Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An interesting event during the first crusade of St. Louis…

Joinville and the Apostate Christian

By Charles R Geter, December 16, 2008

The time of the Crusades was a time for religious zeal. St. Louis' Crusade was ultimately a military failure, but that is only one aspect of the story. If one looks at the Crusades from their spiritual aspect however, it was not such a failure. If we could be transported back to the 13th Century, probably the most striking thing about the Crusaders is their enthusiasm for doing God's will. They took their mission to win back Jerusalem seriously. We would probably all start thinking "Wow, these guys are hard core! They know what they should be doing, and they are doing it." At the same time, not even the Crusades were immune from selfish people. Some sacked Jerusalem, or forgot about the Holy City and attacked Christian Constantinople. All the same, to acknowledge the evils does not invalidate the good that the best of the Crusaders meant to accomplish.

The Christians were most concerned about their own souls. Of course they were human like the rest of us, and they didn't try to get themselves killed. In fact, many of the crusaders probably would have experienced fears similar to those that all soldiers face. The ideal was to be prepared to give your life for Christ, and so go straight to heaven if you were killed. Consequently, the Crusaders had very little patience for those who left the Christian faith. Such people's souls were in serious trouble.

St. Louis was the heroic type of man that really made the effort to be saintly, and he worried seriously for the souls of sinners. This explains very well why he was so rude to fallen away Christians. When the king and Joinville were imprisoned, a Saracen brought gifts from the children of the sultan of Cairo. This man spoke to King Louis in French! Needless to say, the prisoners were surprised. However, when St. Louis found out that the man was a fallen-away Christian, he would not speak any more to that Saracen. Joinville, as he relates in his Life of St. Louis, spoke to the man, telling him how dangerous it was to be in the state of renouncing Christ, and that he would go to Hell if he died in that state. Despite the words of Joinville, the man readily admitted that he would reconvert, but for the fact that he would be ridiculed back where he lived. Despite Joinville's urgings, the man went away, and Joinville never found out what happened to him.

Now, on the surface it is easy to think "How silly! St. Louis should have been more charitable, and Joinville would have been more effective if he had been more understanding!" However, upon closer inspection, we find that the above argument against St. Louis' mode of action is a modern way of thinking that would not have been apparent to the Crusaders. Moreover, we have this strange idea that charity is never harsh. In fact, charity can be extremely harsh; God is often harsh with us, and yet He loves us. Who knows the best thing to say to the apostate? Only God, and yet, we have to try even if His will does not seem apparent.

Some Catholics of today would be likely to deal with the whole situation in a more touchy-feely manner; "Oh, as long as you're searching for truth, it's fine, whatever". That is NOT the right approach. Some of the more well-versed Catholics would likely say "Look for the truth, and the more you look, the closer you will be drawn back to the Christian faith." In fact, given a little more time with the man, it possibly would have helped to discuss conversion as man searching for God, rather than man afraid of going to Hell.

Two final points: first, hindsight is 20-20. From my desk it is easy to try and think up what I would have said in place of Joinville to the fallen-away Catholic. In the situation St. Louis was in, both he and Joinville at least tried to save the man. Secondly, there is nothing sinful about repenting for fear of Hell. It can still save you. Perhaps they were more concerned with getting through to the man in a short space of time, rather than finessing the argument. Fire and brimstone sermons can often do great things to keep people out of sin. Sometime in the future, that apostate Saracen may have realized his error and returned to Christ's flock. Who can say for sure that he didn't?

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Washington Tales

By Charles R Geter, December 9, 2008

In the latter days of October, the autumnal season,

When the cold betrays the warm with annual treason,

And the moon shines with harvest-tint bright,

I decided I would take me this very night,

To the city of Washington to heartily pray,

For a worthy president from this political fray.

I left by bus from Chicago, my beloved town,

Where the wind blows, and Daley wears the crown.

I kept on trying to be of good cheer,

As the election of November drew near.

We stopped in Pittsburgh, and to my surprise,

I could not find a bus, or even another ride.

I searched for a motel, and discovered a Knights Inn

"Hello?" said I, and wandering through the doors,

I walked up to the receptionist,

Who seemed to be doing some chores.

She nervously told me the inn was "closed",

But I had the gall to inquire,

As to why the good hotel

Was closing its doors this eve.

Before she could explain,

The door behind her opened,

A man well-dressed and trim,

Walked in to shake my hand.

"Good evening, sir!" he spoke,

"What is your name, good man,

And where do you be from?"

With some trepidation I told him from where,

And how and why I'd come.

(I would not have done this,

But he seemed so friendly and charming,

With a twinkle in his eye,

That I simply decided to trust the man,

And give him a reply.)

"Well well" Said he, "what stroke of luck,

That you came to this here inn.

Why, all of my paying renters,

Myself included too

Are going to yon Washington

To watch the votes, like you."

This here news thrilled me,

And I dilated my eyes

To the innkeeper t'was clear

I was happily surprised.

"Sir" I said with hope,

"Could you possibly spare,

Room for another passenger

To make the journey there?"

"Aye!" Said he in his woody voice,

"I meant to ask you first,

If you did want to join us,

And quench your political thirst".

My hopes fulfilled, I thanked the man

And straightway he invited me

Farther inside to the conference room

To meet the political horde.

Suspecting to meet hundreds,

As I entered through the door

Instead there were but eight, maybe,

Certainly no more.

"Well, gentlemen" the owner genteelly said,

"Please meet my goodly friends.

I know that you are a stranger here,

But soon you'll find some good cheer."

First he took me to a strange chap,

Who was wearing a business suit.

"Here my friend, is Banker Neustron,

a capital fellow who rakes in the loot."

"A pleasure to meet you", the banker cried out,

As he took my hand in his clammy grasp.

Although he smote me with his piercing glance,

I looked not away,

Staring him back down, I looked at him askance.

"Nice to meet you", said I (with minimal skill),

My arts of speech never did fit the bill!

Now the good host sped away,

To some other corner of the room.

"See, here is my good friend Boris.

He works long hours in the White House,

Janitor though he be!

He may seem an innocent chap,

But there's no secret intelligence,

As goes on in the house of the Pres,

That escapes his highly attuned ear.

If you need to tell a secret,

Before you utter a peep,

With care watch out for Boris,

Lest your secret words he speak."

I briefly spoke a greeting,

To Boris before we ran off,

He was old, white haired and skinny,

And his leathery skin was tough.

"Next meet Buntry Squibbs,

The proud owner of 'Al's Diner',

Started in the '50s near Philly,

By his industrious father!"

He warmly shook my hand and said,

"Welcome, sir! I am so happy to meet ye!"

I think that wherever my feet my tread

I'll never a kinder or better man see.

We got along excellently well indeed,

But again the host slipped away with speed,

So I followed yet again and again,

Wondering when the bustling would end.

We met a Plumber who plied his trade,

Well enough, for he was very well paid.

Dressed like a plumber he was not at all,

His clothes indeed weren't bought from a stall ,

And he loved always to brag, concerning his riches,

Till I took my leave (with involuntary cringes!)

Despite my efforts to stealthily leave,

The innkeeper refused to give me reprieve,

But rather made me chat and gab,

Although I had no more wish to blab.

In addition there was a poet who must have been crazed,

For he kept inventing verse without any phrase!

"On key, lock trumping Thriller skewed!" he would quote,

And honestly of talent he possessed not a mote!

He was thin and his features were gaunt,

("Money he must have none of," I thought)

But somehow he came to stay in this group,

I never did ask how he found our troupe!

As he peppered my ears with empty phrase,

We were able to escape from his dreamy gaze,

And went on to meet some other fellow,

Whose lips mindless words did not bellow.

A worthy farmer there was as well,

That he worked hard any man could tell,

He seemed a cheerful, down-home sort,

Though severely he could utter a retort.

He never rebuked unless there was a need,

As when some brigands did their dirty deeds.

He freely gave to any who were poor,

At least a bit of food, sometimes more.

To me he looked quite a decent chap,

And though I saw him with a beer from the tap,

He seemed not to have an intemperate trap.

I soon was led to the next gentle lodger,

This one looked akin to the Artful Dodger!

(Although he looked somewhat older

I could not imagine a visage bolder.)

This young man, dressed to the nines in his top hat,

Pilfered my wallet before you could say "Blackjack!"

Though genteelly enough he returned it with ease,

I was utterly amazed, and certainly displeased.

So you might say our meeting was somewhat abrupt,

Since I was loth for him to relieve me of my other stuff.

The host seemed totally to understand,

And quickly introduced me to the man,

"My friend from Chicago, this is Crain"

No sooner did he speak then we set off again.

(No problem, this suited me just fine,

Not at all did I wish to be victim of a crime!)

To the last person in the room we fled,

"And" I thought, "Soon I'll be in bed!"

There ahead was the last person on the list,

And who was it but the dear receptionist?

To my surprise, the girl burst forth in song,

It was a sonorous tune, blessedly not overlong,

She did not notice us, but when she concluded,

I truly said "What grace and beauty exuded,

I simply am in tears, and am utterly smote,

By your Godly anthem, and how you sing a note."

When she heard my words of praise she trilled,

"I am glad that such beauty has you thrilled.

Indeed, I sing to glorify God alone,

But I appreciate your complement and tone."

Then the Owner of the hotel spoke:

"Sir, meet my beloved daughter, Catherine Oak.

She is but the apple of my eye,

And I promise you I never tell a lie.

Now, let me tell you our excellent plan

That we'll follow to get to Washington, Stan.

We leave by bus early on the morrow,

And you need not worry about money to borrow,

We pay for the whole trip. Here's the only rule:

Everyone must tell a story, wise man and fool,

And at least one tale crowed every hour

Until we arrive at the Capitol tower.

I myself will judge you and the rest,

Which of ye shall be the best."

Now this did frustrate me deeply and I cried,

"Sir if I knew that, rather would I have died!

For my attempts to spin a good yarn are in vain,

Truly, for me to try would simply be insane!"

"The choice is yours. A story nimbly or clumsily told,

Or else to venture out now into the freezing cold.

Now I found myself in a bind,

To stay, or leave them all behind?

Leaving in the midst of night seemed crazy,

As my wits were already feeling hazy.

In the end with some reticence I agreed to stay

And the Innkeeper showed me the bed where I was to lay.

I laid my head down on the tender pillow,

And tried my best to forget about tomorrow….

When I awoke, I felt a terrible shock,

The room looked like it received a hard knock!

Only after I rubbed my eyes,

Did I see that it was my own room I spied

Back in Chicago I somehow appeared,

"How can this be?" my thoughts exclaimed,

But ultimately I fixed the blame.

I must have read The Canterbury Tales

One time too much, and my dreams began to sail

Away to Chaucer's medieval trails!