Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Angels

Today I am still exulting in the angels. For that matter, I jubilate in them every day, as I do in the Mother of Our Lord and the saints of God. Most of all I rejoice in the Lord, who "has a throne in the secret of my soul" -- Jesus, my God and my All, who lives and reigns for ever and ever! Amen! Alleluia!
I walk in a cloud of angels.
God has a throne in the secret of my soul.
I move, encircled by light,
blinded by glowing faces,
lost and bewildered in the motion of wings,
stricken by music too sublime to bear.
Splendor is everywhere.
God is always enthroned on the cherubim,
circled by seraphim.
Holy, holy, holy,
wave upon wave of endless adoration.
I walk in a cloud of angels that worship Him.

"In a Cloud of Angels" by Jessica Powers aka Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Today's Feast: The Archangels

Michael is a prince of God and page of Mary.
He stands beside the tall throne of his Queen.
He is the warrior who made peace in heaven
and keeps the earth serene.

Then why should I take fright when foes or demons
assail me with their treacheries or wrath,
when I have knowledge that the Queen’s archangel
is keeper of my path?

O heart, believe. The great winged prince of heaven
watches the Queen’s child with a warrior’s eye
and lifts his flaming spear and comes like lightning
at the first cry.

"Michael," by Jessica Powers aka Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

To Live

Unopened by Ann L. Krumrein

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.
Emily Dickinson

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mother Autumn Returns!

Perhaps because I was an October baby and spent my first seven years living in New England, fall has always been my favorite time of year. What Gerard Manley Hopkins termed "hurrahing in harvest" comes naturally to me with the arrival of the autumn equinox. The vibrancy of fall exhilarates me, causing me instinctively to revel in the gift of life.

Autumn is a good and bountiful mother who initially presents this gift of life in spectacular form. She doesn't display her beauty -- she flaunts it, passionately, shamelessly. Day after day she reveals her precious goods, one more glorious than the other. Her manner is somewhat reckless. Such treasures so freely given to any passerby! I am not always so generous in sharing my carefully hoarded riches, and I experience both discomfort and awe as I witness such largess. I am a bit frightened by her generosity for I know that Mother Autumn will give all until seemingly nothing remains -- and then what?

Then, after the surrender comes the stripping, the emptiness. I cringe before such barrenness. This is not, however, a meaningless void. Rather, it is a sacred space, wherein the marvelous cycle of life-through-death continues throughout countless ages. This timeless rhythm must be repeated again and again, both in my own life-span and in that of all creation. It is the rhythm of life burgeoning and regenerating, and it happens most often in fallow moments of stillness and rest.

In this place of darkness and silence, I must live by faith. The external lavish show does not belong here. Neither does the hoarding and miserliness. Mother Autumn bids me to willingly let go, to gladly undergo the deaths of everyday living, both large and small. She demonstrates powerfully that the things I cling to so fondly serve little purpose, lovely and comforting though they may be. Precisely because she knows intrinsically her true inner wealth, this wise woman quietly puts aside her outer finery and lives from deep within. From this vantage point, she is empowered to stand fast, holding firm to the promise of the vision which will neither fail nor disappoint nor deceive, which will surely come and not delay (Hab 2:3).

Mother Autumn both manifests and celebrates the abundant life. She bespeaks of the mysteriously fertile life of the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies, a secret, hidden life which becomes richer and fuller in the very act of dying. Such a life wondrously transcends the limitations imposed by exterior forces and tenderly begets new life in endless measure.

When I listen to Mother Autumn's harvest hymn of praise, I hear her sing exultingly of the freedom that comes with abandonment to Divine Providence. From her I gratefully learn anew the joy of depending solely upon the Loving Creator. Caught up in her cosmic paean, Mother Autumn and I together proclaim the goodness and majesty of the One who alone is the Lord and Giver of Life.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Phil 1:21

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Rosary

The Rosary is both meditation and supplication. Insistent prayer to the Mother of God is based on confidence that her maternal intercession can obtain all things from the heart of her Son. She is “all-powerful by grace”, to use the bold expression, which needs to be properly understood, of Blessed Bartolo Longo in his Supplication to Our Lady. This is a conviction which, beginning with the Gospel, has grown ever more firm in the experience of the Christian people. The supreme poet Dante expresses it marvellously in the lines sung by Saint Bernard: “Lady, thou art so great and so powerful, that whoever desires grace yet does not turn to thee, would have his desire fly without wings”. When in the Rosary we plead with Mary, the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35), she intercedes for us before the Father who filled her with grace and before the Son born of her womb, praying with us and for us. ~Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae

Dearest Mary, today as every day, I happily take up my rosary anew, resting confidently in you like a child at her mother's breast (Ps 131), secure in your maternal love for me and for all your children. Mother Most Wonderful, may I always love and honor you, and, with you, the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Amen.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Season and a Time

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven," begins our first reading at Mass today (Eccl 3:1-11). I never tire of hearing this. Every season and time is valid and meaningful for me because every moment is God's gift to me. Indeed, as Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade writes in his timeless classic Abandonment to Divine Providence, "every moment reveals God to us," and that is enough for me. "There is never a moment when God does not come forward in the guise of some suffering or some duty," de Caussade goes on to say, "and all that takes place within us, around us and through us both includes and hides his activity." The time to be born reveals the Lord in His nativity; the time to die, His passion and death. The time to mourn draws us to Golgotha; the time to laugh, the empty tomb. The time to be silent leads us on the way of the Cross; the time to speak, on the road to Emmaus. "What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us," de Caussade explains, adding that "At every moment we should exclaim: 'It is the Lord!'" (Jn 21:7)
Dear Lord, thank you for putting the timeless into my heart so that I may long for You alone, the Eternal God. Whatever the seasons and times of this day, let me rejoice and be glad for You will be there, making everything beautiful as only You can. Amen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I ask simply to be used.

God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory—we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about.

O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I—more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfill Thy high purposes in me whatever they be—work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used.

~from Meditations and Devotions by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Thank you, dear Lord, for today's beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Prayer is a Penance

Prayer is a penance, and it must be so. It is difficult to cast out distractions. Sometimes we have to fight the whole period through to remove thoughts that should not be there. At other times we are tired, or we don't feel like praying. Let me remind you that penance adds a great value to our prayer. When the three Kings came before Our Divine Lord, they did not bring only frankincense, which signified prayer. They also brought gold, which signifies charity, and myrrh, symbolic of sacrifice. A life of interior prayer is a life of sacrifice. One of the prayers we used to pray in honor of the Holy Kings begged that we might never appear before God empty-handed when we came to pray, but that we would always have some type of sacrifice to bring with us. ~Fr. Casimir Puskorius, CMRI

I came across the above in my reading the other day, and it was just what I needed to hear as I was feeling too weary to pray. Of course, that was no reason not to pray, and I knew that very well, but I greatly appreciated this reminder of the sacrificial nature of prayer. After all, it's not about me. Prayer is all about God, and I could not even begin to pray but for the many graces He so lavishly gives me in His goodness and mercy. That alone is enough for me to fall on my knees before Him in praise and adoration.

Fr. Puskorius mentions the Three Kings, bearing gifts as they traversed afar in search of the Holy Child of Bethlehem -- gold to crown Him, frankincense to to worship Him, and myrrh to anoint Him. "Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume / Breathes a life of gathering gloom. / Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying, / Sealed in the stone-cold tomb." Sometimes I spend days, weeks even, in a stone-cold tomb. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's not the tomb of self-pity and slothfulness. The tomb of Christ is the womb of eternal life. If I die with Him, I shall also live with Him (2 Tim 2:11). The everlasting light shines into all our tombs, shattering every darkness. He is the living one; He died and behold, He is alive for evermore (Rev 1:18). Myrrh is mine, but life is His. He Himself is life! I live now, not I, but Christ in me (Gal 1:20). Thanks be to God! Alleluia!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Today's Feast: Our Lady of Sorrows


The grieving Mother stood weeping beside the cross where her Son was hanging.

Her soul, lamenting, inconsolable and sorrowing, was pierced by a sword.

O how sad and afflicted was that blessed Mother of the Only-begotten!

How she moaned and wept, the Mother of Piety, as she saw the pains of her divine Son.

Who is the person who would not weep seeing the Mother of Christ in such agony?

Who would not share her sorrow, seeing the loving Mother grieving with her Son?

For the sins of his people she saw Jesus in torment and subjected to the scourge.

She saw her sweet Son dying desolate as He gave up the spirit.

O Mother, fountain of love, make me feel the power of sorrow, that I may grieve with you.

Make my heart to glow within me for the God who came to win me, burn with love for Christ, my Lord.

Blessed Mother, cause the sufferings of the Crucified to be fixed deeply in my heart.

Share with me the pains of your wounded Son who is so gracious to suffer for my sake.

Make me truly weep with you, and share the suffering of the Crucified, as long as I shall live.

To stand beside the cross with you, and gladly share the weeping, this I desire.

O Virgin peerless among virgins, do not turn away from me, let me weep with you.

Let me bear Christ's death, let me share his Passion, enduring his wounds.

Let me suffer His pain, let me be engulfed by the Cross, for the love of your Son.

Lest I be set afire by flames of death, Virgin, may I be defended by you, on the day of judgement.

May I be guarded by the cross, protected by Christ's death, nurtured by grace.

When my body dies, let my soul receive the glory of heaven.


"Domine, non sum dignus..." O Jesus, my crucified Lord and Savior, I am truly not worthy to share Your sufferings, Your passion and Your death. Your Blessed Mother has brought me here, to the foot of Your cross, and here I beg to remain, with her, sorrowful and yet always rejoicing. I adore You, O Christ, and I praise You, because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world! Amen! Alleluia!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Today's Feast: Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Mount Calvary is the mount of lovers. All love that does not take its origin from the Savior's passion is foolish and perilous. Unhappy is death without the Savior's love; unhappy is love without the Savior's death. Love and death are so mingled in the Savior's passion that we cannot have one in our hearts without the other. Upon Calvary we cannot have life without love, or love without the Redeemer's death. Except there, all is either eternal death or eternal love. All Christian wisdom consists in choosing rightly...

O love eternal, my soul needs and chooses you eternally! Ah, come Holy Spirit, and inflame our hearts with your love! To love -- or to die! To die -- and to love! To die to all other love in order to live in Jesus' love, so that we may not die eternally. But that we may live in your eternal love, O Savior of our souls, we eternally sing, "Live, Jesus! Jesus, I love! Live, Jesus whom I love! Jesus I love, Jesus who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen."

~St. Francis de Sales in Treatise on the Love of God

Monday, September 13, 2010

Today's Feast: St. John Chrysostom

How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment. ~St. John Chrysostom
Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all! May I never fail to praise You for the fullness of life and love that You give me each day in the Holy Eucharist -- Your very self! Amen! Alleluia!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Lost Bead

The parable of the woman searching for her lost coin (Luke 15:8-9) was very much on my mind recently when I lost a bead. It was a lovely 3mm round corrugated silver bead that I dropped as I was threading it onto a rosary line (see picture on left for what a rosary line looks like). I'm not exactly penny-pinching but sure can be frugal, and at approximately two cents per bead, I was immediately crawling around on the floor and under my dining room table looking for it.

"Rejoice with me because I have found the bead that I lost." Yes, I did find it. It was such a wee thing but so worth hunting down. I thought about God searching for me, tiny creature that I am, one of His little ones but no less important to Him than the greatest in His Kingdom. How happy God is when he finds me and brings me home to His heart of boundless love! And how happy I am, too!

I also thought of my sins, which are more often than not small as opposed to large. Whatever their size, they offend God and weaken my soul, and therefore I must repent of them as fervently as I would if they were huge and horrible. I must go after them as diligently as I went after my 3mm bead and bring them all to God so that He can forgive and heal me.

Rejoice with me, for I have been found by God -- and so have you! Again I say rejoice!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. ~Luke 2:19

Do we understand at last that action must be born of silence, and abide in silence, and issue in silence, and that its power must be the emanation and the radiation of silence, since its sole aim is to make men capable of hearing the Word that silently reverberates in their souls?

Education, government, instruction, and spiritual direction, how much all these would be changed, how efficacious and liberating they would all become if parents, politicians, teachers and priests brought to their task the mysterious effacement of the Host, if their words became silent, and the exercise of their authority had no other purpose than to open the soul to the silence of God.

All speech and reasoning, all eloquence and science, all methods and psychologies, all slogans and suggestions, are not worth a minute's silence, in which the soul, completely open, yields itself to the embrace of the Spirit.

This is the adorable secret of a visit to the Blessed Sacrament or a visit, possible even more frequently, to the Trinity present in our soul and the souls of our brethren.

Is this not the first Church to build: the invisible cathedral erected in our hearts to the silent Word?

~from The Splendour of the Liturgy by Maurice Zundel

Dear Mary, woman wrapped in silence, help us to build an invisible cathedral in our hearts to your Beloved Son, the silent Word. There let us adore Him as you did -- in spirit and in truth, "lost in wonder, love and praise."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Run so as to win!

Run so as to win. ~1 Cor 9:24

As soon as I saw what the first reading was for today's Mass, I thought of a book that I just finished reading: Yukon Alone by John Balzar. It's an account of his experience as a volunteer for the Yukon Quest, the annual international dog sled race. This epic winter sports event takes place every February and covers 1,000 miles between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Mushers and their teams of 14 dogs compete over two weeks across frozen rivers and lakes and over mountain summits in the heart of the Arctic winter. It is an absolutely brutal race that demands the utmost of the musher and his canine team. Only the most daring need apply.

Run so as to win, St. Paul says. What does it take to win the Yukon Quest? Among other things, ambition, farsightedness, mental agility, physical stamina, devotion to one's dogs, and love of nature. For that matter, a race participant needs all that and more in huge quantities just to run and survive. Then there are the supplies such as food for the musher and dog, adequate clothing, a few tools, headlamp and bulbs (these guys are running in darkness, too!), etc. One must be sure to take enough but not so much as to weigh down the sled and make the burden heavier for the dogs. Thankfully there are designated stations where mushers and dogs can stop, and some of these stops are even required, they're written into the rules for the race. Here both man and beast can find in abundance warmth, food, rest and the ever-necessary companionship of others, but again, neither too much nor too little. Participants must also think of their own individual needs such as cigarettes for one, classical music tapes for another, chocolate for a third, and so on.

Run so as to win! What do I need to run the race that God has set before me on this earth? Holy ambition, steadfast determination, and burning love come to mind, along with utter confidence in the One who is calling and leading me. I need God's holy Word, the sacraments of the Church, and good, solid spiritual reading along with the company of Our Lady, my guardian angel and patron saints, all the angels and saints, my spiritual father and friends, my dear family, my parish community, and all those individuals whom God has given and will give me on this journey. Also, I personally need spiritual direction and a good deal of quiet and solitude. If I don't have these things and a few others as well, I won't even be able to run and survive.
I'm running, Lord, I'm running as fast and as best I can. And You are running with me, which makes it all sheer joy. Amen! Alleluia!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Choosing My Disposition

Nothing renders community life more unhappy than unevenness of disposition. ~St. Thérèse of Lisieux

What St. Thérèse says about community life is true for all life where we live or work together. I have a right to my feelings, but I don't have a right to make others suffer because of them. I find that it's often my feelings that contribute to my unevenness of disposition. Life is full of unsettling things that I cannot control, but I can choose what my response to them will be. Even if I initially react negatively, I can change that. And the more anchored I am in God, who alone is my hope and my peace, the sweeter and more harmonious my disposition will be. Then not only I will be happy but also those around me will be happy, too.
Dear Lord, today let me die to self so that I may live happily with You, in You and for you, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Today's Feast: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Our life does not exist by accident, it is not an accident. My life is willed by God from eternity. I am loved, I am necessary. God has a plan for me in the totality of history; he has a plan specifically for me. My life is important and also necessary. Eternal love has created me in profundity and awaits me. ~Pope Benedict XVI

Happy Birthday, dearest Mary! Your life, willed by God from all eternity, is a source of much hope and great joy for us. From the moment you were born, you lived according to His specific plan for you. Even when you didn't understand, when your heart ached and your spirits sagged, you trusted God with all your heart, confident of His eternal love for you. Teach me your ways, O Mother! Help me to make your "Fiat!" and "Magnificat!" my own, out of the material of my important and necessary life. With you, may I forever sing the goodness of the Lord! Amen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sister Rainbow and Mr. Toad

We've had a good deal of rain here in Houston the past few days, which we've sorely needed. Rain brings on two things -- rainbows and toads -- and I've seen them both within less than 12 hours. I've gone from the most beautiful to the least attractive, and they both absolutely delighted me!

Last night at 7pm-ish (if your Myers-Briggs type includes a "P" as mine does, you're likely to operate on "ish" time), I looked out my window to see if there was enough of a break in the rain for me to take a quick walk. The sky was lit up with the most vivid rainbow I've ever seen. I was so excited that I ran out my front door without my shoes on and just stood there laughing for joy. Glory hallelujah! "My heart leaps up when I behold / A rainbow in the sky!" William Wordsworth wrote that, to which I say AMEN!

This morning as I approached the door to our church office while it was still dark outside, I noticed a small dark object moving slowly ahead of me. I could just make out the warty skin of a toad so bent down to say "Hello, Mr. Toad! What brings you here?" If you've read The Wind in the Willows, which I wrote about in my post of September 3, you will remember what a lovable, fun-loving rascal Toad is and therefore you might understand how, after making his acquaintance, I can't see one of these homely little creatures without thinking of him. I wanted to scoop up this Mr. Toad and talk to him some more while petting him, but the sidewalk was too wet to put down the things I was carrying, and my rather limited experience with toads is that it takes two hands to catch them and I had only one free. So I bid goodbye to Toad, happy that I had at least seen him and enjoyed his company for a brief moment.

Rainbows and toads -- how great is that?

Let the earth bless the Lord! All creatures, great and small, bless the Lord! Sister Rainbow and Mr. Toad, praise and exalt God above all forever!
P.S. Yep, that's a picture of Mr. Toad above. No photograph could ever do justice to the rainbow I saw last night, but an image of Mr. Toad seems just about right for this post.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Circle of Life, No. 2

This morning I am still thinking about circles, especially the great circle of life that our Lord has drawn "with unparalleled love," where "justice and mercy meet." Because Love Himself has brought me into His circle, how can I not do likewise, how can I draw circles that shut certain people out? Because when people hurt me, I don't want them in my circle. I can and do sometimes keep them out by being cold and hard toward them. They don't like me? Well, I don't like them either. They shut me out? So what, I can and will do the same to them. Tit for tat, and nobody wins, especially me.

Then I remember a lesson from many years ago, back in 1967 when I was a newly-clothed, dewy-eyed canonical novice with the Springfield Franciscans. Oh, what a glorious time that was! I was always on cloud nine -- and Sister Chamindade Kelley, our wise and loving novice mistress, was forever bringing me back to reality. One day when we novices had gathered for our daily instructions with her, she entered the room and silently handed each one of us a single reinforcement. These days reinforcements for notebook paper come in every shape and color possible, but in the sixties, they were no-nonsense white circles of adhesive. Sitting down, "Sister C," as we fondly called her, recited the following poem by Edwin Markham:

He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.

Talk about a zinger! And she followed it, of course, with her kind but firm suggestion that each one of us take a few moments to quietly ask ourselves what kind of circles we were currently drawing. I don't recall what I came up with, but I've never forgotten this poem and Sister C's valuable lesson. And I keep begging Love to give me some of His wit so that with Him I may always draw circles that take others in, especially those I would much prefer to keep out.
Lord our God, in you justice and mercy meet. With unparalleled love you have saved us from death and drawn us into the circle of your life. Open our eyes to the wonders this life sets before us, that we may serve you free from fear and and address you as God our Father. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen. ~Alternative Opening Prayer for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Circle of Life

In the alternative opening prayer of the Mass for this Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we pray: "Lord our God, in you justice and mercy meet. With unparalleled love you have saved us from death and drawn us into the circle of your life."

What sort of circle do I draw? Is it a circle of life where justice and mercy meet? Is mine a large, open circle where all are welcome or a small, closed one that only a few select individuals may enter? Who do I let into my circle? Just those who like me and who are like me, who stroke my ego and feed my complacency but never challenge me? Who do I exclude? Those who are different, who don't like me and possibly even despise me, who cross me and rub me the wrong way, who ignore me or treat me shabbily? And what about all those so-called nobodies who are actually somebodies but I can't see that for my self-absorption?

In today's gospel (Luke 14:25-33), our Lord Jesus tells us that "anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple." What do I need to give up so that I can follow Christ more closely and draw a circle of life with Him? My pride, my anger, my fear, my selfishness, my ignorance, my narrow-mindedness?
Oh dear Lord, give me your counsel and send me your holy spirit from on high that I may learn what is your pleasure and be saved by Wisdom (Wis 9:17-18). Teach me the ways of your love! Amen.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I greet you, Mother!


O Mary, your name has been on my lips and in my heart from my early infancy. When I was a child I learned to love you as a Mother, turn to you in danger, and trust your intercession. You see in my heart the desire to know the truth, to practice virtue, to be prudent and just, strong and patient, a brother to all.

O Mary, help me to keep to my purpose of living as a faithful disciple of Jesus, for the building up of the Christian society and the joy of the holy Catholic Church. I greet you, Mother, morning and evening; I pray to you as I go on my way; from you I hope for the inspiration and encouragement that will enable me to fulfill the sacred promises of my earthly vocation, give glory to God, and win eternal salvation. O Mary! Like you in Bethlehem and on Golgotha, I too wish to stay always close to Jesus. He is the eternal King of all ages and all peoples.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Never, never afraid!

Yesterday I was blessed to have some time with my spiritual father for confession. Afterwards I was filled with such happiness that I said to him, "How could anyone dread going to confession when it's such an abundant source of God's love and of sheer joy?" As I was thinking more about this later in the day and thanking God for His wonderful sacrament of mercy, freedom and healing, I remembered a certain passage from Kenneth Grahame's delightful children's classic, The Wind in the Willows. It's a treasure for children of all ages, and I must dig out my copy and reread it again as it's been a while since I've visited with Mole, Rat and Toad. I feel a road trip coming on -- toot toot!

So what do these characters have to do with confession? Patience, now, you'll see. Little Portly of the Otters, who has a tendency to stray off and get lost, was missing again. He couldn't yet swim very well, which was making the Otters nervous about his well-being. It was night, and Rat and Mole couldn't sleep with Portly on their minds, so they went looking for him. After a fruitless search, day broke, then Rat heard "the thin, clear, happy call of the distant piping," such music he never dreamed of, "and the call in it [was] stronger even than the music is sweet!" Rat urged Mole to row on, telling him that "the music and the call must be for us." Mole rowed steadily, until "that glad piping broke on him like a wave, caught him up, and possessed him utterly....And the light grew steadily stronger, but no birds sang as they were wont to do at the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenly music all was marvellously still." Mole and Rat then arrived at an island, where they moored their boat.

'This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. 'Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror— indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy— but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

Rat!' he found breath to whisper, shaking. 'Are you afraid?'

'Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. 'Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet— and yet— O, Mole, I am afraid!'

Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

Rat and Mole had come upon the great god Pan, and they did the only thing they could possibly do -- they bowed low in humble worship. And yes, Rat was afraid. So am I, in a way, when I go to confession. Oh, no, I am never, never afraid of Him who is my Friend and Helper! And yet, I am afraid -- afraid of "Love so amazing, so divine, /[that] demands my soul, my life, my all." I am afraid because I know how unworthy I am of Him who is all Goodness and Love, I know how fickle and unfaithful I can be, I know how imperfect my contrition and and purpose of amendment are. Still, the clear, happy call is for me, just as it was for Rat and Mole, and I must row on until I come to that holy place where I will surely find Him whom my heart seeks. And when I go to confession, sure enough, He is there, and I am filled with great awe, "wonderfully at peace and happy." Then, "eyes shining with unutterable love," I bow my head and worship Him.

Read the entire chapter, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn," here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sons of God

Yesterday I woke up singing "Be Thou My Vision," a lovely Irish prayer to the "Lord of my heart." This morning, for some inexplicable reason, my unconscious selection was an OBNG. By that I don't mean Organic Bean and Grain. I'm thinking of "oldie but not goodie," at least not by my standards. And the song is -- gasp! -- "Sons of God" by Ray Repp. I say "gasp!" because I simply don't care for the vast majority of the contemporary songs we've been using in the Catholic Church since the 60's. I find many of the lyrics to be unsound theologically, liturgically and Scripturally. As for the melodies -- sigh -- let's not go there. Suffice it to say that this sort of music annoys me far more than it inspires and uplifts me.

So why on earth did I open my eyes today singing "Sons of God" when it's something I'd never consciously choose during my waking hours? Perhaps it's because I really do delight in being a child of God. And the lyrics for this song really aren't all that bad. You can see for yourself here. That we are indeed sons and daughters of God is an indisputable fact, an absolute truth. St. Paul clearly tells us that in Christ Jesus, we are all sons of God (Gal 3:26), that all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (Rom 8:14). St. John makes this point, too, while exulting in the Father's love: "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1 Jn 3:1).

And so we are. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us of this yesterday in his message to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, on the occasion of an Asian Catholic laity conference, which began in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday and runs through Sunday. Telling the conference participants that "they have been entrusted with a great mission: that of bearing witness to Jesus Christ, the universal Savior of mankind," the Holy Father stated: "If the lay faithful are to take up this mission, they need to become ever more conscious of the grace of their Baptism and the dignity which is theirs as sons and daughters of God the Father, sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus his Son, and anointed by the Holy Spirit as members of Christ's mystical Body which is the Church."

The dignity which is ours as children of God is intimately bound up with the grace of our Baptism. In this sacrament, we are "reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission...the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ's death, is buried with him, and rises with him" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Sacrament of Baptism, #1213-1284).

As I said above, I revel in being a child of God, who has made me His own. I also delight in being a baptized Catholic, through the infinite grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every day I thank God for my parents, who lovingly brought me into and faithfully raised me in the Catholic Church. Today I may not consciously choose to sing the entire hymn "Sons of God," but I'm certain that I'll be repeating over and over the last line of its refrain:

Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Be Thou My Vision

It's not unusual for me to wake up singing or humming a happy tune, most often a hymn that I particularly like. This morning it was the beautiful Irish song "Be Thou My Vision," which sums up so perfectly the greatest desires of my heart. What joy will be mine today as I ponder anew the High King of Heaven, my wisdom, my delight, my treasure! My great Father, dwelling forever in me and I in You, how happy I am to be your child!

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Attributed to Dallan Forgaill, 6th Century