Friday, September 29, 2023

Feast of the Archangels

St. Michael the Archangel

St. Gabriel the Archangel

St. Raphael the Archangel
The liturgy for today celebrates the feast of the three archangels who have been venerated throughout the history of the Church, Michael (from the Hebrew Who is like God?) is the archangel who defends the friends of God against Satan and all his evil angels. Gabriel, (the Power of God), is chosen by the Creator to announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation. Raphael, (the Medicine of God), is the archangel who takes care of Tobias on his journey.
I have a special fondness for angels and it is a sign of my Catholic geekiness, I suppose, that I got an excited "Christmas morning" sort of thrill when I realized today's feast.

I read for the first time about angels when we were in the hospital with my father-in-law after his stroke. That made a big impression on me at the time. I always attribute the miracle that happened to the Holy Family but the angels are divine messengers and so have their place in it as well. Because of that I always have remembered that we can call not only on our friends for intercessory prayer, but also on angels for intercession and help. The prayer to St. Michael is one of my favorites.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray. And do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Some more on angels.
You should be aware that the word "angel" denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.
From a homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great
Read more about angels at Catholic Culture.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Till We Have Faces Discussion at Mythgard Academy

As I've mentioned before I'm addicted to Corey Olsen's free classes at Mythgard Academy.  He's the best of all the book podcasts that I listen to because he focuses on what the text is telling us, not on what we know will happen later in the book or getting sidetracked into tangential ideas.

I admit that I have skipped all of the Tolkien materials once they finished The Lord of the Rings. However, these have been interspersed among rich discussions of many wonderful books ranging from Dracula to Le Morte d'Arthur to Ender's Game to Watership Down. 

I'm extra excited that they have just begun Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. It is a book that I struggle with but which nonetheless fascinates me. I've listened to various podcasts cover it but 20 minutes into the first episode I know that Corey Olsen is showing me the book from a point of view that I find irresistible. 

They're on a lot of platforms but I listen to the podcasts. Find out how to listen or watch here.

Let's Talk Angels

We've got angelic feasts coming up. Here's a post to get us in the mood ... that is a good run down of "angelic basics". I first wrote this in 2011 but it is just as good now.


I usually have some "mind's eye" angel thinking going on. During Mass I think about the fact that there are double the visible inhabitants, because we each have our guardian angel with us. I read somewhere that angels are always worshiping when the Host is consecrated ... I always have that mind's-eye vision of them prostrating themselves at that point. St. Josemaria Escriva always mentally greeted the guardian angel of the person and sometimes I remember to do the same. More important to me is to be sure to ask my guardian angel for guidance during the day ... according to St. Escriva, the more you "talk" to your angel, the more sensitive you are to any guidance.

I was fascinated by the entire concept of angels when I converted but wanted the real scoop ... not one of those cutesy "I met my angel" books that were popular at that time (2000). Wouldn't you know, Peter Kreeft (is there anything that guy can't write about?) has a wonderful book, Angels and Demons: What Do We Really Know About Them? Here is the quickest possible Angels 101 course from the first page of the book.
O.K., so I'm browsing through this book and wondering: why should I buy it? What can you tell me about angels in one page?
  1. They really exist. Not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They are as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity.
  2. They're present, right here, right now, right next to you, reading these words with you.
  3. They're not cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy, or "cool." They are fearsome and formidable. They are huge. They are warriors.
  4. They are the real "extra-terrestrials," the real "Supermen," the ultimate aliens. Their powers are far beyond those of all fictional creatures.
  5. They are more brilliant minds than Einstein.
  6. They can literally move the heavens and the earth if God permits them.
  7. There are also evil angels, fallen angels, demons, or devils. These too are not myths. Demon possessions, and exorcisms, are real.
  8. Angels are aware of you, even though your can't usually see or hear them. But you can communicate with them. You can talk to them without even speaking.
  9. You really do have your very own "guardian angel." Everybody does.
  10. Angels often come disguised. "Do not neglect hospitality, for some have entertained angels unawares" -- that's a warning from life's oldest and best instruction manual.
  11. We are on a protected part of a great battlefield between angels and devils, extending to eternity.
  12. Angels are sentinels standing at the crossroads where life meets death. They work especially at moments of crisis, at the brink of disaster -- for bodies, for souls, and for nations.

The Letter

The Letter (c.1890). Thomas Benjamin Kennington
First, I'd like a letter that gave me that expression. Second, I'd love that dress. Oh, who am I kidding? The dress is what I'd like first!

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The sheep are insolent

[The Lord says:] The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. In one way or another, we go on living between the hands of robbers and the teeth of raging wolves, and in light of these present dangers we ask your prayers. The sheep moreover are insolent. The shepherd seeks out the straying sheep, but because they have wandered away and are lost they say that they are not ours. “Why do you want us? Why do you seek us?” they ask, as if their straying and being lost were not the very reason for our wanting them and seeking them out. “If I am straying,” he says, “if I am lost, why do you want me?” You are straying, that is why I wish to recall you. You have been lost, I wish to find you. “But I wish to stray,” he says: “I wish to be lost.”

So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better that I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome. Welcome to whom? Unwelcome to whom? By all means welcome to those who desire it; unwelcome to those who do not. However unwelcome, I dare to say: “You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this.” For the one whom I fear does not wish this. And should I wish it, consider his words of reproach: The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. Shall I fear you rather than him? Remember, we must all present ourselves before the judgement seat of Christ.
From a sermon On Pastors by Saint Augustine, bishop,
Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours
I was really struck by St. Augustine's point about the sheep being so insolent that they sass the shepherd for seeking them out. We think of that insolent rejection of God as being something so modern. Yet there are plentiful examples in both the Old and New Testaments that this is an attitude as old as mankind itself. 

Of course, we need to be sure we do not become insolent. It is also a good reminder that I need to persevere with my loved ones who I wish to bring to the joy of knowing Jesus. They know not what they do, as Jesus said.

The Visit

The Visit, Abram Efimovich Arkhipov

He really captures the mood of happy excitement and enjoyment, doesn't he?

Tuesday, September 26, 2023


A bookplate
created by Daniel Mitsui

I love the cat on the monk's shoulder. That touch of humor makes the bookplate sparkle. If you haven't visited Daniel Mitsui's website you are missing a chance to support or at the very least enjoy a modern artist who works in the old style.

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (Rocky and Rani's Love Story)

Rocky is a loud, showy Punjabi from a family who made their fortune making laddoos (sweets). Rani is a sophisticated, stylish television personality from a Bengali family. Brought together by a fluke because each loves their grandparents, they fall in love. Struggling to plan their future with such different backgrounds they do the only logical thing (from a Bollywood point of view) — live with each other's  families for three months to adjust to their cultures and backgrounds and to know if their marriage will survive. This leads to funny and interesting contrasts as each has something to learn and something to teach their "new" families.

Rocky Aur Rani is a three-hour long, dance loaded, romance loaded movie that leaves you smiling. It's been described as "delicious eye candy with a rebellious core" and nothing could be truer. Ranveer Singh as Rocky has never been more charming or energetic. Alia Bhatt makes the romance seem genuine. As well as the romance, the contrast between traditional and progressive values gives you something a little deeper than the fun and froth. 

Highly recommended.


Rocky Aur Rani also is a delightful blending of old and new. We couldn't appreciate it the way that it would strike Indian audiences but our limited knowledge still made us happy when we recognized callbacks to old Indian films. The music was composed by superstar Pritam as an homage to 1960s and 70s songs from Bollywood classics. Some of the actors were actually in those classics. We were especially delighted to see Dharmendra and Jaya Bachan (who we'd seen in the curry-western Sholay, as well as a few other films). 

Partway through, this suddenly struck me forcibly as a modern take on Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (K3G - my review). We watched it early in our Indian movie explorations and it didn't go down well for this American family. I'd forgotten most of the details but somehow that K3G vibe was there. Afterward, I remembered it was an early film for Rocky Aur Rani's director, Karan Johar. It's as if he was shaking off the cobwebs and bringing it into the present. I don't tend to love Johar's films, but this time — we thoroughly approved.

Monday, September 25, 2023


Stairs, Bertha Wegman
I'd love to live in the house that has these stairs.

The Old Testament is not outdated for our modern world

The Old Testament is a message addressed to a people who had to be detached from the pagan, polytheistic mentalities of antiquity. It contains nothing outdated for our modern world, which has become pagan again and enslaved by its own idols, denying the difference between good and evil. It teaches us to give God His place as the origin and destination of everything, the source of life and the final end of man, who is a pilgrim traveling toward the Absolute; this is the great moral and religious revolutiaon of the law of Moses. The People of God must be drawn out of their enslavement so as to live up to the divine election that is theirs.
Amen, amen.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

St. Pio's Feast Day

I will stand at the gates of Heaven and I will not enter until all of my spiritual children are with me.
Today is St. Pio's feast day. I just love this guy, an Italian priest who knew how to throw his head back and laugh, who would scold a famous actress for being shallow, who suffered the stigmata for over 50 years, who knew (and could see) his guardian angel from the time he was a tiny child, who could bilocate and read souls, who was one of the greatest saints in living memory ... and who I share a birthday with (although his was 70 years earlier - May 25).

Finally I have found the original photo which attracted me to him when I was leafing through a book of saints in our church's library ... it communicates a sense of joy and light-heartedness that was striking. I thought, "Now there is someone I could talk to...that is what a real saint should look like."

Deacon Greg Kandra has, in years past, featured a 2009 homily he gave focusing on Padre Pio and tells this story which reflects the saint's fine sense of humor and irony.
One of my favorite stories about him happened during the early 1960s.

Italy was in crisis. The Red Brigade was sparking violence in Rome, and it was considered dangerous to travel around the country. For protection, people began carrying pictures of Padre Pio.

During this time, Padre Pio had to leave his village to visit Rome, and one of the other friars asked him, “Aren’t you worried about the Red Brigade?”

“No,” he said. “I have a picture of Padre Pio.”
Here is an extremely brief and incomplete look at the saint, which nonetheless is not a bad summary.
While praying before a cross, he received the stigmata on 20 September 1918, the first priest ever to be so blessed. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. Reportedly able to bilocate, levitate, and heal by touch. Founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920's he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.
You can read more about Padre Pio here.

Friday, September 22, 2023


September, Theo Van Hoytema


The emblem of our unity.

This flag which we honour and under which we serve is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us. — speaks to us of the past, of the men and women who went before us and of the records they wrote upon it. ... from its birth until now it has witnessed a great history, has floated on high the symbol of great, events, of a great plan of life worked out by a great people.
Woodrow Wilson, June 1917,
as the country entered World War I
These are things we need to remember, especially in this time of great division over the choices contributing to the plan of life we are working out together as a country.