Saturday, December 07, 2019

Feast of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan

O God, you gave your servant Ambrose grace eloquently to proclaim your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of your Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching and faithfulness in ministering your Word, that your people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Ambrose was born in the year 337 to a Christian family. His father, Aurelius, was Prefect of Gaul, governing all of Britain, France, Spain,Portugal, part of Germany, and the islands of Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily. His father’s palace was in Trier, Germany, but his mother had a palace in Rome. Ambrose spent part of the year in Germany and part in Rome. According to his biographer, Paulinus, the pope and other important bishops used to visit his mother’s palace regularly. One day the ladies of the house were kissing the hands of the bishops, and young Ambrose, holding out his hand, mocked them and said, “You should do the same for me since I am going to be a bishop.” He was very close to his siblings, Marcellina and Satyrus. When his sister Marcellina took a vow of virginity, he did the same, and both Ambrose and Satyrus followed in their father’s footsteps, studying literature, law, and rhetoric in Rome and they both served as barristers in the Court of the Praetorian Prefect of Italy. They were both appointed Prefects.

Ambrose was appointed Prefect of the province of Aemilia-Liguria in Upper Italy, with its headquarters in Milan. Ambrose was a good administrator and a popular governor. In the year 374, Auxentius, the bishop of Milan, died. The Church in Milan was divided between those who were loyal to the Nicene Creed and those who supported the ideas of Arius. The Nicene and Arian parties of the Church in Milan prepared to fight for their particular candidates to be elected bishop. We’ve talked before about how the people of that era would actually fight and come to blows over theology and dogma, and the situation in Milan threatened to turn violent. Ambrose, the prefect, went to the basilica in Milan to try to prevent an uproar. He spoke to those gathered at the basilica and he didn’t take sides in the dispute. Suddenly someone shouted “Ambrose for bishop!” The cry was taken up by others and Ambrose was elected bishop. He was not interested in the position, plus, he wasn’t even a baptized Christian, let alone clergy! He pushed his way out of the cathedral and headed back to his palace. He figured that if he proved himself to be as cruel and evil as the Emperor Valentinian. He ordered some prisoners to be tortured, figuring that this would convince the people that they had made a mistake in their choice, but the crowed followed him around Milan, saying, “Your sin be on us!” He invited Women of Loose Virtue to his palace, yet the crowd still shouted “Your sin be on us!” Then he told them that he was going to retire from the world and become a hermit, but no one was buying it. Finally, he decided to make a break for it and snuck out the side door of the palace late one night to escape. It was a moonless night and he took the wrong road and got lost. In the morning he discovered his mistake; he was entering Milan through the Roman gate. This time he was kept under “Palace Arrest;” a guard kept watch while a messenger was sent to Valentinian, explaining what was going on and requesting an imperial seal on the people’s decision. Valentinan probably had his reasons for getting Ambrose out of the position of Prefect, and so he sent a fast courier to give the Christians of Milan his assent to Ambrose’s episcopacy. However, Ambrose had made another break for it and was hiding at his friend, Leontius’ country house. The Pope got involved and ordered that anyone harboring Ambrose must, under pain of severe punishment, give him up immediately (which was the Christian thing to do, of course!). That was too much for Leontius, who turned his good buddy Ambrose in to the authorities. Ambrose was arrested and led back to Milan under armed guard.

Ambrose’ elevation to bishop took place over six days. First, he was baptized, then moved through the minor orders: appointed to doorkeeper one day; the next day appointed Lector; the following day appointed to the office of exorcist; the next day he became a subdeacon. On the last three days he was ordained deacon, priest, and finally, bishop. No one had ever risen through the ranks so quickly!


Ambrose was very interested in relics, and one of the first acts of his episcopacy was to write Bishop Basil of Caesarea to request that the remains of St. Dionysius be brought to the cathedral in Milan. Basil agreed, and sent along a letter with the relics which called Ambrose a man of noble birth, of high office, of lofty character, of astonishing eloquence. Ambrose also searched for relics in Milan, checking the martyrologies and it is claimed that he discovered the relics of saints Gervasius and Protasius, who had been martyred by Nero, and also saint Nazarius, as well as saints Agricola and Vitalis, whose remains he discovered on a visit to Bologna.

Ambrose cared for the poor. In order to insure that the poor were cared for, he often sold the churches gold-plated vessels. When the Arians accused him of sacrilege for these actions, he responded, “which do you consider more valuable, church vessels or living souls?” He lived simply and fasted often as a means of saving money for the diocese. He had already given away his own inheritance to help the poor, and he couldn’t understand why wealthy Christians didn’t do the same. When his brother Satyrus died without leaving a will, Ambrose and his sister Marcellina inherited the fortune. They sold all of it and used the proceeds to help the poor. Satyrus’ death put Ambrose into a depression, which he decided to cure through work and study. He wasn’t much of a reader before, but after Satyrus death he began to study and read and write. Because he could read and write Greek, which was unusual for those in the West at that time, he was able to study the Christian scriptures in their original language, as well as the writings of Philo, Origen, Athanasius, and Basil of Caesarea. His rhetorical skills enabled him to be a great preacher, and his preaching and theological discussions helped bring about the conversion of Augustine of Hippo. Ambrose was a great theologian, and he was also a poet and composer of music. In fact, five hymns in the 1940 Hymnal and eleven hymns in the 1982 Hymnal are attributed to him.

Ambrose had a full, active, and fulfilling episcopacy. He interacted with popes and emperors and never stopped caring for the poor. The winter of the year 396 was a difficult winter for him, as he was slowly dying. He had many secretaries who stayed next to his bed as he whispered his commentaries and letters and sermons. His chief secretary and biographer, Paulinus wrote that one day he saw a flame shaped like a small shield covering Ambrose’s head. Ambrose then sucked the flame down into his mouth and his face became dead white for a few minutes. Everyone in Italy was praying for Ambrose’s recovery; even the Regent, Stilicho, had issued an imperial order which read Ambrose must recover. The Regent said, “When Ambrose dies we shall see the ruin of Italy.” When Ambrose heard this, he said, “I have not so lived among you as to be ashamed to live on’ but I am not afraid to die, for our Lord is good.” A few days before he died he said that he saw Jesus coming to get him, sitting by his bedside. He lay with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross and prayed for several days. He died the day before Easter on April 4, 397, at the age of 58. He was bishop of Milan for twenty-three years and four months.

Friday, December 06, 2019

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.

Since I'm not using Holy Joes and Holy Janes or whatever that new book is called, I'm assuming that this is still Old St. Nick's saint day.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Feast of 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!”

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Padre Mickey's Dance Party's Traditional Thanksgiving Day Message

And now, the traditional and offical Dance Party Favorite Thanksgiving Day Message:

"You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now, my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the roadsides. You will play golf and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, "Do not trust the pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller. And for all these reasons, I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground."
Wednesday Addams in Addams' Family Values

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!!

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Separation from Colombia, or Panamanian Independence Day

Today we celebrate independence from Colombia. La República de Panamá tiene 116 años hoy.


The Panamanian National Anthem:

Alcanzamos por fin la victoria en el campo feliz de la unión;
con ardientes fulgores de gloria se ilumina la nueva nacion.

Es preciso cubrir con un velo del pasado el calvario y la cruz ;
y que adorne el azul de tu cielo de concordia la esplendida luz.

El progreso acaricia tus lares al compás de sublime canción ;
ves rugir a tus pies ambos mares que dan rumbo a tu noble misión.

Alcanzamos por fin la victoria en el campo feliz de la unión;
con ardientes fulgores de gloria se ilumina la nueva nacion.

En tu suelo cubierto de flores, a los besos del tibio terral,
terminaron guerreros fragores; solo reina el amor fraternal.

Adelante la pica y la pala, al trabajo sin mas dilación ;
y seremos asi prez y gala, de este mundo feraz de Colón.

Nice, eh? Nothing about "bombs bursting in air" or descriptions of the flag, just a song about hope for the nation.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Feast of All Souls or All the Faithful Departed o Día de Muertos


Día de los Difuntos

This is my bog-standard All Souls' Day sermon

Today we are celebrating All Souls Day the day in which we commemorate those who have passed on. It is really an extension of All Saints Day which we celebrated yesterday. It's an extension of All Saints Day because all Christians are considered saints but some people consider some saint to be more holy than others, and they had trouble with the idea of commemorating holy martyrs such as Perpetua and Felicitas on the same day as they remembered their Uncle Fred, so now we have All Souls Day as the day to commemorate "lesser" saints like Uncle Fred. It is important to remember the saints like our Aunts and Uncles just as much as it is to remember James of Jerusalem, Polycarp of Smyrna, Thecla and Blandina, because the saints we know and have seen everyday can be even better examples for us of how God wants us to live. The saints who are members of our families and neighborhoods can be the examples which brought us to the point where we decided to follow Christ and God's way instead of our own way. We sang "I Sing A Song Of The Saints Of God" because of that third verse:
They lived not only in ages past,
There are hundreds of thousands still,
The world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too!


I can think of several saints, departed and living, who influenced me. My grandfather was a minister in the Assemblies of God church and he was a missionary in China and the Philippine Islands. He and his family were captured by the Japanese during WWII and although he was tortured he never lost his faith. He was well educated, which was unusual for pastors in his church, and his example was a great model for me. I studied both Hebrew and Greek in seminary because he had done so (I was terrible in Hebrew). When I was an acolyte at Sukiran Chapel in Okinawa and was first introduced to the Episcopal Church, Chaplain Bennett was a great influence on me. He showed me that one could approach God and religion from an intellectual standpoint and he gave me a love for beautiful liturgy. My mentor, the Rev. Eckford deKay, former Rector of St. Francis' Church in San José, California, took me under his wing when I began to consider ordination, and he told me to join the Vestry and become a delegate to Diocesan Convention. He said that if I still wanted to be a priest after Vestry and Convention he'd take me to see the bishop, and as a result of his advice I was much less naïve and idealistic about Church politics than my classmates in seminary. All my professors in seminary were great influences on me, but the Rev. Dr. Jon Kater was quite instrumental in my coming to Panamá, and it was Bishop Hayes who convinced me that this was where I should be. My friend Elizabeth Leigh helped me understand the importance of the environment and our duty to be good stewards of this earth, and Janet Levi taught me patience and the importance of being true to one's art. So that's two living saints and five who have joined the Great Cloud of Witnesses who have influenced me and brought me to where I am now.

I'll bet everyone in this room can name several people, family members and friends and teachers and even clergy, who have influenced them and encouraged them in their spiritual journey, and all these people are saints, because a saint is someone whose life is an example and model. We don't pray to the saints; we know that they were human beings just like us, but they are people who are examples of what is possible when we let God control our lives. Saints are not without sin; many saints, both great and lesser, lived less than perfect lives at one time, but all of them came to the point where they were able to surrender themselves to God's will and live the life that God wanted of them, and that is why their lives were beacons to us all. They were able to be vulnerable enough so that God could work through them; they were able to be transparent enough so that God's light would shine through them, and that we would be attracted to their examples. And just as these people were examples to us, we, everyone in this room, is an example to someone else! Whether you like it or not, as a Christian, you, too, are a saint, and the way you are living your life is an example to someone. Those moments when you are vulnerable enough to let God work through you, those moments when you are transparent enough to let God shine through you, you become an example of the Christian life to someone else.

You are a Christian, you are a saint, those moments when you can surrender yourself to God's will are the moments when you are a beacon to those who are lost. Those who have passed on, those who have departed this world, have been great influences on our lives, and it is important to remember them. I grew up on Okinawa, and the local religion there is much like the Shinto religion of Japan. In Japan, China, and Okinawa, the Cult of the Ancestors is very important. Some believe that one's ancestors keep looking out for those in this world, and that it is important to honor one's ancestors. One way the ancestors are honored is by remembering them, and most homes in Okinawa have a family altar, and on that altar is a lacquerware plaque with the names of all the departed family members, going all the way back to the first member of the family. On the festival of Obon, it is believed that the ancestors return to this world to visit, and the names of all the ancestors are read as a means of remembering them. We will be doing something similar in a few minutes, when I read the necrology, or list of the Faithful Departed. And when you hear the name of a family member read aloud, you will remember them, and they will come alive again in your memory, if only for a few seconds. This is one type of immortality.

So, I am going to read the names of the Faithful Departed, a list of over 700 names. We've just gone though a tough month, losing five members in just two weeks, and their names are included on this list. While the names are being read, I ask you to sit quietly in contemplation, in reflection. Think of those who have gone on before. Think of those whose names you recognize, and think of how thy influenced your life. Think about those everyday saints who helped bring you to where you are now, and I want you to think of how wonderful it will be on the Last Day when we are all reunited and we join them around the Banquet Table at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Feast of All Saints

All Saints Day is the day on which we remember the martyrs, those who died for their faith, those who refused to sacrifice to the emperor and were thrown to the beasts and gladiators in the arena. Others were tied to stakes and burned while others died deaths too terrible to mention here in God's house. In the earliest days of the Church, martyrs were remembered on the day of their martyrdom; the faithful would gather at the grave of the martyr and would pray and sing hymns. But by the time of the final persecutions towards the end of the fourth century, there were too many martyrs to commemorate on the day of their deaths plus many that had died and whose names had not been recorded. The Christians in Rome were remembering the martyrs, known and unknown, on a special day by the year 373. All Saints Day was celebrated on May 13 for many centuries, but Pope Greogory III ded icated a new church on November 1 and declared that day All Saints Day. In the year 836 Pope Gregory IV declared a universal observance of All Saints on that day and that has been the date ever since.

We remember the martyrs because their example of bravery and standing for their faith helped the church to grow and also helped defeat those who persecuted the Church. The very first Christian martyr was the Deacon Stephen. James of Jerusalem, the brother of Jesus, was martyred by an angry mob. Later persecutions were committed by the Roman authorities and they were much more cruel than the stonings by the Jews. When we read the accounts of the martyrdoms of Perpetua and Felicitatus, of the martyrs of Lyon, of Bishop Polycarp, and the hundreds of martyrs in the “History of the Church” by Bishop Eusebius, we learn that their brave example changed the opinion of people against the persecutors and in favor of the Christians. When the people of the Roman empire saw the martyrs face death willingly and refusing to give in to their torturers, they began to wonder what gave them such courage and many people were converted to Christ. Even though the martyrs were brave, that was not the case for all Christians. Imagine how frightened you would be if you knew that because you are a member of San Cristóbal, you could be arrested and torn apart by lions and bears in an arena where everyone in Parque Lefevre and Rio Abajo would watch you die. Some people are brave, but many of us are not always so full of courage! The Apostle John discussed this in his vision of the Final Days. John had been exiled to Patmos, a small island, because he had been preaching in Edessa. John wanted to warn Christians of the persecution to come and he wanted to help them face it bravely. He warned the Christians that fierce persecutions would take place, but if they remained faithful, they would be rewarded with eternal life in the City of Light, the City of God. They would all stand before the throne of the Lamb where they would serve him day and night within his temple. The image of the Temple was important because the book of the Apocalypse was probably written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. To serve God in the Temple was an image which gave people hope. John saw 144,000 people from every tribe of Israel standing before the throne, but then he saw “a great multitude that no man could number, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, crying out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” John was told that these people were the ones who had come through the great tribulation. They had washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. As their reward they serve God in the Temple, but also, they have been rewarded because “the One who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” They were also promised that their deaths would be avenged by God. This vision gave people hope, it reminded them that God loved them and that they would not suffer in vain or die in vain. Because they knew God loved them and that they would have every tear wiped away, they were able to face their trials with courage and this courage inspired others to turn to Christ and receive eternal life. John was fortunate enough to leave Patmos, and he returned to Edessa and later died an old man, in Ephesus.

Most of us are very fortunate; Christianity is not illegal where we live and we probably won't have to face persecution. We probably won't be threatened with death for gathering at our churches every Sunday to share the bread and wine, but people are being martyred for the faith in parts of Africa and in Pakistan and in Iraq. Christians have been killed in the past fifty years in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and even Panama by governments hostile to their dedication to the teachings of Jesus. We need to continue to pray for the Christians around the world who are living under persecution.

The lectionary designates a reading of the Beatitudes on All Saints Day, either the version from Matthew’s or Luke’s gospels. The Beatitudes bestow a blessing for who one is or for what one does. Many of us have been poor at some time in our lives. Jesus said that the poor or poor in spirit have the kingdom of heaven. We a have mourned at some time, and there are people mourning right now, but you are blessed because you shall be comforted. You who are meek are blessed and will inherit the earth. You who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those of you who love God with your whole mind, you are blessed and will be satisfied. You who are merciful are blessed for you shall obtain mercy. You who are pure in heart are blessed and shall see God. Those of you who are peacemakers, who work to end strife at home, at work, in your community and in the world are blessed and will be called the children of God. There are special blessings for the martyrs, for the persecuted. You who are persecuted for righteousness sake, you will have the kingdom of heaven, just as will the poor. And all of us are blessed when people revile us and persecute us and utter all kinds of evil against us falsely on account of Christ. Those who are martyrs, those who are persecuted, rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. All of us here are either poor, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, or peacemakers. Some of you may fall under several blessings, and some may even be suffering persecution. Know that you are blessed, that you are loved by God. Know that your reward is great in heaven. Know that you are saints, and that, one day, you, too, will stand before the throne of the Lamb and will shout with the other heroes of the faith, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

I See You!

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