Chittister: How To Pray During ‘Hot, Hazy, and Humid’

Columbia Heights Fountain (David Gaines)
Columbia Heights Fountain (David Gaines)

“It’s July when the summer begins to wear even the most dedicated of sun lovers down. Life begins to feel sticky; nights get close; days get long and dry. Everything becomes a major effort; we slow down like rusted cogs on old wheels. Time suspends. Nothing much gets done. Day follows day with not much to show for any of them. Oh, yes, monastics know all about that kind of thing. In ancient monasteries the warning of Evagrius of Ponticus to “beware the devil of the noonday sun” loomed large. Acedia they called it. Spiritual sloth.

July is the month that teaches us, as the Desert Monastics said, to prepare ourselves for the “heat of the noonday sun,” for those times in life when going on and going through something will take all the energy, all the hope we have. Then, July reminds us that on the other side of such intensity, such demanding effort, comes the harvest time of life when we see that all our efforts have been worth it.

The question in every life, of course, is how to keep on going when it seems fruitless. A Zen saying: “O snail, climb Mount Fuji, but slowly, slowly.” If we are to persevere for the long haul, we must not overdrive our souls. We must immerse ourselves in good music, good reading, great beauty and peace so that everything good in us can rise again and lead us beyond disappointment, beyond boredom, beyond criticism, beyond loss.

The prayer from Mary Lou Kownacki’s, The Sacred in the Simple, calls us all to new energy at the break point of every day. It reads:

Let not the heat
of the noonday sun
wither my spirit
or lay waste my hopes.
May I be ever green,
a strong shoot of justice,
a steadfast tree of peace.”

–adapted from A Monastery Almanac by Joan Chittister

Did the Butler Do It? VatiLeaks

Paolo Gabriele, the butler/fall guy in the most recent Vatican scandal, was sentenced to 18 months of house arrest on Saturday–and will likely receive a “papal pardon.”

In what plays like an episode of “Zen,” the trial turned up accomplices and other high-ranking Vatican officials who were likely part of the conspiracy, but who were never investigated or called to court.

One interesting tidbit revealed during the trial was that one stolen document was “a letter to the Pope in German, written by Aldegonde Brenninkmeijer, a Dutch Catholic philanthropist who accused the Roman Curia of betraying the legacy of the Second Vatican Council.”

A summary of her letter in Il Chiesa said:

The content of the letter is clear nonetheless. It is a tough act of accusation against the Vatican curia and the Catholic hierarchy in general. The rich Brenninkmeijers denounce the fact that money should play a central role in various offices of the curia, in some European dioceses, and in the patriarchate of Jerusalem. They accuse the pontifical council for the family of using gullible and acritical collaborators instead of employing personages who can and want to act in the sense of “aggiornamento” of Vatican II. They insinuate that in the most restricted circle around the pope, a considerable amount of power has been accumulated in a visible and tangible way, adding that they possess written proof in support of their charges.

The Brenninkmeijers do not accuse anyone by name, except in one case. After maintaining that in Europe there are growing numbers of informed believers who are separating themselves from the hierarchical Church without, according to them, abandoning their faith, and after lamenting the lack of “non-fundamentalist” pastors able to guide the flock according to modern criteria, the two spouses manifest to the pope not only their own discouragement, but that of many laypeople, priests, religious, and bishops over the appointment of the new archbishop of Utrecht, Jacobus Eijk.–Il Chiesa

Robert Micken wrote a great “roundup” essay in The Tablet (excerpt below) outlining the VatiLeaks scandal thus far:

The security breach was considered one of the most serious in modern Vatican history. The papal butler, an Italian layman named Paolo Gabriele, was caught red-handed with thousands of sensitive documents that he either photocopied or stole in original form from Pope Benedict XVI’s apartment and then leaked to an Italian journalist. The reporter, Gianluigi Nuzzi, selected dozens of those stolen papers – many showing instances of financial corruption, mismanagement, factional fighting and careerism involving the priests and bishops that run the Roman Curia – and published them in a best-selling book called Sua Santità (“His Holiness”). …

On 13 August, the dead of summer when all of Italy was beginning the week-long Ferragosto holiday, the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, Nicola Picardi, published the indictment against the former butler. And, lo and behold, for the very first time the Vatican admitted that Gabriele had not acted alone. On the second page of Picardi’s 35-page dossier, which was distributed by the Holy See press office to the handful of journalists still in Rome, it was announced that Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer technician at the Secretariat of State, had also been arrested. He was imprisoned on 25 May (a day after the butler) and released less than 24 hours later. The indictment said that he, too, would be put on trial for aiding and abetting Mr Gabriele.

This was a dramatic and damning revelation. It has made it difficult to believe that anything the Vatican has claimed about the leaks, the former butler or his trial has been, as the famous phrases goes, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. …–Robert Mickens, from “Lifting the Lid on Dark Secrets” (The Tablet, 13 Oct 2012)

As we recognize the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, there is a fight for the heart and soul of that Council going on across Catholicism. The VatiLeaks trial, and what the documents reveal, is just one part of a much larger struggle to defend Vatican II.