Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The Best of The Question Box

by Father I.J. Mikulski

(From the August 18, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. I received a CD with the songs of Hildegard van Bingen. Have you heard of her? She has an unusual voice, pretty in solo songs but her music is great and might become better known. Is she a saint?

A. St. Hildegard of Bingen had 800 years to become well known but CDs may promote her acceptance. She was a 12th century German Benedictine nun, visionary, poet, musician, artist, historian and author on medicine and Scripture. Given those wondrous talents she felt called to chastise emperor and pope alike, and she did.

She lived to be 80, remarkable in those days. In October 2012 she was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI, who earlier that year had declared her “equivalent canonization.” She would make a perfect patron saint for women who feel called to challenge presidents and popes.

While we’re at it, let’s pause to recall English Dame Juliana Berners, contemporary of Hildegard. She was prioress of Sopwell nunnery, author of the Book of St. Albans, a treatise on the fine arts of grouse hunting and fly fishing, with instructions on tying trout flies.

While Hildegard visited the offices of emperor and pope, Juliana enjoyed the forests and streams near her nunnery.

Q. Would you say something about The Rapture? It has been discussed more than ever among friends but I hesitate to say anything because they’re so sure about it. They expect it to happen in our lifetimes. Can you give some information based on the Bible?

A. If you take one little snippet out of Paul’s letter, with no other cross references, your friends might begin to avoid you.

The earliest written testimony recounting the Resurrection of Jesus and the eternity that awaits us is found in Paul’s first letter to his converts in Thessalonika, Greece. “The Lord himself will come down from heaven ... then we, the living, the survivors will be caught with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thess. 4: 17). That’s a bold prediction if you take it out of context with the rest of Paul’s letters and the cumulative message of the New Testament.

Jesus spoke about this, saying simply, “As to the exact day or the hour, nobody knows” (Matt. 13:32). That’s his final statement.

Bible fundamentalists are fascinated with the idea and they often tout it as an imminent threat. Dozens of deadlines have come and gone, but you cannot change the mind of a true believer because neither you nor the true believer can be absolutely, positively sure it won’t happen tomorrow. Or tonight.

A few outstanding saints – the visionary variety, like St. Theresa of Avila and her compatriot St. John of the Cross – had a variety of mystical raptures which they described in their journals 400 years ago. It’s a form of intense contemplative prayer that, in its advanced stages, brings an out of the body experience that seems similar to St. Paul’s experience to “meet the Lord in the air.”

That said, it would behoove any aspiring mystics to practice intense contemplative prayer while waiting for The Rapture.

Q. All the news lately of Pope Francis got us asking about those who were corrupt popes. Do we know, or care to know, who they were? Were any of them recent popes?

A. You might screen four embarrassing popes out of the papal pool, pardon the expression. That’s a tiny fraction. Can you name any organization or institution, religious or political, that has been active for 2,000 years and has not had an occasional troublesome hiccup?

The church has never claimed impeccability for any pope. There are two responses to papal lineage. We may point to four embarrassments as evidence of corruption in high places, or we may point out that the church has survived top-level troubles and is now stronger and wiser for the experience.

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