Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Feast of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra

Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea: Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Nicholas is one of the most popular saints on the calendar; he is honored by the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and even Reformed Protestant churches. He is the person upon whom the Santa Claus myth story is based. As is usually the case, we don't have a lot of good historical information on Nicholas. We know he lived in Asia Minor in the late Third/early Fourth century. We know that he was Bishop of Myra, and we know that he died on December 6, 342. Other than those facts, all the stories about Nicholas are based upon church tradition and legends and some of them may not have even happened, but they are good stories, full of dreams and miracles.

According to tradition, Nicholas was born in the town of Patar in Lycia, in what we now call the nation of Turkey. He was orphaned at an early age and had to live with his uncle in a monastery. His late parents were wealthy and left him a good inheritance, but he gave most of it away to the poor and needy since he was living in a monastery and didn't really need any of it. He wanted to be a monk like us uncle, but one night he had a dream in which Jesus gave him a jeweled copy of the four gospels, and he took this dream as a sign that he was to become a priest, and he did so at the age of 17 (I guess the Commission on Ministry had different age requirements in those days). He was a very generous person and there are many stories about his generosity. Once he met a man in great need, and the man had decided to sell a carpet which was very dear to him and his wife. Father Nicholas bought the carpet from the man at a ridiculously high price, and then gave the carpet to the man's wife as a gift. The most famous story is that of a poor man with three daughters. He had no money to provide them with dowries and was worried that they would never be married and would probably face slavery as a result of their poverty. Nicholas tossed a bag of gold coins into the eldest daughter's window one night, and she was soon married. A while later, he tossed a bag of gold coins into the second daughter's window and she, too, was soon married. When it came time to provide a dowry for the third daughter, Nicholas came to toss a bag of gold coins into her window but it was closed, so he tossed it down the chimney, and the bag of coins fell into her shoes (and she, too, was soon married). This legend is the basis of the tradition in some countries of St. Nicholas putting chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil in children's shoes. It's also the basis of the story of Santa Claus coming down the chimney with gifts for good boys and girls on Christmas Eve.

There is a tradition that Nicholas made a pilgrimage to Egypt, to visit the great Library in Alexandria, and continued on to the Holy Land, to Palestine. There is a story that on the way home the ship he was on was caught in a fierce storm an d the three sailors piloting the ship were sure that they were going to die. Father Nicholas came on deck and prayed and stilled the storm. For this reason he became known as the Patron Saint of Sailors. The ship stopped in the city of Myra. The bishop of Myra had died and there was a lot of disagreement about who should be the next bishop. The clergy and people of Myra had started a period of prayer and fasting trying to find a solution to their problem. An angel appeared to several priests in a dream and told them that they were to make a stranger, named Nicholas, the new bishop, and that he would be the first to arrive for morning prayers the next day. That same night, Father Nicholas had a dream of a mitre being placed on his head. The next morning he went to the church for morning prayers and was the first person there. He was proclaimed bishop and the mitre was placed upon his head! He was a good choice for bishop because of his concern for the poor and needy, and his love of children, and his piety and zeal for the gospel. Miracles were attributed to him, and he was nick-named the Wonder Worker. He was also a man of great courage, and he suffered arrest and torture during the persecution of Diocletian and his regent, Maximan, around the years 303 to 311. It is said that Bishop Nicholas continued to preach and teach even while in chains. When Constantine became emperor in 313 and later issued the Edict of Toleration, Christianity became tolerated (and actually favored) by the Empire and people like Nicholas were released from prison. There is an ancient tradition that Nicholas saved the lives of three soldiers who were imprisoned by appearing to the Emperor in his dreams and interceding in their behalf. Just before Constantine became emperor, the Arian Controversy was in full flower in the Church, creating great dissension and schism. The Emperor Constantine called all the bishops of the Church to Nicea in 325 to settle this dispute. Tradition states that Bishop Nicholas of Myra attended the Council and even slapped Arius in the face, but Nicholas' name does not appear on any of the lists, so this incident and Nicholas' attendance at the Council is in doubt. Nevertheless, Arianism never took hold in Myra, so the faithful teaching of Nicholas must have prevented the heresy in that city.

Nicholas died on December 6, 342, and this day is now a feast day. During the Middle Ages it was a popular practice to elect a boy to be bishop who reigned from December 6th to December 28th, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. On that day (the 28th) the "boy bishop" had to preach a sermon in church. It also became popular to give gifts on Nicholas' feast day in honor of his own generosity, especially to children. In Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, this tradition replaced the ancient yuletide celebration of Woden. After the Protestant Reformation, St. Nicholas became known as Pere Noel in France, Father Christmas in England,Kriskindl in Germany, Grandfather Frost in Russia, and Sinterklaas in Holland. The mispronunciation of Sinterklaas in the United States resulted in the name Santa Claus.

It's easy to to understand how the example of the kind and generous man who truly lived the Christian life could become a symbol of love and generosity during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, the time in which we remember God's own gift to the world, the gift of Jesus the Messiah. St. Nicholas' love and compassion for the poor, the needy, and for children is an example of how we should live our lives throughout the entire year, not just at Christmas. The stories of St. Nicholas are not stories about Christmas but are stories of a man who was working to bring about the Reign of God, a man who helped the less fortunate, just as Jesus commanded. That is why he became one of the most popular saints in Christendom and why we remember him today.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Feast of St. Andrew, the First Called


Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

As is usually the case with first century saints and especially with the Apostles, we don’t know much about Andrew. There are twelve passages in the New Testament which mention Andrew’s name. The passages from the synoptic gospels are two about Jesus calling Andrew and his brother Simon Peter, three which are what we may call the List of the Twelve, one which mentions Jesus entering Andrew and Peter’s home (to heal Peter’s mother-in-law so that she could make lunch), and one passage in which Andrew is with a few members of the Twelve who ask Jesus about the eschaton. But the Gospel of John contains four references to Andrew, and he plays a different role than that in the synoptics. He is the first person Jesus called to follow him; there is a reference to the city of Bethsaida being the city of Andrew and Peter; Andrew brings the little boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus at that famous lunch, and Andrew also serves as an intermediary between Jesus and some Greeks who asked Philip to let them see Jesus to ask him some questions. The final biblical reference to Andrew is in the Acts of the Apostles where he is listed as one of those in the Upper Room. Eusebius’ only refers to Andrew as being assigned the area of Scythia for his missionary work. I read the Acts of Andrew, which is a book which was denounced by the Church Fathers (and by Eusebius), but tells some wild stories about Andrew. I’ve used some stories from the Acts of Andrew for this post, especially the description of Andrew’s martyrdom.

As I stated in the paragraph above, the Gospel of John claims that Andrew was at first a disciple of John the Baptizer. When John the Baptizer pointed out Jesus as the Christ, Andrew and another of John’s followers both became His disciples. Andrew took his brother, Simon, later to be called Peter, to meet Jesus. He is called the Protokletos (the First Called) in the Orthodox Church because he was the first Apostle to be summoned by Jesus into His service. In the accounts in the synoptic gospels, Andrew and his brother Peter made their living as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee and both dropped their nets and followed Jesus when he called them. Both men became Apostles, and while Peter, who was martyred in Rome, symbolically came to represent the Church of the West, Andrew, whose relics were transferred to Constantinople, likewise came to represent the Church of the East.

According to the traditions of the Church of the East, Andrew began his missionary activity in the Provinces of Bithynia and Pontus on the southern shores of the Black Sea. He then to the city of Byzantium and founded a church there, ordaining the first Bishop of Byzantium, Stachys, who was one of the 70 disciples Jesus sent out to heal the sick and proclaim the Good News. The Apostles began their missionary work after Pentecost. Andrew went to several cities and countries to teach, including Byzantium, Thrace, Russia, Epiros, and Peloponnese. In Amisos, he converted the Jews in the temple, baptized them, healed their sick, built a church, and left a priest for them (I don’t know if he was a priest who had been traveling with Andrew or a local person. Historically, there weren’t any priests in the Church yet). In Bithynia, he taught, healed their sick, and drove away the wild beasts that bothered the people. His prayers destroyed the pagan temples, and those who resisted his words became possessed and gnawed at their bodies until Andrew healed them. Many of the stories about Andrew seem to deal with demon possession. According to the Acts of Andrew, he visited the City of Patras during one of his several missionary journeys to Greece. Through his preaching and the miracles of healing he performed in the name of Jesus, many persons were converted to Christianity. Among those healed was Maximilla, the wife of the Roman Proconsul, Aegeates. Seeing this miracle of healing, Stratoklis, the highly intellectual brother of the Proconsul, also became a Christian, and Andrew consecrated and enthroned him as the first Bishop of Patras. As a prophet, he foretold of the greatness of Kiev as a city and a stronghold of Christianity. In Sinope, he prayed for the imprisoned Apostle Matthias, and his chains fell from him and the cell door opened. This angered the people and they beat Andrew, breaking his teeth, cutting his fingers, and left him for dead in a dung heap. While Andrew was lying in the dung heap Jesus appeared to him and healed him, telling him to be of good cheer. When the people saw him up and around with all his teeth and fingers the next day, they were amazed and they converted. Another time, he raised a woman's only son from the dead. All this activity made the people of Patras and Sinope and Kiev love him, but it did not endear him to those in power, of course. According to the Acts of Andrew, the conversions to the Christian Faith by members of his own family infuriated the Proconsul Aegeates, and he decided, with the urging of his pagan advisors, to crucify Andrew. The crucifixion was carried out on an X-shaped cross with the body of the Apostle upside down so that he saw neither the earth nor his executioners, but only the sky, which he “glorified as the heaven in which he would meet his Lord.” Aegeates had him tied to the cross in this manner so that he would live longer and suffer more. According to the account in the Acts of Andrew, the Apostle went to the cross “and spake unto it as unto a living creature, with a loud voice (and in Elizabethan english!): Hail, O cross, yea be glad indeed! Well know I that thou shalt henceforth be at rest, thou that hast for a long time been wearied, being set up and awaiting me. I come unto thee whom I know to belong to me. I come unto thee that hast yearned after me. I know thy mystery, for the which thou art set up: for thou art planted in the world to establish the things that are unstable: and the one part of thee stretcheth up toward heaven that thou mayest signify the heavenly word: and another part of thee is spread out to the right hand and the left that it may put to flight the envious and adverse power of the evil one, and gather into one the things that are scattered abroad: And another part of thee is planted in the earth, and securely set in the depth, that thou mayest join the things that are in the earth and that are under the earth unto the heavenly things. O cross, device of the salvation of the Most High! O cross, trophy of the victory of Christ over the enemies! O cross, planted upon the earth and having thy fruit in the heavens! O name of the cross, filled with all things. Well done, O cross, that hast bound down the circumference of the world! Well done, O shape of understanding that hast shaped the shapeless! Well done, O unseen chastisement that sorely chastisest the substance of the knowledge that hath many gods, and drivest out from among mankind him that devised it! Well done, thou that didst clothe thyself with the Lord, and didst bear the thief as a fruit, and didst call the apostle to repentance, and didst not refuse to accept us! But how long delay I, speaking thus, and embrace not the cross, that by the cross I may be made alive, and by the cross win the common death of all and depart out of life? Come hither ye ministers of joy unto me, ye servants of Aegeates: accomplish the desire of us both, and bind the lamb unto the wood of suffering, the man unto the maker, the soul unto the Saviour.

Twenty thousand of the faithful stood by and mourned. Even then, Andrew taught them and exhorted them to endure temporary sufferings for the kingdom of heaven. Out of fear of the people, Aegeates came to remove Andrew from the cross. Andrew, however, told Aegeates that there was still a chance for Aegeates to become a Christian, but that he (Andrew) had already seen Jesus waiting for him and he would not allow himself to be removed from the cross. Many tried to undo the knots, but their hands all became numb. Suddenly, a heavenly light illumined Andrew for about a half hour. When it left, Andrew had given up his spirit. His body was tenderly removed from the cross by Bishop Stratoklis and Maximilla, and buried with all of the honor befitting the Apostle. Soon countless numbers of Christians made their way to Patras to pay reverence to the grave of Andrew, and when Aegeates realized that the man he had put to death was truly a holy man of God a demon fell upon him and tormented him so powerfully that he committed suicide (In many of these non-canonical books, the one who had someone martyred would commit suicide or explode or fall dead for no reason, as a way of avenging the death of the martyr).

The actual historical record tells us that in the month of March in the year 357 the Emperor Constantine (son of Constantine The Great) ordered that the body of Saint Andrew be removed from Patras and be reinterred in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. This was a church built by Constantine the Great, and he had wanted to have the relics or remains of all twelve apostles interred in this church along with his own body. This is because the Christians of that era believed that there was great spiritual power contained in the bones of the Apostles and other martyrs, and to have the relic of an apostle or martyr in the altar made the church a center of great spiritual power. St. Andrew’s bones were returned to the very city which had first heard the Good News from Andrew’s own lips, and with all the pomp and honor and liturgical magnificence of the Byzantine Empire, they were laid in the Great Church of Christ at Constantinople. There is a tradition that some of his relics were taken to Scotland. The skull of Andrew was kept in Patras until the year 1460 when Thomas Paleologos, the last ruler of the Morea, brought the skull to Rome. In 1967, under the orders of Pope Paul, the skull was returned to Patras. He is the Patron Saint of Fishermen and the Patron Saint of Russia, Scotland, and Romania. So, today let us remember and celebrate the ministry and example of Saint Andrew, who continues to call on all Christians to tell others just what he told his brother Simon Peter: “We have found the Messiah!”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalito's Annual Thanksgiving Special

It is the Holiday Season! While the Patriotic Holidays start the season in Panamá, we are now in los Estados Unidos, where the season starts with Thanksgiving, so we're following the local traditions. And what goes with the Holiday Season, besides lots of good food and drink and stuff? That's right: re-runs Holiday Season Classics! And here at Padre Mickey's Dance Party we have our Holiday Season Classics, just like your favorite television station, the only difference being ours aren't thirty to forty years old, and none of the characters appear as balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. So just sit back and enjoy It's A Red Mr. Peanut Bank And Gallito Mescalito Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown!And, since you haven't seen our crew in ages, I'm sure you're gonna enjoy it!

Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, Gallito Mescalito, it's that time of year again!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek! ¿Shriek? ¡Shriek!
Red Mr. Peanut BankYes, I can understand that, the smell of roasting turkey makes you nervous, but it's only once or twice a year.
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, I don't like it that much either; all that cooking really heats up the house, and with Summer almost here it's hot enough around here!


Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Hi boys! Up to no good, I suppose!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Good evening, Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love. You look marvelous, as always!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Thank you, boys; you're so sweet! Well, it's that time of year, isn't it? The days are shorter, the nights longer, the smell of burning leaves in the air, and in some places it's snowing like all get out!
Gallito Mescalito ¿Shriek?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Yes, I agree with my loving partner; what on EARTH are you talking about?
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Well, not HERE, of course, but back in the ol' U.S.A. I kinda miss all that.
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank He's right again; when we lived in the U.S. we lived in the S.F. Bay Area, where it rarely snows! But I guess the other stuff did happen. But you're from Egypt originally; I doubt you had snowy winters there!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love I just miss seasons! All we have here is "rainy season" and "not-quite-as-rainy season" or verano. I miss the cold.


Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Hey dere, fellas! An' a very good evenin' ta you, Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Hello, Mr. Squeaky Cat!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Hello, Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy!
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy 'sup wit eveybuddy?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank We're discussing the season and the holidays.
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Yeah! I luvs dis tima yeah! In fact, we gots a nudder nashunal holiday on Sunday, which means we gits Mundy off! Independence from Spain Day! ¡Viva Panamá! ¡Viva Libertad!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Well, I'm thinking of a different holiday.


Mighty Moose of Vermont, Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose, and ¡El Penguino! Hello everybody!
The others Hello, Mighty Moose of Vermont, Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose, and ¡El Penguino!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose, you don't look very happy? What's wrong?
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose Wayul, Ahm jus' feelin' a bit homesick.
¡El Penguino! She's worried about Thanksgiving. I told her it's the only estadoünidense holiday Padre and the Lovely Mona still celebrate, but she's worried it won't happen.
Mighty Moose of Vermont Come on, ¡El Penguino! You were just as worried last year. We told her it would happen but she's still worried.
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose Wayul, Ah've nevah been away foh such impohtant holidaze befoh.
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Why is dis holiday so importint' ta you guys? 'Sup wid dis?


Diablito Sucio y Wooden Kuna Doll Si. ¿Es este fiesta más importante qué la Día de Independencia de España? ¿Por qué?
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Yeah, I'm wunderin' 'bout dis, too. Is dis anuver one of yer Gringo "weah betteah dan you" tings?
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Los Juegetes de los estados unidos No! It's just different!!!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank No, no, no! It's not more important than Panamanian holidays; it's just different. It is an important holiday to the Lovely Mona and Padre and their extended family and the estadoünidense toys and knick-knacks because they like the idea of taking one specific day to thank God for their many blessings, and because it is an important part of the mythology of the U.S.A., not that Padre and the Lovely Mona buy the myth (although they both have family members who are participants in the story!).
Las Jugetes Panamañas What is the myth? Tell us, TELL US!!!


Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, it all started with the Puritans Pilgrims and their search for a land in which they could oppress others find religious freedom. . .

Announcer We'll return to It's A Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalto Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown! right after this Important Message.


Before the break which was guaranteed to offend EVERYONE!, Red Mr. Peanut Bank promised to tell Padre Mickey's twisted, totally warped enlightened version of the Myth of the First Thanksgiving. As we would never want a toy bank to go back on Padre's its word, we now present Padre Mickey's Dance Party's Friday Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalito Blogging Players in The First Thanksgiving

Narrator Once upon a time, several centuries ago, there was a group living in England, who, having been driven insane by the more fringe elements of the Protestant Reformation, decided that everyone in England must believe as did they, be as pure as were they, and be just as grumpy. They were known as Puritans The majority of Believers in England disagreed, and made life even more miserable for these folks, until they finally left England for the Netherlands, where, soon tiring of a diet of chocolate, edam, and tulips, they made their way to The New World to make life miserable for Padre Mickey's relatives. Europe's favorite population decimator, small pox, had already cleared the way for the Pilgrims (as they were now called) so that there was plenty of room! Landing in an area they named Plymouth, after the place from which they had been evicted, their leader gave thanks to God. . .
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, that we have arrived safely in this heathen, yet almost empty land, where we are free to worship God in our own manner, and may make sure that everyone else worships God in our own manner, too!
Other Pilgrims Amen!


Narrator The Pilgrims soon met the indigenous inhabitants of the land. . .
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Hey dere, peoples wut don' look nuffin' like us! Watcha up to?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank We are the Pilgrims, and we have come to this nearly empty land to live in peace and worship our God in our own manner. We are trying to plant our crops. And what is your name, almost naked guy? And why are you wearing that feather?
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy My name is Tisquantum, but you kin' call me Squanto. An' I weahs a feddah cuz it looks much coolah dan dat ting on toppa yer head! Uhm, ya know, dem seeds won't grow in dis climate.


Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love And how did you learn our tongue? Hast the Holy Spirit descended upon you to give you this gift? I doubt it, you being such a heathen savage!
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy No, no Espíritu Santo. Sum sumbich white guy captured me and my friends Manida, Skidwarres, Nahanada and Assacumet a while back n' dragged us kickin' an screamin' in a big nasty boat to your pitiful island and taught us yer funny langige. But, like I sed, dem seeds won't grow in dis climate. . .
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Sir, these are the seeds our God commanded us to bring and plant!
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Well, dat's too bad 'cuz dey ain't gunna woik heah. Hey! Massasoit! Go grab some maize and some fish. Let's show dese rubes howta do it, or dey gonna starve and be botherin' us all wintah for food!


Narrator And so Squanto and Massasoit and their people taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn and squash and pole beans and which nuts were safe to eat. . .
Mighty Moose of Vermont See, you dig a little hole,put a dead fishy in it, place a kernel of maize on top of the dead fishy, then cover it all up; make a little hill. Then move over about eight inches and do it again.
¡El Penguino! 'sup with the dead fishy?
Mighty Moose of Vermont It fertilizes the maize so you get a nice, big, healthy plant. And it's not as nasty as that manure your people use!
¡El Penguino! Heh! You savage! Poop is great!
Mighty Moose of Vermont Yeah. Sure. So, why aren't you wearing a hat with a buckle on it?
¡El Penguino! I AM wearing one. It's just so tiny you can't see it with your heathen eyes.
Mighty Moose of Vermont Oh-kay. So, dig another hole, take a dead fishy. . .


Narrator Eventually, the song of Harvest Home was raised, all was safely gathered in, ere the winter storms began, and the Pilgrims decided to thank the Lord of the Harvest with a feast. . .
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose An weyul invaht Squanto an' hiyus friens', too, as theyah wuah SUCH a biyguh haylp!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank That's a great idea. What will be the main course? We don't have any cattle for roast beef, and they eat venison all the time.
Gallito Mescalito Shrie--cough, cough--er, gobble gobble!
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose Hmm, thayut maht be reyul good!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Er, how about pumpkin soup in the pumpkin? That could be Very Elegant!

Announcer: We interrupt this program for this important Breaking News!


Announcer And now, we return to It's A Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalito Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown! already in progress. . .
¡El Toro! Yoohoo! Mr. Pavo!
Crocagator Heh Heh Heh Thanksgiving dinner.
Gallito Mescalito Gobble gobb--¡¡¡SSSSHHHHHRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEKKKKKK!!!



Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, we're gathered together to ask the Lord's blessing, you at your table and we at ours, as we really can't be mixing with the likes of you. You know, He, the Lord, hastens and chastens, His will to make known!
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Really! Well, ya know, we gots a little diff'rint teolugie an' understandin' of da Great Spirit! Ya see, WE believes dat. . .
Red Mr. Peanut Bank No one wants to hear your heathen ideas! We came here to worship God in OUR OWN MANNER, and we expect everyone else to worship God in our own manner, too! Now eat your pumpkin soup!


Narrator' And everyone gave thanks to God, with heart and hands and voices, and ate and had a wonderful time.
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Well, dat was great! burp See ya next yeah!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Don't count on it!



Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love What hath the Lord in store next for the Pilgrims in His Divine Plan?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, we survived our first year and survived dinner with the Heathen Savages. Now it's time to get to work! Time to start taking their land and pushing their sorry heathen bottoms West until they can go West no further!



Gallito Mescalito Gobble Gobble!, er, ¡¡Shrrriiieeekk!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Feast of St. Cecilia, Martyr

Today is the feast of St. Cecilia, a young woman who was martyred in Rome around the year 230. She is the patron saint of musicians because, according to the Acts of Cecilia, she heard heavenly music on her way to her wedding. She was one of the most venerated martyrs of the Ancient Church and her feast has been celebrated in the Roman Church since the fourth century. The Acts of Cecilia was written in the fifth century, and its text was the basis for the version in the Golden Legend, a collection of the lives of saints written in the thirteenth century. What follows is my retelling of the story of Cecilia according to the version of the tale in the Golden Legend.

St. Cecilia was born of noble Roman lineage. Her parents were Christians and Cecilia was baptized as a baby. She “fostered and nourished the faith of Christ from the time she lay in her cradle,” she kept the gospel in her heart and said prayers day and night. At an early age she dedicated herself to remain a virgin. Her parents arranged a marriage with a young man named Valerian even though he was not a Christian. When the day of her wedding came, she heard heavenly music and sang in her soul, “O Lord, I pray that my heart and body may remain pure so that I may not be confused or perplexed.” That night, when she and Valerian retired to the Wedding Chamber, she said, “My sweet, beloved husband. I have a secret to tell you. Promise that you will tell no one what I am about to share with you.” Valerian was curious and promised to tell no one. Cecilia said, “I have an angel that loves me and protects my body whether I am asleep or awake. I have dedicated myself to be a virgin for the glory of God, and I am afraid that if you try to take my virginity the angel will kill you. But if you promise to love me only in a holy and pure manner, he will love you as I love you and will protect you, too.” Well, as one might expect, this wasn’t exactly what Valerian wanted to hear on his wedding night, and he said, “If you want me to believe this, I will have to see this angel. And if it turns out that there is no angel and that you love someone else, I swear that I will kill both you and your lover with my own sword!” Cecilia said, “If you believe and are baptized, you will see the angel.” She then told Valerian to to the Via Appia, three miles outside of Rome. There he would see the Bishop of Rome, Pope Urban, working with the poor and the sick. Valerian was to tell the pope what Cecilia said and listen to the pope, and if he believed what Pope Urban said, be baptized. Valerian followed instructions, and Pope Urban was happy to talk with him and baptize him. Pope Urban said, "One God, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, above all, and in us all, everywhere. Do you believe this?” Valerian responded, “There is nothing truer under heaven!” and was baptized. Then he returned to Cecilia and the Wedding Chamber. When he entered the Wedding Chamber he saw Cecilia talking with an angel. The angel had two crowns of roses and lilies. He gave one to Cecilia and one to Valerian and said, “Keep these crowns with a pure and undefiled body for I have brought them from Paradise and they will never fade or lose their scent or wither. They can only be seen by those who live chaste and pure lives. And because you listened and followed Cecilia’s wise counsel, what ever you wish shall be granted to you, Valerian.” Valerian told the angel, “There is no one in this world more dear to me than my brother, and I want him to know the truth of the gospel, too.” The angel replied, “Your petition pleases our Lord, and you both will come to him by the palm of martyrdom.” A few days later, Tyburtius, Valerian’s brother, came to visit the newlyweds. He was amazed because he smelled roses and lilies but didn’t see any in the room. Valerian told him that he and Cecilia had crowns of flowers which he couldn’t see, but if he believed he would see them, and he then preached the gospel to his brother. Tyburtius was converted that day and baptized by Pope Urban. After that he saw angels everyday and was constantly blessed by God.
Almachius, provost of Rome, was persecuting Christians and many were being executed for refusing to offer incense to the image of Jupiter. Valerian and Tyburtius were burying the martyrs and giving their goods to the poor. Word of their activities spread throughout the city, and Almachius had them called before him and ordered them to sacrifice to the image of Jupiter. They refused and were condemned to be beheaded. They were taken four miles outside of the city and beheaded, and Cecilia took their bodies and buried them. The man who arrested them, Maximus, was converted by their preaching. He went home and preached to his household and friends, and they, too were converted. Cecilia came to his house with priests and all were baptized. When Almachius heard that Maximus had converted and was baptized, he had Maximus beaten with whips with lead tips until he died. Cecilia took Maximus’ body and buried it with Valerian and Tyburtius. When Almachius heard of Cecilia’s activities, he had her arrested, too. She was brought to court, where she preached to the judges and lawyers. She converted them all to the faith, and they were crying to think that such a beautiful young woman should be condemned to death. She said to them, “Oh you good young men, I will not lose my youth, but change it into something more valuable, like changing clay into gold or a dirty place into a beautiful, clean palace. God will reward a hundred fold for one small gift of life. Do you believe what I have said?” They all answered, “We believe Christ to be very God and you are his servant.” Then Pope Urban was called and four hundred people were baptized that day! Almachius had Cecilia brought before him and questioned her, but she showed him no respect at all. He said, “Do you realize what power I have?” She replied, “Your power is nothing to fear, it is like a bladder full of wind which disappears when pricked with a needle and never meant anything to anyone.” He said, “I have the power to have you executed. Now sacrifice to Jupiter.” She refused, of course, and was condemned to death. Cecilia was taken home and condemned to be suffocated in her bath; the heat was turned up to its highest level, and should have suffocated her, but when the soldiers came in hoping to find her lifeless body, the room was cool and comfortable and she was quite alive. Almachius then ordered that she be beheaded in her bathroom. The executioner struck her neck three times with his sword but was unable to behead her. He left her there in her own blood, half alive and half dead, for three days. She continued to preach and made arrangements that all her goods go to the poor. She sent many people to Pope Urban to be baptized, saying, “ I asked God to let me live three more days so that I could commend these souls to you and ask that my house be used as a church.” Then she died and Pope Urban and the deacons took her body and buried her among the bishops and consecrated her house to be used as a church.

Sometimes it is difficult to prove that some of the martyrs of the Early Church actually existed, they are often simply a name on a martyrology, or list of martyrs. Cecilia Valerian, and Tyburtius’ names all appear in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum of Rome. It appears that her house actually was made into a church; records show that the building known as the church of St. Cecilia belonged to Gens Caecilia (Cecilia’s Family) and was donated to the church in Rome. So although the story from The Golden Legend contains elements which are difficult to believe, especially that a heterosexual man would agree to a marriage like that of Cecilia and Valerian, and while the angel seems more like a genie than a divine messenger, there is a good chance that there really was a Cecilia, Valerian, and Tyburtius. St. Cecilia was a young woman totally dedicated to Christ and the Church. The threat of death did not stop her from doing the work of the gospel, and even with her dying breath she gave all she had to the Lord. That is why she was held in such high esteem by Christians from the fifth century through the Middle Ages and that is why we remember her and her witness today.

Lord of mercy, be close to those who call upon you, with Saint Cecilia to help us hear and answer our prayers. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Today I’ll talk about a saint who is not one of the early saints and I’m sure you’ll find much better posts about him all over the internet today, but I want to say my piece, too. It was the parish of St. Francis in San José, California, which raised Mona and I up in ministry and supported us in seminary, and they support our ministry in Panamá. But even though Francis isn’t a martyr or from the third century, he is one of my favorite saints. For me, the life of St. Francis is an example of total surrender to God's will, a life which full enjoyed God's creation, and his life is also a model to us of one who is gentle in spirit.

St. Francis was born in the year 1181 in the town of Assisi in Italy. His father was a wealthy merchant who sold cloth. As Francis grew up, he worked in his father's shop, helping sell cloth to the people of Assisi. He and his friends were kind of wild and had parties that lasted until early morning. When he was twenty years old he joined the army. He was captured by the enemy and spent a few months imprisoned. When he was finally released from prison, he returned home to Assisi. When he returned home, he had changed. He was no longer interested in hanging out with his friends, eating and drinking late into the night; he was no longer interested in singing outside the windows of the young women of Assisi. While he was imprisoned he had a lot of time to think, and when he returned to Assisi he no longer found happiness in the silly pursuits of his friends. He began to spend time with the poor of Assisi and helping the lepers on the outskirts of town. He spent less time working at Dad’s shop and more time in prayer in a little grotto outside of town. He and his father argued often about his strange behavior.


One day Francis decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome to see if he could figure out what God wanted of him. While in Rome he realized that he wanted to separate himself from his father's money, and one day he asked a beggar to change clothes with him. He gave the beggar his fancy clothes and put on the beggar's rags. He went around the city and experienced rejection from the well-dressed people and he began to understand the hard life of the poor. He returned to Assisi determined to find a way to please God. He continued to with the lepers of Assisi. Early one morning, he went for a ride on his horse, contemplating the glory of God in nature all around him. He almost fell off his horse when the horse balked at seeing a leper standing on the side of the road with his hand outstretched, hiding his face with his cloak. Francis was about to ride away when he heard a voice in his heart say: "Francis, all that up to now has been hateful to you must change into unspeakable joy!" He got off of his horse and was going to give the leper some coins when he bent down to kiss the sore hand of the leper as a means of seeing the face of Jesus in the leper's face. At the moment he kissed the leper's diseased hand, he felt a sense of liberation and purification. Francis continued to argue with his father and he lost all interest in his father's profession. He kept giving his father's money away. He was finally kicked out of the house and he began to spend a lot of time in a little decrepit church, the church of San Damiano. One day while he was there praying, he looked up at the crucifix and heard it say to him, "Francis, go and rebuild my house, which is threatening to collapse." Francis started working at San Damiano, reinforcing the walls, patching the roof, and fixing it all up. Other young men began to come help his with his work. Soon he had several followers, and they all took on the life of "Lady Poverty." They gave up everything and begged for their food. Francis wrote a Rule of Life for the group and after getting approval from Pope Innocent III, they became known as the Order of Friars Minor. Soon, a wealthy young woman named Claire and her friends desired to live the same life as the Friars, who were known as "Franciscans" and became known as the "Poor Claires." Both groups worked with the poor and sick and outcasts of society. Both groups lived holy lives of poverty.

St. Francis heard God's voice in the natural world which surrounded him, and he saw God's face in the elements and in all of creation. He saw the face of Jesus in the faces of the poor and sick. His understanding of the connectedness of all creation is evident in his calling everything either "brother" or "sister." An example of how St. Francis experienced God in nature is illustrated in a song he wrote, The Canticle of the Sun:

Most High, Almighty, Good Lord.
Yours be the praise, the glory, the honor and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, are they due.
And no man is worthy to speak your Name.
Praise to You, my Lord, for all your creatures.
Above all, Brother Sun who brings us the day and lends us his light.
Lovely is he, radiant with great splendor, and speaks to us of You,
O Most High.
Praise to You, my Lord, for Sister Moon, and the stars
which You have set in the heavens, clear, precious, and fair.
Praise to You, my Lord, for Brother Wind, for air and cloud,
for calm and all weather by which you support life in all your creatures.
Praise to You, my Lord, for Sister Water,
whop is so useful and humble, precious and pure.
Praise to You, my Lord, for our sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and directs us and brings forth varied fruits
and colored flowers and plants.
Praise and bless my Lord, thank Him and serve Him with great humility!


St. Francis also experienced God through the animals, and as we know, he was very fond of the animals he met. As a result, many churches celebrate his feast with a blessing of the animals. When I was at St. Francis’ in San José, we always had the blessing of the animals as part of our Patronal Festival. This was also the day that the Bishop would visit, and there were many times when I helped the bishop bless dogs, cats, mice, snakes, lizards, birds, and all manner of pets.
Another story which illustrates the love St. Francis had for creation is the story of St. Francis and the birds: One day St. Francis and some of the brothers were walking between the towns of Cannara and Bevagna. While they were walking, St. Francis saw some trees next to the road and there was a large group of many different birds, varieties that he had never seen in that area before, all standing about (think of what he would think of our birds here in Panamá!). There was another group of birds standing in the fields next to the trees. While St. Francis was looking at this strange sight, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he told his companions, "Wait here in the road, I am going to go over and preach to our sisters the birds." As soon as he went into the field the birds began to gather around him, and the birds up in the trees flew down and they all stood about him quietly, even when he walked among them. St. Francis looked at the birds gathered around him and said,

"My sisters the birds, you have so much from God and should always praise God for the gift of flight, for your beautiful colored feathers, for the food you get, for your gift of singing,
and for the fact that God has blessed you with great numbers, for your species was saved on the Ark with Noah, and for the element of Air which was set aside for you to travel in.
You don't plant or harvest and God feeds you. God gave you rivers and streams from which to drink, and mountains, hills, rocks and crags to hid in tall trees for your nests; and since you can't sew, God gave you and your chicks feathers for clothes. It's true that the Creator who made you loves you very much. So take care, sisters of mine, the birds, not to be ungrateful but be happy and always praise God."

When St. Francis finished his sermon, all the birds began to open their beaks, stretch their wings and necks and bow their heads reverently, and sing. With their songs and actions they were telling St. Francis that they liked what he said. When St. francis saw this, he was very happy and full of the Holy Spirit, and was amazed at such a wide variety of birds who showed that they loved each other. He praised God for this creation, called the birds to praise God, and blessed them with the sign of the cross. The birds all rose into the sky and flew off in the four directions, north, south, west, and east, to show St. Francis a great cross.


St. Francis died on October 3, 1226. He had passed on leadership of the Order of Franciscans seven years earlier. He was made a saint on July 16, 1228, by Pope Gregory IX. St. Francis was one who was able to surrender totally to God, he was one who was able to trust God fully; he trusted God to feed him, to provide shelter, and to keep him safe. He trusted God enough to listen for God's voice in the world around him. He was able to see God in the lives of the animals he loved, but also in the face of the poor leper at the side of the road. He was extremely humble, yet able to lead a great order which exists to this day. The life of St. Francis is proof that, if one is to be great, one must be the servant of others. May all of us look to the life of St. Francis and see God in the faces of the least among us.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Poem in Honor of St. Michael

An ancient Celtic poem in praise of Michael the Archangel

Thou Michael the victorious,
I make my circuit under thy shield,
Thou Michael of the white steed,
And of the bright brilliant blades,
Conqueror of the dragon,
Be thou at my back,
Thou ranger of the heavens,
Thou warrior of the King of all,
O Michael the victorious,
My pride and my guide
O Michael the victorious,
The glory of mine eye.


I make my circuit
In the fellowship of my saint,
On the machair, on the meadow,
On the cold heathery hill;
Though I should travel oceans
And the hard globe of the world
No harm can e’er befall me
‘Neath the shelter of thy shield;
O Michael the victorious,
Jewel of my heart,
O Michael the victorious,
God’s shepherd thou art.

Be the sacred Three of Glory
Aye at peace with me,
With my horses, with my cattle,
With my woolly sheep in flocks.
With the crops growing in the field
Or ripening in the sheaf,
On the machiar, on the moor,
In cole, in heap, or stack,.
Every thing on high or low,
Every furnishing and flock,
Belong to the holy Triune of glory,
And to Michael the victorious

Monday, August 15, 2016

Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos


¡Feliz Día de Madres a todos mis amigas en Costa Rica!
I don't believe in a three-tiered universe, and I don't believe in the literal interpretations of the Ascension. I don't believe in the Assumption; I prefer the term "the dormition." However, I have no problem at all with honoring the Theotokos (my Nestorian tendencies aside). Instead of writing a hagiography today, I'll share some poems and paintings I've found in the intertubes.

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The Dormition of the Theotokus

Mary's Assumption
There was silence in heaven, as if for half an hour-

Isaiah's coals of wonder sealed the lips

Of Seraph, Principality and Power,

Of all the nine angelic fellowships.

The archangels, those sheer intelligences,

Were silent, with their eyes on heaven's door.

So must our fancy dower them with senses, 

Make them incarnate in a metaphor.

There was silence in heaven as Mary entered in, 

For even Gabriel had not foreseen

The glory of a soul immune from sin

Throned in the body of the angels' Queen.

Blessed be God and Mary in whose womb

Was woven God's incredible disguise. 

She gave Our Lord His Body.
In the tomb 
He gave her hers again and bade her rise.

Bright from death's slumber she arose, the flush 

Of a chaste joy illumining her cheeks;

Among the motherless in heaven there was a hush

To hear the way a mother laughs and speaks.

Eye had not seen, nor ear of angel heard, 

Nor heart conceived - until Our Lady's death - 

What God for those that love Him had prepared

When heaven's synonym was Nazareth!

Her beauty opened slowly like a flower, 

Beauty to them eternally bequeathed.

There was silence in heaven; as if for half an hour

No angel breathed.
Alfred Barrett (1906-1985) 
Lentfoehr, Therese, editor. I Sing of a Maiden. New York: Macmillan Company, 1947.


Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) The Assumption of the Virgin

Memories of the Assumption
They bore her in a reverent group

To a holy place,

Left her body in the earth -

Her body, "full of grace".

But Thomas, tardy, slow of foot,

Absent when she died, 

Spent with sorrow, craved to see 

Her of the Crucified.

There was a swift intake of breath,

A hurried silent prayer:

Startled they opened the new-made tomb

To find but lilies there.
Sr. M. Angeline 
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. Poughkeepsie, NY: Marist Press, 1944.


Bartolome Murillo (1618-1682). Assumption of the Virgin.

The Assumption  

No painter ever caught the magic other going--

This was a matter of an inward growing,

Simple and imperceptible as thought.

It was no pageant wrought

Of sounding splendor, welter of gold bars

Of molten day, mad stars,

Flurry of quick angels' winging,

Bursts of their laughter ringing
In wild bliss.

The simple fact is this:

Love conquered at long last.

Her eager soul fled fast

With a great gladness like a song

Unto to her Spouse above,

And her pure flesh would not be parted long

For sheer love.
by Joachim Smet O.Carm


Raffaello. The Coronation of the Virgin

I See You!

Sign by Danasoft - Get Your Free Sign