I found this while reading the daily meditation at Forward Day by Day:
When the monks of Jarrow sang, “Lord, leave us not as orphans,” it is said that Bede would often weep. As a child he was left orphaned in a dark, hostile, and dangerous land. He was cared for and reared by kindly monks. When he was but a youngster, plague struck the monastery, almost wiping it out. The only surviving souls were Bede and the old abbot. Bede naturally had a strong sense of the importance of community, of the fine line between life and death, and of our utter dependence upon the Creator.
He rarely ventured outside the walls of Jarrow monastery, yet his knowledge of theology, geography, and language was worthy of the most sophisticated of his time in Western Europe. He wrote a number of excellent books on various subjects, but he is best remembered for his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. This work has justly earned for him the title “Father of English History.” Unlike some of the careless historians of his day, he was meticulous in listing his authorities and sources. He took care to separate known fact from hearsay, but his descriptions are lively and dramatic.
Bede thought of himself as a teacher, and he seems to have built most of his teaching around the Divine Offices which the monks read daily. It is altogether fitting that he was pronounced a “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Leo XIII. Bede’s remains rest in Durham.
May the riches of Bede’s scholarship inspire us to fill our minds with the story of your work among us, O God. Amen.
Heavenly Father, you called your servant Bede, while still a child, to devote his life to your service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship; Grant that as he labored in the Spirit to bring riches of your truth to his generation, so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make you known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
One of our life dreams came true when we were able to visit Avery Island and the McIlhenny Company. Tabasco sauce is on every table in almost every restaurant in the South, right along with the salt and pepper. When AdventureMan was serving in VietNam, soldiers had a tiny bottle of Tabasco in each ration, to spice up the food. The quote “defending the world against bland food” gave me a big grin. Rest in Peace, Paul C.P. McIlhenny. (This is from AOL News/Huffpost today)
Paul C.P. McIlhenny Dead: CEO Of Tabasco Company Dies At 68
AVERY ISLAND, La. — Paul C.P. McIlhenny, chief executive and chairman of the board of the McIlhenny Co. that makes the trademarked line of Tabasco hot pepper sauces sold the world over, has died. He was 68.
The company, based on south Louisiana’s Avery Island, said in a statement that McIlhenny had died Saturday. The statement, released Sunday, credited McIlhenny’s leadership with introducing several new varieties of hot sauces sold under the Tabasco brand and with greatly expanding their global reach.
McIlhenny was a member of a storied clan whose 145-year-old company has been producing the original world-famous Tabasco sauce for several generations, since shortly after the Civil War. The statement said McIlhenny joined the company in 1967 and directly oversaw production and quality of all products sold under the brand for 13 years.
Under his management, the company experienced years of record growth in sales and earnings, according to the company.
McIlhenny also worked to develop an array of items that could be marketed and emblazoned with the Tabasco logo: T-shirts, aprons, neckties, stuffed toy bears, and computer screensavers, the Times-Picayune of New Orleans noted. The newspaper first reported the death and noted that McIlhenny was an executive with a keen sense of humor, quipping days before he reigned as Rex, the King of Carnival, for Mardi Gras in 2006: “We’re defending the world against bland food.”
The Times-Picayune said he had taken up the post of company president starting in 1998 before adding the title of CEO two years later. It added that his cousin, Tony Simmons, took over as president last year.
“All of McIlhenny Company and the McIlhenny and Avery families are deeply saddened by this news,” said Tony Simmons, president of McIlhenny Company and a McIlhenny family member, in the company’s statement.
He added: “We will clearly miss Paul’s devoted leadership but will more sorely feel the loss of his acumen, his charm and his irrepressible sense of humor.”
The statement said McIlhenny led the way on new brand merchandising, taking an instrumental role in the company’s catalog business of licensed merchandise. He also was a driving force behind the growing global reach of Tabasco products, today sold in more than 165 countries and territories.
The company said McIlhenny, at the time of his death, was also a company director. He was a sixth-generation member of the family to live on Avery Island and among the fourth generation to produce the Tabasco brand sauce on Avery Island, where patriarch Edmund McIlhenny had founded the company in 1868.
Born on March 19, 1944, he grew up in New Orleans and spent much of his childhood moving between New Orleans the family compound on Avery Island, according to The Times-Picayune.
Reports noted he also had been an impassioned board member of America’s Wetland Foundation because of his longtime interest in preserving south Louisiana coastlines crumbling under the onslaught of decades of erosion.
Attorney Edward Abell called his friend McIlhenny “a well-known figure.”
“It really kind of puts us on the map here,” Abell said, “because the Tabasco products are known all over the world.”
In our Lectionary Readings for today, they list today as the Feast Day for St. Antony, one of the early monastics of the Christian Church.
ABBOT IN EGYPT (17 JAN 356)
Before the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in 312 AD, back in the days when Christianity was still a persecuted religion, the act of becoming a Christian involved turning one’s back on the pursuit of security, of fashionable prestige and popularity, of success as the term is widely understood. After the Emperor had changed Christianity from a persecuted religion into a fashionable one, many earnest Christians felt the need to make such a renunciation in the service of Christ, and did not see mere Church membership as any longer enough to constitute such a renunciation. Accordingly, many of them sought Christian commitment by fleeing from society into the desert, and becoming hermits, devoting themselves to solitude, fasting, and prayer. Although this trend was much accelerated and reinforced by the conversion of Constantine and attendant changes, it had already begun earlier. An outstanding early example is Antony of Egypt, often reckoned as the founder of Christian monasticism.
Antony of Egypt, the son of Christian parents, inherited a large estate. On his way to church one day, he found himself meditating on the text, “Sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and come follow me.” When he got to church, he heard the preacher speaking on that very text. He took this as a message for him, and, having provided for the care of his sister, he gave his land to the tenants who lived on it, and gave his other wealth to the poor, and became a hermit, living alone for twenty years, praying and reading, and doing manual labor.
In 305, he gave up his solitude to become the head of a group of monks, living in a cluster of huts or cells, devoting themselves to communal singing and worship, to prayer and study and manual labor under Antony’s direction. They did not simply renounce the world, but were diligent in prayer for their fellow Christians, worked with their hands to earn money that they might distribute it as alms, and preached and gave personal counseling to those who sought them out.
In 321, Christians in Alexandria were being persecuted by the Emperor Maximinus (the rule of Constantine was not yet universal), and Antony visited Alexandria to encourage those facing the possibility of martyrdom. He visited again in 335, when Arianism was strong in the city, and converted many, by his preaching and testimony, and by prayer and the working of miracles. His biography was written by Athanasius, who said of him: “Who ever met him grieving and failed to go away rejoicing?”
The Forward Day by Day website summarizes St. Antony just a little differently:
Today the church remembers Antony, Abbot in Egypt, 356.
Father of Christian Monasticism Many young men of the third-century world despaired of their decaying, materialistic, and licentious society. In Egypt many fled into the desert in protest and for their own souls’ health. Sometimes their behavior became almost as bizarre and unbalanced as the behavior of those from whom they fled. This was not true of Antony. Antony’s quiet and well-ordered life of devotion in the desert stood out in contrast both to the wickedness of the contemporary world and the eccentricities of some other hermits. He gave away all his possessions to the poor and thereby freed himself from the demands of property. Still, he found that he had to fight a seemingly endless battle against his personal passions and temptations. He helped fellow Christian hermits to organize their lives in meaningful patterns of prayer, work, and meditation. His own solitude was frequently interrupted by his concern for the secular church and by requests for counseling. He was a friend to Athanasius (see May 2) and his orthodoxy was unquestionable. It has been said that, “Alone in the desert, Antony stood in the midst of mankind.”
This is not the same St. Anthony who helps you find lost things; that is St. Anthony of Padua, but when I read about this St. Anthony, and his orderly life, I thought that beating back the forces of chaos keeps things from getting lost in the first place.
This week AdventureMan and I have been blessed, greatly blessed. We have met some wonderful people and heard some amazing things. Two stories in particular have shaken the earth for me.
“How It Happened for Me”
The first story is about a friend we met from the newest country on earth, South Sudan. A group of us were sitting together when one woman turned to this man from the South Sudan and asked “How did you find Jesus?”
This was not a religious gathering, so it is an unusual question on a social evening. But this quiet, modest man responded “I will tell you. It is a long story. It starts when I was only five months, not a baby, five months in my mother’s womb.”
He told us of a life with no security. His parents and family fled to the forest, and were on the run continually most of his life – until recently. He told of a life trying to find safe places, sometimes being separated from his parents.
He told of a priest who, when he and his brothers and sisters were very young, taught them to say “God bless Mother and God bless Father and God bless my brothers and sisters and watch over us always.” He was kind to the children, and taught them that God loves them, that God is kind. He said they did not know who this God was, but he and his brothers and sisters said this prayer every night, to keep his family safe. He said they learned other simple prayers. There would be rare times when someone would teach them a letter, or some numbers, drawing in the sand, or the floor of the forest, simple, quick lessons.
“So I don’t know all the stories you do,” he said. “I don’t even know the bible very well, we never had educated priests, just simple men who taught us simple prayers. Only later did we become more educated.”
As we listened, we had huge lumps in our throats. I could hear Jesus’ voice saying that we must believe as little children, and this man had the pure simple faith of a child, a memory from his earliest years, as he prayed for his family to be safe in a world where life was continual chaos and a struggle to survive.
“When I understood about God,” he went on, “there wasn’t even a church or a pastor-man who could baptize me; I had to believe for many years before I could become a Christian.”
As a footnote, he told us that somehow, most of his village managed to survive, helping one another. His entire family made it through, his parents are still alive. The village children little by little gained education, becoming doctors, lawyers, professionals of all kinds. His village now has a church, a simple church, not always staffed, but a church. The war is ended. For him, the simplicity of peace is all he ever wanted.
We will never forget his, and his story. We have met an extraordinary human being.
Today, we went to a lunch, invited by a friend, to raise funds for public education. LOL, this is what I used to do; I worked for an education foundation and raised money for public education. I love this kind of thing. I knew just what to expect – lots of success stories, stellar achievements, and a gentle pitch.
Whoa! Wrong! Darling kids – check. Recognition of important guests – check. Gentle pitch – no way! They got right to business; you will see this form, please take your pens RIGHT NOW and fill it out and give what you can, education funds seem to get cut more every year and we are trying to do more with less and less. Give NOW. CHECK!
The final speaker was a local businessman and patron-of-just-about-everything, a man who also brought baseball to Pensacola. He talked about his own public education. He talked about his speech impediment, and his deafness, he talked about his short stature and his inability to sit still and concentrate. He talked about teachers who identified him and instead of treating him as an obstacle, made him believe they were glad to have him in their class. He talked about teachers who gave him special assignments, who taught him math by having him calculate baseball averages. He knew their names, these saints who kept him in school, no matter how discouraged he might be.
He graduated with a 1.9 grade point, and had no intention of going to college, but ended up astonishing everyone by doing well on the ACT test and having a guidance counselor who found him just exactly the right environment where he could flourish on the college level.
Important people usually enjoy telling you the great things they have done. This man focused on his disabilities, his humiliations and his weaknesses, and how the kindness of educators had pulled him out of a very dark place and set him on the road for the success he is today.
I am willing to bet that the education foundation gained a lot of donors today. We were caught by surprise. We can defend against the powerful and successful, but when the heart speaks from vulnerability and failure, our hearts respond. This man is a success, but he gives credit to those who looked at him with caring eyes, with caring hearts, who lifted him and helped him on his way to the incredible (wealthy) success he is today, with a flourishing business and innumerable local charities who are grateful for his support.
What a week! And it’s only Tuesday! I wonder what the rest of the week will bring?
Mary Doria Russell is one of my favorite authors because she tackles large topics fearlessly, humorously and with great compassion. I first read her many years ago in a novel called Children Of God; you can read it stand-alone as I did, but I should have read The Sparrow, which preceded it. That one is about the Jesuits who take the Gospel into outer space, and has some laugh-out-loud moments in the midst of utter hopelessness. Yes. She’s that kind of author, my kind of woman.
Here is the ending Question and Answer from an interview at the back of Doc, an interview with John Connelly:
Q: Authors are often asked what advice they’d give young writers. I would like to ask you a similar question: What do you think the worst advice a young writer could get is?
Mary Doria Russell: Major in English. Join a writer’s group. Blog.
My advice is to major in and do something REAL. Have an actual 3-D life of your own. And please, shut up about it until you’ve got something genuinely wise or useful or thoughtful to share. Then again, I’m a cranky old lady! What the hell do I know?
Reading a book about legendary heroes of the Old West is not something I looked forward to, so the book languished on my “to read” pile until one day I picked it up just because it is written by Mary Doria Russell, and because she has knocked my socks off with every book I’ve read by her.
It starts off slow, summing up the early genteel years of John Henry Holliday in Georgia, just prior to, during and after the War Between the States. At 22 he is diagnosed with acute tuberculosis, and is advised that a drier climate out West might provide him with a more comfortable life, as short as it was likely to be. He had trained as a dentist, so he had a skill. Times were hard, and while he was a very very good dentist, it was a good thing he also had skills with card playing, to supplement his income when people didn’t have the money to go to the dentist.
Don’t skip over the early years, because what happens in the early years resonates into his years living in the West. The majority of the book takes place in Dodge, a border town where laws are made over a card game and by the men who will profit from them. Lives are hard, and short. While it is surely the wild west, the focus is on the relationships Doc builds – Wyatt and Morgan Earp (all the Earp brothers), Bat Masterson, the gals . . . here is where Russell’s artistry shines; the cardboard figures begin to become real people. We start to like one or two, admire another, despise one more.
Here’s what I love about Mary Doria Russell – without being at all preachy, she makes you stop and think about some of the values you hold most dear. Once you get west, 80% of the women featured in the book are prostitutes. Most of the characters drink heavily, and routinely use drugs which are today restricted to prescriptions. There is corruption, and murder, and arson, and abortion, and contraception, and adultery, and there is no one character who is purely good or purely evil, they are all complicated, just as we are. She can lead you to dislike a character, who at just the right moment knows just the right thing to say, and suddenly, you see that character differently, because another facet of his or her character has been revealed.
In the questions at the back of the book, we are asked if we were to meet Doc Holliday, would we like him? I had to ask the question the other way around – if I were to meet Doc Holliday, how would he perceive me? I found myself thinking outside the box, found myself thinking that if I knew my life were going to be very very short, would I want to hang around with normal people, dull, predictable people? Maybe people who look better on the outside than they are, or think more highly of themselves than they ought? Doc Holliday hung around with lawmen and gamblers and prostitutes and bartenders; his patients were law-abiding church-going citizens. Who gave greater color and meaning to his life? Who were more likely to be down-to-earth and practical and unpretentious?
There is an absolutely delightful segment about a Jesuit priest from an old Hungarian aristocratic family who finds himself riding out to visit all the small Catholic Indian parishes on a donkey, replacing a highly popular priest who is very sick; he is teased and mocked and treated with disrespect. One night, cold and wet, covered with dirt and filth in the desert, he has an epiphany that changes his life. Mary Doria Russell books have these luminous moments, worth reading the entire book for, and which will bring a smile of memory to your face long after you have finished reading the book.
Remigius, today’s saint written up in The Lectionary, has so many interesting facets. Kiefer starts out explaining that the common Cajun name Remi is short for the French saint Remigius, who converted Clovis, one of the earliest kings of France, to Christianity. Not just to Christianity, however, but to Athanasian Christianity, the branch that believes Christ is of the same substance with God, and is one with God, as opposed to Arianism, a predominant belief at the time, which proposed Jesus was not the same as God.
REMIGIUS OF RHEIMS
BISHOP, APOSTLE OF THE FRANKS (1 OCTOBER 530)
by James Kiefer
St. Remi (or Remigius)
A 1987 motion picture, “The Big Easy” (a nickname for the city of New Orleans), and a current (1996) television series of the same name based on it, have as the male lead a Cajun police detective named Remy McSwaine. In the first episode of the series (I am not sure of the film) we are informed that “Remy” is short for “Remington.” I fear that this shows that the scriptwriters have not troubled to research Cajun culture. Remi is one of the three great national saints of France (the others are Denis (Dionysius) of Paris and Joan of Arc, or Joan the Maid (Jeanne la Pucelle)), and it is thoroughly natural for a Cajun to be named Remi. How is that for a topical introduction?
Remi (Latin Remigius) was born about 438 and became bishop of Rheims about 460, at the remarkably young age of 22. (Both he and the city were named for his tribe, the Remi.) In his time, the Roman Empire and the Christian church were jointly faced with a serious practical problem — the barbarian invasions. A series of droughts in central Asia had driven its inhabitants out in all directions in search of more livable territory. This brought the Goths, for example, across the Danube in the early 300′s.
Now the Emperor Constantine had died in 337, and during his lifetime the Church had debated the question of whether the Logos, the Word who was made flesh for our salvation in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, was (as Arius taught) the first and greatest of the beings created by God, but nevertheless not eternal, and not God; or was (as Athanasius taught) fully God, co-eternal and co-equal with the Father. At the Council of Nicea in 325, the Athanasian position had been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the bishops assembled from throughout the Christian world. But the Arians refused to accept the decision, and there were attempts to re-negotiate and find a compromise that would make everyone happy.
Then Constantine died, and his Empire was divided among his sons, with Constantius Emperor of the East, and eventually of the whole Empire. And Constantius was an Arian, and made a serious attempt to stamp out the Athanasian position by banishing its leaders and pressuring churches into electing or accepting Arian bishops. During his reign, missionaries, led by one Bishop Ulfilas, were sent to convert the Goths. And naturally, Ulfilas was an Arian. He preached with great vigor and eloquence among the Goths, and translated the Bible into their language (omitting, we are told, the wars of the Hebrews, on the grounds that the Goths were quite warlike enough without further encouragement). In fact, the portions of his translation that have survived are the only material we have in the Gothic language, and as such are highly valued by students of the history of languages. So the Goths became Arian Christians, and so did the Vandals. And these two highly warlike peoples were most of the time either making war on the settled peoples of the Empire or hiring out as mercenaries to defend the borders of the Empire from the next wave of invaders.
You may remember that Ambrose, bishop of Milan (died 397, remembered 7 December), was commanded by the Empress Mother to hand over a church for the use of her soldiers, who were Goths and Arians, and that Ambrose refused, and filled the church with members of his congregation, who sang hymns composed by Ambrose for the occasion, and the soldiers did not attack. You may also remember that when Augustine lay on his deathbed in his town of Hippo in North Africa (near Carthage or modern Tunis), the city was under attack by Vandal troops, who had come into Africa out of Spain, and who captured and vandalized (that is where we get the term) the cities of North Africa, and Sicily and Sardinia and Corsica (which they made into bases for piracy) and the southern part of Italy. Long after Arianism had died out elsewhere, it was the religion of the Goths and Vandals and related peoples, and being an Arian was the mark of a good Army man.
Now a new people appeared on the scene, a pagan warrior tribe called the Franks. In the late 400′s, they were led by a chief called Clovis, a pagan but married to a Christian wife, Clotilda. His wife and Bishop Remi (remember him?) spoke to him about the Christian faith, but he showed no particular signs of interest until one day when he was fighting a battle against the Alemanni, and was badly outnumbered and apparently about to lose the battle. He took a vow that if he won, he would turn Christian. The tide of battle turned, and he won. Two years later, he kept his vow and was baptized by Remi at Rheims on Christmas Day, 496, together with about 3000 of his followers. (Rheims became the traditional and “proper” place for a French king to be crowned, as we learn from the story of Joan of Arc. It remained so until the French Revolution.)
Now Clovis was converted to the Athanasian (or orthodox, or catholic) faith rather than the Arian, and this fact changed the religious history of Europe. The clergy he brought to his court were catholic, and when the Franks as a whole became Christians, which did not happen overnight, they became catholic Christians, meaning in this context that they were Athanasian rather than Arian, and accepted the belief that it was God himself, and not a particularly prominent angel, who came down from heaven and suffered for our salvation.
During the preceding century, the Arians had had a near-monopoly on military power, and now this was no longer true. The conversion of the Franks brought about the conversion of the Visigoths, and eventually (about 300 years later) the empire of Charlemagne and the beginning of the recovery of Western Europe from the earlier collapse of government and of city life under the impact of plague, lead poisoning, currency inflation, confiscatory taxation, multiple invasions, and the assorted troubles of the Dark Ages.
As noted above, Clot(h)ilda, a Christian princess of Burgundy, married the pagan Clovis, King of the Franks, thus preparing the way for his baptism by Remi in 496, and for the conversion of the Franks. Their great-grandaughter, Bertha, married the pagan Ethelbert, King of Kent, thus preparing the way for his baptism by Augustine of Canterbury in 601, and for the eventual conversion of southeast England. Bertha and Ethelbert’s daughter, Ethelburga, married the pagan Edwin, King of Northumbria, thereby preparing the way for his baptism by Paulinus in 627, and for the eventual conversion of many in the North of England.
I was living in Qatar, and the Libyan ambassador’s wife had invited me, along with several other women, to morning coffee. It’s what people did. I was sitting between one of my Libyan friends and my good Iranian friend, and I started laughing. I said “Oh, what is this good little American girl doing sitting between a Libyan and an Iranian?” and then we all laughed. We weren’t Libyan, or American, or Iranian, we were just women who liked each other; we got along.
We were all religious women. Not the same religion, but all believers in the Abrahamic tradition. I felt more comfortable with them than I felt around non-religious women. We had a lot of fun together, and we liked each other.
It breaks my heart when bad things happen, and I know how good these people are, and that the people on the attack have their own agenda which has nothing to do with Islam, or Christianity, and everything to do with power. If they prevail, I fear for my good friends.
This article from USA Today made me cry this morning. Ambassador Stevens was loved, and these brave people are risking their futures to tell us so.
Libyans express sorrow over killing of Americans
by Donna Leinwand Leger, USA TODAY
Hours after learning of Ambassador Chris Stevens’ death, the Libyan Youth Movement transformed its Facebook page into a tribute to the slain diplomat. It changed its cover photo from “Free Libya” graffiti sprayed on a Tripoli wall to a somber photo of Stevens with the tag “RIP Christopher Stevens1960-2012.”
“As North America wakes up, dread washes over me. What a rough night. I’m sorry for the horrible day the world is about to face,” the administrator of the Shabab Libya page wrote. “We are sorry.”
As anti-American protests swept across North Africa and the Persian Gulf, a counter-protest of apology emerged. Photos of Libyans carrying hand-lettered signs condemning the violence and expressing contrition for their countrymen appeared on Facebook. “Sorry” became the trending mantra of Libyans on Twitter.
At one counter-protest, an unidentified man carried a crude sign phonetically written in English with blue marker on lined notebook paper, “Sorry People of America this not the Pehavior of our ISLAM and Profit.”
Another sign in red, white and blue read: “Chris Stevens wasa friend to all Libyans.”
On Facebook, one group formed The Sorry Project, designed to collect thousands of personal, written apologies from Libyans. Its profile photo is a man holding a sign, “USA. We are sorry. We are sad.”
“We Are Sorry,” the group wrote on the page created Sept.11. “We would like show that as Libyans we do not support on the actions committed by these criminals. USA, we are sorry and we will say it one thousand times over. Our apologies will never be enough, but the Libyan people will always be grateful for you since you were the first to stand by us in our fight for freedom and hopefully you will continue supporting us.”
One commenter, Hajer Sharief, vowed to avenge Stevens’ death by rebuilding a “new civilized democratic Libya.”
“We promise, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail,” Sharief wrote. “This is the way real Libyans will pay you back Mr. Ambassador Chris Stevens.”
At the ceremony Friday outside Washington to repatriate the remains of the four American victims, President Obama acknowledged Libya’s internal conflict.
“I know that this awful loss, the terrible images of recent days, the pictures we’re seeing again today, have caused some to question this work. And there is no doubt these are difficult days. In moments such as this — so much anger and violence — even the most hopeful among us must wonder,” Obama said. “But amid all of the images of this week, I also think of the Libyans who took to the streets with homemade signs expressing their gratitude to an American who believed in what we could achieve together. I think of the man in Benghazi with his sign in English, a message he wanted all of us to hear that said, ‘Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.’ “