Thursday, December 30, 2010

Patience

A virtue I need to cultivate in the New Year. According to Father Mark:
Patience derives from the Latin patior, meaning to suffer, to undergo, to bear, or to endure. The connotation of Saint Benedict's patientia is a humble acceptance of the hard and painful things that come upon us, motivated by a desire to imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ and to be united to Him in His love of the Father and in His obedience to the Father's will. Saint Benedict is telling us that by accepting the weaknesses, losses, detachments, and other sufferings that come upon us in the course of a day or a lifetime, and by uniting our acceptance of these painful things to the Passion and Death of Christ, we will, at length, come to share in the glory of His Kingdom.

Blessed William Howard

Author Stephanie Mann tells the story of a little known martyr, the grandson of St. Philip Howard.

Spiritual Weapons

Our Holy Father offers us some thoughts from St. Catherine of Bologna.
In 1431 the saint had yet another vision, this time of the Final Judgement, which led her "to intensify her prayers and penance for the salvation of sinners. Satan continued to assail her as she increasingly entrusted herself to the Lord and the Virgin Mary. In her writings, Catherine left us essential notes on this mysterious struggle, from which, by the grace of God, she emerged victorious".

These notes are contained in her one written work, the "Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons" in which Catherine teaches that to combat evil it is necessary: "(1) to be careful always to do good; (2) to believe that we can never achieve anything truly good by ourselves; (3) to trust in God and, for His love, never to fear the battle against evil, either in the world or in ourselves; (4) to meditate frequently on the events and words of Jesus' life, especially His passion and death; (5) to remember that we must die; (6) to keep the benefits of heaven firmly in our minds, (7) to be familiar with Holy Scripture, keeping it in our hearts to guide all our thoughts and actions".

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Divine Audacity

There is nothing more audacious than the Birth of Our Lord. As Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira observed:
Something happens on Christmas night. It is as if through the power of God an immense impossibility becomes possible, and a shower of graces flows from Heaven to earth, turning into marvelous realities all of our impossible dreams. And how so? Because apparuit salvator noster Domini Nostri Jesu Christi. The Savior becomes incarnate in a Virgin and dwells amongst men. He comes with everything He brought for men. This is more audacious than any other utopia, but grace, miracle and the power of God turn it into reality.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Consoling the Sick

It is hard to be ill this time of the year but it can be a source of grace. As Our Holy Father says:
I still have in my heart the moment when, during the course of the pastoral visit to Turin, I was able to pause in reflection and prayer before the sacred Shroud, before that suffering countenance, that invites us to meditate on him who took upon himself man's suffering of every age and place, even our sufferings, our difficulties, our sins. How many faithful over the course of history have passed before that sepulchral winding sheet, which covered the body of a crucified man, which in everything corresponds to what the Gospels transmit about the passion and death of Jesus! Contemplating him is an invitation to reflect on what St. Peter writes: "By his wounds we have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ceaseless and Incandescent

The sacred liturgy of Advent. Fr. Mark discusses the antiphons of the season.
The Sacred Liturgy is -- and this is often overlooked or forgotten -- the primary and indispensable school of the prayer of the heart. The febrile pursuit of trendy methods of meditation and esoteric approaches to prayer comes from having lived apart from The Prayer of the Church. I have noticed, for example, that in religious communities where the Divine Office is neglected, minimized, or even performed regularly, but in a perfunctory manner, souls tend to gravitate to things like "Centering Prayer" or lose themselves in private devotions that are, at best, marginal to The Prayer of the Church.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Missa Aurea

The Golden Mass of  Ember Wednesday of Advent.
During the Middle Ages, the Mass of the Missus Est -- the first words of the Gospel of the Annunciation -- on the Ember Wednesday of Advent was celebrated very solemnly as a kind of festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The stational church in Rome is the Basilica of Saint Mary Major; this choice signifies that today’s Mass is equal to that of the greatest feasts of the Mother God. It was called the Missa Aurea, the “Golden Mass.” In manuscripts of the Middle Ages, the capital letters of the text of the Annunciation Gospel were written in gold. The letters of gold were but a sign of the secret grace hidden within the words of the Angel Gabriel and within the response of the Virgin Mary.

Enriching the Sabbath

Entering into the Lord's peace. To quote:
So, if you would begin to consider how God is calling you to keep the Sabbath holy, you must first see that He is giving you time-within-time, not robbing you of time you can barely spare. The key to better understanding of what kinds of activities to engage in or to avoid on Sundays, is this:  the human person.  God created this day of rest for you, for human beings, so to find out what makes it holy, we must look at what makes people whole. What makes us more whole, more integrated, more human?  Leisure – the capacity of our souls to be at rest, to be patient, to cease acting upon and using the created world, to simply be.  What mitigates against our personhood, deforms our souls, fractures and disintegrates human communities?  Whatever compromises true leisure.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Day Draws Near

Cast off the works of darkness. To quote:
For those who are unprepared -- for people who live according to the standards of this world, calling darkness light, and light darkness -- the coming of the Son of Man will be a shock. They will be like the homeowner, Jesus warns, who sleeps soundly while the burglar taps on the mud brick wall of the man's Palestinian house, to discover the hollowed-out place inside containing the family's savings. When the burglar finds the spot, he digs through and takes everything. Too late, the homeowner discovers that he has been picked clean.
For those who are prepared, however, God's final intervention will be a day of joy and fulfillment. These are the people who live in the darkness of this world with their faces turned toward the light of Jesus Christ. "The night is advanced," Paul tells us, "the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light" (Rom 13:12).

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Four Introits of Advent

Fr. Mark discusses the joy of the Advent liturgy.
He who is to come is already here, near to us, close at hand. God is present, and from his presence streams all grace, all loveliness, all joy. Paul draws a very practical conclusion from this: “Nothing must make you anxious” (Phil 4:6). Were God absent, had God not yet come in His Christ and in the gift of His Holy Spirit, we would have reason to worry, reason for anxiety, and for fear. Worry and anxiety are an affront to the graciousness of God, a denial of His nearness to us, a turning from Him who has turned His Face towards us. Self-indulgence in fretting and anxiety is a sin that does not often appear on the radar screen of our consciences, and so it is a sin that, more often than not, goes unconfessed.

A thousand reasons not to follow the Apostle’s mandate come to mind. It is easy to listen to the voices of our fears, our insecurities, our need to arrange, rearrange, and attempt to control even things beyond our control. The Apostle says, “Have no anxiety about anything,” but we hold ourselves excused, saying, “Is not a little anxiety, just a little bit of worry reasonable and right?” Saint Paul is not moved by our rationalizations. “Nothing must make you anxious” (Phil 4:6).

Wasted Pain

Some wisdom on suffering by Fulton J. Sheen. To quote:
There's nothing more tragic in all of the world than wasted pain. Think of how much suffering there is in hospitals, among the poor and bereaved. Think also of how much of that suffering goes to waste. How many of those lonesome, suffering, abandoned, crucified souls are saying with Our Lord at the moment of Consecration: "This is my body, take it?"And yet, that is what we should be saying at that second. "Here is my body, take it! Consecrate it! Offer it ! Offer it to the Heavenly Father with yourself, in order that He, looking down on this great Sacrifice, may see only you, His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. Transmute the poor bread of my life into your life; thrill the wine of my wasted life into your divine Spirit; unite my broken heart with your Heart; change my cross into a crucifix. Let not my abandonment and my sorrow go to waste. Gather up the fragments, and as the drop of water is absorbed by the wine at the Offertory of the Mass, let my life be absorbed in you. Let my little cross be entwined with your great Cross so that I may purchase the joys of everlasting happiness in union with you.

Consecrate these trials of my life which would go unrewarded unless united with you; transubstantiate me so that , like bread which is now your Body and wine which is now your Blood, I, too, may be wholly yours. I do not care if the species remain, or that, like the bread and the wine, I may seem to all earthly eyes the same as before. My station in life, my routine duties, my work, my family-- all these are but the species of my life which remain unchanged; but the substance of my life, my soul, my will, my heart, transubstantiate them, transform them wholly into your service so that through me all may know how sweet is the love of Christ!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

First Approved Apparition on American Soil

The miracles of Our Lady of Good Help. I am happy to say that I visited the shrine back in 1993, long before it became famous. To quote:
As they approached the hallowed spot, Adele could see the beautiful lady, clothed in dazzling white, with a yellow sash around her waist. Her dress fell to her feet in graceful folds. She had a crown of stars around her head, and her long, golden, wavy hair fell loosely around her shoulders. Such a heavenly light shone around her that Adele could hardly look back at her sweet face. Overcome by this heavenly light and the beauty of her amiable visitor, Adele fell on her knees.
" 'In God’s name, who are you and what do you want of me?’ asked Adele, as she had been directed.
“ ‘I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them’
“ 'Adele, who is it?'' said one of the women. 'O why can't we see her as you do?' said another weeping.
“ ‘Kneel,’ said Adele, ‘the Lady says she is the Queen of Heaven.’ Our Blessed Lady turned, looked kindly at them, and said, ‘Blessed are they that believe without seeing. What are you doing here in idleness…while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?’
“ ‘What more can I do, dear Lady?’ said Adele, weeping.
“ ‘Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation’
“ ‘But how shall I teach them who know so little myself?’ replied Adele.
“ ‘Teach them,’ replied her radiant visitor, ‘their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.’ "
The manifestation of Our Lady then lifted her hands, as though beseeching a blessing for those at her feet, and slowly vanished, leaving Adele overwhelmed and prostrate on the ground.
When the news spread about Adele Brise’s vision of the Blessed Virgin, most people believed the account and were astonished. Some considered the event a demented delusion. Adele Brise, however, considered it a commission to catechize the children and admonish the sinners of the Bay Settlement. To honor the alleged apparition, Adele’s father erected a makeshift chapel near the spot of Adele’s vision.
More HERE.

St. Maravillas of Jesus

Today is the memorial of Saint Maria Maravillas de Jesus, OCD. What fascinates me about this saint is that she led her nuns through the Second Vatican Council to a more profound living of the Carmelite charism without discarding tradition. She sought only the original inspiration of the foundress, the Holy Mother Saint Teresa, as was recommended by the council fathers.
It redounds to the good of the Church that institutes have their own particular characteristics and work. Therefore let their founders' spirit and special aims they set before them as well as their sound traditions-all of which make up the patrimony of each institute-be faithfully held in honor. (Perfectae Caritatis)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Laying the Stars at Our Feet

From an Advent homily by the Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa:
We now come to the Christian vision. Celsus is not mistaken in making it stem from the great affirmation of Genesis 2:26 about man created "in the image and likeness" of God.[14] The biblical vision has its most splendid expression in Psalm 8:

"When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and stars that you set in place,
What are humans that you are mindful of them,
Mere mortals that you care for them?

"Yet you have made them little less than a god,
Crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them rule over the work of your hands,
Put all things at their feet."

The creation of man in the image of God has implications on the concept of man that the present debate drives us to bring to light. All is based on the revelation of the Trinity brought by Christ. Man is created in the image of God, which means that he participates in the intimate essence of God which is a relationship of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is obvious that there is an ontological gap between God and the creature. However, through grace (never forget this specification!) this gap is filled, so much so that it is less profound than the one that exists between man and the rest of creation.

Only man, in fact, in as much as person capable of relations, participates in the personal and relational dimension of God, he is His image. Which means that he, in his essence, even though at a creaturely level, is that which, at the uncreated level, are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in their essence. The created person is "person" precisely because of this rational nucleus that renders it capable to receive the relationship that God wishes to establish with it and at the same time becomes generator of relations towards others and towards the world.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Eyes of Mary

Scientists study the eyes of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Via Spirit Daily)
In 1929, an image was discovered in the right eye of the image of the Virgin on Juan Diego's tilma. [In her left eye, but as we face her, it is the eye to our right]. Alfonso Marcue, official photographer of the old Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, discovered an image of a bearded man reflected within the eye of the Virgin. At first doubting his own senses, Alfonso Marcue subsequently made many black-and-white photographs of the image. He then went to the authorities of the basilica with his finding, but was told to remain silent about his discovery. Out of respect for the church officials, he did. On May 29, 1951, the image of the bearded man, reflected in both eyes was rediscovered by Jose Carlos Salinas Chavez.

On March 27, 1956, Dr. Javier Torroella Bueno, an ophthalmologist, certified the presence of the triple reflection (Samson-Purkinje effect) characteristic of all live human eyes and stated that the resulting images of the bearded man were located precisely where they should be according to such an effect, and that distortion of the images agreed with the normal curvature of the cornea.

In that same year, Dr. Rafael Torrija Lavoignet, using an ophthalmoscope, studied the apparent human figure in the corneas of both eyes, with the location and distortion of a normal human eye, and found that the Virgin's eyes appeared "strangely alive".

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

St. Ambrose Speaks about Our Lady

The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? What more chaste than she who bore a body without contact with another body? For why should I speak of her other virtues? She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind, who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue. When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbors? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy? Being wont only to go to such gatherings of men as mercy would not blush at, nor modesty pass by. There was nothing gloomy in her eyes, nothing forward in her words, nothing unseemly in her acts, there was not a silly movement, nor unrestrained step, nor was her voice petulant, that the very appearance of her outward being might be the image of her soul, the representation of what is approved. For a well-ordered house ought to be recognized on the very threshold, and should show at the very first entrance that no darkness is hidden within, as our soul hindered by no restraints of the body may shine abroad like a lamp placed within.
~St. Ambrose, Concerning Virgins

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mother Julian of Norwich

In the words of Our Holy Father Pope Benedict:
Inspired by divine love, Julian made a radical choice. Like one of the ancient hermits, she chose to live in a cell, which was near a church dedicated to St. Julian, in the city of Norwich, at the time a very important urban center, near London. Perhaps she took the name Julian precisely from that saint to whom the church was dedicated and next to which she lived for so many years, until her death. We might be surprised and even perplexed by this decision to live as a "recluse," as this was called in her time. However, she was not alone in making this choice: During those centuries a considerable number of women opted for this kind of life, adopting rules elaborated purposefully for them, such as that composed by St. Aelred of Rievaulx. The anchorites or "recluses" dedicated themselves within their cells to prayer, meditation and study. In this way, they developed a very fine human and religious sensitivity, which made them venerated by the people. Men and women of every age and condition, in need of advice and comfort, sought them devotedly. Hence, it was not an individualistic choice; precisely with this closeness to the Lord, what matured in her also was the capacity to be a counselor to many, to help those who lived in difficulty in this life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Bishop Speaks

On having an attitude of contrition as the Christ Child approaches. To quote Bishop Dr. Franz-Josef Bode:
A reading from the Book of Ezra (Ezra 9, 5-8 RSV-CE)
And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle rent, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, saying:
"O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt; and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hands of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as at this day. But now for a brief moment favour has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant, and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.
"Here we are, Lord, Holy Spirit. / Here we are, burdened with sin, / but gathered here solely in Your name. / Come in our midst, / be with us, / pour yourself in our hearts!" This is how the Church prays at the beginning of a council or gathering, according to a tradition that's over a thousand years old. Today, we can also pray in this way in these turbulent times, because we are entering after a devastating year a new liturgical year.
Ezra's words are even older, which we can, we even have to internalize the "I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads"
Yes, these strong words are fitting this evening. We cannot go on the road to Christmas without taking anything with us what we learned in the past months:
  • the suffering from victims from abuse and violence
  • the guilt of the perpetrators
  • the darkness and the shadowy side of a church in which an atmosphere could be found which enabled obfuscation of the crimes.
  • all painful experiences in which situations of trust have been abused by corporal and mental violence, the Gospel being twisted into the opposite.
    Those who learned about some acts by reading letters or reports, who has listened to victims struggling to find words for it or has seen the burden they are carrying for the rest of their lives, who has seen what happened without looking the other way, those cannot do anything else but present themselves in front of the Lord. What individuals acting in the name of the Church did to the young, very young people, has to be discussed in front of God. Only in front of his eyes, when He is looking at us, in His presence, can we find out what happened in our church.
    Therefore I ask the victims once again for forgiveness. And we want the counselling, we want to work it out, to offer real help and exhaust all options. But in the end the damage cannot be repaired fully. We have to give it up to God. These acts must not poison the climate in the church any more, where they could happen undiscovered.
    Ten years ago, at Palm Sunday, I performed, as a bishop, an act of penance in the Dom of Osnabrück following the gesture of Pope John Paul II. Back then I didn't realise how much it was needed. Tonight we must go a step further into the "Cleansing of Conscience", which the Pope talked about back then. We confess the same "structural sins" in the Church, which also enabled abuse here and which has made discovery very difficult and even prevented it.
    This is why I will stand at the bottom step of the sanctuary in a moment as a bishop, alone in my responsibility as a bishop, but with everybody's prayers in my back, like we always pray during the Confiteor: "I ask to you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God."
    I will pray the Prayer of Penance alone to the Triune God, which is something different and more at the same time as asking the victims or the public for forgiveness. It is holding up the dark shadows in the shadow of the Cross suspended over us, in which all our shadows are lifted up, because Christ has carried all sins and has suffered all the victims' sufferings.
    Only He can transform them in grace and healing, in future and hope for all. The wounds of mankind are in the end only healed by His wounds. "But now for a brief moment favour has been shown by the Lord our God," says Ezra. God can now transform the sorrow and devastation in strength. He who has the power to raise the dead; the power to change us by giving Himself in the signs of bread and wine. The reading for this first Sunday of Advent from the prophet Isaiah speaks of "beat their swords into ploughshares". 'Beating' our failures in new possibilities is something only God can do in the end.
    Only by such a transformation is our desire to only do good, living truthfully, being transparent and pure made possible. The "Cleansing Consciousness" means to forget nothing what happened, but to see it as a purifying, cleansing experience for the future. Everything we do at this moment are signs of change and renewal we want in our diocese: providing new ways of dealing with the crimes, more preventive measures, more tangible help for the victims and to have real dialogues inward and outward in a listening and humble Church.
    Dear sisters and brothers,
    Making our way into Advent, in a new liturgical year, is a good moment to be open to God about the past and accept the challenges of the present in order to shape the future with the power of the Holy Spirit. We experience how, especially now, Christ's redemption is not something that has happened to us in the past, but also is something happening in the future.
    Therefore we may stress it in our Advent songs this year, which contain the word "Come!" so often. In the same way in the longing prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Pentecost Sequence, which we sing in a moment.
    Let us keep the first stanza of the Advent hymn we sang at the beginning of this service in our hearts. In the middle of the atrocities of the Thirty Year War (1618-1648), Friedrich von Spee wrote:

    Where dost thou tarry, comforter of the whole world,
    On whom she places all her hope?
    O come, ah come from the most exalted hall,
    Come comfort us here in the valley of sorrow.
    O clear sun, thou beautiful star,
    We much desire to behold thee.
    O sun, rise, for without thy light
    We are all in darkness.

    Amen.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    The Future of Advent

    Scott Richert reflects.
    That is why my friend Fr. John P. Mack, Jr., has said, "If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, keep Advent in Advent." By keep here, he means the sense of honoring or observing something, as in "Remember, keep holy the Sabbath day." Keeping or observing Advent helps us keep Christ in Christmas because Advent is meant to be a time of waiting, watching, hoping, longing, expectation—for the coming of Christ in the flesh at the first Christmas; for the coming of Christ in our hearts at this Christmas; and, ultimately, for the glorious Second Coming of Christ at the end of time, of which the first coming at Christmas was but a foreshadowing.
    Unless we watch and hope and long for His coming, we cannot fully experience the joy that will accompany it.
    By depriving ourselves of this period of waiting and expectation, by laying aside our spiritual preparations for the coming of Christ in order to enjoy more quickly the pleasures of the Christmas season, we not only destroy Advent, but the future of Advent, in both senses. And so if, in the future, Advent disappears from our lives altogether, we should not be surprised to find that the true meaning of Christmas—the coming of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and His Second Coming at the end of time—is lost to us as well.

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    The Advent Wreath


    Tell us if you are he who is to reign over the people of Israel?
    ~from The Roman Breviary, Matins responsory, First Sunday of Advent
    Here is a link from Fish Eaters about making an Advent wreath, with accompanying meditations.

    Fr. William Saunders gives some background as well:
    The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.
    By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.

    The Miraculous Medal

    Today is the feast of the Miraculous Medal. The apparitions of Our Lady to Saint Catherine Labouré at the convent of the Daughters of Charity on the Rue de Bac in Paris are quite famous. Many people are unaware that the novice from Burgundy also experienced a vision of Christ the King, which foretold to her the July Revolution of 1830, and the final fall of the House of Bourbon. The July Revolution sent the Duchesse d'Angoulême and her family into permanent exile, as is told in the novel Madame Royale.

    Fr. Joseph Dirvin describes the vision of June 6, 1830 in detail in his biography of St. Catherine.

    On Trinity Sunday, June 6, 1830, Sister Laboure was given a special vision of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, or more specifically of Christ as King. This time she is precise as to the moment of the vision. Our Lord appeared to her, robed as a king, with a cross at His breast, during the Gospel of the Mass. Suddenly, all His kingly ornaments fell from Him to the ground—even the cross, which tumbled beneath His feet. Immediately her thoughts and her heart fell, too, and were plunged into that chasm of gloom that she had known before, gloom that portended a change in government. This time, however, she understood clearly that the change in government involved the person of the King, and that, just as Christ was divested of His royal trappings before her, so would Charles X be divested of his throne.
    It is a startling thing, this sacred vision of God Himself coming in majesty to foretell the fall of an earthly monarch, and the vision of Christ the King to Catherine Laboure seems to have had no other purpose than to foretell the fall of Charles X of France. The mystery of it will never be fully solved; yet here and there the mind may mull over certain clues.
    The greatest of these clues is the nature of the French monarchy itself, which, as Hilaire Belloc understood so well, was a holy thing, wedded to the people it ruled, and the prototype of all the monarchies of Europe. This ancient royalty had its roots in Rome and had received its Christian mandate in the crowning of Charlemagne by the Pope on Christmas Day, 800 A.D. It had lived for more than a thousand years in one line of men. No matter how great the goodness or wickedness of these royal men—and there was an ample supply of both—the sanctity of the monarchy itself and its mystical espousal to the French people is not to be questioned. In its institutions, its duties, its relationship to those it governed, its elaborate ritual, it was an imitation on a much lower plane of the Church of God. The French, kings and subjects alike, knew this well. Jeanne d'Arc was in an agony until the Dauphin should be crowned at Rheims and his body anointed and consecrated in the sacred rite which was so essential to this kingly religion; in a sense, it was her sole mission, and it is significant that her fortunes declined afterward. Louis XI had the Ampulla of holy oil brought from Rheims that his dying eyes might rest on it. Napoleon III sought to sanctify his usurpation by having himself anointed with the small, hard lump that was all that remained of the holy oil in 1853. The Kings of France, no matter how absolute their rule, had to be born and to die, had to eat and drink, take their recreation, and pray in the sight of the people. At the birth of her ill-fated Dauphin, Marie Antoinette almost died of suffocation, because of the press of the common people in her chamber, witnessing her lying-in; only the quick-witted action of a bystander, breaking a window to let in the fresh air, saved her.
    The double religious family to which Catherine belonged had had official relationships with the French monarchy. Louis XIII had died in the arms of Vincent de Paul. The Founder continued to serve his widow, Anne of Austria, during the early part of her Regency, both as her confessor and as an important member of the royal Council of Conscience, a body established for the reform of the Church. Under Louis XV and Louis XVI, the Vincentian Fathers had been royal chaplains at Versailles, and, after the restoration, had been privileged to form a guard of honor about the bier of Louis XVIII.
    That the vision of Christ the King had some intimate relationship with the end of the Bourbon dynasty seems evident, for Charles X was the last of the royal Bourbons; his cousin Louis Philippe, who succeeded him, belonged to a lateral line. Again we are confronted with the astonishing preoccupation of Heaven with the fortunes of France.
    Before leaving this vision, we must point out the noteworthy fact that Catherine Laboure was the first saint in modern times to be vouchsafed a vision of Christ as King. In the light of the great present-day devotion to the Kingship of Christ, we would seem justified in questioning whether the vision might not have a mystical meaning. In announcing the end of the oldest of monarchies, might not Christ have meant to point up the passing quality of all earthly authority, and to foretell present-day devotion to His Kingship as the index of the eternal quality of His own Reign?
    Certainly, however, Sister Laboure did not ponder thus in her heart. She knew only, as the common people know, that there was to be "a change in government," and that, as inevitably came to pass, "many miseries would follow." She knew only, as the common people know, that there had been too many changes of government in France over the last forty years, too many miseries following, and, with this instinctive knowledge of the people, she grew sad and feared.
    The statesmen and politicians of the land would have laughed at the long, prophetic thoughts of the little Sister, for national order seemed well established and peace reigned. Indeed, the government was enjoying the flush of esteem that had come with the brilliant victory of the French troops in Algiers, a victory which the nation had asked through the intercession of St. Vincent. In certain coffee houses and wine shops of Paris, however, there would have been no laughter. The brutal men assembled there would merely have smiled with grim satisfaction at this forecast of success for the revolution they were plotting.
    (~from St. Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal by Fr. Joseph Dirvin)

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Advent is Near

    Pope John Paul II once said: "Advent is a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come, and who continuously comes." We forget the Church still recommends violet vestments for Advent; it is a penitential season, in spite of the fact that most of us are going to one Christmas party after another. My husband and I usually have our Christmas party after Christmas, when the season for rejoicing is in full liturgical swing. In fact, for many years we have had an "Epiphany party" around January 6, since that magnificent feast is overlooked by the secular world. Not that the mood of Advent is equivalent to the somber tone of Lent; but it should be a time for reflection and on-going conversion rather than constant partying, as if Christmas began at the beginning of December rather than at the end of the month.

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    The Pilgrims

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    Laudem Gloriae discusses the origins of our American Thanksgiving.

    More HERE.
    The persistence of American Thanksgiving customs is impressive. While cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie may not have been on the menu at Plymouth in 1621, when venison and an unspecified "fowle"; graced the communal table, Americans have celebrated their unique holiday for giving thanks to God in ways that are highly recognizable from generation to generation, from century to century.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    St. Joseph in the Ground

    Arturo Vasquez discusses the custom of burying St. Joseph in the ground in order to sell a house, and other sundry practices. I have known nuns who placed St. Joseph on his face in times of urgent need; I have to admit that I have done the same thing. Although in my case, I could not stand to see St. Joseph prone for long, and let him back up long before the prayer was granted. I have also put a statue of Our Lady in the window when I needed good weather for something. I guess I basically have a peasant's faith. I do not see such folk customs as being superstitious as long as they are accompanied by genuine trust in Divine Providence and resignation to the holy will of God. Someone once told me that to Protestants, God is the wealthy neighbor down the street but to Catholics, God is a member of the family. This includes everyone among Jesus' immediate family and close friends. Not that the awe and reverence are lacking, as anyone knows who has ever knelt before a home altar, sharing the troubles of the moment with Our Lady or with a sympathetic-looking Infant of Prague. Our Infant of Prague has wiped away many tears and brought a surge of hope in moments of gloom. The Catholic religion is incarnational; when God became one of us He never left, as our belief in the Eucharist teaches us and the world; when He entered the material realm He transformed it forever.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    A Eucharistic Life

    Springtime in the midst of death. According to Our Holy Father Pope Benedict:
    Remembering St. Juliana of Cornillon we also renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As we are taught by the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity. In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man" (No. 282).

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    A Mystic of the Sacred Liturgy

    Saint Gertrude the Great. Pope Benedict says:
    Gertrude was an extraordinary student, she learned everything that can be learned of the sciences of the trivium and quadrivium, the education of that time; she was fascinated by knowledge and threw herself into profane studies with zeal and tenacity, achieving scholastic successes beyond every expectation. If we know nothing of her origins, she herself tells us about her youthful passions: literature, music and song and the art of miniature painting captivated her. She had a strong, determined, ready and impulsive temperament. She often says that she was negligent; she recognizes her shortcomings and humbly asks forgiveness for them. She also humbly asks for advice and prayers for her conversion. Some features of her temperament and faults were to accompany her to the end of her life, so as to amaze certain people who wondered why the Lord had favoured her with such a special love.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    St. Teresa Benedicta on Prayer

    Here is an extract from Before the Face of God:
    “Through him, with him, and in him in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever.” With these solemn words, the priest ends the Eucharistic prayer at the center of which is the mysterious event of the consecration. These words at the same time encapsulate the prayer of the church: honor and glory to the triune God through, with, and in Christ.
    Although the words are directed to the Father, all glorification of the Father is at the same time glorification of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the prayer extols the majesty that the Father imparts to the Son and that both impart to the Holy Spirit from eternity to eternity. All praise of God is through, with, and in Christ. Through him, because only through Christ does humanity have access to the Father and because his existence as God-man and his work of salvation are the fullest glorification of the Father; with him, because all authentic prayer is the fruit of union with Christ and at the same time buttresses this union, and because in honoring the Son one honors the Father and vice versa; in him, because the praying church is Christ himself, with every individual praying member as a part of his Mystical Body, and because the Father is in the Son and the Son the reflection of the Father, who makes his majesty visible. The dual meanings of through, with, and in clearly express the God-man’s mediation. The prayer of the church is the prayer of the ever-living Christ. Its prototype is Christ’s prayer during his human life.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    The Duty of the Carmelite

    Some words from Fr. Aloysius Deeney, General Delegate for the Secular Carmelites.
    ROME-ITALY (29-10-2010).- Service of others and concern for them were among the essential characteristics that St. Teresa wished to see in every Discalced Carmelite. For all close followers of the Saint, serving God, the Church and the community, becomes a vital necessity and an aspect of her life that must be imitated.

    In the paravosnaci web in preparation for the 5th centenary of Teresa’s birth, Fr. Aloysius Deeney, General Delegate for Secular Carmel, writes about the huge impact this Teresian insistence on service had on his personal vocation.

    He says that the contemplative dimension of our life was his initial attraction to Carmel. However, just as St. John of the Cross learned at his meeting with Teresa in Medina del Campo, Fr. Aloysius discovered when reading Teresa’s works that the challenge of “the contemplative life which Teresa describes proves itself in practical service”.

    Fr. Deeney continues: “Being Carmelite is not a privilege, but rather a responsibility. This responsibility is to serve the Lord and this is witnessed to practically by our attending to the needs of our sisters and brothers in the Church and in the world, in serving our families and our communities”.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    The Rosary and the Purification of the Soul

    Some thoughts from The Beautiful Gate. To quote:
    One of the first thing I started doing after my conversion was to pick up my beads daily and meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary. I had led a sinful life for years and was not really aware at the time just how deeply sin wounds us. I was susceptible to certain weaknesses and sins, especially in my thought life, and the Rosary became the weapon of choice for me. Actually, sin had dulled my soul to such a degree that the Lord had to "cheat" and poured extraordinary graces into it. He was "waking up" my soul and our Lady was helping.  It was necessary because one doesn't come back from sin on their own. It's pure grace. And sometimes this grace comes in ordinary ways, other times extraordinary. I am guessing that the Lord allowed me many glimpses into the work He was doing so that I wouldn't lose heart or despair over my sinfulness. God never stops knocking though we may stop answering the door at times.  A long time in my case. Thankfully, God is persistent.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Saint Francis and the Liturgy

    Embracing the Holy Father's vision.
    Like our own, the time in which Saint Francis lived was also marked by profound cultural transformations, fostered by the birth of the universities, by the rise of the townships and by the spread of new religious experiences.

    Precisely in that season, thanks to the work of Pope Innocent III - the same from whom the Poverello of Assisi obtained his first canonical recognition - the Church undertook a profound liturgical reform.
    Its highest expression is the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), which numbers among its fruits the "Breviary." This book of prayer incorporated the richness of the theological reflection and prayer experience of the previous millennium. By adopting it, Saint Francis and his friars made their own the liturgical prayer of the Supreme Pontiff: in this way, the saint assiduously listened to and meditated on the Word of God, to the point of making it his own and then transposing it into the prayers he authored, and into all of his writings in general.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    St. Josaphat, Martyr

    It is the feast of St. Josaphat the Martyr. There is a fascinating passage in Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol XV for his feast, dealing with the conversion of the Russian Empire. The Liturgical Year was written long before the apparitions at Fatima in 1917, and so the mention of the "conversion of Russia," that is, the return of Russia and the East to the union with the Holy See, is remarkable. (No offense to my many dear Orthodox friends, but I hope our churches are truly united someday.) Here is what Dom Gueranger said over a hundred and fifty years ago, in the days of the tsars:
    Russia becoming Catholic would mean an end to Islamism, and the definitive triumph of the cross on the Bosphorus, without any danger to Europe; the Christian empire in the East restored with a glory and a power hitherto unknown; Asia evangelized, not by a few poor isolated priests, but with the help of an authority greater than Charlemagne; and lastly, the Slavonic race brought into unity of faith and aspirations, for its own greater glory. This transformation will be the greatest event of the century that shall see its accomplishment; it will change the face of the world.
    One might say the old monk was dreaming, but I thought it interesting in light of what followed.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Little Catechism of Prayer

    Meditation and colloquy in the Carmelite tradition. To quote:
    There are some differences among Carmelite authors in the manner of presenting meditation, but all are in accord as to the essentials.  Some speak of it without distinguishing its various elements.  Others distinguish the loving colloquy  from the meditative reflection which leads to it, and call this colloquy contemplation.  Others subdivide meditation itself into the elements of representation and reflection.  Those who do not specifically treat of these various elements still make some allusion to them.  We may therefore assert that the majority of our Carmelite authors distinguish three elements in meditation:
    1. Representation- the work of the imagination.
    2. Reflection- the work of the intellect
    3.  Colloquy- the work of the will.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Meditation on Death, Part V

    David likened the happiness of this present life to a dream, when one awakens. "Yea even like as a dream, when one awaketh." (Ps. Ixxiii. 19.) A certain author observes, " In a dream the senses being at rest, great things appear, and are not, and quickly vanish away." The goods of this world appear great, but in truth they are nothing ; like sleep, they last but a short time, and then they all vanish away. This thought — namely, that all things end with death — made S. Francis Borgia give himself up entirely to God. This saint was obliged to accompany the body of the Empress Isabella to Granada. When the coffin was opened, all those present fled, because of the dreadful sight and smell; but S. Francis, led by Divine light, remained to contemplate, in that body, the vanity of the world; and looking upon it, he said, "Art thou then my empress ? Art thou that great one to whom so many great ones bowed the knee? O my mistress, Isabella, where is now thy majesty and thy beauty?" "Even thus," he concluded within himself, "do the grandeurs and the crowns of this world end. From this day forward I will therefore serve a Master Who can never die!" Therefore, from that time he gave himself entirely to the love ot Jesus crucified ; and then he formed this resolution, that if his wife should die he would become a religious, which resolution he afterwards fulfilled by entering the Society of Jesus.
    ~St. Alphonsus Liguori's Preparation for Death, pp. 12-13

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    Meditation on Death, Part IV

    Everything must have an end; and if, when the hour of death arrives, thy soul is lost, everything will be lost for thee. S. Lawrence Justinian says, "Consider thyself as dead already, since thou knowest thou must die. If now the hour of thy death were approaching, what is there of good, that thou wouldst not like to have done? Now, that thou art living, reflect, that one day thou must die. Bonaventure observes, that in order to guide the vessel aright, the pilot must place himself at the helm: even so must a man, if he wishes to lead a holy life, reflect that death is ever nigh. Therefore, S. Bernard observes, "Look upon the sins of youth, and blush; look on the sins of manhood, and weep ; look upon the present evil habits of thy life, and tremble, and hasten to make amends."

    When Camillus de Lellis beheld the graves of the dead, he said within himself, "If all these dead bodies could come back again to life, what would they not do to gain eternal life ? and I, who have now the opportunity—what am I doing for my soul ?" Yet it was humility on the part of this saint which caused him to say this. But perhaps, my brother, thou mightst with reason fear, lest thou shouldst be like that barren fig-tree, concerning which our blessed Lord said, "Behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none." (S. Luke xiii. 7.) Thou, who for many more years than three hast been living in this world, what fruit hast thou yielded? Take care, remarks S. Bernard, for the Lord does not require flowers only, but seeks for fruit also; that is to say, not only good desires and resolutions, but also good works. Therefore, take care to make good use of the time which God in His mercy grants to you ; do not wait until "time shall be no longer" to desire to do good—when it shall be said unto you : "Time shall be no longer, depart." Make haste, it is now almost time to leave the world; make haste, what is done, is done.
    ~St. Alphonsus Liguori, Preparation for Death, pp.5-6

    Friday, October 29, 2010

    Fallen Away


    There are many sufferings in life– I mean, many veins of suffering, along which pain wells from the human heart and back to it. But there is one agony distinct from all the rest, which, when felt, gives us a totally new idea of the suffering of the Heart of Christ, our Lord. It is the suffering, the peculiar agonizing void, the torture that makes moaning no relief, nor motion of the body any change, which we feel when we watch a soul we dearly love deliberately exchanging good for evil.

    ~ from Spiritual Excellence by Alban Goodier

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Loneliness of Soul

    There are three schools of suffering, each with its own special blessing to bestow: physical, mental, and the inner school which lies behind them both: loneliness of soul. Physical suffering makes for tenderness of heart and a patient judgment. Mental suffering gives a deepened sympathy, an active influence that, when "lifted up, draws all things to itself."
    But loneliness of soul does more than this; it gives independence and strength. Even in the natural plane, it secures liberty of spirit, it develops clearness of judgment, and it enforces power of will. But this is by no means all....Loneliness of soul gives wisdom– that breadth of vision that belongs to him who sees the entire valley from the hilltop. Loneliness of soul gives understanding– that further power of seeing beneath the surfaces of life. Loneliness of soul gives counsel to sustain another, and fortitude to endure its own burden. All the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit come through and are fostered by loneliness of soul.
    ~ from Spiritual Excellence by Alban Goodier

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    St. Philip Howard

    He is one of my favorites among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
    Thereon began his long term of imprisonment, never knowing from day to day which would be his last. Each day he spent several hours in prayer and meditation; he was noted for his patience in suffering and courtesy to unkind keepers. Weakened by malnutrition and not without a suspicion of having been poisoned, he died on 19th October, 1595. He was 39 years old and had spent the last eleven years of his life in the Tower of London.

    Written on the step before the Shrine is this inscription: "The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall obtain with Christ in the next." This is a translation of the original Latin cut by St. Philip over the fireplace in the Beauchamp Tower, which visitors to the Tower of London can still see:

    Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in hoc saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro. Arundell - June 22, 1587.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    False Gods

    Of the past and present. Scott Richert reflects on the pope's words, saying:
    "The blood of the martyrs": This is, to be honest, not something that we think about often today. But the Church was born in the blood of Christ, and took shape in the blood of the martyrs, and throughout Her history, She has been renewed by that blood. Thus the early Church fathers saw the blood of the martyrs as the lifeblood of the Church, and Pope Benedict does as well.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Advice from Father Pierre de Caussade

    One of my favorite spiritual writers, quoted here:
    When the reproaches of your conscience, however well merited they may be, throw you into a state of trouble and depression; when they discourage and upset you, it is certain that they come from the devil who only fishes in troubled waters, says St. Francis of Sales.

    The rebellion of the passions, and that excessive sensitiveness which causes one to be put out beyond measure on the slightest provocation ought not to disquiet, nor to discourage anyone suffering from them, nor to make him think that his desire of sanctification is not sincere. This mistake and the discouragement it occasions are more harmful than all the other temptations. To get rid of them, or to overcome them we must be well persuaded that these rebellions, and this extreme sensitiveness are sent to us by God to be the ground of our combats and victories; and that these little falls are permitted to help us to practise humility.

    Looked upon in this light our falls will be incomparably more useful to us than victories spoilt by vain self-complacency. This is a very certain and a very encouraging truth. We must be convinced, thoroughly convinced that our miseries are the cause of all the weakness we experience, and that God, in His mercy, allows them for our good. Without them we should never be cured of a secret presumption and a proud confidence in ourselves. Never should we be able to rightly understand that all that is bad is ours, and that all that is good is from God alone. To acquire a habit of thinking thus it is necessary to pass through a great number of personal experiences, and there is a greater necessity for this the more deeply rooted these vices are, and the greater the hold they have on the soul.

    You must never feel surprised at finding that a day of great recollection is followed by one full of dissipation; this is the usual condition in this present life. These changes are necessary, even in spiritual things, to keep us in humility, and a state of dependence on God. The saints themselves have passed through these alternations, and others still more troublesome. Only try not to give rise to them yourself; but should this, unfortunately, happen, then humble yourself peacefully and without vexation, which would be a worse evil than the original one; then endeavour to regain self-control, and to return to God; doing so quietly without over-eagerness, and by means of a total holy abandonment to God’s ways.

    Oh! if only this interior abjection were accepted, loved and valued, no one would consent to be without it, because it brings the soul nearer to God. This great God has, in fact, declared that He draws near to those who humble themselves and who love to be humiliated. If it is good for us to be humbled in the sight of others it is no less useful to be annihilated in our own eyes, in our pride and self-love which are put an end to in this way. It is thus, in fact, that they are gradually extinguished in us, and for this purpose does God permit so many different subjects for interior humiliation. It only remains to know how to profit by them, by following the advice of St. Francis of Sales, and practising acts of true humility, gently and peacefully; and this will drive out false humility which is always in a state of vexation and spite.

    Vexation and spite under humiliation are so many acts of pride, just as worry and irritation during suffering are so many acts of impatience. Let us not forget this, and let us take good care not to look upon the want of feeling we experience for the things of God as callousness; it is simply dryness, and a trial as inevitable and ordinary as distractions. If it is constant it is a still better sign, because it is in this way that God prepares the soul to proceed by pure faith, the most sure and meritorious way. - Jean Pierre de Caussade, Letter XVII

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Guarding the Heart

    Here is some indispensable advice on the spiritual life from Fr. Angelo.
    I have been reflecting lately on the notion of Dom Chautard concerning that aspect of the interior life that is Englished in his book “custody of the heart.” Perhaps a more militant way of translating this notion in modern English would be “guarding the heart.”

    ....In Dom Chautard’s teaching’s on custody of the heart he mentions spiritual disciplines like “purity of intention,” the “practice of the presence of God,”devotion to Our Lady,” continual formation in custody of the heart and vigilance at all times. St. Paul says: all prayer, all times, with all instance, for all the saints. The matter is preaching clear: before anything else, to stand fast means to guard our own heart. And for this we must not count the cost, but fight in a manly way for the kingdom of God....

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    A Message for Carmelites

    From our Father General:
    If we consider with enough honesty the reality of our religious life, if we are ready to admit its voids and incoherences, the loss of hope and love which often characterizes it, a return to St. Teresa and to her teaching becomes an insuppressible demand, because there lies our joy. How could we be happy if our vocation and mission, instead of being a vital force that moves us from within, were to become a heavy and unmotivated yoke to be borne with? Yet this happens sometimes and it is painful to notice that often we look elsewhere for that sense and joy of life which the Lord has placed in the treasure of our charismatic identity. An identity with which we are called everyday to be more unified, challenging the external, but specially the internal, voices that repeat to us that all that is scandal and foolishness.

    We know that the point of departure, I would say “enkindling spark”, of the Way of Perfection is exactly this one: a loving dialectics with the world, a desire of fighting for the human beside Jesus Christ against the enemies of humanity. The enemies are sometimes evident and macroscopic, but quite often they are invisible, microscopic, like worms and viruses that lay snare against one’s spiritual health. I like to read the Way of Perfection as a therapeutic book, written for healing the soul. The soul is born for living in its centre, which is Jesus Christ. All that hinders, weakens or obscures relation with Him (which is at the same time relation with oneself) is sickness and deviation, compromising its balance and growth. When Teresa speaks of prayer, she doesn’t speak of it as a simple act or a spiritual exercise. Prayer for her is the expression of a healthy soul, of a body that breathes freely and receives energy from its source of life. It is the normal expression of one who believes. A most committed spiritual life leads, as to its final aim, to recite the Our Father with full adhesion of mind and heart – her comment in the last sixteen chapters of her book bears witness to this.

    What is then the perfection which the way taught by Teresa tend to? It is the one that calls God “Father” not simply with lips, but with the abandonment of a little child that allows itself to be carried by his father’s arms. With a substantial difference though, namely: this father is not only mine – as childish jealousy would wish – but is “our”, and therefore his embrace doesn’t close me in an exclusive relationship with Him, but unites me at the same time with the community of brothers and sisters. Perfection therefore is to be so adult as to be able to pronounce as one’s own the words that Jesus pronounced talking of God: Our Father!

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Cloister of the Heart

    From Serge.

    To non-monks, a cloister may seem to be nothing more than a barrier: a wall or a fence that divides the abode of monks from the rest of the world. And certainly, the enclosure is defined by its boundaries. But a more intimate look at monasticism reveals that a cloister is more than its boundaries, just as a nation is more than its borders. The real beauty of the cloister is not is periphery, but its center. The cloister is the place where community happens. It is the anchor of stability, the crucible where penance and humility are forged, the home where lovers of Christ — and of the brothers and the place — reside, hopefully joyfully, usually imperfectly, always with the help of God’s grace.

    We must find a “cloister of the heart,” a place within ourselves where we can cultivate stability and silence and simplicity and all the other Cistercian charisms.

    This is it: this is the call... of all lay contemplatives. We are called, through silence, through our longing for deep prayer and for the slow transformation that repentance and humility can offer us, to enter into a cloister without walls: a cloister within, a cloister of the heart.

    This does not mean that we simply withdraw into some sort of navel-gazing introversion. Far from it. Like the cloister itself, the heart is a center, not a boundary. The heart’s lifelong job is to receive blood, and then send the blood out again. If the blood stops moving through the heart, the heart — and the body it serves — quickly dies. What makes the heart a heart is its very dynamism, the power of its continual pumping, the sheer rhythm by which is serves the fullness of life. For a person who has embraced the cloister of the heart as a lay contemplative, this means we continually draw within ourselves the refreshing silence and solitude of contemplative prayer, only to then give it away, bringing the gifts of a life immersed in the love of God to all those whom we love and whom we meet in the course of our busy lives.

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    "A Chapel on the Mountain"

    The canonization of Blessed André Bessette.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Fall of the Divinities

    From a recent discourse of Pope Benedict XVI:
    This process that is achieved along the path of faith of Israel, and which here is summarized in one vision, is the true process of the history of religion: the fall of the gods. And thus the transformation of the world, the knowledge of the true God, the loss of power by the forces that dominate the world, is a process of suffering. In the history of Israel we can see how this liberation from polytheism, this recognition - "Only He is God" - is achieved with great pain, beginning with the path of Abraham, the exile, the Maccabeans, up to Christ. And this process of loss of power continues throughout history, spoken of in Revelation chapter 12; it mentions the fall of the angels, which are not truly angels, they are not divinities on earth. And is achieved truly, right at the time of the rising Church, where we can see how the blood of the martyrs takes the power away from the divinities, starting with the divine emperor, from all these divinities. It is the blood of the martyrs, the suffering, the cry of the Mother Church that makes them fall and thus transforms the world.


    This fall is not only the knowledge that they are not God; it is the process of transformation of the world, which costs blood, costs the suffering of the witnesses of Christ. And, if we look closely, we can see that this process never ends. It is achieved in various periods of history in ever new ways; even today, at this moment, in which Christ, the only Son of God, must be born for the world with the fall of the gods, with pain, the martyrdom of witnesses. Let us remember all the great powers of today's history, let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man, which is no longer in man's possession, but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power, that threatens the world. And then the power of the terroristic ideologies. Violent acts are apparently made in the name of God, but this is not God: they are false divinities that must be unmasked; they are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a voracious beast, extends its claws to all parts of the world and destroys it: it is a divinity, but it is a false divinity that must fall. Or even the way of living proclaimed by public opinion: today we must do things like this, marriage no longer counts, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.
    These ideologies that dominate, that impose themselves forcefully, are divinities. And in the pain of the Saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church which we are a part of, these divinities must fall, what is said in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians must be done: the dominations, the powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord Jesus Christ. On this battle we find ourselves in, of this taking power away from God, of this fall of false gods, that fall because they are not deities, but powers that can destroy the world, chapter 12 of the Apocalypse mentions these, even if with a mysterious image, for which, I believe, there are many different and beautiful interpretations. It has been said that the dragon places a large river of water before the fleeing woman to overcome her. And it would seem inevitable that the woman will drown in this river. But the good earth absorbs this river and it cannot be harmful. I think that the river is easily interpreted: these are the currents that dominate all and wish to make faith in the Church disappear, the Church that does not have a place anymore in front of the force of these currents that impose themselves as the only rationality, as the only way to live. And the earth that absorbs these currents is the faith of the simple at heart, that does not allow itself to be overcome by these rivers and saves the Mother and saves the Son. This is why the Psalm says - the first psalm of the Hour - the faith of the simple at heart is the true wisdom (cf Psalm 118:130). This true wisdom of simple faith, that does not allow itself to be swamped by the waters, is the force of the Church. And we have returned to the Marian mystery.

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    God Knows Me

    And calls me by name....Some words from Blessed John Henry Newman:
    I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has;
    whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man,
    God knows me and calls me by my name.
    God has created me to do Him some definite service;
    He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.
    I have my mission--I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
    Somehow I am necessary for His purposes,
    as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his
    --if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work;
    I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
    He has not created me for naught.
    I shall do good, I shall do His work;
    I shall be an angel of peace,
    a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it,
    if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.
    Therefore I will trust Him.
    Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.
    If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
    in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
    if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
    My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end,
    which is quite beyond us.
    He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it;
    He knows what He is about.
    He may take away my friends,
    He may throw me among strangers,
    He may make me feel desolate,
    make my spirits sink, hide the future from me
    --still He knows what He is about.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Jesus: the Facts of the Matter

    "And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
    ~Luke 1"35

     Yesterday, I woke up thinking of how my youth is gone and how many of my dreams will never come true. I thought of what I did not have instead if what I do have, a dangerous thing to do at any time but almost fatal first thing in the morning. I felt sad, as if my heart was breaking. Then I thought of Jesus. He died young. He died a horrible death, a criminal's death. He was hated. He was poor. His life was hard. Yes, He was the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, a sublime reality which nobody appreciated or understood, except  for His Mother, who knew the Scriptures well. "With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength: in the brightness of the saints: from the womb before the day star I begot thee." (Psalm 109:3) All the majesty was hidden, though, to be manifested only on occasion. His Apostles, His friends and companions, thought only of earthly glory, of the restoration of the Israelite Kingdom. They soon found that the real Kingdom was hidden and that the path to it was through the harsh realities of exile and/or death. So when I want my kingdom to be here, when I become greedy for the happiness of this world, I have to remind myself of what it is really all about.

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    The Name of the Rosary

    While editing and rewriting sections of my novel about medieval France I have been researching the development of the rosary. I came across a fascinating blog called Paternosters which was a name given to prayer beads in the medieval period. Here is an article about the origins of the the word "rosary" which I found quite interesting. To quote:
    To get back to beads, however, traces of the earlier meaning of bid/bede as "a prayer" still remain. For instance, a wealthy patron in the Middle Ages may have supported poor bedesmen, who had promised to pray for the patron, and may have provided a bedehouse for bedesmen or bedeswomen to live in. Likewise, “bidding one’s bedes” in the Middle Ages does not so much mean praying with a literal string of beads, as it means praying for one’s bedes, that is, the people or requests one is obliged to pray for.
    The word “rosary” originally meant a garden devoted to the growing of roses (c1440, “This mone is eke rosaries to make, with setes [seats]”)....Probably both the rose-garden concept and the book title contributed to the idea of referring to a collection of written prayers and devotions as a (metaphorical) rosary, such as the 1526 Rosary of Our Savyour Jesu or the 1533 Mystik sweet Rosary of the faytheful soule.

    From here it was a short step to applying the term “rosary” to the specific prayer practice we have been discussing, including its string of beads.

    Other European languages also call the rosary by a name referring to roses. In German it is a rosenkranz, in French a rosaire, in Italian and Spanish a rosario, and in Hungarian it is a rózsafüzért (literally a “rose string”). However in Austria it is more commonly a betschnur (“prayer string”) and in France, often a chapelet.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    St. Faustina's Prayer to the Mother of Mercy

    Prayer of St. Faustina to Our Lady
    O Mary, my Mother and my Lady, I offer you my soul, my body, my life and my death and all that will come after it. I place everything in your hands, O my Mother, cover my soul with your virginal mantle and grant me the grace of purity of heart, soul and body. Defend me with your power against all enemies and especially against those who hide their malice behind the mask of virtue. Fortify my soul that pain may not break it. Mother of grace, teach me to live by God’s power. O Mary, a terrible sword has pierced your holy soul. Except for God, no one knows of your suffering. Your soul does not break, it is brave, because it is with Jesus. Sweet Mother, unite my soul to Jesus, because it is only then that I will be able to endure all trials and tribulations and only in union with Jesus will my little sacrifices be pleasing to God. Sweetest Mother, continue to teach me about the interior life. May the sword of suffering never break me. O pure Virgin, pour courage into my heart and guard it. Amen.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Saint Francis of Assisi

    It is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Here is an excerpt from one of his letters:
    It was through his archangel, Saint Gabriel, that the Father above made known to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary that the worthy, holy and glorious Word of the Father would come from heaven and take from her womb the real flesh of our human frailty. Though he was wealthy beyond reckoning, he still willingly chose to be poor with his blessed mother. And shortly before his passion he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Then he prayed to his Father saying: Father, if it be possible, let this cup be taken from me.

    Nevertheless, he reposed his will in the will of his Father. The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son, whom he gave to us and who was born for us, should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross. This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made, but for our sins. It was intended to leave us an example of how to follow in his footsteps.


    And he desires all of us to be saved through him, and to receive him with pure heart and chaste body.

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Wounded

    In the House of them that loved Me. Some insights from Fr.Mark:
    Several years ago, in the context of a course I was teaching, I suggested that the erosion of faith in the Most Holy Eucharist was, in fact, fostered by a number of liturgical and disciplinary changes:
    -- Minimalistic approach to the fast before Holy Communion.
    -- The offering of the Holy Sacrifice by the priest facing the congregation.
    -- The removal of the communion rail and obfuscation of the sanctuary as "the holy place."
    -- The relegation of the tabernacle to the side of the sanctuary.
    -- The reception of Holy Communion standing, and in the hand.
    -- The introduction of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.
    Taken together, these changes sent a chilling message to the Catholic faithful (and even to confused clergy): "Folks, the Blessed Sacrament just isn't all that we thought it was."

    The Protestantization of Catholic Worship

    Let it be noted, en passant, that while all of these changes are a cause of scandal to Eastern Orthodox Christians, not one of them would be considered offensive to mainstream Protestants. When one begins to worship like a Protestant, one begins to believe like a Protestant.

    Ignorance

    The cumulative effect of these changes, compounded by a woefully deficient sacramental catechesis and by certain lamentable theological, liturgical, and moral sensibilities in seminaries during the 60s, 70s, and 80s, is the current Eucharistic Crisis. Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) remains, in most dioceses, a document that is virtually unknown. Pope John Paul II's Year of the Eucharist seems to have faded into oblivion; his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003), and his Apostolic Letter, Mane nobiscum, Domine (2004) seem not to have been assimilated at the parish level. Pope Benedict XVI's Sacramentum Caritatis (2007) is, in many places, unknown.

    Adoration and Reparation

    Adoration in a spirit of reparation is more than ever necessary. Where are the adorers and reparators who will console the Heart of Jesus, wounded by the irreverence, coldness, indifference, and sacrilege that He receives "in the house of them that loved Him," and in the Sacrament of His Love?

    As for the much discussed "reform of the reform," might it not be a case of too little too late? Can anything apart from a Divine Intervention, a new sacerdotal Pentecost, obtained through the intercession of the Maternal Heart of Mary, bring about the change of heart that is needed?

    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    St. Jerome and the Vulgate

    His remarkable translation is without equal.To quote:
    ....When Damasus appointed Jerome to be his secretary in 382, he also entrusted to him the task of having a complete version of the Bible in Latin. What a task this was as evident in Jerome's reply.
    "You urge me to revise the old Latin version, and, as it were, to sit in judgment on the copies of the Scriptures which are now scattered throughout the whole world; and, inasmuch as they differ from one another, you would have me decide which of them agree with the Greek original. The labour is one of love, but at the same time both perilous and presumptuous; for in judging others I must be content to be judged by all; and how can I dare to change the language of the world in its hoary old age, and carry it back to the early days of its infancy? Is there a man, learned or unlearned, who will not, when he takes the volume into his hands, and perceives that what he reads does not suit his settled tastes, break out immediately into violent language, and call me a forger and a profane person for having the audacity to add anything to the ancient books, or to make any changes or corrections therein? Now there are two consoling reflections which enable me to bear the odium-in the first place, the command is given by you who are the supreme bishop; and secondly, even on the showing of those who revile us, readings at variance with the early copies cannot be right."
    ....Nor was Jerome content merely to gather up this or that teacher's words; he gathered from all quarters whatever might prove of use to him in this task. From the outset he had accumulated the best possible copies of the Bible and the best commentators on it, but now in Bethlehem he worked on copies from the Jewish synagogues and from the library formed at Caesarea by Origen and Eusebius. He hoped that by assiduously comparing texts he would ascertain at greater accuracy of text and its meaning. With this same intent he also scoured Palestine. He thoroughly believed as he once wrote to Domnio and Rogatian:
    "A man will understand the Bible better if he has seen Judaea with his own eyes and discovered its ancient cities and sites either under the old names or newer ones. In company with some learned Hebrews I went through the entire land the names of whose sites are on every Christian's lips."
    I am sure Paula assisted Jerome immensely in his work as the latter corrected some of the earlier Latin versions of Scripture; translated New Testament Greek into Latin and nearly all the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin. Although immersed in this work he gave time to those who visited him about the Bible and also corresponded with those wanting answers about the Bible. Meditating on Holy Scripture was indeed the love of Jerome's life and he poured over it day and night even in his old age. Indeed for Jerome and many after him, knowledge of Scripture was like the "pearl beyond price".
    Like all scholars of his time Jerome believed that Scripture was inspired by God, yet he never questioned that the individual authors/editors of the various Books worked in full freedom under the divine inspiration, according to his own individual nature and character. Jerome was able to convey something of this individuality in the Vulgate. 
    Apart from trying to provide a more accurate account of Scripture, there was another purpose in Jerome's mind for his work. This was to enhance the preaching of priests. To him it was imperative that they could quote from the Bible. "Let a priest's speech be seasoned with the Bible," for "the Scriptures are a trumpet that stirs us with a mighty voice and penetrates to the soul of them that believe," and "nothing so strikes home as an example taken from the Bible," insisted Jerome. This Latin doctor had eight-eight formulation of sound principles regarding reading and studying the bible, which he believed provided a safe path for all to follow in getting from the Sacred Books their full meaning.
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