Today's Seven Deadlies

Posted by: Richenda at Saturday April 12, 2008 in

Sin. I’ve been thinking about this lately…who doesn’t, lol!

Like, what is sin, anyway? And I’ve come up with a definition:

When a person has an inner need, and seeks to satisfy that need through unhealthy means, the unhealthy action takes us away from truth and betterment and therefore constitutes sin. Most sin is understandable and very human. The majority of sin is created from legitimate needs of the human heart, body, mind and soul. ‘Sinners’ are most often no worse than those who are misguided (by themselves or others) and seeking solutions to their needs or emptinesses by means that are destructive to the self or to others, and that can never provide true satisfaction.

(Note: Malevolence, the act of perpetrating evil, is different from ‘sin.’ Sin, of itself, is not malevolent, though its action and outcomes may imitate malevolence.)

So, thinking about this I’ve decided that the Seven Deadly Sins from the Middle Ages are seriously outdated. Here’s the old set:


Still a solid list in a lot of ways, but today’s needs and focuses have changed. Today’s ‘seven deadliest’ sins are different, and I would say, the Seven Deadly Sins today are:

Ego (Self-centeredness and entitlement)
Consumerism (Commodification)
Violence (Fear and Envy)

The breakdown on today’s Seven Deadly Sins:

Porn: This sin might also be termed ‘excess’ and many things done to excess might be considered pornographic. Porn itself, of course, is an obvious sin. I’m not talking about depicting naked people here, or even depicting sex. Nudity and sex are not sins, but can be very beautiful. I’m talking about those who seek a thrill, or seek intimacy, and indulge themselves through excess taken to the extremes that mix gluttony with lust and greed.

Waste: Duh…Billions of people around the world face fear and starvation because the price of rice has risen 70%, and other cereal crops also have jumped in price. Yet the world does not have a food producing problem, it has a sharing problem. There is enough rice to go around, but people are wasteful, especially here in America. I shudder to think of how many thousands of pounds of “takeout” rice are dumped into the trash. Waste goes beyond this, far beyond. The desire to ‘obtain’ leads to unimaginable waste as our landfills fill, and leak. More, more, more, leads to waste, waste, waste….

Ego: Self-centeredness is a rampant modern sin. I thought to name this sin ‘entitlement’ straight out, because entitlement is a huge part of the modern ego problem. Today’s Ego far surpasses yesterday’s sin of pride. It’s one thing to be proud of oneself, it is quite another to behave as if (or to wish we could be) the king of everything. Power, ego, entitlement. It’s all wrong.

Consumerism: This sin was probably never conceived of in the middle ages! Imagine a culture that lives to buy, buy, buy with a will so powerful that well fed, happy, democratic people will flatten those in front of them in order to get a desired item at the mall. Tragic! And it says a lot about how bad consumerism is at satisfying our needs. Consumerism is like an addiction, and it’s twin, Commodification, is probably worse. I almost made Commodification it’s own sin, but it really springs from this one. What would Moses say about the pricing out of our world and our humanity? This would be the worst sin of today, because it taints every thing else.

Violence: Nothing really new here, violence has long been recognized as Sinful. We fold Envy and Fear right on into this one. Because we are so self centered, Envy comes under violence today. ‘Fear’ is not a sin, however. Fear is an emotion and can be a healthy one. When fear leads to violence, however, violence is the sin. And in our world, when we are afraid, violence is where that emotion is channeled. A shame, because we don’t have to do it that way.

Corruption: Corruption is usually thought of as the ‘result’ of something, rather than the thing itself. But in this case, what I’m talking about is corruption as abuse of power, and the contortion of ethics and morals in the pursuit of personal justification. I think many of us feel smugly removed from this sin. Corruption is something we point our fingers at other people being engaged in, not us. We have good motives, right? But today the corrupting influence of Lust-for-power extends far beyond its source and we all, all of us, perpetuate it because we willingly and knowingly participate. It’s standard fare.

Apathy: This is probably the least of all today’s sins, because most of what we do is willful and apathy implies a lack of will. But it is still clearly a major problem, just look at the rates of depression and anxiety in our world. We feel disconnected from any meaningful action or pursuit because that which we do pursue is meaningless and leads only to more emptiness. With no firm footing, we learn to give up without recognizing how to claim our lives back. We choose learned helplessness because, however bad it makes us feel, it is still easier than meaningful change. We turn to unhealthy ways to cope, and this can lead to very active problems, like addiction. Addiction is a result of the pain experienced due to apathy. Though Addiction itself is not a sin, the thoughts and actions that stem from it are sinful.

And after that depressing list, perhaps I should list the antidotes to today’s sins?

Porn: Accountability.
Waste: Discipline.
Ego: Compassion.
Consumerism: Humility.
Violence: Faith. (Trust.)
Corruption: Empathy.
Apathy: Courage.

My two cents.

Dominicans in the News

Posted by: Richenda at Thursday March 13, 2008 in

I come to this story three months too late, but there it is, it’s still worth mentioning and celebrating. The story, The Dutch Plan: Will Innovation Save this Church? by Robert J. McClory, was published in the National Catholic Reporter . It provides an account of continued attempts of the Dominican diocese of Holland to bring meaningful, relevant worship to the real-life, living, breathing people of the 21st century.

The ‘church’ in Holland, as elsewhere, struggles to stay relevant and bring people in to celebrate the Spirit and grow Spiritually in their lives. Here we see that work in action, as four grand Dominicans have stepped forward, in an act of faith and courage, to propose a better system, which includes the far greater inclusion of the laity in the Eucharist and a declaration to the effect that church laws that permit only celibate men as priests is a “historically outdated philosophy of humankind and an antiquated view of sexuality.”

As I read this out I started cheering. Yes!! What has been known for years and years and years and now found here, included in a meaningful way, as dialogue within a powerful and important institutional system.

It’s about time, you know?

And even more important, there is action where there is talk. The article details the work of Fr. Jan Nieuwenhuis who has stood out on the ropes to create a relevant, thriving, worship-filled center that has directly and dynamically taken up the most relevant conversation in the halls of worship today: where do we go from here. And every Sunday, every day, they hash it out in an inspired faith environment. Not just Catholic-to-Catholic, but in a religious community where one of their two copastors is a Protestant.

How did this come about? The article also mentions the work of Edward Schillebeeckx whose book, Jesus, is currently my bedtime reading and I can attest to as a deeply engaging work of asking questions and looking for answers.

Jesus of Nazareth walked with human feet on the real soil of the Earth. His ministries, his first congregations, were of real people in the World. He did this to show us something important, that faith, resurrection, life, as embodied in (Christian) faith does not belong to prelates and kings. Though we count on the authorities in the church to lead and guide us, religion, consecration, spiritual growth, and everlasting life, in fact does not belong to them nor can a practice become sacred or relevant simply at their mandate.

But Fr. Nieuwenhuis says it best, to quote an excerpt from the article, the voice of Neiuwehuis and his congregation:

“ ‘We separated some 400 years ago,” said an usher. Now, God willing we’re getting back together again.’
Asked if we had participated in a real Mass with a real consecration, Nieuwenhuis said, ‘Of course, but actually it is we who are consecrated, we who are sent forth to break our lives for others.’ ”

Okay, wow. I just have to sit back and really let that sink in. What work is there more miraculous than this?

Praise be to God!
(Go Dominicans!)

Robert of Knaresborough

Posted by: Richenda at Tuesday March 4, 2008 in

Ask, and ye shall receive.

Curious about those sweaty monks from my previous blog?

In a nutshell, St. Robert was a hermit and should probably be the patron saint of prisoners as that was a favorite ministry for him, taking in and redeeming, aiding, helping thieves and other prisoners. He seems to have fashioned a small monastic type hermitage in Knaresborough that included a cave dwelling, a chapel, a guest house, and a farm.

As to the group of monks called “Robertines,” I haven’t learned too much more about that. My guess is this Robert was a charismatic leader and holy man and of the “crowds” that came, a few chose to stay and follow him. Who these “Robertines” were I’m not sure, but probably officially consisted primarily of Brother Ive, who was Robert’s hermit companion. The “Robertines” became Trinitarians, as it was that group that took over the hermitage and chapel after Robert’s death.

Certainly the demise of Robert was treated like the demise of an Abbot, with the property reverting to the King (and benefactor) until a successor could be named.

Here’s the story of Robert of Knaresborough, excepted from Mary Rotha Clay’s The Hermits and Anchorites of England.

The story of Robert of Knarlesborough [Excepted pages 40-44]:

Robert of Knarlesborough was a citizen of York. According to a fourteenth-century chronicle, his surname was Koke. Leland calls him “one Robert Flowr, sunne to one Robert Flowr, that had beene 2 tymes Mair of York”. Other authorities give his father’s name as Touke or Tok Flour, and his mother’s as Onnuryte, Simunina, or Sunniva.1 The pious youth became a lay brother of Newminster in Northumberland, but after a few months he sought stricter seclusion. Being doubtless well acquainted with Knaresborough (only eighteen miles from his home), he determined to join a certain knight, rich and famous, who, having fled from the lion-like wrath of Richard I, was living apart from men on the banks of the Nidd. The two men dwelt together in a cave ; but, after the king’s death, the fugitive warrior returned to the world :—

Langir lyked hym noght that lyffe
Bott als a wreche wentt to hys wyffe,

leaving the “soldier of Christ” alone.

The young solitary was befriended by a virtuous matron named Helena, who gave him the chapel of St. Hilda at Rudfarlington in Knaresborough forest.2 There he abode for a while, but when thieves broke into his hermitage, he moved on to Spofforth. Then, fearing lest the crowds which followed him should move him to vainglory, he accepted the invitation of the monks of Holy Trinity, York, to join some of their number at Hedley. The young zealot, clad in an old white garment, who would eat nought but barley bread and vegetable broth, was not a comfortable companion, and Robert, regarding his fellows as “fals and fekyll,” returned to St. Hilda’s. The noble dame was passing glad to see him, and provided a barn and other buildings for his use. William de Stuteville, Constable of Knaresborough, passing by, saw the dwelling, and when he heard that one Robert, a devoted servant of God, lived there, he cried : “This is a hypocrite and a companion of thieves!” and bade his men “dyng doune hys byggynges”. The homeless hermit took his book and fared through the forest to Knaresborough :—

To a chapel of syntt Gyle
Byfor whare he had wouned a whyll
That bygged was in tha buskes with in
A lytell holett : he hyed hym in.

But again the lord of Knaresborough went a-hunting, and when he was smoke rising from the hut, he swore that he would turn out the tenant. That night there “appered thre men blacker than Ynd,” who roused him [William] from his restless sleep. Two of them harrowed his sides with burning pikes, whilst the third, of huge stature, brandished two iron maces at his bedside : “Take one of these weapons and defend thy neck, for the wrongs with which thou spitest the man of God”. William cried for mercy and promised to amend his deeds, whereupon the vision vanished. Early in the morning the terrified tyrant hastened to the cell, and humbly sought pardon :—

Roberd forgaff and William kissed
And blythely with hys hand hym blyssed.

The penitent baron then bestowed upon Robert all the land between the rock and Grimbald Kyrkstane, besides horses and cattle.
William de Stuteville was succeeded by Brian de Lisle, who regarded the hermit as his faithful friend. It was he who besought King John to visit Robert (see p. 153). This visit resulted in the further endowment of the cell. John bade Robert ask what he willed, but he relied that he had enough, and needed no earthy thing. When Ive found that alms for the poor hand not been asked, he persuaded his master to follow the king, from whom he receive the grant of a carucate of land. This land was appropriated to the use of the poor, and Robert refused to pay tithe for it to the rector, to whom he indignantly granted “crysts cursynge” for his covetousness.

Robert was “to pore men profytable”. He gathered alms for the needy, fed them at his door, and sheltered them in his cave. The complaint made by the angry baron that the hermit was a receiver of thieves had some truth in it. In the rhyming life, Robert speaks of the corn required for “my cayteyffes in my cave”. His favourite form of charity was to redeem men from prison :—

To begge an brynge pore men of baile
This was hys purose principale

St. Robert died on the 24, September, 1218.3 He had been a benefactor to many, and great was the grief of the mourners. As he had foretold on his death-bed, the monks of Fountains sought to bear away his body, but Ive carried out his master’s wish to be buried in the chapel of the Holy Cross, where he had himself prepared a rock-hewn grave.

I wyll be doluen whar so I deghe
Beried my body thare sall ytt be
Wyth outen end here wyll I rest
Here my wounyng chese I fyrste
Here wyll I leynd here wyll I ly
In this place perpetuely.

The chroniclers call St. Robert’s first hermitage “the chapel of St. Giles,” describing it as a dwelling under the rock formed by winding branches over stakes in front of a cave. They relate how his brother Walter, who was mayor of York, thought this cavern and wattled hut no fitting habitation for him, and suggested that he should join some community. Robert replied : “This is my resting-place for ever : here will I dwell, for I have chosen it”—an answer which recalls the antiphon sung when a recluse was about to enter his life-long retreat. Walter therefore sent workmen from the city who laid the foundations of a chapel in honour of the Holy Cross, built of hewn stone. Evidently this chapel adjoined the cave, and replaced the humble oratory of St. Giles. […]
After Robert’s death, the cell was claimed as Crown property. A writ was issued (1219) to the Constable of Knaresborough to cause “our hermitage” to be given into the custody of Master Alexander de Dorset. The original grant was afterwards confirmed to Brother Ive, hermit of Holy Cross (1227).4 The chapel became a place of pilgrimage, and many miracles of healing were wrought there, especially about twenty years after the saint’s death. “The same year (1238) shone forth the fame of St. Robert the hermit at Knaresborough, from whose tomb medicinal oil was brought forth abundantly.” Matthew Paris, naming in 1250 the chief personages of the last half-century, mentions in particular St. Edmund of Pontigny, St. Robert of Knaresborough, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary.5 The new priory (or “House of St. Robert”) was granted to the Trinitarian Friars, and it was fitting that the “Order of the Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives” should become successors of the saint two had delighted in releasing men from prison. The name Holy Cross or Holy Rood was superseded by that of the hermit. In 1257 Richard, Earl of Cornwall, confirmed to the Order the chapel of St. Robert.

About Robert the Farmer [Excerpted from page 101]:

Robert of Knaresborough was another hermit-husbandman. He fared frugally, but one day he was left hungry, for robbers invaded his dwelling and stole his bread and cheese. After a time he was granted as much land as he could dig, and later, as much as he could till with one plough. he was also given two horses, two oxen, and two cows. Robert’s parable was an ear of corn (p. 153) ; and the miracles ascribed to him are the miracles of a farmer. He tames the wild cow, and yokes to his plough the stags which trample his corn :—

Hertes full heghe of hede and horn
Vsed to come to Robertt corn. . .
He wentt and wagged att them a wand
And draffe thise dere hame wt hys hand.

This legend, and also that of a counterfeit cripple, who begged a cow from St. Robert, were depicted in a window set up in Knaresborough church in 1473.6

About Robert and Brother Ive [Excepted from page 129]:

Robert of Knaresborough was joined by Ive and by several servants, who shared his labours. The story of Ive seems to show that even in the “solitary” life, two were better than one, for the strong would lift up his fellow. One day Ive attempted to return to the world which he had renounced. In passing through the forest, however, he broke his leg with the bough of a tree, and fell into a ditch, where he sat “alas! alas! waloway!” Robert, supernaturally aware of what had happened, hastened thither, and not without mirth at his friend’s plight, pointed the moral : “No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”. Robert then blessed his leg and bade him stand. The two hermits returned to Knaresborough, and continued to live together until Robert’s death, when Ive received his last benediction and became his successor.

About Robert and King John [Excerpted from page 153]:

Robert of Knaresborough boldly spoke his mind to King John. When the kind and his retinue arrived at the hermitage, Robert was prostrate before the altar, and would not leave his devotions, although aware of their presence. At length Sir Brain de Lisle roused him, saying : “Brother Robert, rise quickly : Lo! the king is here who would speak with thee”. The hermit arose, and having picked up from the ground an ear of corn, held it towards King John, and said : “If thou be king, do thou create such a think as this”: and when the king could make no reply, he added : “There is no King but one, that is God”. Certain of the bystanders regarded the hermit’s conduct as madness, but one replied that Robert was indeed wiser than they, since he was the servant of God in whom all is wisdom. Even the unbelieving despot was duly, if momentarily, impressed by the good man’s boldness. Before Robert, says the rhyming chronicler, tyrants trembled, beasts and birds bowed, and fiends fled.

And according to page 134: The genial, generous Robert of Knaresborough was ever surrounded by a crowd of poor pensioners and pilgrims, for which he built a guest-house near his cell:—

Heghe and lawe vnto hym hyed
In faith for to be edified.

1. Lanercost Chr. (Bannatyne Club, 1839), 25-7 ; Metrical Life (Roxburghe Club) ; N. Roscarrock’s Life, Camb. Univ. MS. C.Add. 3041, 377-9b.
2. R. Stodley, Vita, B.M. Harl., 3775 f. 76 ; “ubi quondam uilla grandis que Rothferlington vocacatur”. Rudfarlington, once a large township, is now a farm. A field towards Crimple Beck is called Chapel Garth.
3. 8 kal. Octobris, 1218, Chr. Lanercost, 25. The Dict. Nat. Biog. gives c. 1235, but Chart. R. 1227 grants land of Brother Robert “formerly hermit there” to Ive.
4. The metrical Life affirms that Ive gave the place to Coverham Abbey by charter.
5. Chr. Maj. (Rolls, 57) III. 521 ; iv. 378 ; 195.
6. Dodsworth, Church Notes. (Rec. S., 34), 158. The glass is said to have been removed during the last century (? into Lincolnshire).

Robert and the Sweaty Monks?

Posted by: Richenda at Tuesday March 4, 2008 in


Okay. This is too good. I’m transcribing along in Shrines of British Saints …la la la…and I come across this passage:

“There was also a prevailing idea that a healing oil exuded from the tombs of certain saints as those of St. Andrew, St. Katherine, and St. Robert, the founder of the Robertines at Knaresborough, which are said to have sweated a medicinal oil.”

First, I have to share my giggle that on first reading I read it was the monks that sweated the oil. Yuk. I had to re-read the passage, and….der…oh yeah, that would be the tomb that was sweaty. (Still gross, however.)

We won’t go into how ridiculous a sweaty tomb seems. Didn’t they do something like that for a comic moment in the film The Mummy? When the sarcophagus pops open and two of the characters declare the mummy inside as “juicy.”

But all the silliness and sweatiness aside, here is this amazing nugget tucked into my book. Robertine monks?? I already know that holy tombs can sweat holy oils (again, eew), but I have never heard of Robertine monks! And I don’t really care how sweaty they are, this bears further investigation. I will be sure to post more info as I dig.

Material Culture II

Posted by: Richenda at Tuesday February 26, 2008 in

Ah…I just love it when you get a bonus with your book!

Tucked inside my copy of Shrines of British Saints was this lovely little clipping. Not sure what paper published this little clip, but the clipper made note of the date: March 18, 1907.


Reliquaries in the British Museum.—A correspondent of the Catholic Weekly states that there are two reliquaries in the British Museum each containing what purports to be a thorn from Our Lord’s Crown of Thorns. One of them is in the Waddesden Bequest Room, and is a beautiful Spanish Sixteenth Century work in gold. It is adorned with twenty-two figures representing the Holy Trinity and a choir of angels, as well as a great number of rubies, pearls, and sapphires. At its base are the words, “ Esta est una spinea corone domini nostri ,” and two other words which he could not decipher. The thorn can be easily seen, and is about the length of a forefinger. The other is in the Gem Room, and is in the form of a locket, in the centre of which a small thorn can be seen, the sides of the locket being formed of immense amethysts. Within there are depicted scenes from the Passion in translucent enamel. This thorn is said to have been given to a King of Arragon by St. Louis, who brought the Crown of Thorns from the Venetians. He says the existence of these reliquaries is probably unknown to most Roman Catholics, and asks if there are any documents in existence which may prove their authenticity.

Btw, belated congratulations to the Haddington Harriers who won the Irish Cross Country title near Elm Park, in Dublin, for the third year running! Race winners were D. Downing, of Haddington, first place, J. Smith, of Donore, second place, and S. Lee, of Ulsterville, third place.

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