Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Crown and Scepter

Whenever I go to Portuguese churches I see a crown and scepter.  I've seen it at St. Dominic's in Swansea, MA, where most of the people are from the Azores, and I've also seen it at St. Anthony's in East Falmouth, MA, where the people are mostly from Cape Verde.

What do the crown and scepter represent?  The story goes back to the 13th century Queen of Portugal, Queen Saint Isabel.  There was a lot of contention between her husband, Dom Diniz, and her son.  Queen Isabel feared the son would break and battle with his father.  So she prayed to the Holy Ghost to make peace between them.  Thankfully, the son and father resolved their disagreements and peace reigned.  In thanksgiving, the queen held a ceremony every year in honor of the Holy Ghost.  She put a poor man on her throne and crowned him with her crown.  This, legend has it, was the birth of the Holy Ghost Festival in Portugal.

Another story tells of Queen Isabel of Portugal, also.  She was known as the Holy Queen and devoted to the Holy Ghost.  There are many stories that demonstrate the Queen's piety, compassion, and service.  They tell of earthquakes, volcanoes, and other natural disasters.  The queen would gather the people together and they would pray in appeal to the Holy Ghost.  On Pentecost, the people would be saved.  Then the queen and people would process through the streets of Lisbon to the cathedral where the queen would place her crown on the altar as an offering of thanksgiving for the favors the Holy Ghost had given her people.  She also began a tradition of feeding the poor on Pentecost.

Nowadays, the royals have forgotten the crowning, but the common people haven't.  From Easter to Pentecost, the people celebrate the Holy Ghost.  Some of the people are given the honor of keeping the crown, flags, ornaments, etc. to make a little shrine in their home, decorated with white paper and flowers for a week.  In the evening, the hosts, relatives, neighbors, and guests gather in front of the shrine to pray the rosary and worship the Holy Ghost.  Of course, food is a big part of the gathering.
On Sunday, a procession is made carrying statues, the crown, flags and flowers.  At the church, the priest blesses the crown and the people.  A banquet is served with Holy Ghost soup.

The Holy Ghost Festival is a wonderful way for the Portuguese to celebrate their heritage.  It is important for the children to see their family cultural traditions.  It is also wonderful for non Portuguese to see and celebrate.  Worshipping the third person of the Blessed Trinity is a custom everyone should cultivate.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Argonauta 2015

This is the day my book club, Argonauta, met to choose our book selections for the year.  It did not begin very well.  We planned to meet at a certain place for breakfast.  However, when we arrived we found out that the place was closed for the week.  It was their vacation.  So we made a few telephone calls and settled upon another place, in a different town, for lunch.

This place was wonderful.  We arrived at 11:00 AM and they opened at 11:00 AM.  That meant that we were the only people in the restaurant.  They'd be no chance of us being kicked out due to our rowdy behavior.

Two hours later, after much laughter, arguing over Atticus Finch, (Iconic character), and clapping, we came up with the following:

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

The Nightingale by Kristen Hanna

A Desperate Fortune by Susana Kearsley

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamand Ngozi Adichie

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

Me Before You by Jojo Moynes

Sunday, August 2, 2015

St. Dominic's Yoga

My Lay Dominican Chapter is gearing up for St. Dominic's Feast Day.  Today we watched a real live demonstration of St. Dominic's Nine Ways of Prayer.  Afterwards, one of my "cloistered brothers" quipped, "It looks like Yoga!"

We all laughed and from now on St. Dominic's Nine Ways of Prayer will be known as Dominican Yoga.  This led to a discussion of different ways of prayer.  Brother James added an interesting concept that I never thought of before.  Brother James remembered that at one time we had a volunteer that used to come to Mass with us.  Afterwards, she lead us in some yoga exercises.  This volunteered said that yoga was spiritual to her because she considered yoga led her to prayer.  We didn't know what to think of that, but to be polite, we joined her.  After all she volunteered to teach us yoga.  She wasn't being paid.

So after Mass, Mary Jane led us in some yoga.  We all laughed, especially at each other.  But we were laughing together, helping each other, and sharing the experience.  Brother James said that he tried doing yoga back in his cell, but it wasn't the same.  In fact, he considered it a failure.

What was missing when Brother James was alone was the community.  Also the timing.  When we did the yoga after Mass, it did feel spiritual--like continuing our prayers after Mass.  We were with our confreres and sharing the experience.

That's two of the four pillars of Dominican spirituality: prayer and community.  We decided to baptize yoga and make it Christian.  From now on our yoga will be known as Dominican Yoga, and St. Dominic's Nine Ways of Prayer are in it.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The House Across the Street

As I opened my front door, I noticed that something was different.  The house across the street was gone.  I guess I must’ve blinked a hundred times.  I looked around and the rest of the street was the same. 

It wasn’t an empty lot with a driveway, either.  It was a wooded lot.  Am I crazy?  There was no one around to ask.

So I just got in my car and drove to work.  Should I call the police?  Nah, someone probably already did.  It’s odd that there were woods there.  If the house was somehow demolished during the night wouldn’t there be rubble?  Even if everything was cleared away wouldn’t there be an empty space?  How did all those trees pop up overnight?

At work, everyone laughed at me.  “Was there a pink elephant darting between the trees?”  After my second cup of coffee, I agreed with everyone.  I must have imagined it.  It must have been some trick my half asleep mind was playing. 

Still.  I couldn’t wait to get back home, after work.

Arriving home, I couldn’t believe it.  I mean, I believed it, but…but!  The house was back.  It looked just like it always did. 

At supper, I told hubby the story.  He said I must have dreamed it.  Maybe it was some kind of mind trick like déjà vu tricks the mind.  I didn’t know what to think, so I didn’t—think.

The next morning as I opened by front door, the house was gone again.  This time I took out my smart phone and took a picture.  “Hrmph!  This will show those nay sayers!” 

But my co-workers weren’t impressed.  They didn’t know what was there before the woods.  “Why didn’t you ask one of the people in the woods?” 

“Huh?”  I looked at the pictures and there were people in the woods!  I never noticed them.  They were walking around talking, or something.  Some of them had cameras.


Later when I showed the pictures to hubby, he thought I was pulling his leg.  “C’mon.  You didn’t take this picture here.  You took this somewhere else.  Is this an early April Fool’s Day joke?”

I didn’t know what was going on.  But since I didn’t sleep well that night, I came up with a plan.  I was going to get up early with hubby.  Then I’d show him the woods across the street where the house used to be.  But I couldn’t sleep at all.  I was too jazzed.  So I got up.  I looked out the window.  The house was across the street, as always.  Well, not “as always” but it was where it belonged. 

I made us a big breakfast.  I looked out the window, again.  The house was there.  Hubby got up and we ate breakfast.  I didn’t mention the house but I kept checking the window.  It was still there.
Hubby did say that he was glad the house across the street kept disappearing because it got me out of bed early enough to make breakfast.  “Wise guy.”

As Hubby kissed me goodbye a van pulled up in front of the house across the street and dropped off some people.  Another van drove up and dropped off some stuff—equipment, I guess. 

I watched (open mouth) as some men climbed up the roof and dropped a camouflaged tarp over the front of the house.  Then some of the other people carried trees and placed them all over the front yard.

Voila!  The house was gone and replaced with a wooded lot. 

I wasn’t going crazy.  But why were they doing it?

I walked over and asked. 

They were making a movie.  The homeowners were on vacation and wanted a movie made of how their parents had built their house, starting with chopping down the trees by hand.  It was going to be a surprise for their parents.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Our Lady of Hope Prayer Group

Ester bakes a birthday cake for Don
Whenever people upset me, I always find solace in my prayer group, Our Lady of Hope Prayer Group.  I can't take too much negativity.  The people in the prayer group are joyful.  They love their faith with optimistic faithfulness.  They are just happy and confident.

When I can't take any more criticism, when my feelings are bruised, when I'm frustrated, I drag myself into Our Lady of Hope and find myself showered in healthy, strong prayer.  I am literally lifted up. None of us have much theology, but we know our faith.  We defend and love it.  We invite others to experience Jesus and the Church.  We live the Gospel.

It's home.  It's safe.  We are one family that prays for our parish.  I pray everyone has such  joyful, and caring support.  We thank God for the blessing of each other.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

An Artist's Prayer

The Crucified Christ by Fra Angelico circa 1395-1455

While perusing my news feed on Facebook, I came across a post by a brother Lay Dominican, Robert Curtis.  (My brother, by a different mother, but still my brother.)  He posted a poem he found in National Review, December 2014.  It's about another brother.  (See above parenthetical explanation.)  The poem is about Fra Angelico.  Fra Angelico was born Guido di Pietro. When he entered the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) he was given the religious name Brother John of Fiesole.  He was an artist.  He painted like an angel, hence the nickname Fra Angelico.  His painting was his prayer to God.  His work preached the Word.

Angelico’s Crucifixion
By Lee Oser

Tempura and gold on wood, circa 1445
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue
Here is faith’s erotic life.
Prayer’s unfallen touch, whose brushstrokes hold
Strange virtues even now to halt
And hush our steps beneath the Cross of Love:
Magdelen staggers at the foot,
Her hair and dress a flame, her back to us; 
In rapt obedience in her mantle’s
Quiet blue, Mary seems small for her fate;
By hours the painter would have prayed
Like Dominic, as if his knees were stone, 
Low as the earth His blood does stain,
Adoring heaven’s patience without pride;
Knowing that truth becomes a book,
Augustine reads, his mother simply sees; 
The Lord’s beloved disciple sways
As one whose heart for joy or sorrow broke;
Francis, Thomas, Elizabeth
Perfect the number of this hallowed guild,
Who light a place where loss is gold,
So bent by love we hesitate to breathe---
Or else might feel perversely pressed
To scatter those proud saints like little birds
And batter down those brutal boards
And glide away with head bowed like a priest.

·         Found in National Review, December 2014.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Personal Faith v. Show

I don't know.  I don't know.  There's a man in my prayer group that makes me feel guilty because I don't wear a huge crucifix around my neck, like he does.  I wear a Dominican scapular, under my blouse.  If I'm performing a liturgical duty, e.i., lectoring, or teaching, I wear a Dominican cross on the outside of my clothing.

My friend makes me feel guilty that I'm not wearing some obvious outward sign of my faith.  But I'm not comfortable doing that.  I think of my own feelings when I see someone coming towards me wearing a cross bigger than the pope's.  I'd cross the street.  I don't want to debate him or even talk to him.  I don't think God wants us to call attention to our faith.  He doesn't want us to wear our faith on our sleeve.

Although my friend tells me about all the people that applaud his proudly displaying his faith, I always think, "How many did you chase away?"  But I suppose, there's different strokes for different folks.  Some attracted by his obvious faith and I think some our attracted by my personal witness of my quiet faith.

Then why do I feel guilty?