Knighthood is not something won on the battlefield and awarded the accolade of the broadsword’s dubbing the armored shoulder. It is not a matter of gold spurs and splendid trapping.
A knight may wear coveralls and ride an ancient coupe. Knighthood may be as modern as the evening’s newspaper, as prosaic as a paycheck handed to a wife by her husband, as far from battle as the teller’s window in an uptown bank, as unknown to history or poetry as a single rose placed at the bedside of a new mother.
Every Knight, whatever his age occupation, or costume, has certain easily distinguishable characteristics:
A knight is dedicated to the slaying of the dragon of evil.
A knight is an individualist fighting, not in the serried ranks of a disciplined army, but alone.
A knight hates injustice and battles the unjust, loves innocence and protects human needs.
A knight may be harsh with the strong; he is gentle with the weak.
A knight knows that he is on a level with those who are better armed and with those who need the arms he carries.
A knight’s honor is high; he would rather lose a battle than win it by trickery, dishonesty or lies.
Above all a knight respects and honors women for their virginity, their motherhood, their meaning to the human race, their purpose for life today and in the future.
A knight has high courage that never admits that a cause is lost.
A knight’s ideal is to do all thing well.
Christ the Supreme Knight
Never in His life did Jesus wear armor.
Never did He wield a sword. He did not break the bruised reed or extinguish the smoking flax.
He spoke the endless call to peace—through he knew that in the end He would bring for His followers, not peace, but the sword.
Yet His whole life conformed to our standards of truest knighthood.
Alone and far in advance of all others, Jesus is the true knight without fear or reproach, His own knightly practice was the standard for His followers. He challenged them to be perfect as His heavenly Father was perfect, to match His simple formula, which He lived out—to do the things that pleased His Father.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
All communications with the monastery had been cut off following the horrific earthquake of 12 January. Added to the uncertainty caused by this breakdown of communications with the nuns themselves, were conflicting reports from different sources regarding the fate of the monastery.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
The Lord addresses his invitation to the thirsty and the poor. The great accomplishment of Thomas Aquinas was that he saw himself as one thirsty and poor. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt 5:3.6). Every official edition of the Roman Missal contains the prayers of Saint Thomas Aquinas to be recited by the priest before and after Mass. These prayers are, I think, a distillation of all that the Angelic Doctor lived and taught. One has only to pray Saint Thomas’ Prayer Before Mass to understand how he saw himself:
I come sick to the physician of life; unclean, to the fountain of mercy; blind, to the light of eternal brightness; poor and needy, to the Lord of heaven and earth. Therefore I ask for the fullness of your infinite bounty, that you would graciously heal my sickness, wash away my uncleanness, enlighten my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness; so that I may receive the Bread of Angels, the King of kings and Lord of lords, with such reverence and humility, such sorrow and love, such purity and faith, such purpose and intent as shall further my soul’s salvation.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I've been reading a lovely and old-fashioned book called Saints are not Sad which is a compilation of the lives of forty saints. I'm becoming acquainted with some familiar saints from a new perspective as well as some saints of whom I have never heard of before. One such saint, St. Bede, has a wonderful quote. He says, "The perfection of the Christian life lay not in renunciation but in acceptance."
I have spent so much time these past few years trying to surrender myself to God's will. I prayed day after day with the word "surrender" in my heart. Mostly, I have met with failure. The things I try to give up, to do without and to surrender remain deeply embedded within my heart and soul. My long-ingrained habits are so hard to renounce! Again and again, I meet with the disappointment of failure in my efforts to surrender to God.
Now failure isn't always such a bad thing. I've heard that Abraham Lincoln failed at many things before finally meeting with the success of the presidency. St. Francis Xavier was also one who failed many times. In fact, Alban Goodier, SJ has this to say about St. Francis Xavier in Saints are not Sad: "There is a greater greatness than the greatness of success;and that is the greatness of failure. For that is the greatness of being, without the encouragement of doing;the greatness of sacrifice, of which others less great may reap the fruits."
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Apart from the Holy Oils (Sacred Chrism, Oil of the Sick, and Oil of Catechumens) sanctified by the Bishop at the Mass of Chrism in Holy Week, the Church, in the Roman Ritual, provides for the blessing of ordinary olive oil as a sacramental. This oil may be burned before the Blessed Sacrament or before sacred images and then used by the faithful in the same way as they would use any other blessed sacramental. Such devotional anointings accompanied by prayer are not to be confused with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, any more than one would confuse the use of Holy Water with the water of Baptism.
Devout Use of Blessed Oil
The Holy Man of Tours, Monsieur Dupont, used to anoint visitors to the oratory in his home with oil taken from the lamp that burned perpetually before his image of the Holy Face. Blessed -- and soon to be Saint -- Brother André Bessette of Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montréal used to recommend the devout use of oil taken from the lamp that burned before his statue of Saint Joseph. In Rome, to this day, one can obtain oil blessed in honour of the Santo Bambino Gesù at the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli.
The rite for blessing of oil (found in Father Weller's incomparable edition of the Roman Ritual) describes the benefits sought by the faithful in making use of this ancient sacramental of the Church.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Agreement and union of minds is the necessary foundation of this perfect concord amongst men, from which concurrence of wills and similarity of action are the natural results. Wherefore, in His divine wisdom, He ordained in His Church Unity of Faith; a virtue which is the first of those bonds which unite man to God, and whence we receive the name of the faithful – “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. iv., 5).
That is, as there is one Lord and one baptism, so should all Christians, without exception, have but one faith. And so the Apostle St. Paul not merely begs, but entreats and implores Christians to be all of the same mind, and to avoid difference of opinions: “I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms amongst you, and that you be perfect in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10).
Friday, January 22, 2010
Little headaches, little heartaches
Little griefs of every day
Little trials and vexations.
How they throng upon our way.
Yet all life is formed of small things.
Little leaves make up the trees.
Many tiny drops of water blending
Make the mighty seas.
Asking him for grace sufficient
To sustain us through each loss
And to treasure each small suffering
As a splinter from His cross.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
It’s an unfortunate fact that each generation must uncover for itself: Love is a battlefield. Except for those who marry their first love, and early in life, most of us carry on our hearts the scars of broken, often ill-advised, romantic entanglements. Each friendship leaves its mark; those characterized by authentic Christian charity and fidelity touch our souls lightly and for the better. Those that are not, do not. Either way, when the friendship ends, some pain is inevitable.The Night's Dark Shade is available HERE.
Frankly, by the time I met my husband at the age of 34, my heart had so many battle scars, it was a wonder that I had anything left to offer him. Each of us had memories and habits to overcome. And by the grace of God, through the sacrament of matrimony, we built a life together, choosing each day to trust in the fidelity we had promised to one another. A decade has passed, and we are still learning what it means to give of ourselves completely in authentic, life-long love. Some days I wonder if I will ever catch up to my husband, who exhibits heroic virtue in the areas I am weakest, such as patience and compassion and gentleness and self-control. It really can be trying … then again, I’m sure I’m no picnic.
Because of our respective pasts, some scars run so deep that there is really no getting rid of them entirely, though marriage has in a very real way been a sacrament of healing as well as vocation. Every once in a while a twinge resurfaces. Which raises an important question: When such memories resurface, what is a faithful soul to do? What does fidelity demand?Have you ever wondered this? If so, pick up a copy of Elena Maria Vidal’s The Night’s Dark Shade. (Read entire review.)
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
The wedding at Cana shows us God’s love is the real wine that lasts! It has the power to transform not only water into wine, but a cold heart into a warm one. The wine of God’s love is inexhaustible, freely given and poured out for us in the blood of Christ. Most importantly, we can trust in God’s love because it's never ending.
The wedding at Cana is an important story because it helps us to understand where our ultimate trust needs to be. Mary, realizing she is getting know where by her own efforts falls back on her faith and trust by saying to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” She has to let go of control and places all her trust in the Lord. She knows that such a trust will never end in disappoint. Not doing what we know Christ calls us to do does lead to disappointment and often inner impoverishment.
As we watch events unfold in Haiti, we see the need for so much help and assistance. The circumstances may not be as trivial as having a wine shortage, but a miracle is needed never-the-less. We may wonder what we can do when what to do is not clear. Being open to the gospel challenges to do what ever He tells us might be a good starting point.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Hundreds of years ago, monastic communities thrived on one hearty, main meal a day centered on high protein rustic bread. Vegetables, legumes, and fruits and smaller portions of dairy and eggs rounded out the main meal. Perhaps a little animal protein was cooked with other ingredients to stretch farther. Renowned for their soups, frugal monastic cooks made stock from boiled beef or chicken bones and scrap cuts; vegetables, legumes, and herbs grown in the kitchen garden completed a hearty stew. And of course, steaming bowls of goodness were served with generous slices of bread.
On feast days, generous portions of meat, chicken or fish were added to the menu. Maybe a festive dessert. Naturally, monasteries produced as much of their own food as possible, eating locally and seasonally as most experts recommend today. In a monastery, fresh meant going out into the garden, the barn or chicken coup, not to mention the orchard. Or an abundance of something produced within the monastery was traded for someone else’s surplus.
How does this diet differ from the Mediterranean Diet? It doesn’t because it includes a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, diary, eggs, olive oil and fish with low consumption of meat, chicken, and other meat products. But the Cistercian Diet emphasis is on whole grains ground and baked at home which saves a lot of money and dramatically boosts nutrition. The Cistercian Diet also encourages as much food production at home as possible (vegetable gardens are stylish now as well!), something that was part of the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle. Additionally, there is a change of perspective, from passive, individualistic restaurant-menu driven consumption to a communal effort to grow and produce for the common good. And it never hurts to add some prayer to the mix.
Not surprisingly, Spanish researchers just released the results of their study of 11,000 people, and found that those who followed the Mediterranean Diet had a 30% reduction in the risk of depression than those whose diet had few of the crucial Mediterranean foodstuffs.
The Cistercian diet dovetails perfectly with the latest science-based diet weapon: high satiety foods that make you feel full longer, ignoring calories and focusing on the energy density and volumetrics of certain foods. Whole grains, soups, fruit and vegetables, all have a high satiety index.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
"Remember that God, to punish those who have practised [this] indiscreet zeal, and to correct them, has often allowed them to fall into much graver faults than those which has scandalised them in others.
[Therefore] I command you never to speak of God, or of anything good, unless in a spirit of humility and meekness, in an amiable and gracious manner, with moderation and encouragement, and never with bitterness and severity, or in a way to wound and repel those who hear you, because, although you may only say what is in the Gospel and in the best books, I believe that in your present state of mind you might say it very badly and in such a way as only to do harm. Did not Satan make use of the words of Holy Scripture to tempt our Lord?
Truth is the proper relation of things. It is changed when pushed to extremes, or wrongly applied. Your peevish temper is like a smoked glass, which, if you do not take care will prevent you seeing things in their true light, or showing them to others. Keep always on your guard against this fatal influence, and feed your mind on thoughts and feelings that are contrary to those inspired by temper. Entertain yourself and others with conversations on the infinite goodness of God, and on the confidence we ought to have in Him.
Compel yourself to offer an example in your whole conduct, of a virtue that has no bounds, and which imposes no restraint on others. If you have nothing kind to say keep silent, and leave the care of deciding to others. They can avoid better than you too much laxness, and will be exact without being severe. If exactitude be praiseworthy, severity is blamable, it does nothing but revolt people instead of convincing them, and embitter their souls instead of gaining them. As much as true meekness, with the help of God, has power to repel evil and to win to good, so much has an excessive harshness power to make goodness difficult and evil incurable. The first is edifying, the latter, destructive." - Letter XI, Intemperate Zeal, De Cassaude, Letters
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
The various Irish Societies of Philadelphia have made formal pilgrimages to the tomb of this humble man of God who, as bishop, did so much for their immigrant forebears in the 1850's -- this "foreigner" who went to the trouble of studying enough Irish to be able to hear the confessions of those who "had no English," up in the coal regions of nineteenth century Pennsylvania.
Those of Italian extraction remember Bishop Neumann as the founder of the first national parish for Italians in the United States. At a time when there was no priest to speak their language, no one to care for them, Bishop Neumann, who had studied Italian as a seminarian in Bohemia, gathered them together in his private chapel and preached to them in their mother tongue....
Bishop Neumann lays several claims to fame in Philadelphia and the United States. Ever a humble and self-effacing person, he would be the last one to mention it himself, but the records stand. It was he who organized the first diocesan schedule of the Forty Hours' Devotion in America. The credit is likewise his of establishing the first system of parochial schools in various parts of the country when Neumann came to Philadelphia -- but the first unified system of Catholic schools under a diocesan board. This he did in may of 1852, a fortnight before the Plenary Council at Baltimore which seconded his proposals.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Her conversion did not happen overnight of course, it was indeed a process. There was no "born again" mentality existent in those days. People today imagine they are propelled into the state of perfection simply by a return to the Church or the sacraments, yet one's conversion is ordinarily a long, at times arduous process. Angela speaks of a penance as "long and as hard as life itself". One overcomes a fault or sin, only to discover another more spiritual sin, hence the need for ongoing purgation and purification, willingly or unwillingly undergone - in this life or in the next. Angela did it in this life. If you can, try to read her writings - not so much of what people write about her - go to the source.
One winter I made a retreat about ten miles from the tomb of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born citizen to be canonized. Today is her feast-day. She was a beautiful, cultured, educated lady who suffered the loss of husband, two children, and social standing. Shunned by most of her family after she converted to Catholicism, Saint Elizabeth started a community of teaching nuns in what was called Saint Joseph's valley at the foot of Saint Mary's mountain near Emmitsburg, Maryland.
I often came to Emmitsburg during my childhood and young adulthood, visiting the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is the spot where my husband and I became engaged on Easter Sunday in 1996. We also visited it after our wedding in November of the same year, leaving the bridal bouquet at Our Lady's feet.
At the grotto is the rock where Mother Seton would come every Sunday and teach the children, those of the neighborhood and her own, the catechism, explaining the truths of the faith with clarity and love. Mother and her nuns would walk up from the valley, rain or shine, to spend Sunday on the mountain. It was in the first decades of the nineteenth century, before the Lourdes apparitions in France, but the grotto was seen as a venerable and holy place by Mother and the French priests who assisted her. Walking there in the twenty-first century one is still overwhelmed by the sense of being on holy ground.