Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Desert Fathers and Other Tails ...........

Greetings to fellow mariners and supporters of the Pro Papa League.
I feel the need for more 'light' refreshment from the lives of the Desert Fathers, translated from the Latin by Helen Waddell, and published by Constable of London in 1936, as ''The Desert Fathers'. I use the word 'light' reservedly, not in the sense of flippant or superficial but rather in the sense of spiritual light-heartedness born of hope and trust in God, the sense that permeates all these wonderful stories.

n.b. These two stories were originally translated from the Greek by an unknown translator.
'One of the Fathers fell ill, and for many days could touch no food. But one of his disciples urged him, saying, "If you will let me, my father, I shall make you a little cake." And the old man nodded, and he made it. Now beside him was a little pot of honey, and another similar pot with linseed oil, and it was stinking and good for nothing, unless perchance for a lamp; and the brother by mistake, put some of it in the cake, thinking that he was putting in honey. The old man tasted it, and said nothing, but ate in silence: but when it was given him a third time, he said: " I cannot eat my son." But the young man coaxing him said, " Look, Father, they are good cakes and I am eating some myself." Then when he had tasted it, and knew what he had done, he fell on his face saying, " Woe is me Father, for I have killed thee: thou hast laid this sin upon me, because thou didst say no word." And the old man said, " Vex not thyself, my son, because of it: for if God had willed that I should eat a good cake, thou wouldst have put in the honey, and not this that thou didst put in." '

'Once when the Abbot Macarius was climbing up the mountain in Nitria, he bade his disciple go a little way before him. And as he went on ahead, he met a priest of the idols, hurrying swiftly, and carrying a great log. And the disciple shouted at him, "Whither so fast, devil?" At which the irate priest beat him so soundly that he left him half dead: and again hurried on his way. A little further on, he met the blessed Macarius, who said to him, " May it be well with thee, O toiler, may it be well!" The priest, in surprise, said, "What good dost thou see in me that thou shouldst wish me well?" To which the old man made answer, "Because I see thee toiling and hasting, thou knowest not why." And the priest said, "And I, moved by thy salutation, knew thee for a great servant of God: now some other miserable monk, I know not who, met me and threw insults at me, but I gave him back blows for words." Then seizing the feet of the blessed Macarius, he cried to him, "Unless thou makest me a monk, I shall not let thee go." So taking the road together they came to the place where the stricken brother lay, whom they both lifted up, and as he could not walk, they carried him in their arms to the church. But when the brethren saw the priest in company with the blessed Macarius, they were dumbfounded: and in wonderment they made him a monk, and because of him many pagans were made Christian. And the abbot Macarius would say, "That a proud and ill speech would turn good men to evil, but a good and humble speech would turn evil men to better." '

SAINT BRENDAN AND THE SEA MONSTERS - taken from the life of St Brendan of Clonfert (St Brendan the Navigator, 484 to 577) and the legendary search by him and his companions, on the high seas, for the 'Isle of the Blessed'. He is patron saint of sailors and travellers.

Translated from the original Latin by Helen Waddell, and published in 1934 by Constable, London, as 'Beasts and Saints'. The woodcuts are by Robert Gibbings.

'And when the feast of the blessed Paul the Apostle, who was slain under Nero, was come, they were eager to celebrate his high day with devotion and glory. But while the Abbot was chanting the office, his voice sweet and ringing, the brethren said, "Sing lower Master; or we shall be shipwrecked. For the water is so clear that we can see to the bottom, and we see innumerable fishes great and fierce, such as never were discovered to human eye before, and if thou dost anger them with thy chanting, we shall perish." Then the Abbot upbraided them for fools and laughed a great laugh. "What," said he, "has driven out your faith? Fear naught but the Lord our God, and love Him in fear. Many perils have tried you, but the Lord brought you safely out of them all. There is no danger here. What are ye afraid of? And turning again, Brendan celebrated Mass more solemnly than before. And thereupon the monsters of the deep began to rise on all sides, and making merry for joy of the Feast, followed after the ship. Yet when the office of the day was ended, they straightway turned back and went their way.'
'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' by Rev C MacNeiry C.SS.R
'When Mary sees a sinner at her feet, imploring her mercy, she does not consider the crimes with which he is loaded, but the intention with which he comes; and if this is good, even should he have committed all possible sins, this loving Mother embraces him' (February 8th)
Our Lady, help of Christians, guide and protect our Holy Father.
St Paul, pray for our Church, and especially for our Holy Father.


Confiteor said...

Brian, I love the photo of Fr. Michael Mary laughing! Is that from the F.SS.R. blog?

I like the story of Abbot Macarius. Confession: I'm more likely to play the part of the blunt disciple who got himself beaten. Is there an implicit lesson here for rad-trads? ;-)


umblepie said...

Confiteor, Thanks for your comment, David. The photo is ours, taken recently on a beautiful calm day, when many of the monastic community enjoyed a 4 mile walk around Stronsay, led by the intrepid Fr Michael (alias Abbot Macarius) with Fr Anthony in close attendance, with the good Brothers following. The group are seen arriving at our house for a well-earned cup of tea and biscuits. Re the tale of Abbot Macarius,interesting that you see yourself as the rather tactless disciple who got more than he bargained for. What can I say!!! Best wishes, Brian.

Confiteor said...

Hi Brian, thanks for your comment on Contra Concilium aka PPL Flagship.

I changed the masthead because it felt incongruent with some of the topics that I'm posting on the blog. I still believe in the spirit of the Pro Papa League (the PPL Armada blog roll is still intact), yet I feel the need to take the content of my own blog in a somewhat different direction. The question that nags me is: does being "pro Papa" mean that one must also be "pro Vatican II"? I understand that some of the PPL members might consider such a question to be contrary to the spirit of the League, at least coming from the "Flagship". Nevertheless, I cannot help asking the question, and I beg the indulgence of the League members. I'm very familiar with Dr. Sudlow's "Confessions of a Nobody" and have participated in the "Fata Morgana" discussion. I agree 100% with Dr. Sudlow that the SSPX need to follow the lead of Fr. Michael Mary and seek a practical agreement with Rome, yet I'm not quite in agreement with Ches' overall analysis of the theological position of the SSPX with regard to Vatican II. Hence the "occasionally coherent musings" of this contrarian Catholic.

One thing is certain: I remain 100% in support of Fr. Michael Mary and the F.SS.R. Any agreement that I might have with the SSPX from a theological standpoint does not change the fact that I utterly deplore the shabby way in which they've treated Fr. Michael.

God bless,

Confiteor said...

Brian, I hope that you might enjoy the latest post on Contra Concilium. I've been seriously reevaluating certain opinions -- particularly with regard to the SSPX -- and I now see things in a clearer light.

My concerns about the Council remain (hence the new blog title), yet my opinions about the SSPX have shifted dramatically.

God bless,

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