Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Who is your Patron Saint?

Deacon, and Martyr at Rome, 258

Laurence the Deacon, one of the most popular saints of the Roman Church, was martyred during the persecution initiated in 257 by the Emperor Valerian. That persecution was aimed primarily at the clergy and the laity of the upper classes. All properties used by the Church were confiscated, and assemblies for Christian worship were forbidden. On August 4, 258, Pope Sixtus the Second and his seven deacons were apprehended in the Roman catacombs. They were summarily executed, except for the archdeacon, Laurence, who was martyred on the tenth.

Though no authentic “Acts” of Laurence’s ordeal have been preserved, the tradition is that the prefect demanded information from him about the Church’s treasures. Laurence, in reply, assembled the sick and poor to whom, as archdeacon, he had distributed the Church’s relief funds, and presented them to the prefect, saying, “These are the treasures of the Church.” Laurence is believed to have been roasted alive on a gridiron.

The Emperor Constantine erected a shrine and basilica over Laurence’s tomb, which is in a catacomb on the Via Tiburtina. The present Church of St. Laurence Outside the Walls, a beautiful double basilica (damaged in World War II), includes a choir and sanctuary erected by Pope Pelagius the Second (579-590) and a nave by Pope Honorius the Third

Laurence is the subject of a small round glass medallion, probably dating from the fourth century, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

It bears the simple inscription, “Live with Christ and Laurence.”

The Greek word from which we get our English word “martyr” simply means “witness;” but, in the age of the persecutions, before Constantine recognized the Church early in the fourth century, a “martyr” was generally one who had witnessed even to death. For Laurence, as for all
the martyrs, to die for Christ was to live with Christ.
Almighty God, who didst call thy deacon Laurence to serve thee with deeds of love, and didst give him the crown of martyrdom: Grant we beseech thee, that we, following his example, may fulfill thy commandments by defending and supporting the poor, and by loving thee with all our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Is MasterCard my family? Is Visa my church?

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ ... Matthew 25:35-40
  • When I am hungry, Mastercard gives me food.
  • When I am thirsty, Visa gives me drink.
  • When I am naked, American Express clothes me.

In days gone by, family, clan, tribe and church were our bankers and our safety nets.
When your son married the whole town gathered to build the new couple’s house.

Friendly?  Generous?
Probably not much more so than we are today.

Rather I think it was enlightened self-interest. Today it is your son’s house, tomorrow my barn, next year a coral or a silo for somebody else. That is how everybody got paid back. If a crop failed, or a working family member was injured, the congregation shared out the load and everybody suffered a little so that no one suffered too much.

In Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond makes a convincing argument that the best place for a tribal chief to store his surplus food is in his neighbor’s stomach.

But we no longer see our families, or neighbors or our Church as our primary source of help and credit. We look to the plastic, write a convenience check, press 1 for cash advance - and we do not even sit across the desk from a human banker, let alone share our dream for a new house, or our fear of a lean winter with our neighbors.

This mechanical credit gives us an illusion of autonomy. We are disconnected in a way no ancestor could have survived – And the distance is increasing.

To serve their own ends of power and privilege the organs of government in the West have for 60+ years waged a steady and relentless campaign to concentrate all generosity in the Sovereign.  As the government does more and more. Food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, and public safety – the role of the community in each of these becomes less and less.
  • The food bank has been diminished by the LoneStar Card.
  • The alms house has become the projects.
  • The Sisters of Mercy has been replaced by Medicaid.
  • The parochial school withers as the public school becomes ever more like the penal system.
  • The culture that less than a century ago would still have raised a posse to chase the thief, now stands aside from crime – not wanting to get involved.

But we are involved. We are all interconnected we are all a part of one another. The illusion of autonomy is just that an illusion! 

If I depend on credit cards and government, all if have done is exchange a dependency on friends and neighbors, people I know and who know me, for a dependency on strangers and intuitions, people I do not know, who do not know – or care – about me.  

And I am the poorer for it, by more than just the annual percentage rate.