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Monday, April 29, 2013

Bubbles are to Boy what God is to Man

It's only a hunch, but I have a feeling that this child's reaction to bubbles might be akin to something of the joy we may someday experience in the Beatific Vision, no?

Daily theology box, checked.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Sorry. I don’t normally enhance my blog with profanity, but this little funny reduced me to tears. Allow me to explain.

“Come with me to free yoga this Sunday”, says Carla.  “Fine” says Karen.
I’ve never done yoga before. I’ve thought about it and dismissed every time as a momentary lapse of sanity.  tantric pigeon poses; strange incantations conjuring pagan gods, new-agey theologically questionable at-one-ment; not for this Spartan princess.  Besides, I don’t understand the language...  I struggle hard enough inventing my own Latin and Spanish words. This just sounds like gargling with vowels. Hasayamapataranamathan.  You understand.

So what made this Sunday at 10:30 plausible enough for my intro to Yoga 101 experience? I dunno. A suspected hunch is a faint recollection of a recent phone conversation where someone suggested that I investigate “Catholic Yoga”. Seed planted. I think I have subconsciously willed it into being.

Ok. So I find my best stretchable clothing; something that won’t tear out too easily in the behind and is fashionable enough to parade around in one of the wealthiest shopping establishments in Arizona. I immediately feel ridiculous that I am thinking about this. I don my most yoga-esque shade of pink lipstick and drive my comfortable self to the Biltmore.

Arriving at the parking garage, I follow the slow parade of people toting yoga mats since I do not exactly know where I am going. I am good at pretending to know what I am doing when in fact, I do not know what I am doing.  God plays along with this plan since these people lead me right to the center pavilion where I encounter half of the population of Paradise Valley.

Thought bubble #1: Do you ever wonder why the churches are empty? Well wonder no more.  I found all of the recovering Catholics and lapsed church-goers right here at the Biltmore!  [Pastors…take note.] 

I greet Carla, exchange a few laughs, roll out the mat and prepare myself for the hour ahead.  The yoga instructor is a lovely young gal definitely wearing the right spandex ensemble.

Thought bubble #2: I think to myself how every athletic activity has it’s own “look” yoga folk tend to resemble pilate folk. But they definitely look different than hockey folk…but I digress. 

Our yoga priestess has us greeting the sunshine and paying homage to our breath. I think I mutter a “Hail Mary”, which actually settles me…. Whenever I’m lost, I look over to Carla who is managing quite well with her big toe wedged almost inside of her ear. After getting past the cognitive dissonance of shopping the stores with my eyes while trying to concentrate on the goodness of my spirit, I realize this is not unlike the drifty-ness I experience when my mind wanders in prayer. Hmmmm, “White House/Black Market excellent sundress” competing with “I want to sing the sweetest song to Jesus in this time and place”.   Eventually I do figure out a rhythm in the pigeon pose circuit. And that brings some relief  because I need order.

But then, there is the woman next to me. Clearly, she is frustrated. She is inconveniently sandwiched between the pavement sidewalk, next to White House Black Market and me. I immediately feel sorry for her. a bit of a negative vibe of energy has her in a tantric mental wedgy which has been caused simultaneously by a bad audio system and a child being strolled around who is screaming at the top of his lungs.  (And me, and WH-BM). Then she says the words that completely untangle me:

“I have lost all serenity. Now I’m just “expletive-ed”. I need a beer. 

I need a beer?  I giggle. I laugh out loud. She laughs out loud. I determine this to be the high point of my yoga experience and I have made a mental friend. She introduces me to where I am comfortable: Rule 62… never take yourself too (expletive) serious. To this thought I add my own quotable: humor is the fertilizer of a happy soul. I begin to feel a particular lift (with my toe in my ear), as I thank God for a beautiful day in His sunshine.

Thought Bubble #3: My mind wanders to the next meditative thought: the yoga class invading the corner bar; mats, spandex and all. 

Maybe I’ll come back again next week.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My deep peace I give to you

In today's Gospel Christ appears to the frightened apostles.  He crosses over their makeshift boundary of locked doors and reaches them exactly where they need to be reached: in their fear. Surprisingly, the Christ does not say things like "fear not" or "calm down" or "get a grip" or "what part of rebuilding the temple in three days did you not understand?" No. He utters a word. He is the Word made flesh. And now a Word called PEACE. He is our peace. And then he does something majestically creationistic: He breathes on them. He gives them His very breath. This should sound alarm bells for anyone paying attention to Old Testament exegesis. In that beautiful passage of Genesis, we see God in Chapter 2 doing the same thing to Adam right after He created him:
...the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  Genesis 2: 6-7 (emphasis mine)
Notice that man became a living being only after the God-breath entered him. We can unmistakably see this connection in the upper room, now penetrated by the Living God as he breathes onto the 12 a new breath of life; one that would cast away fear. One that would make the shadow of Peter a source of healing and grace. One that would send that tiny group of Palestinian nobodys out into the world to baptize all nations in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The old has passed away...the new has come. Behold, I come to give life and give it to the full!

A small group of friends and I attended the Chrism Mass on Monday during Holy Week, where I had the pleasure of seeing this ritual action right there in the liturgy. Bishop breathed on the sacred oils that would be distributed to all the parishes for our annual sacramental needs. The sacred oils are used to "seal the deal" so to speak in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick. Never was the point driven home so beautifully after having heard the gospel for this Mercy Sunday. I'm glad God associated PEACE with driving out fear. It is a blessing of mercy, courage and it is the gift of God's very life breath in us. It is our divine consolation and a foretaste of heaven in which we place all our hope.

If you are meeting fear or struggles today, may you take a deep breath and find his Peace.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sift...What the Magdalene Knew

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist." 
Saint Francis of Assisi

We embark upon Holy Week, 2013. Welcome! And Bon Voyage. Lent is pretty much over and perhaps you are salivating for that delicious chocolate bunny you have bought for the kiddos' Easter Basket.  The death throes of a ripened mortification period are on the horizon. The end is near. But wait! The enemy desires to sift you. What? Oh yes. It is not over. We have merely arrived at the start/finish line. Lent was a preparation. Just like life is a preparation. There is something that awaits us beyond these seasons but before we get there, we must eventually confront our greatest ultimate issue this side of heaven. The puzzle of suffering, sifting and death. 

What does it mean to sift? We can look to some common culinary practices to derive greater meaning here. To me, sifting means separating the necessary from the unnecessary; the big unwieldy chunks of stuff that don't do well in food from the yummy stuff that incorporates itself well into a mixture, making it uniform, consistent and integral. Sifting is a clarification process that employs a ghastly straining device - a sieve - in order to draw out the fine from the course particles. Good for the batter- not so much for the chunks. However you choose to examine it, it sounds like it could be painful if you happen to be a big, prideful particle trying to pass an audition for a Bechamel or Veloute. 

So what was Christ talking about when he used the phrase: "Simon, Simon, Satan desires to sift you like wheat"?  Perhaps if we look to some key figures of this Holy Week, we might find an identification with their particular sifting.  I decided to take a closer look to my beloved patron, Saint Mary Magdalene. 

In today's Gospel, we find her in what has been immortalized in Sacred Art, bathing Christ's feet with her tears and drying them with her hair.  We make the theological assumption that this is the same Mary in Bethany as the one who earlier had narrowly avoided some trumped up "promiscuity charges" and a fatal stoning incident. In Bethany, her tears of gratitude were accompanied by that perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard, (Spikenard--it must have cost a fortune).  Little did she know it at the time, she was preparing her Savior for his ultimate agony; she was anointing His precious body before His death. As she kneaded the oil deep into the skin of his feet she may have been remembering back to that day....nose in the dust....covered in her own tears of shame and filth...looking at those same feet. "Who has condemned you?  No one sir. "Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." 

Turning her face up to the man, she would have noticed the familiar smile and knowing glance of someOne who understood her at curious depth. "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew are fearfully wonderully made." He saw in the Magdalene the true majestic beauty of her womanly soul and he saved her because she belonged to Him... to God. Do you think she sinned again like that day in the dirt?  I don't know, but the anointing at Bethany seems to bespeak a gratitude of freedom from a bondage that has been clubbed to death.  I believe Mary was sifted a few times....the worst of it was as she accompanied Jesus to Calvary.  Remember that she journeyed with him to the foot of the cross.  It was a torture beyond all telling to walk that long and dusty road knowing that it would end in certain death. How could it all end this way? Where were the rest of the Apostles? Where were all who were healed? cleansed? freed? unblinded? no longer lame? no longer mute? Look at His Mother. She is there with Him. She is my mother too. My heart aches. This is unjust. This is demonic. Now they lift him on the instrument of torture, once fashioned out of a tree. Here I am once again.  At his feet.  I kiss them with my lips and dry them once again with my hair. Sir? Who has condemned you? And for what? 

Olives are curious things. They make wonderful oil.  Somebody had to walk on them and grind out the liquid from the pulp order to extract that substance. Then perfumes and spices are added for aroma. When we find ourselves in the crucible of the sifting, may we strive to be like Mary in Bethany and extravagantly anoint the body of Christ rather than pound nails into His hands and feet. Let us be yielded today to the concept of the cross.  The closer we get to it, the smaller we need to become. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

9 Factoids about Palm Sunday (Jimmy Aiken)

9 things you need to know about Palm (Passion) Sunday

 Saturday, March 23, 2013 5:12 PM Comments (4)
Why is Jesus' entry into Jerusalem so important? What is going on here?
Palm Sunday--or is it Passion Sunday?--marks the beginning of Holy Week.
This day commemorates not one but two very significant events in the life of Christ.
Here are 9 things you need to know.

1. What is this day called?

The day is called both "Palm Sunday" and "Passion Sunday."

The first name comes from the fact that it commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the crowd had palm branches (John 12:13).
The second name comes from the fact that the narrative of the Passion is read on this Sunday (it otherwise wouldn't be read on a Sunday, since the next Sunday is about the Resurrection).
According to the main document on the celebration of the feasts connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis:
Holy Week begins on "Passion (or Palm) Sunday" which joins the foretelling of Christ's regal triumph and the proclamation of the passion. The connection between both aspects of the Paschal Mystery should be shown and explained in the celebration and catechesis of this day.

2. One of the notable features of this day is a procession before Mass. Why do we do this and how is it supposed to work?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:
The commemoration of the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem has, according to ancient custom, been celebrated with a solemn procession, in which the faithful in song and gesture imitate the Hebrew children who went to meet the Lord singing "Hosanna."
The procession may take place only once, before the Mass which has the largest attendance, even if this should be in the evening either of Saturday or Sunday. The congregation should assemble in a secondary church or chapel or in some other suitable place distinct from the church to which the procession will move. . . .
The palms or branches are blessed so that they can be carried in the procession. The palms should be taken home where they will serve as a reminder of the victory of Christ be given which they celebrated in the procession.

3. Are we only supposed to use palms? What if you don't have palms where you live?

It is not necessary that palm branches be used in the procession. Other forms of greenery can also be used.
The procession, commemorating Christ's messianic entry into Jerusalem, is joyous and popular in character. The faithful usually keep palm or olive branches, or other greenery which have been blessed on Palm Sunday in their homes or in their work places.

4. Should any instruction be given to the faithful?

According to the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy:

The faithful, however, should be instructed as to the meaning of this celebration so that they might grasp its significance.
They should be opportunely reminded that the important thing is participation at the procession and not only the obtaining of palm or olive branches.
Palms or olive branches should not be kept as amulets, or for therapeutic or magical reasons to dispel evil spirits or to prevent the damage these cause in the fields or in the homes, all of which can assume a certain superstitious guise.
Palms and olive branches are kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ, the messianic king, and in his Paschal Victory.

5. What was Jesus doing at the Triumphal Entry?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains:
Jesus claims the right of kings, known throughout antiquity, to requisition modes of transport.
The use of an animal on which no one had yet sat is a further pointer to the right of kings. Most striking, though, are the Old Testament allusions that give a deeper meaning to the whole episode. . . .
For now let us note this: Jesus is indeed making a royal claim. He wants his path and his action to be understood in terms of Old Testament promises that are fulfilled in his person. . . .
At the same time, through this anchoring of the text in Zechariah 9:9, a “Zealot” exegesis of the kingdom is excluded: Jesus is not building on violence; he is not instigating a military revolt against Rome. His power is of another kind: it is in God’s poverty, God’s peace, that he identifies the only power that can redeem [Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 2].

6. What does the reaction of the crowd show?

It shows that they recognized him as their messianic king.
Benedict XVI notes:
The spreading out of garments likewise belongs to the tradition of Israelite kingship (cf. 2 Kings 9:13). What the disciples do is a gesture of enthronement in the tradition of the Davidic kingship, and it points to the Messianic hope that grew out of the Davidic tradition.
The pilgrims who came to Jerusalem with Jesus are caught up in the disciples’ enthusiasm. They now spread their garments on the street along which Jesus passes.
They pluck branches from the trees and cry out verses from Psalm 118, words of blessing from Israel’s pilgrim liturgy, which on their lips become a Messianic proclamation: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9–10; cf. Ps 118:26).


7. What does the word "Hosanna" mean?

Benedict XVI explains: 
Originally this was a word of urgent supplication, meaning something like: Come to our aid! The priests would repeat it in a monotone on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, while processing seven times around the altar of sacrifice, as an urgent prayer for rain.
But as the Feast of Tabernacles gradually changed from a feast of petition into one of praise, so too the cry for help turned more and more into a shout of jubilation.
By the time of Jesus, the word had also acquired Messianic overtones. In the Hosanna acclamation, then, we find an expression of the complex emotions of the pilgrims accompanying Jesus and of his disciples: joyful praise of God at the moment of the processional entry, hope that the hour of the Messiah had arrived, and at the same time a prayer that the Davidic kingship and hence God’s kingship over Israel would be reestablished.

8. Is the same crowd that cheered Jesus' arrival the one that demanded his crucifixion just a few days later?

Benedict XVI argues that it was not:
All three Synoptic Gospels, as well as Saint John, make it very clear that the scene of Messianic homage to Jesus was played out on his entry into the city and that those taking part were not the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but the crowds who accompanied Jesus and entered the Holy City with him.
This point is made most clearly in Matthew’s account through the passage immediately following the Hosanna to Jesus, Son of David: “When he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying: Who is this? And the crowds said: This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee” (Mt 21:10–11). . . .
People had heard of the prophet from Nazareth, but he did not appear to have any importance for Jerusalem, and the people there did not know him.
The crowd that paid homage to Jesus at the gateway to the city was not the same crowd that later demanded his crucifixion.

9. This brings us to the Passion Narrative recorded in the Gospel. How is this to be read at Mass?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:
33. The passion narrative occupies a special place. It should be sung or read in the traditional way, that is, by three persons who take the parts of Christ, the narrator and the people. The passion is proclaimed by deacons or priests, or by lay readers. In the latter case, the part of Christ should be reserved to the priest.
The proclamation of the passion should be without candles and incense, the greeting and the signs of the cross are omitted; only a deacon asks for the blessing, as he does before the Gospel.
For the spiritual good of the faithful the passion should be proclaimed in its entirety, and the readings which precede it should not be omitted.

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