Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Well Said: The Church is the Front Lines

When things are crappy, and they often are, sometimes the best you can do is just turn up and do the will of God. That’s what our Lord did, and it was sometimes a pretty nasty experience. It’s okay though, because the miserable part isn’t the end of the story, is it?

Meanwhile, hold onto this thought: The Church is not a safe place. The Church is literally the front lines in the battle between eternal good and absolute evil. It’s going to look, feel, sound, and reek like a battlefield. If everything is always quiet on the front, you probably aren’t on the front.
I need these reminders because, of course, Jen is absolutely right. I tend to forget I'm in the middle of a battlefield.

Worth a Thousand Words: Purple Irises

Leslie Wagle

In which we experience a unique alien invasion and victory.

A special request reading at Forgotten Classics, episode 277. Join us!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Well Said: Science, Christianity, and the Poem

In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.
C.S. Lewis, Miracles
Perfectly put. The notes are interesting and valuable but can't convey the whole essence of the thing.

Worth a Thousand Words: Irises

Irises, John Henry Twachtman, 1896

Heaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic Tradition by Louis Markos

Heaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic TraditionHeaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic Tradition by Louis Markos

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was an excellent overview of the stories that have influenced and shaped our views of Heaven and Hell from ancient times until now. I particularly enjoyed the author's exploration of the chain of influences that have connected all these stories and the way that they've been tweaked to express new ideas in the "journey to the other side" format. For example, I never realized that the rebellious Titans' deepest level of hell (Tartarus) shows up in 2 Peter 2:4 (the only spot in the Bible) by using the word Tartarus to signify Hell:
"God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell [Tartarus]", and delivered them into chains of darkenss, to be reserved unto judgment." What makes the use here of Tartarus quite stunning is that the rebellious Titans of Greek mythology share much in common with the "sons of God" who mate with the "daughters of men" to produce the nephilim (see Gen. 6:1-4) and who are then (according to the pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch) put in prison to await judgment. ... just as Hell in the New Testament is linked both to the angelic rebellion of the "sons of God" and to the punishment of sinners, so Tartarus functions as both the prison of the Titans and the place of suffering for such archetypal sinners as Tantalus, Ixion, and Sisyphus: the sinners, that is, whose cries Orpheus hears rising up from the pit below.
Of particular interest to me were the in-depth looks at the Divine Comedy, the hijacking of Milton's Satan by the Romantics (I will never look at William Blake the same way), and how it continues to influence us today via the Byronic hero.

Louis Markos is a Protestant but he has a deep understanding of Catholic theology that would put many a Catholic to shame. His explanation of Purgatory in his preface to Dante's Purgatorio is masterful in explaining both the theology and the way Americans misinterpret it precisely because of their American identity. This is just a bit:
Purgatory is not about "earning our salvation," but, in having already been saved by Christ's sacrifice on the cross, working with the Spirit to present ourselves as clean vessels. Out of pure grace and love, the Prince lifts Cinderella out of the cinders and takes her to his castle. But Cinderella would never think of entering her future home until she had the chance to wash, fix her hair, and put on her finest gown. The American Christian, in his somewhat adolescent way, asks if all of this is "fair." But Purgatory is not about fairness; it is about freedom.
This signals that I can trust Markos to be just as careful in communicating information I am not familiar with. It's nice to be able to trust an author that much.

There is an extensive bibliography, written in a very readable style, with lots of ideas for further exploration of the topic.

Highly recommended.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day


I can only offer my whole-hearted thanks and gratitude to those who gave their lives for their country. All the freedoms we enjoy today would not be ours if it were not for these sacrificial souls.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pentecost: The Coming of the Holy Spirit


The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was not an isolated event in the Church's life. The Paraclete sanctifies it continually as He also sanctifies every soul. This He does through all the innumerable inspirations which are all the attractions, motions, rebukes and interior compunctions, lights and intuitions which God works in us. So He strengthens our heart with his blessings, with his care and fatherly love, so as to arouse us, move us, impel us and draw us to holy virtues, to heavenly love, to good resolutions: in short, to all that leads us to our eternal life. (St. Francis de Sales) His action in the soul is gentle and mild ... He comes to save, to cure, to enlighten. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)
Our priest said once in a scripture study class that God loves us so much that He went to the trouble of plugging a translator right into our hearts. If we take the time and trouble to listen for that whisper, we hear the Holy Spirit there within us ... and He is there to help us speak to God in turn. What a fantastic image and it is one that I think of often. Talk about going the extra mile! God has done everything that one could imagine to help us get the point, to communicate, to talk to Him and be in relationship with Him.

I also like the way that same point was said by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household for John Paul II and Benedict:
When the Holy Spirit takes possession of a heart, a change comes about. If before there was a "secret rancor against God" in the depths of a man's heart now the Spirit comes to him from God and attests that God is truly favorable and benign, that he is his ally and not his enemy. He opens his eyes to all that God has been capable of doing for him and to the fact that he did not spare his only Son for him. The Spirit puts "God's love" into man's heart (see Rom 5:5). In this way he makes him a new man who loves God and who willingly does what God asks of him. God, in fact, no longer limits himself to telling man what he should do or not do, but he himself does it with him and in him. The new law, the Spirit, is much more than an indication of a will; it is an action, a living and active principle. The new law is new life. That is why it is more often called grace than law: "You are not under law but under grace" (Rom 6:14).
Amen ... I can testify to that!

 Pentecost -- The Cry of Release from Meditations on the Passion
Under copyright by Iain McKillip and used by permission

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day 9

Oldest of all novenas, this is still the only one officially prescribed by the Church.
This is the last day of the novena and tomorrow is Pentecost!


Netherlandish Master, The Spirit, c. 1500.

THE FRUITS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
(Saturday, Vigil of Pentecost)
When the soul is docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, it becomes that good tree which is known by its fruits. These fruits enrich the Christian's life and are manifestations of the glory of God: By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, Jesus says at the Last Supper (John 15:8).
THE NOVENA
Prayer: The Fruits of the Holy Spirit


Thou, on those who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
In thy sevenfold gifts, descend:
Give them comfort when they die;
Give them life with thee on high;
Give them joy which never ends. Amen.


The Fruits of the Holy Spirit
The gifts of the Holy Spirit perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Spirit, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Spirit. These Fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.

Prayer
Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Your heavenly fruits, Your charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Your inspiration may merit to be united eternally with You in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE.

Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.

Act of Consecration to the Holy Spirit
On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to you, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of your purity, the unerring keenness of your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the strength and light of my soul. In you I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve you by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against you. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for your light, and listen to your voice, and follow your gracious inspirations. I cling to you and give myself to you and ask you, by your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced feet of Jesus and looking at his five wounds, and trusting in his precious blood and adoring his opened side and stricken heart, I implore you, adorable Spirit, helper of my infirmity, to keep me in your grace that I may never sin against you. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, spirit of the Father and the Son to say to you always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for your servant is listening." Amen.

Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
O Lord Jesus Christ who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of your apostles and disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that he may perfect in my soul, the work of your grace and your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with you and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of your true disciples and animate me in all things with your spirit. Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Well Said: Survey or Not, Our Mission is Unchanged.

It doesn’t matter what any survey says. Whether our culture is 99.9% Catholic or .00009%, our mission is utterly unchanged.
That Pew survey about more people not calling themselves Christian didn't surprise me one bit. It is just getting closer reporting the actual truth than when people reflexively said, "Of course I'm Christian."

It hits home with more force at this moment because I just finished studying up on St. Francis of Assisi for a conversation at A Good Story is Hard to Find. Francis was radical in every way and that was in 13th century Italy which was 99.9% Chatholic and needed nothing more than a good hard kick in how they lived their faith.

So, here we are again ...

Worth a Thousand Words: Bookends

Bookends
Karin Jurick
This is the perfect piece to prepare us for Memorial Day weekend!

Blogging Around: Mostly Churchy Stuff

Clutching Her Head in a Field

Here's the one non-churchy item.

Want to see how many different book cover designers found this stock photo captivating?

Caustic Critic Cover pulled it together for us.

I was really surprised to see how little originality was shown in using the image from cover to cover, aside from goofing around with the color.

I swear, if I come across one of those books in a store, I'm going to crack up on the spot.







State of Palestine coverage: What did pope say? What did it mean?

It broke as do so many stories that burst upon the 24/7 media scene these days – with a Tweet, followed by nearly 3,000 retweets.

The Associated Press (@AP) tweeted at 9:26am -- 13 May 15: "BREAKING: Vatican officially recognizes `state of Palestine' in new treaty."

A major diplomatic step forward for Palestinians in their quest to establish an independent state, right?

Sure sounds like it. But no, although clearly another international boost for the Palestinians, it was not the groundbreaking achievement the initial Tweet implied.

That's because the Vatican actually recognized Palestine as a state in 2012. ...
I've said it before, I'll say it again. If you want to know the real scoop about how religion is being reported and what really happened, read GetReligion. Get the rest of this story there.

Jude Law to Play The Young Pope on TV

I've seen this mentioned around but like best Maureen's comments at Aliens in This World. There's more and she's also got news and links to other Catholics on TV (Jim Gaffigan (good), The New O'Neals (junk)) so go check it all out.

This could be cruddy or good. I hope it will be good, as there’s certainly lots of room for drama in a papal West Wing. It will only be 8 episodes long, but the press release says it’s about “the beginning” of the pontificate of Pius XIII. So I think they want to leave it open for other seasons.

Either way, I guess we’ll find out what Mr. Sorrentino’s pet peeves are.

(And since it’s a Euro production airing on HBO, there will probably be gratuitous naked people but no fight scenes at all. Although I would laugh very hard if they only show Baroque paintings of naked people, with no live-action nakedness at all.)

The Closed Door of Pope Francis

Until the synod of October 2014, Jorge Mario Bergoglio had repeatedly and in various ways shown encouragement for “openness” in matters of homosexuality and second marriages, each time with great fanfare in the media. Cardinal Kasper explicitly said that he had “agreed” with the pope on his explosive talk at the consistory.

But during that synod the resistance to the new paradigms showed itself to be much more strong and widespread than expected, and determined the defeat of the innovators. The reckless “relatio post disceptationem” halfway through the assembly was demolished by the criticism and gave way to a much more traditional final report. ...

From the end of 2014 until today, there has not been even one more occasion on which he has given the slightest support to the paradigms of the innovators.

On the contrary. He has intensified his remarks on all the most controversial questions connected to the synodal theme of the family: contraception, abortion, divorce, second marriages, homosexual marriage, “gender” ideology. And every time he has spoken of them as a “son of the Church” - as he loves to call himself - with ironclad fidelity to tradition and without swerving by a millimeter from what was said before him by Paul VI, John Paul II, or Benedict XVI.
Sandro Magister connects the dots and follows them up with an extensive anthology of excerpts from every time that pope has spoken on the subject. I actually hadn't been worrying about this topic, but reading through the excerpts was interesting.

Dear Church: An open letter from one of those millennials you can’t figure out

Wow, via The Deacon's Bench, comes fascinating reading from a young Methodist that applies to everyone. Here's a bit, then go read it all.
Don’t expect a “worship style” to do your dirty work. Contemporary worship hasn’t worked. The longer we extend the life of this failed experiment, the more we see the results.

In my experience, contemporary worship brings in three groups. Baby boomers who are still stuck in their rebellion against the establishment, parents who mistakenly think that contemporary worship is the only way for their kids to connect to the church, and a small percentage of young adults who’ve never left and who never knew anything other than contemporary worship.

In modeling worship after commercial entertainment, you’ve compromised your identity, and we’re still not coming back.

...

Don’t give us entertainment, give us liturgy. We don’t want to be entertained in church, and frankly, the church’s attempt at entertainment is pathetic. Enough with the theatrics. Enough with the lights, the visuals, the booming audio, the fog machine, the giveaway gimmicks, the whole production. Follow that simple yet profound formula that’s worked for the entire history of the church. Entrance, proclamation, thanksgiving, sending out. Gathering, preaching, breaking bread, going forth in service. Give us a script to follow, give us songs to sing, give us the tradition of the church, give us Holy Scripture to read. Give us sacraments, not life groups, to grow and strengthen us.

Julie and Scott are appalled at the nudity and questionable parenting skills.

What kind of a saint is this? A unique one, it turns out. We discuss Saint Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton in episode 108 of A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day 8

Oldest of all novenas, this is still the only one officially prescribed by the Church.


Ottonian Master Pentecost
(Artwork: Pentecost, Artist: UNKNOWN; Ottonian Master,
Date: C. 1030-40, Technique: Tempera and gold leaf on parchment)

THE GIFT OF WISDOM
(Friday, 7th Week of Easter)
The gift of wisdom gives us a loving, penetrating faith, and a clarity and understanding of the unfathomable mystery of God which we never thought possible. It can have to do with the presence and nearness of God, or the Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle, which produce an extraordinary happiness. ...

The more usual thing, however, will be to find God in everyday life, with no special effects but the the intimate certainty that God watches over us, sees what we are doing, cares for us as for his children, at work or at home. The Holy Spirit teaches us that if we are faithful to his grace, our everyday affairs are the normal way to God, there we serve him in this life and prepare ourselves to contemplate him in Heaven for all eternity.

THE NOVENA
Prayer: The Gift of Wisdom


Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray!

The Gift of Wisdom
Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all the other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written "all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands." It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Saviour: "Take up thy cross and follow me, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

Prayer
Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.

Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE.

Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.

Act of Consecration to the Holy Spirit
On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to you, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of your purity, the unerring keenness of your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the strength and light of my soul. In you I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve you by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against you. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for your light, and listen to your voice, and follow your gracious inspirations. I cling to you and give myself to you and ask you, by your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced feet of Jesus and looking at his five wounds, and trusting in his precious blood and adoring his opened side and stricken heart, I implore you, adorable Spirit, helper of my infirmity, to keep me in your grace that I may never sin against you. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, spirit of the Father and the Son to say to you always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for your servant is listening." Amen.

Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
O Lord Jesus Christ who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of your apostles and disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that he may perfect in my soul, the work of your grace and your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with you and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of your true disciples and animate me in all things with your spirit. Amen.

Check out the link under the picture for many more scans of wonderful art.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lagniappe: The familiar face of the little devourer

All the items being devoured are gingerbread cookies, just to help orient you. This is one of those passages that made me appreciate Hawthorne did indeed have a sense of humor.
Phoebe, on entering the shop, beheld there the already familiar face of the little devourer — if we can reckon his mighty deeds aright — of Jim Crow, the elephant, the camel, the dromedaries, and the locomotive. Having expended his private fortune, on the two preceding days, in the purchase of the above unheard-of luxuries, the young gentleman's present errand was on the part of his mother, in quest of three eggs and half a pound of raisins. These articles Phoebe accordingly supplied, and — as a mark of gratitude for his previous patronage, and a slight super-added morsel after breakfast, put likewise into his hand a whale! The great fish — reversing his experience with the prophet of Nineveh — immediately began his progress down the same red pathway of fate whither so varied a caravan had preceded him. This remarkable urchin, in truth, was the very emblem of old Father Time, both in respect of his all-devouring appetite for men and things, and because he, as well as Time, after engulfing thus much of creation, looked almost as youthful as if he had been just that moment made.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

Worth a Thousand Words: The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armour on Horseback


Giuseppe Castiglione, The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armour on Horseback, 1758
Via Wikimedia
No special reason for this ... I just liked it!

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day 7

Oldest of all novenas, this is still the only one officially prescribed by the Church.



THE GIFT OF COUNSEL
(Thursday, 7th Week of Easter)
There are many moments when we could stray from the path which leads to God. There are many side tracks we could wander down. But God has reassured us with these words: I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you (Ps. 32:8). The Holy Spirit is our best Adviser, our best teacher, our best Guide. Our Lord's promise to his Apostles for when they might find themselves in very difficult situations, is very heartening: When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Matt. 10:19-20). They were to have the special assistance of the Holy Spirit as would Christians through the centuries when placed in similar circumstances. ...

The gift of counsel presupposes that we have used all the other means necessary to act prudently: to obtain the necessary data; to foresee the possible consequences of our actions, to learn from the experience of similar situations in the past, to ask advice when the moment comes. this is natural prudence which is then reinforced by grace. Along with supernatural prudence we receive this gift of counsel which allows us to make a sure and quick decision regarding the means to be used, or the reply to be given, or the way to be followed. ...
THE NOVENA
Prayer: The Gift of Counsel


Heal our wounds -- our strength renew;
On our dryness pour thy dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away!

The Gift of Counsel
The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants, and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. "Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth."

Prayer
Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do Your holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good; turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of Your commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long. Amen.

Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE.

Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.

Act of Consecration to the Holy Spirit
On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to you, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of your purity, the unerring keenness of your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the strength and light of my soul. In you I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve you by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against you. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for your light, and listen to your voice, and follow your gracious inspirations. I cling to you and give myself to you and ask you, by your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced feet of Jesus and looking at his five wounds, and trusting in his precious blood and adoring his opened side and stricken heart, I implore you, adorable Spirit, helper of my infirmity, to keep me in your grace that I may never sin against you. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, spirit of the Father and the Son to say to you always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for your servant is listening." Amen.

Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
O Lord Jesus Christ who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of your apostles and disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that he may perfect in my soul, the work of your grace and your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with you and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of your true disciples and animate me in all things with your spirit. Amen.

Check out the link under the picture for many more scans of wonderful art.