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
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