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A Map of Thomas More's Utopia, circa 1518 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 23 June 2007 18:31

A Thomism PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 23 June 2007 18:26
O Lord, give us a mind that is humble, quiet, peaceable,
patient and charitable, and a taste of your Holy Spirit in all
our thoughts, words, and deeds. O Lord, give us a lively faith,
a firm hope, a fervent charity, a love of you.

Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation and all dullness in prayer.

Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you, your grace, and your
tender compassion toward us.

Give us, good Lord, the grace to work for the things we pray for.

-St Thomas More, 1478-1535
Margaret More Roper PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 23 June 2007 10:39

I just love this exquisite miniature by Hans Holbein the Younger of More's brilliant and cherished eldest daughter, Margaret. It is painted on a playing card.

It was Margaret who broke through the crowds and ran to her father as he walked to his execution and it was to Margaret that Thomas More wrote his last letter in charcoal. It was Margaret who rescued her father's severed head from London Bridge and kept it until her death 10 years later.

Hat tip: The Margaret Roper Forum: a Catholic home-schooling forum.

Here is Will Roper's (Margaret's husband) famously vivid description of her last meeting with her father:

When Sir Thomas More came from Westminster to the Towerward again,his daughter, my wife, desirous to see her father, whom she thought she should never see in this world after. and also to have his final blessing, gave attendance about the Tower wharf, where she knew he should pass by, before he could enter into the Tower, there tarrying for his coming home.

As soon as she saw him, after his blessing on her knees reverently received,she hasting towards him and, without consideration or careof herself. pressing in among the midst of the throng and company of the guard that with halberds and bills went round about him. hastily ran to him, and there openly, in the sight of them all, embraced him, took him about the neck, and kissed him, Who, well liking her most natural and dear daughterly affection towards him, gave her his fatherly blessing and many godly words of comfort besides.

From whom after she was departed, she, not satisfied with the former sight of him, and like one that had forgotten herself, being all ravished with the entire love of her dear father. having respect neither to herself, nor to the press of the people and multitude that were there about him, suddenly turned back again. ran to him as before, took him aboul the neck, and divers times together most lovingly kissed him ;and at lost, with a full heavy heart, was fain to depart from him - the beholding whereof was to many of them that were present thereat so lamentable that it made them for very sorrow thereof to mourn and weep.

Thomas More's last letter from the Tower before his death was written in coal to Margaret:

I cumber you, good Margaret, much, but I would be sorry, if it should be any longer than tomorrow, for it is Saint Thomas' Even and the Vtas of Saint Peter and therefore tomorrow long I to go to God, it were a day very meet and convenient for me. I never liked your manner to­ward me better than when you kissed me last for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath not leisure to look to worldly courtesy.

Fare well my dear child and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends that we may merrily meet in heaven. I thank you for your great cost.

Catholic Quote of the Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 23 June 2007 10:17
I've had a little plaque on my wall for some years that reads:

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

- Thomas More

A word of encouragement and faith from a man who would know . . .
St. Thomas in the Tower PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 23 June 2007 10:06

St. Thomas More's cell in the Tower of London (tip of the hat to the St. Thomas More Studies Center below)

Go here for a virtual tour of the Tower and an outside view of the Bell Tower in which Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher were imprisoned (one above the other).
Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask About St. Thomas More PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 23 June 2007 08:36
Want to know more about St. Thomas More? Go here to the brilliant site for St. Thomas More Studies associated with the University of Dallas. Here you'll find nearly everything a Thomasophil could possibly want:

They sponsor a summer (July, 2007!) a two credit college course in England for upper class high school students on St. Thomas

and an annual academic conference in Dallas here

They have downloadable curriculum units on St. Thomas for teachers here

Continuing Education courses for lawyers here

A wonderful on-line library of More writings, letters, documents pertaining to his government service and trial, letters by friends (including Erasmus)about him here

A downloadable travel guide to St. Thomas's England

as well as downloadable texts of Moore's History of Richard III and Will Roper's (who married Margaret, Moore's famously brilliant daughter) life of his father-in-law

A list of recommended books to buy

An art gallery of St. Thomas paintings and images


Fabulous interactive map tours of 16th century London and elsewhere which enables you to follow More to places he would have known.
Tis the Season. . .to Do Thomas More. . .Fa la la la la, la, la, la PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 23 June 2007 07:31

As part of our St. Thomas More weekend (ok, we missed the feast day itself but we know Thomas is the reason for the season!)take a look at this:

It is a very cool multi-media exploration of the beautiful 1593 painting (based upon Hans Holbein's 1520's sketch) of St. Thomas More and his extended family.

You can zoom in to see every detail, read bios of each family member and learn about the clothing, architecture, furniture, garden, and books that are portrayed in the painting. Thomas More fans like myself and history buffs in general will love it.

Courtesy of the fabulous Victoria & Albert museum on London.
A Technical Note From The Wizard PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 22 June 2007 22:27

Written by Keith Strohm

Hello all! I've stepped out from behind the curtain to let you know I hae worked my magic. After an accelerated novena to several saints, we have the sidebars returned to their regular format!

Actually, as I was scanning through each post, I noticed that Sherry's repost of a January entry looked different on the bottom. Usually, each post ends with a gray bar and then some space between it and the next post. The Osmosis repost had the gray bar after the space and not before it. I knew that was the root of the problem.

When I went to edit Sherry's post to see what was going on, I was surprised to see the text of the earlier post that she quoted was set to the maximum size blogger can do. For some reason, the font size was coming out normal inside the post, but the rest of the page layout was compensating for the ginormous letter size of Sherry's post. A quick "select all" and a click on the font size button to return it to normal size and . . .voila!

I shall now return to my curtained chamber and await the next time my anti technology anti-charism is needed!

St. Thomas More PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 22 June 2007 21:58

Written by JACK

Today, I walked out of my office at lunchtime totally stressed and frustrated. Not really having the time, I nonetheless worked my way to the downtown shrine and decided to go to daily Mass for the first time in I'm not sure how long. Months. I had forgotten that today is the feast day of probably the first saint I ever took an interest in: St. Thomas More. Very fitting.

I suspect most people's knowledge of St. Thomas is from either A Man For All Seasons (actually a quite well done movie) or Utopia (which I think many do not seem to understand). He is a fascinating man. His writings are finally being published in modern English by Yale and others. Every Lent, when I get asked for a book recommendation for spiritual reading during the season my answer is the same: The Sadness of Christ by St. Thomas More. It is an incredible work. I've never quite worked my way through it, but I'm told others hold A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation in the same regard that I do The Sadness of Christ.

And thanks to Catholic Sensibility, I've been introduced to the wonderful opera by the Fisher Ensemble, The Passion of St. Thomas More. Splendid!

St. Thomas, pray for us (especially me, I can use it).

Midsummer In the Park PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 22 June 2007 14:23

The small and obscure city park behind my house is an oasis of remarkable beauty for those of us lucky enough to live nearby. Here are some pictures I took two days ago of the park and its wildflowers.

Help! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 22 June 2007 10:49
My powerful anti-charism is once again altering the course of internet history. For some reason, the links to past posts and to the Institute and bookstore and events on the right hand side of our posts now begins way, way down where our posts end.

Any powerful cyber wizards out there who can break the spell?

Just call me Elphaba: heir to the Eminent Thropp of Munchkinland

Fr. Mike already does.
Osmosis, Conversion, and Catholic Culture PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 22 June 2007 10:20
This post originally saw the light of day in our first week of operation - on January 3, 2007. Now, 6 months later, it still seems as relevant as it was then.

We are already getting some great comments of considerable diversity on “The Question That Must Not Be Asked” post below. The two I quote below articulate the poles of American Catholic experience regarding the issue of discipleship with particular clarity:


First comment:

“Sherry, I think it's great that you converted, but I don't really want that sort of Protestant kind of discipleship in our parishes. Catholics lives in a different sort of culture. If we wanted a different kind, we'd convert to a Protestant denomination. You expect vivid, dramatic change, which is a Protestant (rather evangelical Protestant) characteristic. Catholic culture is different. Change happens more by osmosis. What gives you the right to come in and demand that Catholics change their culture to suit you?”


“You expect vivid, dramatic change, which is a Protestant characteristic” Hmmm – you mean like Protestants like St. Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross(Edith Stein), etc.


Second comment:

“Bingo! You just described why I left the Catholic Church. There was no instruction or encouragement in living a Christian life. Hope this doesn't offend, but it honestly was my experience.”


No offense taken. I think we are listening to the same cultural reality being described from two very different perspectives.


I know from my travels that many cultural Catholics in the US do tend to regard any clearly differentiated experience of conversion or spiritual awakening as “dramatic” and therefore “Protestant”. Part of this is a consequence of living in the only western country with a huge and exceptionally vibrant evangelical Protestant movement which tends to hold up the St-Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus experience” as the paradigm for conversion. (You don’t often hear these kinds of comments from Catholics in Australia, for instance)


But I would like to point out a few things:


1) The experience of a clearly transforming conversion, whether dramatic, quiet, or in-between, is not Protestant. Like the Bible, evangelicals got it from us. If clear, transforming conversion were a Protestant invention, we would not expect to see it occur among Catholics prior to 1517. As anyone familiar with pre-Reformation history or the lives of the saints, life-changing conversions – and some exceedingly dramatic - are a routine part of wholly Catholic practice and spirituality.


2) We need to distinguish between a “clearly differentiated conversion” and “dramatic” conversion; between the beginning of “initial faith” and the on-going life of faith that result in salvation and the beatific vision.


Salvation is neither the fruit of a single event or decision but neither is it the result of a long, unconscious, impossible-to-differentiate-one-moment-from-the-other, glacial ooze that mysteriously but triumphantly results in complete sanctity at the end of one’s life.


As St. Augustine pointed out: God does not save us without us. We simply cannot be saved “unconsciously” or without any volition on our part. Cradle Catholics cannot simply be carried passively along by the culture into which we were born. At some point, we have to choose to accept the grace offered to us and to follow Christ as a disciple. And it is that choice, however it is made, however long it takes, however quiet or dramatic the circumstances, that is the issue at stake in intentional discipleship


Transformation into the image of Christ is a life-long weaving together of a series of larger and smaller “conversions” manifested in long intentional obediences in the same direction. But because human beings live in time and space, the process begins somewhere. Like falling in love, the awakening of initial faith is often experienced as a “big bang” rather than a tiny whisper, although a whisper would do. The initial discovery of another’s beauty and loveability isn’t the same as a life-time of faithful marriage but without the discovery, the marriage would never have taken place. Like falling in love, initial faith changes you and changes the direction of your life.


If we lived in a world without any love songs or love stories, one might come to the conclusion that the phenomena of “falling in love” was rare instead of universal. Similarly, there is more than one way to interpret a culture in which people regard “conspicuous conversion” as foreign and excessive and in bad taste and “non-Catholic”. It could be simply that that profound conversion is going on all over the Catholic world and it is simply bad taste to acknowledge it publicly – a sort of “don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses” approach. Pretty dramatically at odds with Christ’s commandment in Matthew 28 but possible.


Or – there is the possibility that many Catholics have never experienced initial conversion and hence, have nothing to talk about. Intentional discipleship can’t help but seem “foreign” to those who have never experienced it. If the pastoral leaders we have worked with are even remotely close to the mark, 90 - 95% of Catholics in the pews are not yet intentional disciples.


3) I do think that you are right. It is a matter of culture. Not of Scripture or magisterial teaching or the writings of the saints, which as Keith points out, all urge us to conversion and transformation and never mind about whether it is dramatic or not. In fact, I have a new name for the culture you describe: The culture of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”


"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" culture operates at several levels:



1) Never ask where George or Sue or Tasha is in their relationship with Christ.


Never, never ask them directly: Where are you in your relationship with God at this point in your life? Never ask "would you consider yourself an intentional disciple?" Asking directly seems to violate some kind of unspoken bargain - if you show up (i.e., attend Mass, are "active" in the parish, we won't ask you what your lived relationship with God is really like.


We can tell this is an unspoken bargain because of the universal knee-jerk response that we get from cradle Catholic (not converts!) pastors, pastoral associates, theologians etc. across the board when we suggest that we ask - even in the most gentle, natural, unobtrustive way. They almost all immediately say the same thing:


"We don’t do "me and Jesus"! That's Protestant, foreign, evangelical, invasive, judgmental, etc. Who am I to judge someone else's spiritual state?"


Of course, we haven't said anything about "me and Jesus" nor are we advocating it - but just where did the idea that to ask someone *directly* about their lived relationship with God is anti-Church, non-ecclesial, non-Catholic, and judgmental become so universal? What has given us the unspoken conviction that *not to ask* is truly Catholic?


What makes us assume that to ask is to judge instead of an essential pre-requisite to serving them effectively? In so many other areas we stress that to ask and to listen carefully and respectfully (about their family's needs, their sacramental needs, the needs of the homeless, etc.) is charitable. What had convinced us that to acquiesce in a situation where only 5% of our people, on average, are disciples is somehow the definition of charity?



2) Never ask if we (pastoral leaders) are doing what we are supposed to do. Just stay busy. Focus on programs and institutions. Never, never ask what impact our activities are having on the vast majority of parishioners. Never, never ask if we are being effective at the fundamental thing Christ asked us to do - make disciples.


I took part in a theological symposium in Chicago last summer on the parish and was stunned to hear a brilliant Roman professor of ecclesiology (who is familiar with our work) articulating the classic understanding of the pastoral office: to teach, to sanctify, to govern. I had always assumed that the point of teaching, indeed, the test of teaching was "are others learning?", that the point of sanctifying was to help others become holy, etc.


As I listened, I realized that the focus of classic Catholic theological reflection on the topic was all clerical - i.e., on the correct steps that the priest was to take. No where in the presentation was there any awareness or curiosity about the spiritual and personal impact of the actions on the recipient of those actions. No one was asking “Are those being ministered to actually learning, becoming holy, etc?


While I had run into this constantly on the ground in conversations with innumerable priests and parish associates, now I realized that it was also rooted in the ecclesiology that came out of the Reformation experience. (Formal ecclesiology was a by-product of the 16th century when Protestantism challenged the Church’s sense of herself in a whole new way. Robert Bellermine’s work is usually regarded as the first comprehensive Catholic attempt at ecclesiology), Protestants were attacking the objective value and efficacy of the priesthood and the sacraments so Catholics naturally focused upon defending the faith at the controversial points.


Five centuries later, we live in a profound different situation and need to look again at the other side of the equation. It was this realization that led me to write “’The Question that Must Not Be Asked”


3) Don't tell: Don't clearly articulate the kergyma in order to awaken personal faith. It is too invasive, too simplistic, too embarrassing, too Protestant, too much like a TV preacher, etc.


To be honest, I've seldom met a cradle Catholic priest or pastoral leader who 1) has actually thought about the content of the kerygma and attempted to articulate it; and 2) is wrestling with the idea that we could be undermining people's salvation by not preaching it. In 19 years as a Catholic, I've seldom heard it clearly preached or intentionally articulated by Catholics to other Catholics.


The vast majority of priests, pastors, and pastoral leaders I've dealt with function as practical universalists: that short of mass murder, everyone is going to heaven and so why bother with basic proclamation - especially about the Paschal Mystery - and therefore, the issue of intentional discipleship?

God saves us without us. Just get ‘em in the door but even if they don’t seem to darken the door, they will come back someday. On their own terms and their own time. When they get married, when they have children. (Despite that fact that surveys tell us over and over that huge numbers of today’s young adult Catholics are not coming back for marriage and not baptizing their children because the last vestiges of Catholic practice have ceased to have meaning), Nothing eternal is really at stake.


Almost always, if someone doesn't function as a universalist, I find they have been 1) influenced by evangelicalism and/or the charismatic renewal or 2) have a charism of evangelism (which trumps culture any day and ensures that you cannot not ask the question), or, 3) increasingly, that they have been influenced by us. When and how the initial proclamation of the gospel dropped from the picture, I don't know.


Peter Kreeft, a well known Catholic professor at Boston College, asked every student he had for many years, "if you died today, would you go to heaven and why?". Nearly all were the product of 12 years of Catholic schools; nearly everyone expected to go to heaven because they were a basically good person; very few students *even mentioned Jesus* as part of the reason.


That’s the product of a Don't Ask, Don't Tell culture that doesn't not preach the kergyma to its own and does not consider intentional discipleship to be normative.<>

NY Times: Abortion "Comparable to Slavery" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 22 June 2007 10:03
And they said it couldn't be done.

This sentence appeared in this morning's New York Times Op Ed page:

But real respect would require an understanding that what supporters of abortion rights genuinely see as a hard-earned freedom, opponents genuinely see as a self-inflicted wound and — though I can feel some of you tensing as you read this — a human rights issue comparable to slavery.

in an editorial by Melinda Henneberger entitled:
Why Pro-Choice Is a Bad Choice for Democrats

Henneberger pretty obviously doesn't subscribe to a fully Catholic position on abortion but she has the guts to make clear how wide-spread, deep, and serious is the resistance to abortion-on-demand in this country, a resistance that the Democratic elite has refused to acknowledge. Thirty five years of sacrificial labor by the pro-life movement has changed the parameters of the debate in this country and even the New York Times has to acknowledge it.

It's time the Democratic leadership did too.
When I Grow Up, I'm Gonna Be An Angelologist PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 22 June 2007 08:47
The career path less taken . . .Angelologist. Imagine the casual conversations at parties and with your seatmate on planes. It wouldn't be dull.

As one inquisitive New Yorker exclaimed to me as our plane circled Manhattan "You! You're interesting!" Multiply that X 1000 for angelologists.

In any case, Zenit recently ran a thought-provoking interview with Angelologist Father M. Stanzione.

In 2002, Father Stanzione refounded the Catholic association Militia of St. Michael the Archangel, which organizes an annual theological-pastoral meeting on angels. The second annual meeting was held June 1-2 with the theme "The Return of the Angels Today, Between Devotion and Mystification." Q: What do angels represent for the Catholic faith and why are they the object of more attention by other groups and religious movements than by Christians?

Father Stanzione: Sadly, the catechesis on evangelization has been somewhat lacking on this point of the world's knowledge of angels. Others have taken advantage of the vacuum that has been created.

What is central in theology is the doctrine on God, the Holy Trinity, and Jesus Christ. But the angels are not useless or superfluous realities, because they are part of God's revelation.

Angels are creatures as we are, with an ontological difference. We are born and die; angels do not die and have been given to us by God to keep us company. The angels are an important complement in the creation of the body; they are human beings' best friends.

A theologian has written that the angels are servants of God, and they make themselves servants of those who make themselves God's servants.

Some maintain that Jesus Christ, being the only mediator, does not need angels. In fact, in the Acts of the Apostles, the history of the early Church makes evident the fundamental role of the angels. We can say that Jesus Christ is the only mediator and the angels collaborate in Jesus Christ's mediation.

Q: Is it plausible and Christian to think that each one of us has a guardian angel?

Father Stanzione: Whoever does not believe in the existence of the guardian angel is outside the doctrine of the faith. Each person has an angel as a good pastor. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also says it.

One cannot say that one believes in God, in the Holy Spirit, in the Virgin, without believing in the angels.

We do not see angels except in the history of the Bible and the history of the Church. Many saints had frequent contacts with angels; they experienced a relationship. Different mystics speak about the relationship with angels.

I think the time is ripe for the creation of courses on angelology and demonology in theological faculties.

Comments? Have any of you had experiences with angels that you'd be willing to share with the rest of us?
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