Friday, May 31, 2013

The Visitation

Back in the days, when I was in high school, every once in awhile, one of the girls in my school, would go on hiatus.  Everyone was told that she was visiting relatives somewhere distant and would be back next year.
     
     We all knew what that meant.  She was pregnant and was sent away to have her baby.  She'll be back after the baby was born.

     Nowadays, there's no shame in being an unwed mother.  In fact, it's pretty common for girls not to marry their babies' father.  But that's neither here nor there; it has nothing to do with my point.

    All the readings today are about the Visitation, Luke 1:39-56.  Neither Luke, nor the other readings I read in preparation for today (Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Mgdalen, O.C.D, and Heather King)*, nor any other readings, I've ever read, mention the fact that she might have been sent away.  After all, it was a shame and scandal to be an unwed mother.

I think it's an excellent possibility that was the underlying reason for going to visit, and staying awhile, with a distant cousin.

Think about it.  It was the perfect excuse.  Yet it's the very same excuse pregnant and unwed girls, used.

* Readings for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Magnificat http://www.magnificat.com/

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Being Offended


Recently I’ve been made aware that some people, in a group I belong to, were offended, by my teasing a friend of mine.  I was making fun of her cooking ability.  I asked my friend, and she was not offended.  So is an offense given, if no offense was taken?

It seems that a few people in the group were offended by my teasing my friend.  Am I responsible for them?   My friends and I can’t fool with each other, because others, not in our circle, will take offense?  I'm kind of offended by that.

This reminds me of the current craze about “political correctness.”  Eventually, offending behavior is a Chinese puzzle.  What may offend one, won't offend another.  Isn't it reasonable to think that someone, somewhere, will be offended by something that isn't universally accepted as “politically correct or offenseless,” sooner or later.  So, who’s to say that a few are right?  Who’s wrong? 

Political correctness and being offensive are subjective.  It’s all a matter of taste.  There’s no definite solution.  I'm not going to stop being me.  I might tip toe around certain people now, but I really don't think that’s right either.  Who says they're right?  My friend wasn't offended.  I don't feel it’s right that people are making me feel negative about myself.  I have a right to tease and joke with my friends.  We think it’s harmless.  And if you don't think it’s so harmless, why do you think you should impose your standards on me? 

Offence isn't given; it’s taken.  If you're not offended, then there’s no offence.  If you are offended, remember, that doesn't mean that you are right. 


You don't live in my world.  If you take offense that easily, you'd never survive.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Prayer Intentions

The need is great.  I have so many friends who are sick and of need of prayers:

  Recent graduates looking for jobs.  A relative looking for a home.  Our new priests certainly need prayers.  All victims of the recent natural disasters.


And don’t forget the Pope’s general prayer intention for June, “That a culture of dialogue, listening, and mutual respect may prevail among peoples.”


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ten Things I Never Would Have Imagined As A Teenager

Dick and I will have been married for 42 years, this July 4th.  I find that hard to believe.  Even harder to believe is the list of things I've done in the 42 years, that were beyond the range of possibility, when I was a teen.  Ready?  Here goes:

1.  Freeze my butt off in a hockey rink, at 3:00 AM, watching a bunch of grown men swear and spit, and oh, play hockey, too.

2.  Lie (about the price of something).

3.  Hide stuff in the trunk of my car for a month or so.  (So when hubby asks if it's new, I'm not lying when I say "no").

4.  Thank God, when hubby is oblivious.

5.  Use spit to clean a child's face.

6.  Use hubby's handkerchiefs to pad my nursing bra.

7.  Wear maternity clothes when I wasn't pregnant.

8. 9. 10.  Get peed on, pooped on, vomited on, and spit up on.

Disgusting isn't it?  I bet you have a list too.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Why You Can't Let Go

I'm fascinated by the past.  Not past history, but rather why some people are fixated with it.  I've come to think that it's because the past was the most important thing that ever happened to that person.

What brought this to mind?

Bible study and today's Gospel.  Specifically, Abraham in Genesis 12: 1-20, and the rich young man in Mark 10: 17-31.

Abraham was told to leave everything behind.  Actually he doesn't.  He takes his wife, servants, and herds of livestock.  Besides his nephew, Lot, and his wife, children, and servants, and livestock.  But Abraham was in constant dialogue with God, so there's more to the story, than we're told.  He left his heritage behind.

The rich young man was told to give it all away and follow Jesus.  Both are asked to leave what's important to them.  Abraham must have sweet talked God into letting him take his family and possessions, whereas, the rich young man didn't dialogue with God.  Jesus was right in front of Him.

The difference is what I said in my first paragraph.  Abraham expected the best to come in the future.  The rich young man thought the past was his best.  He didn't trust God.

The moral is trust in God's plan for you.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

And then the Fight Broke Out

St. Mary Parish
Nomination for Parish Pastoral Council
Date/2013

Nominate up to four people for a 6-year term on the Parish Pastoral Council. Any registered parishioner over 18, who participates in the sacramental activities of the parish (ineligible for election: parish employees or members of their households).

1.     _______________________________________________________
2.     _______________________________________________________
3.     _______________________________________________________

4.     _______________________________________________________
Today is the day, the parish nominates people to serve on the Parish Pastoral Council.  I volunteered to give out the nomination forms, before Mass. 

I arrived early.  I placed my jacket, Magificat, pocketbook, etc., in a back pew and went to get the materials to be distributed.  So far, so good.

However, when I arrived back to my pew, the lady behind me and the man next to her were conversing.  I wanted to pray.  Is that too much to ask? ( That’s why I prefer Mass at the Abbey, instead of my parish.)  As I was saying, I couldn't concentrate because the lady was demanding answers, or reasons, from the man.  She wanted to know why the parish held funerals at St. Jude, while the church was being painted.  The man tried to explain to her but she wasn't ready to listen; she was venting too vehemently.

I tried to ignore the tirade conversation.

I really did.

Finally, I turned around, and introduced myself, and asked her name.  She told me.

I then took the above form and wrote her name down and I asked her, “Did I spell your name correctly?”

I don't know what opened wider, her eyes or her mouth.

Before I could blink, she snatched the form out of my hands and tore it up, right in front of my face!

Now it was my turn to widen my eyes.
I just shrugged, and turned around.  After all, we were in church. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Argument over a Discussion of the Trinity

Meditating for ten minutes on the weather and listening to raindrops ping antiphonally on the tin roof has culminated in an argument.

Q.  Is it meditation or wasting time?
A.  Well, that’s a meditation in itself.
Q.  Ugh.  You’re impossible.  Aren’t you just excusing your laziness?
A.  Define Lazy.
Q.  See?  Snap out of it.  Sit up straight and get your act together, and tell me about the Trinity.
A.  Can’t.  And you know it.  Didn’t Duff and I write a formation module trying to define it?  And don’t ask me what happened to it, because I don’t know.  It was probably rejected and thrown away.  It was all straw, anyway.
Q.  What do you think about the Trinity, right this moment?
A.   Well…the first thing that comes to mind is that John Tauler said that to feel the Blessed Trinity is the sweetest experience.  And I was just wondering how does one “feel” the Trinity.
Q.  Didn’t you say, just the other day, that Mary experienced the Trinity; she felt the Father’s love, received the Holy Spirit, and conceived Jesus. 
A.  I vaguely remember.  Who was I talking to?  Father Joe?  My “cloistered brothers”?  Sister Ann?  Did I write it?  Ugh…don’t bother an old lady.
Q.  It doesn’t matter who or when or how.  We’re discussing the Trinity.
A.  You’re a haunt.  Leave me alone.
Q.  No.  Go on.
A.  Wait a minute.  I was on the verge of nodding off, pleasantly listening to the music of the rain, and you come barging in making demands.  You want to talk.  About the Trinity, of all things!!!!
Q.  Yes…and your point?
A.  Okay.  I’m awake, alert, and able.  I really wanted to say pissed off, but the alliteration was calling me.
Q.  Don’t wax poetic on me.  And don’t be coarse. 
A.  You don’t like my poetry?
Q.  I love your poetry and I think it’s very appropriate for the subject at hand—the Blessed Trinity.
A.  The Trinity can probably be best expressed in poetry.
Q.  For sure.
A.  We were made in the divine image, weren’t we?  Maybe Tauler was right after all? 
Q.  Think it over, Faith.  Keep at it.  Why don't you put it in a poem?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Feast of the Translation of St. Dominic


This memorial celebrates the first translation on 24 May 1233, of the remains of St. Dominic, who had been buried in the church of St. Nicholas of the Vineyards at Bologna and where many people had been healed. This marked the beginning of the canonization process, which culminated with Pope Gregory IX’s decree in 1234.

Poor St. Dominic wished to be buried simply.  However he was placed in a marble sepulchre. The tomb was added to and added to.  It is now known as the Ark of St. Dominic.

Since St. Dominic always did God's will.  He would have acquiesced to the will of God.  St. Dominic really doesn't care where his remains lie, but we can now pilgrimage, and make homage to this great man of God.

h/t: above video is of Dominican friars pilgrimaging on the day of the Translation of St. Dominic.

http://www.csvfblog.org/2011/05/translation-of-st-dominic/


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Worldwide Call to Prayer

Pope Francis I has put out a call for everyone in the world to pray for China, tomorrow, the Memorial of Our Lady Help of Christians.  Pope Francis made this plea, last Friday in his general audience.  Mary, Help of Christians is venerated with great devotion at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai, China.  He said: "I urge all Catholics around the world to join in prayer with our brothers and sisters who are in China, who died and rose again; to be faithful to His Church and the Successor of Peter and to live everyday life in service to their country and their fellow citizens in a way that is consistent with the faith they profess."

Our Lady of Sheshan holding her son is a symbol of love's blessing towards all of humanity.


Let us ask Our Lady to help us all to bring our testimony of Christian love to fruition.

Our Lady of China, Mother of Asia, pray for us now and forever.  Amen.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dressing for Jesus

We were talking about clothes.  One happened to say that she often buys clothes in thrift stores.  Another said that she shouldn't do that.  It's stealing from the poor.  You are taking clothes away from the really poor.

"But", said another, "you're paying them money to help the poor."

The discussion was interesting.  One said that as a teenager, she later learned that her classmates used to feel sorry for her because of the way she dressed.  She didn't know.  You see, her grandmother was a cleaning lady for a couple of elderly women, who gave her their unwanted clothes.  These clothes were very expensive name brands--very well made.

The grandmother gave the clothes to her granddaughter, who was very proud to wear such expensive clothes.  Later in life, she learned that her friends felt sorry for her.  The clothes were "old lady clothes."

Someone else complained that she only got to wear her sister's hand-me-downs.

Another said that she only had one or two outfits that she wore all the time, like uniforms.

We laughed.  We cried.

Are clothes important?  They certainly don't make the person who she is.

The dressmaker in our group told us that she does alterations for a lady who is an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist.  She buys nice clothes to wear for Jesus.  She wants to look her finest for Him.  That means, clean, modest, and your best.

Isn't that a nice fashion statement?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

That is NOT in the Bible!

Eucharistic Adoration Prayer

Adoration at St. Niklausen
Last night I went to Adoration with my "cloistered brothers."  Adoration for Catholics is reverencing God in prayer.  Since we believe that the Eucharistic Host contains the presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus, we spend some time honoring Jesus by praying or adoring Him.

Something I've never seen before occurred.  Near the beginning of the hour, one of us, got up out of his pew and walked up to the monstrance (holder of the Eucharist).  He knelt down and verbally prayed.  He prayed for protection on this world from natural disasters, particularly the tornadoes in Oklahoma, earthquakes, floods, and violent storms, and man made disasters, such as War in the Middle East, Korea, and Africa.  Then he got up and went back to his pew.

Near the end of the hour, another man got up and prayed out loud.  His prayer was for healing.

I have never seen this before.  But why not?  Usually Adoration only has a few people, but this time there was about 10-15 of us.  I hope to go more often.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pentecost's Fire

Unlike Father Jack, Father Chris compared the Holy Spirit to real fire.  Father Jack's Holy Spirit worked quietly and unseeing.  Not Father Chris'.  His Holy Spirit is a loud blast.

Father Chris told the story of baking a roast.  He thought he saw a small flame in the oven, but he was told to ignore it.  Suddenly, that little flame burst into a smoky fire.

The fire department was called.  Nine trucks came.  East Boston is a congested area, so the fire spreading was a concern.  Lots of CO2 were used.  The stove was covered in it.

The roast was smothered in CO2 making it inedible.  Too bad.  Just like the tongues of Fire on Pentecost changed the disciples, the fire in the oven changed the roast.  Fire changes everything. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Father Jack was "right on", this morning.  He compared the work of the Holy Spirit with the work a microwave does.  Yes, go ahead laugh!

Think about it.  The microwave doesn't have a flame to adjust when you're cooking it.  You can't see microwaves.  Yet a change does happen to the food.  Just like us. We can't see His work, nor feel it.  Sometimes, we're aware of it because we surprise ourselves by what we're saying, thinking, or even feeling.

We'll feel the Spirit when we become aware of a truth in the gospel.  Sometimes we'll speak with conviction when speaking of God.  And we also know that it's because of the Holy Spirit that we have faith in the first place.  That we're in church and receiving the Eucharist.  That this is an awesome gift and we're blessed enough to know, understand, and give thanks that we're Catholic.

Yield to the Holy Spirit.  Give Him control and submit to God's Word.  When you do this, you will produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit.





Saturday, May 18, 2013

Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P.

Venerable Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P., founder of the Sinsinawa Dominicans.  Watch this brief introduction of him--5 minutes.

Pentecost = Whitsunday

Acts 2: 1-41, tells the story of Pentecost.  The priest's vestments will be red because of two remembrances.  One is the tongues of fire that rested on the disciples' heads, sent down by the Holy Spirit.  The other reason the Mass celebrant will be wearing red is to represent the blood of martyrs that were able to offer their lives because of the infusion of spiritual grace they were given in their last moments.


This color was not always so.  In early days, the priest wore white.  The white color was because many adult converts were baptized on Pentecost.  White is the color of baptism.  Hence this particular Sunday was called White Sunday.  Therein lies the meaning of Whitsunday.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Do You Love Me?

How many times does God have to ask me that question?  What, is He insecure?

Well, to be honest, I can't blame Him for being insecure of my love.  He needs proof.  Yeah, yeah, He knows my heart, and therein lies the rub.  I'm fickle.  He knows my mind, and again I slack off.  And my actions, well, they're disappointing at best, nevermind my good intentions.  So, OK; it's perfectly understanding that God is always asking me, "Do you love Me?"

These were my thoughts when I heard this morning's Gospel, John 21: 15-19.  Jesus has resurrected.  He's eating with his apostles.  But to Peter, He asks, "Do you love Me", three times.  And just like Peter, I also think, "What is He asking me that for?  He knows I do."  The second time Jesus asks, Peter recalls his betrayal of Jesus, and is embarrassed.  I also am embarrassed by my behavior.  Then the third time, Peter affirms his love, "Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You."

I go through the same process.  I am no better than Peter.  If God forgives and trusts Peter, after Peter's betrayal, then there's no reason why God wouldn't trust me.  Like Peter, I will always love the Lord, and I pray I will never tire of responding, "Of course, I love You with all my heart, soul, and mind, forever and ever."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

St. Pachomius

Even though today my Magnificat said that the Mass for today was for St. Isidore, the patron saint of Madrid, Spain, farmers, and rural communities, Father Kevin said the Mass was for St. Pachomius.

Who?  That's what I said.  So read on and learn.

St. Pachomius is the father of spiritual communal life.  In his time, 300 A.D., religious people didn't live together.  There were only hermits.  A person living a solitary religious life is called an eremite.  A hermit isn't necessarily religious.  An eremite is a religious hermit.

So many others came to join him, that he had to make up some sort of organization.  This was the beginning of living a communal life.  Anybody can live in community, e.i hippies.  Religious people living together is said to be living a cenobite life.  Hence, St. Pachomius is the founder of cenobite monasticism.

Father Kevin is a Trappist and was celebrating the founder of his monastic life.  That's why the Mass was in celebration for the life of St. Pachomius.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

St. Matthias Won the Crap Shoot


That's what Father Kevin said this morning.  St. Matthias won the crap shoot.  He became an apostle by the luck of the draw.  Due to the death of Judas, the apostles were missing one member.  The remaining eleven decided to choose another man.  Peter explained to all the disciples (Acts 1: 15-16), which were about a hundred and twenty, that they should choose someone who had been with them since Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist, up to Jesus' Resurrection.  That left two men: Joseph, called Barsabbas, and Matthias.

And they drew lots between them, and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

So it was by "luck of the draw,"  that Matthias was blessed.  Blessed to help spread the Truth and be martyred for Christ.  Because of this Wikipedia says this day is considered the luckiest day of the year. Go buy a lottery ticket.  Go to the                  race track and bet on a horse with a name that has a religious connotation.

According to old tradition, St. Matthias's Day is said to be the luckiest day of the year. This is because Matthias was the saint who was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot. It has therefore been seen as a good day on which to buy lottery tickets or to participate in activities such as that. 

h/t: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Matthias

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Blessings of Children


Father George told the story of a young man who had been married awhile and lost his job.  He started selling drugs for a living.  His wife was scared and prayed and talked him into going on a Curcillo.

He was touched by the Holy Spirit and turned his life around, much to his wife's joy.  When his wife became pregnant, after having 3 children, he was thrilled.  He called his mother to tell her.

His mother responded with silence.  He said, "Aren't you happy for us?"  His mother said something about dropping them out like pigs.  This was shocking because his mother had eight children!

Anyway, angry words were spoken and the son hung up on his mother.  There was no contact for about a month.  The mother finally called and apologized, and no more was said.

The couple ended up having fifteen children!

The mother in her old age ended up needing 24 hour care.  She's in a nursing home.

Guess who visits her.  Who reads to her?  Who bring her gifts?  Who spends time with her?  Who sends greeting cards?  Who telephones her?  Who watches over her?

Who're her prides and joys? 

All Glory Be To God


God desires to be glorified by our happiness.  Our happiness is a part of His divine glory.  This is what I believe and experienced this Mother's Day, yesterday.  Thanks be to God.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Freedom of Conscience


“To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  George Washington, 1790

These are the words, hubby and I read at the Touro Synagogue.  We’re vacationing in Newport, RI.  On our “To Do” list, was a visit to America’s oldest synagogue, Touro Synagogue. 

The original congregation was founded in 1658 by Jews fleeing the Inquisition.  Eventually, enough Jews settled in Newport to request a rabbi.  Remember that Roger Williams founded Rhode Island based on religious tolerance.  So the Jews felt accepted.  Not Catholics, they weren't welcome; but that’s a different thread. 

After the Revolution, before the Bill of Rights, the warden of Touro Synagogue, Moses Seixas, wrote a letter to President George Washington.  He wanted to be sure that the president understood the concerns of the Jewish people in America.  The Jews were tired of being persecuted and dispersed; they wanted assurance that their religion and culture would be respected.

George Washington responded with the words written above.  I was very interested that “Freedom of conscience” was mentioned by the leader of our fledgling government in 1790.

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

I particularly admire Washington’s closing comment.   “… while every one (sic) shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” 

Again, this doesn’t apply to Catholics?  Nowadays, Catholics are afraid their hospitals will be forced to perform abortions, their social service agencies are afraid they’ll be forced to accept policies against their beliefs, their schools be forced to teach prejudicial curriculum, and their churches be forced to perform marriages that our religion forbids.  Where or where is the vine and fig tree under which Catholics can sit and not be afraid?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Praying to Saints

Hubby and I were touring Newport, RI, yesterday.  We visited museums, a synagogue, and Trinity Church.  Trinity Church's steeple is a landmark.  You can see it from the ocean, and it's a famous, well-known site of recognition.  Of course, we had to go there.  

The guide gave us a wonderful tour of the church.  Hubby just had to have a picture taken of him sitting in the same box that George Washington and Queen Elizabeth II prayed in.  Many famous people worshiped there.  We met their new priest, The Rev. Canon Anne Marie Richards.

Our tour guide happened to say that it was so nice to have a lady priest.  She went on to say that she never felt part of the church until the Canon Anne Marie came.

I bit my tongue.


The church had some beautiful stained glass windows.  I learned the difference between painted glass and the stained glass pieces that Tiffany made.  Big difference!

The stained glass windows depicted Mary, and some saints, and some famous parishioners.  Our guide said, "Of course, being High Church Episcopalian, we do not worship saints like Catholics do..."

I just had to speak up, no many how many kicks in the ankle hubby was giving me.

I asked her to pray for me.  She looked askance, but she said, "OK."   Then I said, "Why do you not think it odd, or wrong, to pray for others, yet you think it odd, or wrong, that Catholics pray to saints?"  Then I pointed to the Apostle Creed that was on a plaque.  I quoted, "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS..."  What do you think the communion of saints means?

It means the spiritual solidarity among those living and those that are dead.  Thomas Aquinas* tells us that we participate in this mystical body exchange of  the same faith, prayers, merits, veneration, etc.
Hence, it's praying to the dead, not worshiping, but asking intercession, as we join together in prayer, just as I ask a living person to pray for me.  I'm not worshiping that person. I'm asking for intercession to God.

The tour came to an abrupt close.

I did better on the tour to the synagogue.

*Summa Theologica III: 8:4.





Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Double the Blessing


Today, May 8th, is special for the Order of Preachers (Dominicans).  One reason is because we Dominicans celebrate the patronage of the Blessed Mother over our Dominican family.  That feast is unique to us in the family.  But today is also for everybody.  That's because today there is a beautiful tradition for this day (often right at 1200 noon).  Once upon a time one could obtain on this day, a plenary indulgence by reciting the Supplication to the Madonna of Pompeii.  The other day for this is the first Sunday of October.

Father Z's blog explains it all here.  We all can thank the Lay Dominican, Barto Longo for this Supplication to the Madonna of Pompeii.  As for myself, I'll pray the Supplication at noon and since today in the U.S., it is the Wednesday before the feast of the Ascension, hubby and I will attend the Vigil of the Ascension.

Mass with hubby, an indulgence for the Supplication of our Lady of Pompeii, what more could anyone want on this celebration of the patronage of Our Blessed Mother, over my Dominican family?

h/t: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2012/05/8-may-indulgence-supplication-to-o-l-of-pompeii/

Sunday, May 5, 2013

New Porch

St. Mary's Newport, RI
I'm spending some quality family time in Newport RI.  May two year old granddaughter calls it New Porch.  She's going to New Porch.  So blogging will be light this week.

I found that a Catholic Church is only a ten minute walk away, so I can go to daily Mass.  I can also go to the Rosary before Mass. Maybe I can make their Bible Study on Wednesday.  I'm getting more walking done, than at home.  But we're eating out for just about every meal, so I don't think I've lost any weight.

My granddaughter and I swim everyday in a fun pool.  It goes from indoors to outdoors.  I haven't swum outside with the sun on my face and back, for a year.  It felt good.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Best Contemplation


An interesting definition, if not description,  of contemplation, is found in The Secular Journal of Thomas Merton, Farrar, Straus, & Cudahy, New York, 1959.

Merton is looking at the picture above.  This is Fra Angelico's "Temptation of St. Anthony."  This subject, St. Anthony of the Desert's temptation is a common theme, among artists, probably because it's so open to each person's interpretation of "temptation."  In Fra Angelico's, it's the world.  That's a lump of gold, in the lower right side.  I tend to think the temptation was everything (like all of us). However, since he was a consecrated hermit, the temptation was probably theological doubt.

When Merton looks at St. Anthony he notes the background.  The saint is in the middle of dry gullies, yet in the background are trees.  He's in a desert, yet we see a city.  Are you getting the idea?  Anyway, St. Anthony is surprised, look at the way his cape is draped.  His arms are in the "infant startle position."

In the back is a church on a hill.  (Go Anthony, go!)

"Just as prayer leads to stillness, and timelessness in contemplation, so the action of this picture leads to contemplation on an esthetic level.  Therefore looking at a picture demands penetration, understanding, meditation.  If people looked at good pictures more, they would learn more about meditation, and if they meditated more they would learn more about looking at pictures."

Merton goes on about that startle movement of St. Anthony's.  "By realizing what constitutes the action in a good picture, we can get some sort of analogical grasp of what the joys of the blessed are in heaven."  That's because of the joy we receive by looking at good art, listening to good music, reading good books, enjoying the company of good friends, and contemplating the good God.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Crowning Mary

In medieval religious writings, the soul is often described as a garden.  And a rose garden is one of the most beautiful.  Roses are often weaved into a garland and placed on Mary's head.  "Bring flowers of the rarest" is a traditional song for crowning Mary.

O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.

Many saints had visions of Mary with flowers.  St. Louis de Montfort thinks a garden dedicated to Mary symbolizes the Garden of Eden.  St. Francis tells of a novice who found himself in a room bathed in a heavenly light facing Our Lady with two angels.  Beautiful roses burst from his mouth as he prayed Hail Mary.  And the angels picked them up and made a crown to place on Mary's head.  

Repetition of a single prayer as a background to meditation has been practiced as a centering technique, for a long time.  From the thirteenth century the Rosary has been prayed, ever since Dominic had a vision of Mary, and ever since preached the Rosary for the rest of his life.  Our Lady appeared to Dominic and prayed with him.

Heaven was opened for him to see and the whole heavenly court was assembled in magnificent array.  He heard them sing the rosary in an enchanting melody and each decade was in honor of the life, passion and glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother.  He noticed that whenever they said the sacred name of Mary they bowed their head and at the name of Jesus they genuflected and gave thanks to God for the great good that He had wrought in Heaven and on earth through the Rosary, which the confraternity members say here on earth.  He noticed too that they were praying too for those who practiced this devotion.  He also saw beautiful crowns without number, which were made of gorgeous flowers held in readiness for those who pray the Rosary devoutly.  He learned that by every rosary that people pray, they make a crown for themselves, which they will be able to wear in heaven.

When I read this in Andrea Oliva Florendo's The Liturgy of  Flowers in a Mary Garden, I couldn't help but think of my own poor praying habits.  I certainly hope intention and perseverance earn a crown, because my praying too, too often, isn't prayed very devoutly.  I keep trying.  I'm a saint in the making.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

(G-R-O-A-N)

Brother Tonto walked into a bar, every single day, at the same time, and dressed in full choir robes.

It was a habit.

Papal Authority

May 1st is celebrated as May Day.  It's a day of celebration for laborers, and as such it is appropriate to have as its patron saint, St. Joseph.  It is appropriate because St. Joseph worked with his hands and that's the definition of laborer.

May 1st is also noted as the date for the very first ecumenical council.  Since it was not the full blown out ordeal that ecumenical councils usually are, it's sometimes historically considered a proto-council, an apostolic conference, or a synod, or even just a meeting, as described in Acts 15 and Galatians 2.

It was held in Jerusalem, in the year 50 A.D.  I prefer to think of it as the first ecumenical council, because it was here that the authority of the Pope (at that time, Peter) was nailed.  The apostles agreed to meet in Jerusalem and on the agenda was the acceptance of Gentiles into their ranks.  Paul and Barnabas rushed to Jerusalem to present their proposals.

Paul and Barnabas must have done a good job because a hot debate ensued over whether or not the Gentiles had to adhere to Mosaic law.  (Conservatives v. Liberals)  It was settled by Peter's proclamation:

...we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are...

and everybody accepted Peter's decision!!!!!!!


h/t:  Side image shared under creative commons image by google.