The Feast of Saint Augustine, 26 May

 

 

St. Augustine,  First Archbishop of Canterbury, 605

(Nicholson Notes: Tomorrow according to the English Calendar (and that of the Episcopal Chruch US) is the Feast of Saint Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury)  I am republishing an article taken from the  1914 Catholic Encyclopedia (Roman) as it presents a bit more detail than the biography published in  Lesser Feasts and Fasts .  In the Roman Calendar his feast is celebrated on May 28 but as the author notes in the  English Calendar it is celebrated on May 26 the actual date of his death.  Tomorrow at Morning and Evening Prayer we will venerate Saint Augustine at Morning and Evening Prayer in Seibels Chapel, Trinity Cathedral which is located at the corner of Sumter and Gervais Streets, Columbia, South Carolina.  All are welcome and invited and you just never know who might pop in through our window to visit us.) 

First Archbishop of Canterbury, Apostle of the English; date of birth unknown; d. 26 May, 604. Symbols: cope, pallium, and mitre as Bishop of Canterbury, and pastoral staff and gospels as missionary. Nothing is known of his youth except that he was probably a Roman of the better class, and that early in life he become a monk in the famous monastery of St. Andrew erected by St. Gregory out of his own patrimony on the Cælian Hill. It was thus amid the religious intimacies of the Benedictine Rule and in the bracing atmosphere of a recent foundation that the character of the future missionary was formed. Chance is said to have furnished the opportunity for the enterprise which was destined to link his name for all time with that of his friend and patron, St. Gregory, as the “true beginner” of one of the most important Churches in Christendom and the medium by which the authority of the Roman See was established over men of the English-speaking race. It is unnecessary to dwell here upon Bede’s well-known version of Gregory’s casual encounter with English slaves in the Roman market place (H.E., II, i), which is treated under GREGORY THE GREAT.

Some five years after his elevation to the Roman See (590) Gregory began to look about him for ways and means to carry out the dream of his earlier days. He naturally turned to the community he had ruled more than a decade of years before in the monastery on the Cælian Hill. Out of these he selected a company of about forty and designated Augustine, at that time Prior of St. Andrew’s, to be their representative and spokesman. The appointment, as will appear later on, seems to have been of a somewhat indeterminate character; but from this time forward until his death in 604 it is to Augustine as “strengthened by the confirmation of the blessed Father Gregory (roboratus confirmatione beati patris Gregorii, Bede, H. E., I, xxv) that English, as distinguished from British, Christianity owes its primary inspiration.

Augustine II
The event which afforded Pope Gregory the opportunity he had so long desired of carrying out his great missionary plan in favour of the English happened in the year 595 or 596. A rumour had reached Rome that the pagan inhabitants of Britain were ready to embrace the Faith in great numbers, if only preachers could be found to instruct them. The first plan which seems to have occurred to the pontiff was to take measures for the purchase of English captive boys of seventeen years of age and upwards. These he would have brought up in the Catholic Faith with idea of ordaining them and sending them back in due time as apostles to their own people. He according wrote to Candidus, a presbyter entrusted with the administration of a small estate belonging to the patrimony of the Roman Church in Gaul, asking him to secure revenues and set them aside for this purpose. (Greg., Epp., VI, vii in Migne, P.L., LXXVII.) It is possible, not only to determine approximately the dates of these events, but also to indicate the particular quarter of Britain from which the rumour had come. Aethelberht became King of Kent in 559 or 560, and in less than twenty years he succeeded in establishing an overlordship that extended from the boulders of the country of the West Saxons eastward to the sea and as far north as the Humber and the Trent. The Saxons of Middlesex and of Essex, together with the men of East Anglia and of Mercia, were thus brought to acknowledge him at Bretwalda, and he acquired a political importance which began to be felt by the Frankish princes on the other side of the Channel. Charibert of Paris gave him his daughter Bertha in marriage, stipulating, as part of the nuptial agreement, that she should be allowed the free exercise of her religion. The condition was accepted (Bede, H. E., I, xxv) and Luidhard, a Frankish bishop, accompanied the princess to her new home in Canterbury, where the ruined church of St. Martin, situated a short distance beyond the walls, and dating from Roman-British times, was set apart for her use (Bede, H. E.,I, xxvi). The date of this marriage, so important in its results to the future fortunes of Western Christianity, is of course largely a matter of conjecture; but from the evidence furnished by one or two scattered remarks in St. Gregory’s letters (Epp., VI) and from the circumstances which attended the emergence of the kingdom of the Jutes to a position of prominence in the Britain of this period, we may safely assume that it had taken place fully twenty years before the plan of sending Augustine and his companions suggested itself to the pope.

Augustie III

 

The pope was obliged to complain of the lack of episcopal zeal among Aethelberht Christian neighbours. Whether we are to understand the phrase ex vicinis (Greg., Epp.,VI) as referring to Gaulish prelates or to the Celtic bishops of northern and western Britain, the fact remains that neither Bertha’s piety, nor Luidhard’s preaching, nor Aethelberht’s toleration, nor the supposedly robust faith of British or Gaulish neighbouring peoples was found adequate to so obvious an opportunity until a Roman pontiff, distracted with the cares of a world supposed to be hastening to its eclipse, first exhorted forty Benedictines of Italian blood to the enterprise. The itinerary seem to have been speedily, if vaguely, prepared; the little company set out upon their long journey in the month of June, 596. They were armed with letters to the bishops and Christian princes of the countries through which they were likely to pass, and they were further instructed to provide themselves with Frankish interpreters before setting foot in Britain itself. Discouragement, however, appears early to have overtaken them on their way. Tales of the uncouth islanders to whom they were going chilled their enthusiasm, and some of their number actually proposed that they should draw back. Augustine so far compromised with the waverers that he agreed to return in person to Pope Gregory and lay before him plainly the difficulties which they might be compelled to encounter. The band of missionaries waited for him in the neighbourhood of Aix-en-Provence. Pope Gregory, however, raised the drooping spirits of Augustine and sent him back without delay to his faint-hearted brethren, armed with more precise, and as it appeared, more convincing authority.

Augustine was named abbot of the missionaries (Bede, H. E.,I, xxiii) and was furnished with fresh letters in which the pope made kindly acknowledgment of the aid thus far offered by Protasius, Bishop of Aix-en-Provence, by Stephen, Abbot of Lérins, and by a wealthy lay official of patrician rank called Arigius [Greg., Epp., VI (indic. xiv) num. 52 sqq.;sc. 3,4,5 of the Benedictine series]. Augustine must have reached Aix on his return journey some time in August; for Gregory’s message of encouragement to the party bears the date of July the twenty-third, 596. Whatever may have been the real source of the passing discouragement no more delays are recorded. The missionaries pushed on through Gaul, passing up through the valley of the Rhone to Arles on their way to Vienne and Autun, and thence northward, by one of several alternatives routes which it is impossible now to fix with accuracy, until they come to Paris. Here, in all probability, they passed the winter months; and here, too, as is not unlikely, considering the relations that existed between the family of the reigning house and that of Kent, they secured the services of the local presbyters suggested as interpreters in the pope’s letters to Theodoric and Theodebert and to Brunichilda, Queen of the Franks.

 

Augustin IV

In the spring of the following year they were ready to embark. The name of the port at which they took ship has not been recorded. Boulogne was at that time a place of some mercantile importance; and it is not improbable that they directed their steps thither to find a suitable vessel in which they could complete the last and not least hazardous portion of their journey. All that we know for certain is that they landed somewhere on the Isle of Thanet (Bede, H. E.,I, xxv) and that they waited there in obedience to King Aethelberht orders until arrangements could be made for a formal interview. The king replied to their messengers that he would come in person from Canterbury, which was less than a dozen miles away. It is not easy to decide at this date between the four rival spots, each of which has claimed the distinction of being the place upon which St. Augustine and his companions first set foot. The Boarded Groin, Stonar, Ebbsfleet, and Richborough — last named, if the present course of the Stour has not altered in thirteen hundred years, then forming part of the mainland — each has its defenders. The curious in such matters may consult the special literature on the subject cited at the close of this article. The promised interview between the king and the missionaries took place within a few days. It was held in the open air, sub divo, says Bede (Bede, H.E.,I, xxv), on a level spot, probably under a spreading oak in deference to the king’s dread of Augustine’s possible incantations. His fear, however, was dispelled by the native grace of manner and the kindly personality of his chief guest who addressed him through an interpreter. The message told “how the compassionate Jesus had redeemed a world of sin by His own agony and opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all who would believe” (Aelfric, ap. Haddan and Stubbs, III, ii). The king’s answer, while gracious in its friendliness, was curiously prophetic of the religious after-temper of his race. “Your words and promised are very fair” he is said to have replied, “but as they are new to us and of uncertain import, I cannot assent to them and give up what I have long held in common with the whole English nation. But since you have come as strangers from so great a distance, and, as I take it, are anxious to have us also share in what you conceive to be both excellent and true, we will not interfere with you, but receive you, rather, in kindly hospitality and take care to provide what may be necessary for your support. Moreover, we make no objection to your winning as many converts as you can to your creed”. (Bede, H.E., I, xxv.)

The king more than made good his words. He invited the missionaries to take up their abode in the royal capital of Canterbury, then a barbarous and half-ruined metropolis, built by the Kentish folk upon the site of the old Roman military town of Durovernum. In spite of the squalid character of the city, the monks must have made an impressive picture as they drew near the abode “over against the Kings’ Street facing the north”, a detail preserved in William Thorne’s (c. 1397) “Chronicle of the Abbots of St. Augustine’s Canterbury,” p.1759, assigned them for a dwelling. The striking circumstances of their approach seem to have lingered long in popular remembrance; for Bede, writing fully a century and a third after the event, is at pains to describe how they came in characteristic Roman fashion (more suo) bearing “the holy cross together with a picture of the Sovereign King, Our Lord Jesus Christ and chanting in unison this litany”, as they advanced: “We beseech thee, O Lord, in the fulness of thy pity that Thine anger and Thy holy wrath be turned away from this city and from Thy holy house, because we have sinned: Alleluia!” It was an anthem out of one of the many “Rogation” litanies then beginning to be familiar in the churches of Gaul and possibly not unknown also at Rome. (Martène, “De antiquis Ecclesiae ritibus”, 1764, III, 189; Bede, “H.E.”, II, xx; Joanes Diac., “De Vita Gregorii”, II, 17 in Migne, P.L., LXXXV; Duchesne’s ed., “Liber Pontificalis”, II, 12.) The building set apart for their use must have been fairly large to afford shelter to a community numbering fully forty. It stood in the Stable Gate, not far from the ruins of an old heathen temple; and the tradition in Thorn’s day was that the parish church of St. Alphage approximately marked the site (Chr. Aug. Abb., 1759). Here Augustine and his companions seemed to have established without delay the ordinary routine of the Benedictine rule as practiced at the close of the sixth century; and to it they seem to have added in a quiet way the apostolic ministry of preaching. The church dedicated to St. Martin in the eastern part of the city which had been set apart for the convenience of Bishop Luidhard and Queen Bertha’s followers many years before was also thrown open to them until the king should permit a more highly organized attempt at evangelization.

The evident sincerity of the missionaries, their single-mindedness, their courage under trial, and, above all, the disinterested character of Augustine himself and the unworldly note of his doctrine made a profound impression on the mind of the king. He asked to be instructed and his baptism was appointed to take place at Pentecost. Whether the queen and her Frankish bishop had any real hand in the process of this comparatively sudden conversion, it is impossible to say. St. Gregory’s letter written to Bertha herself, when the news of the king’s baptism had reached Rome, would lead us to infer, that, while little or nothing had been done before Augustine’s arrival, afterwards there was an endeavor on the part of the queen to make up for past remissness. The pope writes: “Et quoniam, Deo volente, aptum nunc tempus est, agate, ut divina gratia co-operante, cum augmento possitis quod neglectum est reparare”. [Greg. Epp., XI (indic., iv), 29.] The remissness does seem to have been atoned for, when we take into account the Christian activity associated with the names of this royal pair during the next few months. Aethelberht’s conversion naturally gave a great impetus to the enterprise of Augustine and his companions. Augustine himself determined to act at once upon the provisional instruction he had received from Pope Gregory. He crossed over to Gaul and sought episcopal consecration at the hands of Virgilius, the Metropolitan of Arles. Returning almost immediately to Kent, he made preparations for that more active and open form of propaganda for which Aethelberht’s baptism had prepared a way. It is characteristic of the spirit which actuated Augustine and his companions that no attempt was made to secure converts on a large scale by the employment of force. Bede tells us that it was part of the king’s uniform policy “to compel no man to embrace Christianity” (H. E., I, xxvi) and we know from more than one of his extant letters what the pope though of a method so strangely at variance with the teaching of the Gospels. On Christmas Day, 597, more than ten thousand persons were baptized by the first “Archbishop of the English”. The great ceremony probably took place in the waters of the Swale, not far from the mouth of the Medway. News of these extraordinary events was at once dispatched to the pope, who wrote in turn to express his joy to his friend Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria, to Augustine himself, and to the king and queen. (Epp., VIII, xxx; XI, xxviii; ibid., lxvi; Bede, H. E., I, xxxi, xxxii.) Augustine’s message to Gregory was carried by Lawrence the Presbyter, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, and Peter one of the original colony of missionary monks. They were instructed to ask for more Gospel labourers, and, if we may trust Bede’s account in this particular and the curious group of letters embodied in his narrative, they bore with them a list of dubia, or questions, bearing upon several points of discipline and ritual with regard to which Augustine awaited the pope’s answer.

The genuineness of the document or libellus, as Bede calls it (H.E., II, i), in which the pope is alleged to have answered the doubts of the new archbishop has not been seriously called in question; though scholars have felt the force of the objection which St. Boniface, writing in the second quarter of the eighth century, urges, vis, that no trace of it could be found in the official collection of St. Gregory’s correspondence preserved in the registry of the Roman Church.(Haddan and Stubbs, III, 336; Dudden, “Gregory the Great”, II, 130, note; Mason, “Mission of St. Augustine”, preface, pp. viii and ix; Duchesne, “Origines”, 3d ed., p. 99, note.) It contains nine responsa, the most important of which are those that touch upon the local differences of ritual, the question of jurisdiction, and the perpetually recurring problem of marriage relationships. “Why”, Augustine had asked “since the faith is one, should there be different usages in different churches; one way of saying Mass in the Roman Church, for instance, and another in the Church of Gaul?” The pope’s reply is, that while “Augustine is not to forget the Church in which he has been brought up”, he is at liberty to adopt from the usage of other Churches whatever is most likely to prove pleasing to Almighty God. “For institutions”, he adds, “are not to be loved for the sake of places; but places, rather, for the sake of institutions”. With regard to the delicate question of jurisdiction Augustine is informed that he is to exercise no authority over the churches of Gaul; but that “all the bishops of Britain are entrusted to him, to the end that the unlearned may be instructed, the wavering strengthened by persuasion and the perverse corrected with authority”. [Greg., Epp., XI (indic., iv), 64; Bede, H. E., I, xxvii.] Augustine seized the first convenient opportunity to carry out the graver provisions of this last enactment. He had already received the pallium on the return of Peter and Lawrence from Rome in 601. The original band of missionaries had also been reinforced by fresh recruits, among whom “the first and most distinguished” as Bede notes, “were Mellitus, Justus, Paulinus, and Ruffinianus”. Of these Ruffinianus was afterwards chosen abbot of the monastery established by Augustine in honour of St. Peter outside the eastern walls of the Kentish capital. Mellitus became the first English Bishop of London; Justus was appointed to the new see of Rochester, and Paulinus became the Metropolitan of York.

Aethelberht, as Bretwalda, allowed his wider territory to be mapped out into dioceses, and exerted himself in Augustine’s behalf to bring about a meeting with the Celtic bishops of Southern Britain. The conference took place in Malmesbury, on the borders of Wessex, not far from the Severn, at a spot long described in popular legend as Austin’s Oak. (Bede, H.E., II, ii.) Nothing came of this attempt to introduce ecclesiastical uniformity. Augustine seems to have been willing enough to yield certain points; but on three important issues he would not compromise. He insisted on an unconditional surrender on the Easter controversy; on the mode of administering the Sacrament of Baptism; and on the duty of taking active measures in concert with him for the evangelization of the Saxon conquerors. The Celtic bishops refused to yield, and the meeting was broken up. A second conference was afterwards planned at which only seven of the British bishops convened. They were accompanied this time by a group of their “most learned men” headed by Dinoth, the abbot of the celebrated monastery of Bangor-is-coed. The result was, if anything, more discouraging than before. Accusations of unworthy motives were freely bandied on both sides. Augustine’s Roman regard for form, together with his punctiliousness for personal precedence as Pope Gregory’s representative, gave umbrage to the Celts. They denounced the Archbishop for his pride, and retired behind their mountains. As they were on the point of withdrawing, they heard the only angry threat that is recorded of the saint: “If ye will not have peace with the brethren, ye shall have war from your enemies; and if ye will not preach the way of life to the English, ye shall suffer the punishment of death at their hands”. Popular imagination, some ten years afterwards, saw a terrible fulfilment of the prophecy in the butchery of the Bangor monks at the hands of Aethelfrid the Destroyer in the great battle won by him at Chester in 613.

These efforts toward Catholic unity with the Celtic bishops and the constitution of a well-defined hierarchy for the Saxon Church are the last recorded acts of the saint’s life. His death fell in the same year says a very early tradition (which can be traced back to Archbishop Theodore’s time) as that of his beloved father and patron, Pope Gregory. Thorn, however, who attempts always to give the Canterbury version of these legends, asserts — somewhat inaccurately, it would appear, if his coincidences be rigorously tested — that it took place in 605. He was buried, in true Roman fashion, outside the walls of the Kentish capital in a grave dug by the side of the great Roman road which then ran from Deal to Canterbury over St. Martin’s Hill and near the unfinished abbey church which he had begun in honour of Sts. Peter and Paul and which was afterwards to be dedicated to his memory. When the monastery was completed, his relics were translated to a tomb prepared for them in the north porch. A modern hospital is said to occupy the site of his last resting place. [Stanley, “Memorials of Canterbury” (1906), 38.] His feast day in the Roman Calendar is kept on 28 May; but in the proper of the English office it occurs two days earlier, the true anniversary of his death. From the 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia

 

 

 

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

A few days ago I was visiting with a friend who had just received some very bad news about his heart.  He confided in me that he had been a heavy smoker and heavy drinker of alcohol all his life.  He expressed his regret and his desperation at what was now about to happen to him and his family. “Remember me before God” he asked and I promised to do that on a daily basis as I led the Daily Office.  In his lament and desperateness my friend has found himself “up against” a wall with no place to turn but to God.

Today, I am sharing the Daily Devotion  published  by the Living Church Foundation and edited by the Reverend Emily R. Hylden as it strikes a very similar theme by examining the teachings of Psalm 38.  My friend and I recited Psalm 38  along with one of my favorites Psalm 62 whose haunting “For God alone my soul in silence waits” to me has always struck a cord which aligns our priorities in life perfectly.

The Devotion with its meditation by Fr. Gahan and art by Theophilos  Papadopoulos titled “Monastery Doors”  may serve as some comfort and provide insight for all  who are facing life and death situations.

Daily Devotional is a ministry of the Living Church Foundation.
Image licensed via Creative Commons.
Theophilos Papadopoulos/Flickr
God’s Creeps
Daily Devotional • May 25
By the Rev. Patrick Gahan

“The creep!” Bishop Willimon yelled out from the den as he was watching TV. An executive who had been indicted for swindling millions of dollars from his company and its employees was clutching a Bible and publicly confessing his sin to television viewers everywhere. “Is there no limit to his hypocrisy? Can you believe this?”

As she passed through the den, Willimon’s wife, Patsy, replied, “It’s unbelievable the sort of creeps Jesus is willing to forgive. Even more incredible the sort of creeps Jesus commands us to be church with.”

There is something creepy about the poet’s confession in Psalm 38. He is physically sick and at the end of his rope, with nowhere to turn but Godward. “Your arrows (O God) have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me,” the psalmist laments (Ps. 38:2). He makes his ardent confession before God — “I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin” — because the poet knows his illness is the result of his despicable behavior.

Psalms 6, 38, 39, and 88 have recently been expelled from the New Revised Common Lectionary because of their inference that sickness is visited on people by God. That, I’m afraid, is a rather shallow understanding of these psalms. The poet sees in broader strokes than most of us do. He realizes that our entire life is lived in God.

We can no more sequester our physical self from God than we could partition off our spirit or our emotional life from him. On that accord, Psalm 38’s conclusion is quite positive. “But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer” (Ps. 38:15). It is a wise person who stops in his tracks and waits on the Lord, no matter how bad a creep he was before.

Psalm 38O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, or discipline me in your wrath.

2For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.

3There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.

4For my iniquities have gone over my head; they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.

5My wounds grow foul and fester because of my foolishness;

6I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all day long I go around mourning.

7For my loins are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.

8I am utterly spent and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

9O Lord, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you.

10My heart throbs, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.

11My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction, and my neighbors stand far off.

12Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek to hurt me speak of ruin, and meditate treachery all day long.

13But I am like the deaf, I do not hear; like the mute, who cannot speak.

14Truly, I am like one who does not hear, and in whose mouth is no retort.

15But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

16For I pray, “Only do not let them rejoice over me, those who boast against me when my foot slips.”

17For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever with me.

18I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.

19Those who are my foes without cause are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.

20Those who render me evil for good are my adversaries because I follow after good.

21Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me;

22make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.

A JOURNEY TO DUKE GARDEN AND CHAPEL In PICTURES

Thursday, and Friday of this week found me visiting Raleigh and Durham again for a combination of business and personal reasons.  Of course, I had to take in the garden, the chapel and the Mad Hatter.  Through the miracle of cell phone technology I can now make a photo record of these trips.  Each time I visit I see something new and interesting and would like to share it.  Heaven help me if I ever get to England or Europe and am confronted with the likes of Chartres or Westminster Abbey.

Duke Chapel from the Road
The Arrival  – The arrival near west campus is always announced with the bell tower of Duke Chapel, a reminder that in medieval times church spires were visible above everything.

Continue reading “A JOURNEY TO DUKE GARDEN AND CHAPEL In PICTURES”

The Impact of Zubick v. Burwell, 578 U.S. __(2016) A Win, Win, Win and a Loss

Paul Clement, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan
This artist rendering shows Attorney Paul Clement speaks before the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 28, 2012, during arguments on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Justices, from left are, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren)

 

The Impact of Zubick v. Burwell, 578 U.S. __(2016)

A Win, Win, Win and a Loss

Paul J. Nicholson*

            In a per curiam [1] opinion issued May 16, 2016 the Supreme Court of the United States vacated the judgments in the Circuit Courts of Appeals below and remanded the cases to the respective United States Court of Appeals for the Third, Fifth, Tenth and D.C. Circuits. In doing so the Court made it clear that it was not addressing the issues in the first instance, and that it was “expressing no view on the merits of the cases.”

This case involved the consolidation of seven cases.  The cases were each brought against Silvia Burwell Et  Al. the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The seven named petitioners[2] were David Zubick Et  Al.[3]; Priests for Life Et Al.; Roman Catholic Archbishops of Washington; East Texas Baptist University;  Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged; Denver Colorado; Southern Nazarene University and Geneva College.

The issue in the cases was whether the requirement that an organization which objected to paying for medical insurance which covered the cost of abortions was burdened in their religious expression under the terms of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 by being required to file a statement claiming an exemption on the basis that they objected on religious grounds.  The Court did not rule on this issue but rather remanded[4] the cases after vacating[5] the judgments of the lower Courts with the suggestion that the “parties should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioner’s health plans “receive full and equal health coverage, including contraception coverage.” And the Court added: “We anticipate that the Courts of Appeals will allow the parties sufficient time to resolve any outstanding issues between them.

After hearing oral arguments the Court requested that the parties file supplemental briefs addressing the question of “whether contraceptive coverage could be provided to petitioner’s employees, through petitioner’s insurance companies without any such notice from petitioners.”  And, in response the petitioner individual and organizations clarified that they do not feel their religious exercise is infringed where they “need to do nothing more than contract for a plan that does not include coverage for some or all forms of contraception.” And the Government confirmed that the challenged procedure could be modified to operate in the manner required in the lower Court’s order while still ensuring that the affected women receive contraceptive coverage seamlessly, together with the rest of their health coverage.”

In other words the petitioners stated in their supplemental briefs that they did not feel their rights to be infringed upon if all they had to do was to obtain insurance for their employees which did not provide contraceptive coverage and the Government stated that the procedure requiring the filing of a notice requesting exemption could be modified to fit this situation.  The parties, therefore, indicated that they had substantially reached an agreement to settle the matter.

Therefore, this created a win, win, win situation.  Some of my colleagues, especially those representing religious organizations and causes, are arguing this constitutes a big win for the petitioners and that the petitioners forced the Obama Administration to back down from an onerous policy.  And, yes it is a win for the petitioners, but it is also a win for the Government, and especially a win for the Supreme Court which would not have been able to decide the case due to a most likely four to four split between those favoring the mandate and those opposed to it.

Through the device of requesting supplemental briefs the Court found an opening, a way to go, which would allow it to vacate the judgments in the Courts of Appeals without deciding all for the Government or all for the petitioners.  The parties showed through the briefs that they could agree on a resolution.

While this has proved to be a workable result in these cases there are reasons that this decision is not so much of a win for the constitution as a whole.  First, the Court refused to decide the substantive issue and that leaves the door open for future litigation.  Settlements reached between the parties will not bind future litigants or a future administration.  Second, the per curiam decision to remand the case did not settle potential future splits among the Circuit Courts of Appeals.  Any decisions entered in the Third, Fifth, Tenth and D.C. Circuits will not bind the First, Second, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth or Eleventh Circuits and leave each of those Courts to come up with their own determinations of how to resolve the issue.  Finally, the Justices are tacitly acknowledging their own impotency in being able to resolve important national legal issues.  The fear of a “tie vote” has rendered the Court useless as an instrument of Government.  The refusal of Congress to act on the President’s nomination of a Justice to replace Antonin Scalia has effectively sidelined the Court from the playing field of national policy and the Justices find themselves powerless to change that result except through the kind of procedural maneuvering exemplified in the per curiam.

It will be interesting to follow the course of future cases and see just how resourceful the Justices are in combating the ineffectiveness of their own institution. In the meantime those affiliated with religious organizations which faces heavy fines and penalties may take comfort that the Administration has as a matter of grace shown its willingness to rework its policies to accommodate religious freedom without the necessity of an actual decision from the Supreme Court of the United States.

Notes:

  • BA Hendrix College, 1971; J.D. University of Arkansas 1974.

[1] A per curiam opinion is one issued in the name of the Court itself as opposed to one issued over the signature of an individual judge or justice.  It is also represents the unanimous decision of all the judges.

[2] A party seeking to challenge a lower court ruling is the “petitioner”, the party against whom the relief is sought is referred to as the “respondent”.

[3] Et Al.  An abbreviation of the Latin et alii, meaning “and others”.

[4] Returned.

[5] Rendering them as if never decided.

DECIDING NOT TO DECIDE

supreme court II

This article is the kind of material for which this website was created.  That is the juxtaposition of civil law and religious principles.  The Supreme Court of the United States has been neutered, or perhaps emasculated, by the inaction of the United States Senate which refuses to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Today the court is asking the parties in Zubik v. Burwell to file briefs and suggest settlement options. I can recall as a young lawyer going to Court armed to the teeth with facts and precedents and all kinds of policy arguments as to why my client should prevail only to have the judge tell me and the other lawyer to go out in the hall and “settle this case” or else.  I always thought this was because the judge was “overworked” and had too many cases.  But, the this  ruling , however, reveals something even more sinister.  And, that is the unwillingness to decide.  In my cases it was an unwillingness to make the wrong decision and have some appellate judge make mince meat out of you  (the judge that is) .  But, in this case before the Supreme Court it is the fear that after all the argument and all the deliberation the decision will result in a four to four tie.  As citizens you should all be absolutely outraged and demand that any Senator, Republican or Democrat, who has held up action on the President’s nomination  be impeached and removed form office for failing to fulfill their clear constitutional duty to act in order to fill the vacancy on the Court. I can only hope that if Donald Trump is elected he will move with dispatch to fire those ” pathetic looser” ( Trump’s terms not mine) Senators who are actually “obstructing justice” through inaction. I hasten to add waiting for a year to see how the election turns out is like waiting to have your garbage picked up until a election is held to see who will be the next sanitation commissioner.

Justices, Seeking Compromise, Return Contraception Case to Lower Courts

Demonstrators held signs outside the Supreme Court building in Washington on March 23 as the justices heard arguments in the Zubik v. Burwell case .  Credits : Zach Gibson/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, in an unsigned unanimous opinion, announced on Monday that it would not rule in a major case on access to contraception, and instructed lower courts to explore whether a compromise was possible.

The ruling was the latest indication that the eight-member Supreme Court is exploring every avenue to avoid 4-to-4 deadlocks, even if the resulting action does not decide the question the justices had agreed to address.

The case, Zubik v. Burwell, No. 14-1418, was brought by religious groups that object to providing insurance coverage for contraception to their female employees.

Less than a week after the case was argued in March, the court issued an unusual unsigned order asking the parties to submit supplemental briefs on a possible compromise. In Monday’s ruling, the court said those briefs suggested that a compromise was possible, but that it should be forged in the lower courts.

“Given the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties, the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage,’ ” the court said, quoting from a brief filed by the government.

The Supreme Court urged the lower courts to “allow the parties sufficient time to resolve any outstanding issues between them.”

The justices emphasized that they were deciding nothing.

“The court expresses no view on the merits of the cases,” the opinion said. “In particular, the court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a concurrence, which was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, underscoring the limited nature of the court’s action and cautioning lower courts not to read anything into it.

THE WHITE HOUSE REACTION

“Today’s opinion does only what it says it does: ‘affords an opportunity’ for the parties and courts of appeals to reconsider the parties’ arguments in light of petitioners’ new articulation of their religious objection and the government’s clarification about what the existing regulations accomplish, how they might be amended and what such an amendment would sacrifice,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “As enlightened by the parties’ new submissions, the courts of appeals remain free to reach the same conclusion or a different one on each of the questions presented by these cases.”

The case was the court’s second encounter with the contraception requirement and the fourth time it considered an aspect of the Affordable Care Act. It built on a case from 2014, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which said a regulation requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception violated a federal law protecting religious liberty. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority in 2014, said there was a better alternative, one the government had offered to nonprofit groups with religious objections.

That alternative, or accommodation, was at issue in the new case. It allowed nonprofit groups like schools and hospitals that were affiliated with religious organizations not to pay for coverage and to avoid fines if they informed their insurers, plan administrators or the government that they wanted an exemption.

Many religious groups around the nation challenged the accommodation, saying that objecting and providing the required information would make them complicit in conduct that violated their faith.

The groups added that they should be entitled to the outright exemption offered to houses of worship like churches, synagogues and mosques. Houses of worship are not subject to the coverage requirement at all and do not have to file any paperwork if they choose not to provide contraception coverage.

At the arguments in March, several justices indicated that they thought the accommodation violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it allowed the government to “hijack” the insurance plans of the religious groups that are the petitioners in the case.

Days later, the court called for more briefs in an order that asked the parties to “address whether and how contraceptive coverage may be obtained by petitioners’ employees through petitioners’ insurance companies, but in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.”

The order sketched out how this might work, asking the two sides to address whether it would be acceptable for the groups to do no more than to buy insurance plans for their workers that do not include contraception coverage.

The Walls We Build – Protection or Prison? A Meditation on the Shawshank Redemption

Shawshank_Redemption_Mansfield

 

The Walls We Build – Protection  or Prison? A Meditation on the Shawshank Redemption

When I was a second year law student, a 2L, I applied for and got a job for the summer with the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Arkansas.  This was the first real “law job” I had ever had.  Oh, during my college days some of my friends, on occasion, would call me up and ask for legal advice.  One friend had been stopped and in his eyes “harassed” by the police and wanted to sue.  He felt his civil rights had been violated. I doled out some answer based on the law I knew but this was pretty much the blind leading the blind and in my estimation he had not been “harassed”. My new job, however, was the real thing. It was a chance to put into practice all those theories and principles those professor’s had been throwing at me for two years.

During this time it seems the State of Arkansas had been “ordered” by a Federal Judge to provide legal representation for inmates in its prison system.  The Federal Courts had been particularly concerned that there might be persons in the prison system who were actually innocent or who had been unlawfully convicted and so to ensure that a fair trial had been had lawyers were to be made available by the State to assist inmates in being able to properly challenge their convictions in the Federal Courts through a writ of habeas corpus. Habeas Corpus means “deliver up the body” and in the English common law it came to be known as “the great writ”.  The Federal Courts utilized the writ as a way of overseeing the constitutionality of the trial and appeals process in the states.   Sometimes a defendant would not receive “a fair trial” and the state appellate process would  also fail to find the error.

I was not licensed to practice law at the time but by virtue of a special rule a law student with two years of training working under the supervision of a licensed attorney could engage in a limited amount of law practice.  The best thing about the job was that my interviews with the inmates were to be conducted in the evenings at the Tucker State Prison Farm which was a scant fifteen miles from where I lived in Pine Bluff.   For those of you have been around awhile you might recall that this institution became famous, or rather infamous, as the site of the so called “Tucker Telephone” along with other instruments of torture which were used by prison wardens to quell disobedience and dissent.

Perhaps you saw the motion picture titled “Brubaker” starring Robert Redford which was about a reforming prison warden who took over a prison system in a southern state and found , to his horror, the remains of inmates buried after having been tortured with these “devices”.  Well, that was based on the real life story of Thomas Murton who actually was that warden.  Mr. Murton discovered the bodies and dutifully reported his findings to the press and media who exposed the horrors to the world.  To his dismay Mr. Murton found that his boss, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, was not amused and fired him forthwith.

The atrocities at Tucker were echoed throughout the United States and lawsuit after lawsuit was filed seeking constitutional protections for inmates to insure that they were not unfairly convicted or subject to having their lives taken from them in an unconstitutional manner.

In my memories of those days one thing clearly and remarkably stands out.  That summer, I would leave my mother and father at our home, just before, or just after,  dinner and drive the fifteen miles to Tucker.  I would park in the lot in front of the main gate. I then entered a series of gates whose locks clicked loudly shut as I proceeded.  As I heard  the locking of each gate I realized that  I too was now an inmate and subject to the total and absolute control of the Arkansas prison system.  But the real chill came in the form of the announcement of a policy. When I accepted the job offer from my boss, who was an assistant attorney general, he explained to me, in the most serious of terms possible about the “no hostage” policy. “If you are taken hostage during an attempt to escape, or prison rebellion you will not be accorded any special consideration and the law enforcement officers will shoot to kill if necessary regardless of your presence.”

Well, OK.  At the grand old age of 23, or possibly 24 , and thrilled to actually be employed as a lawyer I refused to consider the full implications of that remark which was hurriedly  followed with an uplifting caveat:  “ Don’t worry, you are the inmates hope of becoming free again and they will not harm you”  Right! Needless to say Paul always felt uneasy at work that summer.  And I found many of the inmates to have become consummate “jailhouse lawyers” with a pretty detailed knowledge of legal authorities. Most of them were also consummate jailhouse liars as well and the facts as they saw them varied materially from the testimony of witnesses.

I do remember thinking about the way in which “life behind the walls” instilled a sense of restriction along with a strange sense of certainty and security.  But, my full understanding of prison life and the lesson it portends for all of us did not come until just a few weeks ago when my wife and I watched a motion picture.

It started with an email from Netflix saying “a new movie had been added to Netflix:  the Shawshank Redemption.”  OK, I had heard of that movie some three of four years ago and was glad that Netflix had added a “new/old movie” that I actually wanted to watch.  In case you have not seen the picture Shawshank is the fictional name of a state prison in Maine. The location used for the exterior shots were filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory, in Mansfield, pictured above.  The story begins with Andy, played by Tim Robbins, the main character, sitting in a car with a bottle of whiskey and a loaded revolver by his side.  He is obviously in torment and he alternately swigs the whiskey and looks at the gun.  In the next scene a beautiful young woman is shown in the act of making love to a man.  It turns out that the woman is Andy’s wife and the man is the local golf pro!  We then cut to Andy sitting in the witness box testifying at his own trial in which he is accused of having murdered both the golf pro and his wife.  While the prosecution’s case is “circumstantial” Andy is convicted and sentenced to serve two life terms in prison.  Andy protests that he is innocent, and in the end the movie bears that out, but he is sentenced anyway.

Andy arrives at Shawshank and after weathering a brutal intake procedure meets Red, played by Morgan Freeman.  Red has served some twenty years of a life sentence.  He goes before the parole board every year and every year despite his model conduct his parole request is denied. Red, however, is a “go to guy” who can get almost anything you want for the right price. Andy, an amateur geologist, throws Red a bit of a curve when he asks him to obtain a “rock pick” for him.  A rock pick is a very small pick ax used by geologists to chip at rocks and stones in order to analyze them.  Later in the picture Andy also asks Red if he could get “Rita Hayworth” for him, and Red with a sardonic grin says “oh sure, I’ll get her, but it may take a few weeks.”  And, Red delivers on his promise in a vicarious way by producing a life size poster of Ms. Hayworth.

The turning point and piece de resistance of the picture comes when Andy and Red are urgently summoned by another inmate to quell an emergency situation which involves the prison librarian, Brooks. Brooks, who is ably played by James Whitmore, is in the midst of holding Haywood, another inmate, hostage with a letter opener at his throat threatening to kill him.  It seems that Haywood had learned that Brooks was to be granted parole.  Liking Brooks and thinking the news would be welcomed Haywood breaks the news to Brooks.  Quite unexpectedly Brooks grabs the letter opener along with Haywood and threatens to kill him if he utters another word.  Andy and Red arrive on the scene and can’t quite figure out what caused Brooks to react to seemingly good news in that way.  The next scenes portray Brooks, a man in his seventies who has spent most of his life behind prison walls, trying to adjust to living outside in the “real world”.   Back at Shawshank Red and Andy discuss the situation and it becomes clear to them that Brooks, having lived almost his entire life behind the walls of Shawshank, had become dependent upon its walls and its routines to maintain his existence.  He had become institutionalized. Once those walls were removed Brooks was much like a turtle with no shell – exposed and vulnerable.  In his day to day struggle to fit in and survive on the outside he contemplates that he might just “rob the store where he works and even shoot the manager” in order to be sent back to the only home he had ever known.  In the end he decides to leave “freedom” which has caused so much fear and anxiety by hanging himself.

Then it’s Red’s turn.  After Andy manages to engineer a successful escape and also expose the corruption which had been going on in the prison at the same time, Red is paroled and finds himself in the same fix that Brooks had been in but in his case there is a way out besides death.  Andy has left him instructions on what to do if he is paroled and following those instructions he finds his way to the Mexican Village where Andy is building a new life.

It occurs to me that despite the lack of physical walls we all have a tendency to build invisible walls around our lives to defend and preserve what we feel is vital and important.  When new challenges are presented which would require us to live beyond those walls we become terrorized and anxious just like Brooks.   We turn away and refuse to even consider moving beyond the walls we have built.  And, in time, and in our carelessness, our protection becomes our prison.  We go about our routines without pausing to think about what might be on the other side of the wall.  We fail to stop and listen for any suggestion that to really fulfill our lives we need to be able to tear down a wall so as to permit growth. We become “grand illusionists” convincing ourselves that the “status quo” is truly our home and we overlook the call that comes from without.  I think we must always be sensitive to “the call”.  As I believe God truly does speak to us.  He might speak to us as he did to Samuel in the cool of the night, or he might speak to us through the speech or actions of another.  But our failure to listen, to heed, makes our walls of protection an impenetrable prison which then becomes our tomb.   God will not force us, but he will continue to call.  If we continue to ignore then what was a flame will become an ember and our hope of fulfillment and peace will perish.

So I am now resolved to beware of the comfort of my own existence.  I will always endeavor to stop and listen.  It may be that I will be called to remove myself from my “comfort zone” and find a way to escape the prison I have built for myself by daring to tear down a wall, or two. This may require sacrifice and endurance but I believe that unlike Brooks, the way need not lead to death as God does not desire that.  Rather, as in the case of Red, he desires that we follow the guidance provided by the Holy Spirit and his only Son, Our Lord,  just as Andy provided guidance for Red.

Love the Outcasts – Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

[Nicholson Note:  I am sharing the Daily Devotion published by the Living Chruch Foundation and edited by  The Reverend Emily R. Hylden which was published yesterday May 13, 2016 which was the feast of Frances Perkins.  We venerated Ms. Perkins at Morning Prayer yesterday morning at Trinity Cathedral, Columbia and this devotion was used as a homily.]

 

Daily Devotional is a ministry of the Living Church Foundation.
Image licensed via Creative Commons.
FDR Presidential Library and Museum/Flickr
Love the Outcasts
Daily Devotional • May 13 • Feast of Frances Perkins
By the Rev. Dr. Edward Ambrose

God calls us to love the outcasts of society. Moreover, he wants us to love poor people so much that we ought to provide sustenance, clothing, housing, and whatever else our brothers and sisters need. Jesus wants us to visit prisoners and to bring fellowship to people who are confined to various institutions and hospitals. Thus, we are called not to judge but to love. An example of this occurred during the Great Depression when Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet.

Ms. Perkins, whose feast we celebrate today, implemented a 40-hour work week, ended child labor, initiated unemployment relief, Social Security, and much more. She fostered massive public works programs that remedied the massive unemployment situation in our nation. She raised the downtrodden to the human dignity God intends for his children.

Today, May 13, is not only the day when we celebrate human dignity with Frances Perkins, but it is also the day when we read Christ’s similar message in the Daily Office.

Matthew 9:9-17

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 10And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

14Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. 17Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

On The Christian Life -Saint Paul, Jonathan Edwards and the Daily Devotion

This morning I am re-publishing another edition of the Daily Devotion by Emily Hylden and the Living Chruch Foundation because I feel I have been “called” to do so.  I read this Devotion early this morning  and then  attended Morning Prayer and a new mentor, Ray, also an ordained person, handed me a book called Edwards and the Christian Life which details the disciplined Christian life discussed in the Devotion.  To one who tends to see things where nothing is visible I felt this was a “nudge” saying that this Devotion and the underlying lesson from Ephesians has an important messsage that needs to be spread abroad to as many as possible.

Daily Devotional is a ministry of the Living Church Foundation.
Image licensed via Creative Commons.
Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP/Flickr
Paul and Holiness
Daily Devotional • May 12
By the Rev. Emily R. Hylden

Last week, I heard a pastor comment offhand that she didn’t pay much attention to Paul’s letters anymore, not only because he was misogynist, but because he didn’t understand Christian life the way that she does.

The Book of Ephesians is scorned among many mainline Protestants, to the great peril of spiritual growth. (I would argue that the fruits of ignoring a disciplined Christian life have already begun to ripen and drop to our society.)

The Christian life is not easy, but it is simple. The passage from Ephesians today — whoever wrote it, it is part of the Christian canon and the inspired Word of God — makes very clear exactly how we ought to behave (regardless of what we feel) toward others in order to be faithful and to develop spiritual maturity. Be angry, experience and understand this common emotion, surely, but do not let it tempt you into sin; have courage to speak the truth to your coworkers, your family members, your friends; but do so in love, not for the sake of tearing down, but for the sake of their own holiness, and for yours as well.

Ephesians 4:17-32

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart.19They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20That is not the way you learned Christ!21For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus.22You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil.28Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Lean in to Fear – Do Not Be Afraid

Republishing the Daily Devotion from Emily Hylden and the Living Church Foundation for today 11 May 2016.

Daily Devotional is a ministry of the Living Church Foundation.
Image licensed via Creative Commons.
Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP/Flickr
Lean In to Fear
Daily Devotional • May 11
By the Rev. Emily R. Hylden

Often, when we see God’s powerful hand at work, we are shocked and frightened — what is one of the most common phrases in Scripture but “Be not afraid”? In today’s reading from Matthew, when Jesus sends demons away from the people and into pigs, instead of flocking to him because of this great feat (really, a great public service, as the passage explains that the demoniacs would not let anyone pass by the place), they begged him to leave them.

It reminds me of the Hebrew people’s reaction to Moses’ shining face — they plead with Moses to cover his face so that they would not see the alarming light. How often to we have the same reaction to holiness?

Living in the world, surrounded by influences from media, secularism, slothfulness, and gluttony, those things that are oriented toward God — virtues, and holiness — can make us feel very much out of place and uncomfortable. I’ve found, however, that I grow most when I subject myself to uncomfortable situations regularly. God is most often in the uncomfortable places.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is stubborn, jealous for the affection of his people, but true growth, maturity, and discipleship comes from at least submitting to these frightening moments of holiness, if not learning how to embrace them wholeheartedly.

Matthew 8:28-34

28When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29Suddenly they shouted, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” 32And he said to them, “Go!” So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. 33The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. 34Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.