Aug 23, 2010

The Progess of Gay Rights and the Return of the Divine Feminine

Return of the Divine Feminine
A feminine understanding
of the interconnectedness and sacred equality and harmony
is beginning to seep into all areas of our lives
and transform us.

The Divine Feminine
has begun to permeate and elevate our lives;

The growing influence of holistic medicines
that honor the interconnectedness of mind and body.

The growth in the world of models on interaction
that stress cooperation, mutual respect, and creativity,
rather than competition.

The leap we have made in the recognition
of the sacredness and rights of animals.

The expansion of Women's rights,
despite the efforts of chauvinistic male institutions
including, but not limited to, the Catholic Church,
to oppose them

The Progress of Gay Rights,
again, despite the efforts of institutional church to oppose them.

The evolution of a new Sacred Masculinity
which defines its strength and nobility
in terms of revering, protecting, and integrating
the Feminine,
not in oppressing it.

The expansion of sacred physical disciplines
such as Yoga and Reiki,
(despite the Catholic Church's opposition)
helping people enter the sacred joy of embodiment.

The proliferation of forms of therapy
that honor the sacredness of body and soul.

The growth in many areas of science
to the awareness of our interdependence.

The forces of domination and exploitation,
wreaking havoc everywhere,
are on the wane.

The very desperation of these forces
shows they know they are already lost.

A new vision of Divine force
is transforming life on earth.

The Divine,
as She has had the first word,
will have the last.

Taken from Catholica

The Divine Feminine Assumes Her Place | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches

The Divine Feminine Assumes Her Place | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches

  • The middle of August symbolizes the beginning of the end of summer to most persons in culturally Protestant America. Children are returning to school; adults are returning to work. Summer vacation is coming to an end.

    It s a slightly different story in much of Europe, where August—the entire month—is still devoted to vacation.

    August 15, the very middle of this most languid of summer months (the one that takes its name from a legendary Roman emperor) has significant additional religious resonance.

    In Greek it is known as the Panagia, the All-Holy Mary’s day, a religious holiday second in significance only to Easter. In Italian it is called Ferragosto, the August Festival. It is the feast of the assumption of a woman who is still remembered somewhat ironically as “the Virgin.”

    Of all the trappings of medieval Christendom with which the Protestant Reformers dispensed, none were erased in more thoroughgoing fashion than the celebration of the emphatically bodily femininity of Jesus’ mother.

    The Most Intense Kind of Poetry

    Just as she was deemed to be a human being like no other, and thereby worthy of bearing the body of God, so too Mary is believed to have died like none other. That is why the Catholic and Eastern churches refer to her Assumption (or else to her sleeping, the so-called Dormition), not her death. Mary, it is believed, was “assumed body and soul into heaven,” in the words of this week’s holiday meditation in L’Osservatore Romano, dated August 11.

    The way the Catholic hierarchy describes this miracle is really rather moving, speaking as it does to the profound intimacy between a Mother and her Son, a female intimacy that is more movingly and emphatically described than any other female relation of this single Savior.

    Using the surprisingly familial language of orthodox Christian theology, the idea in play here is that God the Father cared as deeply for the Mother as for the Son; if Jesus’ body was “not allow[ed]... to undergo corruption,” then Mary’s would not be either. Both were assumed directly into heaven, body and soul. “To penetrate into this mystery,” the meditation suggests, “we have need of a divine revelation and the most intense kind of poetry.”

    This, they are quick to add, is just what we find in the Christian scriptures. Not just revelation, but intense poetry. Everything of importance this week comes in allegory. So Mary’s body when carrying the Christ to term (“pregnant with the Word,” as they put it) is a form of the Ark of the Covenant before which David danced the fool for joy. Mary’s body, when assumed directly into heaven, “is the image of the future God intends for us” all. And the Mother Church? Well, Mary just is her image, lovely and enduring. The newspaper goes on to perform a surprising mini-lesson in art history, analyzing two famous images of the Assumption, one by Matteo di Giovanni (1474) and another by Raphael of Urbino (1502-1504), as well as one modern icon of the Dormition, by Theophanes (1932).

    That, it would seem, is the key to this sacro-secular women’s holiday: images, and poetry.

    A Piece of Counter-Reformation

    To read the scriptures merely as a history lesson, or as a treatise on godly governance, would be to miss the better half of their power to illuminate. The artistry is all. And thus to fail to supplement such textual treasures with visual ones would be to hamstring the processes of spiritual insight and care.

    This may all seem very foreign to the vaguely aniconic and sometimes unpoetic culture of Protestantism. The contemporary Catholic Church seems to place emphatic importance on this distinction; it is as if Mary is an uncorrupted piece of Counter-Reformation.

    But there is something else of note in this holiday: it is the elevation of the divine feminine to a position, not just of importance, but of absolute prominence. It is this stunning presence of shimmering femininity, body and soul conjoined, that makes the exclusive maleness of the priesthood hardest for many Protestants to understand. How to embrace and exclude femininity at the same time? As modern feminists have the patience to show, that paradox (or rather, deep cultural contradiction) is pervasive, not belonging to a single confession or creed.

    It is in this sense that the presence, or the absence, of Mary has many things to say, not just about theology, but about the cultures such theologies produce. Yet the vehicles needed to communicate them are poetic and painterly as much as anything else. The arts are the languages in which such holidays speak.

Aug 21, 2010


With these final reflections, I bid farewell - for the time being - to the Marian shrine of Litmanova in Slovakia.

The quite wonderful dvd above (with English subtitles) is unfortunately no longer available on, not even through independent sellers, though it is readily available in the Czech and Slovak Republics. However, I'm using it's content for these final reflections on this very special place in the High Tatras mountain area of Northern Slovakia.

The film chronicles the life of the one articulate visionary, Ivetka, spokesperson for the apparitions (there were two, but her companion could see the Lady, but could not hear her). Wisely, very little attention is paid to the visions and their messages themselves. Ivetka gives a very simple and charming summary of the basic story. She and her companion were playing in an abandoned cabin on the mountain side that her father owned (he subsequently gave it to her as a dowry when she entered the convent and she in turned donated it to the Church when she left religious life). After enduring some moments of terror because of strange noises, the girls saw a beautiful woman appear inside the room, walk over to a small bench and sit down. The simple, homely nature of this very human gesture is more moving than so many apparitions in the past.

Ivetka has said of this moment:
I didn't feel I had to ask her anything. Just her being here was enough.

The story took off from there with five years of visitations from the Lady, who communicated her messages, in their customary simplicity,  calling on the faithful to conversion of heart and purity of intention. She had revealed herself as Immaculate Purity, but you will look in vain throughout all the messages for any direct reference to sexuality. 

As Ivetka says,

People think of 'purity' as having to do only with sex and the body. But Our Lady really wanted us to realize how important it is to have a pure attitude in everything we do. Many people follow tradition and want to be good. But this is not enough. We have to truly feel things deep down inside, we have to go beneath the surface. 

After five years of these most intimate visits from the heavenly Mother, the visions came to an end,. Can we even begin to fathoms the depths of desolation in these young girls at such a loss.  In one heartbreaking scene on the dvd, we see the girls withdrawing from their last vision with the Lady in White. Both girls comfort one another, leaning on each others' shoulders and crying.  They need some fifteen minutes to control their weeping. They then go outside to give the Lady's message and Ivetka announces to the crowds that this was the last visitation from the Blessed Mother in Litmanova. There are gasps and cries of shock from the large crowd and the sounds of women weeping can be heard throughout Ivetka's simple, but heartrending speech.

The Lady's final message:

This revelation is the last one. I love you all and thank you for what you have done for me. This is what I wanted to happen, to wake you from your dream of emptiness. In this day and age you need to be converted.

 And Ivetka comments:

I felt she stopped speaking so people could start listening.
It was inevitable.
The silence.

The end was a new beginning. 
This segment takes up less than half of the 90 minute viewing time, and is very effective in it's simplicity. No wonder the Greek Catholic Church approved these apparitions and the holy mountain as a site of pilgirmages. What's to disapprove?

The rest of the time is devoted to the unfolding journey of Ivetka over the next 17 years and it is this segment which, in my opinion, really establishes the authenticity of the whole experience, - simply through the witness of this simple yet remarkable young woman. By their fruits you shall know them, indeed.

She says of the immediate period after the ending of the visions:

For about two years, I was mad at her. She gave me this wonderful experience, and then she abandoned me and left me all alone.  I was just a young person then and I was dealing with all of the usual adolescent pressures. I felt confused, lost in it all.

Ivetka was thirty years old on the video when she made these comments, and a deep sadness and melancholy still pervades her spirit when she remembers these past times. This sadness and loss was to be her special burden and cross for the remainder of her life. To have seen and to have lost. Can any of us even begin to understand the pain?

When people asked her if she wanted to become a nun, she always replied, "No, not at all." But the pressure was on her to conform to other people's expectations of a visionary. Her parish priest finally convinced her that because Our Lady had graced her with the gift of the apparitions, she owed her whole life to the Lady in return. It was a very conventional, old fashioned, Catholic point of view and it eventually convinced her. It was to become her darkest hour. She was miserably unhappy in the convent and driven to the point of despair.  The day before her first vows, she prayed in the chapel, "Dear God, how can I get out of this?" Once again, her parish priest came to visit her in her despair and talked her into taking the vows. Within three years of that moment, she would be driven to suicide by the terrible darkness within her. She locked herself in the bathroom with a bottle of pills at 3 in the morning in her mother's home in Litmanova. Her mother, sensing something was terribly wrong, broke through the door at the very last moment and rescued her, and together the two of them wept throughout the night. The resolution to this terrible dark night of faith  was to come shortly after and gives evidence of Ivetka's truly extraordinary spiritual depth, tested and deepened in the fire of trial and suffering. 

"One of the sisters, whom I didn't really know very well, came to the village and said, "Would you like to take a walk." We went up into the hills and prayed the rosary, which was so much better than 'a talk.' Peace suddenly flooded my soul and I understood that I had been right to want to leave the convent. But a decision reaches it's true strength only at the right moment. I knew I had to return to the convent and wait for the right moment to appear when I would be freed to leave."

The fortitude of that decision is awe inspiring. To have been driven close to despair by your circumstances, but to find the spiritual resources and the light within you to return to the source of such suffering and to accept it in one's heart, until the moment arrives in the light of Providence, that is faith of a very high order!

Two years later, the moment arrived when Ivetka felt interiorly freed from her burden. She left the convent, found a good job in Germany as an assistant to a disabled woman, saved her money, bought a car, and returned to Slovakia, where she entered medical school and got her license as a nurse. Through the grace of providence, she then met the deeply spiritual man who was to become her husband,  her soul mate,  and her true vocation in life began....after years of sadness, suffering, trials and travails. Today she radiates a deep inner peace and joy, touched with a bit of sadness and nostalgia for those days long ago when the Blessed Lady graced her with her visible presence.


Ivetka again:
People often ask me how do I know it was true. The greatest proof of this being the truth is that I am still normal. It might sound simple, but I think it is the most important thing, because the pressures I experienced were so big. I was on very thin ice.

The final revelation of this remarkable story occurs when Ivetka confides in us her feelings about romantic love. Suddenly we see why this remarkable young girl was 'chosen' so many years ago - and we feel that even before that moment she had been specially prepared for the arrival of the Beautiful Lady in White, Immaculate Purity.

When I went to medical school, there were just girls there. Some of them had boyfriends, held hands with them, kissed. I couldn't imagine it like that, going out with someone, then leaving him, and kissing someone else. Even as a child and adolescent, I felt this was a serious thing and that if I do it, it binds me to the person and is impossible to repeat with someone else.

Sometimes, I heard the girls talk about their boyfriends and I couldn't understand when they said bad things about the boys they were holding hands with. It was too strong of an expression for me. I felt it could happen just once and for all, that if you repeat this kind of experience, you lose your inner strength, that something inside you wears down. I felt that the firts time I would encounter this sensation would also be the last. That's how I always wanted it....without experience.

That last expression...without experience...was spoken modestly by her,  shyly, with eyes downcast, revealing her awareness that she might be naive, that she has little experience in matters of love to have a comparative perspective. Speaking as a drama coach of young teens, I would have to agree that her perspective might be simple and sweet in its naivete and that her particular witness is not the chosen path for everyone. However, just the fact that such a pure ideal has been fulfilled in the life of this young woman, like a shining light in a sea of sexual indulgence, makes her the ideal model of Immaculate Purity. Truly she has been graced and chosen. 


Next, we are taken into the scene of her wedding, we see her radiant husband, clearly a very special, spiritual man, and we marvel at the special providence that has brought the two of them together. We are given a rare view into the simple life of a farming village in Northern Slovakia, the rugged, careworn faces of its inhabitants smiling with joy and sweetness. It brings tears to one's eyes to see such simplicity still existing in the world, hidden away in the mountains of Central Europe, where men and women still till the fields, still celebrate the harvest, still wear their traditional clothes, still bicker with their neighbors,  still experience the ordinary trials of human living, and still pray with a fervor and devotion that seems to have disappeared from so many Western European churches. Litmanova, what a grace you are for all of us. 

Towards the end of the video, Ivetka goes back into the apparition room and kneels before the little bench where the beautiful lady appeared to her so many years ago. There are tears, sadness and nostalgia for those sweet days long ago, and we see that the great cross of this young woman's life will be this sadness within her that will never end - until that moment when she passes  over to  the other shore,  and once again beholds  her Divine Mother face to face.

I felt her by my side throughout the years. She had many expressions. She voiced many tidings, which I repeated on the stage. In loving me, she was always here. I felt accepted in things which don't need words, things which either are or are not, things you either know about and comprehend without words, or things which never happened.

And she exists because I felt she was listening to me then and she's still listening to me now. She answers me with the same presence as before, except that now I don't see her.  


Aug 14, 2010

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton: Walking Away from Blind Obedience.

The following is an excerpt from Bishop Gumbleton's brilliant,  piece,  A New Meaning of Obedience, published in the National Catholic Reporter yesterday, August 12th. It simply confirms what many of us have felt for years, that the Spirit is calling us to an alternative witness outside the formal boundaries of the institutional church. But I've never heard  such a stirring, inspiring confirmation  of this difficult path from a bishop of the Church before.  The fact is the institutional church in it's present state needs this powerful witness given by those who must in good conscience 'walk away.' The recent open statement of novelist Anne Rice comes to mind.  What we are being taught - in anguish and  in tears - is how relative the value of the institution and it's leadership really is. We are being taught to let go, because faith can survive outside it - though not without the sacred tradition it is meant to channel and which it  so often betrays. 'To go where perhaps we would rather not have gone, but to go where God needs us in confidence, joy and peace in our hearts.' Amen.

That’s another thing we find happening in our church today, where God seems to be leading some of us, many of us in fact, away from sort of a blind obedience to laws that were created, the human laws, even though they were created within the institution of the church. A couple weeks ago, I was part of the national meeting of the organization called SNAP, which is a Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests. Now these are people, almost all of whom have had bitter experience with the hierarchy of the church. They can’t go into a church like this anymore; they’re too traumatized and hurt, so they have to find their own way, but for many of them, it’s a deeper faith life than they’ve ever had before. They discover God loves them, they can follow the path where God is leading them.

And, you know, there are 30 million people in this country, 10 percent of this population in the United States, who have walked away from our Catholic church, from the institution of the church, probably some in your families, but that doesn’t mean they’ve walked away from God for some of them because perhaps they’re gay or lesbian and they’ve been excluded, called disordered, and they can’t accept that. They know they’re good people so they have to walk away, but it’s God calling them, and with confident assurance and strong conviction, they go where perhaps they would rather not have gone. But they do it because they have faith.

So all of us, I think, have to keep on listening in our lives to God speaking to us deeply within our spirit and develop a relationship to God, not a relationship to a human institution, not a relationship to human laws, not intellectual assent to doctrines, but we must develop a relationship with God that will give us that confident assurance and strong conviction that when God asks us to move in some way in our life, or to accept some difficulty in our life that we would rather not, that we can go where God needs us with confidence, with joy, and with peace in our hearts.

Aug 11, 2010

The Real Face of Jesus

Some photos taken from the History Channel's documentary on the shroud of Turin. following the work of a group of computer artists using cutting edge technology to 'reveal' the real face of the Shroud. Whether you are a skeptic or a believer in the authenticity of the Shroud, the results are very moving, especially when the mysterious figure opens its eyes.  I've included the first part of You Tube's 9 part version of the documentary. Well worth taking a look. As with the Marian apparitions, however, one must put up with a bit of 'unctuousness' on the part of True Believers which is a bit off-putting. They gush over the Shroud and these recent results, when a bit more silence and reverence would have been more appropriate. If one is a believer and is up to date with the latest scientific findings on the Shroud, then it does seem to offer some support -mysteriously, elusively - to the contention of biblical scholars like Bishop N.T. Wright that the New Testament clearly testifies to a belief on the part of the early disciples that "something very strange happened to the body." Not the resuscitation of a corpse, but a total transformation that left the tomb empty. If one finds this hard to credit, think of the numerous instances of bilocation and tele-transportation on the part of Padre Pio, especially his ability - testified to by  many credible witnesses - of appearing on one side of the monastery in one instant, and suddenly appearing on the other side the next. A mysterious power exercised over the material order. This reminds me of a statement made by the great Indian sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi in the 1940's: "The fully realized divine master is capable of tapping into higher spiritual laws of the universe which science, in it's present state of primitive development, does not yet comprehend." Amen.

For those not familiar with the latest scientific findings on the Shroud, click here: Shroud of Turin: Facts and Fiction and Shroud of Turin for Journalists and The Shroud Story.

PRESS RELEASE from Ohio State University Conference (Aug. 2008) : Los Alamos National Laboratory team of scientists prove carbon 14 dating of the Shroud of Turin wrong

COLUMBUS, Ohio, August 15 — In his presentation today at The Ohio State University’s Blackwell Center, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) chemist, Robert Villarreal, disclosed startling new findings proving that the sample of material used in 1988 to Carbon-14 (C-14) date the Shroud of Turin, which categorized the cloth as a medieval fake, could not have been from the original linen cloth because it was cotton. According to Villarreal, who lead the LANL team working on the project, thread samples they examined from directly adjacent to the C-14 sampling area were “definitely not linen” and, instead, matched cotton. Villarreal pointed out that “the [1988] age-dating process failed to recognize one of the first rules of analytical chemistry that any sample taken for characterization of an area or population must necessarily be representative of the whole. The part must be representative of the whole. Our analyses of the three thread samples taken from the Raes and C-14 sampling corner showed that this was not the case.” Villarreal also revealed that, during testing, one of the threads came apart in the middle forming two separate pieces. A surface resin, that may have been holding the two pieces together, fell off and was analyzed. Surprisingly, the two ends of the thread had different chemical compositions, lending credence to the theory that the threads were spliced together during a repair. 

LANL's work confirms the research published in Thermochimica Acta (Jan. 2005) by the late Raymond Rogers, a chemist who had studied actual C-14 samples and concluded the sample was not part of the original cloth possibly due to the area having been repaired. This hypothesis was presented by M. Sue Benford and Joseph G. Marino in Orvieto, Italy in 2000. Benford and Marino proposed that a 16th century patch of cotton/linen material was skillfully spliced into the 1st century original Shroud cloth in the region ultimately used for dating. The intermixed threads combined to give the dates found by the lapbs ranging between 1260 and 1390 AD. Benford and Marino contend that this expert repair was necessary to disguise an unauthorized relic taken from the corner of the cloth. A paper presented today at the conference by Benford and Marino, and to be published in the July/August issue of the international journal Chemistry Today, provided additional corroborating evidence for the repair theory. 

Aug 10, 2010

Excised from the public record: Charles de Foucauld, Louis Massignon and the 'Gay Connection:

 (The following posting is not meant to cast aspersions upon the reputation of the great and saintly Charles de Foucauld, who is one of my mentors and the model for my own contemplative, heremitic lifestyle. It is pure speculation and is offered only by way of interest in a blog devoted (among other things) to the history of gay experience in the church and the difficulty of rescuing the history of gay persons from deliberate obfuscation. Personally I don't credit the rumors described. The case of Louis Massignon, however, is an entirely different matter.)

What is the elusive truth behind the rumors surrounding the death of Blessed Charles de Foucauld? This is a complement to the previous posting which suggested a possible gay connection with the circumstances of his death. It is part of the public record that many Arab soldiers under French command frequently visited the saintly hermit and were given hospitality overnight. In fact, hospitality was one of the cornerstone virtues of his eremetical life. It is also a matter of public record that the Senoussi Brotherhood, "a fundamentalist-political-religious organization created to oppose European penetration," were deeply resentful of this hospitality and generally convinced that the former French soldier, Foucauld, was a spy for the French in the Sahara and thereby a threat to their own interests who must be eliminated.  The brigands who invaded his hermitage on December 1, 1916, had been sent by the Senoussi and charged with the task of apprehending the famous Christian marabout. Has the fact of his hospitality to Arab soldiers been distorted by prejudice and resentment to suggest an unsavory sexual component, a slur on the saintly hermit's reputation, a slanderous suggestion of hidden motives behind his simple charity. It would seem so, though I do trust the integrity and intelligence of my source, who is not given to spreading salacious rumors about saintly figures. What is the elusive truth behind the mystery of his death? If there is anything to the rumors? It is unlikely we will ever know.

But these reflections led me to return to the most comprehensive biography of Charles de Foucauld available in English, by French author Jean-Jacques Antier. While I found nothing particularly illuminating about his standard account of the hermit's death - a robbery gone terribly wrong - I did come across this account of the conversion of the deeply spiritual Louis Massignon, which completely excises any mention of his love for the gay Spanish nobleman Luis de Quadra. This is not such a terrible omission, given the pious nature of the biography and it's principal focus on Charles de Foucauld. But it does highlight how difficult it is to discover evidence of gay experience on the part of notable figures throughout Christian history. It is more discrete to pass over such evidence in silence:

Who can measure the efficacy of prayer? In 1907 Massignon was in Cairo working on a dissertation on the tenth-century Sufi mystic Al Hallaj, crucified in Baghdad for his nonconformist approach to loving God. Like Jesus, he had dared to say: "The Father and I, we are one." The following year, doing archaeological work in the Baghdad area, Massignon had been kidnapped by Turkish fanatics, who thinking he was a spy, had threatened to kill him. Still an unbeliever, he was thinking of suicide to escape torture, when suddenly he was overwhelmed by "an ecstasy of fire and light, the certainly of the existence of God and Love". According to his own account: "Try at suicide out of incredible self-loathing; eyes closed and a sudden feeling of reverence before an inner fire judging me and consuming my heart, the certainty of a pure ineffable, creative Presence suspending my sentence at the prayers of beings, invisible visitors to my prison, whose names suddenly burst upon me: Al Hallaj, Huysmans, Foucauld."

What Jean-Jacques Antier  omits from this account, however, is any mention of the fourth name, Massignon's former lover, Luis de Quadra, and this heartfelt insight given by Massignon, which I quoted in the previous posting. It's simply not included in Antier's account:

Taken up for the second time into the supernatural, I felt myself warned I was going to die: a burgeoning spiritual dawn, a serene clarity inciting me to renounce everything. I clung to a beloved name, repeating it to myself, declaring to myself: “If he has betrayed me, I want to be sincere for two and carry his name with me always.” The serene clarity increased in my soul: what is a name in the memory? Does not God possess this creature infinitely more than I? I abandon him to God.
The Beloved's name was Quadra.

That is quite an omission, because it is the heart of the whole experience. In this way, we see just how difficult it is to transmit an authentic, reliable history of gay experience on the part of Catholic figures throughout history, particularly noteworthy, saintly figures of the caliber of Louis Massignon. This 'unpalatable' dimension is simply ignored.

I suppose we should be thankful for small favors, however, because in light of Massignon's own crisis over his homosexuality, a case could be made  that Massignon was simply given the grace to turn away from his own disordered homosexual nature and directed by the Spirit to turn to the only truly authentic Catholic option for gay persons: abstinence. He could be presented as a model of authentic gay holiness: He recognized the call to give up all homosexual relations, which had led him into a life of amorality (as if that is the only possible outcome if one expresses one's gay sexual orientation), embrace  the love of Christ and become a celibate - or marry one's cousin.  It goes without saying that in 2010, this is not the most intelligent or compassionate interpretation. Massignon's cry, "Try at suicide out of incredible self-loathing,' simply expresses the agonies of a conflicted, self hating gay man who sees no viable option other than total renunciation. And I would surmise that this renunciation extended to his marriage to his cousin. Because of his deep, mystical immersion in Islam as well as Catholicism,  Massignon went on to become one of the most noteworthy examples of "multiple religious belonging," long before this phrase became trendy in our own day. It is a poignant element of his life, however, that he never found a way to authenticate his own gay sexual identity.

Antier quotes an exchange between Charles and Massignon over the latter's remorse for his sins of the flesh:

He advised Massignon: "Do not cast blame on yourself. The miseries of our souls are as mire in which we must humiliate ourselves often,  but it is not necessary to have our gaze fixed on these miseries at all times."

Easy to say, thought Massignon, still devoured by desires of the flesh and other fantasies. Under the circumstances, how could he consider priestly celibacy, a monastic life in the wilderness? He cried out in despair: "There's nothing left but to bury myself in marriage."

Again, no mention whatsoever of what any scholar of Massignon's life could not fail to see - the gay connection. It's simply passed over, leaving the reader with the impression that Massignon's temptations of the flesh were of the conventional heterosexual kind. Later, when Charles receives the news from Massignon of his upcoming marriage to his cousin, Antier comments:

It was over. They would not see each other again...the family had won.

What a pregnant phrase. One can't help but wonder if family pressure to marry had been brought to bear upon the sensitive Massignon  precisely in order to 'overcome' his "effeminate tendencies," those tendencies which had caused him to be laughed at by Arabs during his first excursion in Northern Africa.

One thing seems fairly certain from this story. If there is any substance to the rumors of a 'gay dimension' to the circumstances surrounding the death of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, they have long been buried under the sands of the Sahara.

Blessed Charles' famous prayer of abandonment:

I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Charles de Foucald

Aug 8, 2010

Blessed Charles de Foucauld, Louis Massignon and the Gay connection

(This posting, and more especially the one immediately following it,  is not meant to cast aspersions upon the reputation of the great and saintly Charles de Foucauld, who is one of my mentors and the model for my own contemplative, heremitic lifestyle. It is pure speculation and is offered only by way of interest in a blog devoted (among other things) to the history of gay experience in the church and the difficulty of rescuing the history of gay persons from deliberate obfuscation. Personally I don't credit the rumors described. The case of Louis Massignon, however, is an entirely different matter.)

p.s. Originally, this posting including quite a number of photographs, but for some reason they are no longer viewable. 

Charles de Foucauld, the saintly hermit of the Sahara,  lived for many years among the Tuareg tribes of the Sahara. Among his many accomplishments, he compiled the first French/Targui dictionary. His personal sense of vocation called him to live in poverty in imitation of his Master among the Islamic desert peoples of the world, giving an example of charity with no thought to conversion. He died without having made a single convert or without having a single follower. His example, however, has inspired numerous  religious communities of men and women who live among the modern deserts of the world, working and living among the poor in the inner cities, befriending them, with no intention of conversion. The Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus live among the poor in apartments in slum areas, even in Romany/Gypsy caravans, working in ordinary menial jobs, and giving adoration to the Blessed Eucharist which is reserved in their small apartments. One Little Sister of Jesus is even a tight rope walker in a traveling Gypsy Circus.

Blessed Charles was killed in 1916 by a 15 year old Tuareg boy named Semi ag Thora, who (we are told) had been assigned to guard him by a band of brigands and who, in a moment of panic,  accidentally pulled the trigger. This is the conventional story. Sometime ago, however,  I received a personal communication via a White Father with many years experience in North Africa, (who is normally very defensive about the church and unwilling to relate negative comments about saintly figures) that Foucauld's  death was caused in part as revenge for his practice of entertaining handsome young Tuareg men in his hermitage in the evenings. Rumors also suggest that the 15 year old boy was something other than a guard. This source did not affirm any improprieties  on Blessed Charles' part, (and I for one, would not believe them, if they did - note to any visitors from Bishop - I wrote this statement before I knew of the interest generated by the Bishop Gumbleton posting above. I would certainly listen to any credible evidence in this area regarding any saintly figure, but in the case of Charles de Foucauld, who's personal sanctity is too much in evidence,  it does seem too preposterous to credit), but they do suggest a predilection for beautiful young males. The rumors, like swirls of dust in the desert, are difficult to credit because of Charles' own dissolute early life and female lovers, but then, who knows? Read below of his very close connection to  the great Islamic scholar, Louis Massignon, who underwent a great psychological crisis because of his own homosexuality, and who partly attributed his conversion to Christianity to Charles de Foucauld. Blessed Charles  would later  name Massignon the executor of his will and Massignon was responsible for publishing Charles' Rule for the Little Brothers of Jesus.

Blessed Charles' hermitage and  tomb

Massignon is a remarkable and saintly figure in his own right, one of the great pioneers of Muslim/Christian relations in our times, who later became a priest in the Greek Catholic rite. Though Massignon was married (to his cousin, as a matter of convenience), there is a little known gay dimension to his life, which this following account  of his conversion  alludes to only indirectly (below the break). However, if one reads with discernment, the connection becomes only too clear. The great human love of Massignon's life was the young Spanish aristocrat, Luis de Quadra, who told Massignon  that because of his homosexuality,  he had "quit Christianity for Islam so as to continue adoring God without remorse for his life, in the manner of Omar Khayyam." The two had met in 1906 on a boat sailing from Marseilles to Morocco when Massignon was barely twenty and an agnostic.

Unfortunately, the author of this article (below) feels compelled to gloss over the obvious homoerotic connection, as well as the five years of gay experience of Massignon, with only this veiled reference, 

 "The two formed a bond that would last until Quadra's suicide in 1921. By then, the friendship had long become the practice of compassion in which Massignon offered himself (pledged his life) as a 'voluntary hostage' for the saving of his friend's soul. In its early stages, however, his relationship with Quadra (and others) threw him into a profound moral crisis." 

This is a heartbreaking revelation, since clearly Massignon, after his conversion to Christianity,  had accepted the conventional Christian understanding of homosexual relations as inherently sinful and disordered, (though in those days it would have been described as a 'diabolical abomination'). One can't help but wonder if Massignon's well intentioned and saintly sacrifice for the sake of his friend led ultimately to Quadra's suicide.

At the peak of Massignon's despair ("after four years of amorality"), he was visited by a Heavenly Stranger and the impact of this 'encounter' would turn his life around and lead him to Christ, the Divine Beloved within. In a reference that clearly alludes  to his young Spanish friend,  Luis de Quadra, Massignon says,

"Taken up for the second time into the supernatural, I felt myself warned I was going to die: a burgeoning spiritual dawn, a serene clarity inciting me to renounce everything. I clung to a beloved name, repeating it to myself, declaring to myself: “If he has betrayed me, I want to be sincere for two and carry his name with me always.” The serene clarity increased in my soul: what is a name in the memory? Does not God possess this creature infinitely more than I? I abandon him to God."  

The Beloved's name was Quadra's (author of article below)

Whether consummated or not (and it seems only too obvious that it was), the love between Massignon and Luis de Quadra is one of the most moving and heartrending gay love stories of modern times. This makes the connection with Blessed Charles de Foucauld all the more intriguing.

As with so much of our gay history, this dimension to Massignon's life is frequently glossed over or repressed, for example in the 1999 biography of Massignon by Boutros Boutros-ghali. 

Aug 7, 2010

X factor winner, Joe McElderry, reveals he is gay



It's always uplifting to the heart when this happens. Britain's  2009 X Factor winner, Joe McElderry, always struck me as such a decent, mature, well-integrated young gay man. Now he admits he is!


Joe Mcelderry: I Am Gay

'X Factor' winner Joe McElderry, 19, has revealed he realised he is gay three weeks ago.
Joe McElderry has revealed he is gay.
The 'Climb' singer - who shot to fame after winning the last series of 'The X Factor' - claims he only realised he is attracted to men three weeks ago, despite months of speculation about his sexuality.
He said: "I'm so happy. It's all so recent to be honest. Over the past couple of weeks I've had time to think and come to realise who I am. I have grown up a lot.
"I've had time to think about things. I wasn't attracted to anyone anyway, male or female. It never really entered my head I was gay. But I just know. It's how I feel."
The 19-year-old star's page on social networking website twitter was hacked recently, with a prankster posting a series of messages supposedly from Joe claiming to be gay.
The Newcastle-born singer admits he was upset at first but thinks the posts helped him to come to terms with his true feelings.
He explained: "I was really angry at first but after a while I looked at the messages and though, 'Well, they're not that far from the truth.'
"I think the twitter thing was the point where I realised I was gay. I just looked at it and thought, 'Should I be more bothered about this?' Because I wasn't, that's when it clicked and I thought maybe I was."
Joe - who claims to have only ever kissed one man, a fellow student, last year - only told his family about his sexuality last week, but says he has their full support and has pledged his confession won't make him act any differently.
He said: "My mum told all our close friends and family. They were all fine with it.
"I haven't changed as a person. This is just how I am feeling and I have chosen to talk about it.
"You're not going to see me strolling out of clubs with different people or anything like that. I won't be out there going mad. I am a really private person and I want to continue like that.
"I am not bothered about not having a partner. I don't feel I need to get in a relationship just for the sake of it."

The following video doesn't show off his voice at its very best, but it does give a good view of his graciousness, maturity and poise during the comments from the judges. What a role model for young gay people everywhere. This is good news indeed!

Surrender to the Mother

Truly wonderful video talk from Father Bede Griffiths O.S.B., one of the great teachers of the Catholic mystical tradition, given in the last years of his life. Would such a teacher be able to survive public scrutiny from the Vatican in these days of restoration? One wonders. This interview was conducted at his ashram, Shantivanam, in southern India where he lived for years as a sannyasis.


A Good Day

From Brother David Steindl-Rast
Another great teacher of the Catholic mystical tradition with very close ties to Buddhism.

Aug 6, 2010

Talking Treason in Church

Many thanks again to Contemplative Catholic for a great link to an exciting new book. It feels like a stick of dynamite, explosive in it's proposals and perhaps a bit too iconoclastic and simplistic for some people's tastes, but I  connected immediately with his quite simple, but radical solution. Not enough priests to celebrate Mass? You think there is a priest shortage? There is no priest shortage. Simply do what the early Christians did and celebrate the Eucharist in your homes - women, men, it doesn't matter. Problem solved. I'm already oversimplifying a radically simple argument, that made me laugh on occasions at its breathtaking audacity. But here are his five basic points:

It’s time to take the Catholic Church back from the hierarchy and return it to the laity. Here are some key ways to do this:
  1. Understand that Jesus gave the Mass to lay Christians before the clergy existed: Celebrate it at home.
  2. Form a base community in your parish and say Mass with them once a month.
  3. Support your parish, but eliminate what goes to the hierarchy.
  4. Tell your bishop he is invalid because not elected in the Holy Spirit by us, the Church. All bishops should be recalled and re-certified by consensus-decision making elections in their own dioceses.
  5. Tithe for Lay Catholic Renewal—into your own account—minus what goes to the parish.   

Here is's blurb on the author:

About the Author

Joe Marren is a Chicago Catholic and a late bloomer as an author. He has an A.B. from Loyola University Chicago (1957; major in Latin, minor in history) and an M.A. from the University of Kentucky (1958; major in ancient languages-Latin and Ancient Greek-minor in linguistics). He has a nodding acquaintance with several European languages and has been a student of Church history for more that 50 years. His working life has been divided among editing, public relations, and sales and administrative support. For his first job out of college, he edited a four-volume Catholic missal, one of whose contributors was the then-unknown Father Andrew Greeley, who wrote introductions to the four volumes. Greeley needed a lot of editing, Joe recalls. Otherwise, his life has been unexceptional. He did spend a year in Panama as a boy on the eve of WWII. His father worked in the Canal Zone and Joe was sent to what turned out to be an all Spanish-speaking Catholic school for first grade; he knew no Spanish, and his father, a widower, was unaware of the language situation. Joe finally learned to read English in Panamanian summer school. Shortly after Pearl Harbor he and his younger brother flew back to the U.S. on a DC-3, a life-long memory. Joe is married to Mary Hereley Marren, whom he met when she was the first woman editor-in-chief of the Loyola University News and he a reporter. They raised nine children, all now college graduates and married. Besides their children, they dote on their 17 grandchildren. Joe wrote the first chapter of this book in 1998 to explain to his family why he remained a Catholic. The rest of the book, calling for a revival of lay leadership of the Catholic church and an unseating of the current clerical leaders, was written in reaction to the predator-priest scandal that made news in Boston in 2002. Since writing Talking Treason, Joe believes that all bishops should be recalled and re-certified by consensus-decision-making elections in their own dioceses and that they should run against opposing candidates from the laity, both women and men.

Click on the photo above and read the full preface and first chapter at Amazon. com and go to the author's website for more commentary:

Here are a few selections from the Preface:

       This is a lay person’s handbook for renewing the Catholic church. Your renewal of the church can begin immediately. It needs no ones’ approval. It depends totally on you and your fellow Catholics. It is certainly not beyond your abilities. All it takes is courage – courage to stand up to the hierarchy, the current leadership of our church, courage not to be satisfied with their lies, their underhanded practices, and their centuries-long arrogance. This reform will be effective beyond your wildest hopes, because it copies a great model, the one depicted in the New Testament, the one begun by Jesus.

       There is one difference between Talking Treason in Church and anything else written by Catholics on the current state of the church. Catholics today have written brilliant analyses of what’s wrong with the church, but when they come to the end of their book or their article – where you would expect to see proposed solutions – what you read is all wishful thinking: the church should listen more to the lay people, the hierarchy has to be more open to structural change.
       Or their book or article demands intensive lobbying of the hierarchy by the laity, thousands and thousands of hours spent by lay people forming groups, getting up petitions, trying by every possible means of persuasion and political pressure to move the hierarchy from their position of intransigence and inattention.

       It’s all pie in the sky! Why should the laity make super-human efforts while nothing can be required of the hierarchy?

       We’re dealing with the same narrow, self-interested, ignorant, arrogant, hard-nosed hierarch that flouted, persecuted, and killed every reformer it could lay its hands on five centuries ago. Some hierarchs at least would do the same today if the judgment of the entire world were not against them. They are creatures of power in a structure of power that deserves to be uprooted. And thanks basically to the progress of learning, that project is now doable.....

       Talking Treason in Church was prompted by several insights.

        First , Jesus Christ was a lay person, not a priest, and the movement of reform that he began in Judaism was a lay movement. The chief priests, the hierarchy of his time considered him a threat and had him put to death by the Romans.

        Second, neither the Catholic priesthood nor the Catholic hierarchy existed during the first century of our era. There is no scriptural nor historical basis for either one at that time. In fact, the Mass, the center of Catholic sacramental life was, during the first century, celebrated by lay people and, notably in the earliest days of the church, by women in their own homes.

        Third, the hierarchical priesthood, when it began to emerge during the second through the fourth centuries, was strongly influenced by the model of the Roman imperial administration. It also drew on examples of priesthoods throughout the ancient world including that of Israel. It was a movement toward the kind of religious specialization that was familiar in the ancient world. But it owed nothing to the teaching of Jesus Christ. 

        Fourth, the foundation myth of the Roman Catholic church as propounded by the hierarchy makes St. Peter the first bishop of Rome. That myth is made up of so many historical fallacies that any member of the hierarchy with even a smattering of historical education should be embarrassed to cite it. But by some of the hierarchy this myth is used knowingly as a political construct to support their will to power. These members of the hierarchy are conscious liars and deserve no place in the Catholic church.

        Fifth, the Catholic hierarchy, the pope and the bishops, down through the centuries have been sometimes more and sometimes considerably less successful at asserting their exclusive right to rule the church. In Fact, there are enough instances in the early church of the popular election of bishops to provide a controlling precedent for our time.

        Sixth, today, the Catholic laity are totally excluded by the hierarchy from choosing their religious leaders or having any discourse whatsoever with the leadership of the church. The effect has been to erect a wall of separation between the hierarchy and the laity. This is a serious sin on the part of the bishops, a sin against the Holy Spirit who dwells in lay people at least as much as in the hierarchy. It is called schism. It has created a paralysis in the church which gives the hierarchy-and the rest of us by extension- the appearance of being braid-dead.

       The hierarchy have poured concrete over the fertile fields of the church, but after centuries the concrete is old and broken, and flowers of faith are springing up everywhere. Our job is to clear the fields, cart away the concrete, and return to the land to productive life. The Lord has supplied us with the tools. Now it’s up to us.

        The reform proposed here is a lay person’s reform like the reform that Jesus started. It supplies the answers to some of the most long-felt and troubling questions asked by the laity over the last several decades.

        The priest shortage decried by the laity and clergy alike has us focusing on the wrong goal. There is no priest shortage. In fact, we have too many priests. What we don’t have enough of is people to celebrate Mass. But then, actually, we do have enough people. They simply don’t know that it is part of their birthright as Catholics to have the Mass when and where they want it.

        Women’s ordination asks the question, Why can’t we have women priests? It’s the wrong question. Why not ask why women can’t be leaders in the church? The answer to both questions is, Clearly women can be leaders in the church, and women can say Mass. Priesthood has nothing to do with it.

        For years we have prayed for vocations. Well, our prayers have all been answered long since. We simply have to be alive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Just as he promised, Jesus has not left us orphans.

Aug 4, 2010

The Sacred Spring of Litmanova

(Update: I'm not sure why the original photos included with this post are no longer visible, especially since they were my original photos. But I have 'deleted' the remnants of them, to remove the distracting exclamation points!)

(In gratitude to Our Blessed Mother for the overturning of Proposition 8. Mary watch over us as the long battle continues for full equality in the US. )

It is past midnight here in Prague now and the calendar day has become August 5th. Twenty years ago,  at six o'clock in the evening, Our Blessed Mother 'appeared' to two young peasant girls on a hill in northern Slovakia outside the village of Litmanova. 

 Litmanova remains a simple farming village in Northern Slovakia, barely touched or changed by these sacred events. The peace pervading the valley is extraordinary. This is a sacred land touched by grace, and the villagers know it and understand their responsibility to protect it. If you are here for the Virgin, they welcome you. If not,  they turn away. Horses still pull wooden carts slowly through the village, laden with hay, sheep still graze on the hillsides in flocks with bells tinkling, women still go out into the fields with their rakes and hoes to tend the vegetables for market. Daily mass in the parish Church of St. Michael the Archangel is celebrated every weekday at 6pm and the church is filled with devout worshipers, many of them the older women of the village who recite the rosary before Mass with a heartfelt devotion, and in between the decades, sing hymns in polyphonic chant of breathtaking beauty and complexity. The parish is under the auspices of the Greek Catholic Church and celebrates Mass in the Eastern Rite, with the stunning  golden iconostasis separating the nave from the sanctuary.  When first entering the church, men and women and children kiss the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and touch the hand of the Blessed Virgin. These gestures are performed slowly, reverently, lovingly, tenderly. Prayers are sung not in petition but in praise and honor of living spiritual beings, Jesu and Panne Marie, cherished members of the family. Children play at random in the aisles, altar boys fidget and giggle at one another, and even smile and wave at friends in the congregation. The children have their own little chairs placed in front of the iconostasis. They are children free to play in their Father's House. And through it all, the women pray and chant and sing with a fervor and devotion I have never ever witnessed before in my life. When the service concludes, the older grandmothers, wearing traditional skirts with aprons, heavy woolen socks with plaid designs and colorful scarfs,  congregate together by the crucifix outside the church door. They face the cemetery on the hill behind the church, and slowly, reverently, respectfully chant and sing prayers to the dead, asking for their protection and for their guidance as these old women themselves prepare to take their final journey. 

There are no souvenir shops in all of Litmanova, not in the village and not at the shrine on the sacred mountain. Two small folding tables in a side niche at the shrine contain several simple plastic bowls filled with medals, some holy cards and postcards, a few rosaries and the one book so far written on Litmanova, published only in Slovakian. A simple dish collects the coins. There are no restaurants anywhere in the valley of Litmanova. There are only four pensiones for pilgrims and even these four are hard to find. There are two simple grocery stores and two pubs, one for the old folks near the church which opens when mass concludes at 7:30 and a second pub outside the village for the younger crowd. Young bucks drive their fast cars and motorbikes through the village,  the peace of Litmanova must drive then wild. "Take me to the nearest disco," must be their fervent prayer. Only the nearest disco is not at Stara Lubovna, twenty minutes down the hill, nor even in Poprad one hour away, but a full two and a half hours away in Liptovsky Milukas. 

Litmanova, quite simply, is the Marian shrine we have all been looking for in our hearts, a remote mountain village of peace and harmony, touched by Mary's grace and completely unspoiled by any taint of commercialism. High in the mountains of northern Slovakia, hidden away from the world and known to very few pilgrims outside the Slovak and Polish Christian communities, it is pure gift and pure grace. 

Our Lady of Litmanov brought with her a simple message of 'purity of intention' and called herself The Immaculate Purity, a phrase less ambiguous perhaps than "I am the Immaculate Conception," uttered to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, but no less pregnant with meaning. When Bernadette was questioned about the faulty grammar of this sentence, she insisted that the Lady had said, "I am the Immaculate Conception."

Catholic philosopher  Beatrice Bruteau, in her deeply insightful book, What We Can Learn From the East, offers these comments on the mysterious expression.

The Lady who presented herself as the archetype of the Immaculate Conception also gave another image. She instructed Bernadette to "wash in the spring and drink of it." There was no spring visible, but following the Lady's indication Bernadette scratched the earth, and a trickle of water appeared....(there is also a 'miraculous spring,' blessed by Our Lady, on the sacred mountain Zvir of Litmanova).

Is the free-flowing stream of healing and life, springing up from the earth in which it had hidden and unsuspected, also an archetype? Why not? Perhaps the Lady and the Spring together reveal the secret meaning of the Immaculate Conception 

The Spring shows that an archetype, though its power comes from its transhistorical significance, need not be unhistorical. There is real water at Lourdes, and real cures take place there (as at Litmanova). The Blessed Virgin Mary is a historical woman, but as the Immaculate Conception she means so much more. The Lady and the Spring are a double icon of the purity and unity of the life hidden at the center of things, for us hitherto an unknown life, but one which when liberated and raised to consciousness is healing. 

We have a number of icons, sacred images, and archetypes in our traditions that we can use or refer to in order to develop our own insights. Sometimes they may lend themselves to our use in ways that go beyond what their official custodians anticipated. But these figures function to provoke vision in us; so we should give ourselves permission to relate to them in creative ways.

The tradition that protects the sacred history of the Blessed Virgin Mary holds that she and her son, Jesus, are special persons, set apart. They have qualities, virtues, powers that none of the rest of us could possibly have. Mary, for instance, is said to be our fallen race's solitary boast, for she alone of all her sex is sinless.

It is my contention that setting these figures apart in this way and denying that the rest of us can have the same qualities that they have makes them religiously useless. If their most important features cannot be shared by us, we may admire them, even worship them, but we are not thereby enabled to attain the goal of our spiritual life. To attain this goal, we must find that we ourselves are free, complete, unified - that is, that we ourselves possess the adorable qualities of the great archetypes.

It is only when the great icons, the sacred persons who image the supreme values, are viewed as paradigms and revelations of what is actually true of all of us that they can exercise their spiritual power. They release that power precisely by revealing to us the secret of what we truly are, so that we may find that truth in ourselves.

I hold that the archetype of the Immaculate Conception is not a privilege reserved to one human being (or to four, in this tradition, counting Adam, Eve, and Jesus), but is a revelation of the truth about all of us. Our spiritual task is to discover that point in ourselves where we are the Immaculate Conception.
Perhaps it is in order to avoid this misunderstanding (of limiting the power of the archetype to one single person in one single historical moment of the past) that the mythic figures occasionally interrupt the historical-time sequence of their story to declare that they represent or embody some eternal truth. When the archetype announces that it is the Way, or the Resurrection, or the Immaculate Conception, it is identifying  itself clearly, fairly, and unambiguously, lest we mistake it for something more limited and individual and less universal than it really is...

What I am saying, then, is that this mystery emblem, the Immaculate Conception, is about us. As an archetype it is about our true selfhood, our consciousness, our reality. Our "Mary" aspect is that part of us represented by the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To say that it alone has the privilege of the Immaculate Conception is to say that only this central Mary principle in us is free from Original Sin. ..That there should be at least one point in us that is free is a great discovery, something to be carefully taught in the sacred mysteries by emphasizing its singularity and uniqueness. I hold that this mysterious grace-filled aspect is to be found in everyone, no matter how deeply buried, obscured, and overladen with "sin," and that we have each had it from the beginning of our lives. ...When enlightenement comes, we find that this ground of purity, this Immaculate Conception, in us has become "The Woman Clothed with the Sun," clothed in radiance and generosity. This is another title of the Blessed Virgin Mary and therefore another image of our reality. To be clothed with the sun is to express oneself in unremitting giving, to be a constant output of energy that passes away.  

Perhaps there is some strange significance in the fact that the marvelous event of the Buddha's  Enlightenment is supposed to have occurred on December 8th, the date chosen for the celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Perhaps the secret meaning of the Immaculate Conception is that there is a point in each of us that is free from sin from the beginning, endowed with wisdom and virtue, but - like the underground spring of healing at Lourdes (and Litmanova) - it has been hidden from us by delusive thinking. If so, then the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the archetype of this secret sinless self, may be understood as revealing our true nature to us and thus guiding us to its discovery.

The sacred mountain of Litmanova

to be continued with a more realistic, less poetical view of the village of Litmanova and Slovakia in general, which had two fascist Catholic priests as presidents during WWII, when it was an ally of the Nazi's, and during which time most of the country's Jews were shipped off to the concentration camps of Germany for extermination. However, families in villages just like Litmanova did harbor many Jewish children during the war, only to encounter intense hostility from fellow villagers after the war for threatening the security of the entire village by their acts of generosity. In the next posting, I need to ask the question, Why are there no Romany families in Litmanova, whereas there seem to be many Roms in the small village down the hill on the way to Stara Lubovna.