Today is the Feast of St. Edith Stein, and you’re reading The Tuesday Pillar Post.
Actually, that’s a pretty good place to start.
If you’re like me, it’s likely you don’t know much about Edith Stein - the Catholic convert, Carmelite nun, and martyr who died 80 years ago today in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
She died as Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was a Catholic nun, but she was also Jewish, and the Church has recognized that she died “a daughter of Israel,” alongside millions of other Jews who were murdered in the Shoah.
In fact, she spoke before she died of her desire to offer herself as a sacrifice for “her people” - for the Jewish people suffering in the anti-Semitic brutality of the Nazi regime.
Eighty years after her death, Edith Stein’s legacy is complicated. Some have suggested that the Church has tried to downplay her Judaism, or to use Edith Stein to appropriate the sufferings of the Holocaust. Those are questions worth addressing.
So The Pillar spoke this week with Edith Stein biographers and scholars, to go in-depth on the life, death, and legacy of the holy Jewish nun who offered her sufferings for her people.
She was the “Doctor of Resilient Hope.” And if you read anything today about Edith Stein, make it this.
Edith Stein, pictured as a student in 1913-1914. Public Domain.
St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross - St. Edith Stein - pray for us!
News from Nicaragua
We’ve told you in recent weeks about the ongoing persecution of Catholics in Nicaragua, where dictator President Daniel Ortega is using state power to crack down on political dissidents and threats to his regime.
We told you in June about the “fasting bishop,” +Rolando Alvarez of Matagalpa, who said he began fasting in May as “an act under the light of the Gospel, an act of salvation. It’s not a political matter, but of faith.”
Then we brought you the story of a Nicaraguan priest arrested on sexual abuse charges, and told you why some human rights activists - many of them fierce critics of the Church - say that his trial is orchestrated political theater.
Last week, we told you about a parish standoff, which saw a priest and five laypeople barricaded inside a rectory, while police shot rubber bullets at protestors and seized radio broadcasting equipment.
Well, late Friday night, a new development emerged.
[Thanks to our paying subscribers], our Latin American correspondent was among the first to report that national police in Nicaragua had announced an investigation into Bishop Alvarez, the fasting bishop, on charges that he had begun inciting violence against the state, and destabilizing the government.
Since Thursday afternoon, those police have refused to allow Alvarez, along with several priests and laypeople, to leave the diocesan property that contains chancery offices and the bishop’s residence. He has been effectively under house arrest, albeit without a warrant or any actual charges.
But Alvarez is not exactly cowering in some back corner of his rectory.
The bishop has been livestreaming Masses, praise-and-worship sessions, and catechetical lessons. He’s got a lot of … chutzpah: Multiple reports confirm that the bishop has made it a point to bless the police blockading his doors, and to serenade them with religious and popular songs.
What happens next? How does the standoff end? It’s not clear.
Our sources in Nicaragua tell us that many had initially expected Alvarez would be formally arrested, and likely taken to a jail where allegations of beatings are not uncommon.
But as the standoff perdures, and the bishop gains public support at home and around the world, expectations are shifting. It now seems possible that Bishop Alvarez will be exiled from Nicaragua — the regime will consider themselves to be rid of a problem, but without the ongoing human rights activism that his incarceration might cause.
Alvarez would be not the first bishop to be exiled from Nicaragua — even the country’s apostolic nuncio was sent away — and if it does happen for him, he likely won’t be the last.
This is what state-sponsored Christian persecution - the real deal, guys - actually looks like.
And again, here’s the commercial: Informed, serious, local coverage of issues like this can make a difference. In this case, it’s even possible that media attention might have taken a discreet bit of “enhanced interrogation” off the table.
We’re not the only outlet covering this, but our correspondent has done great, timely, connected coverage on the Church’s persecution in Nicaragua, and that’s getting attention in-country. It is actually making a difference. And that happens because some of you think it’s worth 5 bucks a month.
So isn't it time to subscribe?
And now for some things completely different
A UK court has ruled that Raffaele Mincione, the guy who sold the Vatican Secretariat of State a London development project, can keep suing the Holy See over their business relationship, even while Mincione is facing criminal charges in a Vatican City courtroom.
Mincione is seeking vindication because - he says - the Holy See has hurt his business by accusing him of wrongdoing in the property deal, while he insists that he acted in good faith. A judge in November decided to press pause on the lawsuit until Mincione’s criminal trial is over, but Britain’s Court of Appeals has now overruled that decision, and the case will go forward.
The businessman is hoping to see his lawsuit run parallel to the Vatican’s criminal trial, and to see it serve as a forum in which he can better tell his side of the story.
Regular readers have been keeping up-to-date on the complicated liturgical battles underway inside the Eastern Catholic Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India.
Here’s the latest: On Sunday, 50,000 Catholics showed up at a protest to oppose the liturgical changes they saw are forced them, and to object to the forced resignation of Archbishop Antony Kariyil, who was a Vatican-appointed interim leader in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, the epicenter of the conflict.
We spoke with a priest at the demonstration, who explained what protesters are after.
And to be clear — 50,000 people at a protest over an inter-Church disagreement is a LOT of people. This is not a niche issue for Syro-Malabars. And it’s not going to go away anytime soon.
After a spate of Boko Haram terrorist attacks in Nigeria’s capital, the country’s major Catholic university has shuttered its doors, like most public institutions in Abuja.
So The Pillar talked with Fr. Hycinth Ichoku, vice-chancellor of Veritas University, about the situation in the capital, whether Nigeria has become a “failed state,” and what the Church should do when violence grips a nation.
Here’s a preview:
“The jihadists are certainly going to be emboldened to disrupt the elections if drastic measures are not taken to stop their activities. Without improved security, I worry that Nigerians may be too scared to come out and cast their votes. Without the elections, the democratic institutions will of course fail and the country will relapse to anarchy.”
It is sad that priests have become soft targets for kidnappers and terrorists and many of them have been killed or kidnapped. This has left the Church in Nigeria bleeding physically and spiritually.
But many of our citizens are also passing through this same experience. Many are being kidnapped and are either killed or rescued after their relatives have paid huge amounts as ransom. Still others are killed even after their relations have paid ransom.
So the Church, in a very practical way, is sharing the experience, and the agonies of the citizens and her members in the larger society.
When I sit down with canon lawyers, liturgists, or theologians these days, most of them want to talk about Traditionis custodes and its implications for the life of the Church — even if, like me, the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy is not their particular flavor of ice cream.
And eventually, people start to ask whether Traditionis custodes has implications for Anglican ordinariates - special Church circumscriptions for Anglican and Episcopalian converts, both lay and clerical.
The ordinariates use their own liturgical rubrics, you see, which draw heavily from Anglican liturgical customs — and Pope Francis has emphasized that “the liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II,” and not the Anglican Use rubrics, “are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”
So as Francis puts the kibosh on liturgical variability in the Latin Catholic Church, could the Anglican Use be next on the chopping block?
Check out my analysis on that complicated question, right here.
So what do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Finally, we have a report this morning on the Pontifical Academy for Life, which -strangely - tweeted last week a post emphasizing that Humanae vitae was not infallibly declared by Pope Paul VI.
As a technical matter, that’s true - but it doesn’t mean that the Church’s teaching on contraception is not a doctrinal matter, or can be changed at will. The academy’s Twitter account did not explain that distinction, leaving a lot of readers confused about what exactly it was trying to accomplish.
We talked with some moral theologians about what’s going on at the Pontifical Academy for Life. And we looked into rumors that the pope is planning an official document addressing the Church’s teaching on contraception — one moral theologian told The Pillar that Pope Francis has already told Vatican officials he’s not interested in that idea.
Anyhow, there’s a lot going at the Pontifical Academy for Life right now, and we’ve got the straight scoop on at least some of it.
Read our report here. Really, don’t miss it.
The ‘Body of Christ Party!’
At the Flynn house right now, we’re preparing for a liturgical milestone on Saturday, when our children Max and Pia will be confirmed and receive their first Holy Communion, at a small liturgy generously celebrated by our local bishop.
We’ve been talking a lot of about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the Mass as the source and summit of our faith, and the gift of confirmation, in which we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, are made more deeply sons and daughters of God the Father, and are graced for the vocations of Christian holiness to which we are called.
It’s a little hard to explain confirmation to kids, at least for me — it’s not for no reason that it once was dubbed the “sacrament in search of a theology.” But I’m trying.
Max and Pia, as many of you know, both have Down syndrome — they see, live, and experience the world differently than most of us do. And I’ve been wondering these past few weeks what to tell them about their vocations - how even to think about their vocations, and their future as Christian disciples.
My son Max is not called by God to be a priest, I do not expect my daughter is called to be a mother, or a religious sister.
I’m realizing they’re called to be more deeply themselves — that their way of proclaiming the Kingdom of God is to give witness to the dignity of their baptism, and to our common Christian dignity, as the adopted children of the Creator of the Universe.
And however it plays out, that’s the vocation we all have — to give witness to our rebirth in the mystery of baptismal waters, to our new life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
To give witness to the promise of beatific vision, and the joy of being beloved by God.
Like all parents, I want to prepare my children for the suffering of Christian vocation - their lives will no doubt include a pilgrimage to Golgotha, which we all must walk. We are assimilated to the Son in the Christian life, and that entails a kind of mystical assimilation into his passion, which we offer for the salvation of the world.
The cross finds us. And we can only pray that we’ll be prepared with a disposition of gratitude, with the sacramental imagination that assures us of our suffering’s eternal significance. With the joy for an opportunity to be more closely conformed to Christ, and the hope to perdure when we’re tempted from the narrow way.
At any rate, my children are not especially awed by my ruminations on Calvary, or my sense that I should prepare them by lecture for whatever the future portends.
But they are focused on their special day of grace on Saturday — they’ve been practicing a bow before the host, an enthusiastic amen, and a prayer after Jesus comes into their hearts.
My son Max, who lives in the concrete and the immediate, is enthusiastic for the family celebration we’ll have on Saturday - for the cake, the balloons, and the friends he’ll get to play with.
He tells us each day about the “Body of Christ party” we’re going to have.
And that, I’m realizing, is a pretty good take on our Christian vocation — to proclaim the “Body of Christ Party” of the beatific vision, and to invite the people we love to join that feast.
As we get closer to these big sacraments, I find myself praying that my children will become the saints God wants them to be. And I pray that I will trust the Lord to protect them, and draw them close to his heart.
I have been praying over them the invocation of Simeon, the New Theologian:
Come, true light! Come, eternal life! Come, hidden mystery! Come, nameless treasure! Come, inexpressible reality! Come, inconceivable person! Come, endless joy! Come, light that never sets! Come, unfailing expectation of all who will be saved! Come, resurrection of the dead! Come, O powerful one, who always makes, remakes, and transforms all things by your unique power! Come, invisible, intangible one! Come, you who never move and yet at every moment move and come to us; you draw near to us who lie in hell, yet you remain higher than the heavens! Come, O beloved name repeated everywhere, whose being and nature we are forbidden to express or to know! Come, imperishable crown! Come, purple of the great king, our God! Come, crystal belt studded with jewels! Come, inaccessible sandal! Come, royal purple! Come, truly sovereign right hand! Come, you whom my wretched soul has desired and still desires! Come, only one, to one who is alone, since you can see that I am alone! Come, you who have separated me from everything, and who have made me alone in the world! Come, you who have yourself become desire in me and have made me long for you — you who are absolutely inaccessible! Come my breath and my life! Come, consolation of my poor soul! Come, my joy, my glory, and my endless delight!
Come Holy Spirit. Give us each of us faith in a loving God.
Meanwhile, I was reminded yesterday morning that as a catechist I still have a ways to go.
As we got ready for breakfast, I reminded my son Daniel, who is 5, that God is calling each of us to become great saints.
“But Dad,” he said, “we’re not saints! None of us can even fly!”
Guys — don’t forget to check out our recent live episode of The Pillar Podcast, and a really great project you should be following: The Pillar In-Depth, a season-long deep dive into powerful stories and conversations about abortion. You can get them both wherever fine podcasts are found.
Meanwhile, pray for us, and be assured of our prayers for you.
Yours in Christ,