Sunday, March 30, 2014

Miracles Every Day

The last three readings at vigils last night have made an impression on me before. I remember reading them last year and thinking at that time, “this is so true!” Sometimes I’m just amazed that I actually remember having read something the year before.)

At any rate, the readings are from a homily by St Augustine (24th Tract on John). The section begins by noting that there are many miracles set before us every day, but we don’t notice them because they happen so frequently. The miracles at which men are astonished, the saint says, are rarer, and that is why they are held in higher esteem.

St. Augustine goes on:

…[I]t is a greater miracle to govern the whole universe, than to satisfy five thousand men with five loaves of bread; and yet no man marvelleth at it. At the feeding of the five thousand, men marvel, not because it is a greater miracle than the other, but because it is rarer. For Who is He Who now feedeth the whole world, but He Who, from a little grain that is sown, maketh the fulness of the harvest? God worketh in both cases in one and the same manner. He Who of the sowing maketh to come the harvest, is He Who of the five barley loaves in His Hands made bread to feed five thousand men; for Christ’s are the Hands which are able to do both the one and the other. He Who multiplieth the grains of corn multiplied the loaves, only not by committing them to the earth whereof He is the Maker.

This miracle, then, is brought to bear upon our bodies, that our souls may thereby be quickened; shown to our eyes, to give food to our understanding; that, through His works which we see, we may marvel at that God Whom we cannot see, and, being roused up to believe, and purified by believing, we may long to see Him, yea, may know by things which are seen Him Who is Unseen. Nor yet sufficeth it for us to see only this meaning in Christ’s miracles. Let us ask of the miracles themselves what they have to tell us concerning Christ for, soothly, they have a tongue of their own, if only we will understand it. For, because Christ is the Word of God, therefore the work of the Word is a Word for us.

And the greatest miracle of all is available for us at every Mass as the prayers of consecration are said and the host and wine become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ truly present in the Eucharist.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Friday, March 28, 2014

God's Will Be Done

Well, I prayed fervently, and I asked the intercession of all "my" saints, but things did not change. In a way, it is a plus that there was no change in the situation about which I was praying. Still, I was hoping there would be a positive change.

Mainly, I was praying that the critical person involved would be malleable and would allow the grace and mercy and justice of the Holy Spirit to work in him. That seems not to have happened. 

After my initial disappointment, I am once again hopeful. After all, my prayer is first and foremost that God's will be done. And I must trust that it has been so.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Praying With My Saints

This week, I am praying fervently and striving to do more acts of penance for a special intention. It’s a very special intention, and I was thinking about which saint might be a patron of the cause for which I’m praying. Several came to mind.

But then, as I was praying in my chapel the other day, I had to laugh at myself. I have a veritable army of saints and angels to whom I pray daily, asking for their help and intercession in all I do! Why wouldn’t they all be willing to help me in this special intention?!

I did add a couple more names to the list of those saints from whom I am requesting intercession, though. The more the merrier, as they say!

If you are so moved, please pray for this special intention, too. God will know which one you mean.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Out of the Abundance of the Heart, The Mouth Speaks

“…Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

That verse has stuck in my mind since about the first time I ever read it.  When I first “re-verted” to Christianity, one of the first things that struck me was that I should give up much of the foul language I was using (including taking the Lord’s name in vain). And so I did.

Ten years later, I became Catholic. Ha! I found that Catholics were not nearly so conscientious about avoiding vulgar and profane language as were my fundamentalist-type Christian friends!

But I stuck with my standards, and avoided a lot of “language”. I raised my daughter to avoid it. Once, when she was only about 5 or 6, she told me she knew some bad words. I was surprised, thinking of the standards that society considers “bad” (or not, apparently, as they are in constant use!). She said, “Jerk. And stupid.” Yep. Pretty bad!

Switching gears, time, and place...sort of... Lately I have been considering my use of Face Book. I have used it primarily to keep tabs on family members, and as a means of “sharing” important news articles or information about the faith, pro-life issues, and other stuff along those lines. Sometimes I “share” humorous stuff – things that just make me laugh – because I figure we all need some comic relief. I don’t think I have ever posted a “status”, other than as a comment on whatever article or cartoon I am “sharing”.

Yesterday in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, I read that

It was said of Abba Theodore of Phermae that the three things he held to be fundamental were: poverty, asceticism, flight from men.

And I thought, as I have a number of times recently, that, in terms especially of flight from men, I should just stop looking at Face Book. It’s mostly a time-waster. Yes, I find some interesting articles there, because I have some solid, orthodox “friends”; and I can see photos of various and sundry family members: my son, my nieces and nephews and their children, and my (step) sons- and daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. Those are the pluses.

On the other hand, my nieces and nephews are not Catholic, and only one considers himself to be a Christian. Amongst my husband’s sons and their wives and children, there has been much falling away from the Church. And they all use bad language (even including my husband and daughter!), or tell vulgar stories involving bodily functions, or quote other family members saying profane and vulgar things. I wince. I cringe. But I read those things. And I know that it has an effect on me…and it’s not a good one.

Besides, the truth is, I probably am not going to move any of my nieces and nephews toward Catholicism, nor move the in-laws back toward the faith. In fact, by leaving comments on a few entries by others, I have effectively alienated more and more family members as time has gone on! I'm really not too good at evangelization!

Even Catholic “friends” and “pages” have posted things that I really don’t want to see or read. And yet there they are, bombarding me when I go to my FB page. Even some of the good articles or funny cartoons have sources with vulgar and profane words in their titles. Sometimes I want to “share” a cartoon, but I won’t because of the source’s name.

So I think the time has come. “Flight from men” in today’s world, I think, can mean “leaving” the Face Book society. Why do I need Face Book? I ask myself. What good is it doing me? The answer is that it is not doing me much good at all, while at the same time it is having a negative effect on me.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Charity a la Chesterton

I have been reading some of G.K. Chesterton’s fiction. I read “The Man Who Was Thursday” because I’d seen the title before and wondered what it could possibly be about. I found it fascinating.

I also read “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. For those of you who, like me, don’t know much about Chesterton, this is a series of detective stories featuring a main character named Horne Fisher, who, though not a detective, really, solves many a murder mystery. The problem is, many times the culprit goes free because Mr. Fisher knows too much – his connections with government officials (by way of family ties) has put him in possession of much information concerning internal and external politics. When he allows a murderer to escape, it is for the greater good; not accusing the perpetrator averts a calamity that would cause much more suffering for many more people.

In the last story, Horne Fisher is confronted by his friend who wonders why Horne doesn’t do something about the corruption he knows is rampant in the government; why doesn’t he expose the incompetence and ineptitude of the government officials? But Horne says the following to his friend (with my emphasis):

Did you think I had found nothing but filth in the deep seas into which fate has thrown me? Believe me, you never know the best about men till you know the worst about them. It does not dispose of their strange human souls to know that they were exhibited to the world as impossible impeccable waxworks, who never looked after a woman or knew the meaning of a bribe. Even in a palace life can be lived well, and even in a parliament life can be lived with occasional efforts to live it well. I tell you it is as true of these rich fools and rascals as it is true of every poor footpad and pickpocket: that only God knows how good they have tried to be. God alone knows what the conscience can survive, or how a man who has lost his honour will still try to save his soul.

I know that for myself, there is a great temptation to judge a person’s soul by the actions I notice. And of course, I notice most especially the bad actions – the ones that, for instance, seem just plain mean-spirited. Come to think of it, I do the same for good actions – if that is my first impression of the person, and if there are few further interactions by which to discern the motives, values, and attitudes of the person.

But as Chesterton notes, people are not usually all that simple. They are complicated. They are full of internal contradictions as well as outward ones. Who was the poet who said of the little girl with the curl that “when she was good, she was very very good, and when she was bad, she was horrid”? (Longfellow. I googled.)

So Horne Fisher’s musings on the souls of his government-employed family members makes me pause for a moment in the uncharitable thoughts I tend to think about a few priests and prelates I know, as well as a few of my own family members.  After all, as Horne Fisher says, “Only God knows how good they have tried to be.” 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fear of Hell, Love of God

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

[Abba Evagrius] also said, “Always keep your death in mind and do not forget the eternal judgment, then there will be no fault in your soul.”

Yes, keeping eternal judgment in mind sounds like a good thing to do.  It’s easier when one thinks one is sure to go to straight to Heaven, though, I’ve found! When I think about death and about standing before God with the devil accusing me of all my sins, I can relate more to this word from another abba:

Abba Elias said, “For my part, I fear three things: the moment when my soul will leave my body, and when I shall appear before God, and when the sentence will be given against me.”

Of course, the two statements are getting at the same thing, aren’t they? If we consider that we are going to die – if we remember that and think about being judged by God – then we will surely fear the very moments mentioned by Abba Elias. And that fear leads us to be less inclined to commit sins.

That’s only the start though, as we are often reminded. Better to avoid sin out of the fear of losing Heaven than not to avoid sin at all. But better still to avoid sin out of the love of God. In the act of contrition, we pray “I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love.” It’s natural to fear the pains of hell; it’s supernatural to love God.

As St. Antony the Great is quoted, “I no longer fear God; I love him.” Keeping death always in mind can, I hope, lead us (me) to that love of God that supersedes fear, and makes our avoidance of sin more virtuous and less self-serving.  

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Perfect Prayer

At Vespers last night (Tuesday), the collect was:
Ascendant ad te, Domine, preces nostrae: et ab Ecclesia tua cunctam repelle nequitiam.
O Lord, may our prayers come up before thy presence, and do Thou mercifully rid thy Church of all wickedness.
It struck me as the perfect prayer for these days of our poor Church. It seems that the wickedness within the Church is causing much more damage than the wickedness outside the Church. I was feeling pretty sad about that fact (just look at recent comments by Cardinal Dolan...), but this prayer gives me hope.

I think I will make it part of my litany of daily prayers! 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sacrilege At Holy Communion

I have a friend who is not Catholic, but who attends Mass every Sunday. He does so for all the wrong reasons, really; he won’t stay if he doesn’t see one of his special friends there. But that’s not the point I want to make here.

My friend goes to a different Mass than I do, so I didn’t witness his interaction with another parishioner, but he tells me that “a person offered me some of their bread” after receiving the Host in her hand at Communion. He says it is the second time this has happened.

I was appalled. Scandalized. Horrified. Etc. 

My friend, as I said, is not Catholic, but I spent a year or so catechizing him, hoping he would come into the Church. He is stubborn, though, and won’t accept some crucial teachings (like the Real Presence and Mary’s perpetual virginity!!). Still, he knows something about the faith, and he knows that he is not supposed to receive Holy Communion. He doesn’t agree with that, but he respects the teachings of the Church on that point. I also discouraged him from going forward to “receive a blessing”, and he remains in the pew during Communion.
He told me that he declined to accept the portion of the Host offered to him by the parishioner. Thanks be to God.

But I am left with horrifying images in my head. The parishioner apparently does not know her faith, and was willing to walk away with the Host, break it, and offer Christ’s Body to a non-Catholic.

When I told him this, my friend replied via email, “We disagree (God is love). I thought it was truly wonderful that someone actually cared enough about me to want me to have some.”

Well…I explained it to my non-Catholic friend in this way:

In breaking the Host, little particles fly out. They go on the floor, on the person's hands, etc. That is like tearing apart the Body of Christ, and is an insult to Him, and a sacrilege. It is as if the person committed the murder of Christ all over again, and blood is dripping from his or her hands. The little pieces go unnoticed, but they cause intense pain to Our Lord as He suffers through yet another abuse at Mass.

The person who did this is endangering his or her own soul. If they do not know that what they are doing is wrong, they may have some excuse, but chances are they know it's wrong and just "disagree". Well, then, they should not be receiving Holy Communion either. By refusing to accept it, you are showing a greater awareness of and respect for the teachings of the Church than that alleged Catholic is. By offering you the Host, the person is giving you a chance to receive inappropriately, and that is NOT love. That is disrespecting (and not loving) God. God's love is shown by offering you the fullness of the Truth of the Roman Catholic Church, and that's what I have offered you, time and again. The person offering you a portion of the Host offers you not love, but condemnation. They offer you a small "piece" of the Church, and it is not even a true piece. It is a damaged piece that carries with it the sins of the ages. It carries misinformation, and that is called scandal. It implies to you that the Church is wrong that that the person offering you some of their "bread" is right. It sets that person up as God, in a sense. And that, my friend, is not, NOT, NOT love!

I have been praying especially to Our Lady of Sorrows recently, and remember each of the seven sorrows every day. Yesterday, as I prayed 3 Ave’s in honor of Her tears, I could only picture her at the foot of the Cross, watching in pain and sorrow as someone reached up and tore away a portion of Our Lord’s already mangled and bloody flesh, then turned away with the blood dripping from their hands, but with a casual smile on their lips. It brought to mind those horrifying photos of aborted babies who have been dismembered and mutilated.

I wish my friend and the parishioner who offered him the fragment of the Host could understand the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I wish they could experience one of the Eucharistic miracles where the Host actually takes on the physical attributes of bloody flesh, or a beating heart.

But I suppose for many doubters, even a miracle of that nature would not convince them.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Lenten Antependium for the Cathedral Altar

One of my favorite things to do is to make altar antependia. It's a little tedious at times, and the larger the altar the more difficult it is, as I have limited space. Still, I just find it very gratifying, and I always imagine that Our Lord will be pleased.

Here's my latest creation. I made a way to hang it on the wall so that I could see the whole thing all at once. 

Below you will see the finished product in place. I think it makes the altar in the Cathedral look like an altar in a Cathedral is supposed to look!. In these photos, the candlesticks haven't been added, and if you look closely, you will see the steamer is standing behind the!

But you get the idea...

Here's the view people will have as they enter the Cathedral for Mass.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.