Sunday, February 17, 2019

Septuagesima Sunday

"Upon the waters of Babylon, there we sat and wept, as we remembered Zion." ~Psalm 136 (Vulgate)
It is Septuagesima Sunday, according to the traditional calendar. The season of Septuagesima is a time to start thinking about Lent; the "seventy" days until Easter are symbolic, among other things, of the seventy years of the Israelites' Babylonian captivity. We have all made mistakes; it is not too late to make amends while there is still time. We are being given a second chance. Redemption is at hand.

According to Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year, Vol. IV: "We are sojourners upon this earth: we are exiles and captives in Babylon, that city which plots our ruin. If we love our country, we long to return to it...."

Fr. Mark Kirby expresses it thus:
The seventy-day period that begins with Septuagesima recalls the seventy-year exile of the children of Israel in Babylon. Seventy is the perfect number, signifying that God has fixed for us a delay of mercy to pass from the anguish of sinful Babylon to the beatitude of Jerusalem. “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Ps 136:4). We do well to recall Pope John Paul II’s assertion that, “the power that imposes a limit on evil is Divine Mercy.” The seventy days before Pascha signify this, and so become a season of hope for all who sit and weep by the waters of Babylon (cf. Ps 136:1).
At the same time, the history of the world is divided into seven ages. The first is from the creation of the world to the flood; the second, from the renewal after the flood to the call of Abraham; the third from the covenant with Abraham to the call of Moses; the fourth from Moses to King David; the fifth from the reign of David to the Babylonian exile; and the sixth from return from captivity to the birth of Christ. With the birth of Our Lord comes the seventh age: the appearance of the Sun of Justice who rises over the world “with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2). This seventh age of “these last days” (Heb 1:2) stretches until Christ’s second coming as Judge of the living and the dead. The seven weeks before Pascha are a review of salvation history.
In the traditional Roman Rite Septuagesima Sunday is marked by putting away the Alleluia; the Gloria is omitted and, already, violet vestments are used in preparation for Lent. Sound psychology and practical pastoral wisdom indicate the need for a kind of countdown before Ash Wednesday. Otherwise Lent arrives all of a sudden, finding us flustered and frightfully ill prepared. (Read more.)
We are far away but drawing ever nearer; let us encourage our fellow travelers, and keep on going. In a little while it will be eternity.

Fr. Mark offers some suggested readings for lectio divina during Septuagesima week.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Saint Valentine


According to the legend:
The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in a The Nuremberg Chronicle, a great illustrated book printed in 1493. [Additional evidence that Valentine was a real person: archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine.] Alongside a woodcut portrait of him, text states that Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth [Claudius II]. Since he was caught marrying Christian couples and aiding any Christians who were being persecuted under Emperor Claudius in Rome [when helping them was considered a crime], Valentinus was arrested and imprisoned. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner -- until Valentinus made a strategic error: he tried to convert the Emperor -- whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn't do it, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate [circa 269].

Saints are not supposed to rest in peace; they're expected to keep busy: to perform miracles, to intercede. Being in jail or dead is no excuse for non-performance of the supernatural. One legend says, while awaiting his execution, Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer's blind daughter. Another legend says, on the eve of his death, he penned a farewell note to the jailer's daughter, signing it, "From your Valentine."

St. Valentine was a Priest, martyred in 269 at Rome and was buried on the Flaminian Way. He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses. (Read more.)

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Spring of Lourdes

The stream of the river maketh the city of God joyful: the most High hath sanctified his own tabernacle. (Psalm 45:5)
On February 25, 1858 St. Bernadette was instructed by "the Lady" to dig in the dirt near the grotto of Massabielle, the town dump, and "drink from the spring." Bernadette humbly complied, in spite of the mockery of the crowd; a spring did bubble up on the spot where she dug, and it flows to this day. What is more, there have been many miraculous cures connected with bathing in or drinking from the water of the spring, some of which have been formally recorded. Although it is not an intrinsic part of the pilgrimage, thousands of people still line up every year in order to be plunged into the icy waters of Lourdes. The spring has been channeled into several large baths in which people can immerse themselves. Most of the healings do not occur at the baths themselves but during the Eucharistic procession which takes place every afternoon. Those seeking healing of any kind, be it spiritual, emotional or physical, are encouraged to make going to confession and receiving holy communion a part of their pilgrimage. Bathing in the spring is ultimately to be seen as a symbol of the renewal of one's baptismal commitment to Christ.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Saint Josephine Bakhita

Today is the memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947). She was kidnapped as a child from her home in Sudan by slave-traders and sold to various families. She suffered unspeakable abuse and torture. Finally, a Catholic family "bought" her and she was able to make it to Italy where she became a Christian and a nun. She was remarkable for many things, especially for her spirit of forgiveness and lack of bitterness. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II.

Father Mark has a beautiful meditation with rare photos of this saint to offer us today.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Lourdes Novena

It begins today.
O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Comfort to the Afflicted, you know my wants, my troubles, my sufferings. Deign to cast upon me a look of mercy. By appearing in the Grotto of Lourdes, you were pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary, whence you dispense your favors; and already many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore, with the most unbounded confidence to implore your maternal intercession. Obtain, O loving Mother, the granting of my requests. Through gratitude for favors, I will endeavor to imitate your virtues that I may one day share your glory. (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.)
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!
Saint Bernadette, pray for us!
 Petitions can be sent directly to Lourdes.

Candlemas Day


Adorn thy bridal chamber, O Sion, and receive Christ the King. Salute Mary, the gate of Heaven; for she beareth the King of Glory, Who is the new Light....

Antiphon for feast of the Presentation of the Lord

On the fortieth day after Christmas we celebrate the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, where He is offered by His Mother and St Joseph to the Eternal Father for the sins of the world. Many prophecies were fulfilled that day, unknown at the time except to Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, all persons of prayer and of special consecration to God. In a time of great darkness there was suddenly and quite publicly a great light, to be received only by those whose hearts were open. A small Child is the ultimate sacrifice for the redemption of humanity, but He is not alone; He is with His family. The Holy Family stand between us and utter chaos and despair. Like the Child Jesus, we do not make our offering alone, we make it with Mary and Joseph, we make it in the context of our own families.
Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; and thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. --St. Luke 2:34-35
 The "Purification of Our Lady" as the feast is traditionally called, is a feast of the Virgin as well as the Virgin's Son. We marvel at the humility of Immaculate Mary who submits to the ritual of purification for all Jewish mothers, although she herself had no need to be purified. It is also known as Candlemas Day because since early times, candles have been blessed and carried in procession in honor of Christ, the Light of the World.

At Christmas, we adored Him with the shepherds at dawn; at Epiphany, we rejoiced in the brightness of His manifestations to the nations; at Candlemas, with the aged Simeon, we take Him into our arms. With the prophetic words of Simeon, the day also becomes a preparation for Lent and the Passion of Our Lord. We must offer ourselves with Jesus to the Father; we must embrace our own purification.
 

This feast day links Christmas with Lent, the joyful mysteries with the sorrowful mysteries. Mary's Heart is pierced as Simeon's prophecy is uttered, for a mother suffers for her child, especially when that Child is God. Fr Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. wrote so magnificently of this feast in his book Divine Intimacy:
O Jesus, through the hands of Mary, I wish to offer myself today with You to the eternal Father. But You are a pure, holy, and Immaculate Host, while I am defiled with misery, and sin....O Virgin Most pure, lead me along the way of a serious and thorough purification; accompany me yourself, so that my weakness will not make me faint because of the roughness of the road.

Friday, February 1, 2019

St. Brigid of Kildare

It is the feast of the great Irish abbess, St. Brigid of Kildare. During the fall of Rome and before the rise of Islam, as Europe descended into chaos, Brigid built a center of learning, contemplation, art, and scholarship that would last a thousand years. To quote:
Born in 451 or 452 of princely ancestors at Faughart, near Dundalk, County Louth; d. 1 February, 525, at Kildare. Refusing many good offers of marriage, she became a nun and received the veil from St. Macaille. With seven other virgins she settled for a time at the foot of Croghan Hill, but removed thence to Druin Criadh, in the plains of Magh Life, where under a large oak tree she erected her subsequently famous Convent of Cill-Dara, that is, "the church of the oak" (now Kildare), in the present county of that name. It is exceedingly difficult to reconcile the statements of St. Brigid's biographers, but the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Lives of the saint are at one in assigning her a slave mother in the court of her father Dubhthach, and Irish chieftain of Leinster. Probably the most ancient life of St. Brigid is that by St. Broccan Cloen, who is said to have died 17 September, 650. It is metrical, as may be seen from the following specimen:
Ni bu Sanct Brigid suanach
Ni bu huarach im sheire Dé,
Sech ni chiuir ni cossens
Ind nóeb dibad bethath che. (Saint Brigid was not given to sleep,
Nor was she intermittent about God's love;
Not merely that she did not buy, she did not seek for
The wealth of this world below, the holy one.)
More on the abbey she founded here and here.

St. Brigid is the patroness of two characters in my novel The Paradise Tree.
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