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Bigotry

Miriam Webster defines a bigot as a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

Bigotry is not limited to one political party or religious group, it is not limited to one gender, one race, one color or one nationality. It is also not limited to race relations. People who are intolerant of other people’s ideas and/or beliefs are bigots.

Bigots are arrogant. Bigots assume they are right, that their point of view is the only view to take and that everyone should believe as they believe. Bigots are so assured of their own rightness, they do not see their intolerance of another’s point of view. They have an inability to see good in those who disagree with them, and are unable to forgive or even see the need for forgiveness. These traits are common of bigots. When a bigot is confronted with someone who refuses to agree with them they resort to anger and name calling. There is nothing joyful or beautiful about the rants of a bigot.

Bigots don’t see themselves as bigots. Like the TV personality, Archie Bunker, they are oblivious to their own prejudices although they see the biases of others very clearly.

Bigots use emotionally charged negative labels to condemn certain people or groups. Current popular labels are “Racist and Nazi.” This, apparently, relieves the bigot of the burden of doing anything to correct unwanted behavior or to explain – rationally – why they have applied that label to that person or group.  For the bigot, the label is enough. Then they attack the label.

The news and entertainment industries thrive on bigotry. Entertainers depend on exposing and deriding prejudices, especially in comedy. Comedians constantly rely on bigotry for source material.

We all are susceptible to being bigots. The trick is to realize that our prejudices and biases are getting in the way of rational thought. Everyone and anyone can be a bigot. It takes very little effort to be a bigot. Calling people or groups names or giving them negative labels is a choice. It allows bigots to feel vindicated in their prejudices. A verbal lashing out may vent anger but the result is to incite anger and intolerance. Bigotry spews hate, divisiveness, anger and violence. It is destructive. It is easy to say and difficult to take back.  It empowers evil.

The only antidote to bigotry is rationality (as opposed to emotionalism), a willingness to hear the other side of an issue, forgiveness and acceptance. It takes an act of will to decide not to act on prejudices and judge-mentalism. It takes a strong person to avoid natural tendencies to strike out against opposing views. Anyone can avoid acting on prejudices. It takes a mature person to avoid bigotry.

Using my own definition, I am a bigot. I have very rigid views about my passions and I will argue my point of view until my listener is either exhausted, starts personal attacks or we agree to disagree and avoid that topic in future. Having been trained in the sciences and philosophy, I am dedicated to logical reasoning. I am suspicious of emotional thinking and have no idea how to respond. When the discussant goes off point (bringing in the kitchen sink) to try to prove a point, this is a sure sign of an emotional thinker. If they can’t argue/discuss rationally, they resort to emotion.

I am convinced of, and totally dedicated to, my faith, which I find eminently logical. I find it difficult to follow the logic of different faiths. I have trouble with those who believe it is OK to pick and choose which faith teaching they will accept. When someone attacks the Pope, for example, expecting him to tell the world in one tweet or less what they are to believe as Catholics, I see someone who is ignorant about Catholicism and the Pope. So, I try to educate them. They are not grateful.

I find it difficult to accept that two people can see the same set of facts and arrive at different conclusions about those facts. If two cardiologists looked at lab tests and X-rays and came up with competing diagnosis, I would assume they do not use the same frame of reference. If two anatomists or forensic anthropologists looked at the same skeleton and interpreted their findings differently, I would look for some bias influencing or directing their decision-making. We expect two people trained in the same area to see the data similarly.

I have little patience with deliberate ignorance (as opposed to mental deficiency); people who make no effort to educate themselves about the things they protest. This includes ignorance of history (especially the history of their own country) and basic science (such as biology), both subjects taught in elementary and high school.

I find myself shifting into my teacher mode when faced with an example of obvious ignorance of things I know about. I have friends who have tried to explain their DNA results to me. From the things they say, they have not heard of genetics and know little about its principles. Genetics is an advanced science, taught in colleges, so I can’t really blame their ignorance. But when they try to teach me the rationale behind DNA and demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge about genetics, I get impatient.

Many people don’t really want information, especially if it affects their argument. I, however, persist in trying to cram some facts into their consciousness. This stubborn persistence of mine is bigotry.

I know I should be more accepting of ignorance, and I do let many things go by, but sometimes I just can’t resist teaching. When people advocate eliminating colleges and universities, I feel the need to tell them what would happen if there were no colleges or universities. They have not thought through the fact that all the professions (medicine, law, nursing, pharmacy) are taught in universities. Engineering, space technology, archaeology, forensic sciences, would be gone. When I am told advanced education should be free, I try to point out some of the budget line items of universities and colleges. If tuition is eliminated, these expenses still need to be covered for universities to continue to exist. I try to tell them the difference between required courses, electives and fluff. Those with an emotional attachment to their slogans do not listen to anything I say. I try to provide information, but I do eventually quit trying.

I am not alone in being intolerant and impatient with ignorance. Frequently, I am chastised on Facebook when I am not familiar with popular TV or U-Tube programs. I am not quite sure why I am being treated with such contempt for my ignorance of these programs, but they are obviously as important to my critic as theories, colleges and universities are to me. We come from different generations, different walks of life, different life experiences and different expectations of others. We are both bigots.

One of my pet peeves is the widespread misuse of the word “theory.” In science, a theory is an explanation of known facts and how they interact. In common usage ‘theory’ means either ‘speculation,’ ‘hypothesis,’ ‘guess,’ or ‘hunch.’ So, when people say, “But it’s only a theory,” my hackles rise and I immediately shift into teacher mode. They obviously do not know what a theory is. Attacks on the theory of evolution gets my attention quickly, especially when the attacker doesn’t seem to have any idea what the word ‘evidence’ means that gave rise to the theory.  They want it all explained in a Tweet. They remain convinced that a theory is just a guess. (Chesterton does not believe in evolution and takes pages and pages to explain why. In the end, I do not find him convincing and so retain my support for evolution.) Others, have different pet peeves that irritate them as much as misusing the word ‘theory’ irritates me. But descending into a morass of name calling or belittling the other is not the answer. If we could just stick to the idea without resorting to attacking the person, we would be better off.

Although I am a confessed bigot, I try to avoid personal attacks and calling people derogatory names. I try to convince by reasoning rather than emotional attacks. Where I fail miserably is when I try to point out how another person’s argument is illogical or that they are thinking emotionally rather than rationally.  My deep-seated need to educate/teach causes me to pursue a topic to exhaustion. This is where I need to keep my mouth shut and let others believe what they want to believe. This is when I need to be accepting and tolerant. I may still be a bigot, but I try not to demand that others agree with me – or else!

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Books, Films and Articles about the Rescue of Prisoners of War in the Los Banos Internment Camp, Philippines, February 23, 1945.

The following are urls taken from the first page of the Google search for the World War II raid on Los Banos Internment Camp in the Philippines. . It was the most successful raid during WWII and is almost entirely forgotten. No prisoners’ lives were lost.  My own story is here: https://www.amazon.com/Only-Grace-God-Pamela-Brink/dp/148084070X/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Raid on Los Baños: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0402467/

World War II: Liberating Los Baños Internment Camp: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062325068/rescue-at-los-banos

The Los Baños Raid: The Angels of the 11th Airborne Jump At Dawn: http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-los-banos-raid/

Raid on Los Baños – The WW2 Prison Camp Rescue That History Forgot http://militaryhistorynow.com/2015/04/08/raid-on-los-banos-the-ww2-prison-camp-rescue-that-history-forgot/

The Los Baños Raid  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsldlkOPu3I

THE LOS BANOS RAID http://www.thedropzone.org/pacific/Ringler.html

Rescue at Los Baños  https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062325068/rescue-at-los-banos

Rescue at Dawn: The Los Banos Raid (2004)   http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0402467/

Raid on Los Baños – Wikipedia   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raid_on_Los_Baños

World War II: Liberating Los Baños Internment Camp  http://www.historynet.com/world-war-ii-liberating-los-banos-internment-camp.htm

 

What is so Special about Medjugorje? Thirty Years and Counting

Marian Apparitions are part of the Catholic experience. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of reported sightings of Mary over the centuries. Each case is examined by the church: first by the local parish, then by the local bishop before being sent to the Vatican. At each level, the authenticity of the vision is declared valid prior to being promoted. Some apparitions are to only one person, some are single visions to more than one person; some are multiple but time-limited sightings by one or more persons, still others are ongoing apparitions to one person, approved by the local bishop; and still others are ongoing, unapproved apparitions to more than one person. The apparitions at Medjugorje fit in the last category.

The vast majority of claimed apparitions have not been approved by the Vatican at some level. Many apparitions occurred before there was any way to test the visionary, so their trance states could not be verified by scientific instrumentation. Claims were verified by other means. The messages received had to be in accordance with Catholic teaching. The stories and messages could not vary over time. The visionary was expected to have a change in behavior, becoming more pious and God-centered. Many were expected to enter a religious order. If a visionary was found in an immoral act, this invalidated a supernatural claim. A deep and lasting conversion experience was requisite to believing the visionary.  Finally, what the church calls “fruits” (good things that happened, such as conversions) as a direct verifiable result of the apparitions, are also examined.  If these manifestations are miraculous and from God, then other people will experience some form of conversion too.

Medjugorje is an ongoing phenomena that has lasted over thirty years. The apparitions began during the communist rule of Yugoslavia. Since religion was discouraged, visionaries were also discouraged in Communist countries.  It is rare for a Marian apparition to occur in a communist country and become famous. (Fatima is one and Medjugorje is another.) In fact, the children of Medjugorje were imprisoned to force them to change their stories. They did not. The children were commanded to stay away from the mountain where they were having their daily visions. They were threatened in many ways. They did not change their stories.

A local Franciscan priest protected them from abuse and allowed them to meet at the parish church every day at the time when they usually had their visions. Their visions continued unabated. Later the authorities forced them out of the church so they met in a room at the priest’s house.

During the early years, the children were subjected to numerous biomedical tests while they were in a trance state. As the news of the apparitions spread beyond their little village, their lives came under the unending close scrutiny of the media, church officials, tourists and pilgrims. Their only recourse to privacy was in their own homes. Otherwise they were constantly besieged by hordes of people. This intense scrutiny remains unabated.

As the children grew to adulthood, most married. Some no longer make their permanent residence in Medjugorje. Their visions continue as of this writing, albeit no longer daily. See the book by Mirjana Soldo, My Heart will Triumph, for a description of the lives of the visionaries since the first vision.

To date, the visionaries and the apparitions have been approved only at the local parish level. There was some talk that the Bishop of Mostar, the diocese that included Medjugorje, and the Franciscans, who were in charge of the Medjugorje parish, were in disagreement with each other long before the children and their visions. Because of this ongoing disagreement, the bishop refused the findings of the parish as well as the scientific tests. I don’t know whether or not this story is just gossip, but Medjugorje has since been re-assigned to a different diocese and a different bishop. In addition, the Vatican has taken over the validation process for Medjugorje. The story is not yet over.

There has been no official statement on the unusual happenings reported by pilgrims. People have been permanently cured of devastating illnesses. Rosaries have turned to gold. Many observed the sun dance in the sky – not just once but several times. The conversion stories are innumerable.

Many Catholic clerics have made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Some have been Bishops. In parishes and diocese around the world, Archbishops, Bishops and Pastors have either supported or discouraged pilgrimages to Medjugorje. Some discouraged pilgrimages because of the lack of Vatican approval. Some discourage it because they don’t believe in pilgrimages in general as having much lasting impact on anyone’s spiritual life. Others encourage these pilgrimages saying, if it increases the faith life of the people, it is a good thing. Just recently, Pope Francis lifted the ban on parishes and diocese organizing pilgrimages to Medjugorje.

Medjugorje is the only well-known currently long-term Marian apparition. Mary continues to give messages every month. There was some speculation that the Vatican intended to release the findings of its investigations in 2013. To date, the Vatican has not released its findings. Logically, if the Apparitions were deemed false or from Satan, they would have been condemned. Since they have not been condemned, we can assume the findings were uniformly positive.

Until the apparitions cease, a final validation by the Vatican will not be made. This ruling is based upon previous apparitions which were time limited. Interestingly, the Vatican’s rigid adherence to its own rules, which only apply to short term experiences, negates Jesus teaching and condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees for their rigid adherence to rules since they did not consider the needs of the people.

Saint Pope John Paul II interviewed all the visionaries. There is no evidence that either Pope Benedict XVI or Pope Francis has ever done so. In fact, Pope John Paul II privately commented that he wished he could go to Medjugorje. Unfortunately, he too was bound by the Vatican rules to not approve apparitions until they have ended.

Many dismiss Medjugorje without considering the evidence or reading about it. They toss off flippant remarks such as, “Our Lady is not a postman who drops off messages.” If Medjugorje is true, these kinds of comments are most disrespectful to the Mother of God.

Fatima was time limited and accomplished great things. Medjugorje is an extension of Fatima, but the Vatican pays no attention.

It seems to me that the lack of Vatican acknowledgement of Medjugorje as real and worthy of veneration, demonstrates a battle of wills between Our Lady and the Vatican. She keeps insisting her visits are real. She keeps calling Catholics to prayer and fasting. She says that once her visits end in Medjugorje, she will no longer appear on earth. Also, she says she will leave a visible sign to prove her visits are real. If the Vatican waits for that day, so many graces for so many people will have been lost.

If this is indeed a battle of wills, I am confident Our Lady of Peace will win!

English Translations of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13

The Lord’s prayer is found in more than one Gospel. This version is found in Matthew Chapter 6:9-13. The versions are taken from Bible Gateway. Although there are more English translations, this list is the same as the one found in Luke 10, referenced in my previous post, except for the New Jerusalem Bible, which is missing. The Douay-Rheims version is the closest to the prayer Catholics say at Mass every day except for verse 11 which says “supersubstantial bread” rather than “daily bread.”

New King James Version (NKJV)

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

Thus therefore shall you pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.

American Standard Version (ASV)

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. 11 Give us this day [a]our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV)

Therefore pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. 13 Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’

Good News Translation (GNT)

This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven:
May your holy name be honored;
10 may your Kingdom come;
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need.
12 Forgive us the wrongs we have done,
as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.
13 Do not bring us to hard testing,
but keep us safe from the Evil One.

New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

 This is how you are to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10     your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
11     Give us today our daily bread;
12     and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
13     and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized (NRSVA)

‘Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10     Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11     Give us this day our daily bread.
12     And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13     And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

“Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10     Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11     Give us this day our daily bread.
12     And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13     And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

Wycliffe Bible (WYC)

And thus ye shall pray, Our Father that art in heavens, hallowed be thy name;

10 thy kingdom come to; be thy will done in earth as it is in heaven[a];

11 give to us this day our each day’s bread;

12 and forgive to us our debts, as we forgive to our debtors;

13 and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

New King James Version (NKJV)

In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Once again, the English translations of the Lord’s Prayer vary. The idea remains the same but the wording differs.

 

The Variety of English Translations of the Lord’s Prayer found in Luke 11

Pope Francis has announced that the English translation of the Lord’s prayer, used by Catholics, will be revised based upon a review of the original Greek. I went to Bible Gateway, a very useful on-line site that provides many translations of the Bible. I was surprised to see how many different English translations that are already in existence. I am listing some of them here. Some are Catholic editions, some are Protestant.

The English translation commonly learned and used by Catholics for both personal and liturgical prayer is:

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

King James Version (KJV)

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.

American Standard Version (ASV)

Father, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And bring us not into temptation.

Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV)

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

English Standard Version (ESV)

 Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.

Good News Translation (GNT)

 Father: May your holy name be honored; may your Kingdom come. Give us day by day the food we need. Forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who does us wrong. And do not bring us to hard testing.

New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized Catholic Edition (NRSVACE)

Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.

Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.

Wycliffe Bible (WYC)

 Father [Father ours], hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come to; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give to us to day our each day’s bread. And forgive to us our sins, as [and] we forgive to each man that oweth to us [as and we forgive to each owing to us]. And lead us not into temptation.

New King James Version (NKJV)

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.

THE NEW JERUSALEM BIBLE

Father, may your name be held holy. Your kingdom come; give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us. And do not put us to the test.

All these translations use different words, giving the impression that the concept is different, but they generally say the same thing. Each translation is an attempt to provide more clarity for the English speaker. Whether they do or not is questionable. The history behind each of these translations also varies. I do not know which, if any, go back to the original Greek. The original Douay Rheims was a translation of the original Latin.

Praying The Rosary

Roman Catholics pray the Rosary. Most Protestants don’t.

The Rosary is a string of beads and a crucifix. At the crucifix and at each bead a specific prayer is said. The prayers are well known to all Catholics: the Apostles Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Doxology or “Glory be . ,” the Hail Holy Queen, and the Fatima prayer (Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save all souls from hell, especially those in most need of your mercy.)

The Rosary prayer always starts with the sign of the cross: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Then the Credo is said. So, the Rosary begins with a declaration of faith.

A single bead is next to the crucifix on which the Our Father is said. It is set apart from the other beads. It is the prayer Jesus taught his apostles to say, so Catholics reverence this prayer.

On the next 3 beads, clustered together, the Hail Mary is said on each, requesting the gifts of faith, hope and love (or charity).

Although the Our Father is familiar to all Christians, the Hail Mary is not. The Hail Mary is half biblical quote, and half prayer. The first half of the prayer comes from Luke (1:28, 42) “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”  The second half says, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”

After these Three beads the Doxology is said in this form: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Amen.”

These are the introductory prayers.

Next comes a single bead set off from the following ten beads. On the single bead is said the Our Father. The Hail Mary is said on the next ten beads followed by the Doxology and the Fatima prayer. The Rosary is composed of five of these sets.

At the end of these five sets of beads, the last prayer of the Rosary is the Hail Holy Queen.: “Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope, to you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears; turn then most gracious Advocate, your eyes and ears toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. Oh clement, oh loving, oh sweet Virgin Mary! Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.”

This prayer is based upon the belief that Mary, who is in heaven with her son (see Heaven is for Real where Mary stands beside her son.), intercedes for us just as she did at the wedding at Cana, and as Bathsheba (as Queen Mother) interceded for supplicants to her son, Solomon. Catholics believe that Mary is our mother just as she is Jesus’ mother. We believe that when Jesus gave his mother into the care of John, as his mother, so too he gave her to all the rest of us as our mother. We ask for her help. Just as we ask our living friends to pray for us when we need prayers, we ask Mary to pray for us because we believe she is as alive today in heaven as she was on earth.

Some people refuse to acknowledge that the Rosary is an efficacious prayer because it is repetitive. They say that Jesus said not to pray like the Gentiles who repeat meaningless words as prayers.  But the Credo, Our Father, Hail Mary, Doxology, and Fatima prayer are not meaningless words.

The Rosary is repetitive on purpose. Catholics take seriously Jesus’ parable about the man seeking food from his neighbor. As Jesus said, the neighbor will get up and give him food because he kept knocking at the door – he would not go away. In the same way, Jesus also reminded his followers of the story of the woman who kept insisting that the judge hear her case and give her justice. The judge finally heard her case to make her go away. In other words, Jesus encouraged his followers to be tenacious in their prayer. The Rosary is a persistent prayer.

Some Catholics do not like to say the Rosary because of its repetitiveness. They get bored. So, the Church has given them something to think about while saying these prayers. For those blessed with an imagination, the following meditations are siggested: for the first Rosary of five sets of Hail Mary’s, the Church suggests thinking about the infancy stories of Jesus found in Luke: the Annunciation/Incarnation; the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth; the birth of Jesus; Jesus presentation in the temple; and last, finding of the boy Jesus in the temple.  On each of these five sets of ten beads (called a decade), try to imagine each story. These are referred to as the Joyous Mysteries because each story has a moment of joy.

For the second Rosary of five sets, think about Jesus’ public life and ministry: His baptism, the wedding at Cana, the proclamation of the kingdom (his entire ministry), the Transfiguration, and finally the institution of the Eucharist. These are referred to as the Luminous Mysteries or the mysteries of the light.

The third set focuses on Jesus’ passion and death: The Garden of Gethsemane, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning of thorns, the carrying of the cross, and finally Jesus’ crucifixion and death. These are called the Sorrowful Mysteries.

The final set of five meditations begins with the Resurrection, followed by the Ascension, then the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, followed by Mary’s being taken up to heaven, and last Mary being crowned Queen of Heaven as described in the Book of Revelation. These are the Glorious Mysteries.

The Rosary requires a knowledge of the New Testament. If you don’t know the stories about Jesus, or his teachings, it’s hard to have anything to think about. Not only are the prayers based upon the Scripture, so are all the meditations. The Rosary covers Jesus entire life.

Since the Rosary is a meditative prayer, it cannot be said amid noise. It requires quiet. It takes about fifteen minutes so say one Rosary. It soothes, quiets down the mind and emotions, leaves the person feeling peaceful. Saying the Rosary does not require the beads, it can be said, ticking off each prayer on the fingers.  Some Catholic priests have made their rosary from the bits of bread they had been given to eat as prisoners of the Chinese Communists.

Sometimes we run out of things to say to Jesus, but we want to keep in contact, we want to continue praying. The Rosary is a great help.

There are those who say that the Rosary must be said with love or it is meaningless. Or, as some prefer to say, the Rosary must be prayed “from the heart” to have any value. These are discouraging remarks and keep people from even trying. I agree with G. K. Chesterton who said, “Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing badly.” In other words, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing. No matter how well or how poorly said, praying the Rosary is definitely worth doing.

Catholic Devotion to Jesus’ Mother Mary

Devotion to Jesus’ mother is as old as the Catholic Church. When Jesus began his active ministry and traveled all over the Galilee, Judea and beyond, Mary often traveled with him. She was no stranger to his friends. The Catholic Church takes the biblical passages about her very seriously and over the centuries has bestowed upon her various titles that reflect those roots. The Catholic teaching about Mary is logical.

Biblical Roots

We learn about Mary primarily from Matthew (1-2) and Luke (1-2). Both open their Gospels with the infancy narratives. We are told in John 2:1-12  of the wedding at Cana and in John 19, that Mary was present at the foot of the cross.

Mary was Conceived without Original Sin

Catholics believe that every human since Adam and Eve have been conceived with Original Sin. The sins of disobedience and pride that caused Adam and Even to disobey God’s command, has been passed down to all their offspring – us. The sacrament of Baptism, washes away that original sin and brings people back into God’s grace.

The angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the words: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Gabriel’s description of Mary as “full of grace,” meant that she was without sin of any kind. She was born sinless. This is the basis for her title “Immaculate Conception.” Only a sinless person could conceive, carry and bear the Divine. To be singled out by God, from all possible generations, to bear His son, is a significant honor. To image that God would single out a sinful woman to bear his son is unthinkable. To imagine that the woman who was to raise and educate the Son of God could commit sin after she gave birth is equally unthinkable. All Christian faiths agree that Jesus was sinless. How can a sinless person be raised by a sinful person? It makes no sense. God would not allow it.

God chose to take on human form, to live as a human, to experience what all humans experience. To accomplish this, he had to be born of a woman. The woman who carries and gives birth to the divine must herself be pure, in every sense of the word. She had to be a virgin as God’s birth was the greatest thing the world has seen. God chose a sinless virgin so that He, Himself, could “open” Mary’s womb.

Mary is the New Eve

Matthew often says that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old (The Jewish Scripture). Mary’s sinlessness has its parallel in Genesis. Eve was created without sin. (If Adam and Eve committed the first sin, we must assume that they were sinless prior to that moment.) God promised the serpent (Gen 3:15) “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” If “offspring” refers to Jesus, then “the woman” is clearly Mary.

Mary, the mother of Jesus (the new Adam), could not be more sinful than Eve.

Mary as the Ark of the Covenant

When Mary visited her pregnant cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-43), John, her unborn son, leaped for joy in her womb on recognizing Christ in Mary’s womb. Since we assume Mary set out immediately to visit Elizabeth after the Annunciation, the fetus, Jesus, could not have been more than five weeks old at the time.

The Ark of the Covenant held God. David danced before the Ark of the Covenant. Mary’s body held God in the person of Jesus. John danced in his mother’s womb when the newly pregnant Mary came to visit. (Ark of the Covenant.)

Mary was a Perpetual Virgin

The Catholic Church assumes Mary’s perpetual virginity. Nothing that held the divine can subsequently hold something conceived with original sin. Only by God’s grace did Mary live an unsullied, sinless life. Although there is reference to Jesus “mother and brothers and sisters,” nowhere in the Bible is there any reference to any other children of Mary. Mention is made only of Jesus’ relatives. For example, James is often called “the brother of Jesus.” In the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, there is no word for “cousin.” Cousins are called brothers and sisters. So, the reference to Jesus “brothers and sisters” was probably about Jesus’ cousins. There is also the ancient belief, found in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (Chapter 8), that Joseph was a widower when he married Mary and that he had had children by his first wife. The reference to “brothers and sisters” may refer to Joseph’s children. Mary had only one child. (Mary’s Perpetual Virginity.)

Mary as the Mother of God

If Jesus is divine, then logically Mary, as his human mother, is “Mother of God.” In fact, Elizabeth called Mary “Mother of My Lord.” (Luke 1:43)

Mary as the Mother of the Church

Throughout the Gospels, Mary was present. When Jesus was dying (John 19:26-27) he looked down from the cross and addressed his mother with the words “Woman here is your son” referring to the “beloved disciple.” Then turning to this disciple, he said “Here is your mother.” (Now in Jewish custom, a widow was helpless if she did not have a male relative to care for her, whether a son or a husband. If Mary had other sons, and if Jesus had other brothers, it would have been unthinkable that Jesus would have given his mother into the care of a non-relative.) With these simple words, using the last of his breath, Jesus gave Mary to all humans (as represented by the beloved disciple) as mother. For some reason, many people disregard this passage and do not connect it with the passage about Jesus’ mothers and brothers.

Mary is the Queen Mother

Solomon was a King of Israel. The kings of Israel, like their counterparts, had many wives. Who was to be queen? They solved this problem by making the king’s mother the Queen Mother. Solomon showed to his mother, Bathsheba, great deference. (1 Kings 2:18-20) He bowed to her. He placed her at his right hand. He asked her opinion when judging and administering the land. People would go to Bathsheba and ask her to intervene for them with Solomon. As a good son, he always granted her requests.

Just as the citizens of Israel went to Bathsheba to solicit her assistance in their requests to Solomon, Catholics ask Mary to intercede with her son. If Mary asks Jesus, he is sure to listen, just as Solomon listened to his mother and granted her requests. Does this mean that Catholics ignore Jesus or God or the Holy Spirit? No. Catholics pray to the divine but also ask Mary to “pray for us.” (see the second half of the Hail Mary.)

Mary as Advocate

John’s Gospel tells the story of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-9) when the hosts were running out of wine. (Since wedding feasts in Jesus’ day lasted a week, this was a problem.) Mary noticed what needed doing and told her son, “They have no wine.” His immediate response was “this is no concern of mine.” Mary, knowing her son intimately, went to the wine stewards and told them to “do whatever he tells you.” Jesus lavishly turned gallons of water into wine – because his mother asked him to.

If Jesus complied with his mother’s wishes while he was alive, why would he refuse her requests in heaven?

Mary as Role Model

Gabriel politely asked Mary if she would be willing to assume the awesome task of bearing and raising God’s son. Mary’s fiat, “Be it done to me according to thy word,” (Luke 1:38) her complete acceptance of the will of God is considered the epitome of Christian behavior – to cooperate with God’s will, freely.

Respect for Mary as the Mother of Jesus

Those who love and respect their mothers, would be very hurt if their closest friends ignored her, treated her badly or disrespectfully. Mothers are to be treated with love, kindness, patience, and respect. Can anyone doubt that Jesus would see it differently? For those who believe that Jesus is a friend, as well as Lord, why ignore His mother? Ignoring Mary is being disrespectful to Jesus. Christians can no more ignore Jesus’ mother today than the Apostles could have when Jesus was alive. Yet many believe that Mary ‘gets in the way’ of their relationship with Jesus. They see Mary as a distraction rather than as a helper. They do not see that she loves them just as she loved “the beloved disciple” and all the other disciples of Jesus. Now she is in heaven she can love even more and be of greater help. It’s hard to imagine anyone ignoring the mother of the beloved, but it is true.

Catholic devotion to Mary is richly deserved. Granted, Mary was a human person. She did, however, conceive, bear and raise the Divine. An honor reserved only to her. The respect given to her by the Catholic Church is reasonable. Where would Christianity be without her?

 

Catholic Devotion to Jesus’ Mother Mary

Devotion to Jesus’ mother is as old as Christianity. When Jesus began his active ministry and traveled all over the Galilee, Judea and beyond, Mary often traveled with him. She was no stranger to his friends. The Catholic Church takes the biblical passages about her very seriously and over the centuries has bestowed upon her various titles that reflect those roots.

Biblical Roots 

We learn about Mary primarily from Matthew (1-2) and Luke (1-2). Both open their Gospels with the infancy narratives. We are told in John 2:1-12  of the wedding at Cana and in John 19, that Mary was present at the foot of the cross.

Mary was Conceived without Original Sin

Catholics believe that every human since Adam and Eve have been conceived with Original Sin. The sins of disobedience and pride that caused Adam and Even to disobey God’s command, has been passed down to all their offspring. The sacrament of Baptism, washes away that original sin and brings people back into God’s grace.

The angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the words: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Gabriel’s description of Mary as “full of grace,” meant that she was without sin of any kind. She was born sinless. This is the basis for her title “Immaculate Conception.” Only a sinless person could conceive, carry and bear the Divine. To be singled out by God, from all possible generations, to bear His Son, is a significant honor. To imagine that God would single out a sinful woman to bear his son is unthinkable.

God chose to take on human form, to live as a human, to experience what all humans experience. To accomplish this, he had to be born of a woman. The woman who carries and gives birth to the divine must herself be pure, in every sense of the word. She had to be a virgin, as God’s birth was the greatest thing the world has seen. God chose a sinless virgin so that He, Himself, could “open” Mary’s womb.

To imagine that the woman who was to raise and educate the Son of God could commit sin after she gave birth is equally unthinkable. All Christian faiths agree that Jesus was sinless. How can a sinless person be raised by a sinful person? God would not allow it.

Mary is the New Eve 

Matthew often says that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old (The Jewish Scripture). Mary’s sinlessness has its parallel in Genesis. Eve was created without sin. (If Adam and Eve committed the first sin, we must assume that they were sinless prior to that moment.) God promised the serpent (Gen 3:15) “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” If “offspring” refers to Jesus, then “the woman” is clearly Mary.

Mary, the mother of Jesus (the new Adam), could not be more sinful than Eve.

Mary as the Ark of the Covenant

When Mary visited her pregnant cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-43), John, her unborn son, leaped for joy in her womb on recognizing Christ in Mary’s womb. Since we assume Mary set out immediately to visit Elizabeth after the Annunciation, the fetus, Jesus, could not have been more than five weeks old at the time.

The Ark of the Covenant held God. David danced before the Ark of the Covenant. Mary’s body held God in the person of Jesus. John danced in his mother’s womb when the newly pregnant Mary came to visit. (Ark of the Covenant.)

Mary was a Perpetual Virgin 

Unlike Protestant theology, the Catholic Church assumes Mary’s perpetual virginity. Nothing that held the divine can subsequently hold something conceived with original sin. Only by God’s grace did Mary live an unsullied, sinless life. Although there is reference to Jesus “mother and brothers and sisters,” nowhere in the Bible is there any reference to any other children of Mary. Mention is made only of Jesus’ relatives. In Hebrew and Aramaic, there is no word for “cousin.” Cousins were called brothers and sisters. So the reference to Jesus “brothers and sisters” was probably in reference to Jesus’ cousins. There is also the ancient belief, found in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (Chapter 8), that Joseph was a widower when he married Mary and that he had had children by his first wife. The reference to “brothers and sisters” may refer to Joseph’s children. Mary had only one child. (Mary’s Perpetual Virginity.)

Mary is the Mother of God

If Jesus is divine, then logically Mary, as his human mother, is “Mother of God.” In fact, Elizabeth called Mary “Mother of My Lord.” (Luke 1:43)

Mary is the Mother of the Church 

Throughout the Gospels, Mary was present. When Jesus was dying (John 19:26-27) he looked down from the cross and addressed his mother with the words “Woman here is your son” referring to the “beloved disciple.” Then turning to this disciple, he said “Here is your mother.” (In Jewish custom, a widow was helpless if she did not have a male relative to care for her, whether a son or a husband. If Mary had other sons, and if Jesus had other brothers, Jesus would never have given his mother into the care of a non-relative.) With these simple words, using the last of his breath, Jesus gave Mary to all humans (as represented by the beloved disciple) as mother. For some reason, many Protestant sects disregard this passage and do not connect it with the passage about Jesus’ mothers and brothers.

Islam, in contrast, has a great devotion to Jesus’ mother.

Mary is the Queen Mother 

Solomon was a King of Israel. The kings of Israel, like their counterparts, had many wives. Who was to be queen? They solved this problem by making the king’s mother the Queen Mother. Solomon showed to his mother, Bathsheba, great deference. (1 Kings 2:18-20) He bowed to her. He placed her at his right hand. He asked her opinion when judging and administering the land. People would go to Bathsheba and ask her to intervene for them with Solomon. As a good son, he always granted her requests.

Just as the citizens of Israel went to Bathsheba to solicit her assistance in their requests to Solomon, Catholics ask Mary to intercede with her son. If Mary asks Jesus, he is sure to listen, just as Solomon listened to his mother and granted her requests. Is Jesus less respectful of his mother than Solomon was to his? Does this mean that Catholics ignore Jesus or God or the Holy Spirit? No. Catholics pray to the divine but also ask Mary to “pray for us.” (see the second half of the Hail Mary.)

Mary as Advocate 

John’s Gospel tells the story of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-9) when the hosts were running out of wine. (Since wedding feasts in Jesus’ day lasted a week, this was a serious problem.) Mary noticed what needed doing and told her son, “They have no wine.” His immediate response was “this is no concern of mine.” Mary, knowing her son intimately, went to the wine stewards and told them to “do whatever he tells you.” Jesus lavishly turned gallons of water into wine – because his mother asked him to.

If Jesus complied with his mother’s wishes while he was alive, why would he refuse her requests in heaven?

Mary as Role Model 

Gabriel politely asked Mary if she would be willing to assume the awesome task of bearing and raising God’s son. Mary’s fiat, “Be it done to me according to thy word,” (Luke 1:38) her complete acceptance of the will of God, is considered the epitome of Christian behavior – to cooperate with God’s will, freely.

Respect for Mary as the Mother of Jesus 

Those who love and respect their mothers, would be very hurt if their closest friends ignored her, treated her badly or disrespectfully. Mothers are to be treated with kindness, patience, and respect. Can anyone doubt that Jesus would see it differently? For those who believe that Jesus is a friend, as well as Lord, why ignore his mother? Ignoring Mary is being disrespectful to Jesus. Christians can no more ignore Jesus’ mother today than the Apostles could have when Jesus was alive. Yet many Protestant sects believe that Mary ‘gets in the way’ of their relationship with Jesus. They see Mary as a distraction rather than as a helper. They do not see that she loves them just as she loved “the beloved disciple” and all the other disciples of Jesus. Now she is in heaven she can love even more and be of greater help. It’s hard to imagine anyone ignoring the mother of the beloved, but it is true.

Catholic devotion to Mary is richly deserved. Granted, Mary was a human person. She did, however, conceive, bear and raise the Divine. An honor reserved only to her. The respect given to her by the Catholic Church is reasonable. Where would Christianity be without her?

 

On Reading the Bible*

We are celebrating Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, who advocated the idea that everyone should read the Bible. It’s a good idea, especially for those who read it as a devotional exercise. The major problem that I see is people who simply read the Bible without knowing the context of the stories. This can lead to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. As a case in point, many people like to quote, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Exodus 21:24) as an excuse for retaliating a perceived wrong or injustice. The quote, however, is taken out of context. It was meant to discourage escalating violence. Retaliation was to be limited to similar offenses and not overkill. (You killed my dog, I will kill your child.) The discussion is about how to respond to personal injuries. (Exodus 21:12-36)

In addition, many people get their ideas about the Bible from art. The famous painting of Paul being thrown from his horse is a good example. Nowhere in Acts does it say Paul was riding a horse. Or “The Last Supper” by da Vinci with Jesus and his disciples sitting at a long table. In Jesus day people did not sit at table, they reclined. There are many Biblical stories, books and movies based upon the imagination of the writer. Many are interpretations of Biblical stories with little basis in history or culture. But we believe them.

The television series by Franco Zeffirelli, called Jesus of Nazareth, has a scene of Mary and Joseph in the temple having baby Jesus circumcised. The scene is taken from Luke 2:21-24 “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’”

Zeffirelli got it wrong, and I believed it for years. In the Jewish culture into which Jesus was born, baby boys were circumcised on the 8th day following birth. At the same time, the new mother was confined to her house for forty days after the boy’s birth. She was then allowed to go out to a mikva (ritual bath) to be “cleansed.” If Mary and Joseph were still in Bethlehem (we don’t know that for sure), then they could go to the temple in Jerusalem and present Jesus to God in the customary way. Zeffirelli and I collapsed two different time periods into one based upon ignorance of the culture of the time. Is this knowledge necessary for the devotional reading of Luke? No, not really. But it is important to know if you are teaching Bible stories to others.

Another area that keeps cropping up is related to whether Jesus had siblings and/or whether his mother had more children. Catholics say no, and Protestants say yes. It all hinges in passages like this one: Mark 6:3-5 ”Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.”

What I did not know, until I studied anthropology, is that many cultures, including the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time, do not have a word in their language for ‘cousin.’ So, cousins were all referred to as siblings – brothers and sisters. This information will not change devotional reading, but it is a sticking point for Catholics and Protestants. For Catholics, it does not change the belief that Jesus’ mother Mary had no other children besides Jesus.

Reading and praying over the Bible is a good thing. Thinking about the stories that are told and trying to imagine what was happening and why, takes study. Our imaginations only tell us about our time and our culture and we interpret everything we read by that lens. That is wrong. We need to inform our imagination by studying the context in which the books of the Bible were written.

We also need to be aware that every translation of the Bible changes the nuances. Anyone who knows more than one language knows some words simply don’t translate, so a similar but not exact meaning is sought. This changes the message.  There are many different versions of the English language Bible. The degree to which they conform to the original Greek meaning is probably the best. If you cannot read the original Greek or Latin versions, you are limited to your own language. I am told that there is a new English gender inclusive Bible available. Instead of the Our father . . . prayer (Mat 6:9-13 NIV), the translation reads: “Our parent . . .” Some Bibles have changed John 1:1 from “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” to “. . . the word was a God.” This changes the meaning totally.

I agree with Martin Luther. We Christians should read the bible, meditatively and prayerfully. But we also need to be reminded that Jesus did not live in N. America in the 21st century. His life experience was a far cry from ours. We would be well served by trying to learn what life was like for him in the first century.

*I have no idea why some of these paragraphs are in bold. I can’t seem to change them. My apologies

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_of_Nazareth_(miniseries)  directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Four famous Catholic saints named Teresa

The Catholic Church has the custom of honoring certain individuals who have lived lives of great piety and virtue or for the heroic act of martyrdom.  Christianity is a difficult religion to follow. So much of what Jesus taught is extremely challenging to practice day in and day out, consistently, for years. Those individuals, who also had their faults, but who lived up to Christian ideals with remarkable success, are held up as examples of ordinary people who did extraordinary things. A saint is a role model.

It’s not easy to be declared a saint. The Church has a process that includes collecting all the possible data available on the individual whose name has been put forward, which includes any writing, interviews with people who knew them, interviews with people who did not know them but observed them publicly, as well as interviews with those who claimed to have had a miracle granted by this person’s intercession either before or after they died. These miracles must be documented and unexplainable by any other means.

A person put forward for sainthood must first be designated Venerable by the Pope, then a Servant of God, next as a Blessed and finally a Saint. The process may take several hundred years.

It is unusual for a series of saints to have the same name, because they deliberately chose to take a name they wished to be known by in their religious life, and then become a saint themselves.  This is the case, however, with four women who are all named Teresa in religious life.  (Although there are others, these four are the best known.)

The first was Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), or Dona Teresa de Ahumada y Cepeda , who took the name (this is a custom in some religious orders when an individual is accepted into the order, they take a new name) Teresa de Jesus (Teresa of Jesus). The second, Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897), was named for Teresa of Avila at her baptism, and took her name in religion as Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Edith Stein (1891-1942), took the name Teresa, Benedicta de la Cruz (Teresa, Blessed by the Cross) because of her admiration for Teresa of Avila. In fact, she attributes her conversion to Catholicism to her reading of Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. Last was Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910 – 1997) who took her name in religion from Therese of Lisieux.  Other women, who took the name Teresa in religious life, are in the process of becoming declared saints themselves.

These four great women saints were all members of a religious order. All were known for their persistence in their faith and in the tasks they were to perform. Three belonged to the Carmelite religious order while the fourth founded an active missionary order (Missionaries of Charity).

All four Teresa’s had their faith revealed to the world either through their written autobiographies, through their personal correspondence or through other writings. In their time, they were pillars of strength to others, deeply in love with God, and demonstrated the Christian message through their lives. Whether they lived in obscurity or in international fame, they remained true to their calling: to love and serve God in the best way they could.

Two have been named “Doctors of the Church” (Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux) meaning that their writings contain profound truths about spirituality. They are considered among the greatest teachers of Christianity and Christian spiritual practices.

All four were born in Europe, and three spent their entire lives in European countries: Teresa of Avila in Spain, Therese of Lisieux in France, Teresa Benedicta del la Cruz (Edith Stein) Germany and the Netherlands. Only Mother Teresa left Europe voluntarily.  Her order sent her to India where she spent most of her life.

Three died natural deaths. Edith Stein was gassed in Auschwitz.  They came from wealthy, well to do families (Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux) or from poor circumstances (Edith Stein). They entered religious life at different times in their lives. Therese of Lisieux entered at age fifteen. Mother Teresa entered at eighteen. Theresa of Avila entered at around the age of 20, while Edith Stein was in her forties.

Of the four Teresa’s, only Edith Stein was a convert to Catholicism, having grown up a Jew. Edith Stein was also the best educated, having a PhD in Philosophy.

On the face of it, these four women don’t have much in common other than their religious names. What made them so notable that the Church says their lives reflected, at a heroic level, their love of God?

Teresa of Avila is famous in the Catholic Church for two things: she restored the Carmelite religious order to its original purpose and rule, and wrote some of the most profound books on prayer ever written (The Interior Castle). Her books, written in Spanish, were never edited or rewritten; they remain first drafts as she hand-wrote them during spare moments of the day.  She lived during the time of the Spanish Inquisition which attempted to stamp out any person or writing that was overly “spiritual” and was in fact, denounced to the Inquisition.  She lived in a time when kings and royalty ruled Europe and their word was final and binding. Everything that happened in a kingdom needed royal approval, including the founding of religious houses. She suffered from physical illnesses throughout her life, yet she traveled extensively to accomplish her goals. When exhumed, her body was found to be incorrupt.

Therese of Lisieux grew up the pampered youngest child of a well to do pious Catholic family. Like Teresa of Avila, her mother died when she was young. Her older sisters, one by one, left home to enter the convent. After a conversion experience, she too longed to enter the convent, and begged for permission to enter at the age of fifteen, one year before most girls were accepted into the order. Permission from the Bishop was requested and denied, so she appealed to the Pope.  She did enter at fifteen, dying at age twenty-four of tuberculosis. She left behind an autobiography (The Story of a Soul) written at the request of her superiors.  This book, like the works of Teresa of Avila, has become regarded as a giant in spiritual literature, documenting through her own life and experiences, how she followed Christian ideals in “little things” for love of Jesus. Just as she saw herself as only a “little flower” so her way to perfection became known as “The Little Way.” Her body remains incorrupt and is on display.

Edith Stein (Sister Benedicta de la Cruz) was born and raised a Jew. Her autobiography (Life in a Jewish Family 1891-1916, Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1986) is unfinished. She was a brilliant woman. Her doctoral dissertation in philosophy was a phenomenological exposition of the concept of Empathy.  As a woman and as a Jew, she was prevented from taking up an academic career at any German university but she was able to obtain a teaching position at a Catholic girl’s school. She was a popular lecturer. Some of her speeches and writings on women have been translated into English and published (“Das Frau” or “Woman.” Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1987).  After her conversion to Catholicism she was drawn to the Carmelite order where she was eventually admitted. When Germany began purging its population of Jews, her order transferred her to the Netherlands where it was felt she would be safe.  When the Nazi’s conquered the Netherlands, she and her sister Rosa were part of the general round up and they were sent to Auschwitz. The Church honors martyrs or those who died for their faith. Ironically, Edith Stein was martyred, not for being a Christian, but for being a Jew.  Pope John Paul II named her a co-patron saint of Europe.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta became known to the world when she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for her work among the destitute of India. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, whose work of mercy was, and is, to serve the poorest of the poor.  She saw the face of Christ in every person she met, whether it was Pope John Paul II or a dying Untouchable crawling with worms. She drew people to her and to the work but insisted that she and the members of her order were not social workers. Their service came from a deep need to be obedient to Jesus in all things, rooted in a consistent and profound prayer life. Like Teresa of Avila, she was a strong minded woman. She had a rock-like faith that sustained her through decades of long arduous days of fighting and caring for the unwanted. Her letters (Mother Teresa, “Come be my Light”) describe her “Dark Night of the Soul” (Saint John of the Cross) while remaining completely trusting in God. She exemplified the message that the virtue of the “Corporal Works of Mercy” comes about only through deep prayer and love.

All four are admired by the Catholic Church for living out their faith in a heroic manner.  What is striking is that they deliberately chose the same name by which to be identified and known. Each was groundbreaking in her own way, following in the footsteps of Teresa of Avila. They represent the best of Catholic womanhood: strong minded, persistent, dedicated, deeply spiritual and loving. They gave everything they had. They shared Christ’s love with their lives.