How to transport a saint’s severed arm
The secular media was intrigued this week by St Francis Xavier’s severed right arm, which is travelling across Canada on a 14-city tour. “This might be the most goth thing the Catholic Church has allowed,” claimed Vice News, perhaps unaware of the range of weird and wonderful relics venerated by the People of God.
Canada’s CBC radio featured an interview with Angèle Regnier, co-founder of Ottawa’s Catholic Christian Outreach. She said she was “very nervous” about exposing the saint’s arm to Canadian temperatures. “I enlisted some women to make me a coat for him,” she said. In the end a church provided a foam-lined duffel bag.
Regnier said that St Francis would be an inspiration to Canadian university students, as the saint had a conversion experience at the University of Paris. “He was the cool guy. He was the athletic guy,” she said. “Probably partying more than doing his schoolwork.” But then he met St Ignatius of Loyola, who helped “bring him alive in his faith”.
A Protestant finds holiness in a sung Mass
Chaz Muth of Catholic News Service also told a conversion story – of one Gabe Bouck, who was pushed to become Catholic after hearing a Mass sung in Gregorian chant. “There was something about it that immediately brought to my mind, ‘I am experiencing something that is holy right now. There’s something very solemn and very reverent going on in a way that I have never experienced in a Protestant church,’ ” Bouck recalled.
After his reception, he became a music director at his parish, and is now a seminarian.
Catholic books and the trouble with grittiness
Catholic publishing welcomes writing by female authors, said Simcha Fisher at I Have To Sit Down – “as long as it’s 90 per cent uplifting, joyful, and encouraging, Amen”. For instance, Fisher’s book about Natural Family Planning was rejected by “several Catholic publishers” as “too dark, too negative, too discouraging, too snarky, too problematic. It frankly acknowledged the struggles of living the faith, and that was unacceptable. It might possibly lead people astray.
“No one claimed it was heterodox,” Fisher pointed out. “It simply wasn’t joyful enough.”
When Fisher published the book herself, it sold very well, and only then did Catholic publishers become interested.
The experience suggested to Fisher that Catholic women writers are encouraged to “stuff down anything ugly, anything problematic, anything risky, anything that doesn’t end up with an edifying bow on top.”
It’s understandable, in a way – Catholic publishers have to please their audiences, and they don’t want an author to be exposed as leading an immoral life – which makes them nervous about writers who are too “gritty”. But men seem to be “given more latitude” than women.
✣ An Italian priest has invited parishioners to bring their smartphones to Mass so he could bless them.
Fr Alessandro Palermo, parish priest in Marsala, west Sicily, planned to give the blessing on the eve of the feast of St Lucy, the patron saint of eyesight.
He said he hoped it would encourage the faithful to use their phones in positive ways. According to The Times, Fr Palermo said: “Society is drugged by the smartphone … That’s why a blessing can do good, not to the phone but to those who use it.”
✣ A priest has starred in America’s version of The Great British Bake-Off.
Fr Kyle Schnippel, who regularly bakes bread and other treats for parishioners in Cincinnati, said he wanted to show viewers that priests could “still have a lot of fun” while taking their vocation seriously.
“My world is as much a foreign language to them as their world is to me. So what I wanted to do was just [be] a priest and [show] the joy,” he told the Catholic News Agency.
Fr Schnippel said he had to keep the project secret so told his parishioners he was attending an evangelisation initiative – which, he said, was not incorrect. He told Catholic Digest he made it a requirement that he wear his clericals on the show.
✣The week in quotations
A profound and awesome moment – when eternity breaks into our finite existence Bishop Alan Hopes of East Anglia Homily at an ordination
My dream is to re-Christianise the EU Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s incoming prime minister TV Trwam
Smooth the roughness of pride and make space for Jesus Pope Francis Homily on Advent
You must be spiritual flamethrowers Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney Youth festival in Sydney
✣Statistic of the week
82% Proportion of white US evangelicals who believe God gave Israel to the Jewish people Source: Pew Center
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