few centuries than I do on the dark/middle ages. And one of my big blind spots is Joan of Arc. All I know of her is what I have learned as just a culturally literate sponge. She occupies similar space in my brain as King Arthur, even though I recognize that Joan was a real historical figure whose likfe had real political and military consequences -- but somehow there are legends and myths surrounding her life that I have not made the effort to dispel.

I have even avoided the recent theatrical accounts of Joan's life, and yet ... I don't know why I have avoided her.

I need to educate myself. Soon.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

One of my faves

Maybe it's because I am a university professor, but I am drawn to the church fathers who were scholars, the early theologians and historians of the faith.

One of my favorite of these men is Bede -- now known as the Venereable Bede -- whose lasting contribution is his book The Histroy of the English Church and People. His pupil Cuthbert tells the story of Bede reciting the last sentence of his magnun opus from his deathbed, his young assistant recording the words moments before the great historian's death in 735 AD, on or about this date.

"There it is written," he said. "Good, it is finished. The time for my departure is near, and I long to be dissolved and be with Christ. My soul longs to see Christ my King in all his beauty."

Dissolved and be with Christ. What a beautiful picture of the end of life.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Book Review

Paul the Traveller, by Ernle Bradford.

This is a biography of Saint Paul, organized around his three missionary journeys. Very interesting take on life in the first century AD, including the social, political, and religious environments. I found the depiction of the life of the Roman Emperor especially intriguing.

Coming from the perspective of the professional biographer and expert on the ancient world, I found this work interesting and insightful. It moved a little too slow for me at times, but it was worth plowing through.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

St. Catherine of Bologna

Catherine (1413-1463) was related to the nobility of her town -- at 17, she joined a group of religious women and eventually became accepted as a novice. Twenty-five years later she and 15 other sisters were sent to establish a monastery in Florence, Catherine as abbess. She worked hard to preserve the peace of the new community.

Catherine's greatest contribution to the church may have been her book, titled "On the Seven Spiritual Weapons," which deals with how we can battle against temptation. The weapons each believer possesses and must use are: 1. diligence; 2. distrust of self; 3. confidence in God; 4. remembrance of the Passion; 5. mindfulness of one’s own death; 6. remembrance of God’s glory; and 7. Scripture (following the example of Jesus in the desert)

Thank you, Lord, that I can learn from those who've gone before me on this pilgrim's path.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Is God Unfair?

This is one of my little pet peeves, the claim that God is unfair. Maybe this is a paradigm issue, but the thought that God is unfair has never crossed my mind. Maybe I have succesfully avoided that particular self-centeredness that would allow me to think that God has to treat me a particular way. I have plenty of other faults, but this one has never hampered me.

Maybe it is that I came to know God in my late teens, and never got bogged down in the milk and cookies of God . . . I came to know Him when I could handle the meat of deeper, complex issues. God set up the universe and set up the rules . . . it has never struck me as my job to question Him about how He runs things. His ways are so far above ours that it is incomprehensible, and when we try to fit Him into our own frame of reference, we fail miserably. And we think crazy thoughts like the notion that God is unfair.