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Archive for December, 2006

Mullins lived for some time in Wichita, where my family lives, and attended Central Christian Church (which belongs to the group of churches I grew up in).

YouTube – Homeless Man: Rich Mullins Part 1 (7:42)
YouTube – Homeless Man: Rich Mullins Part 2(5:56)
YouTube – Homeless Man: Rich Mullins Part 3a (6:35)
YouTube – Homeless Man: Part 3b (4:49)
YouTube – Homeless Man: Rich Mullins Part 4(7:11)
YouTube – Homeless Man: Rich Mullins Part 5 (8:42)

Rich’s biography: Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven

From Rich Mullins at Wikipedia

Mullins was seen as an enigma to the Christian music industry. Often barefoot, unshaven, and badly in need of a haircut, Mullins did not look like the average American gospel music writer. He was very much at home among the ungodly, and unafraid to name his own sin and inadequacies in public, often baffling the American Christian culture that he seemed oddly a part of. His lifestyle was unquestionably marked by devotion and discipline, yet his simultaneous refusal to buy-in to contemporary Christian niceties made him a bit of an uncomfortable presence in a music culture marked by artificiality. Although he achieved a good amount of success on Christian radio, he never received a Dove Award until after his death.

Unlike most artists in Contemporary Christian music, Mullins did not consider his music his primary ministry, but rather a means to pay his bills. Instead, his ministry was the way he treated his neighbors, family and enemies. Taking a vow of poverty, he accepted a small church salary and spent the last years of his life on a Navajo reservation teaching music to children. . . .

In 1988 Mullins moved to Wichita, Kansas to be part of Rev. Maurice Howard’s congregation at Central Christian Church. Mullins developed a love for Kansas that was later demonstrated in the song “Calling Out Your Name” (which mentions, for example “The Keeper of the Plains,” a sculpture in Wichita). . . .

In 1991 Mullins enrolled at Friends University. He would later draw inspiration from a lecture at Friends by author Brennan Manning. This is also where he met Jim Smith (his posthumous biographer), and Mitch McVicker. . . .

Mullins graduated with a B.A. in Music Education from Friends University on May 14, 1995 [3]. After graduation, he and Mitch McVicker moved to a reservation in Tse Bonito, New Mexico near the capitol of the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona to teach music to children. They lived in a hogan at the reservation until his death.

In 1997 Mullins teamed up with Beaker and Mitch McVicker to write a musical based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, entitled The Canticle of the Plains. Mullins had great respect for St. Francis, and even formed “the Kid Brothers of St. Frank” in the late 1980s with several friends, each taking a vow of poverty. Mullins was never really aware of how well his records sold, because the profits from his tours and the sale of each album went to his church, which divided it up, paid Mullins a small salary, and gave the rest to charity. Mullins was also a major supporter of Compassion International and Compassion USA.

Mullins was killed in a car accident on September 19, 1997. He and his friend Mitch McVicker were travelling on I-39 north of Bloomington, Illinois to a benefit concert in Wichita, Kansas when his Jeep flipped over. Neither man wore a seat belt. Both were thrown from the vehicle. A passing tractor-trailer swerving to avoid the Jeep killed Mullins. McVicker was badly injured but survived.

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Lyrics below the cut.
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NPR on the ‘O Antiphons’

NPR : O ANTIPHONS

[Thanks, to Huw]

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Prayers in the OR Waiting Room

By now many of our friends know, and some of my readers have inferred from an earlier post, that Anna has had a miscarriage. This has happened in the midst of some other difficult circumstances related to my own family, which only deepened the sense of pain and loss.

Coupled with that is the vertignous realization that I nearly lost my wife to this miscarriage. The baby had died about three or four weeks ago (roughly about the week of Thanksgiving), but Anna’s body had not yet expelled the tiny lifeless body. She followed the counsel of her health care team, and we thought we were pretty well prepared for what was to come.

I had stayed up late Monday finalizing grades, and got to bed about 1:00 a.m. Tuesday. About 2:00 a.m., Anna started bleeding significantly. We had been given a measurement–if you bleed so much in an hour, get to the hospital–and after about ten minutes Anna woke me as she had already passed that mark. We called friends who had agreed to come stay with the girls, and I prepared to get Anna to the car and to the ER. Only a few minutes later, Anna passed out from the blood loss. I took her in my arms and tried to get a grip on her to carry her out of our small, cramped bathroom. Somehow, I managed to do so. I sat her upright on our couch, and gasped, “Jesus help us.” I called 911. After just the space of about a minute, Anna came to again, and we did what we could as we awaited the ambulance and our friend.

In near-perfect tandem, the paramedics arrived, followed shortly by the ambulance, and then by our friend. I went ahead of the emergency team to the hospital. After being misdirected to one area of the hospital I finally got back to the ER, where they had already placed Anna, and we allowed the medical staff to do their thing.

It was clear to me almost immediately that every staff person knew this to be gravely serious. Just how serious they thought it was, I was not to realize until later that morning, but instinctively, from observing their faces and the grim efficiency with which they did their work, I knew something was up. Anna passed out again in ER while I was there, and at that point, the staff immediately got an OR room set up and ready. She was transfused in ER and would be given a second unit in surgery. As before, she came to very shortly, but her blood pressure and heart rate were dropping. So we left the ER room and headed to the third floor.

They wheeled her to the OR, with me following. The doctor exhorted me to give her a kiss, and we parted. I was told the procedure would be very brief, about ten to fifteen minutes, and there was nothing explicit in the doctor’s words that gave any indication of the gravity of the situation. But somehow instinctively I had a sense that this was bad.

I had brought my prayer rope with me, and so I proceeded to simply pray the Jesus Prayer for Anna: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Anna. I interspersed these prayers with the invocation, Most Holy Mother of God, save my wife. And a few times I invoked the prayers of our baby who had died for its own mother. Despite the pain and the tears, and the tiredness I felt, I kept at it doggedly.

I do not know how long I prayed in this way, but it was incessant until the doctor came from the OR with the blessedly good news. Anna was fine, there were no anticipated complications, and this was not to presage any negative implications about having other children or having problems with other pregnancies. He took pains to reassure me, but I could not get out of my head that he had said that in all his few decades of work, this was the second worse case of bleeding he’d seen. At this point I did not have the courage to ask him the outcome of the worst case.

He left and I finally sat down, limp and numb. I was deeply, deeply relieved, of course, but felt shell-shocked. I looked at my watch and noted that it was already past five. The ordeal had been less than four hours.

I’m still catching up on sleep. And being in the hospital gave me the chance to catch a nasty, nasty head cold. And I’m trying to balance the girls, work, Anna’s care, and child care for the girls (though Anna is the one orchestrating the child care). But in the midst of the loss of our baby, my family issues, and all of it, I am so so very thankful to God that he spared my wife. If this had happened even just a few decades ago, I may well have been a widower and our daughters motherless. By God’s mercy, I am not, nor are they.

Still, the realization hits hard. I woke myself tonight from a nightmare in which Anna was dead. I have not been able to return to sleep. Which is why I am posting this at about three a.m.

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That East West Thing

[For Tripp who double-dog dared me.]

There’s been a dust-up at several places in the blog-o-sphere of late pitting Orthodox against Catholic, Orthodox against other Orthodox, and not-so-innocent bystanders against both over the purported fundamental differences between the (intentionally redundant) “Eastern Orthodox East” and the “Roman Catholic West.” Even my own priest, the inestimable Father Patrick Henry Reardon saw one of his own reflections given the once-over by a Roman Catholic commenter prominent on the erstwhile Anglican, now Roman Catholic, Pontificator’s blog. (I’m not metablogging the links so as to remove any temptations for the rousing of the passions for those who will go and jump into the fray.)

I have to confess, I find myself a bit mystified at this.

Now some of my readers are at this point scratching their collective heads. Huh? After all, haven’t I, myself, posted some remarks and entries basically to the point that Orthodoxy is better, that there’s something fundamentally wrong with Western Christendom, and so on and so forth ad nauseam? Depending on the essence of the query, I should probably say, “Yup. Guilty.”

On the other hand . . .

I find myself—and I don’t think I’ve really essentially changed on this so much—sort of stuck between what I take to be two extremes. There is the one side which asserts, “The Christian West is bad, and inherently so, ever since it schismed from the Christian East. Avoid and flee from all such Popery.” (And no, that’s not potpourri, though one can flee from that too, if one likes.) And so things like the rosary and the stations of the cross and the “Western Rite” are all but anathematized. But then there is the other side that asserts something like “All those who assert that the Christian West is bad are themselves proponents of the phyletist heresy (or its equivlent).” And here the reaction is almost the opposite: just about anything that is pre-Vatican II is endorsed. One side rejects anything but the riassa, the other encsonces the biretta.

For those who object to us who point out criticisms of “Western Christianity” let me suggest that there is a fairly significant failure to see that our problem is not necessarily with the “Christianity on the books” (which high-level theological discussion can be instanced at blogs like Fr. Patrick’s critic and the Pontificator’s blog archives [Fr Al doesn't do comments any longer]), but with the “Christianity on the streets, in the pulpits and in the pews”–the very Christianity from which we’ve come and indeed from which we seek refuge. It is right and proper to assert and affirm the official declarations of the various religious bodies that we Orthodox converts criticize. After all, it is easy to construct straw men from anecdotal experience. But the one truth of Orthodoxy that has drawn this blogger right here is the fact that Orthodoxy is not a paper faith but a lived faith. Our problem, as converts from other religious bodies is not always or even necessarily that the “official” declarations of our various bodies were in stark opposition to the faith once for all delivered to the saints—but rather that the life of those various bodies was in such opposition. It may be difficult to substantiate fine theological points from the fact that Father So-and-so has consistently preached such-and-such from the pulpit (especially when said cleric’s pronouncements are out of line with official declarations), but it sure makes a difference to the parishioner who comes to the local body for sustenance and encouragement. It may be technically correct to affirm that Father So-and-so can still administer the sacraments despite his informal heresy or immorality—but when one is seeking a lived faith, it is at minimum, disheartening. Indeed, even inimical to one’s own lived faith.

Don’t mistake. There is a natural pscyhological tendency for converts to “demonize” their past religious affiliations. Not everyone falls prey to this rather ubiquitous temptation. But many do. And while charity offers compassionate understanding, charity also asks for reason rather than emotion to lead the way. This reaction is normal, and, to a degree, a way to re-order one’s inner world. Even so great a man as Father Seraphim Rose went from a very strong critic of Western, non-Orthodox Christianity to a much more compassionate pastor. He even went to great lengths to defend St Augustine against attacks from his fellow Orthodox, translated St Gregory of Tour’s accounts of pre-Schism French saints, and encouraged the affirmation of the good in “Western” Christianity while pursuing the depths of “Eastern” Orthodox Christianity. But as can be seen from his life, what he was reacting against was a lived “Western” Christianity that was at odds with the Faith owned by all Christians through all of the Church’s history.

That said, it seems to me that the opposite reaction is not very healthy, either. There are those, usually Orthodox, who take their co-religionist critics of the West to task, sometimes to the point of near-offense, affirming various Western feasts, clerical garb, liturgical traditions and so on, while at the same time critiquing the East with many of the same presuppositions and criticisms that “Western” Christians lob at their Eastern “opponents.” They look and talk like non-Orthodox who criticize Orthodoxy. One can dispense with offense at haberdashery, but ambulatory duck-sounding accusations will doubtless follow. One can frequently get the feeling—whether justified or not—that these Orthodox critics of their fellow Orthodox seek to confound and confuse rather than to clarify and edify.

It seems to me that both these reactions are wrong, though the substance of their respective errors is not the same. On the one hand, the converts who seek, largely unconsciously, to vilify their own pasts would do well to be subjected to a rigorous two-year criticism-fast post-chrismation by their parish priests. I, myself, who am not yet even a catechumen, can see what has happened in my own experience of the Orthodox life and faith over these last four and a half years, and know the difference two years of lived worship can make. One can hardly criticize one’s past from one’s newfound faith, when one has, usually, only just begun to live that new faith. One has to internalize such a faith by living it before one can offer real and edifying criticisms of one’s own past religious adherence. Indeed, there is much one must come to understand about oneself (through the sacrament of confession and regular immersion in the liturgies of the Church), before one can understand one’s past.

On the other hand, the critics of the critics seem to me to sometimes run the risk of becoming like the ten-year- old older brother who seeks to inculcate in his younger sibling the truth about Santa Claus. “It’s for his own good,” is a useful justification if often more honored in the breach than in the observance. Some of these critics seem to take great delight in doing this sort of “good” for their co-religionists. But one wonders whether the critical critic’s own soul is in a state wherein such a surgical tool of the soul is well-handled. A scalpel is, indeed, a useful tool, and it is indeed often fitting that the invasive tumor be excised. But the more pertinent question is whether the scalpel-wielder is the sort of surgeon that will truly heal, or merely maim or kill, the patient.

I know a few things—if I can be so bold—about the faiths from which I’ve journeyed to Orthodoxy. I know that these faiths differ in the life and in the paper versions. I’m much more concerned about the lived versions for it is these that have marked me. And having experienced the lives I’ve experienced, I think I have some authority (though not an infallible one to be sure) to speak on these things—even if my accounts differ from official declarations. But I also know that the heart is deceitful above all things, and one’s memories are not videographic exact reproductions but are narratives wherein even exact replicas are colored by perspective and personality. This does not make such memories false, but it does highlight their lack of completeness. For there is only one intellect that can hold all such memories accurately and infallibly together in a comprehensive and exact truth.

And having spent now some four and a half years in parish Orthodoxy, I know a few things more about Orthodoxy than I did some sixteen hundred and more days ago. And one of the things I know is that none of us, cradle or convert, will ever know Orthodoxy in such a way that we will be infallible. And even if we could know Orthodoxy with a technical infallibility, Orthodoxy is not simply a propositional religion. It is primarily a lived one. Orthodoxy is a life, indeed, the Life. It is not just a set of dogmatic formulas, canons and liturgies. It is the way one rises in the morning, eats one’s meals, blesses one’s children, loves one’s spouse, and retires in the evening. It is the way and manner and kind of food one eats. It is the prayers, the penitence, the mercy and the transformation of a life, heart, body and soul. Just when one might reach the level of expertise which grants one the authority to critique one’s co-religionists, one’s own faith and other faiths as well—well, one will have become the sort of saint that does not do those sorts of things.

I am a Western Christian who has embraced the Eastern Christian’s way of living the faith. I have done so because I see the Western ways of living that faith—all such ones that are offered to me—are either deficient or in some cases even malevolent. Whether there is a substantive and real difference that can be demarcated between East and West, whether on paper or not, I do not know. I just know the difference which is crystallized for me when I hear, “Blessed is the Kingdom,” smell the incense, see the gold and the cross, and the chalice, and make the sign of the cross. I have said and seen and done similar things in other “Western” churches. And there is a difference. It is probably not a difference that can be articulated in rational internet debate. But then one often finds it impossible to rationally articulate in full much of one’s lived existence. After all, how does one rationally justifiy one’s love of one’s spouse and children? How does one rationally justify one’s love for Christ? To do so would be something else, I think, than living that love.

So I take my St. Benedict, my rosary and my “Western” self into this “Eastern” worship. And, whatever else I may from time to time do online, I don’t bother myself over the technical fine points of the doctrine of development, the theological versus economical filioque, or whether pews are the sign of the antichrist. These are not needed. What is needed is a life. And I am given one that vivifies and deifies in a small converted Lutheran church house in Chicago, among other converts, who don’t bother themselves about these things either.

Most of the time.

Lord hasten the day when such divisions shall cease and there will be one and only one life of infinite goods for your children to enjoy.

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Vatican confirms St Paul’s coffin has been found

VATICAN archaeologists have confirmed that St Paul was buried beneath the Roman church bearing his name.

They said they have identified a Roman sarcophagus beneath the main altar and an epigraph: Paul apostle-martyr.

A small hole in the lid of the stone coffin, through which pilgrims would push pieces of fabric to touch the bones of the martyr, has been filled.

“I have no doubt that this is the tomb of St Paul, as revered by Christians in the fourth century,” said Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who made the discovery, and who will present the results of his scientific tests on the remains of the saint on Monday.

St Paul’s sarcophagus was found after five years of extensive excavations at the church, which is second only in size to St Peter’s in Rome.

The announcement reinforces the move by the Vatican in recent years to present the Pope as the successor not only of St Peter, but also of St Paul the great missionary.

Paul of Tarsus was a Jew who campaigned against Christians until converted on the road to Damascus. Arrested on obscure charges, he insisted on his right as a Roman citizen to be tried in the capital of the empire.

He was acquitted, but was later a victim of Christian persecution in Rome, and was beheaded.

In the early fourth century Emperor Constantine built a church above his tomb outside the walls of the city.

“Our objective was to bring the remains of the tomb back to light for devotional reasons, so that it could be venerated and be visible,” Dr Filippi said. He began looking for the tomb at the request of Archbishop Francesco Gioia, within whose jurisdiction the church falls.

In 2000 the archbishop was inundated with queries from pilgrims about the whereabouts of the saint, which eventually persuaded the Vatican that there was enough demand from tourists to warrant raising the sarcophagus to the surface so that it could be viewed properly.

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The Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes gives an historical account of Christian martyrs in Turkey:

Victims of horrible torture, many Orthodox clergy were martyred for their faith. Among the first was Metropolitan Chrysostomos who was martyred, not just to kill a man but, to insult a sacred religion and an ancient and honorable people. Chrysostomos was enthroned as Metropolitan of Smyrna on 10 May 1910. Metropolitan Chrysostomos courageously opposed the anti Christian rage of the Turks and sought to raise international pressure against the persecution of Turkish Christians. He wrote many letters to European leaders and to the western press in an effort to expose the genocide policies of the Turks. In 1922, in unprotected Smyrna, Chrysostomos said to those begging him to flee: “It is the tradition of the Greek Church and the duty of the priest to stay with his congregation.”
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