Tag Archives: Catholic History

The French, the Spanish, and the Marian

20 May

Week Two in Madrid brought with it two new projects for me in the Department of Communications for World Youth Day 2011. Most recently, I have been researching a few of the many titles and places in which Mary, Mother of God, is venerated in Spain. With the goal of eventual publication on the official World Youth Day website, http://www.madrid11.com, I have begun to write a series on these Spanish Marian devotions with the first article focusing on Madrid and this city’s patroness, the Virgin of Almudena (la Virgen de Almudena).

Construction of Madrid’s cathedral, El Catedral Santa María la Real de La Almudena (literally, The Cathedral of the Royal St. Mary of the Almudena), was begun in the late nineteenth century, interrupted by the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, and completed in 1993. In the same year, the cathedral of Madrid was consecrated by Pope John Paul II.

Santa María la Real de La Almudena also houses an iconic statue of its namesake. That statue has a fascinating mixture of history and legend behind it. An image of Mary was, according to legend, brought in about 40 AD/CE to Iberia, which has become contemporary Spain and Portugal, by the Apostle St. James the Greater, also a patron of Spain and of the famous pilgrimage, city, and cathedral Santiago de Compostela. Seven centuries later, the Moors invaded Iberia, and the statue was hidden for fear of its desecration in the wall of Madrid, then a small village in the shadow of Spain’s capital, Toledo. In 1085, after Christian troops under King Alfonso VI of Castile and León had re-taken Madrid, the Archbishop of Toledo ordered the statue of Mary found at the bidding of the villagers of Madrid. The task of finding la Virgen de Almudena, who is named after the Moorish granary (in Arabic, almudin) behind which the icon had been hidden, proved to be daunting. Then, again perhaps by way of a miracle or perhaps  according to legend, the wall hiding the image of Mary crumbled, revealing not only Our Lady but two candles, still burning three centuries after they were placed in the wall along with the statue.

The story of Our Lady of Almudena is not without controversy, even if it is to be considered mostly legendary. One must place it within the larger narrative of Spain’s history, which has included much conflict between people purportedly advancing the cause of several faith systems: in Spain, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism among them in Spain. Within Spain as beyond, religion has been used as a cover for violent conquest and warfare. Just as I cannot condone violence in the name of faith, which has been characterized especially by Benedict XVI (Deus Caritas Est, 1, 28, and Caritas in Veritate, 29) as opposed to reason itself, I believe that such violence ought not to be identified with any creed or with religious faith itself.

Religious faith in its true sense respects the freedom of religion of each person and of all people. With almost as much conviction as I have in the right to freedom of religion, I also take to heart what a relative once told me: Religion is not religion without a sense of humour. On that note, I should mention my second “new” project this week in the Department of Communications. While still searching for interesting stories from youth from around the world and their preparation for World Youth Day in August, I have been asked to focus my search especially on French-speaking countries and their young pilgrims.

Alors, oui, on travaille en Français ici à Madrid. Aux jeunes: On cherche vos histoires de comment vous préparez pour les Journées Mondiales de la Jeunesse ici en août. Cette semaine, j’ai été en communication avec plusieurs diocèses de France et du Canada, notamment le lieu de naissance du Curé d’Ars, Saint Jean Vianney, et le petit Vicariat du Territoire d’Outre-Mer de France près de la côte est du Canada, Saint Pierre et Miquelon. De ce dernier provient une petite blague religieuse qui a donné joie à notre pause café l’autre jour et qui satisfait aussi mon goût pour l’humour sur l’informatique (voir http://www.cheznoo.net/paroissecatholiqueSPM/humour/index_humour.html). Ma traduction en Anglais est suite à la version française originale.

Yes, we work in French here in Madrid. To the youth: We are searching for your stories about how you are preparing for World Youth Day here in August. This week, I was in communication with several dioceses of France and of Canada, notably the birthplace of the Curé d’Ars, St. John Vianney, and the small Vicariate of the French Overseas Territory off the East Coast of Canada, Saint Pierre et Miquelon. From the latter, I found a little religious joke that added joy to our coffee break the other day and that also satisfies my taste for computer-related humour (see http://www.cheznoo.net/paroissecatholiqueSPM/ humour/index_humour.html). My English translation follows the original French version.

1. Au commencement Dieu créa le bit et l’octet. Puis il créa le mot.

2. Et il y avait deux octets dans un mot; et rien d’autre n’existait. Et Dieu sépara le zéro et le un, et il vit que cela était bon.

3. Et Dieu dit: Que les données soient! Et ainsi cela fut. Et Dieu dit: Plaçons les données dans leurs lieux respectifs. Et il créa les disquettes, les disques durs et les disques compacts.

4. Et Dieu dit : Que soient les ordinateurs, pour qu’il y ait un lieu pour y mettre les disquettes, les disques durs et les disques compacts. Et Dieu créa les ordinateurs.

5. Mais le logiciel n’existait pas encore. Mais Dieu créa les programmes ; grands et petits… Et Dieu leur dit : allez et multipliez-vous, et remplissez toute la mémoire.

6. Et Dieu dit : je créerai le Programmeur ; et le Programmeur créera de nouveaux programmes et gouvernera les ordinateurs et les programmes et les données.

7. Et Dieu créa le Programmeur, et il le mit dans le centre de données ; Et Dieu montra au Programmeur le répertoire et il lui dit : tu peux utiliser tous les volumes et sous-répertoires, mais N’UTILISE PAS WINDOWS.

8. Et Dieu dit: ce n’est pas bon que le Programmeur soit seul. Il prit un os du corps du Programmeur et il en créa une créature qui regarderait le Programmeur; qui admirerait le Programmeur ; qui aimerait les choses faites par le Programmeur. Et Dieu nomma la créature “Utilisateur”.

9. Et il laissa le Programmeur et l’Utilisateur nus dans le DOS, et il vit que cela était bon.

10. Mais Bill Gates était la plus maligne de toutes les créatures de Dieu. Et Bill Gates dit à l’Utilisateur: Dieu t’a vraiment dit de ne pas utiliser TOUS les programmes?

11. Et l’Utilisateur répondit: Dieu nous a dit que nous pouvions utiliser n’importe quel programme et n’importe quel bloc de données, mais il nous a dit de ne pas utiliser Windows parce que nous pourrions mourir.

12. Et Bill dit à l’Utilisateur : Comment peux-tu parler de quelque chose que tu n’as même pas essayé ? Des que tu utiliseras Windows tu seras égal à Dieu. Tu seras capable de créer tout ce que tu voudras rien qu’en touchant la souris.

13. Et l’Utilisateur vit que les fruits de Windows étaient meilleurs et plus faciles à utiliser. Et l’Utilisateur vit que toute connaissance était inutile, puisque Windows pouvait la remplacer.

14. Et l’Utilisateur installa Windows dans son ordinateur; et il dit au Programmeur que cela était bon.

15. Et le Programmeur commença à chercher de nouveaux pilotes. Et Dieu lui dit: Que cherches-tu ? Et le Programmeur répondit: Je cherche de nouveaux pilotes, parce que je ne peux pas les trouver dans le DOS. Et Dieu dit: Qui t’a dit que tu avais besoin de nouveaux pilotes? Aurais-tu utilisé Windows, par exemple? Et le Programmeur dit: C’est Bill qui nous l’a dit…

16. Et Dieu dit à Bill: Pour ce que tu as fait, tu seras haï par toutes les créatures. Et l’Utilisateur sera toujours mécontent de toi. Et pire encore, tu
seras condamné à toujours vendre Windows.

17. Et Dieu dit à l’Utilisateur: Pour ce que tu as fait, le Windows te trompera et consommera toutes tes ressources; et tu ne pourras utiliser que de mauvais programmes que tu utiliseras dans la douleur et l’angoisse; et tu seras toujours sous la tutelle du Programmeur.

18. Et Dieu dit au Programmeur: Pour avoir écouté l’utilisateur tu ne seras jamais heureux. Tous tes programmes seront farcis d’erreurs et tu seras condamné à les corriger et les recorriger jusqu’à la fin des temps.

19. Et Dieu les expulsa tous du Centre de Données et il en bloqua la porte avec un mot de passe de 999 octets.

 1. In the beginning, God created the bit and the octet, and then he created the word.

2. And there were two octets to a word; and nothing else existed. And God separated the zero from the one, and he saw that it was good.

3. And God said, “Let there be data!” And so there was. And God said: “Let us put the data in their proper places. And he created diskettes, hard drives, and compact discs.

4. And God said: “Let there be computers, so that there might be a place to put the diskettes, the hard drives, and the compact discs. And God created computers.

5. But the network did not exist yet. But God created programs, great and small… And God said to them: Go forth and multiply, and fill all the memory.

6. And God said: “I will create the Programmer; and the programmer will create new programs that will give order to computers, programs, and data.

7. And God created the Programmer, and he placed him amid the data; And God showed the Programmer the system and said to him: “You may use all the volumes and sub-systems, but DO NOT USE WINDOWS.”

8. And God said: “It is not good that the Programmer should be alone.” He took a bone [Here the French word for bone is “os,” a pun not translatable into English on the Macintosh Operating System] from the body of the Programmer and he created a creature who would esteem the Programmer; who would admire the Programmer; who would love the things made by the Programmer. And God called the creature, “User.”

9. And he left the Programmer and the User naked in DOS [Disk Operating System, a kind of electronic Eden I suppose], and he saw that it was good.

10. But Bill Gates was the most cunning of all God’s creatures. And Bill Gates said to the User: “Did God really tell you not to use ALL the programs?”

11. And the User answered: “God told us that we could use whatever program and whatever block of data, but he told us not to use Windows, because we could die.”

12. And Bill said to the User: “How can you speak of something that you haven’t even tried? As soon as you use Windows you will be equal to God. You will be able to create everything you want at the touch of a mouse.”

13. And the User saw that the fruits of Windows were better and easier to use. And the User saw that all knowledge was useless, because Windows was able to replace it.

14. And the User installed Windows on his computer; and he said to the Programmer that it was good.

15. And the Programmer began to search for new drivers. And God said to him: “What are you searching for?” And the Programmer answered: “I am searching for new drivers, because I cannot find them in DOS.” And God said: “Who told you that you needed new drivers? Would you have used Windows, by any chance?” And the Programmer said: “It was Bill who told us that…”

16. And God said to Bill: “For what you have done, you will be hated by all creatures. And the User will always be unhappy with you. And worse yet, you will be condemned to sell Windows forever.”

17. And God said to the User: “For what you have done, Windows will trick you and consume all your resources; and you will only be able to use bad programs, which you will use in pain and anguish; and you will always be under the control of the Programmer.”

18. And God said to the Programmer: “For having listened to the User, you will never be happy. All your programs will be filled with errors, and you will be condemned to correct them and to re-correct them until the end of time.”

19. And God expelled them all from the Data Centre, and he blocked the gateway with a password 999 octets long.

From Madrid (De Madrid malencontreusement utilisant Windows; Desde Madrid, desafortunadamente usando Windows), using Windows, unfortunately: Warren Schmidt, CSB.

Homily Assignment on Vatican II’s Decree on Priestly Formation, Optatam Totius

8 May

The following is the last of three assignments I submitted for my course entitled “Thought of Vatican II” at the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, ON Canada (MDiv Year II, Semester I, dated 7 December 2010). One of the options for this “integrative” assignment for those who foresee entering ordained ministry was to write a “homily,” taking into account one of the Decrees or Declarations (not one of the constitutions: Sacrosanctum Concilium, Dei Verbum, Lumen Gentium, or Gaudium et Spes)  of the Second Vatican Council as well as liturgical readings for the day on which the homily would be preached (It was not actually required to deliver the homily orally; only to write it). As I had presented earlier in this course on the Decree on Priestly Formation, Optatam Totius, my homily assignment focused on the same document. The original preface I wrote to explain the imagined liturgical setting and readings appears before the homily itself, and an appendix with the readings appears after it.

Preface

The liturgical setting of the following homily is a Mass of ordination to the presbyterate. In this homily assignment, I will correlate the core teachings of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Priestly Formation, Optatam Totius, with the Scriptural readings I have selected for this Mass.  The first reading, Isaiah 61:3a, focuses on the universal divine commission to serve persons most in need. The Gospel acclamation, Luke’s quotation from Isaiah 61:1, carries forward this notion of service into the Gospel reading, Luke 22:14-20, 24-30, which joins the imperative of humble service given by Jesus to his apostles and to their successors with the institution of the Eucharist. Likewise, Psalm 116:12-13, 17-18 and its responsorial verse, 1 Corinthians 10:16, relate the themes of service in God’s name an Eucharist as both communion– among human beings and between humankind and God– and thanksgiving for God’s goodness. The second reading, 1 Peter 5:1-4, applies the Christian obligation of humility specifically to presbyteral ministry; a presbyter is not to work for his own gain, but for the good of all among whom the presbyter ministers.

Homily

The Fathers of Vatican II were highly attentive toward the significance of formation for ordained priesthood and toward presbyteral ministry itself. Two Conciliar decrees, Optatam Totius and Presbyterorum Ordinis, focused on these respective subjects. Vatican II as a whole was primarily a council of renewal of the Catholic Church, a council at once of aggiornamento, or bringing the Church up to date, and of ressourcement, a return to sources– to tradition both Biblical and extra-Biblical, with a special esteem of the early Church Fathers– and ultimately to God. This need for renewal of the Church is acknowledged in the opening sentence of Optatam Totius, the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Priestly Formation. This document begins by entrusting much of this ecclesial renewal to its priests and those who form men discerning the Sacrament of Orders. Optatam Totius declares: “This sacred Synod well knows that the wished-for renewal of the whole Church depends in large measure on a ministry of priests [that] is vitalized by the Spirit of Christ.”

The foundation of all priestly formation, then, is Christ, in whose priesthood the ordained participate. The priest is called, says Optatam Totius, to be vitalized, that is, enlivened, by the Spirit of Christ. In Christ’s Spirit– as our first reading from Isaiah puts it, “the Spirit of the LORD God”– the priest is anointed for service to God and to the Church, the people of God. During this very liturgy of priestly ordination, the priests, once vested with stole and chasuble, will be anointed with chrism on the palms of their hands. The Holy Spirit of Christ, begotten of the Father, is at this point called to rest upon the candidate for Orders, through the prayer from the Rite of Ordination that coincides with the anointing of hands: “The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God.” Together, the anointing with chrism of the hands of the newly ordained and this prayer recall the constant presence of the Holy Spirit among us. Not only in Holy Orders, but in our Baptism into the priesthood of the faithful, in Confirmation, and in the Anointing of the Sick recipients of these Sacraments are anointed with chrism. Thus, from our reception into the Church until our reception into the company of the saints in heaven, the Spirit of the Lord is upon us as God’s Spirit is on the prophets and upon Christ. In the Holy Spirit, “the Lord, the giver of life” (cf. the Nicene Creed), we are perpetually vitalized.

Renewed by the Spirit of the Lord, the Church and priesthood within it are by nature transcendent of earthly borders, such as those between nations, languages, cultures, and social classes, yet at the same time God shows preference toward the poor, the captives, and the oppressed. To these, Isaiah writes, he had been “anointed to bring good news… to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour.” Jesus made Isaiah’s mission his own from the beginning of his ministry, as we have heard in today’s Gospel Acclamation. That verse is drawn from Luke who, uniquely among the Gospel authors, includes Jesus’ quotation from Isaiah 61 before the Synagogue assembly in Nazareth on the Sabbath. In Luke, this is Jesus’ first act of public ministry. Jesus begins, as had Isaiah before him, by announcing that he had been sealed by the Spirit to evangelize, to free those held captive by that which is not of God, to restore sight to the blind, and “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour.” We might recall that Jesus’ first act of prophecy, the words of Isaiah from the scroll, was well-received by his audience. However, for declaring that his message of reconciliation and of healing would extend to those most in need, whether Jews or Gentiles, Jesus draws the assembly’s rejection. Undeterred, Jesus continues his mission, as the concluding sentence of Luke 4 illustrates: “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”

The same proclamation of the kingdom of God for which Jesus was sent is also our purpose and our imperative in priestly ministry in Christ’s stead. An entire chapter of Optatam Totius is devoted to “matters [that] have a special bearing on the sacred ministry” of the presbyterate, namely those of pastoral service: “catechetics, preaching, liturgical worship, the conferral of the Sacraments, works of charity, [and] the duty of seeking out the straying sheep and unbelievers,” according to article nineteen of this decree. Not to be disconnected from the intellectual and spiritual formation for priesthood treated in previous chapters of Vatican II’s Decree on Priestly Formation, nonetheless “the promotion of strictly pastoral training” for priests-to-be is given a special place as the title of the sixth chapter of Optatam Totius. Without this pastoral dimension, the import of the Catholic priesthood and of priestly formation is minimized. As pastoral training is necessarily linked to intellectual and spiritual formation of clergy if priestly formation is to be considered holistic so, too, I go as far as to say that those pastoral services enumerated in article nineteen of Optatam Totius all ought to be understood as works of charity. Here I do not read into Optatam Totius a concept not in the document; the same article nineteen of this decree underscores the chief “qualities to be developed in seminarians,” such as promotion of dialogue, and “a capacity to listen to other people and to open their hearts in a spirit of charity to the various circumstances of human need.”

My emphasis on the pastoral aspect of the presbyterate and of priestly formation, and on all pastoral works as works of charity, comes from my experience as an associate of the religious community of priests to which I belong, the Basilian Fathers. I was sent early in my priestly formation to Cali, Colombia, to teach high school French and English and to learn Spanish. As I gradually learned not only a new language but a new culture, I noted that, in addition to abject poverty, most people of the Basilian school and parish had received little catechetical instruction. The mission of the Basilians in Cali, then, was at once to alleviate the material poverty of those whom we served, as well as to provide an education– often entirely subsidized– to these people in both religious and secular disciplines. From that, there developed a deep bond of love between the Basilians and the residents of our parish neighbourhood. This was impressed upon me one day when, as a community manual labour exercise, I was washing clay roofing shingles in our schoolyard. A poor man on the street approached the schoolyard gate and greeted me with a smile, “Hola, Padre”– “Hello, Father!” Not yet ordained at that time, I had difficulty then– and I still do– with being called “Father,” for the pastoral responsibility that this title denotes, yet if I were to be called Father, all my works, I prayed, would be acts of charity. My priesthood, modeled after that of Christ, would be pastoral by definition. Priesthood is an anointing to pastoral acts of charity, whether one is a parish priest, a high-school, university, or seminary instructor, a scholar; whether one is praying, in recreation, or is washing shingles in a schoolyard. Priesthood is pastoral charity, oriented toward the good of human community and finally toward God.

My appointment to Colombia increased my awareness that priesthood, as a ministry of ecclesial leadership in charity, takes into account both the universal Church and the local church.  At the same time, the universality– the catholicity– of the Church became more evident to me as did the particular needs of local churches, regions, and nations. I was sent from Edmonton to Cali, after only six months as a Basilian associate, the earliest stage of formation in our religious community. The differences between the two churches are remarkable; the relative affluence of Edmonton over Cali, the religious devotion inherent in Colombian culture, and the linguistic dissimilarity between the two places are but a few of these distinctions. Nonetheless, the same Mass is celebrated in both Edmonton and Cali; Edmontonian and Caleño Catholics belong to the same Church in communion with the See of Rome.

Regarding priestly formation in particular, Optatam Totius holds in tension the recognition of the necessities of local churches and of those of the universal Church. The decree begins with an accent on the former: “Since the variety of peoples is so great,” says article one of Optatam Totius, “only general rules,” such as the establishment of “Program[s] of Priestly Formation” by regional bishops’ conferences, “can be legislated.” In Optatam Totius’ next article, though, which begins its chapter on “the intensified encouragement of priestly vocations,” the document is clear that “the task of fostering vocations devolves on the whole Christian community.” The encouragement of vocations to ordained priesthood evidently begins at the local level– in homes, in schools, and in parishes– yet it extends universally. To those who will be ordained shortly: The best way to encourage vocations, not only to the priesthood but to the specific vocation to which God calls each Christian, is to live your own divine calling to Holy Orders joyfully. In today’s second reading, the author of 1 Peter acknowledges that his vocation as an elder– literally, a presbyter– is not easy. He is “a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed.” Articles nine and ten of Optatam Totius echo this eschatological balance of 1 Peter of the “obligations” and even “hardship of the priestly life” with joy “in the blessedness promised by the Gospel” and by a “profound identification of” the priest’s entire life with that of Jesus Christ.

Priesthood, configured to Christ, is more than the power to confect the Eucharist, although this sacerdotal privilege is not unimportant. As per article eight of Optatam Totius, the priest must “be taught to look for Christ in many places: in faithful meditation on God’s word, in active communion with the holy mysteries of the Church… in the bishop” whom they assist, “the poor, the young, the sick, the sinful, and the unbelieving.” The Eucharist is only the beginning of Christian service; the priest who confects it for and receives it with the people of God must not, as today’s Gospel and second reading both affirm, “lord it over” those whom we serve as leaders. The Eucharistic feast must be united with and must give way to service. Moreover, as we heard in today’s Responsorial Psalm, the Eucharist, over which the priest presides, is at once an act of thanksgiving and one that draws human beings into ever-closer communion with one another and with God.

Let us pray, then, for the priestly candidates present before us here, and for all priests and those in formation for Holy Orders, that they might be joyful instruments of and participants in the priesthood of Christ. In this Eucharistic celebration we thank God for the gift of priests, “the hope of the Church,” as concludes Optatam Totius, and for those entrusted with their formation.

Appendix: Readings for Homily Assignment on Optatam Totius

Thought of Vatican II- SMT 3670 HF

Readings are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, selected according to The Rites of the Catholic Church, trans. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (New York: Pueblo Publishing Co., 1980), 2:102-106.

First Reading: Isaiah 61:1-3a

1The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
   because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
   to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
   and release to the prisoners;
2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
   and the day of vengeance of our God;
   to comfort all who mourn;
3to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
   to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
   the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 116:12-13, 17-18 (Response: 1 Corinthians 10:16)

12What shall I return to the Lord
   for all his bounty to me?
13I will lift up the cup of salvation
   and call on the name of the Lord

 R: Our blessing-cup is a communion with the blood of Christ.

17I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
   and call on the name of the Lord.
18I will pay my vows to the Lord
   in the presence of all his people. R.

Second Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-4

1Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you 2to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it— not for sordid gain but eagerly. 3Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. 4And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.

Gospel Acclamation (Luke 4:18-19)

 Alleluia.

 The Lord sent me to bring good news to the poor and freedom to prisoners.

 Alleluia.

Gospel Reading: Luke 22:14-20, 24-30

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat it* until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ 17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ 19Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

24A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Per Ipsum, cum Ipso, in Ipso: George Bernard Cardinal Flahiff, Father of Vatican II

16 Apr

Archbishop George Bernard Flahiff attended every session of Vatican II, but “spoke only once to the assembled council fathers,” on ecumenism.[1] However, I have chosen Flahiff as the subject of my biography of a council father because of his significant involvement in the promotion and development of Vatican II’s theological appreciation of religious life, and because the study of Flahiff’s life is of special interest to me as a Basilian in formation for priestly service. I will therefore consider Flahiff’s efforts in preparation for the Second Vatican Council, his role as a Father of the Second Vatican Council, and how Flahiff’s teaching and example, notably as Superior General of the Congregation of St. Basil, were an anticipation of the Council. Lastly, I will discuss Flahiff’s post-Conciliar application of the theological legacy of Vatican II.

Flahiff, thirty years ordained, was elected to his second term as Superior General of the Basilian Fathers on 14 June 1960.[2] During his inaugural six-year term in this position, Flahiff was instrumental in the 1955 reunification of the Basilian Fathers of Viviers, France, and of Toronto, Canada, divided since 1922.[3] As head of the Basilians, he also anticipated the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, especially in the areas of Catholic education, of liturgy, of missions, and of religious life. Flahiff, though, perpetually deemed himself unworthy of positions of ecclesial leadership. In what may have been a reference to a quotation from St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Flahiff’s baptismal namesake, when one of his fellow monks became Pope Eugene III in 1145, Flahiff said to Basilian Chapter delegates upon his second election as Superior General, “May God forgive you for what you have done.”[4] Recalled nonetheless by his successor as Superior General, Fr. Joseph Wey, as a “man of God” and an example to his confreres of charity, of care for his fellow Basilians and for those to whom he ministered, and of a “vigourous interior life,”[5] Flahiff was named Archbishop of Winnipeg on 15 March 1961.[6] Vatican II, convoked on Christmas Day, 1961, by Pope John XXIII, opened in October of the following year.[7]

Formal planning for Vatican II had commenced with the motu proprio of June 5, 1960, Superno Dei Nutu, in which John XXIII established the Council’s preparatory commissions and secretariats. Once Flahiff had been appointed to head the See of Winnipeg, “the Council organizers,” Fr. P. Wallace Platt writes, “were not long in fingering the new archbishop to help in the preparation.”[8] His assignment to the Preparatory Commission on Religious Life was an added surprise for the self-effacing Flahiff, who had begun his episcopacy only six months earlier. Flahiff’s progression from Basilian Superior General to archbishop to father of an ecumenical council was indeed swift, even astonishing many of his Basilian confreres.[9] Flahiff cautiously accepted the new responsibilities long foreseen for him by Rome, as he noted concerning his April, 1961, private audience with Pope John XXIII. Archbishop-elect for less than a month at that time, Flahiff replied hesitantly to a question from the pontiff about his age: “Fifty-five years, Holy Father.”[10] John XXIII then responded:

That is fine. I was forty-four [years old] when I was consecrated a bishop. I will tell you something. It is all in the Pater Noster– three things: hallowed- kingdom- will. [God’s] will only matters. [God] chooses you.[11]

The pope’s entreaty failed to dispel Flahiff’s anxiety at becoming a bishop. John XXIII, though, remained convinced that Flahiff was a worthy selection to the episcopate. Christ Himself, pleaded Pope John again, willed that Flahiff serve as a bishop. The pope informed Flahiff that he had seen the scrutinium, “the document outlining the qualifications of the candidate for a bishopric,” and that “we were all pleased: you were for this post.” Flahiff then told John XXIII his episcopal motto, Per Ipsum, cum Ipso, in Ipso, at which the pope “beamed, ‘Ah, bene, bene! That is it!’”[12] Flahiff was sustained as he had been before his episcopal consecration, by a deep life of prayer. Amid rumours that Flahiff would fill the vacant See of Winnipeg, before the Vatican Radio announcement that he had in fact been named its bishop, another Canadian bishop cynically remarked: “I hear they are going to appoint a bishop who prays.”[13] Flahiff’s reputation for prayerful discernment of God’s will and of the good of his confreres both individually and congregationally had gained him widespread admiration among Basilians. As Basilian Superior General from 1954 to 1961, he was keenly interested in the welfare of the burgeoning community, especially in the areas of vocations and religious and priestly formation and vocations, as well as the missions. Flahiff’s commitment to such matters, to which five letters written by, to, or about Flahiff during or immediately following his generalate attest, foreshadowed the attention paid to those themes at Vatican II a decade later.

The first of these letters, dated 21 May 1955, is addressed to Flahiff by Fr. John Collins, Director of the Basilian Mission Centre in Rosenberg, Texas.[14] Collins had met with Bishop Wendelin J. Nold of Galveston, who asked for the appointment of two additional Basilian priests to serve the rapidly growing Mexican community in his diocese. Two days later, Bishop Nold sent this request in writing to Collins. He proposed not only that the Basilian presence in Rosenberg be maintained, but that the Basilians also replace the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in immigrant chaplaincy in Sugar Land or Stafford and establish a second mission centre in Angleton.[15] Upon notification via Collins of Bishop Nold’s petition, Flahiff appointed Fr. William F. McGee as Superior in Angleton and Collins to the parishes in Sugar Land and in Stafford.[16] Flahiff’s acceptance of this increased Basilian commitment to the missions was only the beginning of the order’s rapid spread into mission territory; by the end of Flahiff’s generalate, the Basilians were established in Mexico City.[17] As Superior General, Flahiff also actively sought religious vocations, as shown by his letters to Frs. A. Leland Higgins, Basilian General Councillor, and John Corrigan. Two letters of 3 March 1961 chronicle one of Flahiff’s last appointments of his generalate, that of Fr. Edmund Brennan as Vocation Director.[18] Although Flahiff had chosen Brennan to succeed Corrigan due to the latter’s poor health, he recognized Corrigan’s expertise in religious formation- he had published a book, Theology of Religious Vocation- and assured him of the need for his collaboration with the newly-assigned Brennan.[19] A fifth letter, from Fr. John Fiore congratulating Flahiff on his consecration as bishop, shows that a Vatican II understanding of the episcopacy as the “fullness”[20] of Holy Orders, as Fiore wrote, was already ingrained in the Basilian order before the Council.

During Vatican II, Archbishop Flahiff’s input before the assembly was limited. Behind the scenes, though, Flahiff participated actively in conciliar discussions. A member of the pre-conciliar Commission on Religious Life, Flahiff later contributed to the writing of Perfectae caritatis, Vatican II’s Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life.[21] Flahiff’s sole opportunity to speak before the assembly came during the Council’s third session on 2 October 1964. His speech on “the schema on ecumenism” that became Unitatis redintegratio[22] was remarkable for his assessment of the purifying role of intra-Christian divisions. Flahiff stated that “schisms can remind the Church that ‘she is not yet as holy as she should be and not yet perfectly obedient to her vocation to be catholic.’”[23]

Flahiff was appointed after Vatican II to the Congregations for Religious Life and Secular Institutes and for Catholic Education. He was also one of four Canadian bishops to attend each of the first two Synods of Bishops in Rome in 1967 and 1971. Pope Paul VI named Flahiff a Cardinal on 28 March 1969.[24] P. Wallace Platt speculates that Cardinal Flahiff’s further rise in ecclesial ranks was thus halted by a strong minority in the Roman Curia who were suspicious of him. For instance, Flahiff’s recommendation to the 1971 Synod of Bishops for greater recognition of “the aspirations of women… in the life of the Church” was met with criticism from those who regarded Flahiff as advocating the ordination of women.[25] Nonetheless, within the Archdiocese of Winnipeg and the Congregation of St. Basil, Cardinal Flahiff was particularly respected. He reminded his fellow Basilians, most notably at the order’s 1966 General Chapter that, in keeping with Perfectae caritatis, all aspects of religious life require constant scrutiny and renewal. Flahiff also frequently emphasized the interconnection among the documents of Vatican II.[26] He retired to the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Canada in 1982 and died in the same city on 22 August 1989. George Bernard Cardinal Flahiff, father of Vatican II, is remembered primarily by P. Wallace Platt for his “example” as “a zealous pastor, a humble religious, a faithful [priest,] and an admirable human person.”[27]

WRS

——

This essay was originally submitted on 12 October 2010 for a course entitled “Thought of Vatican II,” at the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, ON, Canada, MDiv Year II, Semester I.


[1] P. Wallace Platt, Gentle Eminence: A Life of Cardinal Flahiff (Montreal/ Kingston/ London/ Ithaca: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999), 101.

[2] P. Wallace Platt, “Flahiff, George Bernard,” in Dictionary of Basilian Biography, 2nd ed. (Toronto/ Buffalo/London: University of Toronto Press, 2005), 216-217.

[3] Ibid., 216.

[4] Platt, Gentle Eminence, 66.

[5] Ibid., 66-67.

[6] Ibid., 224.

[7] Walter M. Abbott, ed. “Important Dates of Vatican II,” in The Documents of Vatican II (New York: Guild Press, 1966), 741.

[8] Platt, Gentle Eminence, 91.

[9] Ibid., 68.

[10] Ibid., 74.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 75.

[13] Ibid., 75.

[14] John Collins to George B. Flahiff, 21 May 1955, General Archives of the Basilian Fathers, Toronto, ON.

[15] Wendelin J. Nold to John Collins, 23 May 1955, General Archives of the Basilian Fathers, Toronto, ON.

[16] George B. Flahiff to Wendelin J. Nold, 18 June 1955, General Archives of the Basilian Fathers, Toronto, ON.

[17] Platt, “Flahiff, George Bernard,” 217.

[18] George B. Flahiff to A, Leland Higgins, 3 March 1961, General Archives of the Basilian Fathers, Toronto, ON.

[19] George B. Flahiff to John Corrigan, 3 March 1961, General Archives of the Basilian Fathers, Toronto, ON.

[20] John Fiore to George B. Flahiff, 2 May 1961, General Archives of the Basilian Fathers, Toronto, ON.

[21] Platt, “Flahiff, George Bernard,” 217.

[22] Platt, Gentle Eminence, 101.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Platt, “Flahiff, George Bernard,” 217.

[25] Platt, Gentle Eminence, 101.

[26] George B. Flahiff, “Vatican II and the Religious Life,”16 August 1966, Keynote address to the Basilian Convention, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY.

[27] Platt, “Flahiff, George Bernard,” 213-218.

Dear Pauline Post

1 Jul

The assignment that follows was originally submitted as my final synthesis paper for my course on the Letters of Paul at Regis College, Toronto, ON, Canada, on 7 April, 2010, MDiv I, Semester 2. Students were invited to synthesize the content of the course creatively. As the opening paragraph indicates, I chose to present the Pauline theology taught in the course and in its reading material as a series of letters and responses to an advice column similar to those found in contemporary newspapers. Unlike many previous essays posted here, the footnotes in this paper are in line with the text and are not listed separately.

—–

The following will be a series of four fictitious letters to and responses from a columnist of “The Pauline Post,” a newspaper that presents themes from the Biblical letters of Paul in a contemporary context. These letters will follow the format of an advice column. The first letter and reply will focus on Paul as an enigmatic and divisive figure in both first century C.E. Mediterranean and in twenty-first century Western societies. The second letter-response will discuss Paul’s eschatology and use of apocalyptic literature and how his written style and expectation of the imminent Second Coming of Christ differs from the current long-term expectation of the parousia. This letter exchange will also relate Paul’s apocalyptic approach to his views on love, family life, gender differences, and sexuality. The third letter and response will treat Pauline kenotic theology and his perspective on the cross as human foolishness but divine wisdom. It will also question to what extent Paul opposed or acquiesced to Roman power and what import Paul’s relationship with Rome has for our view of civil authority today. Paul’s insistence upon the Christian goal of a common good will be the subject of the fourth letter and reply.

–           Dear Pauline Post: My husband, Ambrose, and I attended a church service last Sunday during which a passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was proclaimed. The verse, “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord” (Eph 5:22) infuriated me but delighted my husband. I am afraid that Ambrose will cite Ephesians as a pretext to demand the same reverence from me as that which I owe to God alone. My husband contended that he would never consider himself equal to God, for Paul warned against pride in relationships- “love is not pompous [and] is not inflated” (1 Cor 13:4)- and against boasting: “God chose the lowly and despised of the world… to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.” (1 Cor 1:29) I remain unconvinced by Ambrose’s attempts to allay my concerns. If Paul were alive today, he would need to answer for having created such rows that threaten the unity of families. Signed: Furious in Philippi.

–           Dear Furious: Your husband would be heartened to know that the saint whose name he bears shared his favourable view of Paul. Indeed, St. Ambrose referred to St. Paul as “Christ’s second eye.” Other commentators have opined negatively about Paul’s representation of Jesus, about Paul’s vices over his virtues, or even against his saintliness. For example, A.N. Whitehead decried Paul’s distortion and subversion of Jesus’ teachings. Philosopher Ernest Renan described Paul as “proud, unbending, imperious…, self- assertive and masterful,” and “not by any means a saint.” The discord generated between you and your husband over the Pauline legacy is thus not unprecedented; Paul was a cause of division in the first century C.E. and remains so today. Theologian Gustav Deissmann accurately said that “there has probably seldom been anyone at the same time hated with such fiery hatred and loved with such strong passion as Paul.”

Concurrently understood, among many characterizations, as a saint, a founder of institutional Christianity, an anti-Jewish renegade, and a misogynist, Paul and his letters must be appraised within their first-century social milieu, which was as diverse as and in several ways dissimilar to the modern world. Paul contended with the clash of Jewish and Gentile influences on early Christianity, with the definition of the Christian minority’s place within the pagan Roman Empire, and with the expectation of Christ’s immediate return to establish God’s reign on earth. After Paul’s death under Nero and with dimming anticipation of a sudden parousia, Christian writers absorbed much of the Imperial social order pioneered by Caesar Augustus, which included strict regulation of gender roles and family life (John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, In Search of Paul, 95-99). Letters like Ephesians were penned during this period. The undisputedly authentic Pauline letters- Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon (Ibid., 105)- obscure boundaries of gender, social class, and ethnicity in favour of a more charismatic notion of church (Gal 3:26-29). Some scholars, like N.T. Wright, consider Colossians (N.T. Wright, Paul, 27) and Ephesians, which you cite, to have been written by Paul, but those texts diverge in vocabulary from and feature a higher Christology than the texts listed by Crossan and Reed (Ibid., 18-19)  and are usually classified as deutero-Pauline. If Paul were alive today amid Western civilization, he would be confronted with a society as divided as that of the first century, but on different matters. Those include increased spousal and familial strife, greater awareness of gender equality, extremes of poverty and of affluence, and the threat to peace posed by destructive weaponry coupled with heightened intra- and international friction. Paul, though, would perhaps be encouraged by proposed solutions to such problems, chiefly continued emphasis on solidarity of Christians toward the betterment of the world for all- a “common good” (Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 26, 46-93).

–           Dear Pauline Post: In your response to Furious in Philippi, you rebutted the argument based on Ephesians 5:22 that Paul was opposed to an expanded role for women in the family and in the church by countering that Ephesians is considered by a majority of scholars to be of post-Pauline authorship. I referred to your column, which cites 1 Corinthians as authentically Pauline, in my recent homily centered on Paul’s instruction, “Women should keep silent in the churches.” (1 Cor 14:34) My suggestion that those Pauline words should be heeded verbatim in our age was contested by a woman whose tirade after Mass made me wonder if the end times were looming. In deep reflection after escaping the mob of parishioners who tried to throw me off the nearest cliff (Luke 4:29), I thought that Paul had abandoned his gender egalitarianism as time progressed with no sign of the parousia, hence his infamous passage in 1 Corinthians. I am confused, though, since the same First Letter to the Corinthians exalts both celibacy and marriage as divine vocations (1 Cor 7:7-11). Paul’s “only” exhortation is that “everyone should live as the Lord assigned, just as God called each one.” (v 17) Signed: Counting the Days in Corinth.

–           Dear Counting: Two issues are raised in your letter above: Pauline authenticity, particularly of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, and the influence of apocalyptic theology on Paul’s perspectives on love, on family life, and on sexuality. Pauline redaction of 1 Corinthians is undisputed among Biblical exegetes, although many scholars hypothesize that this letter contains interpolations of later deutero-Pauline material into Paul’s original work. One of these probable interpolations is 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35. Notably, if this passage is omitted, the preceding text, “[God] is not the God of disorder but of peace,” (v 33a) links smoothly with the succeeding verse, “Did the word of God go forth from you, or has it come to you alone?” (v 36)

That argument alone does not negate Pauline authorship of 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35. However, if Paul did prohibit women from speaking in churches, his words must be situated in mid-first-century Corinth. Plato derided the stereotypical ritual prostitute of Corinth with the Greek word korinthiazesthai– “Corinthian girl.” Previously in 1 Corinthians, Paul condemned the Corinthians’ pride in their incestuous acts (E.P. Sanders, Paul, 106); the perpetrators of such evil were to be purged from their midst. (1 Cor 5:13) Paul then upbraided the Corinthians for excessive “divisions” created in what ought to have been a communal feast of “the Lord’s supper.” Instead, at Corinth some would become drunk at table, while others would go hungry. (1 Cor 11:17-22) Even the irenic ode to love (1 Cor 13:1-13) was a Pauline rebuke of first-century Corinthian lack of moral qualities: patience, humility, endurance, faith, hope, and charity. Corinth was an ancient economic hub noted for discrepancies in wealth and for rampant promiscuity.

          1 Corinthians 7 is indeed an example of Pauline apocalyptic literature. In Paul’s expectation of an imminent parousia, he instructed the church at Corinth not to be swayed by extremes of lust or asceticism, but to obey their divinely-ordained vocations. Paul begins 1 Corinthians 7 with a quotation of an ascetic Corinthian motto against the city’s renowned debauchery: “It is a good thing for a man not to touch a woman.” (v 1) Paul retorted that sex within marriage was a holy “duty” (v 3) of husband and wife, although prayer “by mutual consent” was a just cause for temporary abstinence from marital relations (v 5) In marriage, wife and husband are fully given to each other as to God (v 4). The Pauline message was consistent whether to the married, to the unmarried (vv 8-11), to the circumcised Jews, to the uncircumcised Gentiles (v 18), to slaves, and to free persons (vv 20-21): we did not create nor do we possess our own lives, but God did create and did, acquire us “for a price.” (v 23) Paul’s enduring point, then, in expectation of the parousia, is not to “become slaves to human beings” (v 23) but to discern and to adhere to God’s timeless call to each person (vv 17, 24). Lastly, on time and on apocalyptic literature, in a period of crisis and persecution for the nascent church, Paul anticipated the parousia not to be the end of chronos, or quantitative time, so much as the fulfillment of kairos, a decisive and divinely-willed moment in which all have lived since Jesus’ era and in which we are now living (Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, 176-177). Nonetheless, he greatly underestimated the chronos in which it would be finalized, but developed the theology that Christ’s return would radically complete the work in this world begun by our Lord’s death and resurrection.

–           Dear Pauline Post: We agreed with your reply to Counting that the eschatological process is both underway and yet to be fulfilled. Thus, your Corinthian interlocutor ought not to be worriedly counting his days. We also valued your comment that the end times began with the death and resurrection of Christ. Conversely, though, we wondered during our telephone conversation about this year’s Good Friday service whether Christ could have saved us by a less horrific death than by crucifixion. Jesus was either extremely foolish or knew his Father with intimacy beyond human comprehension to have “emptied himself” (Phil 2:7) in such a manner. Signed: Theologian in Thessaloniki and Writer in Rome.

–           Dear Theologian and Writer: Jesus’ self-emptying, or kenosis, has perplexed theologians and writers since Christ died and rose again. Paul attempted, especially in Philippians and in his letters to the Corinthians, to address the implications for Christian faith of Jesus’ death by a humiliating and painful method of execution sanctioned by Imperial Rome. With scathing vitriol at the outset of 1 Corinthians, Paul reproached the community at Corinth for its reliance on the “wisdom of human eloquence.” (1 Cor 1:17) The Corinthians were then asked rhetorically: “Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?” (v 20) The Pauline gospel was thus affirmed: “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God.” (vv 24-25) Paul’s message was indeed good news, however subversive it was to Imperial authorities. Although he was skilled in rhetoric, Paul urged early Christians to rely entirely on God. Divine power exceeded and outlasted that of successive Roman Emperors, even though many of the latter bore the title, “Devi Filius– Son of the Divine One” (Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, 91). For his efforts, Paul was imprisoned at Ephesus, then in Caesarea, then in Rome. Philemon and Philippians were written during the Ephesian imprisonment (Ibid., 272). Philippians and 2 Corinthians contain passages of a dialectical literary style. In both letters, life and death, hope and despair, and exaltation and humiliation were abruptly contrasted, but hope emerged victorious for Paul (Ibid., 273) as he experienced Christ’s kenotic suffering in his “own mortal body.” (Ibid., 278) Paul was therefore able to preach authoritatively the mystical Christian union with the crucified Jesus. Christians thus share in God’s salvific and revelatory kenosis that supersedes but does not threaten temporal powers. (Ibid., 291)

–           Dear Pauline Post: Despite Paul’s reputation as an angry, proud, and divisive figure, I am attracted to his support of a “common good” (1 Cor 12:7) in early Christian communities. As expressed in previous exchanges with The Pauline Post, Paul mystically lived and taught by Christ’s self-emptying example. He anticipated an imminent parousia of whose “day and hour no one knows.” (Matt 24:36) Paul was converted on the road to Damascus yet over a lifetime (Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, 6-10); he was not perfect, but his struggles and vices make him all the more human to me. I was once unsure of my religious confession, but the more I read Paul’s letters, the more I am compelled to seek Christian baptism at the earliest opportunity. Signed: God-fearing Goodness Seeker in Galatia.

–           Dear God-fearing: The Pauline Post welcomes you to and supports you in your Christian journey. You are clearly not one of the “stupid Galatians” (Gal 3:1) whom Paul once excoriated. The Holy Spirit, Paul might say today, has moved you toward the Christian faith as the same Spirit moved “God-fearers”- neither Jews nor wholly pagans- sympathetic to Judeo-Christianity in the first century (Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, 36-37) toward fellowship with God and toward formation of loving human communities. Christian love, as Paul taught, is not easy, nor is it mere feeling, but is in its essence actively unitive. Together let us build up God’s church in the Spirit and in love seek the common good. (1 Cor 12:7; 1 Thess 5:11). “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal1:3) in this Easter season.

‘The Life of Man is the Glory of God’- Reflection for Mass of June 28, 2010

28 Jun

Monday, June 28, 2010
Memorial: St. Irenaeus, bishop and martyr
Readings: Amos 2:6-10, 13-16; Psalm 50: 16bc-23 (R:22a); Matthew 8:18-22

About two weeks ago I spoke with a journalist on the subject of heresy, admittedly not a topic that I think about often. “What is heresy? Who are heretics?” were the basic questions asked of me. As it was suggested to me, I had in hand the definition of heresy from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith.”[1] Unfortunately, that definition only got me a few minutes into our three-hour conversation.

With my mind drifting while I was preparing to meet the reporter, I thought briefly of St. Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies,” directed against the Gnostics.[2] In the second century, these Gnostics were teaching heretically that the spirit was imprisoned within our corrupt material bodies and that it could ascend to eternal life only upon our physical death. Irenaeus’ main counterpoint was that body and spirit were created by God, were good and will ascend together to eternal life.[3] Any mention of Irenaeus’ treatise, though, would have been even more futile in my discussion with the journalist.

Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies,” however dense, nevertheless contains some magnificent quotations. Perhaps his most well-known is this, included in today’s Office of Readings: “Life in man is the glory of God. The life of man is the vision of God.”[4] Here, St. Irenaeus provides not so much a denunciation of heresies but a tremendous testimony to the dignity of humankind, created in God’s image, and in turn to our dependence on God.

To lose our notion of these two fundamental truths, I posit, is the ultimate heresy. Pride that disregards God and thus cannot have a proper grasp of human dignity is as seductive in our time as it was in the era of St. Irenaeus. The wilful ignorance of God by the ancient Israelites at the height of their prosperity drew the ire of the prophet Amos. Today we hear from Amos the startling finale of the six “oracles against the nations,” of which the first four are directed against foreign peoples, the fifth is against Judah, and the sixth is a scathing criticism of the ancient Israelites’ decadence.[5] This was not what Amos’ target audience wanted to hear; Israel was reminded that it, more than other nations, had benefitted from God’s grace in its history, having been delivered from Egypt and from the Amorites.[6] Israel, more than its neighbouring peoples, knew better than to have abandoned its covenant with God.

As Amos’ oracle shocked the ancient Israelites, our Psalm response in today’s liturgy still has an alarming character. Not many Christians can or ought to ignore this warning: “Remember this, you who never think of God.”[7] The repetition of these words, however disturbing, should make us think and pray: How often do I think of God? How often do I adore and thank God? How often do I embrace the divine gift of my vocation above “a place to lay [my] head”[8] or above religious or secular ritual,[9] however important these are? Most of us are quite adept in such areas, but we can always improve with regular and attentive prayer.

Without denying the corruption of sin, we must remember the presence of God and unite ourselves to Him. God, St. Irenaeus wrote beautifully, is with us as “a constant goal toward which to make progress.”[10] In His love for humanity, God sent His Son, the Christ who “revealed God to [us] and presented [us] to God.”[11] Let us pray that we might be ever mindful of that relationship between humankind and God- Father, Son and Spirit- to whose glory and by whose abundant love we are given life everlasting.

WRS


[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2089.

[2] The word “Gnostic” comes from the Greek gnosis, for knowledge. Gnostics in general believed that secret divine knowledge had been revealed to them that had not been granted to all Christians as a matter of faith. Valentinus, of whose writings only fragments have survived to the present, was the particular target of St. Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies.” See Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I.1.

[3] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V.6.

[4] Ibid., IV.20.7.

[5] Philip J. King, “Amos,” in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 1:246.

[6] Amos 2:9-10.

[7] Psalm 50:22a

[8] Matthew 8:20

[9] See Matthew 8:21-22. Jews in Jesus’ time had great reverence for the dead, and much emphasis was placed on proper burial to honour deceased family members. The teaching to “let the dead bury their dead,” designed to shock first-century hearers, should be understood as an example of a hyperbolic proverb. The point of this saying is that discipleship of Christ must take precedence over ritual, although the latter might be of profound importance. This instruction is not that the rituals themselves are wrong or trivial, but that they, too, come from God. However, these are subordinate to the greater gifts of fellowship and mission in Jesus Christ. See also the Lukan parallel of today’s Gospel reading, found in Luke 9:57-62.

[10] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V.7.

[11] Ibid.

The People vs. Death

2 Jun

The People vs. Death

A Legal Drama Based on Chapter 14 of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s

Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, “Death, Life, and Discipline.”

 Complete overkill. One chunk of brimstone out of five!

– The Hades Town Crier

—-

 Originally submitted for History of Christianity II, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, ON, Canada, MDiv Year I, Semester 2, 12 April, 2010.

For this course, students were given the option of writing a traditional reflection paper or a creative composition, such as a one-act play, that illustrated an understanding of the history of Christianity of the Reformation. The paper was to be based on one of the final five chapters of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s book- a textbook for the course- Reformation: Europe’s House Divided.

In the chapter entitled “Death, Life, and Discipline” on which I wrote, MacCulloch describes the differences between the Lutheran and Reformed responses to death and dying. Reformation-era Reformed Christians tended to be more austere in their approach to death than followers of Luther. However, both groups developed ceremonies where death was mocked in an effort to assuage fears of death in a violent and disease-ridden time. The following drama, set in a contemporary courtroom, is loosely and anachronistically based on that reality, of which MacCulloch writes:

The dismissal of superstitious ceremony around death [by Reformed Christians] was fine in theory, but cross-currents both from above and below opposed these minimal rites of passage. Luther himself… decided when drawing up the instructions for the 1528 Saxon visitation that the Church ought to help people mock their fears of death through a satisfying liturgical drama… Equally, in the Reformed world, many both lay and clerical felt a desperate wish for suitable remembrance of the dead in this world even if nothing could be done for them in the next. 

– Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700 (London/New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 577.

———-

[Death is on trial in a future law court for corruption of humanity. The courtroom is noted for its austere decor, with no artwork on the walls. Its windows are so soiled that little sunlight passes through them. Closing arguments of the prosecution and then of the defence are to be heard, followed by the reading of the verdict. As the scene opens, the Marshall calls the court to attention with three strikes of the gavel.]

 Marshall: All rise!

 [The judge, Hector Faust,[1] enters, walks to the judge’s bench, and is seated. Death, the defendant, shackled and in an orange jumpsuit, is seated in the prisoner’s box. All in the courtroom then also sit.]

 Marshall: This court is now in session.

 Justice Faust: This court calls upon the prosecution to make its closing arguments.

 [The lead prosecutor, Martina Philippa Melanchthon-Bucer, a Lutheran, walks confidently toward the jurors.]

 Melanchthon-Bucer [begins her closing arguments]: Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ…[2]

 Yorick and Horatio,[3] Death’s defence lawyers and devout disciples of John Calvin [loudly and simultaneously]: Objection, your honour! The defendant is being mocked.

 Faust: Objection sustained! Death is not to be mocked. Alas, for I was once a lonely and morose philosopher. I fell in love with dear Marguerite, “an angel in human form.”[4] So drawn was I to her that I related my dreamy vision of Marguerite’s beauty to Mephistopheles. I didn’t know I was speaking with the devil himself. He tricked me, that hellion! At death I was separated from my true love; Marguerite went to the splendour of heaven, and I went to the fires of hell.[5]

 [Faust drops his head into his hands and begins to sob. The spectators wonder aloud whether the judge will be able to continue to adjudicate the trial. Faust, known for many previous such breakdowns on the bench, has always kept a vial of poison with him but has not yet attempted to drink from it. After several minutes, church bells peal in Easter celebration across the street from the courtroom.[6] Faust composes himself and the trial continues.]

 Faust [still sniffling back tears but his voice gaining strength]: But I escaped the grasp of the prince of darkness, came back to earth, studied criminal law, and became a judge. Ha ha ha ha!

 [In the midst of his wicked laugh, Faust coughs up a chunk of brimstone. The stenographer faints when struck by the brimstone and is carried out of the room by bailiffs.]

 Melanchthon-Bucer: May we proceed with the trial, your honour? Your deadly accuracy with regurgitated brimstone is commendable, but, with or without a stenographer, the rest of us have a burning desire to bring this case to a conclusion.

 Faust: Proceed, madam prosecutor.

 Melanchthon-Bucer [visibly angry, addresses the jury]: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the macabre defendant, Death, is on trial before you for the corruption of humanity. I beg you, for the good of the living and the dead, to find Death guilty of that charge. In death, there is no joy, no song, and no pleasure. When one dies, according to our defendant and to the defence, if that person is not one of God’s elect, he or she is destined for the everlasting furnace.[7]

 [A spectator, Daniel, begins to shout from the gallery upon Melanchthon-Bucer’s mention of a furnace.[8]]

 Daniel: Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; And blessed is your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and glorious above all for all ages…[9]

 [Daniel collapses and dies before he finishes the Old Testament hymn. A minister, Samuel Luthor,[10] an earlier witness in Death’s trial whose brother is a covert career criminal, stands in the hushed courtroom and begins to lead a long sermon in celebration of Daniel’s life.[11]]

 Faust: Order in the court!

 Samuel: Our beloved brother Daniel has died with Scripture alone[12] in his mind and on his tongue. For that, God will surely receive him into heaven.

 [The sermon continues until everyone in the courtroom falls asleep but Samuel. A spectator from Greece named Eutychus, is sitting too near a window. Eutychus falls out the window to his death, but a doctor descends to the sidewalk, revives Eutychus,[13] and both re-enter the courtroom within the next hour. Samuel Luthor’s sermon is just then ending.]

 Samuel: Let us finish with a good Reformation-era Lutheran hymn. [All, in varying degrees of wakefulness, begin to sing, except for Death, Yorick, and Horatio, who listen in horror]:

 A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing…

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God has willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.[14]

[The sky outside, meanwhile, has darkened. Lightning and thunder awaken the sleeping spectators. The courtroom fills with smoke and becomes hot. Satan exits his time machine, the MephistoMover 2050, after it lands in front of the stunned judge and jurors.]

Satan: I resent that hymn! I shall not be so easily felled!

[Satan, irate, has a fire-breathing tantrum that incinerates all twelve jurors and Yorick, Death’s defence lawyer. Faust, realizing that Satan is in his midst and that, without a jury, he will need to reach a verdict on his own, cowers behind the judge’s chair.]

Satan [looking at Yorick, feigning remorse]: Sorry, that was an accident.

[With glee, but pretending to be mortified at Yorick’s death, Death runs to his defence team. He is able to catch Yorick’s charred skull in mid-air.]

Death [looking at Horatio and then at the skull in his hand]: Alas! Poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.[15]

Melanchthon-Bucer: Aha! Death has quite a self-deprecating sense of humour; he even quotes Shakespeare, a product of the Reformation, to mock himself, much to my delight.

Horatio [addresses Samuel Luthor]: See to it that good Yorick is buried in an unmarked grave outside the city, as he has willed.[16]

Faust [while staggering to his chair]: We have a trial to complete, so let’s allow the defence to present its closing arguments.

Horatio [frustrated]: At last! Your honour, in defence of my client I have reason to doubt the veracity of one prior prosecution witness, Mr. Samuel Luthor. He argued that Death has indeed corrupted humanity, but Mr. Luthor has already disrupted this trial with a long-winded sermon. He also stands accused of aiding and abetting his brother in the smuggling of a controlled substance, Kryptonite, into this courthouse, not five minutes ago. You must find the defendant not guilty.

[A scream is heard as Samuel Luthor’s brother is arrested by courthouse security]: Samuel! Samuel!

Samuel [running out of the courtroom]: Here I am,[17] Lex!

[Suddenly a flash of light brings the trial to a halt again. Jesus appears in the courtroom.]

Satan [derisively]: Oh, this is familiar. “Just then the Lord himself appeared in a blinding flash of light, and shouted at the devil…”

Jesus: “Get thee hence to endless night!”[18]

Skeleton of a Catholic bishop from the Council of Trent [from a back corner of the courtroom with an index finger pointed at Satan, and in a raspy voice]: Anathema sit![19]

Satan: If only getting rid of me were that easy. Jesus, how about a poker or chess match to decide this? Of course, I’ll win as I did on that Spanish Train from Guadalquivir to Old Seville.[20]

Jesus: Never again will I play poker or chess with you! You cheated on the train and won one hundred five thousand souls.[21] I’ll avenge that loss; you just wait.

Satan: That was back in 1975. Get over it!

Jesus: And what’s with that time machine? It’s ridiculous!

Satan: Any good anachronist needs a time machine. The MephistoMover 2050 is the latest model.

Jesus [having moved to the judge’s chair]: I hold you in contempt of historical order and of this court, Satan. You are hereby banished to hell for eternity.

Satan: Home sweet home. I’m taking Faust and Death with me! [Starts singing] “Be-el-ze-bub has a devil put aside for me… for me… for meeee!”[22]

[Satan shrieks on the highest note of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Jesus is now even more livid than before.]

 Jesus: Lucifer, you’re not a very bright angel, nor are you a good singer.

Satan: Forgive me, since there’s no singing in hell. My voice wasn’t warmed up, and Freddie Mercury is in purgatory, so I can’t receive operatic rock lessons.

Jesus: Very well. Faust, you go back to hell with Satan. As for you, Death, I find you guilty on the charge of corruption of humanity and sentence you to life.

Death [confused]: Life? In prison? On the top level of a Stool of Repentance?[23]

Jesus: No, just life. A historical change isn’t appropriate here. As God, I transcend history, after all. Your sentence is thus an ontological change from death to life.

[The spectators begin to sing the Easter hymn, “The Strife is O’er”]

Jesus [thinking]: That tune is from the Reformation, but the lyrics aren’t.[24] I am both divine and human, both within time and beyond it. A half-anachronism never hurt anyone. Let’s sing it anyway.

[Jesus begins to conduct the jubilantly singing spectators.]

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun;
Alleluia!

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia![25]

WRS

———-

List of Characters

Daniel…………………………………………. A deranged spectator in the courtroom gallery.

Death………………………………………….. The defendant. 

Eutychus……………………………………… A Greek spectator who needs to avoid sitting near windows. 

Horatio……………………………………….. A defence lawyer and Reformed Christian.

Jesus……………………………………………. The timeless Son of God, as himself.

Jurors…………………………………………. Twelve people with particularly ashen complexions.

Justice Hector Faust…………………… Went to hell as a philosopher and returned to earth as a judge.

Lex Luthor………………………………….. Samuel’s Kryptonite-toting brother of comic book fame.

Marshall of the courtroom

Martina Philippa Melanchthon-Bucer… The lead prosecutor; a Lutheran.

Samuel Luthor…………………………….. A Lutheran minister.

Satan…………………………………………… The anachronistic hellion, as himself at anytime but during the Reformation.

Skeleton of a Catholic Bishop from the Council of Trent.

Stenographer……………………………….. Ought to beware of flying brimstone.

Yorick………………………………………….. A defence lawyer who has been burned- in legal arguments- one too many times; a Reformed Christian.


Notes:

[1] Music with Ease, “La Damnation de Faust, Hector Berlioz (1803-69).” http://www.musicwithease.com/ berlioz-damnation-faust.html. Accessed 9 April, 2010. The name of the judge, Hector Faust, is a combination of the names of the lead character and composer of “La Damnation de Faust.”

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:55-56, New American Bible.

[3] William Shakespeare, “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.” http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet /full.html. Accessed 11 April, 2010. The names of the defence lawyers are drawn from Act V, Scene I of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

[4] Music with Ease, “La Damnation de Faust,” accessed 9 April, 2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700 (London/New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 243-244.

[8] Daniel 3:19-51, NAB.

[9] Daniel 3:52, NAB.

[10] Warner Brothers, “Lex Luthor,” http://www.batman-superman.com/superman/cmp/luthor.html. Accessed 10 April, 2010.

[11] MacCulloch, Reformation, 578.

[12] Wilhelm Joseph, “Protestantism,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/ cathen/12495a.htm. Accessed 10 April, 2010.

[13] Acts 20:7-12, NAB.

[14] Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, music by Martin Luther, translated by Frederick H. Hedge, in Christian Prayer (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1976), 1692.

[15] Shakespeare, “The Tragedy of Hamlet,” accessed 11 April, 2010.

[16] MacCulloch, Reformation, 577. Yorick is meant in this play to be a caricature of John Calvin.

[17] 1 Samuel 3:1-8, 10, NAB.

[18] Chris de Burgh, “Spanish Train,” Spanish Train and Other Stories, A & M 393143-2 (CD), 1975.

[19] “Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent: The Fourth Session, Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures.” http://www.bible-researcher.com/trent1.html. Accessed 11 April, 2010.

[20] Chris de Burgh, “Spanish Train,” Spanish Train and Other Stories, A & M 393143-2 (CD), 1975.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Freddie Mercury, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” performed by Queen in A Night at the Opera, Hollywood Records B000000OAN (CD), 1991.

[23] MacCulloch, Reformation, 598-599. According to MacCulloch, the top level of the Stool of Repentance was reserved for those who had committed the most serious sins.

[24] Symphonia Sirenum Selectarum, Alleluia! The Strife is O’er, music by G.P. da Palestrina, translated by Francis Pott, in Christian Prayer (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1976), 1627. The music of this hymn was composed by da Palestrina in 1588; the lyrics quoted in this play were added in 1695.

[25] Ibid.

Peace in New France: A Comparative History of Exploration, Settlement, and Missions of France and of other European Nations in the Americas

26 May

Historian David Hackett Fischer writes that few accounts of the earliest “encounters between American Indians and Europeans… are about harmony and peace.”[1] Nonetheless, as Fischer points out, “scholars of many nations”[2] maintain that the French explorers and later settlers of New France related more peacefully with the Indians of that territory than the first European arrivals of the late fifteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries did with native inhabitants elsewhere in the Americas.[3] Greater accord existed between the French and North American Indians compared to that between Europeans and Indians elsewhere in the New World, with significant exceptions.

For example, upon “hearing a Dominican sermon” that decried the cruel treatment of Indian slaves in the pearl fishery of Guadeloupe,[4] the Spanish “colonial official and plantation owner” Bartolomé de las Casas sought to become a priest and was ordained in 1514. He became a Dominican friar eight years later and devoted the rest of his life to the defence of the equal human dignity of the Indians and of the Spaniards.[5] More than a century thereafter, New England colonists Roger Williams and John Eliot, like the Catholic las Casas but “of the reformed Church of England,”[6] respected the Indian people as they worked to evangelize them. Eliot translated the Bible to an Algonquin tongue, “the first Bible… to be printed in America,” and also produced a catechism.[7] Opposite these examples of non-French esteem toward the Indians, on his voyages under the French Crown in 1534 and 1535, Jacques Cartier responded to Indian greetings in the St. Lawrence Valley by “seizing their children and carrying them to France against their will.”[8]

Thus, the French were not invariably kind and explorers and colonists of other powers cruel toward the Indians and toward other persons of their own ethnicity.  However, French-Indian mutuality in North America was stronger than that between Europeans and Indians elsewhere in the New World for three interrelated reasons that I will consider in this paper. The first basis for this reality was economic: Indian-European and inter-European co-operation were more essential to the success of New France- large, sparsely settled, poorly defended, and heavily dependent on the fur trade with the Indians- than to the survival of American settlements of other realms that balanced mercantilism with colonialism more than the French did. The second motive was religious and political conflict in Europe: Reformation-era France was divided between Catholics and Protestant Huguenots. Such religious strife permeated the French monarchy and peasantry alike. In contrast, other colonial nations were more homogeneously Catholic or Protestant. French explorers, Huguenot and Catholic, strove to build inter-confessional peace from their earliest American settlement attempts. The third reason was the greater priority given by the French than by other European countries to religious evangelism in their colonial holdings. Recollets then Jesuits distinguished themselves in missionary work among the indigenous inhabitants of New France. While Portugal and Spain both attended to evangelization in the Americas, it was of secondary significance to the mercantile endeavours of these nations. On the other hand, for the French, commerce and mission with the Indians went hand in hand. Indian missions were an afterthought in New England until the late seventeenth century contributions of Williams then of Eliot.[9] Likewise, the Protestant settlers of New Netherlands were more interested in trade and in shipping than the export of the Christian faith to the New World.

Economic more than religious interests impelled France, like Spain, Portugal, England, and the Netherlands, to explore and then to colonize the Americas in the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. King Francis I of France financed a 1524 voyage by Giovanni da Verrazzano to find “a western passage to China and the Indies”[10] thirty-two years after the Genoese Christopher Columbus located not India but America while on a similar journey under the Spanish Crown.[11] In 1493, a year after Columbus’ expedition, Alexander VI issued the Papal Bull Inter Caetera.[12] That document, followed by the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal, set the boundary between Spanish and Portuguese possessions three hundred seventy leagues west of Cape Verde, with Portugal to receive all land to the east and Spain all land to the west of the demarcation.[13] That treaty, though, was merely a delay in other European countries’ colonial aspirations. France’s Protestant King Henri IV negotiated the formal Treaty of Vervins in 1598 with the Catholic Philip II of Spain.[14] Amid the brief peace and fuller royal treasuries[15] in Europe after Vervins, France, England, Spain, and Portugal drew informal “amity lines”[16] in the Atlantic that opened America to settlement and commerce by non-Iberian countries. Henri IV instigated the practice of amity lines when “in 1598, [he] put Spanish leaders on notice that he would not be bound by old agreements that carved up the world between Spain and Portugal.”[17]

Even in the century between Tordesillas and Vervins, though, Spanish and Portuguese “hegemony in the New World” was deliberately ignored by other colonizing nations.[18] In 1497, England’s Henry VII permitted the Venetian John Cabot to search for a maritime trade route to China and India.[19] Cabot found the North American Atlantic coastline instead and explored it from Newfoundland to what later became New England.[20] The English, interested in a Northwest Passage to oriental riches and in Newfoundland’s fishery, left inland exploration of North America to the French. Francis I accepted this opportunity to commission Jacques Cartier to sail to the New World.[21] Cartier made his first voyage in 1534.[22]

On the shore of the Bay of Chaleur, Cartier was welcomed by male Mi’kmaq who held animal pelts aloft on sticks. Female Mi’kmaq, in contrast to the men, retreated into the forest. “The Indians,” J.R. Miller asserts, “initiated both the contact and the commerce” with the French.[23] Cartier knew from the eagerness of the Mi’kmaq men to trade with his crew and the reserve of the Mi’kmaq women that those Indians had previously encountered Europeans and had sought their “iron wares.”[24] The Mi’kmaq performed extensive and merry ceremonies as the French exchanged their metallic goods for Mi’kmaq furs. According to Cartier, the Mi’kmaq “bartered all they had to such an extent that they went back naked without anything on them, and they made signs to us that they would return on the morrow with more furs.”[25]

Subsequent voyages in 1535 and 1541-1542 brought Cartier to the Saguenay River and to Stadacona and Hochelaga- present-day Québec City and Montréal, respectively. Cartier’s party overwintered at Hochelaga during their second expedition, when many became ill with scurvy. One quarter of Cartier’s shipmates died of that disease.[26] The Indians could have allowed the remainder to perish also, but they compassionately taught the French “sojourners… to make a tonic containing ascorbic acid from bark, cedar needles, and water.”[27] That action showed the Indians’ willingness to assist these European visitors for more than mere material gain. Meanwhile, the French view of the Indians, whom Cartier had considered “the sorriest folk… in the world” for their lack of valuable belongings save “their canoes and fishing nets,” began to moderate with further contact.[28] Indian-French relations had begun inauspiciously in North America. In 1535 at Penouille Point, Cartier, with clear intent to claim the land for France, which overshadowed the act’s religious significance, erected a thirty-foot high cross inscribed with the name of King Francis I.[29] At the same location, Cartier captured two sons of the Iroquois chief Donnacona “to take them back to France”;[30] Dom Agaya and Taignoagny were returned to North America the following year.[31]

French aims of association with the North American Indians were manifold and interconnected. J.R. Miller writes:

By the end of Cartier’s third voyage… the Europeans had settled on four motives that would drive their contacts until the eighteenth century: fish, furs, exploration, and evangelization. The indigenous people had tolerated the first, eagerly embraced the second, co-operated in the third when doing so did not threaten their interests, and still remained blissfully ignorant of the last motive.[32]

 Peace in France was abruptly shattered by the 1540s as the religious divisions of the Reformation emerged. Sixty years of intermittent civil war left France nearly bankrupt.[33] Thus, French exploration of North America and contact with its Indian population were halted until the Edict of Nantes of 1598 ended the Wars of Religion in France.[34] That edict was followed by the renewal of French activity west of the Newfoundland fishing grounds.[35] Samuel de Champlain was a key figure of this resumed French presence in North America.

Champlain’s genuine yearning for peace helped to form New France into the haven of Indian-European and inter-European concord relative to other colonial territories of the Americas that it would remain during its century-and-a-half long existence. A native of Brouage on the Bay of Biscay coast,[36] Champlain honed his appreciation of the human dignity of those of differing beliefs as a youth in one of the most violent theatres of the French Wars of Religion. David Fischer speculates that Champlain, born in about 1570,[37] “was… baptized a Protestant,” and notes that he grew up in a milieu of “famine, plague, and suffering… intense religious hatred and incessant war.”[38] Brouage “changed hands [five] times” between Catholics and Protestants during Champlain’s infancy.[39] La Rochelle, the nearest city to Brouage, was then the greatest Huguenot stronghold, which made the entire Gulf of Saintonge shore on which both communities stood a strategic battleground for Protestant and for Catholic forces. In 1568, Brouage belonged to the Protestants. Catholics seized the village with Italian help the following year, and then relinquished it in 1570. Acquired anew by Catholics via a “peace treaty,” Brouage was used shortly thereafter as “a base for operations against… La Rochelle.”[40] By 1571, Protestants had regained Brouage and then lost it once more.[41]

The arranged marriage the next year between the “Catholic Princess Marguerite de Valois and the… Protestant Prince Henri de Béarn and Navarre”[42] escalated what had been localized confessional skirmishes as on the Gulf of Saintonge into kingdom-wide carnage. Neither the Catholic Church nor the House of Guise- exceedingly anti-Protestant even for the time- approved of the union. Huguenots were warned by English emissaries of the danger to their lives should they have stayed in Paris for the wedding celebrations. They remained indeed, and the English prediction of bloodshed came true when Huguenot Admiral Gaspard de Coligny was shot on 22 August, 1572. King Charles IX, fearful of being assassinated in a Protestant reprisal for the wounding of de Coligny, was persuaded by Catholic militants to renege on his short-lived offer of protection to panicked Huguenots.[43] The following night, a “Catholic militia” arrested the newlywed prince and the duc de Condé, both Protestants, and “murdered” Admiral de Coligny “in his bed.”[44] The Catholic mob killing spree subsequently spread beyond Paris “to the provinces of France.”[45] Estimates of the number of dead in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre vary widely: two thousand to one hundred thousand Protestants were slain in France between August 24 and October 2, 1572.[46]

Threatened with death should he have remained a Protestant, Prince Henri de Béarn and Navarre became Catholic on September 26, 1572. Over the next twenty-three years, Henri oscillated between denominational stances three times, drawing the suspicion of French Catholics and Protestants alike. His final turn toward Catholicism was sealed on July 25, 1593.[47] According to Fischer, Henri’s repeated confessional changes had not been the result of indecision but a shrewd plan to build stability in his realm. Moreover, the prince thought the continuous fighting “by both sides in the name of Christ” to be “un-Christian.”[48] Henri had therefore exhorted Catholics and Protestants to reconcile with one another: “We believe in one God, we recognize Jesus Christ, and we draw on the same gospel.”[49] Although the Bourbon Henri came to abhor war whether from a Catholic or Protestant perspective, as a Protestant in 1587 he defeated two Catholics, Henri of Guise and Henri of Valois, “in open battle”[50] during the last of nine French Wars of Religion,[51] known as “the War of the Three Henris.”[52] Two years later, the Catholic Prince Henri was enthroned as King Henri IV,[53] and peace ruled France for the next four decades.

Shortly after Henri IV’s reign began, the new king’s ally Samuel de Champlain followed his sovereign into the Catholic Church. Champlain quickly earned the trust of Henri IV. A highly-skilled navigator, Champlain was appointed by the king as a geographer in the Louvre in 1602. There, he studied why six previous French attempts to settle North America had failed, and how a permanent New World colony might yet be established.[54]

Champlain’s seafaring abilities had been tried between 1599 and 1601 on a royal expedition to New Spain sanctioned by Spanish General Pedro de Zubiaur, with a mixed Spanish-French crew.[55] Spain had enlisted French help to spy on English interlopers in New Spain’s waterways; England had attacked Spanish Puerto Rico in 1598.[56] The espionage fleet was overseen by a Spaniard, Don Francisco Coloma, while its lead ship, San Julian, which had just been sold by France to Spain, was captained by Champlain’s uncle, Guillaume Allène Provençal.[57] In New Spain, Champlain saw the same “free dives” for pearls that had raised the ire of Bartolomé de las Casas almost a century earlier, although by Champlain’s time African descendants were working in place of the Indian slaves encountered by las Casas.[58] Champlain reacted with similar disgust to that of the Spanish Dominican against the inhumanity of the slave trade in the Spanish Empire. Slavery, whether of Indians or of Africans, was not to be replicated in the New France that Champlain was to build. Alas, the French used slaves with the same impunity as the Spanish in Hispaniola’s sugar cane plantations before and after Spain surrendered the island’s western third to France via the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick.[59] African slaves were also imported to French North America in the late seventeenth century.[60]

Samuel de Champlain first sailed to North America aboard the Bonne Renommée, commanded by the Catholic François Gravé, Sieur du Pont. The weathered ship landed at Tadoussac on May 26, 1603. There, as in New Spain, Champlain conversed with the Indians. The observant Champlain distinguished between the many Montagnais and Algonquin nations in the vicinity, negotiated trade with them, and sketched maps of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay valleys based on his explorations and on his conversations with the Indians.[61] The French called their friendly reception by the Indians that featured tobacco, local game, dialogue, and welcome speeches and dances interspersed with long periods of silence a tabagie– “a tobacco feast.”[62]

Success at Tadoussac spurred Champlain to petition Henri IV to finance another expedition that would culminate in a permanent French New World settlement. The king agreed to that proposal enthusiastically, under the condition that the colony be centered on the fur trade.[63] Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, “a Protestant with a Catholic wife,”[64] was made responsible for the realization of Henri IV’s designs. De Mons was influenced by an “American circle at Court”[65]– royal officials who had read about America from details of a century of voyages but had never sailed to the Americas- to lay anchor in Acadia, the North American Atlantic region known to da Verrazzano and thought to have had a similar climate to that of France’s western coast.[66] In May of 1604, the Don de Dieu arrived at Sainte-Croix Island after a rapid ocean crossing during which the lead ship nearly ran aground on Sable Island.[67] The mission that began as a triumph in Catholic-Protestant relations exemplified by Champlain and de Mons and by the harmony between Catholics and Huguenots ended in failure: the Sainte-Croix River iced over during a harsh winter. The colonists’ food, water, and firewood were exhausted. Scurvy followed, which was more deadly at Sainte-Croix than it had been at Hochelaga for the party of Cartier’s second voyage. Thirty-five of seventy-nine settlers died at Sainte-Croix.[68] The site, named “Bone Island” for its shallow graves of French settlers, was abandoned within a year of its inception.[69]

Three more years passed before Champlain founded the first successful French colony at Québec.  In the interim, in two voyages he explored and mapped North America’s eastern coast from Port Royal- now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia- on the Bay of Fundy to Norumbega, present-day northern Maine. Champlain was the first lieutenant of the French Crown in New France. He was officially so from 1617 until his death on Christmas Day, 1635, in the arms of his friend, the first Jesuit Superior of Canada, Father Charles Lalemant. Father Paul le Jeune, then-editor of the Jesuit Relations, which documented that Order’s missionary activities in Canada and were started by Charles Lalemant, acknowledged Champlain’s significance for New France and especially for its Indians in his announcement of the lieutenant’s passing:

      On the twenty-fifth of December, the day of the birth of our Savior upon earth, Monsieur de Champlain, our Governor, was reborn in Heaven… I am sure that God has shown him this [favour] in consideration of the benefits he has procured for New France, where we hope [that one day] God will be loved and served by our French, and known and adored by our [Indians.][70]

Beginning with the tabagies at Tadoussac and then at Norumbega,[71] within thirty years Champlain had made contact with Indians as far inland as the Huron Nations of the Great Lakes, for the fur trade and for the Christian faith. Those priorities were invariably intertwined for Champlain.[72] As he worked to evangelize the Indians, Champlain respected them as equal to the Europeans although they were, he said, “‘without faith, law, or authority,’ ni foi, ni loi, ni roi.”[73]

Champlain, whose religious faith deepened as he aged,[74] was a peacemaker and a nation-builder. However great his role was in the foundation of New France, though, other reasons for the prevalent co-operation among the French and between its first European settlers and Indians existed, chiefly the size of New France and its meager population. The French and Indians of New France thus relied upon one another for survival. Other European powers held smaller colonies that had larger populations than New France. For example, France claimed an area that extended from the Atlantic coast of Acadia to the Great Lakes and from James Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.[75] Upon the death of Cardinal de Richelieu in 1642,[76] three thousand French settlers lived in New France.

In comparison to New France, thirty thousand English had colonized New England by 1642, and the population was rapidly expanding and displacing Indians westward.[77] Thirty thousand Portuguese, mostly clustered around the sugar-producing centres Pernambuco and Bahia, had settled in Brazil by 1585.[78] Portuguese administration in Brazil, in contrast to that of the Spaniards in New Spain, was chronically unorganized. Portugal’s focus in the western hemisphere was more mercantile than colonial. Thus, Brazil remained mired in poverty until after the monarchies of Portugal and Spain were united under Spain’s Philip II in 1580.[79] Portugal focused on trade at the expense of colonial development beyond Africa, India, and islands near Europe such as Madeira and Cape Verde.[80] Spain possessed a land area much larger than New France in the Americas, but New Spain was highly ordered into “chartered” towns: one hundred twenty-one of these towns had been built by 1574, and a further two hundred ten were constructed by 1628.[81] Those settlements, as elsewhere in the Americas, were structured around the exploitation of natural resources: mining, principally in South America, fishing, and, particularly in Mexico and in the Caribbean, plantation crops and livestock.[82] The Netherlands, although a prosperous nation by seventeenth-century European standards, especially since the Dutch declared independence only in 1579,[83] were not as involved in colonization as France, England, Spain, or Portugal. The main Dutch concerns were shipping[84] and, in North America, the fur trade.[85] Consequently, New Netherlands included only 1 300 Dutch settlers as of 1663.[86]

Demography, politics, and economics in Europe and in the North American colonies of European countries affected relations between Indians and colonists of the Americas as well as between the settlers themselves. However, religious motives of colonial nations interconnected with those factors in these Euro-Indian and inter-European relationships. The Netherlands, owing to their scant attention to settlement in the Americas, were not a relevant contributor to evangelization of the Indians there. Nor was England, whose American colonial history- about as long as that of France[87]– was short relative to that of Spain or Portugal. Additionally, New England was a confederation of several colonies, each with their own religious confessions, and priorities. Unlike France, which founded its colonies of North America both on the fur trade and on the Indian missions, English evangelism of the Indians was neither as sustained nor as systematic.

Spain and Portugal rivalled France in their missionary focus in the Americas, but the Spanish and Portuguese were more coercive than cooperative, in contrast to the French, toward the American Indians to whom they carried Christianity. Diarmaid MacCulloch argues that the Iberians viewed their American missions as another Crusade. That mentality of religious conquest had been developed in Spain and Portugal, where monarchies were stable enough to impose a nearly homogeneous Catholic faith on those lands. Non-Catholics and recent converts to Catholicism were persecuted by the Inquisition in Spain, or simply expelled from the country. Jews met the latter fate in Spain in 1492, after Spanish Muslims surrendered Granada,[88] and in Portugal in 1496.[89] The brutal excesses of the Spanish Inquisition were also directed against Protestants in Spain and Indians in the Americas. The 1512 Laws of Burgos included a “Requirement” that was to be proclaimed to the Indians in Spanish: If the Indians submitted to Spain’s claims to their territory and accepted Christianity, “then no force would be used against them.”[90]

Members of religious orders that organized missions in the Americas- the Dominicans, Franciscans, and then the Jesuits- criticized the practices in New Spain of slavery, torture, and the non-acceptance of mestizos– mixed European-Indian descendants- for Holy Orders. By 1570, Spain had come to disapprove of religious clergy in its missions; secular clergy increasingly took their place.[91] That imbalance of secular to religious clergy did not occur in New France, where the Jesuits, who had followed the Recollet Franciscans as the foremost order in Canada’s missions, distinguished themselves in particular. The Jesuits, founded at the outset of the Reformation,[92] were well-suited to missionary work. A leading Jesuit figure in Canada, Jean de Brébeuf, arrived in New France in 1625. He garnered the trust of the Indians of the Huron nations of the Great Lakes region. He was successful in doing so over twenty-four years, despite epidemics of disease- especially smallpox and influenza- that ravaged the Indians and turned their suspicion against the missionaries and their rituals. Brébeuf was martyred in 1649 along with Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Lalemant’s nephew,[93] by Iroquois who sacked the Jesuits’ Huron missions. Brébeuf taught the Hurons as he suffered a gruesome death that his suffering would be rewarded in heaven: “[Our torments] will end with our lives; the glory which follows them will never have an end.” “Echon,” one responded, “Pray to God for us… We will invoke [God], even unto death.”[94]

The Indians of New France long remembered the gallant Jesuit missionaries, eight of whom had been martyred among them. Eighteen years after the final collapse of the Huron missions, Jesuit Father Claude Allouez encountered Petuns, ethnically related to the Hurons, wandering in the brush near Lake Superior. Allouez was informed by the forlorn Petuns that they were still mourning the death of Charles Garnier, one of the Canadian Martyrs.[95] The Jesuits preached and lived peace among the Indian people of New France. They built on a humanist legacy of co-operation between French and Indian, Catholic and Protestant. Harmony came from those who had experienced religious and political strife in Europe and were determined not to export it. That co-operation among diverse peoples of New France existed for economic and demographic reasons- the territory was large, and French and Indians depended upon the fur trade- but also for religious reasons; evangelism in New France was founded on mutual recognition of the human dignity of the Indians and of the French settlers.

WRS 


This historical research paper was originally submitted for my course entitled History of Christianity II (843-1649) at the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, ON, Canada, MDiv Year I, Semester 2, on 15 March, 2010.

Notes:

[1] David Hackett Fischer, Champlain’s Dream: The Visionary Adventurer Who Made a New World in Canada (Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 527.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 608. Fischer states that, shortly before publishing Champlain’s Dream, he had been invited to meet representatives of several Indian nations based “throughout the United States” at the Newberry Library in Chicago. He asked leaders of these nations what they would wish to be called; they expressed a preference to be denoted by their individual nations’ names. The term “Indian” was acceptable- better than other designations, or even a mark of pride for some with whom Fischer spoke- in collective reference to the first inhabitants of the Americas. Those conventions of nomenclature will thus be followed in this essay. 

[4] Ibid., 86-88.

[5] Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700 (London/New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 69.

[6] Online Etymology Dictionary, “Anglican.” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Anglican. Accessed 9 March, 2010. To refer to Williams and Eliot as Anglicans- a noun not used until 1797- is anachronistic.

[7] MacCulloch, Reformation, 540-541.

[8] Fischer, Champlain’s Dream, 527-528.

[9] MacCulloch, Reformation, 540-541.

[10] Robert Choquette, “French Catholicism Comes to the Americas,” in Charles H. Lippy, Robert Choquette, and Stafford Poole, Christianity Comes to the Americas (New York: Paragon House, 1992), 142.

[11] David Birmingham, Trade and Empire in the Atlantic, 1400-1600, Introductions to History (London/New York: Routledge, 2000), 49.

[12] Pablo Alberto Deiros, Historia del Cristianismo en América Latina (Buenos Aires: Fraternidad Teologica Latinoamericana), 301.

[13] Ibid., 303.

[14] Fischer, Champlain’s Dream, 67-68.

[15] K.G. Davies, The North Atlantic World in the Seventeenth Century, vol. 4 of Europe and the World in the Age of Expansion, edited by Boyd C. Shafer (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1974), 17.

[16] Fischer, Champlain’s Dream, 68.

[17] Ibid., 69.

[18] Ibid.

[19] J.H. Parry, Europe and a Wider World: 1415-1715, edited by Maurice Powicke (London/New York/Melbourne/Sydney/Cape Town: Hutchinson’s University Library, 1949), 52.

[20] Ibid.

[21] J.R. Miller, Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada, 3rd ed. (Toronto/Buffalo/London: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 27-28. Francis I only grudgingly took advantage of England’s disinterest in inland North America; France, too, was principally searching for a Northwest Passage. Inland exploration was a secondary option to find a route to the Far East.

[22] Ibid., 28.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., 30-31.

[27] Ibid., 31.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Marcel Trudel, “Cartier, Jacques,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. http://www. biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=34229. Accessed 11 March, 2010.

[30] Miller, Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens, 30.

[31] Trudel, “Cartier, Jacques,” accessed 11 March, 2010.

[32] Miller, Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens, 31.

[33] History Learning Site, “Fourth French War of Religion.” http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/ FWR4.htm. Accessed 12 March, 2010.

[34] Fischer, Champlain’s Dream, 67.

[35] Miller, Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens, 32.

[36] Fischer, Champlain’s Dream, 15-29.

[37] Ibid., 573.

[38] Ibid., 52.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid., 54.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Georges Goyau, “Saint Bartholomew’s Day,” in Catholic Encyclopedia.  http://www.newadvent.org/ cathen/13333b.htm. Accessed 13 March, 2010.

[47] Fischer, Champlain’s Dream, 54-55.

[48] Ibid., 55.

[49] Ibid., 54-55.

[50] Ibid., 55.

[51] Ibid., 529.

[52] Ibid., 55.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid., 105-123.

[55] Ibid., 78-83.

[56] Ibid., 80.

[57] Ibid., 77.

[58] Ibid., 86-88.

[59] Tim Lambert, “A Brief History of Haiti.” http://www.localhistories.org/haiti.html. Accessed 13 March, 2010.

[60] Choquette, “French Catholicism Comes to the Americas,” 187.

[61] Fischer, Champlain’s Dream, 137-138.

[62] Ibid., 132.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Ibid., 149.

[65] Ibid., 150.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid., 160-161.

[68] Ibid., 171.

[69] Ibid.

[70] “The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents Volume 9,” edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites. http://puffin.creighton.edu/jesuit/relations/relations_09.html. Accessed 13 March, 2010.

[71] Fischer, Champlain’s Dream, 174-175.

[72] Ibid., 6-7.

[73] Ibid., 154.

[74] Ibid., 7.

[75] Choquette, “French Catholicism Comes to the Americas,” 134.

[76] Georges Goyau, “Armand du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu,” in Catholic Encyclopedia.  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13047a.htm. Accessed 13 March, 2010.

[77] Parry, Europe and a Wider World, 124.

[78] Birmingham, Trade and Empire in the Atlantic, 1400-1600, 79.

[79] MacCulloch, Reformation, 417.

[80] Birmingham, Trade and Empire in the Atlantic, 1400-1600, 5.

[81] “New Spain Conquest.” http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~walters/web%20230/Unit%203%20New% 20Spain%20Conquest.html. Accessed 13 March, 2010.

[82] Birmingham, Trade and Empire in the Atlantic, 1400-1600, 54-58.

[83] Henry C. Morris, The History of Colonization: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (New York/London: MacMillan, 1900) 1:305.

[84] Ibid., 302.

[85] Davies, The North Atlantic World in the Seventeenth Century, 18.

[86] Parry, Europe and a Wider World, 132.

[87] Ibid., 121.

[88] MacCulloch, Reformation, 58.

[89] John W. O’Malley, The First Jesuits (Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press, 1993), 188.

[90] MacCulloch, Reformation, 68.

[91] Karen Melvin, “Priests and Nuns in Colonial Ibero-America,” in Religion and Society in Latin America: Interpretive Essays from Conquest to Present, edited by Lee M. Penyak and Walter J. Petry (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009), 100-114.

[92] O’Malley, The First Jesuits, 23.

[93] Angus MacDougall, “Gabriel Lalemant, 1610-1649.” http://www.wyandot.org/lalemant.htm. Accessed 13 March, 2010.

[94] “The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents Volume 34,” edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites. http://puffin.creighton.edu/jesuit/relations/relations_09.html. Accessed 13 March, 2010. “Echon,” the Hurons’ name for Brébeuf for his knowledge of basic cures for diseases, meant “Healing tree.”

[95] James McGivern, “Charles Garnier, 1606-1649.” http://www.wyandot.org/garnier.htm. Accessed 13 March, 2010.