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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.

Read more:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hear Us, O Lord, and Have Mercy

One of the most enduring and profound penitential chants for Lent, composed in the 10th century; this "Gregorian" is a favorite. During this final week before Holy Week, may we find ourselves often before the throne of glory seeking His mercy.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.
Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

To Thee, highest King,
Redeemer of all,
do we lift up our eyes
in weeping:
Hear, O Christ, the prayers
of your servants.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

Right hand of the Father,
way of salvation,
gate of heaven,
wash away our
stains of sin.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

We beseech Thee, God,
in Thy great majesty:
Hear our groans
with Thy holy ears:
calmly forgive
our crimes.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

To Thee we confess
our sins admitted
with a contrite heart
We reveal the things hidden:
By Thy kindness, O Redeemer,
overlook them.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

The Innocent, seized,
not refusing to be led;
condemned by false witnesses
because of impious men
O Christ, keep safe those
whom Thou hast redeemed.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Patricius Magonus Sucatus or St. Patrick to you and I!

St. Patrick was not from Ireland. He probably did not case serpents out of Ireland either, and the tale of the shamrock as a symbol used to explain the Trinity is an accretion of a much later date. However, what he accomplished through faith for the people of Ireland and for the world is a great work and testament of his complete surrender to the God that he so loved and followed to the end.  (And... he prayed a LOT!)

"It was not any grace in me, but God who conquereth in me, and He resisted them all, so that I came to the heathen of Ireland to preach the Gospel and to bear insults from unbelievers, to hear the reproach of my going abroad and to endure many persecutions even unto bonds, the while that I was surrendering my liberty as a man of free condition for the profit of others. And if I should be found worthy, I am ready to give even my life for His name's sake unfalteringly and gladly, and there (in Ireland) I desire to spend it until I die, if our Lord should grant it to me."

Here is a beautiful article from EWTN on this marvelous Saint.

Feast: March 17
The field of St. Patrick's labors was the most remote part of the then known world. The seed he planted in faraway Ireland, which before his time was largely pagan, bore a rich harvest: whole colonies of saints and missionaries were to rise up after him to serve the Irish Church and to carry Christianity to other lands. Whether his birthplace, a village called Bannavem Taberniae, was near Dunbarton-on-the-Clyde, or in Cumberland, or at the mouth of the Severn, or even in Gaul near Boulogne, has never been determined, and indeed the matter is of no great moment. We know of a certainty that Patrick was of Romano-British origin, and born about the year 389. His father, Calpurnius, was a deacon, his grandfather a priest, for at this time no strict law of celibacy had been imposed on the Christian clergy. Patrick's own full name was probably Patricius Magonus Sucatus.

His brief gives us a few details of his early years. At the age of fifteen he committed some fault—what it was we are not told—which caused him much suffering for the rest of his life. At sixteen, he tells us, he still "knew not the true God." Since he was born into a Christian family, we may take this to mean that he gave little heed to religion or to the priests. That same year Patrick and some others were seized and carried off by sea raiders to become slaves among the inhabitants of Ireland. Formerly it was believed that his six years of captivity were spent near Ballymena in County Antrim, on the slopes of the mountain now called Slemish, but later opinion names Fochlad, or Focluth, on the coast of Mayo. If the latter view is correct, then Croachan Aigli or Croag Patrick, the scene of his prolonged fast, was also the mountain on which in his youth he lived alone with God, tending his master's herds of swine or cattle. Wherever it was, he tells us him self that "constantly I used to pray in the daytime. Love of God and His fear increased more and more, and my faith grew and my spirit was stirred up, so that in a single day I said as many as a hundred prayers and at night nearly as many, and I used to stay out in the woods and on the mountain. Before the dawn I used to wake up to prayer, in snow and frost and rain, nor was there any such lukewarmness in me as now I feel, because then my spirit was fervent within."

At length he heard a voice in his sleep bidding him to get back to freedom and the land of his birth. Thus prompted, he ran away from his master and traveled to a harbor where a ship was about to depart. The captain at first refused his request for passage, but after Patrick had silently prayed to God, the pagan sailors called him back, and with them he made an adventurous journey. They were three days at sea, and when they reached land they traveled for a month through an uninhabited tract of country, where food was scarce. Patrick writes:

"And one day the shipmaster said to me: 'How is this, O Christian? Thou sayest that thy God is great and almighty; wherefore then canst thou not pray for us, for we are in danger of starvation? Likely we shall never see a human being again.' Then I said plainly to them: 'Turn in good faith and with all your heart to the Lord my God, to whom nothing is impossible, that this day He may send you food for your journey, until ye be satisfied, for He has abundance everywhere.' And, by the help of God, so it came to pass. Lo, a herd of swine appeared in the way before our eyes, and they killed many of them. And in that place they remained two nights; and they were well refreshed and their dogs were sated, for many of them had fainted and been left half- dead by the way. After this they rendered hearty thanks to God, and I became honorable in their eyes; and from that day they had food in abundance."

At length they arrived at human habitations, whether in Britain or Gaul we do not know. When Patrick was again restored to his kinfolk, they gave him a warm welcome and urged him to stay. But he felt he must leave them. Although there is no certainty as to the order of events which followed, it seems likely that Patrick now spent many years in Gaul. Professor Bury, author of the well-known , thinks that the saint stayed for three years at the monastery of Lerins, on a small islet off the coast of modern Cannes, France, and that about fifteen years were passed at the monastery of Auxerre, where he was ordained. Patrick's later prestige and authority indicate that he was prepared for his task with great thoroughness.

We now come to Patrick's apostolate. At this time Pelagianism[1] was spreading among the weak and scattered Christian communities of Britain and Ireland, and Pope Celestine I had sent Bishop Palladius there to combat it. This missionary was killed among the Scots in North Britain, and Bishop Germanus of Auxerre recommended the appointment of Patrick to replace him. Patrick was consecrated in 432, and departed forthwith for Ireland. When we try to trace the course of his labors in the land of his former captivity, we are confused by the contradictory accounts of his biographers; all are marked by a great deal of vagueness as to geography and chronology. According to tradition, he landed at Inverdea, at the mouth of the river Vautry, and immediately proceeded northwards. One chronicler relates that when he was again in the vicinity of the place where he had been a herdboy, the master who had held him captive, on hearing of Patrick's return, set fire to his house and perished in the flames. There is historical basis for the tradition of Patrick's preliminary stay in Ulster, and his founding of a monastic center there. It was at this time that he set out to gain the support and favor of the powerful pagan King Laeghaire, who was holding court at Tara. The stories of Patrick's encounter with the king's Druid priests are probably an accretion of later years; we are told of trials of skill and strength in which the saint gained a great victory over his pagan opponents. The outcome was royal toleration for his preaching. The text of the Senchus More, the old Irish code of laws, though in its existing form it is of later date, mentions an understanding reached at Tara. Patrick was allowed to preach to the gathering, "and when they saw Laeghaire with his Druids overcome by the great signs and miracles wrought in the presence of the men of Erin, they bowed down in obedience to God and Patrick."

King Laeghaire seems not to have become a Christian, but his chief bard and his two daughters were converted, as was a brother, who, we are told, gave his estate to Patrick for the founding of a church. From this time on, Patrick's apostolate, though carried on amid hardships and often at great risk, was favored by many powerful chieftains. The Druids, by and large, opposed him, for they felt their own power and position threatened. They combined many functions; they were prophets, philosophers, and priests; they served as councilors of kings, as judges, and teachers; they knew the courses of the stars and the properties of plants. Now they began to realize that the religion they represented was doomed. Even before the Christian missionaries came in strength, a curious prophecy was current among them. It was written in one of their ancient texts: "Adze-head (a name that the shape of the monk's tonsure might suggest) will come, with his crook-headed staff and his house (the word chasuble means also a little house) holed for his head. He will chant impiety from the table in the east of his house. All his household shall answer: Amen, Amen. When, therefore, all these things come to pass, our kingdom, which is a heathen one, will not stand." As a matter of fact, the Druids continued to exist in Christian Ireland, though with a change of name and a limited scope of activity. They subjected Patrick to imprisonment many times, but he always managed to escape.

In 439 three bishops, Secundinus, Auxilius, and Iserninus, were sent from Gaul to assist Patrick. Benignus, an Irish chieftain who was converted by Patrick, became his favorite disciple, his coadjutor in the see of Armagh, and, finally, his successor. One of Patrick's legendary victories was his overthrow of the idol of Crom Cruach in Leitrim, where he forthwith built a church. He traveled again in Ulster, to preach and found monasteries, then in Leinster and Munster. These missionary caravans must have impressed the people, for they gave the appearance of an entire village in motion. The long line of chariots and carts drawn by oxen conveyed the appurtenances of Christian worship, as well as foodstuffs, equipment, tools, and weapons required by the band of helpers who accompanied the leader. There would be the priestly assistants, singers and musicians, the drivers, hunters, wood-cutters, carpenters, masons, cooks, horsemen, weavers and embroiderers, and many more. When the caravan stopped at a chosen site, the people gathered, converts were won, and before many months a chapel or church and its outlying structures would be built and furnished. Thus were created new outposts in the struggle against paganism. The journeys were often dangerous. Once, Odrhan, Patrick's charioteer, as if forewarned, asked leave to take the chief seat in the chariot himself, while Patrick held the reins; they had proceeded but a short way in this fashion when the loyal Odrhan was killed by a spear thrust meant for his master.

About the year 442, tradition tells us, Patrick went to Rome and met Pope Leo the Great, who, it seemed, took special interest in the Irish Church. The time had now come for a definite organization According to the annals of Ulster, the cathedral church of Armagh was founded as the primatial see of Ireland on Patrick's return. He brought back with him valuable relics. Latin was established as the language of the Irish Church. There is mention of a synod held by Patrick, probably at Armagh. The rules then adopted are still preserved, with, possibly, some later interpolations. It is believed that this synod was called near the close of Patrick's labors on earth. He was now undoubtedly in more or less broken health; such austerities and constant journeyings as his must have weakened the hardiest constitution. The story of his forty-day fast on Croagh Patrick and the privileges he won from God by his prayers is also associated with the end of his life. Tirechan tells it thus: "Patrick went forth to the summit of Mount Agli, and remained there for forty days and forty nights, and the birds were a trouble to him, and he could not see the face of the heavens, the earth, or the sea, on account of them; for God told all the saints of Erin, past, present, and future, to come to the mountain summit-that mountain which overlooks all others, and is higher than all the mountains of the West-to bless the tribes of Erin, so that Patrick might see the fruit of his labors, for all the choir of the saints came to visit him there, who was the father of them all."

In all the ancient biographies of this saint the marvelous is continuously present. Fortunately, we have three of Patrick's own writings, which help us to see the man himself. His is a brief autobiographical sketch; the , also known as , is a strange chant which we have reproduced in the following pages. is a denunciation of the British king of that name who had raided the Irish coast and killed a number of Christian converts as they were being baptized; Patrick urged the Christian subjects of this king to have no more dealings with him until he had made reparation for the outrage. In his writings Patrick shows his ardent human feelings and his intense love of God. What was most human in the saint, and at the same time most divine, comes out in this passage from his :

"It was not any grace in me, but God who conquereth in me, and He resisted them all, so that I came to the heathen of Ireland to preach the Gospel and to bear insults from unbelievers, to hear the reproach of my going abroad and to endure many persecutions even unto bonds, the while that I was surrendering my liberty as a man of free condition for the profit of others. And if I should be found worthy, I am ready to give even my life for His name's sake unfalteringly and gladly, and there (in Ireland) I desire to spend it until I die, if our Lord should grant it to me."

Patrick's marvelous harvest filled him with gratitude. During an apostolate of thirty years he is reported to have consecrated some 350 bishops, and was instrumental in bringing the faith to many thousands. He writes, "Wherefore those in Ireland who never had the knowledge of God, but until now only worshiped idols and abominations, from them has been lately prepared a people of the Lord, and they are called children of God. Sons and daughters of Scottish chieftains are seen becoming monks and virgins of Christ." Yet hostility and violence still existed, for he writes later, "Daily I expect either a violent death, or robbery and a return to slavery, or some other calamity." He adds, like the good Christian he was, "I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, for He rules everything."

Patrick died about 461, and was buried near the fortress of Saul, in the vicinity of the future cathedral town of Down. He was intensely spiritual, a magnetic personality with great gifts for action and organization. He brought Ireland into much closer contact with Europe, especially with the Holy See. The building up of the weak Christian communities which he found on arrival and planting the faith in new regions give him his place as the patron of Ireland. His feast day is one of festivity, and widely observed. Patrick's emblems are a serpent, demons, cross, shamrock, harp, and baptismal font. The story of his driving snakes from Ireland has no factual foundation, and the tale of the shamrock, as a symbol used to explain the Trinity, is an accretion of much later date.


I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through a belief in the threeness, Through a confession of the oneness Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today Through the strength of Christ's birth with His Baptism, Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial, Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension, Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today Through the strength of the love of Cherubim, In obedience of angels, In the service of archangels, In hope of resurrection to meet with reward, In prayers of patriarchs In predictions of prophets, In preachings of apostles, In faiths of confessors, In innocence of holy virgins, In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today Through the strength of heaven: Light of sun Radiance of moon, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of wind, Depth of sea, Stability of earth, Firmness of rock.

I arise today Through God's strength to pilot me: God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's host to save me From snares of devils, From temptations of vices, From everyone who shall wish me ill, Afar and anear, Alone and in a multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils, Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, Against incantations of false prophets, Against black laws of pagandom, Against false laws of heretics, Against craft of idolatry, Against spells of women and smiths and wizards, Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ shield me today Against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wounding, So that there may come to me abundance of reward, Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through a belief in the threeness, Through a confession of the oneness Of the Creator of Creation.


1 For Pelagianism, see above, , p. 106.

2 The Latin word means a breastplate. Chants like the above, almost in the form of incantations, or invocations of God and Christ, to protect the singer against the wiles of evil man, are not uncommon in early Irish literature.

Saint Patrick, Apostle of Ireland. Celebration of Feast Day is March 17. Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Excellent Geo. Weigel article on Francis I

The First American Pope
By George Weigel
March 14, 2013 10:00 A.M.
Rome — The swift election of Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, S.J., as bishop of Rome is replete with good news — and not a little irony. To reverse the postmodern batting order, let’s begin with the good news.

A true man of God. The wheelchair-bound beggar at the corner of Via della Conciliazione and Via dell’Erba this morning had a keen insight into his new bishop: “Sono molto contento; e un profeta” (“I’m very happy; he’s a prophet”). That was certainly the overwhelming impression I took away from the hour I spent with the archbishop of Buenos Aires and future pope last May — here was a genuine man of God, who lives “out” from the richness and depth of his interior life; a bishop who approaches his responsibilities as a churchman and his decisions as the leader of a complex organization from a Gospel-centered perspective, in a spirit of discernment and prayer. The intensity with which Cardinal Bergoglio asked me to pray for him, at the end of an hour of conversation about a broad range of local and global Catholic issues, was mirrored last night in his unprecedented request to the vast crowd spilling out of St. Peter’s Square and down toward the Tiber to pray for him before he blessed them. Gregory the Great, in the sixth century, was the first bishop of Rome to adopt the title Servus servorum Dei (Servant of the servants of God). That ancient description of the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church will be embodied in a particularly winsome way in Pope Francis, who named himself for the Poverello of Assisi, the most popular saint in history.

A pope for the New Evangelization. The election of Pope Francis completes the Church’s turn from the Counter-Reformation Catholicism that brought the Gospel to America — and eventually produced Catholicism’s first American pope — to the Evangelical Catholicism that must replant the Gospel in those parts of the world that have grown spiritually bored, while planting it afresh in new fields of mission around the globe. In our May 2012 conversation, the man who would become pope discussed at some length the importance of the Latin American bishops’ 2007 “Aparecida Document,” the fruit of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. The essential message of that revolutionary statement (in which there was not the least bit of whining about Protestant “sheep-stealing” but rather a clear acknowledgment of Catholicism’s own evangelical deficiencies in Latin America) can be gleaned from this brief passage, which I adopted as one of the epigraphs for my book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church:

The Church is called to a deep and profound rethinking of its mission. . . . It cannot retreat in response to those who see only confusion, dangers, and threats. . . . What is required is confirming, renewing, and revitalizing the newness of the Gospel . . . out of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ that raises up disciples and missionaries. . . .

A Catholic faith reduced to mere baggage, to a collection of rules and prohibitions, to fragmented devotional practices, to selective and partial adherence to the truths of faith, to occasional participation in some sacraments, to the repetition of doctrinal principles, to bland or nervous moralizing, that does not convert the life of the baptized would not withstand the trials of time. . . . We must all start again from Christ, recognizing [with Pope Benedict XVI] that “being Christian is . . . the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

Here, in a statement that then-cardinal Bergoglio had a significant hand in drafting, is what John Paul II and Benedict XVI have called the “New Evangelization” in synthetic microcosm:

  The Church of the 21st century cannot rely on the ambient public culture, or on folk memories of traditional Catholic culture, to transmit the Gospel in a way that transforms individual lives, cultures, and societies. Something more, something deeper, is needed.

  That “something” is radical personal conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ and an embrace of the friendship he offers every human being: a friendship in which we both see the face of the Father of Mercies (who calls us out of our prodigality into the full dignity of our humanity) and learn the deep truth about our humanity (that it is in making our lives into a gift for others, as life itself is to each of us, that we come into human fulfillment).

  This conversion of minds and hearts builds a community that is unlike any other: a “communion” of disciples in mission, who understand that faith is increased as it is offered and given away to others.

  That communion-community best embodies the truth of the human condition if each individual member of it, and the Church itself, fully embraces the entire symphony of Catholic truth, and in doing so, lives the moral life as a life of growth in beatitude, in compassion for others, and in evangelical charity.

  Finally, this communion-community lives “ahead of time,” because it knows, through the Easter faith the Church will celebrate in a few weeks, the truth about how the human adventure will end: God’s purposes in creation and redemption will be vindicated, as history and the cosmos are fulfilled in the New Jerusalem, in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, where death will be no more and every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21:2–4).

That is the message that Pope Francis will take to the world: Gospel-centered Catholicism, which challenges the post-mod cynics, the metaphysically bored, and the spiritually dry to discover (or rediscover) the tremendous human adventure of living “inside” the Biblical narrative of history.

A reforming pope. One of the principal dynamics of Conclave 2013 was a settled determination among a clear majority of the cardinal electors to see that the next pontificate addresses, in a root-and-branch way, the incompetence and corruption that has made too much of the Roman Curia an impediment to the New Evangelization, rather than an instrument of it — and in doing so, to empower the good people of the Curia to give the world Church the benefit of their remarkable talents. Pope Francis is not going to have a happy time reading the 300-page report on Vatileaks and related Roman messes that is waiting for him in the papal apartment. But he will read it with a reformer’s eye, with the aid of some very shrewd and reform-minded veterans of the Curia, and with a clear understanding from his own experience (as related to me last May) of what went wrong in the management of the Church’s central administrative machinery under the leadership of Benedict XVI’s cardinal secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B. It may be reasonably expected that real reform, in both curial culture and curial personnel, will follow in due course. The sooner the better, many would say.

A pope in defense of human rights and democracy. Pope Francis has left behind an Argentina in which he was a stern critic of the Cristina Kirchner government’s deepening of that beautiful country’s democracy deficit, and of Madam President’s commitment to a public policy of bread and circuses wedded to legally enforced lifestyle libertinism — what Benedict XVI aptly called the “dictatorship of relativism.” At a moment when the momentum of the democratic project in Latin America is flagging (while new opportunities are opening up in places like post-Chávez Venezuela and the inevitable post-Castro-brothers Cuba), the new pope should be able to rally Catholic forces in defense of religious freedom and other civil liberties in a continent where they are now under assault. And if he can do that at home, he can do it throughout the world.

Pope Francis is also deeply committed to the Church’s service to and empowerment of the poor, as he made unmistakably clear in his ministry in Buenos Aires. But those Gospel-based commitments should not lead anyone to think that he will be Paul Krugman in a white cassock. That seems very unlikely.

And now for the ironies.

The 2005 runner-up takes the checkered flag in 2013? Well, not really. Cardinal Bergoglio was used in 2005; he knows precisely who used him and why; and while he is a man of the Gospel who is not looking to settle scores, he is also a man of prudence who knows who his friends, and who his enemies, are. Here’s the story:

In April 2005, the progressive party (which was a real party then) came to Rome after the death of John Paul II thinking it had the wind at its back and clear sailing ahead — only to find that the Ratzinger-for-pope party was well-organized; that Ratzinger had made a very positive impression by the way he had run the General Congregations of cardinals after John Paul II’s death; that he had deep support from throughout the Third World because of the courtesy with which he had treated visiting Third World bishops on their quinquennial visits to Rome over the past 20 years; and that, after his brilliant homily at John Paul’s funeral Mass, he was indisputably the frontrunner for the papacy.

Confronted with this reality, the progressives panicked. Their first blocking move against Ratzinger was to try to run the aged Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, S.J., emeritus archbishop of Milan, who was already ill with Parkinson’s disease and had retired to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem. The idea was not to elect Martini pope; it was to stop the Ratzinger surge. Then, when Ratzinger blew past Martini with almost 50 percent of the vote on what was assumed to be the “courtesy” first ballot (where some votes are cast as gestures of friendship, esteem, etc.), and subsequently went over 50 percent the following morning, the panic intensified. Martini was summarily abandoned (or may have told his supporters to forget it). The progressives then tried to advance Cardinal Bergoglio — who was very much part of the pro-Ratzinger coalition; who embodied “dynamic orthodoxy,” just like John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger; who had been persecuted by his more theologically and politically left-leaning Jesuit brethren after his term as Jesuit provincial in Argentina (they exiled him to northern Argentina, where he taught high-school chemistry until rescued by John Paul II and eventually made archbishop of Buenos Aires); and who was doubtless appalled by the whole exercise on his putative behalf.

It was a last-ditch blocking move, perhaps constructed around the idea that a Third World candidate like Bergoglio would peel off votes from Ratzinger. In any event, it was a complete misreading of the 2005 conclave’s dynamics and a cynical use of Bergoglio, who would almost certainly have been abandoned had the stratagem worked — and it failed miserably.

Thus it may be safely assumed that the coalition that quickly solidified and swiftly elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope in 2013 had little or nothing to do with the eminent cabal that tried to use him in 2005. Pope Francis was elected for who he is, not for taking the silver medal eight years ago.

The first Jesuit pope? Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. Bergoglio is an old-school Jesuit, formed by classic Ignatian spirituality and deeply committed to an intelligent, sophisticated appropriation and proclamation of the full symphony of Catholic truth — qualities not notable for their prevalence among members of the Society of Jesus in the early 21st century. I suspect there were not all that many champagne corks flying last night in those Jesuit residences throughout the world where the Catholic Revolution That Never Was is still regarded as the ecclesiastical holy grail. For the shrewder of the new pope’s Jesuit brothers know full well that that dream was just dealt another severe blow. And they perhaps fear that this pope, knowing the Society of Jesus and its contemporary confusions and corruptions as he does, just might take in hand the reform of the Jesuits that was one of the signal failures of the pontificate of John Paul II.

There will be endless readings of the tea leaves in the days ahead as the new pope, by word and gesture, offers certain signals as to his intentions and his program. But the essentials are already known. This is a keenly intelligent, deeply holy, humble, and shrewd man of the Gospel. He knows that he has been elected as a reformer, and the reforms he will implement are the reforms that will advance the New Evangelization. The rest is detail: important detail, to be sure, but still detail. The course is set, and the Church’s drive into the Evangelical Catholicism of the future has been accelerated by the pope who introduced himself to his diocese, and to the world, by bowing deeply as he asked for our prayers.

— George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center. His new book is Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church.


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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Voter Fraud? I think not.

Oh, if only the US Electoral process could be so, um, dare I say...sacred?
This is how its done people...
Pray pray pray pray pray pray pray potty....pray pray pray pray pray pray pray potty....VOTE. 
We could take a lesson.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Prodigal and the Papacy: There's No Place Like Home

Yesterday's Gospel of the 4th Sunday of Lent...the Prodigal still rattling around in my head. Oddly, it bumps up against the Papal Elections in what will prove to be a history-making week (or two?) as a new Successor to Peter is selected.  The Papacy and our reliance on it is a Sacred Tradition as Catholics.  A 2000 year-old tradition, to say the least. It is warmer to us than baseball, hotdogs apple pie, or Chevrolet, if you are old enough to understand that old GM commercial.  Our Catholic Cultural traditions usually sit around our collective conscience like brown on paneling until something reminds us that it is there. Like the sudden, chilled-stillness in the air before a summer rainstorm, the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XVI struck a discordant hollow of despair...for a moment. Not until we recognize that something is about to change, do we truly appreciate the elegance, stability and necessity of our sacred traditions; these beliefs, attitudes, rites, and practices that form our quintessential Catholic identity.

I think it was like this for the Prodigal. Oh, sure. He could dream. He dreamt himself right out of the estate, so to speak. He was a "go for launch" kind of kid, I presume; one with high hopes, and champagne dreams. He said "Capernaum  is the place I oughta be, so he loaded up the ox and he moved to Galilee. The Sea that is, swimmin pools, movie stars".  (sorry, I am a product of 1970s sitcoms.) At some point though, something snapped. Was it the pig pods? The stench of the swine? Was it the let down of distorted expectations? The poverty? Or was it homesickness: that achey feeling of longing for the familiar, stable, reliable, necessary and yes, sacred homey-ness. The feeling you get after a warm bath, a good meal and your mom hugs you all up in a blanket while you eat popcorn and watch movies. THAT. And yet, this somehow doesn't get at it completely.

I believe that there is a warm, sacred homey-ness that we hope for and that will be our eternal union with God in heaven. And I believe we rely heavily upon our traditions to remind us of this. Scripture is the story, but tradition is the voice and dynamic energy that echoes it forward. And I believe we rely on this more than we let on. In fact, those outside of the church rely on this. To use the popular euphemism--All roads lead to Rome--would be an understatement when you look at the activity in the media and on the social net related to the conclave.  The world is watching Rome. Why? because it is our Family Room. She is the seat of our unbroken tradition for 2 millenia. The place where the world converges to watch a process that guided and governed by the Holy Spirit.

If it weren't so, no one would care.

Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Luke, Ch. 15