Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Adventure of Monogamy

The great English essayist and possibly best prose writer of the twentieth century, G. K. Chesterton once remarked to a man who claimed that Christianity had been tried and found wanting that, on the contrary, “it had been found difficult and left untried.”  He might have been speaking of any number of aspects of Christianity, whether belief in the Incarnation and crucifixion, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles or idea that the humble and poor are blessed rather than the rich and proud.  To some significant extent, I rather suspect that he was speaking in large part about Christian beliefs on human sexuality.  

In no age have Christian sexual teachings been popular.  It is sometimes claimed today that Jesus gave commands that kept with the spirit of his time, but do not fit with ours.  This is nonsense.  Jesus’ concept of human sexuality was no more popular in his age then than today.  He rejected divorce in an age that demanded it with the same vehemence with which modern society does.  He and apostles always assumed that marriage was between  a man and a women, even Paul writing to a pagan Roman society that was no more sympathetic to Christian sexual teaching than pagan modern society (Rom 1:26-27).

The strange thing about modern distaste for Church teaching on monogamy is that in demanding monogamy without divorce, the Church, as C.S. Lewis, remarked in Mere Christianity, does not demand people do something utterly foreign to them.  The Church did not force Romeo to promise Juliet eternal constancy and love, he did that one his own.  Songs, poems, love stories, both modern and ancient, are full of promises of eternal love and fidelity.  Songs promise that “I will love you forever;” they never promise, “I will love you until next Tuesday.”  For all the commonness of modern divorce and promiscuity, man cannot easily escape at least the ideal of fidelity.  The Church does not impose this ideal, it simply demands that man keep it.  

At the lowest level, keeping this promise of fidelity is a matter of integrity.  When a man does what his conscience tells him that he ought do, promise his love forever, he makes an oath that it is a simple matter of honesty and integrity to keep.  Robert Bolt’s Thomas More, in A Man for All Seasons, on being asked why he would not take an oath to save his life, replied that he would not take an oath that he could not keep.  He explained that “when a man takes an oath, he takes his own self into his hands, like water, and if he opens his fingers, he needn’t hope to find himself again.”

Keeping to one woman (or man), though, is not simply a matter of honesty or integrity, but adventure.   As Chesterton remarked, there is simply no fun in taking an oath that I cannot be kept to.  There is no adventure in keeping an promise only when it is easy to do so, or following a road only until the trail darkens.  What adventure would it have been in Lord of the Rings had Fordo turned back at the first sound of a black rider’s footsteps or if Hector fled when the first Greek ships approached Troy?  What if St. Francis gave up at his first hunger pangs?   What if Christ turned back to Galilee at the first shrieking devil?

This comes to the final point.  Frodo did not turn back at the first sounds of a black rider’s steps.  He saw his quest through fire and foes, through darkness and thunder, through fear and doubt and back home.  And he did not come back the same.  His enemy, Saruman, on his return said to him in awe, “you have grown... you are wise and cruel, you have robbed my revenge of its sweetness and I must go hence, indebted to your mercy...”  No one comes through trials the same.  Fulton Sheen liked to remark on the spiritual law running though the universe that “no one shall be crowned unless first he has struggled.”  The adventure leaves no man (or woman) who sees it through the same, if only he have the courage to undertake it.   

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday: The High Holy Day of Stuffism

G.K. Chesterton once remarked in several passages some idea to the effect that when a man will no longer believe in God, it is not so much that be believes nothing, rather, it is more the case that he will believe in anything.  As was so often the case, Chesterton’s words were not only descriptive, but prophetic, for a modern world that proclaims the death of God has not replaced its belief in God with belief in nothing, but belief in all sorts of things.  Man today has not rejected religion, but has simply chosen new religions, among them: Materialism, Secularism, Individualism, Liberalism, worship of celebrity, and Stuffism.  They have their own rituals, own houses of worship, own set of beliefs, high priests, and high holy days.  On the day after Thanksgiving, falls the holiest day of the Stuffist calendar, Black Friday.  

In his important, if challenging book, The Unintended Reformation, Professor Brad Gregory of the University of Notre Dame has remarked on the increasing secularization of Western Society that had been an unintended consequence of the Protestant Reformation.  As a result of hyper-pluralism--a proliferation of religious (and non-religious) beliefs-- society has reached the point where it can no longer agree on anything.   Like Chesterton’s unbeliever who would believe, not in nothing, but in anything, a society that can longer organize itself around shared religious beliefs must organize around something.  That something, is Stuffism.  

Society today may be able to agree on little, but most people can agree that they want stuff and they want alot of it.  Gregory calls this the religion of Stuffism.   Its followers are as devoted as followers any religion have been.  Its main doctrines involve the pursuit of material goods as the highest principle of life; meaning in life is comes from pursuit and attainment of new stuff.  Man’s appetite for the infinite (for what  save the infinite could satisfy man’s endless longing), once met by an infinite God, is now to be met  by an infinite amount and quality of stuff.  Man must own the newest I-pad, Tablet, car, or fad.  Salvation comes not from a personal relationship with God, but from having the latest and best stuff.  

Stuffism has its own houses of worship, more ornate and decorated than any Church.  A popular and rather shallow attack on Christianity has sometimes dwelt on its ornate Churches while many starve—as if the poor do not  need beauty as well as food!  Stuffist houses of worship, though, are more ornate than nearly any Church.  The young and old gather devotedly at Macy’s, Abercrombie and Fitch, the Mall.  Cardinal Dolan once observed sadly that when he saw young people lined up at a house of worship on Sunday morning, they were lined up, not outside a Church, but outside an Abercrombie and Fitch store.   

Stuffism has its own rituals, sacraments, and holy days.  Its Confirmation/Bar Mitzvah/coming of age ritual is receiving one’s first credit card when one becomes a fully initiated Stuffist.  Its rituals include waiting in line to purchase the newest I-pad.  The Holiest day of the Stuffist calendar falls on Black Friday.  Early Black Friday morning, devout Stuffists gather outside their houses of worship for the newest deals, intent on acquiring the newest stuff at the best price (the better to get even more stuff).  They can even worship from the comfort of their houses thanks to the ease of online purchasing.  

Such is the religion of Stuffism in brief.  There is, though, something unsatisfying about the Stuffist creed, the idea that man’s greatest purpose lies in gaining more stuff, that this can be the organizing principle of society, and that enough stuff might satisfy the human heart, for it never does.  Those who follow the Stuffist religion most devoutly are the least satisfied.  They must always have the newest thing and more stuff and so can never be more than briefly satisfied by what they have.  The Stuffist creed leaves one wanting where it most claims to satisfy, a poor religion for the human heart.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Icons, images, Church history, and churches

Icon of Our Lady of Czestowa
I just want to share a pretty neat coincidence of Church history and real life.

Over the weekend I went on a pilgrimage with a group from my diocese to a few notable churches in a nearby city.  One of them was a big, gorgeous, French Gothic Cathedral Basilica that looks like it was transplanted from Europe.  Another was a (ethinically) Polish Church with very ornate paintings inside, a beautiful icon of our Lady of Czestowa above the tabernacle (which was behind the altar), and a relic of Blessed Pope John Paul II.  We were lucky enough to have our bishop along with us, and he was our tour guide, being very familiar with both churches (he actually had been baptized at the Polish church, and he served at the Cathedral Basilica before becoming the Bishop of our diocese).

Throughout showing us around the churches, in addition to telling us about the history of the building, he told us a lot about the architecture, statues, stained glass, and paintings.  He kept on stressing how the images serve, in addition to creating a religious ambiance, to instruct viewers without words, especially back in a time when not everyone was literate.  That was the perfect thing for him to point out, since, coincidentally my reading assignment for my Church History class was  On The Divine Images by St. John of Damascus.  This was great!  The bishop was talking about the importance of images in our churches and that same weekend I was reading St. John's defense of using divine images!  (Mind blown by this coincidence.)

Icon of John of Damascus. And he's holding an icon!
 St. John of Damascus lived ca. 650 to ca. 749, and resigned from a post in the Muslim Caliph's court to join a monastery.  He was ordained a priest and wrote about theology, philosophy and liturgy.  During the period of 725 to 774, there was a period of iconoclasm, brought about by the imperial policy of Emperor Leo III, who wanted to forbid "worshiping" statues.  John of Damascus was conveniently located outside of the Byzantine empire, so he could write rather freely in contradiction of the emperor's policies.  This was his reason for writing his treatise, which is seen as "one of the most important reflections on the theological issues at stake in the iconoclastic controversies" (1).  Here is a link to Part I of the Apology against Those who Attack the Divine Images (not the translation I read, but probably close enough). This one may be easier on the eyes.

One of the ways St. John explains that images are not worshiped instead of God is by describing the nature of worship itself.  While worship is the way that we revere or honor something, there are different levels in which it is applied.  He explains that Adoration, or in Latin, latria, is the highest worship, which is due only to God.  This is probably why we use the phrase "Eucharistic Adoration" rather than a more general term.  On the other hand, we can also honor something that is not as high as God, but still deserves some degree of reverence.  This honor is in Latin called dulia.  I think these terms are also used to explain how we don't "worship" Mary as God, and how we pray to her and to saints.  St. John says some other interesting things, so I recommending reading some if this treatise (I only had to read Part I for class, not the whole thing).

1. Coakley and Sterk, Readings in World Christian History, Vol.I, 289.

Friday, November 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes #5 Snapshots

Thank you Jen for hosting at Conversion Diary

1. Here I will be sharing some photos that represent some recent(ish) happenings. We enjoy taking pictures of things we do, or food we cook, but then we don't do much with the pictures. So here are some entertaining shots.

2. My husband's birthday was early in October, and I made him a birthday pie (we tend to enjoy pie more than cake). Here's his birthday pecan pie with the candles. The blue candles each stand for 10, the pink one 5, and the white ones are one each. (I thought that was pretty clever.)
3. In early October we also decided to go "pescatarian" together.  I have been vegetarian since I was 18, and my husband is not a vegetarian. He suggested this (at first jokingly) as an experiment. So, I am now eating fish (which I grew up eating), and he now eats fish, but no other meat. It has been interesting so far. Here is a dinner that we thought came out pretty nice. I made the sweet potato (covered with rosemary and garlic) and the mushrooms in syrup over polenta, and he made the fish (I think this is a whiting fillet).

4. Remember the science fairs they used to have in elementary school, and there was always a kid who put celery stalks in colored water? Well, I randomly decided to try that myself when I cut off the bottom of a celery bunch and noticed it looked like a flower. So I tried this experiment. I was really surprised to see the little stalks in the center actually start growing. Check this out. It's Bonsai celery!

5. So last week we had hurricane Sandy, and we were pretty lucky only to lose power for one night.  My husband finished grading a couple of papers by candlelight. No joke, he really did. A few days later, the power was turned off for repair work. It was still out by dinner time, but we have a gas stove, so we were able to cook dinner. My husband thought it would be fun to do this:

6. I bought something recently that confuses me. Here is a picture of their packaging. It looks like they are trying to make the product look sexy.  I should probably have something intellectual to say about our culture sexualizing everything.  This is just looks really corny though.

They're socks! Fuzzy socks!
I mean, packaging like this could make sense on, say, hosiery, maybe, but fuzzy socks??

7.  I have a very high appreciation for fuzzy socks, though. I have a few different pairs, and would like some more. My feet always get really cold in winter, and it is hard for me to keep them warm. I often need to layer socks, and fuzzy socks definitely help.

Hope you enjoyed the snapshots!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Three Divorces III: Body and Soul

In two previous posts, I observed that what is true of a husband and wife—what God has joined man must not put asunder—holds to for others important ideas and unions in the modern world.  It was not only the marriage of a man and his wife that was to be permanent, but the marriage of other things as well.  Yet, all often, man does break asunder those things that God joined.  He puts apart what should never have been separated and breaks to pieces what ought to be united.  For this reason, not only the divorce of husband and wife is common in the modern world, but also the divorce between love and responsibility, between faith and reason, and between the body and soul. 

Like the divorce between love and responsibility and faith and reason, the divorce between body and soul is not unique to the modern world.  The ancient Greek philosophers professed the uselessness of religion, while the Christian Tertullian asked "what accord has Athens with Jerusalem or Christ with Baliol."   Likewise, others in history separated the body soul, some by giving primacy to one over the other and some by denying one all together.  This was not necessarily divided along purely religious lines.  Plato, student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle, taught that the body was the prison of the soul, which lay captive in its dark dungeon until freed by death (1). 

Others in the ancient word went the other way, denying the soul and giving primacy to the body.  Such was the case with the Lucretius who, in The Nature of Things, ridiculed the idea of any sort of soul or afterlife and the Epicureans who denying the soul, decided the best man could hope for was to orient his life around pursuit of pleasure (2).  It is to this attitude that St. Paul seems to have referred when he wrote to the Corinthians that if Christ has not been raised, "let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die."   

The modern world is the same way.  Some give primacy to the soul denying the body.  N.T. Wright refers to some of these in his important book, Surprised by Hope (3).  These include even the modern Christian who thinks that the final Christian hope is nothing more than leaving the body behind and going to heaven or the Eastern religion where the soul tries to escape from the cycle of this world. 

More common, though, is the materialism of a modern world that denies man a soul.  In this world without God man is only matter, an animal, who though perhaps cleverer than other animals has the same fate.  The author of Ecclesiastes depressingly put it, "the fate of men and beasts is the same."  Lacking a soul, moderns believe, man has no soul to feed, it is enough to feed his body.  It is the error of the Marxist's heir, the modern secular liberal who thinks it enough to feed man's body, but do no more.   It is the error of those who claim the Church should sell its art and Church decorations to feed the poor.  As if the poor do not need  beauty and spiritual food as much as physical!  It is the error of the West when they think that supplying corn and condoms to Africa will solve its problems.  It suffices, so the West thinks, to provide for man's two main appetites, food and sex.  It is the error of a pagan West when thy ridicule the Pope for calling on Africa to experience a renewal of faith, friendship, and spiritual awakening.  Nonsense, says the West, Enlightened persons know that Africans, like all modern man, are only animals.  Feed their bellies and leave the souls, which they do not possess, alone.  

One need not be a Christian to recognize the absurdity of this view.  Matthew Paris, in his article, "As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God"(4), showed that Christian aid organizations do good that purely secular ones cannot.  When two such different people as the Twentieth century atheist Matthew Paris and the medieval Dominican Thomas Aquinas agree, the world should pay attention.  For Aquinas, man was not his body, nor did he "have" a soul.  Instead, he was body and soul.  C.S. Lewis, I think, wrote that a corpse is not a man, but then neither is a ghost.  Another writer observed that a body without a soul is a zombie; a soul without a body is a ghost, but neither of these is a man. 

Just as when love and responsibility or faith and reason are divorced, they lose all meaning, so too the body and the soul.  God has joined them for a reason, for when one side of a coin is separated from another, the coin loses all value, so the body and soul when divided are the same.  God has joined them, but man puts them asunder only at his own peril. 

(1) The Manicheans too, who counted St. Augustine among their adherents for a time, professed the body, along with the whole physical world, to be the work of the devil.  The body was not a necessary part of man; it was not a part of man at all. 
(2) By pleasure, they largely meant not a gross hedonism, but the absence of pain, a somewhat depressing view.
(3). N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven and the Resurrection.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

St. Ignatius of Antioch

In my last 7 Quick Takes post, I mentioned St. Ignatius of Antioch. Since today is his feast day, I will write a little more about why he is so interesting.

Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch sometime between 98 and 117, when Trajan was emperor.  This was one of the periods when the Roman empire was persecuting anyone who was identified as Christian, bishops probably being easy targets. On his way to Rome for a trial, and to be martyred, Ignatius wrote letters to various churches (kind of like how Paul did), and seven of them survive (if I wanted to look up what all of them were, maybe I'd do a 7 quick takes on them, but I don't feel like doing research for quick takes.)

The letter that I read for class was his letter to the Magnesians.  Here are some thematic highlights from it.

I. Church hierarchy and episcopal authority:
Ignatius stresses authority of the episcopal office in relation both in terms of the people who are subject to their Bishops and in terms of the Bishops being themselves subject to God.  He describes the people's submission to the bishop in a way that reminds me of how Paul describes being subject to Christ.  About the bishop, Ignatius instructs, "render him all respect according to the power of God the father... even the holy presbyters... yield to him in their godly prudence, yet not to him but to the Father of Jesus" (III.1).

Later, he shows the hierarchy of the bishops and presbyters as a symbol of Christ and the apostles, and also direct people to Pauline mutual love: "...with the bishop presiding in the place of God and the presbyters in the place of the Council of Apostles... Be then all in conformity with God, and respect one another... in everything love one another in Christ" (VI.1).

II. Adhere to Christianity:
Ignatius instructs his readers to adhere fully to the Christian faith, and not merely to be nominal Christians: "It is right, then, that we should be really Christians, and not merely have the name; even as there are some who recognize the bishop in their words, but disregard him in all their actions. Such men seem to me not to act in good faith, since they do not hold valid meetings according to the commandment" (IV.1). Isn't it interesting that this was seen as an issue even back then?  As a modern reader, the first thing I think of is someone saying "I'm Catholic" but living or behaving in a way that it contrary to Church teaching. But I wonder what else he may have been thinking of, with the persecutions and heresies going on at the time as well.

Along the same line of not being only nominally Christian, he cautions people against retaining the Jewish faith.  He's basically pointing out that at this point the Christian Church is a religion itself, and they are not a sect of Judaism.  He says, "for if we are living until now according to Judaism, we confess that we have not received grace" (VIII.1) and "It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism..." (X.1).

III. Avoid false teachings:
Ignatius cautions his readers against believing in heretical teachings: "...not to fall into the snare of vain doctrine, but to be convinced of the birth and passion and resurrection which took place... for these things were truly and certainly done by Jesus Christ, our hope, from which God grant that none of you be turned aside" (XI).  He seems to have included this specifically to warn against the docetist movement. The docetists denied that Jesus truly suffered and died, but that he only was appearing suffer.  So Ignatius is trying to specifically warn his readers about those who do not belief in the Lord's Passion.

These are my highlights of St. Ignatius of Antioch's letter to the Magnesians. It's not a very long letter, and is easy to read. Here are links to two different translations (neither of which I was quoting from):
An older translation and a newer translation.

My quotations are from Readings in World Christian History vol. I, edited by Coakley and Sterk.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Abortion and Waffles

When defending abortion in the public life, a man must typically make either one of two claims.  Either he will argue that abortion is not a moral evil, that it is either morally good or morally neutral and hence must be permitted, or else he will make a second, stranger claim.  His second option is to claim that though he personally accepts that abortion is a moral evil or that life begins at conception, he should not "impose" this belief on other people, hence he should promote and protect a person's ability to have an abortion.   

As far as the man who claims the abortion ought be legal because it is either morally neutral or morally good, I can respect, if not his belief itself, at least the consistency with which he holds it.  What I cannot respect at all, however, is the man who claims to believe that abortion is morally wrong, but that he "should" not impose this belief on others.  A man might as well claim that though he oppose slavery personally and thinks a slave is a person, he thinks it wrong impose that belief on slave owners.  Indeed, who is he to tell slave owners what to do with their property?  Such a man might as soon claim that though he thinks rape wrong, he thinks it wrong to impose this belief on others, or that though he believes theft or murder wrong, he should not impose this belief on others. 

Such a belief is absurd.  Either the fetus is a human being or is not.  If he is, then it is vain to claim that one does not think he can morally oppose the destruction of that person.  If the fetus is not a human being, then it is equally vain to claim that one personally thinks that the fetus is a human being.  In the former case, a man has a clear moral duty to prevent and oppose the evil act or abortion, in the latter case, he has a moral duty to support it, or at the very least not to oppose it.  

For a man to claim that he thinks abortion is morally wrong, but that he should not oppose it may not only be absurd, however, it may be outright contradictory. The claim seems to be this: abortion is morally wrong (because a fetus is a human being), but one should not impose that belief on others.  This is functionally equivelant to saying: "abortion is morally wrong, but one should not act to limit abortion and must continue to promote it."  

Where then the possible contradiction?  That lies in the use of the word "should"- one should not oppose abortion.  The word "should" implies moral obligation or duty.  Hence, in a man saying that abortion is morally wrong but he should support abortion, such a man is claiming that though abortion is morally wrong, he is morally obligated to support it, ie. that he is morally obligated to support an immoral act.  Since it is immoral to support an immoral act, this amounts to claiming that one is morally obligated to do an immoral action, which is probably simply contradictory.  

To claim that abortion is morally wrong, but that one should not "impose" this view on others amounts to moral waffling.   On this issue, though, there is no room for compromise, as there is no room for compromise on rape or murder.  Either the act is morally wrong, in which case one must oppose it, or it is morally permitted, in which case one must not hinder it.  What one may not find, is a convenient middle ground.  Here, none exists, and all the syrup in the world cannot make this waffling acceptable. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes #4- Church History edition

These are two days late and posted in a hurry. .

1. I am taking a Church History course at the Seminary that I work at, and I am finding it really interesting to learn about the early Church. Here are some highlights. The downside is that the seminary is Protestant, and even in studying the early Church, there is a very apparent Protestant viewpoint. Blessed John Henry Newman said, "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant." I hope that throughout the course the students may come to understand the Catholic Church a little bit better than they do.

Here are some interesting highlights of things I've read in the course so far:

2. St. Ignatius of Antioch: If I only hear "St. Ignatius," I automatically think of the one from Loyola. Maybe having gone to a Jesuit college has something to do with this. Ignatius was the Bishop of Antioch during the reign of the emperor Trajan (98-117). Similar to the apostle Paul, he wrote letters to various Churches. He wrote seven of them (at least, seven survive) and they are how we know most of what we know about him.
My favorite line from Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans: "The greatness of Christianity lies in its being hated by the world, not in its being convincing to it." Great line. Fulton Sheen agreed

3. Correspondence of Pliny and Trajan: Pliny was a governor who was writing the emperor Trajan about how he should deal with Christians. What he had been doing was when Christians were reported to him, he asked them three times whether they were Christian, threatening punishment. If they did not give up Christianity, he had them executed for their "obstinacy." Trajan writes back to him saying that he has been doing the right things. A few interesting things Trajan points out is that it was not their intent to seek out Christians. They only accused and punished Christians who were reported to them by others.  Additionally, Trajan was willing for former Christians to be pardoned if they worshipped the Roman Gods.

4. St. Irenaeus of Lyons: Irenaeus lived toward the end of the 2nd century (d. ca. 200). He wrote an awesome treatise called Against Heresies. The main heresy he was refuting was Gnosticism, which was based on supposed "secret" knowledge from Jesus. He makes some very good points refuting it, and asserting the authority of the Church and the succession of Bishops. One pretty interesting thing is how he defers to the Bishop of Rome as having primacy, and to the Church of Rome as a doctrinal standard. (This was before the Bishop of Rome was officially given primacy as Pope.)

One of my favorite lines (ok, these are the harsher ones): "All who destroy the form of the Gospel are vain, unlearned, and also audacious... Wretched men indeed! Who wish to be pseudo-prophets..."
One more neat thing about Irenaeus: He is cited a few times in Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. That's' how important he is.

5. The Second Treatise of the Great Seth: This is a Gnostic text that shows how crazy Gnosticism was, and why Irenaeus was writing to refute it. The speaker claims to be Jesus Christ, but says all kinds of outlandish things. These particular Gnostics were clearly docetists, since the text tries to assert that Jesus only appeared to suffer as a human being. In numerous places, the speaker mocks the Old Testament God, as well as many of the OT prophets.

Interestingly, there are also a few spots where this text doesn't seem too far off, but the writer just has the general context of God and Jesus muddled. For instance, a marriage/wedding analogy comes up twice in this text. We're familiar with those! There is also a reference to after the Crucifixion that is almost right out of the Gospel narratives: "The veil of his temple he tore with his hands. It was a trembling which seized the chaos of the earth, for the souls which were in the sleep below were released."

6. Hippolytus of Rome: Hippolytus (d. ca. 236) was a presbyter who became for a time a schismatic Bishop of Rome (in opposition to Callistus, the real one). Before the end of his life, he did come back to the Church and was reconciled. He wrote the treatise, Apostolic Tradition, in which he describes early Baptismal liturgies. It is pretty similar to the current practice in some ways, which makes it interesting to read. And guess what is used in the liturgy? "The Lord be with you... and with your Spirit." Yes.

7. The Martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity. This was pretty amazing. Perpetua was a young noblewoman who wrote part of her account herself. This is the first first-person account we have of a Christian woman. So, she was upper-class, and Felicity was her slave. They were both mothers. Perpetua had a baby boy, who she gave away to relatives. Felicity was pregnant when they were arrested, and after praying about it, she gave birth a month early so that she would be able to be martyred along with her fellow Christians. Perpetua was given a number of visions while in prison, one assuring her of her arrival in heaven after her martyrdom, and another showing her deceased brother having gone to heaven, out of purgatory after her intercession. (Yay, intercessory prayer!) Perpetua's story can be found here.  I highly recommend reading it!

Oops! I forgot to link to