Sunday, December 23, 2007

Thy Kingdom Come

Initiating after the Epiphany, the 6th of January 2008, this writer will post a series of essays, observations and analysis on the Vatican, Christian Saints, mystics and other inspiring personalities. For those of you who are tired of reading about war, death, and the carrying ons of young celebrities … and who hunger for something deeper, more lasting, and satisfying – I encourage you to join me and share your own thoughts and comments.

Doubtless many chapters of the Vatican’s story lie silent under her ancient soil. Even today, some of us are intimidated if not a bit frightened and overtly hostile by the intense secrets of these fascinating folk.

What institutions have formed them to such ruthless strength in character and policy? What moral and ethical codes have guided them for over two thousand years? Have they always possessed these codes and did they apply them religiously? By what economic organization and skill do they mold to their uses, the wealth and manpower required to equip their missions, hospitals, humanitarian institutions, monasteries, schools, convents and banks?
What are they like in their private lives? In their old age and death?

What about its past? Glorious, Magnificent, Shady and Murky. Chiaroscuro might be the perfect description. The smoldering passions of the Renaissance Popes, who prayed, fornicated and lead armies?

Who are some of the key people that shaped the past?

There is Rabbi Saul of Tarsus. Hunter and Persecutor of the followers of Jesus. The Christian world would know him as Saint Paul. He joined a Middle Eastern cult and transformed it with his overflowing love for Jesus and his admiration for Greek philosophy, thought and logic into a globalized religion.

The fire and purity of spirit of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who almost single handedly brought on the Crusades. Would the Knights Templar have existed without his all-important benediction?

The Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc, still enigmatic in many was to us, inspiring and leading men to battle at age nineteen.

The unequaled sanctity of Saint Francis of Assisi. Today, his austerity towards himself and his fellow priests coupled with his love for all creatures great and small would cause him to be judged quite mad and most probably institutionalized. ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Cousin Wolf, Beloved beasts and Much loved fellow humans,” exactly what would the fundamentalist, Bible thumping and rabid New Age Christians do to a man like that?

The brilliance, discipline and discoveries of Hildegarde von Bingen whose multi faceted personality made her Mystic, Abbess, Artist, Agronomist, Composer, and Medical Doctor in Medieval times.

The asceticism and charisma of Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus - the Jesuits.

Saint Francis Xavier, Jesuit Apostle of India, Japan and China. Larger than Life itself, he received no gold, gems or glory for his sacrifices.

The mysticism of Saint Teresa of Avila, the beauteous and learned Doctor of the Church.

The iron will of the young and sickly Saint Caterina of Siena, another Doctor of the Church who scolded Popes.

The sweetness and love of Saint Philip Neri who cared for the homeless youth, the syphilitics and the addicts.

There is saintliness and stealth, lust and asceticism, spirituality and greed, Self-abnegation and nepotism, knowledge and wisdom all in one place - the Vatican. There is their love of Humanity and their love of Peace.

Unless we visualize, scene by scene, this Vatican with all its contradictions, we shall never understand that vast evolution of customs, morals, traditions, ideas, and ideals, which transformed the Rome of the Caesars into the Rome of Christ.

Since the world honors Form as well as Substance, Power as well as Knowledge, there is no place on this planet quite like the Vatican. Nowhere on earth does spirituality struggle to co-exist with the day to day running of an Empire than the Vatican.

Jesus’ mandate to Peter, his Apostles and Disciples, to over a billion people who believe in one, holy, Apostolic, and Universal Church reassured and promised “and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”

AMDG! Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. To the greater glory of God.

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Isabel Van Fechtmann

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