✣ Highlights from the week online
The meaning of St Philip’s glasses case
At The Amish Catholic, Rick Yoder said that on a visit to the Birmingham Oratory he was moved by the sight of St Philip Neri’s spectacle case. “Of all the glorious relics I saw that day – some encrusted in gold, some taken from rare and holy men, some evoking the perilous lives of saints who lived in a more heroic age – it was this humble artifact that most fired my imagination.”
St Philip is known for his ecstasies and miracles – but “Here we find him in his nature; frail and imperfect and in need of just a little aid, so like our own.”
There’s a spiritual lesson, Yoder said. “In our quest for holiness, we wish to be admired, to cast our voice abroad, to give and seek beauty. These are not necessarily unworthy goals. But they are not the most important thing … All too rarely do we seek our holiness in the gentle, quiet, everyday task of being useful, unnoticed, and present to God precisely when He needs us.”
Skinny jeans, the storm and a miracle
At One Peter Five, Steve Skojec read a familiar Gospel story in a contemporary light. The story of Christ asleep in the boat, and waking to calm the waves, is well known. But how often, Skojec wondered, do we think about the terror of the disciples, as they cried out to Our Lord, “Save us, we perish!”?
Think about it, Skojec wrote. “These weren’t a bunch of gussied-up hipsters wearing skinny jeans and drinking soy macchiatos (no foam!) while Snapchatting about their ironic glasses or … whatever hipsters do. These were rugged men of a harsh time – sailors, most of them, who made their living on the seas. They knew the difference between a sprinkle and a tempest. If they were scared, that boat must have been in serious danger.”
And Jesus slept in the boat. When they woke him, he stopped the storm, and then – Skojec speculated – gave the Apostles “the same look I give my boys when they start having an imaginary brawl with each other in the wine aisle of the grocery store, fists flying near bottles I can’t afford to buy even on Christmas. And He lays into them: ‘Why are you fearful?’”
At a moment of “chaos” in the Church, Skojec said, those words are addressed to us as well. “He is asking us to give over all our worry and anger and concern to Him, to shelter ourselves within His wounds, and to trust.”
What remains of the North Korean revival
At Aleteia, Ray Cavanaugh observed that Christianity used to thrive in North Korea. After the US established diplomatic relations with Korea in the 1880s, US missionaries – mostly Protestant – brought the Gospel to the Korean peninsula. By the early 20th century, Pyongyang alone had an estimated 3,000 churches.
Today, following decades of repression, “an estimated 300,000 Christians remain.” But some 70,000 are in the horrific labour camps, and there is such intense surveillance that some Christians don’t even tell their children about their religion. “However, the current regime is so erratic that some believe it will bring about its own destruction in the coming years.”
✣ A bishop has upset parents by telling children that Santa Claus isn’t real.
Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, Illinois, provoked a backlash after explaining the real story of St Nicholas, a 4th-century bishop, during a visit to Belleville’s Our Lady of Peace school.
A diocesan official said the remarks were made to 10- to 12-year-old children and that the controversy was based on a “complete misunderstanding”. But parents argued that the remarks still trickled down to the younger children.
“They hop in the car with [younger siblings] and say: ‘Bishop said there’s no Santa Claus’,” one parent, Boyd Ahlers, told Belleville News-Democrat. “All the kids are talking about it … it just waterfalls.”
Another parent, Ray Schott, told the Chicago Tribune: “These kids are exposed to so much, so early. [Santa] is the last pure thing in a child’s life. It hurts. He had no right to do any of that.”
✣ A Pope Francis gargoyle has been added to the front of Cologne Cathedral. The stonework is known as an ornamental gargoyle or “grotesque” as it does not function as a water spout. The cathedral has previously depicted JFK, Nikita Khrushchev and Harold Macmillan in stone or stained glass.
Please help us – we are in trouble
Ashiq Masih, husband of Asia Bibi, appeals to world leaders
I took to Twitter to show the world that Catholics are not sad, world-fleeing weirdos
Eduard Habsburg, Hungary’s ambassador to the Holy See
A Christian cannot be an anti-Semite
Pope Francis during a meeting with rabbis
Catholic News Agency
The journey to zero tolerance has begun
Bishop Luc Crepy
Remarks in French bishops’ report on safeguarding
Statistic of the week
The level of floodwater in St Mark’s Basilica, Venice, last week
Source: Basilica official