Monday, June 29, 2009

The One Foundation of Apostles

Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I took these pictures of the statues of SS. Peter and Paul at the Vatican in the fall of 1998. Unfortunately, the Vatican and nearly every other major church in Rome was in the process of preparing for the Jubilee Year of 2000 and the Millenium. The scaffolding business was booming, to say the least, with the result that I got a lot of good pictures with scaffolding in the background!

Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) decided to replace older statues of SS. Peter and Paul with these current larger ones on Easter 1847. Each of the statues is 5.55m in height, on a pedestal 4.91m high. The previous pope, Gregory XVI (1831-1846) had commissioned Giuseppe De Fabris to sculpt this statue of St. Peter for St. Paul Outside-the-Walls from 1838-1840. The statue of St. Paul was sculpted in 1838 by Adamo Tadolini. He had studied in Bologna under the direction of De Maria; in 1813 he came to Rome, like De Fabris, and came to the attention of Canova, the greatest sculptor of the period, who took him into his studio.

It's not necessary to delve into all the traditions, legends and speculation about the last days of these two great men of God and their final witness of martyrdom. That has been done much more extensively and expertly by others. Suffice it for me to say that Peter and Paul are two saints whose humanness has resonated with my own. Both of them, in my view, were extremely good at heart and ultimately passionate about the One who'd call them, each in very different ways, to the ministry of proclaiming Him to the world.

I identify with Peter in his weakness of betraying Jesus out of fear and human respect, but also in his deep sorrow for that and in his uncompromising devotion to Jesus from then on. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life! We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." Another time, at Caesarea Philippi, he'd avowed: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." I can identify with his sometimes timorous, cautious approach to the ministry of the Gospel, the waffling back and forth between service to Jews only or to Gentiles.

Paul is even more of a favorite of mine, primarily because we have his Epistles and because of that Paul seems to me to be like a better known friend. I can identify with him as Saul, the rigid, by-the-book, self-righteous zealot who knew that his view was the correct one, the only one, and that people who disagreed needed to get over it and fall in line: even if that meant sometimes doing despicable things to them. His searching mind and heart also resonates with me: how even in the midst of his experience on the road to Damascus, literally knocked off his high horse, Paul could
searchingly ask: "Who are you, Lord?" Once he'd had three days in Damascus, alone, blinded, neither eating nor drinking, Ananias had come to him, laid hands on him, and then he'd experienced the direct power of God's Spirit within. It was as if someone had flipped a unidirectional "zeal switch" on in him. He got up, was baptized, spent several days listening to the leaders and disciples of the Christian community in Damascus, then headed straight to the synagogues, which he knew like the back of his hand, only this time bearing a new, radical, highly unpopular message for Jewish ears: "[Jesus] is the Son of God." From then on there was no stopping Paul. I can identify with his one-track agenda to do what he had to do, no matter whose toes might be stepped on, Christian or otherwise. Amazingly, this highly qualified, connected, and ardent Jew became a missionary, an apostle -- one "sent" -- to people way outside the pale of either Jewish or Christian culture: to Gentiles, people of the nations, of the world. Not that he ever forgot his own people and where he had come from, by God's grace. His writings reflect the deepest respect for his tradition by birth, and probably out of deference, though Jews of his time wouldn't have seen it this way, he always made it a point to begin his sharing of the Good News in the local synagogue, no matter how many times they ran him out of there.

In our current struggles of grappling with issues about people and classes of people who are often excluded, locked out, discrimnated against, and worse, the words and lives of SS. Peter and Paul give us much to think about.

Think, for example, of Peter, as ardent a Jew as Paul was, whom God enlightened through a dream experience at Joppa that Peter "must not call profane" anything created "clean" by God, especially any human creature. Luke tells us that Peter "was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen". Then Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort in Caesarea, where coincidentally (?!) Peter had proclaimed Jesus "Messiah", sends messengers, under God's bidding, to Peter to come to his home and share the Good News. Peter is still all confused about all this, as his awkward words to the people assembled at Cornelius' home shows: "You know, I'm sure that this is highly irregular. Jews just don't do this -- visit and relax with people of another race. But God has just shown me that no race is better than any other. So the minute I was sent for, I came, no questions asked. But now I'd like to know why you sent for me..." [translation from The Message, by Eugene H. Peterson] Cornelius shares the vision he had received while at prayer, then, having put two-and-two together, a light bulb goes off in Peter's brain: "Peter fairly exploded with his good news: 'It's God's own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you're from -- if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open..."

Paul spoke of inclusivity constantly throughout his Epistles. One could make that theme alone a useful study. "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him."
(Romans 10:12) "...God has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory -- including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles..." (Romans 9:23-24) "...the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel..." (Ephesians 3:6)

Those of us who have chosen to be partners in the cause of justice and freedom for all people can confidently "stand firm upon the one foundation" which these two great men had a hand in laying.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"...Your faith has saved you."

On the six Sundays after Trinity Sunday this year, we’re reflecting on the Gospel of Mark. If you look closely, you see how Mark depicts Jesus, the Teacher and Healer, coming on the scene with great force and command: curing illnesses and paralyzed people, casting out evil spirits, cleansing lepers, healing a demon-possessed man, calming a raging sea about to break up the disciples‘ boat. The key word for Mark in Greek is sozo = to save. Don’t ask me why, but translators of the Bible sometimes get all poetic and euphemistic, and don’t seem to give us a straightforward translation. For example, last week when Mark notes that “they were filled with great awe...” (NRSV) , the Greek text says “they were filled with great fear = phobos...” And fear -- not unbelief -- for Mark, is the opposite of faith.

Today’s Gospel reading (Mark 5:21-43) is an unusual story, in a way. After Jesus had come to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, he’d been approached by a synagogue leader, Jairus. Jairus would have been a well-respected V.I.P. in his community: the administrative head of the synagogue, lay president of the board of elders who managed the sacred place, and responsible for assigning worship duties and the proper carrying out of them. I’m guessing that Jairus might have been a man who didn’t find it easy to wait or to be patient. He tells Jesus that his little girl is so sick that it looks as though she’s going to die. Could he come quickly and lay hands on her, and not just make her well, but save her? Jesus didn’t hesitate, especially, I think, since it involved a child. “
So he went with him”, Mark says.

Undoubtedly the crowd present there sensed a possible “Kodak moment”, something big about to happen, so they followed Jesus, pressing in on him. In the midst of this urgent mission, a nameless woman who’d heard about Jesus pressed in behind him, reached out and touched his cloak, muttering all the while to herself: “
If I but touch his clothing, I’ll be saved (which, of course, is translated “be made well" in most versions).” “Immediately”, says Mark, “her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her plague.

Now that might not seem like a big deal at first sight, but in that particular context it was a
huge deal! The lady had been having hemorrhages, probably some sort of gynecological condition, for 12 years: as many years, coincidentally, as Jairus’ daughter had been alive. Mark is very detailed about her: “She had endured much under manyphysicians, and had spent all she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.” Commentator Henry Brinton observes: “...she was a victim of exploitation by quack doctors..., a perennial problem for the poor in antiquity...” Sound familiar?? Doesn’t appear that the healthcare system has improved much since then, does it?

But the woman had a much greater problem than the physical one: According to the Levitical code she was to be ostracized from the community and perpetually segregated because she was considered “unclean”. According to the Law she endangered others, without knowing it, to become unclean. And, horror of horrors, for her to touch one with an already established reputation as a holy man and wonder worker simply crossed the bounds of all acceptable behavior. For 12 years, until now, this woman was invisible, a nobody.

Keep in mind, now, that at this point Jesus was hurrying to get to Jairus’ house before his daughter died. But suddenly, “
aware that power had gone forth from him”, Jesus stops. “Who touched my clothes?”, he asks. Imagine the rolling eyes of the disciples, probably thinking: “Jesus, you’ve got to be kidding!”, thoughts verbalized in Mark’s account slightly differently. But Jesus turns and scans the crowd, looking for one special person who’s come to be saved.

He doesn’t have to wait long. The woman knows she’s been “had”, and now what does she have to lose anyway? She’s already gotten what she came for. Bracing herself for a good tongue-lashing or worse, “
in fear and trembling” according to Mark, she falls to her knees before Jesus and pours out her whole story. As she finishes, Jesus bends down and says quietly: “Daughter...your faith has saved you...” All the major Bible translations have “Daughter, your faith has made you well...”, except for the Roman Catholic New American Bible which accurately reflects the Greek text: “Daughter, your faith has saved you...” And calling her “Daughter” wasn’t some condescending form of address, but in essence a public announcement that this woman, up until now invisible in society and so abused by the system, is in reality a true daughter of Israel, God’s people, and a beneficiary of Godself. And further Jesus says to her: “Go in peace (shalom = fullness of blessing, full harmony with God, others, and herself), and be healed of your plague.” People must have been stunned when Jesus said that her faith had saved her: not his magic cloak, not her touching him or anything that she did, nothing in or on his body -- simply her faith, her willingness to accept and believe that Jesus is the channel of God’s power and presence and love. Jesus declares this up-to-now invisible woman a triply blessed daughter of God’s people: saved, at peace, and whole.

If the crowd had momentarily been distracted by Jesus’ magnanimous care for the woman, reality now sets back in as people from Jairus’ house arrive with the news no parent ever wants to hear: “
Your daughter is dead.” Jairus must’ve been devastated. None of his power, none of his wealth mattered now. In his grief even Jairus couldn’t quite connect Jesus’ saving of the woman in the crowd with the situation he was in here and now. So Jesus reminds him: “Do not fear, only believe”, just as he’d reminded his disciples in thealmost-sinking boat, and the woman just a few minutes before: “Don’t be afraid, trust”, because fear, not unbelief, is the opposite of faith.

By the time Jesus reaches Jairus’ home, he sees that pandemonium has full reign. We have to bear in mind that this wasn’t unusual. In that Middle-Eastern culture there were very specific mourning customs, all stressing the final fact of life: namely, death. The weeping and wailing indicated that death had struck. People stayed near the body seeking a response from the dead. Beating the breast and tearing the hair was standard. Even the rending of garments followed a certain protocol: it was done just before the body was hid from sight; the skin over the heart, for parents, or over the right side, for all others, was exposed, but not beyond the navel; women rent an inner garment privately, then wore it back to front, before rending the outer garment; and the garment was worn for a month. Two flute players, with their wailing sounds, were hired, no matter how poor a family was. Travel was limited; mourners couldn’t anoint themselves or wear shoes. Their reading from the Hebrew Scriptures was limited to Job, Jeremiah, and Lamentations, rather than from the Law and Prophets which was considered joyful.

Jesus assures the crowd that the child isn’t dead, “
but sleeping”. Mark poignantly observes: “And they laughed at him.” But Jesus ignores the signs of death and chaos, clears the house of mourners, and takes only the parents and Peter, James, and John with him to the girl’s room. Simply, purposefully, gently Jesus takes her hand in his and says in Aramaic, “Talitha koum...Little girl, get up!” Once again using the word “immediately”, Mark relates that the girl got up. As those present, most of all the grieving parents, are being “overcome with amazement”, Jesus gives them strict instructions not to give out details about what has happened. He then does something which, every time I read this, fills me with utter delight: he tells them to feed the kid! She probably got anything she wanted at that point, thanks to Jesus. How well Jesus knows our human nature, and how much young people especially are the recipients of Jesus’ utmost attention and love!

Biblical scholar Matthew Skinner notes that ‘[Jesus]
exudes salvation in this passage.” The contrast between the stories show the wide spectrum of people and situations with which Jesus dealt. Then there is a question of the interruption which Jesus experiences. We learn from the story that Jesus’ priorities aren’t always what we would choose, that his power can always bring life from death in any situation. Contrary to the one-track, inflexible way many of us tend to do ministry, Jesus sees opportunity even in being interrupted. This little story is, according to Skinner, a sort of “theology of interruptions, to understand that God is neither bound to nor limited by human allocations of value and priority. God attends to all and is committed to the salvation of the whole person...

As you and I seek to “
serve Christ in all persons, loving [our] neighbor as [ourself]...”, we need to be aware that “Grace means that God has no task more urgent [for us] than to bend to assist those who seek help” (Skinner). And for that we, like Jairus and the woman in the crowd, need faith.

Someone has defined faith as “
the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see.” Soren Kirkegaard called it a “leap of faith”. One of my favorite movies, Zorba the Greek, has a magnificent scene where the young writer, Basil, and Zorba are on the beach after a night out on the town. Basil asks Zorba to teach him to dance. Zorba replies: “You’re a great man and I love you. But there’s one thing you need to cut the bonds and set you free: a touch of madness.” Faith is the “touch of madness” each of us needs to set us completely free in Christ, to be saved, to find grace, peace, and healing.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Blessed Joseph Frederick Ignatius Hunt (1920-1993)

Sirach, author of the apocryphal book of Scripture known as Ecclesiasticus, sings the praises of "famous men" (and presumably women!) in his 44th chapter. "Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise..." Words never rang more true, perhaps, than in these days following the death of the pop singer, composer, and dancer Michael Jackson. The level of requests for copies and downloads of his music, even minutes after his death was announced, is utterly phenomenal. No question that, whatever your views about the enigma that he was personally, Michael will be remembered for his artistry for decades to come.

On the other hand, Sirach also sings the praises of others, not among the "famous men" (and women) mentioned earlier: "But of others there is no [or, at least, little] memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born..." I hate to say it, but I have a feeling that most of us will end up in that company sooner or later. It's not that folks like this haven't done significant, even great things in their lives. For whatever reason, their contributions to humanity simply haven't come to public notice. It really doesn't matter. I suspect Joseph Frederick Ignatius Hunt would tend to agree.

The early Church venerated and honored, in addition to the "saints", a group of people known as "Confessors": people who'd undergone persecution and/or torture, but hadn't actually been killed. The title "Confessor" was also given after death to great Christian teachers who had lived noticeably holy lives. In the 20th century the Anglican Churches began to recognize well-known holy and worthy Christians by providing a liturgical collect and readings for their commemorations, and by allowing the option of further regional commemoration of local homegrown heroes of the faith. Joseph Frederick Ignatius Hunt is a classic example.

Joseph was born on June 27, 1920 in Spokane, Washington, the fourth child and first son of Joseph Frederick Hunt and Olga Mathilda Petersen. His father owned a title insurance company, and it was Joseph's intent to become a lawyer and to be part of the family business. During the three years he studied at Gonzaga University in Spokane, he
discerned a call to the religious life, left college, and completed his Bachelor's degree at Mount Angel Seminary, a Benedictine School. He entered the Benedictine Novitiate in 1942 , taking "Ignatius" as his religious name,and began four years of theological study. In 1946 he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest and in 1948 professed his formal vows as a Benedictine monk.

Recognizing his superior intellectual gifts, the Order sent Joseph for post-graduate work to the University of Ottawa, where he earned a doctorate in Sacred Theology and was given a place on the faculties of both Westminster Abbey and the diocesan seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia. He spent nine years there as professor of ethics, languages, and
Scripture, taking time briefly in 1955 to make a study trip to the Near East with the Pontifical Biblical Institute. In
1958 he was named Professor of Old Testament at Conception Abbey Seminary, Conception, MO. [
I'm familiar with Conception Abbey and the Seminary from my visit there in early February, 1968, to confer with then-Dean, Fr. James Jones, OSB, regarding the procedure for laicization from the Catholic priesthood. Fr. James was practically the only recognized authority on the subject at that time, at least in that area if not in the country. I remember him with great admiration and gratitude for his wisdom and kindness.] In 1961 Joseph undertook advanced studies in the Old Testament and received a Bachelor in Sacred Scriptures degree and a licentiate in Sacred Scriptures from the Pontifical Biblical institute in Rome and the École Biblique in Jerusalem: no mean accomplishment! During these years he taught summer courses at St. John's University, Collegeville, MN, and did further study at the University
of Chicago and in both Rome and Nijmegen, Holland, under a Union Theological Seminary program. In 1963 he
returned for three years to his professorship at Conception Abbey and also taught at summer courses at St. Louis
University and the University of San Francisco.

The 1960's was a turbulent time in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII opened the 2nd Vatican Council on October 11, 1962. This historic assembly of the world's Catholic bishops, the 21st Ecumenical Council, spanned a period of three years, addressing every aspect of the Church's life, and was carried out in four phases: October-December, 1962; September-December, 1963; September-November, 1964; and September-December, 1965, when Pope Paul VI closed the Council on December 8. The reverberations of the bishops' teaching throughout the Church, and, indeed, throughout the religious world, was monumental. Having lived through and been ordained during that period in a theological seminary, I experienced first-hand the on-the-ground ramifications of the Council. Contrary to what I had envisioned for my future in early life, I found myself among the first wave of those who made the choice to leave the Catholic priesthood.

In 1969, the year I was officially laicized by Paul VI, Joseph Hunt made a similar difficult decision to leave the Benedictine Order and the Roman Catholic Church. And as I was led to do later in Northern California, he also became an Episcopalian, in the Diocese of Western Missouri. The year before, he had been asked to write an article, "Excursus: Israel and her Neighbors" for Fr. Raymond Brown's prestigious Jerome Biblical Commentary. During the 1969-70 school year he served as Professor of Languages at Olympic College, Bremerton, WA. He was received as a deacon in the Episcopal Church in January, 1970, and also married Carolyn Jeanne Frey that year. In April he was received as a priest, and in the fall of 1970 was named Professor of Old Testament at Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin. Joseph Hunt wrote literally hundreds of reviews for various journals, and made contributions to any number of encyclopedias and collaboration volumes. He wrote two books of his own: Understanding the Bible and The World of the Patriarchs. He was also editor of Old Testament Abstracts from 1978 to 1989.

In 1988, Father Joe became the appointed Confessor for the Order of Julian of Norwich, then based at the DeKoven Center in Racine, WI, and remained in that capacity until 1992. His own monastic experience and the evident holiness of his life endeared him to the entire community.

Fr. John Julian, founder of the Order of Julian, relates the sad last days of Joseph Hunt: "On his 70th birthday in 1990, Nashotah House seminary and the scholarly community honored him by the publication of a festschrift volume: The Psalms and Other Studies on the Old Testament, edited by Jack C. Knight and Lawrence A. Sinclair. Father Joe had planned to live the rest of his life at his beloved Nashotah House seminary, where he had been given the use of a house on the seminary grounds after his retirement. However, in 1991, a brash, new, and reactionary faculty member attacked Father Joe's orthodoxy in a classroom lecture, and the gentle old man – now 71 years old and almost blind – refused on principle to confront or combat his colleague publicly. He chose rather to resign his Professorship and to leave the seminary which had been his cherished home for twenty-one years and where he had hoped and intended to die. As he prepared to leave, he said to this writer, 'For twenty years the faculty at the seminary has been like a family. We didn't always agree on everything, but the last thing in the world we would have done is to attack one another. Now that has all changed, and I can no longer be part of what is happening.'"

Joseph F. I. Hunt served as priest-in-charge of the small congregation of Trinity Church, Mineral Point, Wisconsin and remained there until his death on March 13, 1993 -- "just before the colleague who had attacked him was discharged from the seminary faculty", as Fr. John Julian notes.

A "famous man" like Michael Jackson? Probably not. But Joseph Frederick Ignatius Hunt is obviously worthy of Sirach's highest praises, and ours.

(Source: Fr. John Julian, Stars In A Dark World)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

John: The Prophet of the Most High

"The time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown
his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her..."
(Luke 1:57-80)

God has visited God's people: and we are sons and daughters, prophets.

Both Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, his tongue loosed from not being able to speak, assure those gathered for their new son's circumcision that his name is John, despite some of their traditionalist relatives' attempts to impose his father's name. For this child and his family, it's definitely not business as usual. As his name Yehohanan implies, "God is gracious", "God has granted favor". The time of the Promised One has begun, with the birth of his forerunner.

All the signs were there: joy, rapidly-spreading news, astonishment, a time of fruitfulness, the prophetic word being heard again, God's presence responding to every human need. In the olden days there had been great activity and the influence of mighty prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Jeremiah, etc. Then for a long time God was silent and the prophets were mute. Israel, indeed, was a "non-prophet" organization up until John's birth!

The hope of Israel was that the Word of God would make itself heard in the Messiah's time. Luke sees John fulfilling all the preceding prophetic vocations. John is the prophet of the final age, but his birth also inaugurates a new line of prophets: those who follow Jesus and develop into the Church of Pentecost.

A prophet, therefore, is not primarily one who foretells the future, but rather is one who stands in God's place and witnesses by his/her being to the life-giving presence of God's Word in Christ by preaching, witness, and obedience to the Word uttered by the Spirit of God: the powerful and creative Word.

The vision of the prophets in the the new age lies in examining present events and lucidly grasping the relationship of love which God has always willed to have with humankind. All share in the ability to prophesy, each according to the place he or she has in the Body of Christ and how each develops one's talent. You and I, by our baptism, are called to interpret the events of our times through the eyes of faith. Authentic faith is dynamic and growing, always helping the Church act as a light to the nations, even when it prefers not to do so.

There have been many men and women through the centuries who, in the spirit of John the Baptizer, have prophesied. Unfortunately, their "batting average" of being heard seems not to be so good. Nevertheless, we move ahead in faith, hope, and love. In the Eucharist, particularly, we live out what another great prophet, Pope John XXIII, once said: "Ever ready to love people, I stand by the law of the Gospel."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My First Experience of Death

Today is the 60th anniversary of my grandmother's death. The images surrounding her death are still vivid in my mind. At 12 years old, it was really the first time I'd had to deal with the reality of death. Between the end of 1948 and early 1949 my grandmother had taken ill fairly suddenly, though she'd had physical problems a good part of her adult life. Still, at 59, she was relatively young. I remember her sitting in the living room (we lived with my grandparents) for long stretches of time. During the time right before she became bedridden, she became withdrawn and spoke almost nothing to anyone. Though she'd been a bit plump during the years I was growing up, she began to lose weight. Eventually, she was confined to bed, and a neighbor who was a nurse, Elizabeth Kathe, would come in to look over her each day and give her her medication. The evening of June 22 the whole family gathered at her bedside. I remember people kneeling by the bed, weeping, some sobbing. There were many unanswered questions rolling around in my mind: why was Grandma sick? what caused her illness? what's going to happen to her? At length, my mother sent me to get some sleep, and in the morning she came and sat quietly beside me. "Grandma died during the night", she said simply, then proceeded to share the details with me, calmly answering my questions. I remember that as one of the most wonderful things my mother ever did for me: explain as simply as was needed the "meaning" of death. I don't recall ever being uneasy or afraid about it. As Mom explained it, it made sense or as least as much sense as a holy death can mean to a human being. I knew that Grandma was at peace, that she was safe, and that one day long in the future I would see her again.

As my mother was going through her own dying process in 2003, I was able to repay her favor by being with her as she would reach out periodically into the air, as if trying to touch some near but unknown entity. I kept telling Mom that it was OK to let go, that Grandma and Grandpa, and Tom were all waiting for her on the other side, where she too would be at peace and safe. Now that I get closer on my own journey toward the time of separation from this life some time in the future, I do so, I think, with the calm, peace and grace which I learned in that first experience of death sixty years ago today.

I love my Grandmother and have always felt very close to her, though she was a woman of few words. But it was her love and attention that I cherished. I have only happy memories of her.

Clara Augusta Timmerman was born August 3, 1889, into a family of five other girls and 5 boys. Her mother, Emma, was a tailoress, and her father, Henry, was a cooper. I don't believe that my grandmother completed high school. I know that she worked in a cigar factory when she was young. Mom shared the story with me that one day as Grandma was working she felt something in the long dress she was wearing, and when she looked down saw that a mouse had gotten into her skirt! She married my Grandfather, Harry J. Fries, and bore eight children, six of whom survived childbirth. My aunt and godmother, Florence and my mother, Grace, were born ten years plus before the next four arrived in quick succession.

Grandma had learned to play the piano by ear, and when I was very young family members would pester her, on special occasions, to play for us, especially the Maple Leaf Rag. As she got older, she refused more and more because her hands were afflicted with arthritis. One of my happiest memories was of an incident several years before Grandma died. For some reason my cousins, Bobbie, Terry, and I were all together at Grandma's house one day. We must have been playing polka records which Grandma and Grandpa had, on the old Victrola. I recall Grandma enlisting our aid in moving some of the furniture back. She then started dancing with us and skipping around the room in a line, our hands joined, to the polka music. She had tied a little handkerchief around her neck to catch the perspiration. On that occasion we somehow conned Grandma into playing Maple Leaf Rag, and I remember the absolute joy and excitement of seeing her hands fairly fly across the keyboard. It was the first and only time I ever saw her play. Only many years later did I learn that the song she played was written by Scott Joplin, whose music is among my favorites.

The other treasured recollection I have of Grandma is that, from the time I was a little boy, she would have an endless supply of powdered donuts on hand (she called them "crullers"). Unfortunately, only a few people in the family seemed to eat them, and so every week there'd always be three or four left over -- and stale and hard as rock! But that was the way I liked them, sweet and crunchy and best dipped in a cold glass of milk! My last reminder to her each time I'd leave from visiting was: "Grandma, please be sure and save me some stale donuts." She was always ready with those delicacies when I'd ask her first thing on the next visit: "Grandma, do you have any stale donuts?"

I'm sure that much of her "grandparenting" rubbed off on me, as it did on my own mother in relation to my kids. I feel so blessed to have had the "sharing of the generations". What a grand reunion we'll all have in the future!

The Man For All Seasons

Study of Thomas More's family
by Hans Holbein

"More is a man of an angel's wit and singular learning.
I know not his fellow.
For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability?
And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes,
and sometime of as sad gravity.
A man for all seasons."

Robert Whittington, 1520

Sir Thomas More (February 7, 1478 – July 6, 1535), also known as St. Thomas More, was an English lawyer, author, and statesman who in his lifetime gained a reputation as a leading Renaissance humanist scholar, and occupied many public offices, including Lord Chancellor (1529–1532). More coined the word utopia, a name he gave to the ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in Utopia, published in 1516. He was beheaded in 1535 when he refused to sign the Act of Supremacy that declared King Henry VIII Supreme Head of the Church of England.
More was declared Patron Saint of politicians and statesmen by Pope John Paul II in 2000. He is venerated with Saint John Fisher on June 22, the day of the latter's death, in the Roman Church; on June 23 in the Order of Julian; on July 6 in the Anglican Church; and he is not commemorated at all in the Episcopal Church. So it was hard to decide on which day to say something about him; I opted for the Order of Julian's observance today.

Thomas was the eldest son of Sir John More, a successful lawyer who served as a judge in the King's Bench court. He was educated at St Anthony's School and was later (1491) a page in the household service of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, who prophetically declared that young Thomas would become a "marvellous man." Morton sent More to attend the University of Oxford for two years as a member of Canterbury Hall, where he was a friend of Erasmus and John Colet. More studied Latin and logic. He then returned to London, where he studied law with his father and was called to the bar. Admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1496, in 1501 More became a barrister, where he was eminently successful.

To his father's great displeasure, More seriously contemplated abandoning his legal career in order to become a monk. From 1499 to 1503 he stayed at the London Charterhouse, observing the discipline of a Carthusian monk. He also considered joining the Franciscan order. He finally set aside his monastic leanings, however, perhaps because he judged himself incapable of celibacy. More decided to marry in 1505, but for the rest of his life he continued to observe many ascetical practices, including the wearing of a hair shirt under his official vesture and occasionally, the practice of flagellation. He had became a Member of Parliament in 1504.

Thomas More had four children by his first wife, Jane Colt, who died in 1511. He remarried almost immediately, to a rich widow named Alice Middleton, several years his senior. More and Alice Middleton had no children together, though More raised Alice's daughter, from her previous marriage, as his own. More provided his daughters with an excellent classical education, at a time when such learning was usually reserved for men. He himself wrote poetry in Latin and English.

More was a prolific scholar, literary man, critic, and patron of the arts. His writing and scholarship earned him great reputation as a Christian Renaissance humanist in continental Europe, and his friend Erasmus of Rotterdam dedicated to him his masterpiece,
In Praise of Folly or Moriae Encomium (the book's title puns More's name; "moria" is folly in Greek). Erasmus described More as a model Man of Letters. The humanistic project embraced by Erasmus and More sought to reexamine and revitalize Christian theology by studying the Bible and the writings of the Church Fathers in light of classical Greek literary and philosophic tradition.

Thomas More greatly valued harmony and a strict hierarchy. The greatest danger to the health of the society, as he saw it, was the challenging of the established faith by heretics. For More the unity of Christendom was not only the instrument for the eternal salvation of souls, but also the basis of a common understanding of human nature necessary for just law and earthly happiness. He saw the fragmentation and discord of the Lutheran Reformation as dreadful, and
was actively involved in the counter-attack. He assisted Henry VIII with writing the Defense of the Seven Sacraments (1521), a polemic response to Martin Luther's On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. When Luther replied with measures of reform in Contra Henricum Regem Anglie (Against Henry, King of the English), Thomas More stood as the champion of his king. He also demonstrated that he was very human. He wrote a counter-response, Responsio ad Lutherum (Reply to Luther), a violent exchange which occasioned many intemperate personal insults on both sides. Saintly and mild-mannered, perhaps, in other aspects of his life, More definitely possessed an earthy potty-mouth. Michael Farris, in his book From Tyndale to Madison (2007), describes C. S. Lewis as describing Thomas More as "almost obsessed with harping on about Luther's 'abominable bichery' to the point where he 'loses himself in a wilderness of opprobrious adjectives'". Nevertheless, "More did not rely solely on ridicule and satire .... He also appealed to the common sense of his hearty fellow Englishmen. As the title of his book indicates his attempt was not simply to ridicule Luther's absurd and presumptuous railings; it was more basically to confront and refute Luther's accusations."

Just a sample:

Martin Luther himself was no slouch when it came to "opprobrious adjectives". Neither he nor More were averse to using strong, even shocking scatological language in their polemics when it suited their purposes. More had even been commissioned by Henry VIII to respond in kind to insults in language in which it was improper for the king himself to engage. Near the beginning of Chapter 21 in the first book of the Responsio, More quotes from Luther's book Against Henry, then makes his own response:

Luther: “ [The king] would have to be forgiven if humanly he erred. Now, since he knowingly and conscientiously fabricates lies against the majesty of my king in heaven [Christ], this damnable rottenness and worm, I will have the right, on behalf of my king, to bespatter his English majesty with muck and s--t and to trample underfoot that crown of his which blasphemes against Christ."

More: "Come, do not rage so violently, good father; but if you have raved wildly enough, listen now, you pimp. You recall that you falsely complained above that the king has shown no passage in your whole book, even as an example, in which he said that you contradict yourself. You told this lie shortly before, although the king has demonstrated to you many examples of your inconsistency ....

But meanwhile, for as long as your reverend paternity will be determined to tell these shameless lies, others will be permitted, on behalf of his English majesty, to throw back into your paternity's sh--ty mouth, truly the s--t-pool of all s--t, all the muck and s--t which your damnable rottenness has vomited up, and to empty out all the sewers and privies onto your crown divested of the dignity of the priestly crown, against which no less than against the kingly crown you have determined to play the buffoon.

In your sense of fairness, honest reader, you will forgive me that the utterly filthy words of this scoundrel have forced me to answer such things, for which I should have begged your leave. Now I consider truer than truth that saying: 'He who touches pitch will be wholly defiled by it' (Sirach 13:1). For I am ashamed even of this necessity, that while I clean out the fellow's s--t-filled mouth I see my own fingers covered with s--t.

But who can endure such a scoundrel who shows himself possessed by a thousand vices and tormented by a legion of demons, and yet stupidly boasts thus: 'The holy fathers have all erred. The whole church has often erred. My teaching cannot err, because I am most certain that my teaching is not my own but Christ's,' alluding of course to those words of Christ, 'My words are not my own but His who sent me, the Father's' (John 12:49)?" Ouch!!

In 1530, things began to go downhill in the relationship between Henry VIII and Thomas. The latter refused to sign a letter by the leading English churchmen and aristocrats asking the Pope to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine. He also quarrelled with Henry over the heresy laws. In 1531 he attempted to resign after being forced to take an oath declaring the king the Supreme Head of the English Church "
as far as the law of Christ allows", but he refused to take the oath in the form in which it would renounce all claims of jurisdiction over the Church except the sovereign's. In 1532 he asked the king again to relieve him of his office, claiming that he was ill and suffering from sharp chest pains. This time Henry granted his request.

The last straw for Henry came in 1533, when More refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England. Thomas More had hoped to technically side-step a charge of treason by writing to Henry and acknowledging Anne's queenship, and expressing his desire for the king's happiness and for the new queen's health. Nevertheless, his absence was taken as a snub against Anne.

It wasn't long until a charge of accepting bribes was levelled against Thomas, though the false charges had to be dismissed for lack of any evidence. In early 1534, More was accused of conspiring with the "
holy maid of Kent", Elizabeth Barton, a nun who had prophesied against the king's annullment. Again, More side-stepped the charge by producing a letter in which he had instructed Barton not to interfere in matters of state. In April of the same year, More was asked to appear before a commission and swear his allegiance to the parliamentary Act of Succession. He accepted Parliament's right to declare Anne Boleyn the legitimate queen of England, but he steadfastly refused to take the oath because of the anti-papal preface to the Act, asserting that Parliament had the authority to legislate in matters of religion by impugning the Pope's authority, which More simply wouldn't accept. Thomas also refused to swear to uphold Henry's divorce from Catherine. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, also refused the oath along with More.

Four days later Thomas More was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he prepared a devotional,
Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation. While imprisoned in the Tower, he had a few visits from Thomas Cromwell who urged him to take the oath, but More persistently refused to do so.

On July 1, 1535, More appeared before a panel of judges that included the new Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Audley, as well as Anne Boleyn's father, brother, and uncle, and was tried. Talk about nepotism and "stacking the deck"! The charge: high treason for denying the validity of the Act of Succession. More believed he couldn't be convicted as long as he didn't explicitly deny that the king was the head of the Church, and he therefore refused to answer all questions regarding his opinions on the subject. Thomas Cromwell, then the most powerful of the king's advisors, brought forth the Solicitor General, Richard Rich, who testified that More had, in his presence, denied that the king was the legitimate head of the Church. Obviously, this testimony was almost certainly perjured, but on the strength of it the jury voted for More's conviction.

After the verdict was delivered and before his sentencing, More spoke freely of his belief that "no temporal man may be the head of the spirituality". He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, the usual punishment for traitors, but the king graciously (!) commuted this to execution by beheading.

The execution took place on July 6, 1535. When Thomas More was about to ascend the steps of the scaffold, he is widely quoted as saying: "I pray you, I pray you, Mr Lieutenant, see me safe up and for my coming down, I can shift for myself". While on the scaffold More declared that he died "the king's good servant, and God's first." He is also believed to have commented to the executioner that his beard was completely innocent of any crime, and therefore did not deserve the axe! Thomas then positioned his beard so that it would not be harmed. He asked that his foster daughter, Margaret Giggs, should be given his headless corpse to bury.

Thomas More was buried at the Tower of London, in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in an unmarked grave. His head was fixed upon a pike over London Bridge for a month, according to the normal custom for traitors. His daughter Meg Roper then rescued it, possibly by bribery, before it could be thrown in the River Thames. The skull is believed to rest in the Roper Vault at St. Dunstan's Church, Canterbury, though some researchers claim that it might be within the tomb he erected for himself in Chelsea Old Church. The evidence, however, seems to favor its placement at St. Dunstan's, with the remains of his daughter, Margaret Roper and her husband's family, whose vault it was. Margaret would have treasured this relic of her adored father, and legend is that she wished to be buried herself with his head in her arms.

The tenacity and courage with which Thomas More held to his religious convictions, regardless of the severe consequences, as well as the dignity with which he conducted himself during his imprisonment, trial, and execution, gained him great respect and admiration among both Catholics and Protestants, many of whom saw More's conviction as unfair. His friend Erasmus, who was broadly sympathetic to reform movements within the Catholic Church, declared after his execution that More had been "more pure than any snow" and that his genius was "such as England never had and never again will have." The noted Roman Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton stated that More was the "greatest historical character in English history."

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Substitute Martyr

There are only two people I've ever known who bore the name "Alban": a fellow in seminary with us who took the name "Brother Alban" and my dear friend, our retired Bishop, Jerry Alban Lamb. Interesting in the latter case, because Bishop Jerry, like me, is a "Roman retread", and I always found myself wondering why a good R.C. boy, before he became a
good Episcopalian bishop, was named after an Anglican saint!

Whatever, there is little known about our saint for the day. We presume he was martyred on June 22, between c. 209 and 305, a 96 year leeway! All else which we know about Alban, outside various legends handed down from the time of the early Church, is that his name was Alban, that he was beheaded near the Roman city of Verulamium, and that he had substituted himself for an escaped Christian priest, on June 22 in some undetermined year while the Roman Empire was still pagan. The essential message of his life and death seems to be that of Jesus himself: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends..."

Wonder if that could be why so few of us bear his name?!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Who then is this...?"

Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker

In the story which Mark records in today’s Gospel (Mark 4:35-41),
you can almost sense the excitement of the disciples, many of whom
were fishermen by trade, putting out from the shore on the Sea
of Galilee as they had so many times before. This time,
however, the boat carried a special passenger, Jesus himself.
They had just heard the Teacher speak, as Mark says “many
things in parables
”, of good soil for seed, of steady growth, of a
mustard seed expanding into a large shrub, and comparing all
that to the “reign”, the “kingdom” which God calls all
humankind to share with God. They had experienced Jesus’
healing of those beyond cure. And now, here he was, in the
boat with them! They must have felt the special sense of
calmness brought by Jesus’ close presence.

That’s how we most often desire to experience Jesus: in a calm
daily routine, providing security and comfort. In the Church
especially, Jesus often becomes for us the benign celebrity: nice
to have around in our churches, at least on the special
occasions; at our potlucks as the generous “invokee”; at annual
graduation baccalaureates to add some solemnity. Jesus simply
adds to that special personal esteem and standing among others
as we drop his name.

As it was in that boat over 2000 years ago, we find it
comfortable and secure having Jesus around. In 1965 Pierre
Berton wrote a book, The Comfortable Pew, which dealt with
this kind of faith: a superficial, trivial, comfortable faith.
Fisherfolk in Jesus’ time would have been quite aware that the
Sea of Galilee had a notorious reputation for unpredictable,
sudden and violent storms. When the wind was trapped in the
surrounding hills or ravines, a tunnel effect was often created,
and wind came hurtling onto the lake with short-lived, but
vicious, power. Mark tells us that the winds began billowing
up; waves beat against the boat, so that it was already swamped.
Feeling the strength of the storm against their bodies and the boat,
an inner anxiety grips the disciples and rises along with the rising
waves. It’s no longer a calm and pleasant voyage across the lake.
Even pulling the sails in has little effect. As the storm gathers
momentum, so does their inner turmoil. If you’d like a visual
image of what this might have looked like, you can do no better
than view Rembrandt van Rijn’s powerful painting,
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. [
see above]

I suspect that most of us know what it feels like to lose control,
to be on the verge of panic, to realize that our resources aren’t
equal to the task. Life, like sea voyages, isn’t always on a calm
sea. Life, tough for us most of the time as it is, sometimes brings
us close to the breaking point. No one goes through life without
encountering the storms, the rising seas, the darkening skies.

What happens in those times? Like the disciples, you and I try
to draw upon all our human resources to make it on our own,
just as they trimmed the sails and lightened the load and
battened down the hatches, though to little avail.

When such turmoil comes to us, we can, for awhile, as they did,
kid ourselves into believing that we can rely on our own
strength and resources, that we’re equal to the task. We can
work and work to keep our heads above water, fighting against
the odds for survival. But there comes a point when we realize,
as they surely did, that many times life is simply beyond our
control, that we don’t have all the answers or the wherewithal
to cope. We can identify with that inner turmoil, that humbling
anxiety which they felt.

Such a situation confronted me this past New Year’s Eve at
Good Samaritan Hospital in W. Palm Beach, FL. My 34 year
old son took such a turn for the worse that I was suddenly faced
with the real possibility of having to make the decision to let
him go. I can well empathize with the disciples’ desperate
outburst in their situation: “Teacher, do you not care that we are

But, of course, God does care -- always -- far more than we can
ever imagine as human beings. In the midst of their deep
desperation, whom did the disciples finally remember? Jesus,
asleep on the boat’s cushion! Can you imagine how that must
have added to their stress level! In the midst of all their frenzied
activity to survive, there’s Jesus, sound asleep! It’s like an
office poster which reads: “If you can remain calm in the midst
of this mess, you really don’t understand the situation!
” How
could he sleep with such a “mess” all around him?!

Experienced fishermen that they were, they didn’t misread the
storm’s potential danger. Its severity is clear in that they fully
expected to die. But in all of their attempts to save their skins,
the disciples had fairly overlooked Jesus. For all their
busyness, he could just as easily not have been there at all. The
Jesus they enjoyed when it was calm, secure, and easy went to
sleep within them before the winds began to blow and the
waves began to rise, and their lives became threatened, and
anxiety struck deep within. Yet all the while he was present, as
he always is: in the storm as well as in the stillness.

The great and highly decorated American World War II aviator,
Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, often related the story of how his
plane accidentally veered off-course, ran out of fuel, and
crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He and his six buddies drifted
in a raft for 24 days, mostly without food. Later, when visiting
wounded airmen in a military hospital, returning from the war
broken in body and spirit, he gave them this advice: “If you
haven’t had an experience of God in your life, you get yourself
one mighty quick, because with that you will have power over
all your problems.

It may be nice and comfortable for us to have Jesus around in
the good times to heighten our celebrations and our joys. But it
can be tragic, even disastrous, if when trouble comes we fail to
draw upon his presence within and among us. Scripture scholar
Matthew Skinner observes that “To live in this world is to
encounter fearful situations.
” For Mark, fear is the opposite of
faith, not unbelief. Such fear confirms our reluctance to truly
trust Who God is in relation to us. The disciples presume to
know the outcome of their situation, concluding, perhaps, that
Jesus could have no effect. Or, perhaps, their greatest unspoken
fear was of what actually followed.

Notice what happens when the disciples finally rouse Jesus: at
his command there is peace and stillness. The waters,
traditionally a symbol of chaos, disorder, and death for ancient
Israelites, subside and the boat and the disciples are back on an
even keel. Jesus, once awake, becomes like a thunderbolt in
their midst. He embodies within himself God’s awe-inspiring
and unlimited power. They and we finally realize that Mark’s
story is really a statement about who Jesus is. To encounter
Jesus is to encounter Godself: specifically the unpredictable
and open-ended God shown throughout Scripture in dealing
with God’s people. The disciples and we find ourselves face-
to-face with the experience of God’s power in our presence, a
power over which we have absolutely no control. And this
causes what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “the shiver of fear...that
the God of the world draws near...and lays claim to us.
” When

Jesus withstands the threatening forces of our chaos, making
the unclean clean and restoring the unacceptable to wholeness,
he turns our cherished assumptions about order and security
and autonomy and fairness, for ourselves or others, topsy turvy.
Why are you afraid?”, Jesus asks, “Have you no faith?” Mark
notes that “they were filled with great fear...” [instead of “awe”
in the NSRV; phobos = fear, in Greek].

St. Julian of Norwich, in her Revelations of Divine Love, has an
important chapter on her understanding of what fear is. She
believes that there are four kinds of fear:
1) “fear of fright which comes to [one] suddenly through
” For example, through physical injury or some
other bodily illness.
2) “fear of pain by which [one] is stirred and awakened from
the sleep of sin...
” For Julian, sin has no tangible substance,
but is known only by the profound inner pain which we all
experience because of it. It’s as if, when we’re, as she says,
hard asleep in sin,” we’re unable to experience the Holy
Spirit and to seek God’s comfort and mercy. This kind of
fear prompts us eventually toward sorrow before God.
3) “doubtful fear” which draws us towards despair because
we’re unable to acknowledge God as Love and as Goodness.
4) Finally, “reverent fear” which is the kind felt by the
disciples, by Eddie Rickenbacker, and hopefully by us when
we experience God in true faith. It evokes awe and reverence
as we encounter the true nature of God’s reality.

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
Jesus’ dramatic action is to teach us to trust his power over
whatever hurts us or threatens even to destroy us. The real
challenge is to “accept that we are accepted” (Paul Tillich),
loved and provided for even when waves beat the boat
around us and we’re being swamped. It is to know that Jesus
is trustworthy to give us an experience of the living God.

Julian puts it this way: “Love and fear are brothers;...rooted in
us by the Goodness of our Creator.
” She says that to love is
an integral part of human nature because of grace, and that to
reverently fear is also in our nature because of grace. “It is part
of the Lordship and of the Fatherhood,” she says, “to be feared,
as it is part of the Goodness to be loved; and it is proper for us
who are
[God’s] servants and [God’s] children to fear [God]
for [God’s] Lordship and [God’s] Fatherhood, as it is proper
for us to love
[God] for [God’s] Goodness.” That is an
expression of Julian’s deep understanding of Who God is:
Father, Lord, and the Goodness which is the Holy Spirit.

This becomes even clearer when we read how Julian defines
faith: “Faith is nothing else but a right understanding (with
true belief and certain trust) of our being --
[namely] that we
are in God and God in us -- which we do not see. And this
virtue of great things in us, for Christ’s merciful
working is in us...and this working causes us to be...Christian
in living.

William Ward (d. 1994) was author of Fountains of Faith and
of many inspirational thoughts. Let me close with one of them
as a wish and a prayer:

God’s strength behind you,
[God’s] concern for you,
[God’s] love within you,
And [God’s] arms beneath you
Are more than sufficient
for the job ahead of you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A True "Honey-Man": Fr. Zealand Hillsdon Hutton (1932-2009)

When Cheryl, my former spouse, and I were married in a quiet family wedding on March 8, 1980, Fr. Zealand Hillsdon-Hutton, our rector at St. Matthew's, Sacramento, preached on words from the Song of Solomon/Songs alluding to fruit, apples and raisins, in Chapter 2 and probably the honey in Chapter 5. He referred to our need to be "honey-men and honey-women". It was so typical of Zea, as everyone called him. He had a unique sweetness and innocence, almost childlikeness, about him which constantly amazed and delighted me. It's what made him truly a "honey-man" himself. On June 1, Zealand passed away, and I look forward to sharing his memorial service tomorrow with friends and colleagues.

Though he never got to travel to New Zealand, his parents were from there and that's how he came by the name "Zealand". I have vague memories of his mother, Hazel, from my early days at St. Matthew's in the late '70's. Zea was very devoted to her, some would say too much, up until she died in 1978 at age 77. Zea grew up in Modesto and Santa Cruz. After his father's death, he and Hazel moved to my old stomping grounds, Chico, in his last year of high school, after which he studied at Chico State College (now, Universitiy), graduating in 1954 , as I was just finishing my junior year in high school. He graduated from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, in 1957 and was ordained the following January, 1958.

Zea served 10 churches in the Diocese of Northern California through his 51 years of ministry. Some of them were: St. Timothy's, Gridley, Epiphany, Vacaville, where I first met him, and St. Matthew's Sacramento. When I first came to Sacramento in 1976, Fr. Emerson Methven, rector of St. Francis, Fair Oaks, invited me to become part of a Cursillo
team, of which he and Zea, then rector at Vacaville, were co-spiritual directors. In fact, he and Emerson were the only clergy at that time, as far as I know, who were regularly involved with the relatively new movement in the Diocese. After my mentor, Fr. Gordon Cross, retired from St. Matthew's in 1978, I was delighted that Fr. Zea was chosen as the new rector. After his mother Hazel's death, Zea courted Valerie Spencer, a noted and brilliant evangelist in the Diocese and good friend to many of us. They married at St. Matthew's in June 1979. Unfortunately the marriage ended some years later, though Zea often mentioned to me that he and Val had remained good friends and visited one another from time to time.

When it came time for my own marriage in 1980, Zea and Val came to dinner and we shared a delightful evening. Zea had also arranged to use the occasion to give Cheryl and I our pre-marital "test". After Val excused herself, Zea pulled out his famous "85 cards" program. Cheryl and I, sitting across from each other with a cardboard barrier between us, were asked to separate our answers to each card statement according to three categories: "Agree", "Disagree", or "Not certain". We were pleased to discover later that we'd had almost identical answers, except for a few items concerning insurance. Nevertheless, as I've written elsewhere: "I'm less certain that it was a very effective instrument in
evaluating whether or not we were truly suited for one another or even ready for marriage, as later events seemed to show."

After Fr. Cross retired and Zea came aboard at St. Matthew's, he encouraged me to continue teaching Sunday adult classes and to serving as a lay reader and Eucharistic minister. Zea constantly looked for ways to attract people to the Episcopal Church. He was truly inclusive in spirit, very much like the servant of the Gospels who went out to the "highways and by-ways" to bring people in. Some folks, at St. Matthew's and at other parishes where Zea served, weren't always quite ready for this. But Zea took the Gospel seriously, and folks responded. It never ceased to amaze me how he connected with people, particularly children and young adults. Zea was outwardly fairly unremarkable: frail, a slight hunch in his shoulders, and frankly, somewhat nerdy in appearance. But young people took him quite seriously. I saw him one time gather the youth group in the sanctuary, sitting on the altar steps, with nothing more than his Bible, and captivating their attention for a full half hour of study. He was equally energetic and effective as a developer of lay leaders. He periodically had "Discover" workshops on basic aspects of the faith, utilizing lay speakers as well as clergy, and they were always full. Before I left for my first solo cure at Susanville/Lake Almanor in 1983, he'd organized a Saturday breakfast for "elders" of the parish, partly social and partly to discuss common parish concerns and problems. With humility, simplicity, and priestly determination, Zea shared the Good News.

Zealand graciously guided me as he administered the General Ordination Exam, January 4-9, 1982. As I holed up for the whole week in the little room off the left side of the sanctuary with all my materials, he would pop in occasionally to see how it was going. After I'd received the news that I'd passed the GOE's with flying colors, Fr. Judson Leeman, my shepherd from the Standing Committee, got it in his mind that I'd still have to wait six months before coming to the Standing Committee in order to be received as a priest. That wasn't what I'd understood from my conversations with Bishop Thompson. Furthermore, Zea had already been planning for me to be on board part-time during the summer of 1982, to help out while he was on vacation. I presented my dilemma in a memo to Zea and the Vestry, probably towards the end of March, and on Easter Sunday itself, April 11, Zealand called on Bishop Thompson at his home, asking that I be received before summer! The Bishop agreed, and I interviewed with the Standing Committee in mid-May. Soon after Bishop Thompson and I agreed on the date, June 2.

After his retirement in 2000, Zea became a beloved priest associate at St. George's, Carmichael. Despite deteriorating health over the past nine years, he continued gracing people's lives, both in the parish and community. He enjoyed serving as a docent at the Crocker Museum for many years.

From our time together at St. Matthew's up until this year, Zealand and I shared birthdays cards, usually quite
humorous, because his birthday was February 26 and mine is February 27. His card this year arrived in mid-March and read: "I have just gotten out of ICU ward after 17 days & have had my first bite to eat. Thanks for your card. How are you & your son? Cheerio, Zea". Zea had been plagued by asthma and breathing problems all his life, more so in the past year. Nevertheless, his loyalty to his friends and his concern for others was always there.

We will miss you, Zea. You were a true "honey-man".