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James the Taylor, Blessed Stanislaw, and other news

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Hey everybody,

Today is the feast of Blessed Stanislaw Kostka Starowieyski, a Polish statesman and Catholic leader, who made his home a place for refugees when Poland was invaded in 1939, supported the life of the Church, and gave generously to the poor. 

Stanislaw came from a wealthy and noble family, but after World War I — in which Stanislaw fought — his family’s estates were ruined. 

Still, Stanislaw and his wife decided not to rebuild. Instead they invested their family’s cash, so that they could distribute funds every year to Polish families forced into poverty by the war.

They felt a responsibility to use what they had for families left with nothing.

Stanislaw’s own family lived in a modest rural building, which they gradually transformed into a home, while they paid for the education of children in nearby families, and organized catechetical projects.

But World War II changed a lot. Stanislaw was arrested in 1939 by Soviet troops, but he managed to escape, and return to Poland.

He was arrested by the Nazis in June 1940, and eventually sent to Dachau, mostly because he was a prominent Polish Catholic leader, and a source of strength and unity in Polish society.

Living as a concentration camp prisoner, Starowieyski shared his food with fellow prisoners, and urged them to hope. For those reasons — and because he came from a family of Polish nobility — he was regularly beaten by guards, often brutally.

Taking those beatings, his health declined fast, and Stanislaw died on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1941. 

Pope St. John Paul II beatified him in 1999, along with more than 100 other martyrs of World War II.

In his homily at the beatification, John Paul II talked about the hope of Polish people amid the horrors they experienced in the Second World War:

“Faith in divine mercy made it possible for hope to endure in us. This hope did not concern social rebirth alone, or merely the restoration of dignity to man in the different world contexts. Our hope penetrates far deeper: it is directed in fact to the divine promises which go far beyond temporal realities. Its definitive object is the sharing in the fruits of the saving work of Christ.”  

We hope in divine promises, in “the victory of Christ, the gift which restores hope.”

May Christ’s victory restore our hope.

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The news

Tomorrow — June 4 — is the 35th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. 

Ahead of that anniversary, Hong Kong’s Cardinal Stephen Chow said last week that “what happened 35 years ago has left a deep wound in parts of our psyche, though it has been buried and scarred over.”

The cardinal recalled his own experiences of protests across China in 1989, while adding that his own faith “prompts me to forgive whoever and whatever.”

Forgiveness, he said, could allow for a way forward for China, moving past “a dark space of unending sorrows and resentment.”

Read more.

When the U.S. bishops gather for their plenary assembly this month, they will have a consultative vote on the canonization cause of Servant of God Adele Brise, an illiterate religious sister who received apparitions of Mary in Wisconsin nearly 200 years ago.

Read about Adele Brise, and Our Lady of Champion, right here.

As readers of The Pillar know, four small groups of pilgrims are traveling with the Eucharist across the country right now, to converge at the national Eucharistic Congress in July.

This weekend, The Pillar sent student journalist Jack Figge to embed with the pilgrimage route traveling through Philadelphia. He’ll file several reports this week about what he saw and learned in Philadelphia — and here’s the first one. 

Read about the neighborhoods the Eucharistic pilgrimage traveled through — and how people responded — right here.

The Source & Summit Missal is designed to help your parish elevate the liturgy, increase reverence, and form missionary disciples along the way of beauty. Put radiant resources in the hands of your parishioners, along with easy-to-use tools that open up the Church’s liturgical and musical riches into the hands of your musicians.

Late last month, Nazir Masih, a Christian in his 70s, was attacked by a mob in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Masih was beaten with bricks, sticks, and steel rods, and his house was destroyed. While he lay dying in a hospital, he was charged with blasphemy — a charge that journalists and human rights activists called spurious.

Commentators argue that Pakistan’s stringent blasphemy laws are often used to settle local scores, because false accusations can be made with impunity.

Masih died, and Pakistani bishops say that it should be a crime in the country to make false allegations of blasphemy. Bishops also say that conditions in Pakistan are deteriorating for Christians.

Read what’s happening.

The Archdiocese of New York said Thursday that it does not exercise operational control over a Harlem Catholic school at which a girl was allegedly raped by a lay teacher, because the school is run by a non-profit that manages urban schools in the archdiocese

But as the teacher faces criminal prosecution, questions remain about how archdiocesan safe environment policies would have allowed the alleged crimes to take place. 

And while the archdiocese notes that the school is run by the nonprofit Partnership for Inner-City Education, under an undisclosed management agreement, that nonprofit includes several archdiocesan leaders on its board.

So who had oversight responsibility here? And what internal review will take place? That’s not yet clear.

Here’s the story

Organizers of the 2023 World Youth Day in Portugal said Friday that a surplus of 35 million euros will be used to support Catholic projects for young people, and that the 2023 youth gathering may have been the most financially successful World Youth Day to date.

Of course, it’s hard to tell, organizers said, because the finances of World Youth Days past have not been especially transparent. 

But the financial transparency offered by the Lisbon organizers may well set a template for World Youth Days of the future.

Read about that, and the financial impact of World Youth Day on Portugal itself, right here.

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James the Taylor

My first name is James-Daniel. 

Daniel is not my middle name, Orion is. 

Daniel is instead part of my first name, and it’s also my father’s name.

For as long as I’ve been alive, my parents have told me that they gave me two first names in deference to a Norwegian custom, by which one receives his own name and his father’s name, separated by a hyphen. We’re not Norwegian, my parents explained, it’s just a custom they read about and thought was cool.

Of course, my parents started telling people that story in the early 1980s, when their friends had little choice but to believe them, or to put in the work of going to the library, finding a book on Norwegian naming customs, and trying to verify my parents’ claim. 

My parents didn’t count on the internet.

Today, one can spend an entire morning reading about Scandinavian naming customs from the comfort of his own living room, and realize, thus, that while certain patronymic naming customs existed in Norway — namely the use of the -sen/son suffix as a surname — there was not a customary first name convention which aligned with the explanation offered by my parents.

In short, in addition to a double first name, my parents bestowed on me a penchant for storytelling with a casual relationship to the truth.

And while I insist on truth-telling when I’m reporting on stuff at work, I’m quite happy to stretch and reshape things a bit for the sake of a good tale when I’m at the bar, around a campfire, or explaining the world to my children. 

I believed my parents’ fib about Norwegian naming customs, just as my six-year-old son Daniel believes a “fib” about the time his dad wrestled a bear. 

The naming thing wasn’t the only tall tale my parents told their kids. When I was young, my dad started insisting — for reasons that remain unclear — that Prince William, of the British royal family, was our cousin. Not Harry, my dad said, and not Diana, but William, heir to the British throne.

When my sisters and I began to doubt, my dad called a British colleague on the phone, and had him put his own young son on the phone, pretending to be William, and expressing fondness for his American kinfolk. 

You’ll have a good time with my parents, is what I’m trying to say, but you won’t always get “the truth,” at least in the Puritanical modern sense in which you might expect. They are a mythopoeic people, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

But while I don’t really know why they gave me two first names, I do know why they gave me James as the first one. 

For as long as I’ve been a practicing Catholic, people have been asking me whether that James is for St. James the Less, or St. James the Greater. 

The answer is neither. I’m not named for a saint at all. Instead, I’m named James because in 1970, when my mom was 13, the singer-songwriter James Taylor released the single “Sweet Baby James,” written for his nephew, and my mom decided that if she had a son, she’d name him that.

When I was born, 12 years later in 1982, she stuck to her childhood decision. 

So goodnight, you moonlight ladies…

I tell you all that because on Sunday evening, I was my mom’s date to see James Taylor at Red Rocks, the world-famous Colorado concert venue about 20 minutes from my house.

I went with my mom to the concert because my grandma broke her hip a few weeks back, and Dad went to New Jersey to take care of her. That left me — Sweet Baby James, I guess — to go to Red Rocks.

Of course, he played the song, because that’s his job and people paid good money for it, and of course it was a moment of sentiment for my mom, and for me too.    

Here’s the song:

Some time after I was born, my mom met the Lord at a mother’s Bible study in our town. She became a serious disciple of Jesus Christ, and — as these things often go — my dad soon did the same

That means they brought us up to love Jesus Christ, to love the Word of God, and to love the singer-songwriters of their own youth — when we traveled as a family, it was usually either for a down-the-shore folk festival, or for a religious revival of some kind. 

In the fuzzy memories of my childhood, they were often intertwined, in fact. I have, for example, the enduring “memory” of seeing Billy Graham and Willie Nelson together at Giants Stadium, though I know it’s improbable.

(Or we sometimes traveled for an airshow, I suppose, but that’s a different essay altogether.)  

It was a long road from there to the Catholic Church for them, and it’s incredibly improbable that now, thousands of miles from where we started, we’re parishioners together at a beautiful parish, where my mom teaches in the school my children attend. 

And maybe it was James Taylor’s crooning, or the beautiful night sky at Red Rocks, or maybe it was the “herbal residue” wafting up from throngs of boomers enjoying their nostalgia trip, but as I listened Sunday night I was moved to marvel at Providence — to consider that superior, divine logic of the Lord, which works so much better than anything we could plan, or foresee.

And to consider that if the Lord allows us to walk the path of discipleship with our parents along the way, and our siblings for that matter, we’re especially blessed, and we should be grateful.

Sail on home to Jesus won't you good girls and boys
I'm all in pieces, you can have your own choice
But I can hear a heavenly band full of angels
And they're coming to set me free
I don't know nothing 'bout the why or when
But I can tell that it's bound to be
Because I could feel it, child, yeah
On a country road

Red Rocks really is a better venue than whatever they’ve got in your town.

Please be assured of our prayers, and please pray for us. We need it.

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Yours in Christ,

JD Flynn
The Pillar

The Source & Summit Missal is designed to help your parish elevate the liturgy, increase reverence, and form missionary disciples along the way of beauty. Put radiant resources in the hands of your parishioners, along with easy-to-use tools that open up the Church’s liturgical and musical riches into the hands of your musicians.

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