Tag Archives: Roman Catholic

“Chasing Francis: A Pilgrims’ Tale” by Ian Morgan Cron

Written in the style of wisdom literature with a “delicate balance of fiction and nonfiction,”[1] Chasing Francis takes the reader on a journey with Chase Falson as he embarks on a pilgrimage to St. Francis’ hometown of Assisi, Italy, in search of a deeper, more robust faith. The story begins with Falson, an American evangelical megachurch pastor, having a crisis of faith after years of having an “unshakable confidence in [the] conservative evangelical theology”[2] he learned in seminary. Despite his attempts to prop himself up through visits with a psychiatrist, Falson falls apart on stage during a Sunday morning sermon a few days after burring a nine-year old children who died in a freak accident. During this sermon he finally admits to himself and the congregation that his “faith is gone”[3] and he no longer has all the answers for everything in life.

The days after this breakdown Falson, who has been asked by the church elders to take some time off, decides to visit Assisi, Italy, on the advice of his uncle who is a Franciscan priest. Once in Italy, his uncle introduces him to St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226 C.E.) and the radical nature of his faith in Jesus. Falson initially tries to deflect his uncle’s comments about St. Francis because of his suspicious of Roman Catholic theology. However he soon embraces the pilgrimage as he realizes that he really wants to find “a new way of following Jesus.”[4]

Using the pilgrimage of Chase Falson as a guide, Ian Cron masterfully guides the reader through a deconstruction of a faith of certainty as commonly held by the American evangelical subculture before reconstructing that faith around “serving Jesus completely and unreservedly”[5] as modeled by St. Francis. Topics addressed within the book include the nature and role of the Bible in our faith, the role of arts in the church and the world, the need to stand with the less fortunate members of our society, the connection between humanity and the rest of nature, and a critique of the rampant materialism that holds sway in a large part of the church.

The oldest surviving depiction of Saint Francis (1228-1229 C.E.)

Though some may see this book as controversial, if not outright dangerous, I found it refreshing and delightful. Like Falson, I got “fed up with the baggage that frequently goes along with the Christian subculture”[6] and sought refuge among the writings of those who traveled the road of Jesus-centric mysticism before me. And while I might have used different words then Falson did in his final talk to his church, the concepts of transcendence, community, beauty, dignity, and meaning are ones that I have wholeheartedly embraced.[7]

The writings and mission of St. Francis of Assisi, however, remained largely unknown to me before this book. After reading Ian Cron’s depiction of St. Francis, I am intrigued by the saint and his message to radically follow Jesus. St. Francis does seem, as Cron put it, to be a “wonderful integration of all the theological streams we have today.”[8] Perhaps in addition to helping repair the Christendom of his time, St. Francis will help us straight the bend heart and mindset of our churches today as we join him in chasing Jesus.

End Notes

[1] Ian Morgan Cron. Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013), 215.

[2] Ian Morgan Cron. Chasing Francis, 12.

[3] Ian Morgan Cron. Chasing Francis, 30.

[4] Ian Morgan Cron. Chasing Francis, 47.

[5] Ian Morgan Cron. Chasing Francis, 208.

[6] Ian Morgan Cron. Chasing Francis, 216.

[7] Ian Morgan Cron. Chasing Francis, 196-208.

[8] Ian Morgan Cron. Chasing Francis, 55.

The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux

story of a soulBorn in France on January 2, 1873, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face enter into the Carmelite order in Lisieux at the early age of 15 after pleading her case to Pope Leo XIII. Upon entering Carmel, she joined two of her older sisters who had joined the order before her. Later on a third sister joined the Carmelites, allowing St. Thérèse the joy of being with her biological sisters as walked out her pledge to Jesus. St. Thérèse died in 1897 of tuberculosis at the age of 24, having spent nine years within Carmel. Six

Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, was written in three selections during the last three years of her life at the request of two of her Prioress (i.e. the first nine chapters was written at the request of Mother Agnes while the last two chapters came at the request of Mother Marie de Gonzague). Her biological sister, Mother Agnes, combined St. Thérèse’s writing and published them on the one year anniversary of her death (September 30, 1898). Sixteen years later a cause of Beatification was introduced in Rome with her becoming “Blessed” in 1923. Two years after that St. Thérèse was canonized with a Doctor of the Church declaring coming in 1997. All of these events are very remarkable seeing how St. Thérèse died so young.

The autobiography itself is fairly straight forward as it tells the story of St. Thérèse life from her earliest days as a young toddler to the months leading up to her death. Each chapter is focused on a short time period of two to four years, with chapters six and nine focusing on one year each. The first few chapters are quite remarkable due to the details St. Thérèse remembers of her young life. As the book continues, she starts skipping more and more details, choosing instead to focus on a few highlights that happened during those years.

At first the book seemed to carry with it a sense of pride as she talks about obeying her parents and seeking to follow the ways of the Lord. However the more I read the more I realized that rather than been prideful, St. Thérèse was being overly honest and transparent. While she didn’t go through a ton of outward trials and pains (i.e. she have a good family upbringing, loving parents and sisters, etc.), she had a deep sense of spiritually and self-reflection that caused her to feel pain at every little mistake or selfish act. Her book brings out this self-reflection with a sense of humanity has she seeks to lessen herself and raise to awareness the work of Jesus within her.

In addition to teaching us about how to allow Jesus to work in our lives, St. Thérèse’s book should teach us that children really do matter. They are always listening and watching their parents and older siblings. Instead of dismissing them as too young for spiritual things, we should be encouraging and teaching the young children in the ways of the Lord. The King Himself, after all, beckoned the little ones to himself over the objections of the Twelve. Rather than being the church of tomorrow, children are the church of today and we can learn a lot about following Jesus through them.

Happy Theophany/Epiphany!

The Baptism of Christ (Menologion of Basil II, 10th-11th c.)
The Baptism of Christ (Menologion of Basil II, 10th-11th c.)

The 12 Days of Christmas are over and a new season of liturgy has begun. To mark this shift, Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters celebrate the feast of Theophany in remembrance of when Jesus as baptized by John the Forerunner.

The name Theophany means the “appearance of God” as it was at that baptism that the Trinity appeared clearly to humanity for the first time. God the Father spoke from the heavens while the incarnated God the Son physical stood in the Jordan river with the God the Spirit descending upon him.

Adoration of the Magi by El Greco, 1568
Adoration of the Magi by El Greco, 1568

Among our Roman Catholic and liturgical Protestant family, today is celebration of Epiphany. That is, the day when the magi visited Jesus in Bethlehem, most likely when he was one years of age.

The feast’s name, epiphany, means “manifestation” or “revelation” as the magi represented all the non-Jewish people of the world (i.e. the Gentiles) who received the revelation that God had taken on the likeness of humanity to rescue us from darkness.

Both feasts have been celebrated by Jesus followers since the fourth century, if not earlier. So, if you are able, lift up a cup and shout:

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Revelation 19:6b-8a)

Pope Francis and the Child

pope and child 2When I saw the picture to the right of a child hugging Pope Francis in front of thousands, I, like many others, couldn’t help but smile. I also was very proud of Pope Francis as he did not try to push the child away or yell at him – something a lot of other important folks would do.

Instead, he smiled loving down at the child, gently pats his head and continue on with his speech as if nothing was happening.

That, my friends, is a picture of Jesus.

Children are a blessing from the Most High and, contrary to most of the world today, are not to be ignored or pushed away. They are to hugged and loved.

Yes, there are times when a child needs to learn to be still and not interrupt. However, there are other times when we should stop being so stuffy and just enjoy the love of a child.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” -Matthew 19:14

A Franciscan Blessing

celtic cross vineyardMay God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

And the Blessing of God, who Creates, Redeems and Sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and forevermore. Amen.

[box] Updated on June 25, 2014: This blessing does NOT have a connection to the Franciscans. It was written by the Benedictine Sister Ruth Fox of Sacred Heart Monastery for a Dickinson State University graduation in 1985.[/box]

Pope Francis: Shaking Things Up

pope francisAs you all have no doubt heard via the mainline news stations, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina was elected as the 266th pope. His election to the office marks a HUGE shift in the Roman Catholic Church as he is the first pope from the New World. He is also the first Jesuit to be chosen as the pope in the 472 years of the Society of Jesus.

The great thing about Pope Francis is that he is a very humble man who chose to walk the streets of Buenos Aires and not to live in the fancy Archbishop residence therein. This choice to live humbly as already caused some difficulties with the Vatican security forces as they are used to popes riding in their bullet proof cars…

Pope Francis also decided to change the customary plans of the Vatican for the beginning of Easter. Instead of washing the feet of twelve retired priests in St John Lateran, Pope Francis has moved the mass to a juvenile prison in Rome where he will wash the feet of twelve inmates – included a few ladies, which is a statement in and of itself.

I don’t know what is store for the Roman Catholic community across the world – but so far I like this guy. He seems to walking the walk, loving the less-than and side-stepping the trappings of wealth and power.

Oh, one last comment before I end this post – the name of “Pope Francis”. Ever since Pope Lando’s reign in 913 AD, the serving pope has always chosen a name used by one of his predecessors. Instead of following this tradition, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose the name “Pope Francis” in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi who is known for his love of the poor and animals.

The name “Pope Francis” also carries with it undertones of one of the founders of the Jesuit society, Saint Francis Xavier. Saint Xavier was a missionary who spread the love of Jesus into India, Japan, Borneo and Moluccas during the 1500’s. He is famous for using the local languages and dressing according to the culture around him rather than trying to hold onto European customs.

Pope Benedict XVI Resigns!!

Benedict XVIThis morning’s news has rendered me speechless as Pope Benedict XVI has announcement his resignation. This is the first time since 1415 AD that a pope has resigned the Chair of St. Peter.

In the announcement, Pope Benedict XVI stated that he had come to the “certainty” that he was no longer able to fully lead the Roman Catholic Church due to health issues:

“In today’s world subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me…”

“…For this reason and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom, I declare that I renounce the ministry of bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter.” 

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to continue in his office until February 28th, when he will officially step down. The College of Cardinals will then seek a successor, hopefully electing a new pope before Easter (March 31st). May the Lord of Lords grant them wisdom in all that they do.

Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit)

Considered one of the best Latin poem ever written, the Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) has been sung during the Masses of Pentecost since the Middle Ages. No one really knows who wrote it, but the two most likely candidates are Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton (c. 1160-1228) and Pope Innocent III (c.1160-1216).

While today is the first time I have heard of this poem/song, the message is one that I have been praying for many years. Within the Vineyard the cry of “come, Holy Spirit” is one of the earliest prayers we have, dating back to Mother’s Day in 1980 when Lonnie Frisbee prayed that prayer at John Wimber’s church in Yorba Linda, California. The rest they say is history.

Below is the English version of the poem (a video of it sung in Latin can be found here)

Come, Holy Spirit,
Send forth the heavenly
Radiance of your light.

Come, father of the poor,
Come, giver of gifts,
Come, light of the heart.

Greatest comforter,
Sweet guest of the soul,
Sweet consolation.

In labor, rest,
In heat, temperance,
In tears, solace.

O most blessed light,
Fill the inmost heart
Of your faithful.

Continue reading Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit)

Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Book Launch

Bishop Angaelos and Archbishop McDonald with the book (Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk)

Two weeks ago the Roman Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches released a landmark book focusing on the areas of theological agreement between themselves. The book, which can be downloaded for free, is simply entitled “Joint Statements” and addresses various issues under four main areas:

  1. The Mystery of the Church
    • The Holy Trinity and the Church as Communion
    • The Attributes of the Church
    • Growing Towards Full Communion
    • Point for Further Study and Discussion
  2. Bishops in Apostolic Succession
    • Bishops
    • Apostolic Succession
  3. Synodality/Collegiality and Primacies
    • Local/Diocesan Churches and Their Bishops
    • Relationship Between Synodality, Conciliarity and Primacies
    • Ecclesiological Meaning of Synods and Councils
    • Point for Further Study and Discussion
  4. The Mission of the Church

The publication of this book is made even more phenomenal and meaningful due to the history of these two major branches of Christianity. They officially  separated from each other at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD when the bishops of Rome and Constantinople excommunicated the bishops of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem for not agreeing with them on how to describe the divine and human nature of Jesus. The excommunicated bishops went on to form six national Oriental Orthodox churches: Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Eritrean Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (India) and Armenian Apostolic churches.

Sadly enough this split within Christianity was only partly about theology as the primary issue at state during the firth century was a political  power struggle between bishops. In fact, in 1984 the Syriac Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas and the Pope John Paul II released the following statement:

“The confusions and schisms that occurred between their Churches in the later centuries, they realize today, in no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter. Accordingly, we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In words and life we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.”

As you can see, the Lord is moving to restore unity among His people – a unity build upon love and mutual respect. Glory be to the King!

History: My First Literary Love

As 2010 drew to a close, I found myself bogged down within a philosophical book about the nature and praxis of the church. I was so bogged downed that I decided to take a hiatus from that book and to return to my first literary love – that of church history.

Specifically, I chose to read Mark Noll’s book entitled “A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada.” Written in 1992, this book covers the development of Christianity from the Spanish missionaries in the 1400’s to the late 1980’s.

Yeah, it’s a thick book…

But it is also a really, really interesting and informative book that seeks to explore how the American frontier influenced Christianity. This book also helped me to understand the following items a little more (in no particular order):

  • The ‘liberal’ and ‘fundamental’ divide within USA Christianity
  • Why the emerging church folks are so hostile to the intuitional church
  • The reason(s) behind the plethora of church movements and groups within the USA (i.e. there were more church ‘splits’ in the USA then in Canada or in Europe)
  • Why Roman Catholicism in the United States is so different than in Latin America
  • The reasons behind the speed of secularization and the collapse of Christendom
  • Why Christians in the US always seem to chase revivals and form personality cults around big name preachers/ evangelist

In a nutshell, Mark Noll helped me understand myself and the culture in which I was raised.