Saturday, January 23, 2016

Whether to Weather the Weather

Maybe it's just because I'm getting older. Maybe it's because the weather was particularly bad this time around. Whatever the reason, I found my last trip to my favorite (only) retreat spot to be very stressful, and treacherous at times.

It's a long drive; usually takes me a total of 5-1/2 to 6 hours depending on how many stops I make and how much time I spend at those stops. There are basically three legs to the journey, as I see it. On the way to my retreat, the first leg takes me out of town, over a mountain pass, and then down into the lovely John Day River valley. The trek over the pass was unpleasant. It was snowing. It had been snowing. Thanks be to God, there was very little traffic (which is usually the case). I get anxious when I have a car behind me wanting me to go faster.

At a certain point, the road conditions improved markedly, and I thought, "Aha! This has been recently plowed!" Sure enough, a caught up with the snow plow. I was happy to follow along behind, but alas, the driver turned off before we got past the snowfall!

The snow plow is barely visible, but it's there in the center of the photo,
sending up a spray of snow behind it.
Once over the pass, the snow was practically gone. What a relief! So the second leg of the journey began on a pleasant note...or at least a less-treacherous one. But another pass - Ochoco Pass -  loomed ahead, and it I was a little anxious about that. in God! That pass was not bad at all - just a few signs of slushy snowy icy stuff on a mostly clear road. The third leg was also clear of snow and ice.

The return trip was a different matter. 

On the major highway, it was snowing and raining, and there was plenty of icy slush on the road. Plus, there's traffic there, and not everyone drives carefully! I saw one car that had spun out and ended up on the side of the road facing the wrong direction; no injuries, and I think the same vehicle passed me later on!

I do not like driving in this stuff, especially since my little car does not
have 4-wheel-drive! (I was practically at a stop to take this photo, with no other
vehicles in sight!)
The Ochoco Pass was snowy this time. And when it wasn't snowing, it was raining. The road wasn't bad...but neither was it good! Once over the pass, the road was clear of snow, but it was raining. And it had been raining. As I passed through a little town halfway along this leg, a police car appeared in my rear view mirror, with lights flashing. I was dismayed, thinking, "I'm not speeding!" But the officer passed me by and continued on the road. It turns out he was on his way to a section of a little canyon where rocks fall frequently. A huge boulder was fully blocking one lane of of the two-lane road,  on a blind curve, and a bulldozer was trying to remove it. The officer had placed flares to warn travelers. This is not a busy highway, so things were not as bad as you might expect.

The John Day valley was again easily traveled, though the rain continued. Then...the final leg. Over Dixie Summit again, up to Austin Junction, and down the mountain. Snow. Snow. Snow. White-out conditions in a couple of places. This leg, which generally takes me about an hour and 45 minutes, took an hour longer than that. I did not take any photos along that stretch; even though I was mostly alone on the road, I didn't want to stop to snap a picture - I just wanted to get home! The photo below is on the very last 10-mile stretch before home. 

In the almost 12 years I've been making this bi-monthly trip, this was the worst driving I'd seen; so all in all, that's a pretty good track record, I guess. But I found it quite exhausting! Still, as I usually do, once I reached my destination, I sat back and considered that, "Well, it could have been worse!"

Looking back on it, though, it's just a condensed version of life, isn't it? The ups and downs, the storms and calms, the bad weather and good. In our travels, we must trust God, while making prudent travel decisions as well! (In retrospect, I wish I'd put my trip off by a week; but there is no predicting weather in this part of the country!) Usually, we can look back and say, "It could have been worse. Thank God it wasn't!"  The same "travel" analogy holds for our spiritual life as well, I'm sure you will agree. That is why I pray every day to the Archangel Raphael - for safe travels through life, whether that involves physical, emotion, or spiritual travel.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ora IS Labora!

Perhaps I have previously posted this quote from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers; I don’t remember. But I read it again today during the Office of Prime, and it struck me anew, so here it is:

The brethren also asked [Abba Agathon], “Amongst all good works, which is the virtue that requires the greatest effort?”

He answered, “Forgive me, but I think there is no labor greater than that of prayer to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, want to prevent him, for they know that it is only by turning him from prayer that they can hinder his journey. Whatever good work a man undertakes, if he perseveres in it, he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath.”

I have certainly found this to be the case for me! Sometimes I ponder my life circumstances, which probably appear pretty soft to most who see only a woman who doesn’t work outside the home – they may wonder, “What the heck does she do all day?” I joke sometimes that I sit on the couch and eat bonbons. Ha! Prayer is hard work. Sometimes I recognize that. Other times I just wonder why I’m so tired.

Right now, I am trying to pray and not worry. I am worried and tense and anxious about things right now, and I know the answer is to abandon myself and my loved ones to Divine Providence. That means trusting God. If I am worried and anxious, I am not trusting. As the Scripture says, “Be nothing solicitous; but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

I’ll be on retreat the rest of this week!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Winter Beauty

We've had a lot of snow already this year. I admit that early in the season, I enjoy the beauty of the snow immensely. Later...not so much! "There is a season..." and all that.

 I bought myself a pair of snowshoes for my birthday. I have cross country skiis, but the snowshoes are more versatile in some ways, and it's easier to snowshoe with my dogs in the pasture than it is to ski.  

We have had some unusually cold temperatures in December; I don't enjoy that so much.

Winter weather does create some wonderful photos, though. Here are a few  a bunch of my favorites from recent weeks.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Crazy Christmas Calendar and the Holy Name of Jesus

The two holy days that are most annoying for me (in terms of their placement in the new liturgical calendar of the Church) are the feasts of the Epiphany and the Ascension. Moving those feasts to the nearest Sunday is just…well…diabolical, really. In particular, I struggle with this issue at this time of the year – the Christmas season – when I am not able to travel far afield to find a decent celebration of the feasts of the old calendar.

We can’t say whether the intentions of those who made the changes were anti-Church or anti-God, but the effects certainly would fit in with Satan’s plans. The rescheduling of those feasts (and others) diminishes and impoverishes our Catholic heritage.

This time of year is particularly annoying, because they also messed with the feast days in the Octave of Christmas. First, they shove the Holy Family in there where it should simply be the Sunday within the Octave. Then they rename the Octave day of Christmas, and instead of honoring and meditating on the meaning of the Circumcision of Our Lord, we instead have our attention focused on Mary, Mother of God. Now, I’m all for Marian feasts, and most of the time I am able to travel to an EF Mass for those. But why do you suppose they wanted to change the Circumcision of Our Lord? (A friend suggested that “all of a sudden, they got squeamish about male infantile genitalia”. Ha! It certainly seems so.) I saw a comment somewhere on FaceBook noting that it’s easier to write a homily about Mary than about circumcision. But there really is much to say about the Circumcision of Our Lord – why it was done, what it symbolizes for us, etc. Priests who read the old Divine Office probably have plenty of ideas for homilies on this particular feast.

The Sunday between the Circumcision and the Epiphany is, in the old calendar, the feast of The Most Holy Name of Jesus! Gone! Just like that! What more could Satan ask for?! We don’t keep this feast at all in the new calendar, except as an “optional memorial”. The Holy Name is tied up inextricably with the Circumcision, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux has no trouble finding something to say about it. In the 9th reading at Vigils last night, we hear from St. Bernard:

It is no wonder that it should be at His circumcision that the Name of Jesus (which is, being interpreted, Saviour) is given to the Child Who is born unto us, for it was then that He for the first time shed that sinless Blood Which is the mean whereby He hath chosen to work out our salvation. It is no matter for the speculation of Christians why the Lord Christ was pleased to be circumcised. He was circumcised for the same reason for which He was born, and for which He suffered. Neither one nor the other was for Himself, but all for the sake of the elect. He was not born in sin; He was not circumcised to separate Him from sin; neither did He die for sins of His own, but for ours. Which was so named of the Angel before He was conceived in the womb. The Angel indeed gave Him that title of Saviour, but not for the first time. Saviour is His Name from everlasting; He hath it of His own proper nature to save. This title He hath in Himself, not by the gift of anything that He hath made, be it man or Angel.

The passage from Philippians (2:5-11) has always stirred my soul.

For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man, He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

Why should we not dedicate a feast day to the Holy Name of Jesus?!

At least the powers that be in the Church have not yet decreed that Christmas itself be moved to the nearest Sunday! I can take some comfort in that, I suppose.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!