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 )
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)
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 â€ścoal firedâ€ť power can still be obtained.
So, if Obama and Pope Francis have their way, America will be saying â€śgood byeâ€ť 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 worldâ€™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.