Saturday, July 15, 2017


Please forgive the ultimate in lazy blogging, but for a Bear, Bear is doing the best he can to satisfy all consumers of Bearish perspectives, even those who think they are reading novels.

Here is something Bear posted elsewhere. It is so brilliant, Bear must quote it here:

Francis is a small-minded man with a resentment for Northern – especially U.S. – wealth, success and power. Economics is a zero-sum game for him. If we are rich and Venezuela is poor, we must have taken our wealth from them. He sees things in naturalistic terms from a leftist, if not Marxist, perspective. That is not an “oh, by the way,” to explain his hatred of American conservatives. That is the horrific reality of our Church today. It is not animated by anything that would seem out of place in the New America Foundation or any other Soros-tentacled think tank that have already turned the USCCB into a Democrat front group. If you ever wondered what the Catholic Church would look like without God, you have your big chance now.

Let the Bear (who is NOT a Spectacled Bear - the only miserable distant relatives the Bear has in Argentina or he would have ordered his ursine legions forth across the entire blighted continent) get this straight. Humans chose a pope from Eva Peron land, from a continent where Liberation Theology covers real Catholicism like kudzu covers telegraph lines in Mississippi, and are shocked, shocked, Bear says, when he tries to single-handedly immanentize the eschaton

Anyway, that's all the invective the Bear has time for today. Go here to American Catholic to read something sensible and well-informed about the latest flap from Caracas-on-the-Tiber.

For God's sake, screw this idea of "the world" and bury your nose in Ecclesiastes and the Gospels. This universe is 14 billion years old. It may last another 14 billion. "The world" won't. At the rate humans are going, it will end in a century with one final cry of Allahu Akbar and good riddance.

Bears will take their rightful place as masters of the earth.

A blink of the eye, friends, as is your life. Nobody in Heaven cares about the big issues or debates economic theories. Remember: YOU made headlines in Heaven today, good ones or bad? You can't help it. Don't sweat anything BUT the small stuff. God is all about the small stuff. 

Only men and devils care about the big issues.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Known and Unknown

As the Bear has this week been engaged in a brief hiatus (it is, after all, summer), here for your edification are more relics, some of which are not too often seen.

Ex pallio S. Iosef

Above is a small piece from the cloak of Saint Joseph (the Betrothed) in a modern theca. This was given to me by a Catholic priest and it was sealed by the Augustinians. Only a few parts of Joseph's cloak, belt, and staff are known to still exist on earth and his body has never been found. In 1889, Pope Leo XIII instructed in Quamquam pluries that the popular novena to the Holy Cloak of Saint Joseph be added to the recitation of the Rosary in the month of October, in memory of the 30 years Joseph had spent living in the company of Jesus Christ. Three places were Saint Joseph's relics can be found are at the National Historical Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria; at Saint Anthony's Chapel in Pittsburgh, and in the Philippines.

Ex ossibus Ss. Martyrum Machabeor

From the same priest came the above theca with intact seal containing a small piece of bone belonging to one of the Old Testament Maccabean martyrs. I have no idea which Maccabeus this is, but their relics can be found at the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, Italy. The original provenance of this relic was the Vatican according to the numerical markings on the back of the theca.

Ex ossibus S. Dionysii

Above in modern theca with intact seal is a piece of bone of Saint Dionysus the Areopagite, a convert of Saint Paul. This relic came from Metropolitan Theodosius of the Orthodox Church in America. The relics of Saint Dionysus can be found at the various Athonite monasteries in Greece.

Ex ossibus Ss. Petrus, Iona, Alexis

Also from Metropolitan Theodosius came the above treasure with pieces of bone belonging to the three Metropolitan-Saints Peter, Jonah, and Alexis of Moscow, Kiev and all Rus. The relics of Saint Peter and Saint Jonah can be found at Uspensky Sobor (the oldest cathedral at the Kremlin) in Moscow, Russian Federation, whereas those of Saint Alexis can be found at Epiphany Cathedral in Yelokhovo, also in Moscow.

Ex ossibus S. Gregorii Naz.

From the first priest came also a piece of bone belonging to Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (one of the Three Holy Hierarchs). His relics can be found at the Vatican and at the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint George in Fener, Istanbul, Turkey.

© Marcelle Bartolo-Abela, aka the Bald Eagle.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Relics of the Apostles

Ex ossibus sanctissimorum Apostolorum

The Holy Apostles

Above, for your edification, are first class relics of the Twelve Apostles in a brass multi-reliquary put together and sealed by the Augustinians. All the relics are ex ossibus - that is, pieces of their bones. This reliquary was given to me by a Catholic priest.

Here is the list of the above relics:
  1. Peter, aka the Fisherman, son of John and brother of Andrew;
  2. Andrew, son of John and brother of Peter;
  3. James, aka the Elder, son of Zebedee and brother of John;
  4. John, aka the Beloved; son of Zebedee and brother of James. The only Apostle who did not run away for the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and who died a peaceful death;
  5. Philip;
  6. Bartholomew, aka Nathanael;
  7. Thomas, aka Didymus, the Doubter;
  8. Matthias, the tax collector son of Alpheus (Cleophas) and cousin of Christ (through Joseph);
  9. James, aka The Younger; son of Alpheus, brother of Matthias, Jude, and Simon; cousin of Christ;
  10. Jude Thaddeus, son of Alpheus, brother of James, Simon, and Jude; cousin of Christ;
  11. Simon, aka the Zealot; son of Alpheus, brother of James, Jude, and Matthias; cousin of Christ; and
  12. Barnabas, one of the 70 disciples, the companion of Paul and cousin of Mark the Evangelist (John Mark, also one of the 70; one of the servants at Cana and the young man who ran away naked when Christ was arrested in Gethsemane). The 'replacement' for Judas Iscariot.
The main relics of the Apostles can be found in the following locations:
  1. Peter - Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City State;
  2. Andrew - Cathedral of Saint Andrew, Patras, Greece;
  3. James the Elder - Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain;
  4. John - Basilica of Saint John, Ephesus, Turkey;
  5. Philip - Basilica Minore dei Santi Apostoli, Rome, Italy; and in the Hierapolis of Phrygia, Turkey;
  6. Bartholomew - Basilica di San Bartolomeo all'Isola, Rome, and at the Basilica di San Bartolomeo, Benevento, Italy; at the Cathedral of Frankfurt, Germany, and at Canterbury Cathedral, England;
  7. Thomas - Basilica di San Tommaso, Ortona, Italy; at San Thome Minor Basilica, Chennai, India; and on the island of Chios, Greece;
  8. Matthias - Cattedrale di Salerno, Salerno, Italy; and at the Saint Matthias Benedictine Abbey, Trier, Germany;
  9. James the Younger - Cathedral of Saint James, Jerusalem (seat of the Armenian Patriarchate), and at the Basilica Minore dei Santi Apostoli, Rome, Italy;
  10. Jude - Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City State, and at the National Shrine of Saint Jude, Chicago, Illinois;
  11. Simon - Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City State; and
  12. Barnabas - Monastery of Saint Barnabas, Salamis, Cyprus.

 © Marcelle Bartolo-Abela, aka the Bald Eagle.

Friday, July 7, 2017

More relics of Jesus Christ

Relics, Relics, Relics!

The First Relics
A woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped. Jesus then asked, "Who touched me?" While all were denying it, Peter said, "Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you." But Jesus said, "Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me." When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Lk 8:43-48).
I loved icons, but had no particular fondness for holy relics as I was well aware of all the superstitious stories about them, despite one of my iconography teachers, a Maronite Catholic priest, being totally 'into relics.' Coming from a scientific background, with empiricism and hard data having been drilled into me, throughout my professional life, as being the god of all and above all, before reaching the ultimate god Who is God, relics seemed to me to be a bunch of hocus-pocus at par with those famous indulgences and reported multitude of sales thereof, which had provoked Martin Luther to nail his 99 theses to the church door. I was "not that kind of person" - and had no intention of ever becoming one.

In vain did the priest for years attempt, in multiple ways, to educate me about the tangible, but mystical, significance of holy relics. I refused to listen.

"Talk to me about icons," I would say, "but leave relics out of the equation."

Icons were okay, in particular the ones written in the Russian-Byzantine tradition, considered the pinnacle of the sacred art of iconography. Those were 'safe.' Our Father had given me both a love for icons and the opportunity to learn iconography with great teachers. Icons were also beautiful to look at. I could just sit or stand in front of them for hours, just staring at them. I love writing icons. But relics?

Oh, no.


No, no, no, no, no, no, no.


Yet Jesus Christ, like His Father, had a different idea about the whole situation and a great sense of humor.

Ask and You Shall Receive
When people sit and tell holy stories, God comes to listen (cf. Mal 3:16).
At the time, it was my practice to complain to Christ that our Father had given me a gift - iconography - as a token of His love for having returned to Him. But Christ had not given me anything, I thought. Coming from my background as a relatively newbie revert, I did not consider that at all fair - and I wanted something from each Person of the Holy Trinity.

"What," I thus kept asking Jesus day in, day out, "are You going to give me? Won't You give me something? Give me something [tangible] of Yours too!"

The beautiful handmade and hand-carved gilt bronze, Baroque multi-reliquary shown first below arrived soon after from Northern Italy. I stared at it really hard upon its arrival in my mailbox in an unmarked brown Jiffy bag (other than my address) and stamped Milano by the post office. No one had known about my request to Christ. I had never disclosed it to anyone.

More and more relics then started to arrive or be given to me in a slow, steady stream: from the East and from the West; from the North and from the South; the vast majority of them given by priests, Catholic and Orthodox. Single relics, multiple relics. Relics with original documentation, relics without documentation, but of known provenance. Relics of saints wanted, relics of saints unwanted; relics of saints known, relics of saints relatively unknown. And relics of saints abandoned.

My iconography teacher could scarce contain his delight.

"See? I told you," he crowed.

Never in my wildest had I dreamed that I would end up becoming a custodian of holy relics. But the crowning point was the arrival of some relics you shall be seeing in this and future posts for your edification, in addition to the ones of Our Lady and of the Cross of Christ that you already saw in my first two posts on the topic.

Relics of the Passion, Death and Burial of Jesus Christ
They are the most precious evidence of the Passion of our Lord (Amalric I).
Ex Praesepio, Ex Petra Unctionis, Ex Sepulchro
Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

The relics of Jesus Christ shown in the above reliquary consist of three small stones: one from the Grotto of the Nativity (Ex Praesepio), one from the Stone of the Anointing (Ex Petra Unctionis), and one from the Holy Sepulchre (Ex Sepulchro). The reliquary bears the Jerusalem cross of the Custodian of the Holy Land, the head of the Franciscan Friars, on its intact seal inside.

The Grotto where Christ was born can be found in the crypt of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank. The Stone of the Anointing was installed in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre to commemorate the spot upon which it is thought the Body of Christ had been prepared for burial by Saint Joseph of Arimathea and Saint Nicodemus. The tomb of Christ can be found in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre - Church of the Resurrection in the city of Jerusalem.

Ex Columna Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

The above relic with intact seal is a small piece from the Column of the Flagellation to which Christ had been tied for the Scourging at the Pillar (Ex Columna). This relic also came from Italy.

The Column was taken to the Church of the Apostles on top of Mount Zion after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. A large portion of the column can now be found at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. A smaller portion of it was translated from Jerusalem in 1223 by Giovanni, Cardinal di Colonna, the papal legate in the Holy Land during the Sixth Crusade, and installed in his titular church, the Basilica di Santa Prassede in Rome, Italy where it can still be found.

During the Middle Ages, there reportedly existed such devotion to the Column of Flagellation that the Vatican established the Feast of the Holy Pillar. This feast used to be held on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Ex Fune Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

This relic with intact seal consists of short, thick strands from one of the ropes with which Christ was tied to the Column of the Flagellation (Ex Fune). It too came from Italy and its original provenance was from the Patriarchs of Jerusalem.

De Purpurae Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

The above relic in modern theca is a small piece of the Purple Robe that Christ had been forced to wear on His shoulders during the Crowning with Thorns. This relic was originally part of a somewhat larger piece of the Robe in the possession of a Catholic priest, who opened up his own reliquary to give me a part of it. The theca bears the seal of the Augustinians.

Few pieces of the Robe are known to have remained to this day. One of these pieces can be found at the Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo in Spain. Another piece can be found at Saint Anthony's Chapel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

De Sindone Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

The priest also gave me this in the same manner. It too bears the seal of the Augustinians. The relic consists of two short strands from the Holy Shroud of Jesus Christ (the Shroud of Turin; De Sindone), in which Saint Joseph of Arimathea had wrapped His Body for burial in the Holy Sepulchre.

The Shroud was originally kept by the Byzantine emperors after having received it from the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, but it disappeared during the sack of Constantinople. In 1453, the Shroud was given to the House of Savoy and translated to Torino, Italy, in 1578 after a few intermediate placements. It was donated to the Holy See by the House of Savoy in 1983. A limited number of Shroud relics used to be given to bishops when the glass case in which it was kept, was opened for examination. The Shroud can now be found in the Cappella della Sacra Sindone at the Duomo di Torino - Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista in Turin, Italy.

© Marcelle Bartolo-Abela, aka the Bald Eagle.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


ADDED THOUGHT: This is a perfect example of the "Mad Virtues of Pope Francis" (see below). He so often takes a Christian truth and just goes nuts with it, while diluting others. Christian Joy is a real thing. Bear is not arguing with that. But so is Christian tribulation, ordinary sadness, and clinical depression. Bear would say Francis can only see black and white, but Pope Francis has based his whole pontificate on shades of gray - how many, Bear does not know. Yet there are certain hobbyhorses in which he flashes blinding ignorance.

Granted, it calls upon normal, real, "happy Catholics" to invite "un-Christian sad Catholics" back to the Church so they can be happy, but hey, it's better than we've see so far. If Protestants can have their "Prosperity Gospel," Bear will give Francis a "Happiness Gospel." It's a start, if a superficial one.

But for the record, sometimes people are sad, and sometimes people are even depressed. These are not unusual or "un-Christian." The Bible is full of people who were not always overflowing with joy, and more than one prophet begged God to put him out of his misery. Being Catholic is not an exemption from normal human emotional states, or even abnormal ones, and there are many people who do not need to hear such nonsense.

But compared to this, it's like he's morphed into Pope St. Pius X overnight.

Perhaps everyone should be taking Adapt. Ask your doctor if Adapt is right for you. (Disclaimer: Bear is paid spokesanimal for Hermes Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Adapt.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Mad Virtues of Pope Francis

[This is a reprint of a post from over a year ago that has resurfaced in the readership stats. So the Bear has decided to run it again, especially since it meshes well with the previous post on Realism which has proved very popular.] 

Pope Francis: Finally, a Smiling Face to the Horror

For decades we have had to sit and watch helplessly as the Church was consumed by preventable scandal and ceaseless innovation. The enemy was hard to get a fix on. He seemed to be everywhere and nowhere, and his name was Legion. But it was clear that somehow the schwerpunkt of the Church Militant had without question drifted far from the original plan.

In Pope Francis, we have seen, for the first time, the incarnation of the Church's errors and abuses. God has driven into plain view the secret corruption, the pride posing as humility, the indifferentism posing as tolerance, the disregard for the Deposit of the Faith, and the "rebranding" of Catholicism and the papacy that Fr. Rosica is so proud of. In Pope Francis we finally have someone to speak out against, and thereby indict the whole sorry lot of meddlers, swindlers, and sappers: in short, all those who loathe the Church they are supposed to lead.

In other words, we are reacting not only to what Pope Francis personally says and does, but to Pope Francis the Avatar of a different spirit -- the "spirit" of Vatican II, the spirit of the "media council," and, fundamentally, the spirit of the Prince of this world.

One might say we are seeing the beginning of the end of a plot. To simplify, it began with throwing open to the world the windows of the Church. It is ending by tearing down the walls of the Church.

Boundary Issues

But the Church needs walls. It needs to be separate from the world. Distinct from other religions. The Church should be a fortress from which Catholics sally forth into the world, but not as part of the world, not as worldlings fighting trendy secular battles. Everybody should be able to say with confidence, "here is the Church," and "there begins the world." There are Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, but here is Catholicism. Here is the truth, and there is something else, and we do no favors by pretending otherwise.

That sounds so harsh! Intolerant! Real! We would rather live in our fantasy world where if we're just nice enough, everyone will love us. (To be fair, this does seem to be working out for Pope Francis.) It would be easy to twist the  the Bear's meaning. He is not advocating hiding behind the walls of the Church while the world goes to Hell. We should engage the world, but with evangelism, not indifferentism; charity, not socialism; truth, not accommodation of error.

We should all be Catholic as if it mattered. Especially the Pope.

Of course, the Franciscan Church has a horror of walls or division of any kind. The supernatural must be tolerated for the sake of the masses, but for the initiates, purple, red and white, "There'll Be Pie In the Sky When You Die" remains the favorite hymn. A sarcastic number right out of the Little Red Songbook. The religion of the Franciscan Church, much like Freemasonry, is The Brotherhood of Man. It is remarkable, but true: you could strip it of every specifically Christian element, and the world would not be able to tell any difference.

This is no accident. Religious differences must be downplayed in pursuit of the 8th Sacrament of the Franciscan Church: the Holy Photo-Op. And, of course, the aforementioned Brotherhood of Man.

The funny thing is, no one in the Franciscan Church would deny that they are tearing down walls and erasing boundaries. They might deny celebrating error, but only because they don't recognize error. The Pope can travel to Sweden this Halloween to commemorate "the blessings" of Martin Luther's reformation because we're all Lutherans now. In other words, what the Bear laments, the Franciscan Church is most proud of. "Rebranding" indeed. A crass and ignorant word to cover a multitude of sins.

The Mad Virtues of Pope Francis

We would do well to remember what Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy. It is almost as if he foresaw Pope Francis. In his day, it was Christianity in general that had been shattered. In ours it is particularly the Catholic Church, but the same warnings apply. No mad virtue is as mad as a Catholic virtue, as we have seen in history.

The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.

Pope Francis is, as far as the Bear can see, more virtuous than the Bear. He is also more mad, if the Bear knows anything about madmen. No virtue may remain merely good with Francis. It must become a mania, a delusion, another shiny object to be incorporated into the narcissistic personality of Francis the Humble, Francis the Tolerant, Francis the Compassionate. Of course, what the Bear calls "madness" becomes "rebranding," or "transcending his own religion."

A Spontaneous Resistance

We who have retained a Catholic identity have universally resisted Jorge Bergoglio. We didn't ask for this. We didn't organize it. It just happened. We found ourselves being appalled by the same things, connecting the same dots, reaching the same conclusions. We speak with one voice from the same vision, without collaboration. The very people who would normally be the Pope's most fervent supporters have become his harshest critics.

Bergoglioism and Catholicism cannot both be right. (The Bear thinks the collection of pathologies motivating Pope Francis deserves the honor of its own name.) The Bear is not going to repeat the indictment here. It is contained in the archives of this ephemeris, and of many others. It is literally becoming difficult to keep up with Francis the Talking Pope. Perhaps the plan is to beat us through attrition, the way he buried the message of Amoris Laetitia in 247 pages that defy all but the most clever and mind-numbing analysis.

If Pope Francis is indeed all we fear he is, there's not much we can do. By and large, people travel with the herd, and try to think the thoughts the world tells them are right. That worked great when a confident Church put the stamp of the Christ on the culture. It was not so long ago that the joke ran: "Hollywood -- a place where Jews make movies selling Catholic theology to Protestants." Not anymore.

The Most Popular Man in the World

Why not just back a winner? The latest poll shows Pope Francis with a popularity rating of 54%, 85% among Catholics, and -- tellingly -- over 50% among agnostics and atheists. "Francis is a leader who transcends his own religion," said Jean Marc Leger, president of WIN/Gallup International. He's the most popular public figure in the world, and has replaced the Dalai Lama as Generic Spiritual Leader. Only Turkey, Tunisia and Algeria don't like him.

Perhaps, any day now, Pope Francis is going to cash in all that full-spectrum popularity to tell the world about Jesus. More likely not. After all, what does "transcend his own religion" mean? What does "rebranding Catholicism and the papacy" mean? Are these words not chilling to any normal Catholic? Do not the pages of old prophecies begin to rustle out of the dust? Whether you want to go there or not, it makes no difference. Prophecies warn about dangers to come. We didn't listen, and now Nebuchadnezzar is in the sanctuary.

From comments out of Catholic officialdom, we know we are heard at the highest levels. Our message is getting through. We speak out, and others take comfort. We try to preserve the truth and condemn error not because we are holy, but because nobody else will do it. Looking over the last three years, we have done a surprisingly good job, in the Bear's opinion. That's how we operate. Independent francs-tieurs. Partisans. The resistance.

This is not to glamorize anyone. Partisans don't always have pure motives, and sometimes go beyond what is reasonably necessary. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we're amateurs. Perhaps our sins will be applied to those who have made the resistance necessary in the first place. We take real risks. One blogger got himself sued by a priest -- papal PR flack Fr. Rosica. But more seriously, we also take spiritual risks.

Ephemerists need your prayers. For prudence, temperance, fortitude, and charity.


Pope Francis uses the entire spectrum of media to spread his errors. If there's a single problem with the man, it's that he lacks a supernatural dimension. Perhaps he suffers from a cultural resentment and envy coming from his background. He cannot think in proper categories. For example, he recently made the bizarre comment that he sees the evangelization of Europe as "colonialism," Worse, from the same interview, he cannot differentiate between Jesus sending forth his disciples to the nations and the blood conquests of ISIS. Mad virtues indeed.

Can madness from a pope really go unanswered? There is hardly a peep from the bishops. Surely all of them are not deaf or in agreement. It would take a lot of courage for a bishop to criticize a sitting pope. The Bear may not be qualified, but at least he's willing to put on his hat, take up his shovel, and start trying to put out some of the brush fires Pope Francis sets.

There is a place for dry and sober analysis. But the internet has its own idiom. The legitimate weapons we place at the service of the Church include agitprop, and sometimes a dash of snark and a dollop of satire, so people will enjoy reading what the Bear writes. (Besides, Bears have a hard time being serious for longer than ten minutes.)

Is it sinful to criticize the Pope? That is not a question the Bear is going to answer for anyone else.  It is an important one to him, because, after all, he still has to go to confession like everyone else. We should not perform an evil act so that we may obtain a good result. But the laity has a legitimate say in the Church. The Bear is performing a lawful act by informing, educating, and commenting about this man who has effortlessly twisted the Church according to his own personal hobbyhorses.

In a nutshell, together, we are staying with the "old brand" of Catholicism, before Pope Francis "rebranded" Catholicism and the papacy, and "transcended his own religion." So what if most people say they like Pope Francis? Since when was the truth found in poll numbers? The Bear has noticed that most of the people who like Pope Francis seem to be unfamiliar with his actions, unable to articulate what he has done to earn their approval, or progressive Church dissidents.

If the Pope and his public business are portrayed in an unflattering light, that is an unavoidable consequence, even as it is not the real objective.  Few are criticizing the Pope for the sake of criticizing the Pope. Even the Bear, who may take an unholy glee in what he does isn't playing.

The Sin of Silence

But there is also the sin of "adulation." Nobody ever talks about it, so here it is, right from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Every word or attitude is forbidden which by flattery, adulation, or complaisance encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct. Adulation is a grave fault if it makes one an accomplice in another's vices or grave sins. Neither the desire to be of service nor friendship justifies duplicitous speech. Adulation is a venial sin when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages.

CCC 2480.

Funny, the Bear has never heard Fr. Rosica say, "Patheos bloggers are a bunch of sycophantic losers with a pathological need for approval and an aversion to sound doctrine. We must pray for these disturbed, broken and angry people."

Of course, Fr. Rosica's job might be to commit the sin of adulation continuously, but the Bear does not know the man's heart, or how much culpability might be reduced by mental issues, or secret struggles. One must wonder about someone who brags about "rebranding" Catholicism, though.

Rugiemus Quasi Ursi Omnes

When they gave us a Protestantized Mass, we were silent. When they smashed the altar rails, we were silent. When the nuns started dressing in mufti, we were silent. When the bishops cared more about gun control than souls, we were silent. When the mania for interfaith and ecumenism started, we were silent. And when we were told to sing hymns by Martin Luther, we sang.

One thing is for certain. We will never be silent again. We are guardians of something. The Bear does not want to label it, because it does not belong to this faction or that. But he thinks his readers know what he's talking about. We encourage one another -- and it is just as much readers encouraging ephemerists as the other way around. Pope Francis and his minions are learning that whatever they do in public will be challenged by some very smart and talented people. (And also, the Bear.) It obviously bothers them.

And the Bear says ultramontanism is solemn nonsense.

Catholics Be Like + Happy 4th

Calling someone SAFE when they are clearly OUT. So God is like Don Denkinger, and no matter if we get to the base before or after the ball is in the first baseman's glove, we're all safe anyway? So Pope Francis is incompetent to make important calls in the biggest game of all?


Google honors Woodland Creatures for 4th of July!


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Realistic Bear Wonders if You Can Handle the Truth

Bear fantasy. Mmm, yes, more honey-basted salmon, please.

The  Bear wishes many things were so.

That he could live a healthy existence eating only Gummi Bears.

That honey was produced by sunlight shining on any flat surface.

That the St. Louis Cardinals would forever be the '83 team with Whitey Herzog managing.

That the Bear had the nuclear launch codes. (He probably wouldn't use them, of course. But, then, he wouldn't have to, would he?)

That snake-handling cults in Appalachia did not preserve more of the Christian Faith than modern Catholic churchmen.

That Pope Francis thought Lamentibili Sane had some good ideas but did not go far enough.

That what he is going to say won't make a lot of people mad.

Healthy Realism

However, as a wild creature living in woodlands red in tooth and claw, the Bear knows wishing does not make things so - only the wisher someone's supper. All beasts are realists. We laugh at human beings for getting things as basic as mating wrong. Worrying that their campfires will boil the seas and pretending other humans will not happily kill them and take their stuff if they're not pretty damned smart about it.

Nothing is realer than a .270 Winchester round zinging past your furry ear. Welcome to Bear's world.

As a realist, the Bear knows none of his wishes will come true. He knows there are many problems without solutions. As for the West and all its institutions - including the Church - it is circling, circling the great black drain of history and there is nothing even a Bear can do about it. It truly is a New Age, whether we like it or not. "Optimism is cowardice," as old Oswald Spengler said.

Most of all, the Bear has begun to laugh at humans who believe if only Cardinal Bumfrecker of Brandenburg would stand up to the Pope we would all be magically transported to a state of Tridentine bliss. If only this... if only that... The only problem is it is never going to happen.

None of your brilliant human solutions are going to happen.

Let the Bear be the first to welcome you to reality. Keep your head down, listen to your nose and maybe you'll survive. If you try to turn the woodlands into the Harmony Kumbaya Theme Park, the Bear won't stop you. He will pop some popcorn, settle down and watch your grisly demise at the hands of the reality you decided to ignore. The universe does not tolerate fantasy for long. The West has yet to realize this. But got your popcorn ready to pop?

That part of the West known as the Catholic Church is not exempt from reality's teeth.

Signs and Symptoms of the Fatal Disease

If the Bear may apply O'Sullivan's Law to the Church, since the Church is not explicitly an institution of the Right, it will eventually become an institution of the Left. One may safely say "has become" based on a reading of all the pages on the USCCB website. It did not start with Francis. He is what doctors call a "sign," while what we are experiencing are the "symptoms." A sign is what the doctor observes; a symptom is what the patient feels.

Francis is the sign of an advanced case of the horrible disease cursus ad sinistram. There is no cure. Only a miracle can save the patient. Feeling angry, lost, frustrated, and compulsively reading fringe Catholic blogs like this one are all symptoms.

The Bear does not offer a cure, and is not going to tell you happy (or angry) little lies to make you feel better. He does not have the answer. He suspects there is no answer. The Bear has always been the forensic pathologist reporting his autopsy findings, not the doctor with the prescription pad.

Now, like St. Paul, everyone must find their own  plank to hang onto after this colossal shipwreck. Who is the Bear to say your piece of flotsam is worse than his? Catholics have not been prepared for this. The Bear suspects God may be tolerant of the ways his faithful try to please Him in the current crisis, but he can't make any promises.

And once you get to land you'll probably get bitten by a viper anyway. The Bear does not think we can think or wish ourselves to a solution.

The Answer- But it Doesn't Matter

First, understand that it is not "despair" to accept reality. The Bear is feeling quite chipper these days. He has no influence in the Church, and, contrary to the claim of some Catholics, he bears no responsibility for the disaster. Good news: neither do you. He does not believe for a minute that God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, has chosen to have the Church lie to us in order to punish us for our sins.

That is not God's style. Personally, the Bear is waiting for an asteroid to hit Rome, or everyone in the Vatican to be dragged off to Babylon. (Good luck getting your interfaith Pope Videos aired if that happens.)

Pope Francis affects the Bear only to the extent the Bear takes him seriously. The Pope has worked very hard to earn the Bear's low opinion of him and it would be rude not to notice. Accepting that he is powerless has been liberating to the Bear.

The Bear said there is no answer, but, now that he thinks about it, that's not right. There is a very simple answer.

There is nothing stopping churchmen from fixing everything tomorrow if only they would stop conforming themselves to the world, live holy lives (yeah, that), reject modernism and learn some real humility.

The Church is failing in the same way and at the same time as every other Western institution. It has not been singled out for chastisement. One should not look for supernatural causes when it is obvious that fallen human nature has succumbed to the spirit of our age, one that is the worst the Bear has seen in 800 years.

We know that churchman will not do any of those things. We know that the slide to the wordly Left now defines the institution and has too much momentum to stop.

God Has Probably Noticed the Problems in the Church

But, so what? Is God no longer in control? If we are witnessing the destruction of the Catholic Church as we have known it - and we are - do we imagine God  has not noticed and might have something in mind? Unlike many, the Bear professes no clue what that is, but, then, the Bear is not sure what tomorrow will bring in his own little life, either.

He expects things will get very exciting and the Church will get a whole lot smaller.

The Bear does think that there might be some pride in all the electrons spilled across the internet telling us what the Church needs. Perhaps we have reached the point where we should find the humility to accept God's will and worship him the best we can in peace and real love for those within the tiny circle of our responsibility. Worrying about things over which we have no control is not healthy.

It's not so much about fixing anything anymore. It's about choosing your side and being ready for whatever God has planned. If you are reading this, you are probably on the right side, if the Bear may say that without sounding more full of himself than usual. But the same might be said about any number of Catholic blogs. It doesn't take much to realize these things. 'Staying put' is neither brilliant nor heroic. (It would be heroic for someone with a career to lose, like a cardinal; Bear guesses heroism is in short supply these days.)

Bear Holds These Truths to be Self-Evident

Here is an example of how the Bear knows Francis is a humbug peddling holy snake oil to the wicked and gullible.

If we love as the world loves - issuing press releases about groups of people - we have missed everything there is to learn about love. The Bear cannot love the climate, cannot love "migrants," or "other faiths," or "all people."

As a practical matter, the Bear can be well-disposed toward those around him, kind, helpful, and ready to be the Good Samaritan if he comes across a victim by the side of the road.

It is not about passing the victim by and calling a news conference to preen the feathers of our virtue by addressing the issue of robbery victims, especially the poor, migrants and LGBT. And to condemn the sword-manufacturing industry.

Lucky for us, God has not made it hard to see Francis - and by extension, his Church - for what it has become. We instinctively recoil at an alien spirit. We hear a voice we do not recognize. We plant our feet, paws, and hooves and stay put among the familiar truths.

Traddie Town is Tiny

The Bear knows a lot of people hate this kind of "defeatist" talk that does not offer The Correct Solution. We should fight! But fight who? How? What is our realistic path to victory, and how do we define that? The Bear fears some who limit their reading to traditionalist blogs may have an inflated sense of how large a part tradition plays in the life of the Church and its future.

The Bear does not read Ann Barnhardt (he doesn't read any other blogs regularly - he wants to keep his Bearish perspective pure). But he read somewhere that she recently said something to the effect that "traddie town is tiny." The Bear will not make any friends by agreeing, but he does, because it's true. The Bear is lucky. He has nothing to lose by telling the truth.

The Bear does not label himself, but if people want to call him a traddie, that's as fair as any label. He is really just someone who resents churchman who think he is too stupid to notice they are selling a completely new religion under the "Catholic" brand. Traddies, or whatever they feel comfortable being called, will always be a zealous, valuable (and, yes, sometimes angry-sounding) part of Catholicism. And thank God.

But they are not the face of the future.

Some Advice From the Bear - Signs of the Time & Trusting God

Pope Francis is of the world, and the world loves him, and as the world goes, so goes the Church. Holy Matrimony's goose is cooked. The inerrancy of scripture and even the truthfulness of Our Lord are therefore negotiable under the new ad hoc theology of adultery. Our practices and beliefs surrounding Holy Communion must change. Some sort of official acceptance of homosexual unions is inevitable. Churchmen are already hard-pressed to say why anyone should want to be Catholic rather than Lutheran, were they inclined to make the pitch.

Can you read the signs of the time? The Bear has seen the future and it is the scary-looking man with the blobifix advancing a New Gnosticism as the banner of Universalism snaps in a foul wind.

Oh well.

If God wanted the Bear to be the one to fix everything, He would have made him Pope. All poor old Bear can do is ride his bicycle around the ring and at least provide some entertainment as the theater burns down and, by the way, there are no exits. Maybe we'll all become salamanders and the fire will light our way to the City of God in a very unexpected way. Bear doesn't know. God does. He will surprise us. See the Bear juggle flaming bowling balls now?

In the meanwhile, here's something everyone knows, but now makes more sense than ever.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

And the wisdom to know the difference between the truth and whatever Pope Francis and his merry band are peddling. The Bear last saw him heading into the desert with a bunch of goats following him. Weird, huh? But the sacred woodlands are just the same, the salmon stream is just as pure (although the salmon swimmeth no more therein) and the grass just as sweet. (Or so Bear has been told about the grass.)

He can certainly vouch for the Gummi Bears. Life is good. Keep the Faith. Worship your God. Read your Bible. Forget "causes" except for the cause of  Christ. Love those close enough to reach out and help to their feet with your own hands. There is a big wonderful real world beyond this screen.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Cross of Christ

The Holy Face

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world.


What is this?

A couple of not-too-worn metal plates from the garage shop down the road, cobbled together for free or little money, then stuck over each other, up and down, trying to pass along for hands, arms, legs - what? Who is the master artist that came up with this brilliant idea? Who invented this particular definition of sacred and liturgical art?

Bald Eagle wants to know. And, let us be clear, she is not blaming Pope Francis. Maybe he has poor taste or poor eyesight or both. Perhaps it was foisted on him at the last moment with nice smiles all around and he felt incapable of rejecting it. We do not know.

But the artist and the 'consultants'? Bald Eagle would very much like to engage her talons with deep, surgical precision in that regard.

And what's with the wood chosen? Did that perchance originate from Ikea's bargain basement?

Now, compare that cross to this:

The Agonizing Crucifix of the Precious Blood

It is well-known that the wood for the Cross of Christ was taken from timber that had floated to the surface of the pool in Bethesda (cf. Jn 5:1-9), near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. This timber had reportedly originated from three trees - one of cedar, one of cypress, one of pine - that had sprouted centuries before, at the time of Adam's death, but were united together in a single trunk (Geraldine Rohling, Ph.D.; Behold the Wood). It was from these trees and this trunk that Moses had reportedly cut his rod and underneath which David had composed most of his Psalms. Solomon used the wood from these trees in the construction of the Temple, then cut down all the rest and buried them where the pool was later dug.

Do we, therefore, want that thing depicted in the extreme left photograph above to be our new standard for the Cross - iconoclasm at its most stunning - when Christ Himself wants to be known, seen, and loved?

Ne Evacuetur Crux!

Ex Ligno Vera Crucis
Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

Here for your edification and compensation for the cross of Pope Francis, ladies and gentlemen, are two short and thick pieces of the True Cross of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in a sealed brass reliquary. This precious relic comes with official documentation of its authenticity from Archbishop Paul Karatas of the Chaldean Catholic Archeparchy of Diyarbakir, Turkey. His coat of arms is also on the intact seal inside the reliquary. This very precious relic was given to me by an Orthodox monk in Southern Bulgaria.

Detail of the True Cross

The Cross upon which Christ had been crucified and died was found on September 14, 326 by the Empress-Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, and authenticated by miracles. Hence the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Part of the True Cross was enclosed in a silver reliquary and given to the Patriarch of Jerusalem for public veneration. Other parts were translated to Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) and widely distributed. 

A large portion of the Cross can be found in the Greek Treasury at the foot of Mount Golgotha in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre - Church of the Resurrection, Jerusalem. Other sizeable portions can be found at the Basilica della Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome, Italy; at the Koutloumousiou Monastery on Mount Athos, Greece; and at the Gishen Maryam Monastery in the Wollo region of Ethiopia. Fragments of the True Cross can also be found in several churches and private collections around the world.

Official Documentation of the Relic

Veneration of the Holy Cross

Here are a few photographs of the public veneration of the Relic last year at Santa Venera Catholic Church in Malta:

On the altar before Mass

Public veneration of the Relic

The pastor is holding the Relic

The Relic has visited a few Catholic and Protestant households in the greater Houston and greater San Antonio areas of Texas last year for private veneration. It also paid a private visit to the Indian administrator of Saint Andrew's Catholic Church in Lytle, Texas. This year the Relic has paid a relatively lengthy visit to a Catholic charismatic household in Malta for private veneration.

© Marcelle Bartolo-Abela, aka the Bald Eagle.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Francis' Blobifix Announces Triumph of Gnosticism

"Sorry, no place for the ridiculous notion of a 'man-god' on a cross."

Our immediate reaction is disgust with Francis for reducing the crucifix to a Star Trek original series prop. The Bear sees something far more serious than bad taste, however.

"Christ crucified" was the center of St. Paul's preaching, even though the idea of a God in the flesh who was crucified was foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews. In fact, the Catholic Church has always  been distinguished from Protestantism by the image of the Crucified Christ versus the "victorious risen Christ" empty cross.

There is little any Protestant could complain about with this abstract, headless, "Chromium Christ." Of course, this is no accident. But neither is it the end of the analysis.

Commiefix. Excellent blunt instrument to inflict massive head trauma.
immediately upon receipt. Other than that, no.

Catholicism and Art: More Important than You Think

Catholicism  has always been closely allied with art. Think of the patronage it gave to Michelangelo for the Sistine Chapel. It is impossible to think of the history of Western art without considering the Church. Art has always been used to express the Faith, even when the art has been more worldly than Christian, more naive than skilled.

Art, good, bad or indifferent, cannot help but say something about the Faith when the Church puts it to official use. The Bear would, in his cunning way, draw conclusions about you from the art you chose to display in your home. For example, if you had an autographed picture of Ginger Rogers on your wall, he would instantly know you were a person of exquisite taste.

Recall the excellent series on icons from Bald Eagle. Now, here is the West, with the Pope bearing an anti-icon for an anti-Catholicism.

When it comes to what the Church really believes, it is not so much the creed we mumble on Sunday, but the architecture around us, its decoration (or lack thereof); its music; its sound bytes; and the behavior of its priests and prelates with adolescent boys.

Ah, the last is not gratuitous and the Bear shall make the connection.

The Art of the New Gnosticism

The blobifix does not give us a man on a cross. God has not become man. The God-Man has not borne our sins and died a shameful death. If the blobifix is not a denial of the incarnation the Bear knows naught of religion nor art. A few chromium lumps declare the destruction of Christianity and the triumph of Gnosticism.

Industrial rustifix at Our Lady of the
Snows National Shrine. No.
Imagine you are a detective putting together clues. This is how Trial Lawyer Bear cannot help but see things. Everything means something. The top picture means far more than the modern faddishness that have given us a disgusting parade of human ugliness, from the industrial rustifix in the chapel of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows to the infamous lizard on a stick so beloved of a succession of popes, and, now, the blobifix.

This is more than another bouquet thrown to Francis' Lutheran sweethearts. More than bad taste, faddishness, or even blasphemy. The Bear sees the shining glyph of an ancient heresy being crammed down his throat.

Saint Pope John Paul II and
the lizard on a stick.
Ah, greetings to our old enemy: Gnosticism.

The blobifix is a heretical symbol of the antichrist. Anyone who denies Jesus Christ came in the flesh is an antichrist, says St. John, to the few Catholics who still read and believe the Bible.

The plain, empty cross of the most rustic Protestant is preferable to the visual revival of the first serious heresy that tried to throttle Christianity in its crib. Now, the Church is as weak as an ancient, raddled, lecher, and once more vulnerable to its original enemy.

For the second time and in the same way, the Adversary takes advantage of a weak Church to promote a beautiful vision of spirituality without sin. Of adultery without consequences or even disapproval. That vision has always had a name: Gnosticism.

But as we fixate on Francis, we must remember that he is but the symptom of an advanced stage of a long-term disease.

The Church's Homosexual Abuse Crisis

As for the connection between all of this and Gnosticism, the Bear notices today that Francis long-time protege Cardinal Pell from down under has been charged in connection with molesting minors. The Bear uses this as an illustration, rather than proof of anything, and considers Cardinal Pell innocent until proven guilty. There is a reason for statutes of limitations. It is tough to defend against five decades-old accusations.

A Note on the Bear's Use of the Term "Homosexual Abuse Crisis"

Here is an old article that explains the Bear's term "Homosexual Abuse Crisis," based on the Jay Report data. The gold standard report was commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It is available online here. However, it disingenuously exempts homosexuals in its findings. The data, however, could not show a clearer picture of classic homosexual grooming and abuse of adolescent or near-adolescent boys. They make up the overwhelming majority of victims and reveal the unmistakable signature of the homosexual predator. 

Pedophiles are entirely different and usually target much younger children (as young as babies) and are often indiscriminate as to the sex of their victims. The Bear knows this because he was counsel in many, many cases involving both homosexual predators and pedophiles. (Why? Few criminals have the means to afford private counsel - unlike meth dealers, homosexual predators and pedophiles often maintain a respectable place in society, and can hold down decent jobs. Like being a priest, for example.)

Homosexual predators usually respond poorly to treatment because they rarely see anything wrong in their actions. Oft times they have been victims themselves, and as one client put it to the Bear, "It didn't hurt me any, so I don't see what's wrong with it."

Trust the Bear on this one. He is the only one who will tell you the truth based on an informed examination of the raw data of the Jay Report.

Mercy and the New Gnosticism

Let's take another look at the homosexual abuse crisis that plagued the Church throughout the 20th century. Gnosticism denigrated matter (recall how the headless body of the Crucified One disappears into the blobifix) as unspiritual in a scheme where only the spiritual counted. Sin did not matter, since matter was irredeemably evil, anyway. Whatever one did in the flesh could not possibly make the flesh any more evil than it already was. One's spiritual being floated pure above it all.

Can one not hear the echo of Gnostic teachers in the neat division so many churchman have made between homosexual predation and a career devoted to the Church? The natural child of Gnosticism is Antinomianism, an extreme view held by a minority of Protestants that sin does not matter because grace covers all.

Whenever we hear (or must conclude) that sin does not matter because it is expressed through mere matter, over which spirit - called by "mercy" or some other name - must triumph, we should discern the dim advance of ancient Gnostic ghosts threatening to break out into the present.

One might accuse Francis of many things, but false advertising is not one of them.

(h/t Connecticut Catholic Corner)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tim Capps' Catholic novel gets recognized at 2017 New York Book Festival

Pleased to let the readership know that Tim Capps's novel Judging Angels got awarded an Honorable Mention at the 2017 New York Book Festival in the fiction category. We have just been informed. The Bear shall be back with you shortly.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Discerning Icons: Good and Bad

Icon of Saint Seraphim of Sarov

The purpose of an icon is to take us into the realm of the Spirit, where we can experience the transforming power of divine grace (John Baggley, Doors of Perception).
In response to my post Icons as Resistance, one of the readers in these Woodlands asked for some guidance as to how - or rather, from where - one can find icons to acquire if one wishes to get a few for the home. In other words, which are good icons to get? And from which should one stay miles away?

I admit, this is a hot topic in this day and age of non-discrimination. It holds most true if one does not have thousands of dollars to shell out to acquire various icons written by known and reputable masters - or to settle a lawsuit alleging discrimination by having dared to prefer in public, in writing, some iconographers over others, without sufficient and documented 'empirical evidence.' But since it has always been my fortune - or misfortune? - to not be tongue-tied regardless of the hat worn at whatever point in time, I will answer the reader's question as best I can.

Choosing an Icon - A Brief Guide

Icon of Our Lady

The beautiful and the good, ultimately the beautiful and God, coincide. Through the appearance of the beautiful, we are wounded in our innermost being, and that wound grips us and takes us beyond ourselves; it stirs longing into flight and moves us toward the truly Beautiful to the Good in itself (Benedict XVI, The Spirit of the Liturgy).
First, when considering an acquisition, bear in mind that an icon is not just made for prayer, but has been made because of prayer. This is a vital factor in any choices to be made. So would you get an icon "Made in China/Vietnam/Taiwan/wherever," or one written by an independent iconographer who tries to follow the life of the Faith?

Ask around for the latter. You might be pleasantly surprised by the terms some 'small' or lesser-known iconographers might give you, in particular if they are creating icons for love of God (as they should be), rather than just being out to make money no matter what. Do not be shy to use that time-honored tradition known in more popular parlance as haggling. Iconographers being craftspeople, for the most part, in the old school mindset understand it very well. That said, please bear in mind that holy icons of the portable variety take about 45 hours to write and that does not include the time spent waiting for them to dry and varnishing them with olifa when ready (larger icons obviously take longer).

Second, do not restrict yourself to your locality, region or nation, when looking for an affordable icon. Prices differ hugely between independent iconographers in the West and their counterparts in Eastern Europe or Russia. For example, I have managed to get icons from the latter group of iconographers for about one-fifth of the price often quoted by iconographers in the US.

The icon of the Mandylion in Icons, the Church and the People of God and the icon of the Theotokos of Kazan in Icons as Resistance came from 'unknown' iconographers in Ukraine and Russia respectively. The Mandylion icon was written by an old female iconographer known only in her own village; the Kazan icon was written by an advanced iconography student in Moscow. But both icons are very beautiful and they cost less than $200 each, including shipping-with-tracking charges. These icons were both laboriously handwritten from prayer and all the materials used were natural. Meanwhile, the first icon shown above of Saint Seraphim of Sarov only cost $50 excluding shipping and yes, it is a genuine icon, not a piece of paper or cardboard glued to wood. It too was written by a iconography student in the same manner, this time in Bulgaria.

But how can one find these kinds of icons - icons that should have been (and have been) written, rather than just produced - without having a trained eye or just plain, good old-fashioned knowing people?

Third, look at the face. I cannot stress this enough. Look at the face. The face and its expression in an icon are a dead giveaway as to whether that icon has been written or not as a result of prayer. What does that face do for you? What do you experience when you look at that face, that expression? Do you feel stricken in your soul? "Wounded by love," as Benedict XVI said? Or do you feel repulsed? Do you feel peace, calmness, quietude - joy, even - when looking at that icon? Or do you feel fear or that "something's not quite right;" unease? This is the key to discerning proper icons from diabolical ones. Yes, the latter do exist.

An icon is a handwritten image that is often the result of direct or indirect revelation to the heart of the soul - the nous - of the iconographer before and during the writing process itself. And that image bears upon it the 'imprint' of the Icon of God through the divine energeia as discussed in an earlier post. But so does your soul if you are in a state of grace! The icon and your soul, therefore, should be 'speaking' to each other in an analogous (albeit not similar) manner to when Christ 'spoke' to John in utero and John 'recognized' Him, through the Holy Spirit, when Mary and Elizabeth met while pregnant (Lk 1:41). If the icon does not somehow 'speak' to you when gazing upon it, what, in that icon, is missing? Is it just an apparent lack of technical skill (something easily attained with further practice) or is it something else altogether?

If, on the one hand, the iconographer is pursuing holiness, that pursuit is going to be seen and felt, one way or another, in the icon regardless of skill level, because one of the effects of genuine iconography on the painter is the opening up wide of one's heart and, at times, the nous by the grace of God. So this is going to come through even in icons written in the crudest way. The aforementioned process occurs because it is the Holy Spirit who is, in reality, the divine iconographer and genuine icons (for lack of better terminology) are intimately related to the various stages and processes of both theosis and deification.

If, on the other hand, an iconographer is painting an icon under the influence of false light, there is going to be a closing, not opening, of the heart and that closure is going to be transmitted to the final product. This becomes most evident in the depicted face and its expression, since it is precisely there that defacement - destruction or eradication of the image, iconoclasm of the imprint within an icon itself - first occurs and with the greatest intensity possible. In other words, what is present in the depths of the heart and soul of the iconographer is going to come out without fail in the icon, and if you are in a state of grace when gazing upon it, you should be able to easily discern its underlying origin.

Fourth, given all of the above, you can reach some conclusions as to what or what not to acquire and from where. If you see an icon of the 'cardstock variety' that is beautiful and it really 'speaks' to you, and you also see a handwritten icon that you feel pushes you away, it is the former that you should acquire despite its materiality, not the latter. That for reasons now obvious.

Enjoy your journey with icons.

© Marcelle Bartolo-Abela, aka Bald Eagle.

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