Bavaria: On Wandering in a Catholic Landscape

By Tamara Isabell

PHOTO CREDIT: Migdalia Mass

The German word for hiking is ‘wandern,’ which brings to mind the cheerful act of wandering and the serendipity of discovery.  Pope Benedict has called his native Bavaria “a land so beautiful that it is easy to recognize that God is good and be happy.”  To wander in such a lovely, well-ordered landscape is to inevitably encounter God. 

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Pope Benedict has called his native Bavaria “a land so beautiful that it is easy to recognize that God is good and to be happy.”  To wander in such a lovely, well-ordered landscape is to inevitably encounter God.

To think of a natural landscape as “well-ordered” might seem strange to Americans, as our forests loom with a particular sort of dark and thorny wildness, but in Bavaria one does not encounter such trials.   Bavarian land is blessed with gentle slopes, curving streams, and a verdant glow of health. 

The Bavarians, over the eons, have fitted themselves into this benevolent order and have developed the virtues to preserve and enhance the land.  Villages are tucked discreetly into the particular dales where they ought to go, with no urban sprawl.  Artful forest management has rendered the woodland hospitable to humans and wild creatures alike. Everywhere one sees evidence of man having been inspired by God’s bountiful Providence, and his respect and deference to that Providence.

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Bavarian villages are tucked discreetly into the particular dales where they ought to go, with no urban sprawl.  Artful forest management has rendered the woodland hospitable to humans and wild creatures alike. Everywhere one sees evidence of man having been inspired by God’s bountiful Providence. What more perfect setting for Catholicism to flourish in?

What more perfect setting for Catholicism to flourish in?  We know the Faith takes hold everywhere, but one gets the sense it is bound to happen in such a place where the material world so clearly reaches out for and testifies to, His glory. 

We can imagine Saint Boniface and his early encounters with the roving Germanic tribes in that land. Were the forests themselves a bit darker and more unruly in those pagan times?  Nevertheless, Boniface recognized it as a land which wanted only a bit of industriousness on the part of man in service of God to perfect it.  So he took out his axe, hewing oaks into churches, allowing the grace of God to hew pagans into Christians.

And the fruits of their efforts have endured. 

Today’s Bavarians are the heirs of this Catholic landscape, created by God but embellished by the devout sweat of their ancestors. One can hardly round a bend in a Bavarian road without finding a roadside chapel, a crucifix, or a statue honoring Our Lady or a saint.  

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Today’s Bavarians are the heirs of this Catholic landscape, created by God but embellished by the devout sweat of their ancestors. One can hardly round a bend in a Bavarian road without finding a roadside chapel, a crucifix, or a statue honoring Our Lady or a saint.  

Religious murals adorn Bavaria’s charming Fachwerk architecture.   The world-famous Passion Play in Oberammergau has been running steadily for almost 400 years, with every sign of running for the next 400, as well.   Annual festivals continuously revolve around harvest and religious events with an almost liturgical rhythm, celebrating everything from the humble asparagus to regional wines with a distinctly Christian joy for the simple and natural.

Whereas the Deutsche Bischofskonference reports a falling away from the Church in Germany as a whole (Editor’s Note: Today, under 30% of Germans identify themselves as “Catholic” – see here for the reasons) Bavaria maintains a strong 55%.  This is because the region is so tied to the Catholicism of its forefathers that it is impossible to imagine that bond ever being completely undone.  The Bavarians won’t stop calling themselves Catholic any more than they will stop calling themselves Bavarian, and for the same reason: it is their honorable and historical identity. To be Bavarian is to be Catholic, and both qualities spring from the same soil.

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The Bavarians won’t stop calling themselves Catholic any more than they will stop calling themselves Bavarian, and for the same reason: it is their honorable and historical identity. To be Bavarian is to be Catholic, and both qualities spring from the same soil.

The fierce independence of the Bavarian is connected to the cycles of his natural environment, and his Catholicism is a product and a reflection of that same environment. Although Europe’s postmodern secularism has infected Germany as a whole, it has not and will not gain the same ground in Bavaria. 

Just as God allows the fallen-away Catholic to stray a bit before calling him back to that which he has forgotten, the Bavarian will always be summoned by a rediscovery of the natural beauty all around him.  The patterns of life that have been built into that natural order form a rhythm that harkens to God. 

In a land so reflective of God’s own beauty, one can only wander so far.  All Bavarian paths wind their way back to their Creator — and the wanderer joyfully discovers that He is good. 

Uffenheim

Just as God allows the fallen-away Catholic to stray a bit before calling him back to that which he has forgotten, the Bavarian will always be summoned by a rediscovery of the natural beauty all around him.  The patterns of life that have been built into that natural order form a rhythm that harkens to God. 

 

The Young German Christians Who Spoke Truth to Power

The Young German Christians Who Spoke Truth to Power

By Teresa Limjoco

Scholl-Denkmal,_MünchenOne used his Faith as a shield in the face of brutal Gestapo interrogation; he did not talk. Another converted on his way to the guillotine. All were inspired by the heroic resistance of one Catholic bishop.  Today, they would be regarded as very odd, indeed. What would modern Germans think of university students with strong Christian beliefs — many sustained by a deep attachment to Catholicism — defying the government? It is almost unheard of.

In this look back at the heroic young Germans who died defying the Nazi terror, Teresa Limjoco reveals the truth about where their strength came from.

In the 1930s, they were young, middle class and well-educated. They discussed philosophy, sang in a Bach choir, enjoyed music, poetry, art, and books. They could easily have continued with such lives, but their consciences were awakened as they watched 1930’s Germany succumb to Nazi  barbarism.

Moving beyond the passive ‘inner emigration’ most intellectuals resorted to, these University of Munich students formed the ‘White Rose’ (‘Die Weisse Rose’), a resistance movement which dared to speak truth to power. 

It would cost them their lives.

Speaking Truth to Power

Enthusiastic Hitler Youth members as teens, siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl grew disillusioned when the anti-Jewish hooliganism of Kristallnacht in 1938 revealed the ugly, ruthless face of Nazism. Disillusion would turn to outrage as they learned of ever-escalating heinous Nazi attacks on defenseless Jews.

  GalenBAMS200612       In 1941, Hans heard of a homily preached by von Galen, the Roman Catholic bishop of Munster, (pictured to the left) who bravely denounced Nazi euthanasia of the disabled and mentally ill. In this, Hans – a medical student who had served as a medic on the Eastern front – found his inspiration.

With medical students Christel Probst and Willi Graf, and their friend Alexander Schmorell, Hans formed the ‘White Rose’, one of the only groups that ever dared to voice opposition in Hitler’s Germany. His sister Sophie and Professor Kurt Huber joined them.  

Their weapon? Leaflets. The first, in mid-1942 incited Germans to passively resist the Nazis, whom they termed ‘an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.’1

In eight months, they distributed six leaflets. Their bravery would be short-lived, however; the Scholls and Probst were soon arrested. The White Rose was mercilessly crushed.

Their sixth and last leaflet was sent out between February 16 and 18, 1943, an especially dangerous time. After the disastrous defeat of the Wehrmacht in Stalingrad, Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels gave a ‘scorched-earth’ speech on February 18 at the Sportpalast that called for ‘total war’. (Coincidentally, Sophie’s correspondent-boyfriend, Lt. Fritz Hartnagel, was assigned to Stalingrad).

As glimpses of their vulnerability surfaced, the Nazis ramped up their brutality. More death sentences were meted out to dissidents. Yet the need to oppose such a malevolent entity trumped fear. Hans and Sophie knew the risk of their fateful decision to distribute those leaflets in the university. They were quickly reported.

Hans and Sophie knew the risk of their fateful decision to distribute those leaflets in the university. They were quickly reported. Hans Scholl (left), Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, leaders of the White Rose resistance organization. Munich 1942 (USHMM Photo)

The Nazis prosecuted and executed the three on February 22, 1943 with unusual swiftness and stealth, fearing they would become martyrs. Their sentences would serve as an example. After a sham ‘trial’, they were condemned to death by guillotine for ‘high treason’ by Hitler’s ‘hanging judge,’ Roland Freisler.

What They Believed

While their incredible courage has made them latter-day film heroes, most people today have no idea that the extraordinary acts of the Scholls, Christel Probst, and Willi Graf were grounded in a firm belief in God.  Their fourth leaflet boldly called Hitler the Anti-Christ, and declared that ‘[o]nly religion can reawaken Europe, establish the rights of the peoples, and install Christianity in new splendor visibly on earth in its office as guarantor of peace.’1, 2, 6

The Scholls’ mother, Magdalena, was a Lutheran deaconess who taught her children the Bible.  Her son Hans also found guidance in Catholic works such as St Augustine’s Confessions and Paul Claudel’s writings.3, 6  [St Augustine’s City of God (Civitas Dei) would even find mention in the third leaflet]. (2) Sophie kept a well-worn copy of Confessions in the compulsory labor service camp. One line in particular resonated with her: ‘Thou hast created for us Thyself, and our heart cannot be quieted till it find repose in Thee.‘ 2

German historians Jakob Knab and Guenther Biemer believe  today that Cardinal John Henry Newman’s writings influenced Hans and Sophie’s moral, spiritual, and intellectual formation  —  including the Christian understanding of conscience. 2 

Professor Carl Muth had introduced them to St Augustine’s works, and also to Cardinal Newman’s work through his friend, Theodor Haecker. Haecker was a Catholic convert who had translated Newman’s writings into German. ‘ [C]onscience,’ Newman wrote,  ‘is the voice of God….’5  Sophie apparently valued Newman’s ideas enough to share them with Fritz Hartnagel, giving him two volumes of the Cardinal’s sermons in 1942. 2, 4, 7

Christel’s Story

Like many Germans today, ‘Christel’ Probst grew up with no religion. As a young adult, however, he’d felt a closeness to the Catholic Church. News of the Nazi euthanasia program and persecution of the Jews outraged him. As he wrote his sister Angelika, ‘…it was not given to any human being, under any circumstance, to make judgments that are reserved to God alone. … Every individual’s life is priceless. We are all dear to God.’3 

Evidence linking Christel to a draft for the seventh leaflet led to his arrest by the Nazis.  He asked to be received into the Roman Catholic Church on the day he was to die. He was baptized and received First Communion, after which he said, ‘Now my death will be easy and joyful’.3  He left behind a wife, two young children, and a newborn baby.

Willi’s Story

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As a Roman Catholic, Willi Graf felt deeply the Nazi persecution of his Church. While serving as a medic during the invasion of Poland and Russia, Willi was horrified by the atrocities committed by the Wehrmacht there. He could not but reject a system that went against his deepest beliefs. He would help write the leaflets, but it was July 1943 when the Gestapo finally caught up with him.

He was executed in October following Gestapo efforts to extract more information from him. His Faith gave him strength to withstand brutal interrogations without compromising his friends. 2 

On his last day, he wrote to his family, ‘On this day I’m leaving this life and entering eternity. … strength and comfort you’ll find with God and that is what I am praying for till the last moment … Hold each other and stand together with love and trust…. God’s blessing on us, in Him we are and we live …’.6

Addendum 2018

2018 was the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 75th anniversary of his execution. He deserves much more recognition than he’s received in the past. Unlike the other White Rose members, he refused to join the Hitler Youth and never did, despite threatened with being prevented from taking the university admittance test. Instead, he joined illegal Catholic youth groups for boys and was arrested in early 1938 for his participation. He and his friends spent a few weeks in jail. He served as an altar boy at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Saarbruecken where he grew up, joined the Red Cross as a university student, and pursued medical studies as opposed to the liberal arts which he maintained were corrupted by the Nazis. His main concern had been for the victims and was deeply troubled by the indifference and/or alignment of those in authority with the Nazis. His favorite bible verse, which inspired him throughout his life, was James 1:22. He strove to be a “doer of the Word.” He also recited Psalm 90. After two deployments on the Russian Front and his resistance with the White Rose, he was arrested by the Gestapo in Munich on February 18, 1943. Of the core White Rose members, he spent the longest time in prison (8 months) and never cooperated with the Gestapo, thereby saving the lives of those whom he had tried to recruit for the White Rose.  He also experienced the most time on the battlefield as a combat paramedic and witnessed crimes against humanity committed by his fellow Germans. He was executed for high treason on October 12, 1943 in Munich’s Stadelheim Prison, today one of Germany’s largest prisons. He was declared a martyr by Saint Pope John Paul II. (7)

Willi, the Roman Catholic, was executed in October following Gestapo efforts to extract more information from him. His Faith gave him strength to withstand brutal interrogations without compromising his friends.

Sophie Calmly Faces Nazi Torture and Death

All who witnessed their last days were struck by their ‘Seelenkraft,’ their ‘strength of soul.’3  Sophie’s calm fortitude so impressed her interrogator, Robert Mohr, that he actually offered her a way out: that she admit to having misunderstood what National Socialism meant and must regret what she did.

“Not at all,” Sophie defied him. “It is not I, but you, Herr Mohr, who have the wrong Weltanschauung (‘world view’). I would do the same again.”3

The executioner himself, a veteran of thousands of such tasks, said that he had never seen anyone meet her fate so calmly as Sophie Scholl did. She was 21 years old.

The executioner himself, a veteran of thousands of such tasks, said that he had never seen anyone meet her fate so calmly as the 21-year old Sophie Scholl did.

Not ideology, but Faith sustained them

Seventy years after their deaths, the exceptional moral courage of these young people remains astounding. It was not a political agenda nor an ideology but basic human decency and life-affirming beliefs based on strong religious convictions that inspired and sustained the White Rose martyrs.

Hans was 24, Sophie was 21, Christel was 23, and Willi was 25 years old when their brave young lives were extinguished. 

Would that their heroism live on to inspire more bravery in us all.

References

1 Scholl, Inge. The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1983.  [NOTE: Inge Scholl was the sister of Hans and Sophie. The book was originally written in 1970, and a new Introduction by Dorothee Soelle is included in the 1983 edition.]

2 McDonough, Frank. Sophie Scholl: The Real Story of the Woman Who Defied Hitler, Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press, 2009.

*Note 13 in Chapter Three mentions Jakob Knab’s findings on the Cardinal Newman influence.

[NOTE: The latest, with a few additional tidbits that have not been mentioned in previous publications.  ]

3 Hanser, Richard. A Noble Treason: The Story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt Against Hitler. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1979. [NOTE: Excellently written, hard to put down.]

4 Cardinal John Henry Newman and the Scholls http://newmaninspiredresistance.blogspot.com

5 Quotation from Cardinal Newman.

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/newman-norfolk.asp#Conscience



6 Dumbach, Annete and Newborn, Jud. Sophie Scholl and the White Rose. Oxford, England: Oneworld, 2006.[NOTE: Another fine and credible source.]



7 Excerpts from Fritz Harnagel’s letters to Sophie Scholl.  http://pedrokolbe.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/john-henry-cardinal-newman-and-the-white-rose/

8. Several images from Wikipedia

9. Richards-Wilson, Stephanie. PhD, EdD. http://kritische-ausgabe.de/artikel/faith-under-fire; http://fountainsofcarrots.com/2018/06/.  

Romance in Mexico

How An Evangelical Canadian Fell in Love with a Mexican Catholic, His Family and His  Faith

by Jacob Wall

It was summer in Mexico City.  I spoke about fifty words of Spanish, and she spoke no English at all. But to our astonishment, the day we’d planned for cultural discovery turned into a day of romance.

I remember this clearly:  as my guide and I walked through the countryside, we saw poor farmers in procession carrying stalks of corn to the village church.  Unbeknownst to me, they were bringing corn for the blessings of the first fruits of the harvest.

It was the Feast of the Transfiguration.

We took a moment to stop in the church and watch.  I was amazed, not only at the piety and reverence of the people, but also to see how my lovely guide also knelt and prayed with reverence to Christ and the Virgin Mary. This made me realize in a very direct way that this was no quaint, small-town display put on for tourists, but rather a real expression of living faith.

As my lovely guide and I  strolled through the countryside, we saw poor farmers in procession carrying stalks of corn to the village church.  Unbeknownst to me, they were bringing corn for the blessings of the first fruits of the harvest. It was the Feast of the Transfiguration.

What We Knew After Three Weeks

Before my three week vacation in Mexico was over, we knew three things; we loved each other, we wanted to spend our lives together and I was going to stay in Mexico.

Neither of us were strong in our faith; I was a lapsed Evangelical, who, although still believing, no longer practiced in any real sense.  My wife was a Catholic with an authentic love for Mary, the Saints and the Church, but with little understanding of the Church’s teachings. 

2007 Wedding Tepoztlan, MexicoBefore my three week vacation was over, we knew three things; we loved each other, we wanted to spend our lives together and I was going to stay in Mexico.

How She Brought Me Closer to the Faith

However, she understood one important thing; prayer, persistence and patience were the best way to bring me closer to the Church.  She never pushed me, but also did not hesitate to challenge me to rediscover my faith.

Exactly one year after  the day we met, we were wedded in a beautiful colonial Catholic Church in the village of Tepoztlan. To our new home, my wife brought crucifixes, images of the saints and holy water before I understood what they were for.  We baptized our first son before I was entirely convinced that baptizing children made sense.

Just after our second son was born, after I had expressed some doubt on some point, she asked me directly; “What exactly is it that you believe?” 

I didn’t know.  I decided to go talk to a priest whom I had come to respect. I began to read about Catholicism, and at Easter 2011 I joined the Church.

I shared what I learned in RCIA classes and from my readings with my wife.  Some important points were new to her.  Her challenge to me – to discover what it is I believed – became a challenge to her as we learned the teachings of the Church together. 

2009 Akumal, MexicoTo our new home, my wife brought crucifixes, images of the saints and holy water before I understood what they were for.  We baptized our first son before I was entirely convinced that baptizing children made sense.

Love, Marriage, Children and the Church

Since then, we have continued to grow in love for each other at the same time as we grow closer to the Church in knowledge and love. Over six years into our marriage, we continue to find romance. Our love for each other grows stronger with every passing day. 

Our four children are not an obstacle to romance but are really a part of the love we have for each other.  While we take moments for ourselves, some of our most delightful moments have been with the family together. For example, last fall we went on a boat tour in the Mexican Caribbean; four of the other five couples had kids, but had left them behind, far away at home.

In contrast, all six of us were there. No one was bothered by the kids.  It was certainly romantic for us as a couple, not to mention lots of fun for the kids.

We also make pilgrimages as a family, such as to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as visits to our beautiful cathedral in Canada for important feast days.

2012 Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico CityWe also make a pilgrimages as a family, such as to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as visits to our beautiful cathedral in Canada for important feast days.

I would say that romantic love, family and the Church are not three disconnected aspects of our lives. Rather, they are ideal complements to each other, and within the Church we find our love for our family and for each other to be the ideal place to grow.

FEATUREDI would say that romantic love, family and the Church are not three disconnected aspects of our lives. Our four children are not an obstacle to romance but are really a part of the love we have for each other.

 

The Protagonist

If you were the Devil, and you wanted to disrupt a European Catholic church which was growing and strong, spreading its wings after disastrous decades of unspeakable war, what would you do?

I speak of the time of the 1950s. If you were the Devil, how would you go about this? (I am assuming here for a moment that you are so unenlightened so as to believe that the Prince of Lies exists, of course.)

Well, since you are only a spirit, you need a human being to do your work, so I shall call him the Protagonist. Someone reliable, someone whose fortunes you could improve over the course of his life. Someone young, highly influencible, someone who was hungry for fame and riches, underneath a pious exterior.

The Protagonist would have to have a pious exterior of course because he would have to be a member of the Church. And he could not be identified with any of the clearly Satanic forces that you had so successfully unleashed in the 20th century. Not a Marxist. Not a Communist. Not a Nazi.

Someone wholly reasonable. Someone who cared about the poor, the environment and the marginalized.

Of course you would have to give him the resources he needed to spread the destruction far and wide. Money. Useful idiots. These things could be used to take advantage of the spectacular increases in technology and communications that would ensue in the wake of World War II.

Of course, your Protagonist would have to be eminently corruptible. A weakness for luxuries perhaps? Or sins of the flesh?

And he would get his appetites satisfied. Oh yes, you would see to that.

The Protagonist’s financial base would have to be assured. You couldn’t have him too distracted with money problems. A good move would be to tie his income to a growing concern.  And his success or failure in his ostensible ‘job’ should not be tied to his income. That should be something quite separate. The money needs to flow in regardless of whether he is doing his ‘job.’

And of course very little oversight would be needed, in order to give him free rein.

Now, it would be important to shield the Protagonist from having to spend all of his time tediously communicating your destructive messages. This work can be done by mouthpieces. Professors of theology, for example, whose daily bread is dependent on the good will of the Protagonist. They can be trusted to work assiduously for the intellectual undermining of the Church and her position – all from the safety of their jobs inside the Church. They can demand that Rome dismantle her morals, her catechism. They can disdain the queries from the faithful as ‘uninformed’ and/or ‘uneducated.’

They will for sure be applauded by the secular media. They will be heroes.

No, the Protagonist would have to be deployed in using his natural gifts, like his talent for management. He will naturally see that the Church’s ‘customers’ – ie the faithful – are nothing but a nuisance. The fewer of them to take up his time, the better. So, his priests must be trained to believe that the nonsense emanating from the theologians was actually their religion.

Which is to say no theology at all. The old, Scholastic ‘theology’ must be ridiculed and derided. The ‘Sacraments’ must be administered grudgingly, and in their most diminished form.

Of course of all this will discourage vocations, which is a delightful prospect. The few faithful left can be served by imported priests from India and Africa, grateful for the pittance they are paid to be sent back to their desperately poor dioceses. Barely conversant in the language, they will make no trouble.

The Protagonist will be in a position to dispense gifts and favors to his enormous native workforce, of course. This will minimize the occasions when he will have to use his primary talent for bullying. 

Of course, when the occasion merits it, he will not hesitate to bully, Mafia-style. It will be salutary for his henchmen to see a victim every once in a while.

Perhaps a Bishop from a wealthy family, dismembered and shamed before the entire nation?

But I digress.

Finally, the killer sin. Pride. He must be a proud man. And he must link his personal pride deeply with your satanic cause. He must believe that what he is doing is furthering the cause of Christ on earth.

Until it is too late, of course. That’s when you will grant him the full view – the supreme vision—so he can see the destruction he has been the agent of, the countless souls lost. But you will make sure he will see this only in his last, tortured hours on this earth, maybe even in  his last breath.

By then it will be much too late, and he will only see the devils, your minions, swarming around him. Exactly like the folktales about the death of one of your other great European success stories, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Of course, once he dies, he will leave behind precisely the kind of Church which the people will hate most. Swollen with riches. Rife with corruption. Riddled with proud clerics grasping for the reins from the dead Protagonist’s hands.

Perfect for secularization. Again.

It would be important to give the Protagonist cover, of course, from criticism. Probably best to locate him in a society where people have for centuries been trained not to resist the will of great and powerful princes.

Someplace like Germany, perhaps?

 

 

 

 

The Great German King Who Sleeps Until Christendom’s Hour of Need

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WHO IS THAT German KING? Poised on his charger, his hand raised in a warning or a salute — this is Charlemagne, one of Christendom’s great heroes. A Frank — forerunners of today’s Germans and French — Charlemagne died 1200 years ago, in 814 AD. His name in Latin was Carolus Magnus. For the Germans, he is ‘Karl Der Grosse;’  ‘Charles the Great’ in English and ‘Carlo Magno’ in Spanish.
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A GREAT, TALL MAN: The skull of Charles the Great is preserved in this reliquary in the Treasury of the great Cathedral built in his capital, today’s Aachen, Germany (Aix-La-Chapelle in French). From his remains, we know he was heavily built, sturdy, and of considerable stature. He had a round head, large and lively eyes, and a slightly larger nose than usual. His hair was prematurely white and he bore a characteristically bright and cheerful expression. He enjoyed good health. Charles the Great stood 1.84 meters (slightly more than 6 feet) making him a very tall person for his time.
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‘CAROLUS PRINCEPS’ — Latin for ‘Charles the Prince,’ inlaid in marble in Aachen Cathedral. His father was the Frankish leader Pepin the Short, mayor of the palace under the Merovingian dynasty of Frankish kings. His grandfather was Charles Martel, aka ‘Charles the Hammer.’ (In Germany today, people still use ‘Der Hammer’ to describe a man they admire.)
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CROWNED EMPEROR OF THE ROMANS BY POPE LEO III ON CHRISTMAS DAY in A.D. 800 and ruled until his death in January, 814 at the age of 71. He started the custom whereby Christmas Day became a traditional day of crowning Emperors and Kings. It took 32 years before Charlemagne completely conquered the Saxons from 772 to 804 AD. He also conquered the Bavarians, Slavs and Avars and obliged them to pay him tribute and also defeated and ruled the Lombards of Italy in 773 and northern part of Spain in 778 AD.
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THE EMPIRE THAT CHARLEMAGNE built included almost all of western and central Europe. He presided over the cultural and legal revival of the West known as the Carolingian Renaissance. Modern-day France and Germany emerged from Charlemagne’s empire, the former as West Francia and the latter as East Francia.
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CHARLEMAGNE INVITED THE MONK ALCUIN OF YORK, ENGLAND to his capital at Aix-la-Chapelle (today Aachen, Germany) to set up the first Christian Cathedral School. Though he was illiterate, Charlemagne recognized the great power of education, and ordered bishops and abbots to set up schools for the training of monks and other clerics throughout the Empire.
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CATHEDRAL WINDOW AT CHARLEMAGNE’S TOMB He made Latin the standard written and spoken language in his huge empire of several languages and dialects, thus making it possible for Europeans to communicate across cultures. Charlemagne also played a key role in preserving much of the literary heritage of ancient Rome.
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WORTH MORE THAN $100 MILLION, this coronation cross was made for Charlemagne and carried at every Coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor for almost a thousand years.
His warrior-king image was the inspiration for all subsequent empire builders in Europe during the Middle Ages. The word for “king” in several modern Slavic languages such as Krol in Polish and Kral in Czech are based upon the German name of Charlemagne, Karl.
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CORONATION CLOAK for the Holy Roman Emperor is still intact and on display in the Cathedral Treasury. In a great historical irony, this may well be the very spot where Charlemagne founded his famous school.
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CHARLEMAGNE THE MAN
For German Catholics who don’t think they can have a marriage annulled — apparently a widespread misconception in modern times — it may be interesting to note that Charles the Great was married four times. His first marriage was annulled, and he went on to have eleven legitimate and nine illegitimate children.
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GOLDEN RELIQUARY FOR A SIMPLE KING He wore a blue cloak and always carried a fancy jeweled sword to banquets or ambassadorial receptions, though in the main he despised elaborate, expensive clothes and usually dressed like the common people. His favorite food was roasted meat. He wanted to build a canal that connected the Rhine and Danube Rivers via the Main, which in fact wasn’t accomplished until the 19th century.
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CAESAR AUGUSTUS WITH A SCEPTER BEARING THE ROMAN EAGLE at the center of the Coronation Cross of the Holy Roman Empire.
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CHARLEMAGNE’S FIRST TOMB After a funeral Mass, he was buried the same day he died, in this stone sarcophagus. According to medieval legend, Charlemagne was said to have risen from the dead to fight in the Crusades.
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THE BONES OF CHARLEMAGNE now repose in this ornate, solid gold reliquary in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral at Aachen, where they miraculously emerged unharmed, despite the devastation of Allied bombing of the city during World War II. According to Charlemagne’s legend, he sleeps until Christendom — the Empire he forged –has need of him once again.
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CHARLEMAGNE AND THE IDEAL OF THE CHRISTIAN KNIGHT For centuries, Germany and all of Christendom believed in a knightly ideal — the gallantry of a Christian warrior devoted to his Lord, defending his lands and deferential to women, children, the poor, the sick and the elderly. All of this arguably derive from the example that this great king, Charlemagne, set 1200 years ago.

 

TEXT: ED MASTERS & BEVERLY DE SOTO

PHOTOS: HARRY STEVENS

An Atheist in Germany

Text and photos by Tamara Isabell

At the age of seventeen, I stumbled upon the idea of moral relativity. At that age, the concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ seemed to be self-evidently pure abstractions. This almost immediately– probably inevitably — led me to atheism. 

It was 1989 and I was the only atheist I knew. I was ridiculously enamored of my own philosophizing and fancied myself bold and daring in my Godlessness.

It was 1989 and I was the only atheist I knew. I was ridiculously enamored of my own philosophizing and fancied myself bold and daring in my Godlessness.

Ten years later, I was the wife of an Army Aviation Officer, assigned to Germany. I fell in love with German culture from the beginning, fascinated by their rich artisanal history displayed in every archway and cobblestone, a history so lacking in our own American landscape. 

We wound up living in Germany almost fifteen years.  Two of our three children were born there. I became ever more fluent in German over the years, immersing myself by stages in community life, primarily through my eldest son, who spoke German from his earliest Kindergarten days and entered the Grundschule at the age of six.  My life centered around his school and play schedule, the mothers of his playmates becoming my dear friends.  

Most of those years were spent in or near Wuerzburg, “The City of Churches” in the Franconian wine region.  My daily errands were run in the midst of the most impressive architecture.  I loved to stop in the gaudy Hofkirche chapel of the Residenz, letting my eye follow the gilded swirls of Baroque exuberance, ever upward to the domed ceiling.  I regularly passed the 900 year old Dom (cathedral), hastening my steps past the looming skeletons above the side entrance. 

Though my everyday horizons were dominated by church domes and steeples, and my days were measured by church bells, I remained an atheist. I regarded it all with the academic curiosity of a museum-stroller, absorbing the beauty of the Christian world around me for its aesthetic value alone, never considering there might be more.

attachment8Though my everyday horizons were dominated by church domes and steeples, and my days were measured by church bells, I remained an atheist.

Almost all my German friends at this time were ‘Catholic.’  I found myself swept along in their customs, helping my son keep his candle lit against the wind in the children’s Laternezug honoring Saint Martin, allowing my house to be marked with a chalk blessing by neighbors dressed in Magi costumes on Three Kings Day. 

Through it all, I maintained a stubborn intellectual detachment.  I observed and participated with pleasure, but made a point to find it all very fascinating in a strictly anthropological sense. I was still an atheist, still proud to stand in opposition to religion in all its backward manifestations. 

Then a strange thing happened.  As the years went by and my appreciation for German culture deepened, I somehow found it harder to hold it at an academic arm’s length. 

Gaze long enough at a statue of Saint Denis, and you find yourself asking why he happens to be holding his head in his hands.  Surrounded by so much Christian art, I began to focus on recurrent themes and symbols. What were they all about?

Of course, like art enthusiasts before and after me, I initially explained such symbols in terms of mythology. I did this for many years, but those explanations ultimately could not satisfy because of the one overwhelming theme in Christian art, found nowhere else.

I refer here to the theme of suffering. Indeed, why does that stone saint hold his head in his hands?  Why will Saint Lucy persist in offering up her gouged eyes on a golden plate?  And what about Christ on the cross?

TrierpietaWhy does that stone saint hold his head in his hands?  Why will Saint Lucy persist in offering up her gouged eyes on a golden plate?  And what about Christ on the cross? 

I slowly started getting a sense of voices from the medieval past; it was as if they were trying to communicate with me through the paintings and statues they’d left behind.  I began to wonder if the structures they’d erected stood as a testimony to something, perhaps something other than the patriarchal Church-state I’d always disdained.  I developed a nagging sense that evil could not be the creator of such beauty. 

At this point, God injected Himself pointedly into my life, revealing His truth through conversations with devout Catholics and the writings of long-dead Saints.  Sadly, I could only find reasoned arguments for Catholicism and encouragement to convert amongst my American acquaintances.  My German friends seemed clueless.

God injected Himself pointedly into my life, revealing His truth through conversations with devout Catholics and the writings of long-dead Saints.

I’ll never forget that first shy inquiry I made to a German about going to Mass — and my shock when she told me they weren’t going to Mass that Sunday or pretty much any Sunday after that.  Most of my German friends who’d appeared so very Catholic to me in their customs only attended Mass on holidays, or for baptisms and other sacramental rites. 

I had to go to my American Catholic friends to find unabashed, joyful evangelization.  Still, the seeds of my conversion were planted amidst the remnants of truth radiating through the beauty of German Catholic culture.  I will be forever grateful to that country and its people for striking the spark that ultimately illuminated my life though Christ.

attachment6Most of my German friends who’d appeared so very Catholic to me in their customs only attended Mass on holidays, or for baptisms and other sacramental rites. I had to go to my American Catholic friends to find unabashed, joyful evangelization.

 

Inside Catholic Romance Online

The last 15 to 20 years have seen a sea change in the world of dating, one with profound implications for Catholics. The change is the rise in online dating and its widespread acceptance as a legitimate tool for meeting the right person.

Turning to the Internet for assistance in meeting people makes sense for anyone, regardless of their religious and moral convictions—let’s face it, with society operating at such a fast pace, meeting people in the usual places isn’t all that easy.

But for Catholics who are committed to our Faith, an expansion of the dating pool is almost a necessity. Again, let’s face it—if you don’t believe in unmarried sex or artificial contraception, even a lot of the people you meet in the usual places are going to be in a different place.

Again, let’s face it—if you don’t believe in unmarried sex or artificial contraception, even a lot of the people you meet in the usual places are going to be in a different place.

Furthermore, Catholics can find that online dating not only expands the pool, but makes the ultimate winnowing down process much easier. The profiles at major Catholic dating sites ask the member’s belief on the above moral questions, on which the laity is often divided. Knowing up front whether you are on the same page with a date on subjects like birth control spares you a conversation which becomes almost impossible to fit into polite dating dialogue—at least until you’re  serious enough that you’ve wasted valuable time if the wrong answer comes back.

Several Catholic dating websites have grown quickly, and the number of success stories continues to increase. One example is Donna Sue and Joel Doc, a 50-something couple with a strong Catholic faith.

Donna Sue lives in Oklahoma, and in 2008 her previous marriage was annulled by the Church. With two daughters and seven grandchildren nearby, she was settled into single life, a parishioner at St. Damien’s of Molokai, a parish run by the Fraternity of St. Peter, an Order based in Nebraska and dedicated to offering the Tridentine Mass.

Joel Doc Berry is a retired rancher and lived in Montana. His wife had succumbed to leukemia and Joel Doc found his solace in being near his horses and through his devotion to the rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Like Donna, he was looking to meet someone and they both joined Ave Maria Singles.

Joel and Horses B&WJoel Doc is a retired Montana rancher. When his wife succumbed to leukemia, he sought solace in being near his horses and through his devotion to the rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Donna Sue’s profile caught Joel Doc’s attention. “She was cute as a bug,” he recalled. “She had a great profile and a great smile.” For her part, Donna wasn’t looking to get into a long-distance relationship, but the distance between them made her feel safe enough to start an online dialogue. “With him in Montana, there was no way we would ever meet, let alone date and get married,” she recalled thinking.

The little opening that Donna gave Joel was all that he—and the Holy Spirit—needed to begin working. Joel, being retired, was able to travel to Oklahoma and stay at a bed and breakfast, as they got to know each other. When they were apart, he sent roses, a beautiful rosary and pictures of his Montana home. “Yep, I was falling in love,” Donna Sue admitted.

February to October in 2010 saw Joel and Donna Sue’s long-distance courtship flourish. “It was the love we both had for the Eucharist that made each of us think he/she is THE ONE,” Donna told Regina Magazine. They also share common cultural interests, each being from cowboy country with a love for all that entails—rodeo, authentic western music and movies.

Joel knew early on he had a treasure in Donna, and had an engagement ring made, a rose-cut diamond with two roses on each side and diamonds in the center.

In Oklahoma City he took Donna and her two grown daughters out to dinner, got down on one knee and proposed. “Although I figured I an official proposal was coming, I was surprised that night,” Donna said. “And the ring…well I was just blown away by its beauty and symbolism.”

Today, Joel Doc and Donna are married and living in Oklahoma, in spite of his earlier vow never to leave Montana. He said he would never leave home, she never thought she would date long-distance. Both of them found happiness by stepping outside the box.

DonnaSuebw“With him in Montana, there was no way we would ever meet, let alone date and get married,”  Donna Sue recalled thinking. Besides, Joel Doc said he would never leave home; for her part, she never thought she would date long-distance. 

Joel Doc and Donna are just one of the many thousands of couples I have see come together in the last ten years I have been working on Catholic dating sites. I have seen couples come together from across the ocean. I’ve also seen couples who were in the same parish, but who didn’t meet until they noticed each other online.

If Valentine’s Day 2014 has you wanting a change in your dating life, this is a way to step outside the box and shake things up. Maybe now is the time for you to find a real Catholic marriage.  

Joel and Calf 1A CATHOLIC COWBOY

Never met a Catholic Cowboy, who bows his head to pray

With his Rosary in his pocket, each and every day

Who whispers to his Father God, from deep within his heart

When life is full of happiness, or when it falls apart

This cowboy who loves Jesus Christ, is such a Godly man

Who sets the course throughout his day, to follow Heaven’s plan

A bull ridin’ kind of cowboy, so Catholic and so true

Like the Cowboy from Montana, that is ‘til I met you!

Donna Sue Leehan, 8th February, 2010

 

Megan in the Mirror

Megan is a beautiful woman by anyone’s standards. It’s not just her long blonde hair, her ready smile or the elegant way she wears her clothes. She’s also happily married, and a blissful new mother in America’s Midwest.

But Megan is not a ‘golden girl,’ leading a charmed life. Her childhood was scarred by an ugly divorce. She spent her youth desperately seeking for love in all the wrong places. Rejected by her boyfriend, alone in a strange city, she finally attempted suicide.  

Today, at 31, Megan is close to the Sacraments. How did she get here? Here’s beautiful Megan’s story, in an exclusive interview with Regina Magazine.

Like many people in your generation, your parents were divorced.

My parents’ divorce was one of the worst tragedies of my life and yet it brought me closer to God. I think because I knew there had to be something better than what I was living in, and so I searched for the truth.

Or the Truth found me, because the Truth is a person.

Do you have siblings?

I have a sister; she’s one year older than me, now 32. She is into drugs. She’s had one abortion, and then had a baby. That baby was taken away by the State. Our dad adopted my niece.

I pray for my sister every day. She asked me once why our lives turned out so differently and I tell her it’s because I prayed and became Catholic. I think she might finally start to see it.

The hardest thing is convincing my family that it’s more than just prayer, that it’s Confession, the Eucharist and all the sacraments. There is healing there and the grace to fight evil.

My sister is into drugs. She’s had one abortion, and then had a baby. That baby was taken away by the State.

Were you brought up Catholic?

My parents converted to Catholicism when we were young but they fell away. My sister and I were baptized, but they stopped going to church. When my parents were divorcing my dad took us to St. Louis and we visited the Cathedral Basilica.

I prayed and wept there. I was ten years old.

What happened after the divorce?

My mother re-married, to the man she had an affair with. He was from a Polish background, and his mother was very Catholic. He kept a rosary around the house.

So the Faith was still there somehow, in the background of your life?

In my preteen years we went on a trip to Indianapolis and we stopped by a Catholic bookstore. They told me I could get whatever I wanted so I went to the kids section and I looked around a bit. There was a kids’ book about the lives of the Saints, a small book on how to pray the rosary and little rosaries here and there. So I grabbed a couple of items.

From the small books I taught myself how to pray the rosary. At first I prayed all the Mysteries: joyful, sorrowful etc and thought, ‘man this is LONG to do in one sitting.’ LOL. I didn’t realize that you only had to pick one Mystery, until a little later.

I got this really neat mirror and wall stand. I made myself a little altar with candles and the rosary. I started praying occasionally, and then I just had this inspiration to join the Catholic Church. Like a super-strong desire.

I made myself a little altar with candles and the rosary. I started praying occasionally, and then I just had this inspiration to join the Catholic Church.

What was your life like?

I was living in sin. Following my sister, experimenting with drugs, numerous terrible boyfriends, losing my virginity at a young age. All things that were killing my soul.

I was a product of the MTV generation, where society and youth culture is saying these things are fun and make you happy.  Meanwhile I’m so unhappy and killing my soul.

I was living in sin. Following my sister, experimenting with drugs, numerous terrible boyfriends, losing my virginity at a young age. All things that were killing my soul.

Did you abandon the idea of being Catholic?

No.  I called St. Charles Catholic church and asked if I could take classes. They put me with the adults and paired me up with a sponsor. I was a senior in high school.

So did your life settle down?

No. My mother divorced her second husband and things got really bad at home. She started dating this really, really, bad guy and he was absolutely terrible. A drunk, etc. It was sooo bad.

My dad was meanwhile dating so many different women and I hated them all. He was also verbally and somewhat physically abusive to my sister and me after their divorce.

After her second divorce my mother was verbally abusive and I would fight with her because her lifestyle was disgusting and I couldn’t believe all the bad stuff she was doing to our family.

So I got kicked out of her house and have to live with my Dad. I didn’t agree with his lifestyle –with all the women he is dating –and so then I got kicked out of his house.

So now I had nowhere to go.

My mother divorced her second husband and things got really bad at home. She started dating this really, really, bad guy and he was absolutely terrible.

That’s a scary situation at age 17.

Yes, but my mother was less strict than my dad, so of course thinking like a teenager, I opted to live with her. I made a decision to swallow my pride, shut my mouth, and apologize to her for all of the things I said about her sinful life.

I really didn’t ever feel that I had a place to call home, that felt like home. Too many bad memories in either house.

I really didn’t ever feel that I had a place to call home, that felt like home. Too many bad memories in either house.

You still didn’t abandon the idea of being Catholic?

No, I was still in the RCIA program and trying to finish my senior year of high school. So I’m still not an angel, but I feel this STRONG desire to receive the sacraments. I look forward to this class every two weeks and am so excited to go. I ask so many questions to the teacher lady, and when the priest came from time to time I would ask him questions also.

My number one question was, “what will it feel like to take communion”?

He told me, “I’m not sure you will feel any differently, but I will pray that you have this miraculous experience for your first time.”

Interesting that you focused on the ‘feeling.’

Yes, at my first confession I felt this incredible sensation after he gave me absolution. Like I was touched by the Holy Spirit and I could fly. A true weight, not some sentimental figurative thing, but a true feeling in my whole body of warmth and love and weightless feeling.

The same thing happened at my Confirmation a few weeks later, after I received Holy Communion for the first time. I remember being really cold because I didn’t have on the right kind of sweater and I was wearing sandals.

But when I took Communion, this incredible warmth came over me. It was amazing. It wasn’t my imagination but a true miracle.

I have never experienced it since.

At my first confession I felt this incredible sensation after he gave me absolution. Like I was touched by the Holy Spirit and I could fly.

So you finished high school…

…yes, but my mom’s house was not working out, unsurprisingly. I moved in with my Dad. I was not sure where to go to college but my Dad, of all people, knew of this Catholic college book that I could get at school. So I checked it out.

There was a small Catholic Junior college in Illinois. It didn’t look too hard to get into.  So I took the risk, applied, got in and moved there for college.

Meanwhile Easter was the last time I went to Mass. When I was in RCIA they never really said, ‘now you have to start coming on Sundays.’ I don’t know why I didn’t go but they never really followed up with me.

I thought “I’m Catholic now” like it was a one-time thing. You would have thought that the miracle feeling would have made me go back, but I was young and still had some problems.

Easter was the last time I went to Mass. When I was in RCIA they never really said, ‘now you have to start coming on Sundays.’

What happened at college?

So I’m at college and I immediately start dating this terrible guy. He pushes me down the stairs and gets kicked out of school. It was bad. I probably dated terrible guys because I had low self- esteem and psychological problems from my childhood and previous sinful behavior.

So in my sophomore year I make friends with Sister Judy (she doesn’t wear the habit) and she helps me get into an all-girl Catholic College. I go there for my Junior and Senior year.

I continued partying and drinking. I meet this guy Tom from a neighboring co-ed Catholic University. We start dating, sleeping together etc. I graduated and moved to a small Midwestern city, because that is where is he from and he is going to medical school there.

I’m at college and I immediately start dating this terrible guy. He pushes me down the stairs and gets kicked out of school. It was bad.

Tom was a ‘catch,’ huh?

Tom’s family is SUPER Catholic and I liked them a lot. His dad is SUPER devout and introduced me to the Latin Mass. They go to Mass every Sunday.

Then Tom cheated on me with a girl in his medical school class. I broke up with him.

How disappointing! How did you cope?

I promptly started dating this guy who worked near me at the airport.

This was a diabolical relationship. We started sleeping together and then he starts treating me like crap. Won’t accept my phone calls and is super mean. I felt used and unwanted so I got really depressed, and I started drinking.

One night I thought if I took a bunch of pills and told him, he would come running back and we would be together. (My sister did this before, so I learned this from her.)

I felt used and unwanted so I got really depressed, and I started drinking. One night I thought if I took a bunch of pills and told him, he would come running back and we would be together.

Oh that is terrible!

Well that didn’t happen, and I had to call Tom and ask him to drive me to the hospital to get my stomach pumped. So now I was in the worst shape of my life.

In this hospital I called out to God. I asked Him ‘why is this all happening to me? Would He help me? Please?’

In this hospital I called out to God. I asked Him why is this all happening to me? Would He help me? Please?

What happened next?

So after I am released, I see that there is a position open in a different city. I apply for the job and I get it!

After I moved, I began to slowly cut ties with my sinful life. I also had this voice say to me one morning, “Obey the 10 commandments.” It was weird.

I wondered if there was a cool church that offers the Latin Mass in my new city. I love music so much, and the town where I grew up has one of the best music schools in the world.

I remembered that the Latin Mass church where Tom’s dad took me had an amazing choir. So I looked up the Latin Mass in my new city and I found one. It was run by a religious order of priests, dedicated to the Latin Mass. 

When I entered the church, I saw all these people in line for Confession, so I went too. The priest asked me, are you ready to change your ways?

I said ‘I think I am.’ I prayed in that moment, “God, please send me someone to marry. Clearly I cannot choose, so please choose for me. Your will be done, not mine.”

That’s when I met my future husband.

The priest asked me, are you ready to change your ways? I say I think I am. I pray in that moment, “God, please send me someone to marry. Clearly I cannot choose, so please choose for me. Your will be done, not mine.”

How did you meet him?

One of my best friends growing up moved to the same city in which I was now living. She invited me to a Christmas party and that’s where I met Rob.  He asked for my phone number and I told him I’m not interested in dating anyone, but thanks.

Unbeknownst to me, my friend gave Rob my phone number. He called one day and we agreed to go to dinner but on one condition-only as friends.

Something about him though seemed different than other guys I dated in the past. His demeanor is super respectful, caring and kind. He seemed genuinely interested in me as a person, so I decided to give it a shot.

Rob’s demeanor is super respectful, caring and kind. He seems genuinely interested in me as a person, so I decide to give it a shot. I asked him if he wanted to start going to Mass with me, for Lent.

I asked him if he wanted to start going to Mass with me, for Lent. He is Catholic and so he agreed. We started going to the church down the street. Then I started bringing him to the Latin Mass with me.

He hated it. Over time, though, he started to meet people, understand the Mass, and liked it.

We got married there, and now we have a baby. : )

How did you get involved at the parish?

I decided to register at the church. I’m sitting in the office, wearing a black shirt, hot pink knee length shorts and sandals, and in walks this tall 6 foot 4 tall priest in a long cassock.

I’m 5’3. I looked up and am like ‘oh my goodness.’ I was terrified.

He takes me to his office and starts asking a few questions, “your name” and he writes it down with his left hand. He asks me how I found the parish and I tell him, I’m not really sure but I looked it up online and I liked the music.

He says this is most unusual and normally people come because they have heard about it from someone else. I didn’t really have this “I’m fed up with the Novus Ordo Mass and that’s why I’m coming to the Latin Mass” thing like some people do.

I came because it was beautiful and it seemed holy.

I didn’t really have this “I’m fed up with the Novus Ordo Mass and that’s why I’m coming to the Latin Mass” thing like some people do.  I came because it was beautiful and it seemed holy.

As I’m leaving, on the way home, I get cussed out by some homeless man who bangs on my window. He screams “hey b****” and bangs on my window. Luckily my doors were locked, the light changed, and I sped off.

Wow, so it was very welcoming, but scary too.

Another time I was visiting, while I was walking into the building, a group of thug-looking people started yelling at me so I ran fast and was able to make it inside the building.

I also experienced extreme anxiety driving to church, and also in the church, and in line for Confession. That feeling has since gone away but it took several months. I also had several experiences where a voice told me to spit out the Communion while it was in my mouth. I WAS TERRIFIED!

But I read somewhere that a few saints had this, St. Faustina in particular, and the Lord told her they were temptations and as long as she didn’t listen or take any pleasure in them, it was not sinful.

Did you tell a priest about these supernatural things?

At the time I remember they were pretty amazing, some scary, but I never really told anyone. I think I told the priest about the Eucharist experience and asked him why that might have happened.

He said perhaps because the Lord wanted to show me what the other side is like. What was hidden behind the veil, the Sacraments, like a doorway. So I would remember.

After all of my bad experiences, he said that he was surprised I ever came back. Clearly, the devil did NOT want me there!

My supernatural experiences were pretty amazing, some scary, but I never told anyone.  I told the priest about the Eucharist experience and asked him why that might have happened. He said perhaps because the Lord wanted to show me what the other side is like. So that I would remember.

What is your life like now?

Now I am a regular at Confession, every two weeks. I help out at the church, I go to Mass every Sunday, and I receive Communion with reverence and deeply pray.

I am still very much a sinner, but I try to steer clear of mortal sins. It is VERY hard to come to the church once you are in the pit of mortal sin, but I had some divine assistance.

I am still very much a sinner, but I try to steer clear of mortal sins. It is VERY hard to come to the church once you are in the pit of mortal sin, but I had some divine assistance.

What about the future?

What gives me great hope is that there are saints like Magdalen and Augustine who were very close to our Lord. My hope is to raise my children closer to spiritual innocence, like our Lady and St. Therese were raised.

My Dad is also back in the church. He remarried, and they have some issues, but he prays and goes to Mass sometimes. I pray for him.

megan bottom

 What gives me great hope is that there are saints like Magdalen and Augustine who were very close to our Lord. My hope is to raise my children closer to spiritual innocence, like our Lady and St. Therese were raised.


Adventures of a Latin Mass Divorcee

AUTHOR: DONNA SUE BERRY What does a Catholic woman do when she is divorced after a 30-year marriage? If there’s one word to describe the absolute feeling of being discarded after my 30-year marriage, it would be ‘alone.’ Suddenly I was living a life I didn’t recognize. I lived in a deafening, isolating silence. I … Read more

On Miracles, Saints and the Mass

Thoughts of a Priest on the 30th Anniversary of His Ordination

Father Richard Cipolla was ordained a Catholic priest thirty year ago, after a journey to the Faith which included studying at Oxford University and serving as an Episcopalian minister. A scientist and a Latinist, Father Cipolla is currently the Chair of the Classics Department at the Brunswick School in Greenwich, Connecticut. Father Cipolla is also parochial vicar of St Mary’s in Norwalk, where he gave the following homily on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his ordination as a Catholic priest.

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Last week we heard the gospel from St John that recounts Jesus’ first miracle, the changing of water into wine. Today we hear of two more miracles performed by our Lord: the healing of the lepers and the healing of the centurion’s servant. The gospels in the season of the Sundays after Epiphany concentrate on the miracles of Jesus as the answer to the seminal, the basic question asked and answered in the gospels: who is this man Jesus?

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These miracles are not offered as proof to the gospel answer to this question, that he is the Son of God, the Word of God and the Savior of the world. But they are offered— offered in a historical sense, not in some sort of symbolic sense—to point to the answer to the seminal question. Many who call themselves Christians have been having problems with these miracles for a long time, and they have done so because they have succumbed well over a century ago to a rationalistic and moralistic understanding of the person of Jesus Christ.

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These people are locked into a totally outdated and false understanding of the physical world: they live in a imaginary Newtonian world in which surprise is absent. It is absent by decree, since there can be no surprises in a clock world understanding of the physical universe. One does not have to be conversant with the ins and outs of contemporary physics to know that physical reality is full of surprises and that these surprises happen with alarming frequency.  The irony is that in an age in which science is seen to be the basis and the touchstone of what is real, most people, certainly including theologians, are locked into a view of reality that corresponds in no way to the mysterious and in a way crazy picture of physical reality that contemporary physics paints for us. And the verb paints is very apt, for physical reality is much more like a painting whose meaning can never be fully grasped than the rather boring view of reality that is like a Patek Phillipe watch: expensive, elegant in its own way, keeps good time, but in the end not very interesting.

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There is no doubt that we are living through one of the worst crises the Church has faced in her 2000 year history. The roots of this crisis do not lie in yesterday. The roots have been growing for at least three centuries, some would say much longer than that, and these roots are firmly grounded in the soil of that radical and myopic view of reality that places the individual at the center of the universe and as the ultimate meaning of what is real and true and good. The cry of Martin Luther: “Here I stand, I can do no other”, finds its logical and inevitable consummation in the world in which we live, a world that loves to talk about ‘community’ only in terms of a reality that is totally circumscribed by a radical denial of what has formed communities in the past: family, friends, shared values grounded in something beyond the community, and a sense of the transcendent.

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This is a world in which any objectivity in morality is denied, morality is defined in terms of the freedom of the individual to do whatever he wants, with the exception of hurting another person, and that hurting another person is seen in terms of making that other person “unhappy”. Even killing another person does not get in the way of this morality based on the self and a selfish understanding of freedom, as we can see in the painful example of the contemporary acceptance of abortion as a personal right.

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And the crisis in the Church lies in her willful refusal to vigorously counter in an ecclesial way, based on the truth of the Gospel, this warped view of what is real, what is true and good. There is no doubt from a reading of Church history that the Church has succumbed at various times in her history to trying to make peace with the world by a deliberate forgetting of her role and mission given to her by Him who is the ultimate contradiction to the world. But in those times, there have always been those whom we call saints, especially the martyrs, who have seen through these dishonest attempts to come to terms with the world, and whose lives and death have the same effect as Jesus’ miracles: they point beyond and above to the God who is good, true and beautiful.

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The Church has often had a hard time dealing with these people: like St Antony of Egypt who fled from the world to live in the desert; like St Francis of Assisi who embraced a terrible form of poverty to point to the reality of the radical nature of Christianity; like St Thérèse of Lisieux, whose understanding of the vocation of love that lies at the heart of what it means to be a Catholic brought her to such terrible suffering and in the end at her death a darkness that she perceived as a loss of faith. Or like St Thomas More, that very worldly and intelligent man, that eminent scholar and writer of superb even if mock Ciceronian Latin, that ambitious man who rose so high in political power and who found himself quite unexpectedly and not by choice confronting that choice that is at the heart of the Catholic faith and yet is denied by most Catholics, that choice between the world that tolerates only a tamed and impotent Christian faith and that faith which demands to choose contra mundum because of love of Christ who died pro mundo. And Thomas More chose for God in the context of defending the Papacy in the person of a Pope who was no great model for the Petrine ministry. The trouble is that these saints and most saints have been so pietized and hagiized and sentimentalized by Catholics that their meaning, who they really were, has evaporated. St Francis becomes a Disney character complete with birds and a birdbath. St Thérèse becomes a sweet pious French little girl holding roses. St Thomas More becomes a character in a Robert Bolt play who is reduced to a “man of principle.”

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But this is all part of the history that has brought us to this time of crisis. A time when bishops refuse to condemn the warped worldliness of their flock holding prominent positions in government, those who dare to claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, dare to proclaim themselves as Catholics, dare to claim to be daily Mass goers, and at the same time support contemporary moral positions that deny the Lord of life himself. And all of this in the name of compassion, compassion redefined in the name of the freedom of the individual. And this is what compassion has been reduced to. So many Catholics do not know what compassion means: it means to suffer with another. It does not mean to excuse the faults of another. But it does mean to love the other, and to love some one means to be willing to suffer with that person, means to reach out to the other from the Cross of Jesus Christ.

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There is no other compassion than the compassion of Mary at the foot of the Cross. There is no other compassion than St Francis’ receiving the stigmata. There is no other compassion than St Thérèse suffering her dark death in the context of her vocation to love. There is no compassion other than St Thomas More’s terrible realization of what love for the world really means — dying on behalf of the love of Christ for all men, in a most ambiguous context. It means that there is no foundation for true compassion except in the infinite compassion of Jesus Christ for the sinners of the world.

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But what has brought us to the particular depth of crisis the Church faces today? The difference between the crises of the Church in the past — and there were many of them — and the crisis besetting us now is this: the contemporary loss of the sacred, specifically the loss of the liturgy, of the Mass, as the binding force that was the fundamental context in which the Catholic life was lived through the centuries. It was, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, the fons et culmen — the source and summit of the Catholic life.

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The Mass of the Tradition is the fruit of organic development whose words, prayers, gestures, music cannot be identified with any one culture, any one language, any one provenance. The Mass includes its roots in Judaism, in the Greek speaking world of ancient times, in the Middle East of Syria and Lebanon, in the city and empire of Rome, drawing from traditions far and wide, from Britain to Gallican France, to Spain, to North Africa, from what we call in general the East: all expressed in a common and unchangeable language that is foundational in the Christian world of the West.

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This structure, this palace, this humble home, this house that everyone, rich, poor, men, women, children, educated, peasant could come to and be at home in, at home even if not intellectually understanding what all these rooms meant, coming into a place that was familiar and yet not common, the place that was always there, that did not depend on the fashion of the world, what was au courant at the time, that transcended time and space, that always pointed to what one could not understand but believed. This is so wonderfully captured in that scene in Graham Green’s novel, ‘The Power and the Glory’ when the Mexican peasants sigh with happiness as the priest, risking his life for them, says the Mass in a poor home, and when he raises the Host they sigh, and in that sigh they know, they know, despite the terrible reality of their lives, they know that God is with them again in the home of the Mass.

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But there came a time, not too long ago, where this understanding of the Mass was shunted aside. And it was declared that the Mass was no longer the venerable place for people of all times and places of encounter with God, but rather, that it was an historical document, that it was a text that could be manipulated, in opposition to tradition and with a great deal of arrogance, brought up to date, to fit the needs of modern man who now demanded knocking down walls to create open concept kitchens with granite counter-tops, whose focus needed to be the family room with the huge TV. And this reform had to be entrusted to committees and experts, as if because scholars could identify historical developments in the Mass this gave them the right to correct what they did not like: once the contemporaneity of the Mass with eternity was forgotten: then the Church, in the name of relevance to engagement with the world, in the name of making the Mass more meaningful to her people — in this case, the people of the 1960s — then the touchstone of the Faith is gone, and there is nothing to hold back the godless face of secularism and relativism.

cip15And once the priest became the center of attention in the Mass, often sitting a throne-like chair where the tabernacle used to be, once he became the facilitator and entertainer, once he faced his people with the altar as a barrier between him and his people, thinking that he was talking to them instead of to God, he forgot who he was. He forgot that the essence of his priesthood is to offer the Holy Sacrifice for and with his people and that this sacrifice demands the sacrifice of himself and that the center of his being must be Christ and Him crucified. This is why, in the words of Romano Guardini, the priest, amidst the joys of being a priest, always carries within his heart “la tristezza così perenne”, the sadness that is always in his heart, for as he offers up the Holy Sacrifice. his heart is rent by the knowledge that the Son of God had to die in such a terrible way for his sins and for the sins of the whole world.

cip16And yet, what we are doing right now is the antidote to the crisis we face. The greatest gift given to the Church in the past fifty years has been Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, giving back to the Church what was wrongfully and arrogantly taken away from her: the Mass of the Tradition of the Catholic Church. Benedict did this because he knew that the heart of the crisis of the Church is the parlous state of the liturgical praxis of the Church that has forgotten that the Mass is for God. It is the worship of God. It is the offering of the Holy Sacrifice, the re-presentation of Calvary. It is not a religious exercise for the people. It is not something for the priest to make up and to make relevant and to make the people happy. It is not an extension of religious education, a didactic exercise.

cip17The Mass is where one enters the Holy of Holies and gives oneself over to the mystery and the love of God. When I was ordained a priest thirty years ago, I never dreamed that I would be celebrating this Mass surrounded by people of faith from all sorts and conditions of men and women. But God is good and faithful. And he has given back to his Church this source of grace and truth, this treasure, the ultimate treasure that is filled with the beauty of God in the distillation of time, of that time impregnated with the astounding event of God becoming man, becoming flesh.

Father cipolla1And what else can we do on this day than be grateful and happy, oh so happy, oh so filled with joy? Especially in this parish church so beautifully made fitting for the coming of God under the veils of bread and wine! And what else can we do than before Holy Communion to echo the centurion’s words from the gospel: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed!

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 Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Blessed John Henry Newman At Sea, 1833

 

 

 

 

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