Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Five Paths of Repentance

My take on Saint John Chrysostom's homily on his Five Paths of Repentance.

All these paths lead to heaven:

(1)  Know that you have sinned.  If you aren't going to Confession because you can't think of any sins you have committed--that's your first sin!  You have dulled your conscience!  You are living in a world of excuses.  Find an adult examination of conscience for your state in life, and go through it slowly.  Here's a pretty thorough examen, http://www.fatima.org/essentials/requests/examconc.asp

(2) Forgive.  Forgive yourself for whatever you keep berating yourself for.  Forgive your parents for their sins.  Forgive your friends for their slights.  Forgive your neighbors because they're clueless.  Forgive your enemies - they're ignorant.  Yes, forgive everyone; you want them to forgive you, don't you?  The world will look better if you do this.

(3)  Pray.  Get in the habit of conversing with God, all day.  Greet Him in the morning.  Thank Him at meal times--snacks, too.  Pray for people you encounter.  Pray in difficult situations.  Praise Him for the beauty you see.  End your day with an examination of conscience and thank Him, praise Him, and love Him.

(4)  Be generous.  Buy girl scout cookies, the Knights of Columbus raffles, the Right to Life roses, etc..  Take home your parish's Vocation Cross and pray.  Give of your own time, besides money.  Giving, adds to your own spiritual bank account.

(5)  Be humble.  There's always someone smarter than you, prettier, richer, luckier, funnier, etc..  Everything you have is only temporary.  The bigger you are, the harder you will fall.  God knows who you really are, who are you trying to impress?

"When you are spiritually strong, then you may approach the divine table with confidence.  Glorify Christ, the king of glory, and attain the eternal blessings through the grace, mercy and kindness of Jesus Christ, our Lord."  (Hom. De diabolo tentatore 2, 6: PG 49, 263-264)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Groceries Provided by Satan

Another Fr. Chris homily opener:  an elderly lady came out of her house onto her porch every day, twice a day, morning and evening, and praised the Lord.  "The Lord is good.  All the time.  Alleluia!"

This happened every day.  Even when an atheist moved in next door, the lady continued praising God.  "The Lord is good.  All the time.  Alleluia!"  The atheist complained saying he didn't want to hear it; he was an atheist.  The lady just continued.

One day the lady's social security check didn't come.  She ran out of food.  "Aha" thought the atheist, "Here's my chance to prove to her that there's no God."  So he ran out and bought her a generous supply of groceries.  The atheist put them on the elderly lady's porch and then he hid in the bushes.

The lady came out to praise God.  "The Lord is good.  All the time.  Look at all this food He has provided.  Thank you Lord.  Alleluia!"

The atheist jumped out of the bushes, "No I bought the food.  There is no God."

The lady didn't even blink.  She continued praising and thanking God.  "The Lord is good.  All the time.  He even makes Satan buy food for me.  Alleluia!"

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Snippets - A Catholic Carnival

Martha (Thank You, Jesus)  

Have I ever introduced myself?  Well, I will now.  I'm a grandmother of two, the mother of three adult children, and the wife of a long suffering husband, whom I think of as my "Martha."  By "Martha," I am referring to the parable of Martha and Mary.  (Luke 10:41-42)  Martha does all the work, which makes it easier for Mary to spend her time with Jesus.  Hubby used to cook supper while I taught religious education.  He baby sat while I went to Lay Dominican Chapter meetings.  All in all he puts up with a lot, and I thank God for him, every day.  As to why I blog, well since I belong to a family of preachers (Dominicans), blogging is how I preach.  My aim is to show how a simple grandmother gives witness.  Hopefully, others will be brought a little closer to God.

So what prompted this disclosure?  R'Ann from This And That And The Other Thing blog did. Every Sunday, a group of us bloggers link together and discuss something like "Who are you?"  (see first paragraph) and we tell about what we posted the past week.  If you're interested, click on over to This And That And The Other Thing blog, and read what my fellow bloggers have been up to.

Monday  --  Haiku

Tuesday  --  I met my friend Kevin, coming out of daily Mass, and he was wearing a tee shirt, that shouted exactly who he is.  I just had to memorialize it, in picture.

Wednesday  --  Book review of Polonaise by Piers Paul Read

Thursday  --  A history lesson.

Friday  --  Jean Joseph Lataste

Saturday  --  Karen Rinaldo

How did your week go?  Tell me all about it, faith.flaherty@gmail.com 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Inner Vision = Grace

Quissett

The Cape has been a second home to me for over forty years.  For almost forty years, I have been an admirer of the artist Karen Rinaldo.  Karen is known for her Cape Cod scenes, especially Falmouth.  This Friday, Falmouth's newspaper, The Enterprise, did a feature on Karen Rinaldo, which I read with great interest.  The writer, Theresa Pease did a good job in creating a picture (pun intended) of this local artist.  If you need to reference, it's The Enterprise, Friday, August 2014, Page One A and continued onto Page Three A.  The article ended with this paragraph,

"My mother was always deeply involved with what I was doing," the artist said, "and when she lost her sight I found that I could use only words to convey to her what I was working on.  But before she died she taught me about another whole vision that she called the inner vision.  She told me that when I had a problem, or wanted to recall or create something beautiful, I could shut my eyes and find a path to it.  Now, as an artist, I close my eyes and tap into that inner vision almost on a daily basis."

Ms. Rinaldo is talking about meditation. She is doing it without knowing the correct terminology.  Although inner vision is apt.  Whether one is talking about Buddhist or any Eastern meditation, or Christian contemplation, meditation, centering, lectio divina, etc., the result is a clear path to an answer.  Catholics call this grace.

It's the grace of God that leads us.  Anyone who spends time alone and centers himself, knows whereof I speak.  It's very beneficial and I don't know how people live without it.

I wish Karen Rinaldo would write a book of her meditations.  It would be great if she illustrated it, too.  She could even call it, Inner Visions.  I bet it would exemplify the grace of God.

Cordial Intimacy

In reading Pere Lataste words during a retreat to the women in Cadillac prison, in 1864, I am constantly struck by his words, "I shall be more than your brother...call me 'Father', and I shall call you 'my children.'... There will be established... the most cordial intimacy possible."

The good friar is talking about confession.  Imagine, having a Confessor like Pere Lataste.  Imagine the most cordial intimacy possible.  That is sitting with and before Jesus, in that confessional.  Bless me Father for I have sinned.

And I, so unworthy as a minister of God consecrated to the service of the altar, vowed for all my life to the absolute privation of all that you have misused, voluntarily bound by perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Yet I come to you, without waiting for you to call me. I hold out my hands to you and I call you my poor, my dear sisters! And that is not just a meaningless phrase; I am ready to do even more for you. If you have the will and desire, you have only to present yourself in the confessional. I shall be more than your brother. A relationship will be created which is the most wonderful and the most loving known to this world. You will call me “Father”, and I shall call you “my children”. There will be established between us the most frank, the most sincere, and the most cordial intimacy possible. I shall open my heart to you and you will open yours. These bonds, though only lasting a few days, will be so strong and so sacred that not even death can destroy them.  We shall find these again in heaven, you and I, if we get there…

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pilgrim Monument

Mass Moments reminded me that today was the day the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown,  MA was completed.  P-town is the place where the Pilgrims first landed, after crossing the Atlantic.  They were grateful but tired and grouchy.  Their captain wrote:  Hence

The day the ship dropped anchor off Provincetown, concern over "discontented and mutinous speeches" led the leaders to require the 41 free adult men on board to sign a document that later came to be known as the "Mayflower Compact." Although numerous nineteenth-century writers would claim that the Compact was "the germ of American republicanism," it was in fact intended to reinforce "due submission and obedience" rather than establish new democratic liberties.


While the shallop was being repaired, groups of men set out to explore the area on foot. On November 15th, a line of men armed with muskets and swords walked behind Captain Miles Standish into the "wilderness." Soon they saw five or six native people, who immediately fled. The Englishmen followed their tracks without encountering the Indians. They did find small hills and valleys, a pond, and a field that had been cultivated. They unearthed a store of corn buried in baskets and took as much as they "could carry away," intending, Bradford wrote, to pay the "savages" if they met up with them.


Time was running out if they were not going to remain in Provincetown. The fishing and whaling appeared to be good, there were cleared fields ready for planting, and the harbor was shallow but well protected. In short, Provincetown was "healthful, secure, and defensible," and surely late November was not the best time to explore further. But Provincetown had one critical drawback: a shortage of fresh water.


On December 6th, Susanna White gave birth on board theMayflower to her son Peregrine, the first English child born in Massachusetts. That same day, 18 men took the shallop and sailed west across the stormy bay. On December 8th, as they approached modern Plymouth, their mast split apart and the rudder broke. They had no choice but to row and use an oar to steer. They spent the night and the next day, which was Sunday, on Clark's Island. On Monday, they first set foot on the land that would become Plymouth.


They "found it a very good harbor. . . We marched also into the land, and found diverse cornfields, and little running brooks, a place very good for situation [settlement], so we returned to [the Mayflower] again with good news to the rest of our people, which did much comfort their hearts."



Almost five weeks after it had made landfall on Cape Cod, theMayflower sailed for Plymouth. Of the 102 passengers when the ship left England, one had died en route and four more succumbed while they were anchored in Provincetown harbor. Ninety-nine passengers were aboard when they arrived in Plymouth on Monday, December 18, 1620. It would be the early eighteenth century before anyone claimed the Pilgrims stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock.



Hence, Plymouth became more famous than P-town.  The Yankee ancestors of our early settlers wanted to memorialize their contribution to history.  They were gradually being nudged out of P-town by Portuguese immigrants.  So the Pilgrim Monument was conceived.  Eventually it was a reality.   

People may climb up the monument and take in the view.  The view is spectacular, but to see the steps that memorialize the various Massachusetts towns that contributed money is something I found interesting.  Even more interesting is the museum at the foot of the monument.  That's where I learned about the legend of St. Brendan celebrating Mass on the back of the whale.




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Polonaise

Polonaise 
By 
Piers Paul Read


Polonaise is an excellent book by Piers Paul Read which mimics the Polish dance of the same name.  The Polonaise dance is the national dance of Poland.  Poland plays an important part in the novel.  The story starts before World War II in Poland and ends after the war.

Like the dance, the novel’s characters walk together, bow, and circle around.  The dancers have to adjust to a change in meter, where there’s a hop into a bow, with a couple of quick steps as the body straightens out.  Likewise the characters fortunes fall and rise.

The main character is Stefan Kornowski.  The reader will see his character develop into a student, a revolutionary, a writer, a husband, father and widower.  There are times the reader will sympathize with him, but he is so weak, he never becomes what we hope him to be.  He is a fallen man.

His sister Krystyna is another important character.  She seems to be stronger than Stefan.  She is capable, and does what needs to be done.  Sometimes what she does is morally wrong, but Krystyna knows right from wrong and accepts the consequences.

Early in the story, one summer while in their aristocratic estate’s summer house, Stefan tells Krystyna, that there is no God.  Stefan is a thinker and dreamer.  He has deduced from his teenage ruminations that belief in God is an ideal only necessary for peasants to believe in.  At first, Krystyna thinks Stefan is wrong, but life assails her quickly and her own young faith isn’t adequate to match what fate has in store for her.

The times are 1935-6.  Poland watches Germany and the rise of Hitler with incredulity.  Stefan and Krystyna are bankrupt, so their eyes are focused on their own problems.  Their father has gone mental and eventually dies.  Their lost aristocratic status isn’t felt as acutely as it could have, due to the fact that Stefan and Krystyna have become students of Marx and Lenin.  They eventually marry other communists and have children.  The story touches on the economics of socialism, fascism, and capitalism, with their class struggles and materialistic views.

Stefan has always dreamt of becoming a writer in Paris.  To get out of Poland, he leaves his wife to join the war against fascism, in Spain.  Stefan takes his sister Krystyna’s husband, Bruno, with him.  Bruno does go to Spain.  Stefan stays in Paris.  Both men eventually make it back home to Poland. 

Because the reader is reading the novel after the story’s timeline, he knows that Stefan’s wife, being Jewish, isn’t going to survive.  Neither will their children.  The author doesn’t build up sympathy for this angle, in the plot line.  Stefan doesn’t invest too much sentimental emotion on his family at all.  He is out of the country when the Nazis take over Poland.  The readers eventually learn that Stefan’s wife and children were killed, but their deaths are not part of the story.

 Polonaise is divided into three parts.   Part I goes to the beginning of the Nazis taking over Poland.  Part II deals with Spain, Paris, the USA, and the characters quickly adjusting to the quick political changes in Europe.  Lastly, Part III ties the main characters together.  The reader learns that Stefan’s family has perished.  Krystyna’s Bruno has died, but their son Teofil is fine.  In fact, Krystyna is living in Paris, and has remarried.  Her second husband, Alain de Pincey, has adopted Teofil.  Stefan also moves to Paris.  He is still trying to be a writer.

A new and important character enters the scene, Annabel Colte.  She is a rich young lady who has come to Parish to broaden her parochial education.  She boards with Krystyna.  She also meets Krystyna’s son, Teofil, and the two fall in love. 

Unfortunately, Annabel’s parents don’t want her to marry Teofil.  They try to discourage the marriage.  When it seems that the parents have reluctantly resigned themselves to the marriage, Stefan perceives a villainous plot to derail the marriage.  This is where learning how to dance the polonaise becomes useful.  Stefan, maintains the dance’s noble image.  He steps up and saves Annabel from ruin.

Not that Stefan is a noble character, by any means.  He never was.  The readers’ first encounters with him at the summer house view a slothful, cheerless, blasé teenager.  He freely admits to cowardice.  He never really loves his wife and children.  He seems too cynical to love anyone.  In fact, Stefan falls deeper and deeper into lechery.  He fantasizes committing sadistic, masochistic sex.  His writing is pornographic and dark.
 
The author Piers Paul Read, manages to convey sensuality throughout the book.  All his characters, except for Teofil, have sex on their minds.  Teofil believes chastity proves strength.  He only wants the best for Annabel and that would be his pure love.  Well, I guess Teofil does have sex on his mind, like all of us.  Teofil, however, has the moral strength to wait for the marital bed.

The novel concludes  with Stefan writing his masterpiece.  Annabel and Teofil figure into Stefan’s work.  But in writing the preamble, Stefan found himself philosophizing.  He had many unanswered questions, starting with that summer house declaration to Krystyna, that there was no God.  But if there were no God, why is everybody always pursuing happiness?  What was he always searching for?  Why was important to him that Teofil and Annabel live happily ever after? 

The novel ends with a polonaise circle, again asking the ultimate philosophical question the teenage Stefan pontificated to his sister, Krystyna: God is an ideal only necessary for peasants to believe in.  Really?