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Table of Contents

A Book Review of Death Comes for the Archbishop
St John Chrysostom, the Eucharistic Doctor
Both Obama and Pope Francis seem to lack Minimal Economic Understanding -
Handling of St. John Chrysosdom in Recent Catholic Books Points to an Anti-Historical Trend -

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A Book Review of Death Comes for the Archbishop

This short book is treasure. The book is set in the southwest during late 1840's and early 1850's.

There is an opening Chapter, set in the Vatican, were a group of Church “big wig’s” are deciding how to move the Catholic parishes in New Mexico and Arizona, then under the control a Mexican bishop, to an America bishop. (This change being necessitated by the ceding of these territories from Mexico to the US following the Mexican American war.) Their decision is to create a new diocese and promote a deserving priest from the Cincinnati diocese to the post.

The story then picks up with the new bishop, Msgr. Jean Marie Latour, and his long time friend, Fr. Joseph Vaillant, who he has named his Vicar General, arriving and acquainting themselves with Santa Fe, their new home, as well as the various parish churches spotted across this vast territory. Since both men had been born in France, there is some interesting interchange about French cooking, spices and vegetables.

They encounter deeply devote Indians who nevertheless have retain some vestiges of native religious practice. They encounter priests who are engaged in sinful practices, such as adultery and theft of Church property. There are two priests who actually attempt to establish an alternative Catholic Church. They come up an evil man whose slave mistress conspires with the two priests to have her master arrested before he succeeds with his plan to kill the priests and sell their animals and belongings.

They encounter Kit Carson and Indians that live in caves dug in the sides of cliffs where they can pull up their ladders if trouble comes. They ride for days across semi-dessert lands without adequate food or water and are only saved by miracles.

Each Chapter in the book could stand as a well written short story, but when they are strung together a picture of two remarkable friends, a priest and a bishop, emerges. These two bring proper ecclesiastical administration to an area that sorely needs it, and through their example of personal devotion, they also bring increased religious furor into the many parishes they touch.

The author, Willa Cather, is considered the best novelist that the State of Nebraska has ever produced. Her powers to describe the people and places of New Mexico in the 1850's is unlikely to be matched by many other writers.

(It should be noted that the first American bishop of Santa Fe was actually named Lamy and he had several cousins who lived in St louis.)

.... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 7/12/14 )

St John Chrysostom, the Eucharistic Doctor -

Basic historic facts -

He was born about 344 and died in 407. His father was a military officer, his mother was very virtueous, and he studied public speaking under a great teacher of that age (Libanius). He suffered from poor health, but was drawn to a life of asceticism in the mountains. However, his health would not allow such a life so he became a priest in the diocese of Antioch. His brilliance and preaching was widely praised. His now famous Mass was first celebrated in Antioch. His renown was so extraordinary he was actually kidnaped outside of Antioch one day by agents of the Emperor and taken to Constantinople where he became Patriarch. He brought his form of the Mass to his new Cathedral, the Hagia Sophia. He was deeply loved by the average member of his flock; however, he continued to preach against lavish living which put him at odds with other important clerics and those around the imperial court.

St John kept up a regular correspondence with Rome over the proper way to handle the various schismatic movements around Asia Minor. A working relationship developed between John, the Patriarch, and the Roman Pope which served both well over the years.

St. John was eventually exiled from Constantinople because of his sermons against lavish living. This exile, while originally to rather comfortable quarters, was intensified. At age 63, he was further exiled to a far frontier of the empire. He died in transit to his new place of exile.

His Eucharistic Teachings and Work -

His teaching on the Eucharist are shaped by his belief that the worst sin is to receive communion with serious unconfessed, unforgiven sin on the soul. His preference was that at Mass the faithful should always envision Christ naked and immolated ..... not nicely clothed while eating with or talking to friends - He said "When Mass is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar."

John followed St Basil whose Mass was the first standardized Divine Liturgy. St Basil’s liturgy had become the standard liturgical format used in the east once the Church was freed from its persecuted status in AD 315.

The Basil liturgy was/is rather long taking about 4 hours to complete. St John came along 50 years later and took on the task of paring that liturgy down to a more manageable length. Once St John’s Mass was finalized the eastern church had a liturgy that took only an hour and a half. This divine liturgy has come down to us today and is known as the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. This Mass is used in the eastern church (both Orthodox and Uniate) for about 90% of all liturgies. Although the liturgy of St Basil is still used in Eastern Churches, it is only used about 30 times a year.

St. John’s Influence in the West -

But why is St John Chrysostom called the Eucharistic Doctor in the west as well as the east. Here it is important to note that St John was very close to the Bishop of Rome and had advised the Pope on many important issues including:

1) how to handle schismatic groups in Christendom. Here St John advocated the use of patience, and love rather than a heavy handed approach,

2) how the church should respond when the Emperor, or any civil ruler, imposes exile on a bishop forcing him out of his See. This problem had affected St John himself who was twice exiled.

3) steady communication on how to best design a doctrinally complete Mass for the Church, both in the Latin west and Greek east, that adequately instilled in the faithful a sense of the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice and the profound union that occurs when the worthy believer receives the host.

The essay is most concerned with the last of these points:

It is almost certain, St John gave the Pope help on preparing the words to be used in the Canon of the Latin Mass as well as the actions and bodily positioning to be used by the priest to convey both the sacrificial and communal aspects of the Mass.

1) By AD 425, after St John’s death, the Mass in its several approved variations was being standardized across the Christian world.

2) the use of lattice screens and iconostasis positioned between the faithful and the priest helped create a sense in the faithful of the infinite mystery and majesty of the liturgy,

3) the repetitive use of the sign of the cross, genuflecting, and the burning incense reinforced these feelings as well,

4) the positioning of the priest facing away from the faithful and toward a dominating crucifix tied all present, the clergy and faithful alike, into a feeling of personal sinfulness, gratitude for the sacrificial action of Christ on the cross, and deep gratitude for the opportunity to receive Christ’s body in communion.

(Historical Note: This standardization of the Mass became very rigid in the west following the Council of Trent (1545 to 1563). This very rigid standardized Mass, called the Tridentian Mass, follows, from the Sanctus to the Communion, almost word for word the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysosdom which been created 1100 years earlier.)


These standardized features remained in the liturgies in both the east and the west until Vatican II when the western Church decided to re-focus on a new format designed to generate a sense of community with the priest speaking the local language and facing the faithful.

This was the western Church’s attempt to re-create the feeling that was perhaps present at the Last Supper. While this is laudatory, it loses the sense of mystery and majesty and deep sense of the forgiveness of sin flowing from Christ’s sacrifice that Basil, Chrysostom and earlier Popes felt were important.

Looked at another way this is perhaps most appropriate for the modern Church because in the twenty first century people are very scientifically aware and tend to resist anything engendering “mystery and majesty”. Additionally, modern men is very psychologically aware so they are more apt to seek “understanding of the causes of mis-behavior” rather than simply acknowledge man’s “sinfulness” and the need for “grace and forgiveness".

However, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Uniate Churches have retained their traditional St. John Chrysostom and St Basil liturgies. ....... (prepared by Hugh Murray 9/15/2015)

Both Obama and Pope Francis seem to lack Minimal Economic Understanding -

Recently Obama and Pope Francis have been singing together on carbon emissions and their desire to help the poor. Both men are possessed of good intentions but little understanding of how the global economy will react to their initiatives.

Consider how companies, that need massive amounts of electrical power, will react when 50% of coal fired power plants are closed down in the 40 plus states that comprise the south, the Midwest, Appalachia, the mountain west and the plains states. These power users are going to experience 50% to 70% rate increases as their local electric utilities are forced to spend massive amounts of capital on less reliable wind and solar power facilities. If electric power represents a significant part of their costs, these plants will have to move to jurisdictions, like China, where cheap “coal fired” power can still be obtained.

So, if Obama and Pope Francis have their way, America will be saying “good bye” to many plants and mines that provide blue collar jobs but also technical and managerial positions not to mention a steady flow of property tax revenue to local school districts, police and fire departments, etc. But an additional problem is the fact that China's coal fired power plants are dirtier than the existing America coal fired plants now scheduled to close. Workers and communities in Christian America are scheduled to be injured while the Communist Chinese and Vietnamese are to be economically bolstered in a way that helps the world’s air get worse. A lose, lose, lose proposal.

The Poverty Ideas -

Turning to the idea that the poor must be helped without careful considerations of what concrete structure should surround that help. In Rerum Novarum ,Pope Leo XIII concretely argued for the idea that workers should be allow to unionize and thus speak as one in negotiating with management.

Today Obama and Pope Francis are simply saying help the poor without qualification or structure - the implication being "give the poor - money, food, housing, and health care"ť. But such giving tends to be directed to poor woman and children with little involvement of the father. This type of support is very destructive to the family unit by making the father, particularly in his role as bread winner, irrelevant.

Consider the funds flow involved in such an un-nuance "give money to the poor approach"ť. The America government is currently unable to pay all its bills. It makes up the shortfall by borrowing money from growing countries, like China. This means year by year America owes more money and interest to others. Simultaneously America has moved factories to these same countries. These relocations eliminate low skilled jobs in America and create jobs in other countries. These relocations also cause a flow of goods from these other countries, goods which show up in stores where American made products were formerly displayed. The American low skilled male workers that are thus displaced find it hard to find jobs just as their families are moved into programs for poor people. The government assistance flows not to the man who was displaced, but to his wife and children. These poor people go to stores and use their government money to buy the goods from countries, like China. Money is now flowing the other way back to countries like China. The difference in the kinds of money flows is striking. America gets loans which must eventually be repaid, while the money flowing out of America is simply a payment for goods purchased.

Now Obama and Pope Francis come along and say we have to give these poor people even more support so more money is spent on the poor and more money is borrowed from other countries, like China. Demand in stores then increases because the poor now have more money, so more goods flow in from offshore counties and more money flows back out to these countries. The imbalance in the money flows gets worse; another lose, lose situation.

What is needed is government policy and papal policy that creates jobs which the typical poor father can do, and where, if needs be, his wage can be subsidized so his family can have a decent standard of living. By creating such jobs, and perhaps subsidizing the low wage, the man and his family benefit from the man becoming once again the economic focal point of the family. This effect on the family is magnified if the other supports for the woman and children are simultaneously reduced . The man gets more respect, his role is honored, he is able to set a good example for his children. So with carefully considered detail proposals Obama and Pope Francis could create a win, win idea out of their current lose, lose idea.

These Problems Taken Together -

Consider the environmental proposal and the poverty proposal taken together. As pointed out earlier the environmental proposal will cause plants and jobs to leave America. This will create more layoffs and more poor people and therefore the need for more payments to poor people. This will increase the need to borrow money from the very countries that got the plants and jobs. Additionally if the overall support for poor people is increased the need to borrow will be even higher.

The symmetry here is informative. Governmental interference in the economy causes private sector decision makers to pull back, there is some economic contraction as the implications are assessed. If two governmental interventions that are mutually re-enforcing, are introduced simultaneously the economic effects can be exponentially damaging.

This effect was seen when the severe 2008 economic recession was compounded by Obama decision to implement a new, all encompassing health care system beginning in 2010. Decision makers in the private sector faced two sets of difficult challenges. Many small businesses just closed down, many larger firms made the decision to flee the US for Mexico or Southeast Asia.

The resulting recovery in the U.S. has therefore been very slow and anemic.

Their Impact on the Rest of the World -

The Pope and Obama should be aware that their views command limited attention in non-western, non-Christian countries. Nevertheless, both men readily give their advice to all. Obama says things like "America may not be able to reduce global warming by itself, but it has a duty to set a good example"ť. While the Pope is prepared to say to the wealthy of the first world "you must sacrifice for the poor not only in your own countries but also those in other countries as well."

The naivety of these two is stunning. Perhaps the Pope can be forgiven; after all he is a smiley spiritual leader who freely admits to little knowledge of economics; but for the leader of a major power to join in is frightening.


Obviously all policy changes that tend to induce more plants to move out of America have to be sidetracked until the available number of low skill jobs dramatically increases. Further this country needs to consider quotas and/or tariffs to restrict the number of imports produced by off shore low skilled workers. America needs to quietly say to countries currently producing these products "America has a need to keep lots of these jobs at home"ť. Accordingly they should understand why these quotas and/or tariffs are needed to accomplish this deserving goal.

In closing, it is obvious that Obama and Pope Francis have not thought through the full economic impact of their proposals. .... .(prepared by Hugh Murray on 9/28/2015)

Handling of St. John Chrysosdom in Recent Catholic Books Points to an Anti-Historical Trend -

St. John Chrysosdom is the Catholic Doctor of the Eucharist. One might say, he is the patron saint or chief designer of Mass. Today 90% of the Masses celebrated in the eastern church follow the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysosdom. From 1600 to 1970 all the Masses said in the western church followed the wording created for this Divine Liturgy during from the Sanctus to the Communion. However, the design of the Mass has been a particularly sensitive issue in the Western Church since Vatican II. Herein lies the seed of a questionable anti-historical trend.

A Little Background -

Following Vatican II the western Catholic church, but not the eastern church, decided to do a wholesale re-design of the Mass rejecting nearly all the traditional language and ritual practice that had been integral to the western Mass for 1600 years. Many, perhaps most, of these older design features, had grown out of the work of St John Chrysosdom done in the late 4th century.

Essentially the Vatican II liturgical experts decided to create a Mass designed to recall the feelings that had been present at the Last Supper. But the traditional Mass as designed in the 4th century, as the Church emerged from its persecuted status, had incorporated both the feelings engendered by the Last Supper and as well as the Crucifixion. When Vatican II dropped most of the feelings engendered by the Crucifixion, it fundamentally changed the tone and thrust of the Mass.

Once the New Mass was understood to be a fundamentally different kind of Mass, many local liturgists began to experiment with the wording used, with ritual practices used, and with the music used. Two popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI worked diligently to correct obvious errors in wording and to declaim against liturgical abuses in music and practices that had sprung up. However, it was impossible to bring the New Mass back into any kind of alignment with the Traditional Mass.

Supporters of the New Mass have steadfastly maintained the Vatican II Mass is actually a correction of improper features that have been introduced into the Mass over the centuries. Further they hold that the New Mass gives the Church at long last a correct Mass. Supporters of the New Mass had gone so far as to induce Bishops to positively ban the saying of the Traditional Mass. Fortunately the recent Popes have ordered that local bishops make the Traditional Mass available in their locales. The response of local bishops has been spotty. Some offer one Traditional Mass per week at a single location in their diocese. Others have been more accommodating.

What Does this Mean for the Reputation of St John Chrysosdom? -

In the post Vatican II period, some Catholic authors, who have a reason to write about early church leaders, have handled St John’s contribution very circumferentially. These authors write him up sometimes at great length with little or no mention of the Mass and yet his title is Eucharist Doctor. They finesse this by leaving out his doctrinal title and then focusing on St John’s lesser statements about the other sacraments particularly Holy Orders and Matrimony (see: Living the Mysteries - A guide for Unfinished Christians by Scott Hahn and Mike Aquilina (2003)) . Others, who are writing shorter pieces, simply change his title from Doctor of the Eucharist to Doctor of Sacred Orators. It is true St John was a great orator but for 16 centuries his contribution was manifest in the Mass not public speaking. (see: Lives of the Saints by Rev. Hugo Hoever (1999)). Still others who assemble quotations from early fathers intentionally select quotes that bear of all things expect the Mass. Through selective use of quotations such authors can give the impression that St John was a great Catholic thinker without touching on his greatest quotes and works which deal with the Mass as a means to recall Christ’s death on the Cross. (see: The Thirty Three Doctors of the Church – by Rev. Fr. Christopher Rengers O.F.M.Cap. (2000)).

In sum, St John’s reputation and great contributions are being reduced, reinterpreted and changed so that the New Mass might be presented to the average Catholic without a need for any historical context. These New Mass advocates see the Mass as a ritual practice that began on Holy Thursday and then suddenly appeared in modern life essentially unchanged.

Conclusion -

Someone in the Vatican has to require that articles and books that mention St John Chrysosdom and want a Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur bring out his great contribution the Church’s development of the Mass, in particular, and Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday, more generally. However, it is unlikely to happen.

Today the Church does not seem to want to 1) focus on its 2000 year history or 2) emphasize the reality of sin and the need for sacramental grace, repentance and forgiveness. However, St John’s Mass is a huge historical reality and does emphasize the reality of sin and the need for sacramental grace, repentance and forgiveness. This chasm is huge and needs to be addressed. ................ (prepared by Hugh Murray on 9/17/2015)


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This page hopes to bring a common sense, old fashioned view to today's news. The comments displayed on this page were prepared by Hugh V. Murray, who can be reached at hvm@aol.com