Write In Between

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Back, but not quite settled in yet

I have returned home from college...

...to a husband who is grateful and picked up a bouquet of flowers

...to a dog that charged out the front door, back hairs up, and didn't recognize me until he stopped barking long enough to figure it out--then I was sufficiently dampened by dog licks

...to three teens (one actually gave me a spontaneous hug!) but whom I surmise don't do household chores unless there is threat of bodily harm, or so I figure

...to weeds in my gardens

...to someone else's styrofoam coffee cup in my car

...to great girlfriends who threw me a lifeline during my "re-entry" and asked me out to dinner just to catch up

...to piles of unread newspapers that cannot walk themselves to the recycling bin

...to an empty refrigerator (but fortunately to a husband who wisely took it upon himself to clear out the "old food.")

...to the planning lists for my son's graduation party this weekend

...but first, let me get my shoe unstuck from this gunk on the kitchen floor.

Good grief!

Oh yes, it is good to be back.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What a Mom learns at college (revised)

I continue to be away from my family for a few weeks as I take another graduate course. It’s a sacrifice for my family to live without “Mom” and it’s a sacrifice for me to be “away from home.” But besides theology, I am learning many things…

About life in the dorm...

The level of cleanliness in the dorm rises as does the median age of the occupants on the floor. (Yes, I’m grateful us ‘older students’ are grouped accordingly.)

You can lose all track of time when you close the blinds on your cubicle (uh, dorm room) and your only source of light is the fluorescent overhead.

You can always tell the difference between a grad student and an undergrad…undergrads weekends are way longer.

You really can over-sleep if you don’t pull the clock-radio doo-hickey all the way over to “alarm.” (It can also happen the next day too if you screw up the AM and PM settings on the clock radio.)

The one place in the dorm I avoid: The shared kitchen. (No, thanks, I’ve got one of my own at home to clean!)

The need to find a functioning change machine that works for the coin-operated laundry is directly proportional to how soon your clean underwear runs out.

It is good to own a car.

About life on campus…

College cafeteria food is not made for middle-age, hormonal women.

You really are invisible to the younger students on campus when you are a middle-aged student. Either that, or they ask you, “Do you work here?”

Every summer session should have the “ice cream man” (remember the neighborhood truck?) come to campus between classes.

Getting your exercise by walking across across campus carrying a load of books is way over-rated.

Coffee is a food group.

Again, it is good to have a car.

About calls from home…

They always come when I am in class so please leave a message!

They are never long enough.

They can be the best part of the day.

It’s good to be reminded that there is a life beckoning us back from the study-eat-sleep-repeat cycle.

And no, I have no idea where the carpet stain remover is, why do you ask?

And remember, Mom loves email too.

About the nature of my course work…

If you have not thoroughly read the material and taken copious notes, you can guarantee the prof will call on you to present a coherent summary to the class.

You know you are one of the oldest in your class when the professor recalls something from your childhood as a historical point of reference.

Always save your work under multiple file names. And never walk away from your computer without saving your work first.

And if you accidentally lose 4 hours of work on your computer becauseofyourownstupidity, don’t cry. Pray to Jesus and Mary for help. They really will help you write a better paper. Don’t ask me how I know this.

It’s 3 credits in 3 jam-packed weeks. I call that a deal. I wish I got credit like that for the other 49 weeks of my year!

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Shepherd of Hermas

The Shepherd of Hermas is the longest work we have read in our class on the Apostolic Fathers. It dates from the late first century to the mid second century. Some ancient scholars--Origen and Iranaeus among them--thought that Shepherd had the authority of Scripture and should be included in the canon of the New Testament. It wasn't. But here's a chapter from that work on grief and how it can wear out the spirit. To read more from Shepherd, go to New Advent.

The Shepherd of Hermas (Book II, Commandment 10)

"Remove from you," says he, "grief; for she is the sister of doubt and anger." "How, sir," say I, "is she the sister of these? for anger, doubt, and grief seem to be quite different from each other." "You are senseless, O man.
Do you not perceive that grief is more wicked than all the spirits, and most terrible to the servants of God, and more than all other spirits destroys man and crushes out the Holy Spirit, and yet, on the other hand, she saves him?"
"I am senseless, sir," say I, "and do not understand these parables. For how she can crush out, and on the other hand save, I do not perceive." "Listen," says he. "Those who have never searched for the truth, nor investigated the nature of the Divinity, but have simply believed, when they devote themselves to and become mixed up with business, and wealth, and heathen friendships, and many other actions of this world, do not perceive the parables of Divinity; for their minds are darkened by these actions, and they are corrupted and become dried up. Even as beautiful vines, when they are neglected, are withered up by thorns and divers plants, so men who have believed, and have afterwards fallen away into many of those actions above mentioned, go astray in their minds, and lose all understanding in regard to righteousness; for if they hear of righteousness, their minds are occupied with their business, and they give no heed at all. Those, on the other hand, who have the fear of God, and search after Godhead and truth, and have their hearts turned to the Lord, quickly perceive and understand what is said to them, because they have the fear of the Lord in them. For where the Lord dwells, there is much understanding. Cleave, then, to the Lord, and you will understand and perceive all things.

"Hear, then," says he, "foolish man, how grief crushes out the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand saves. When the doubting man attempts any deed, and fails in it on account of his doubt, this grief enters into the man, and grieves the Holy Spirit, and crushes him out. Then, on the other hand, when anger attaches itself to a man in regard to any matter, and he is embittered, then grief enters into the heart of the man who was irritated, and he is grieved at the deed which he did, and repents that he has wrought a wicked deed. This grief, then, appears to be accompanied by salvation, because the man, after having done a wicked deed, repented. Both actions grieve the Spirit: doubt, because it did not accomplish its object; and anger grieves the Spirit, because it did what was wicked. Both these are grievous to the Holy Spirit--doubt and anger. Wherefore remove grief from you, and crush not the Holy Spirit which dwells in you, lest he entreat God against you, and he withdraw from you. For the Spirit of God which has been granted to us to dwell in this body does not endure grief nor straitness. Wherefore put on cheerfulness, which always is agreeable and acceptable to God, and rejoice in it. For every cheerful man does what is good, and minds what is good, and despises grief; but the sorrowful man always acts wickedly. First, he acts wickedly because he grieves the Holy Spirit, which was given to man a cheerful Spirit. Secondly, Grieving the Holy Spirit, he works iniquity, neither entreating the Lord nor confessing to Him. For the entreaty of the sorrowful man has no power to ascend to the altar of God." "Why," say I, "does not the entreaty of the grieved man ascend to the altar?" "Because," says he, "grief sits in his heart. Grief, then, mingled with his entreaty, does not permit the entreaty to ascend pure to the altar of God. For as vinegar and wine, when mixed in the same vessel, do not give the same pleasure [as wine alone gives], so grief mixed. with the Holy Spirit does not produce the same entreaty [as would be produced by the Holy Spirit alone]. Cleanse yourself from this wicked grief, and you will live to God; and all will live to God who drive away grief from them, and put on all cheerfulness."

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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A story for eternity

Tim Drake gives us a beautiful rendering of the story of Christianity vs. the story we know as The Da Vinci Code.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Polycarp: Weird name, amazing story

Here's another update from the class I'm taking on the Apostolic Fathers. And while this excerpt is a long read, its worth it. If you have about 15 minutes, the entire text comes can be read online at New Advent which is where I lifted the quote below.

A little background...Polycarp was longtime bishop of Smyrna, one of the early Christian churches in Asia Minor. He was arrested at age 86! And even as an elderly man, he must have been able to think fast on his feet, because his replies to his captors are amazing. He has an fantastic snappy comeback as the Roman authority asks him to repeat the famous formula "away with the atheists!" (which means "away with the folks who don't believe in the Roman gods"--not the way we translate 'atheist' today in the modern era.) And in this way, Polycarp would be able to profess belief in pagan gods. However, he turns it around by saying, as he gestures to the bloodthirsty crowd: "Away with the atheists" meaning the crowd! There's another point when Polycarp recommends that the Roman authority should make an appointment with him to learn about Christianity...you just can't keep a good man down!

The account of Polycarp's martyrdom is important because its the earliest account of a martyr act outside of the New Testament account in Acts 7 of the martyrdom of St. Stephen
It's one part amazing, one part miraculous, one part eucharistic, one part pure guts. But don't take my word of it. Read it yourself.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. (approx. 155-160AD)

Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, "Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp !" No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, "Have respect to thy old age," and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as]," Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists." But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, "Away with the Atheists." Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, "Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;" Polycarp declared, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?"

And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar," he answered, "Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, and pretendest not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and thou shalt hear them." The proconsul replied, "Persuade the people." But Polycarp said, "To thee I have thought it right to offer an account [of my faith]; for we are taught to give all due honour (which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me."

The proconsul then said to him, "I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast thee, except thou repent." But he answered, "Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil; and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous." But again the proconsul said to him, "I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, seeing thou despisest the wild beasts, if thou wilt not repent." But Polycarp said, "Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt."

While he spoke these and many other like things, he was filled with confidence and joy, and his countenance was full of grace, so that not merely did it not fall as if troubled by the things said to him, but, on the contrary, the proconsul was astonished, and sent his herald to proclaim in the midst of the stadium thrice, "Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian." This proclamation having been made by the herald, the whole multitude both of the heathen and Jews, who dwelt at Smyrna, cried out with uncontrollable fury, and in a loud voice, "This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, and the overthrower of our gods, he who has been teaching many not to sacrifice, or to worship the gods." Speaking thus, they cried out, and besought Philip the Asiarch to let loose a lion upon Polycarp. But Philip answered that it was not lawful for him to do so, seeing the shows of wild beasts were already finished. Then it seemed good to them to cry out with one consent, that Polycarp should be burnt alive. For thus it behooved the vision which was revealed to him in regard to his pillow to be fulfilled, when, seeing it on fire as he was praying, he turned about and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him," I must be burnt alive."

This, then, was carried into effect with greater speed than it was spoken, the multitudes immediately gathering together wood and fagots out of the shops and baths; the Jews especially, according to custom, eagerly assisting them in it. And when the funeral pile was ready, Polycarp, laying aside all his garments, and loosing his girdle, sought also to take off his sandals,--a thing he was not accustomed to do, inasmuch as every one of the faithful was always eager who should first touch his skin. For, on account of his holy life, he was, even before his martyrdom, adorned with every kind of good. Immediately then they surrounded him with those substances which had been prepared for the funeral pile. But when they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, "Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile."

They did not nail him then, but simply bound him. And he, placing his hands behind him, and being bound like a distinguished ram [taken] out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God, looked up to heaven, and said, "O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before thee, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before Thee as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as Thou, the ever-truthful God, hast fore-ordained, hast revealed beforehand to me, and now hast fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen."

When he had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odour [coming from the pile], as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there.

At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished.

But when the adversary of the race of the righteous, the envious, malicious, and wicked one, perceived the impressive nature of his martyrdom, and [considered] the blameless life he had led from the beginning, and how he was now crowned with the wreath of immortality, having beyond dispute received his reward, he did his utmost that not the least memorial of him should be taken away by us, although many desired to do this, and to become possessors of his holy flesh. For this end he suggested it to Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce, to go and entreat the governor not to give up his body to be buried, "lest," said he, "forsaking Him that was crucified, they begin to worship this one." This he said at the suggestion and urgent persuasion of the Jews, who also watched us, as we sought to take him out of the fire, being ignorant of this, that it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world (the blameless one for sinners), nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow-disciples!

The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.

This, then, is the account of the blessed Polycarp, who, being the twelfth that was martyred in Smyrna (reckoning those also of Philadelphia), yet occupies a place of his own in the memory of all men, insomuch that he is everywhere spoken of by the heathen themselves. He was not merely an illustrious teacher, but also a pre-eminent martyr, whose martyrdom all desire to imitate, as having been altogether consistent with the Gospel of Christ. For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous[in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

St. Ignatus of Antioch (a bishop of that local church) is now on my list of favorite saints. I read about his martyrdom last semester during my Church History course, but now I'm reading his seven letters --that he wrote while en route to certain martyrdom in Rome. You might call these letters his last words, but, remember that Antioch (in Syria) was a long way from Rome, so as his Roman captors were transporting him to Rome he had some time on his hands. So he did what any Christian would want their soon to be executed bishop to do: he rallied the troops--sending letters to six Christian churches and to one bishop (and future martyr himself) Polycarp. He wrote about preserving church unity, fighting heresy, and the authority of bishops. But he also wrote prayerfully---asking these churches to pray that he be worthy of the martyrdom! He called Christians to not be afraid to live the Christian life--even as he faced his own death He was a shepherd to the very end. But what he left the Church were some of the oldest Christian letters outside of the Epistles we find in the New Testament.

Here's a few tidbits to munch on...

From the letter to the Ephesians:

Let no one deceive you, just as you are not deceived, since you belong entirely to God. For when no strife that is able to torment you is rooted within you, then you are living as God wants. I am your lowly scapegoat; I give myself as a sacrificial offering for you Ephesians, a church of eternal renown. Those who belong to the flesh cannot do spiritual things, nor can those who belong to the spirit do fleshly things; so too, faith cannot do what is faithless nor can faithlessness do what is faithful. But even what you do according to the flesh is spiritual, for you do all things in Jesus Christ.


You are stones of the Father's temple, prepared for the building of god the Father. For you are being carried up to the heights by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, using as a cable the Holy Spirit; and your faith is your hoist, and love is the path that carries you up to God.


Apart from him nothing should seem right to you.

In him I am bearing my chains, which are spiritual pearls; in them I hope to rise again, through your prayer.


This is the beginning and end of life: faith is the beginning, love is the end. And the two together in unity are God; all other things that lead to nobility of character follow.


From the Letter to the Magnesians:

So lay aside the bad yeast, which has grown old and sour, and turn to the new yeast, which is Jesus Christ. Be salted in him, that no one among you become rotten; for you will be shown for what you are by your smell.


From the Letter to the Romans:

Grant me nothing more than to be poured out as a libation to God while there is still an altar at hand, that by becoming a chorus in love, you may sing forth to the Father in Jesus Christ, saying that God has deemed the bishop of Syria worth to be found at the setting of the sun, after sending him from where it rises. For it is good for me to set from the world to God, that I may rise up to him.


For me, ask only that I have power both inside and out, that I not only speak but also have the desire, that I not only be called a Christian, but also found to be one. For if I be found a Christian, I can also be called one and the be faithful--when I am no longer visible in the world.


And finally, this image that foreshadowed his soon execution in the Roman coliseum:

Allow me to be bread for the wild beasts; through them I am able to attain to God. I am the wheat of God and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found to be the pure bread of Christ.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

While I'm away...

So here I am -- living in a dorm 600+ miles from home (yes, I drove) at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I am taking a graduate theology course entitled The Apostolic Fathers. These are some of the earliest Christian writing that did not make the cut into the New Testament canon, and yet they give us an picture of the earliest Christians in the first and second centuries.

While I'm away, expect blogging to be sporadic at best as the class is 3 hours and day and the studying about 6-8 hours a day, but I'm committed to sharing some of the treasures I come along in my reading and research of these ancient texts... I hope you'll benefit from them.

Imagine that these writings have survived nearly 2000 years in the tradition of the Church as well as in several ancient monasteries spread across what was once the Roman Empire!

Today's selection for your meditation is from 1 Clement, otherwise known as the First Letter of Clement to the Corinthians.

36:1 This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation;
even Jesus Christ, the high priest of our oblations,
the champion and defender of our weakness.
36:2 Through him we look steadfastly to the heights of the heavens;
through him we behold, as in a glass,
the immaculate and lofty countenance of God the Father;
through him the eyes of our heart were opened;
through him our foolish and darkened understanding
springeth up again to his marvellous light;
through him the Lord hath willed us to taste of immortal knowledge;
who, being the brightness of his glory,
is so far better than the angels,
as he hath, by inheritance, obtained a more excellent name than they.
Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Breast-Cancer Story--to be continued

To those of you who have followed my 10-year retrospective on my breast cancer struggle, I must interrupt the story, as I am now in a graduate class for the next three weeks... But I will continue posting that story at the end of June... unless I get a minute now and then to recover myself and think of things outside of theology.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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