Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Pope on Gays

"Homosexuals hurt themselves."

Pictured, Albrecht Durer, "The Men's Baths"

"In his most powerful statements to date on issues involving sexual morality, Pope Benedict XVI said homosexuals end up destroying themselves so the Church has a duty to speak out on moral issues that affect the very spiritual and physical lives of man.

"In seeking to emancipate himself from his body (from the 'biological sphere'), [man] ends up by destroying himself," the pope told cardinals, archbishops, bishops and members of the Roman Curia last week in a traditional meeting overlooked by most of the world's press. "Against those who say that 'the Church should not involve herself in these matters,' we can only respond: does man not concern us too? The church and believers must raise their voices to defend man, the creature who, in the inseparable unity of body and spirit, is the image of God."
- World Net Daily

Most homosexuals will fail to see the compassion in the Holy Father's words, as they fail to understand the teaching of the Church as regards homosexuality, in both the Catechism and various episcopal statements on the problem so mysteriously prevalent in contemporary times.

Many gay people would assert that homophobic tendencies in culture, and society are what hurts homosexual persons. Evidence of discrimination, gay bashing, and alienation would be their criteria in support of this claim.

When AIDs first appeared in the early 1980's, there was a huge denial amongst most gays that there could be any relationship to homosexual sex, and if there was, conspiracy theories abounded as to who was really infecting people. Gradually, places of free-range sex were closed, gay bathhouses were closed down, and gay public sex meeting places were policed. Homosexuals themselves began a campaign for safe sex, such as condom distribution and use, mutual or group sex that did not involve penetration or sharing bodily fluids, etc.

With the advent of new medications, persons with HIV found they could live longer and healthier. The plague mentality waned, and many, especially the young, thought the worst was over, or at least, the disease became more manageable. Sex gradually became freer and more unsafe, and infections once again began to rise.

Most likely, this will be what public opinion will assume the Holy Father is referring to - destruction of gay persons through STD's. I highly doubt the Holy Father was being so simplistic and superficial in his statement.

So how does a homosexual destroy himself? We concentrate all of our values upon the here and now. Hence, HIV and AIDS aside, if we look for how a homosexual can destroy himself, we may find other more obvious means, when we examine the lifestyle and values of gay culture.

As a sex based lifestyle, gay culture exalts physical beauty to the point of idolatry. Almost every attractive male becomes a sexualized, or romanticized object. Homosexual literature and publications are the clearest example of this predacious inclination, pornography is normative in the homosexual subculture. In this sense, homosexuality debases and dehumanizes sexuality. This erotic 'love' withers the soul, and diminishes the human spirit.

Depression, chemical dependency, compulsive behaviors often accompany this disintegration - even in the best of homosexual persons - the most balanced and functional. The widespread use of anti-depressants and prescription sleep aids may often take the place of drug abuse or alcoholism, yet there remains the underlying problem. Again, societal marginalization or prejudice may be claimed as the reason for this psychological imbalance - what they like to refer to as homophobia. Yet, even in a perfect world of total acceptance and all that goes along with that, such as gay marriage, adoption of children, freedom to be promiscuous, etc. - even in this situation, there would remain an underlying, fundamental discontent. That is because homosexual sex is intrinsically disordered, no matter how romanticised or emotionally captivating. And the acts are DOA - dead on arrival - they are always unproductive ( not life generating), except in the sense of selfish sensual gratification.

Ultimately, and this is controversial, homosexuals destroy themselves the more they force their lifestyle choice upon the public, disrupting the common good. Nature rebels against any perversion, and there is inevitably a natural consequence, even chastisement, for sin . The Church warns against any discrimination or persecution of homosexual persons, and has spoken out against these evils and resulting violence. The Church compassionately invites homosexual persons to conversion of life, to share fully in the sacramental life of the Church, and thus to inherit eternal life.

Which leads me to the conclusion that the Holy Father, when saying homosexuals destroy themselves, he must ultimately be referring to one's eternal salvation. All the evils I refer to are nothing compared to the loss of one's immortal soul.

Of course, I'm just a blogger, and I've only read an article about what the Holy Father said, I do not know his mind, nevertheless this is my take on his statement. Although I do believe, one's active rejection of the teaching of the Church and the commandments, while embracing and advocating an illicit lifestyle, for the sake of some semblance of happiness in this life can indeed result in the loss of heaven and the pains of hell for all eternity. In this sense, even the successful, happy and well adjusted homosexual can destroy himself.


On this date in history.
Saddam Hussein executed December 30, 2006.
Grigor Rasputin ececuted December 30, 1916.
Not that there is any real significance to this, aside from the fact they were two men who did evil things, and were executed at a pivotol time in their country's history.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Now here is a guy...

With a fresh perspective on things.

On Catholic blogs and the coming indult:

"What is coming clear, now, is that a parting of the ways is coming: I predict the pope's expected Motu Propriu will expose a fault-line -- between those who genuinely want to pursue the "reform of the reform," and those who really couldn't care less about that, but rather are focused on the restoration of the old rite. Many of these self-styled "traditionalists" are being very plain: entirely scrap the Rite of Vatican II they derisively call Novus Ordo, a title they claim the Church herself gives the Mass (true in the barest technical sense: Paul VI used the expression, in a speech, once). A number of these folks, with little prodding, will proceed to tell you how heretical and evil the current rite of Mass is. And they don't stop there." Bonfire of the Vanities

Read Fr. Martin Fox on the Old and New Mass...he has some very good insights.

I drive, and don't mind driving to a Church where liturgy is celebrated well. I'm still attending St. Agnes. Good solid young priests are there, just like Fr. Fox. I so hate the constant arguing about rites however. No, I do not like the abuses, and I've experienced many, I never have liked them, why do you think I hate contemporary liturgical music? - yet the Mass of Paul VI is the prayer of the Church, it is legitimate, valid, holy and efficacious and does indeed give glory to God. To claim otherwise is a source of scandal that has kept not a few from benefiting from the grace that flows from what has been condemned by some as the Novus Ordo Church.

There are a few traditionalists who like to say they are indeed more Catholic than the Pope on the basis of the rite they celebrate - perhaps, and that is a very slim perhaps - what they fail to realize however, is no one can be more holy, nor more Catholic than the Church, of which, Benedict XVI is the head, the Vicar of Christ.

Let the Motu come when it will - the Church remains One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic - with or without it.


I read once where he would never have been a saint if he hadn't been martyred. Which reminds me of of Amy Welborn's comment on her home page, "She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." (This quote is what endeared Amy to me - one has to love such humility.)
I think Becket was Richard Burton's best role. St. Thomas was very worldly, athletic, finely educated, and possessed exquisite taste. Amidst all the temptations of court it is said he remained virtuous and chaste. Always a just man, even though the king's best friend.
He died opposing the State, murdered in his Cathedral at vespers. After his death his piety and asceticism were soon found out, he had worn a hairshirt, and privately lived a penitential life with minimal comforts. Actually, I think he would have been a saint regardless of the martyrdom.
Henry VIII dismantled his shrine and his relics were lost, undergoing a posthumous martyrdom of sorts at the hands of another king I'd say.
Catholic Online has a good biography on the saint while Fr. Nicholas has an interesting post on the feastday as observed in the UK.
St. Thomas Becket brings to mind a similar martyr - I wonder if Archbishop Oscar Romero will ever be canonized? He does have the title, "Servant of God".

Is a meme an interview?

Catholic Devotions Meme (These things go around like a cold.)

1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus?

Frequent spiritual communions throughout the day and uniting myself and all I do to His silent loving action in the Eucharist. The Divine Mercy chaplet and the prayers of the chaplet - it brings one into immediate union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass being celebrated throughout the world.

2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer?

The Little Office of the BVM - the pre-Vatican II version, and of course the rosary, as many as I can pray each day.

3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?

Yes. The brown scapular and medal - the medal was for times I could once go shirtless - too fat now. Also a Miraculous medal and a St. Joseph medal.

4. Do you have holy water in your home?

Yes. But not in a font - it evaporates too quickly. I bless myself and the cats frequently with it.

5. Do you 'offer up' your sufferings?

Of course - the morning offering and acts of union with the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus takes care of that. However, I prefer to thank Our Lord for the sufferings I may experience. A holy Carmelite, Mother Mary Electa of Christ said, "Prayer is good, suffering is better." I would add, "Gratitude in both is best."

6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays?

I have done so several times over - there are specific requirements you know, 9 and 5 in a row, respectively. Having done that, I keep them more freely now.

7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? How frequently?

Yes. Often. Not always in a specified Eucharistic chapel however. I never mind praying before a closed tabernacle. In addition, I neither count the visits, nor do I keep track of how long I'm there.

8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or Sunday morning Mass person?

Earliest and quietest Mass possible on Sunday morning.

9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?

Yes, even for snacks - but no one notices when I do - I don't make a production out of it.

10. Favorite Saint(s)?

That's a long list. Our Lady and St. Joseph and my guardian Angel and St. Michael are the first, and in that order. Otherwise, Therese and Francis. John and Teresa. Alberto Marvelli and Pier Giorgio Frassati. Benedict Joseph Labre and Joseph Moscati. John Macias and Martin and Rose of Lima. Pierina Morossini and Maria Goretti. Dominic Savio. Br. George and Conrad of New Melleray. Laura Vicuna and Charles Untz. Dorothy Day and Mother Grace of the Eucharist. Matt Talbot and Angela of Foligno. Bernardo of Quintivalle and Roch. Margaret of Cortonna and Catherine of Genoa. And two popes, John XXIII and John Paul I. These are just a few who immediately come to mind.

11. Can you recite the Apostles Creed by heart?

Of course - how can one be a Catholic otherwise?

12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?

Yes - but I mostly think and share my thoughts with Our Lord and Lady and St. Joseph all day long - And, I frequently say the act of contrition throughout the day for all the slips of my tongue and sins of pride.

13. When you pass by an automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?

Yes indeed - the school sisters taught us that. I also pray for people whose cars I notice abandoned on the freeway from the previous night, certain they may have been arrested for a DUI. And I pray for anyone having car problems. I like to pray for pedestrians I see as well - just in case no one prays for them. I designate all of these with a discreet sign of the cross using my forefinger as I pass by. And of course, I pray for ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars - the public servants in them, whenever I see or hear them.

14. (This should be here.) Do you tip your hat or make the sign of the cross when you pass a Catholic Church out of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament?

Without fail - usually by tracing the sign of the cross with my thumb over my forehead with a silent "O Sacrament most holy..."

So - whoever wants to do this meme, go ahead - it's a good examine in a way. When younger and seeking my vocation, I often asked contemplative monks and nuns how they prayed. A meme is kind of like that, we can learn from others when we share some of our practices with one another.

President Ford

The country begins it's mourning period for Gerald Ford, the "accidental" President. He never aspired to be president, while he seemed to be rather charmingly accident prone, as Chevy Chase brilliantly mimicked - much to the delight of Jerry and Betty.
Most enemies of the Nixon administration never forgave President Ford for pardoning his predecessor. I thought it gallant of him to do so. Mercy is always peace-giving and healing, and our country sorely needed that at the time. Much as we do today.
The Fords were a rather ordinary family in many respects. One has to admire how they supported one another in crises. Betty's breast cancer, her chemical dependency struggles.
It's sad to think that Mrs. Ford is pro-abortion in view of all her troubles. Yet the majority of the elite do embrace such errors.
One does not have to agree with another's politics to like the person, perhaps it is all the more reason to pray for them.
I just liked the guy. May he rest in peace.
Photo courtesy of the Ford Library and Museum.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A happy death...

Catholics are accustomed to pray for a happy death - rather, they ought to be. What is happy about death? It is dying in the state of grace, dying in the Lord.
Today's gospel, the prophecy of Simeon captures it well.
"Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of your people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel." - Luke 2


His execution may happen as soon as Saturday.
It isn't right to let him pass without comment. Everyone has their own opinion of course, I just hope the Christian opinion will not be biased by media or popular sentiment.
News is that his execution will be videotaped. Mussolini was photographed hanging after his execution. Video taping his death seems rather uncivilized. He has not been treated well since his capture, many undignified photos of him have blanketed media, even in his underwear, or footage of Saddam unshaven while his teeth were examined. The Vatican has protested all along. After all, he was head of State.
Sources in the Vatican (Cardinal Martino) are against his execution. If there was a way to allow him to live without influencing others toward violence or to obtain his freedom and restoration to power, I would prefer his life to be spared. Despite the brutalities and mass murders of his regime. For what it is worth, when he ruled, Iraq experienced a form of peace - at least Christians were free to worship.
Nevertheless, he will be executed, and sadly, I do not believe his execution unjustified - yet I cannot cheer it on. As Christians, I hope everyone prays for him. It is unusual that we know of a person's death before it occurs, except in the case of those we put to death, I hope everyone will pray for the soul of Saddam - especially the Divine Mercy chaplet, as Our Lord requested for the dying.
Gerald from "The Cafeteria Is Closed" has a post about Martino's opposition to Saddam's death sentence.

"If you fall I will catch you--I'll be waiting - time after time"

"If I collapse, someone is sure to find me." -Therese of Lisieux on being sick. (Reminds me of Cyndi Lauper's song.)
Last night I did collapse and a friend found me. I fainted after a sharp pain and coughing while attempting to post last night. It was so weird. The last thing I remember is leaning over in my chair, then I awakened to find myself on the floor, dreaming about what I had been posting, hearing someone call my name. I had no idea as to what happened or how long I had been unconscious.
My face was scraped a bit, my jaw knocked out of line, and my left elbow sore and swollen, with a pounding headache. I was rather disoriented as well. I refused to go to the hospital and went to bed instead.
Today I felt pain, dizziness, and just plain sick. I decided not to go to the ER because the wait was a couple of hours - or so I had been told the day before. I made an appointment with my regular Dr. instead.
The fainting isn't that unusual, indeed it has happened before - I just worry it could happen when I'm driving. The sharp pain in the chest indicates more heart stuff - not a heart attack - but something called pericarditis. It's like an inflammation - viral perhaps, that's causing a fever and other things. It's not so serious. It could also be related to the fact I've been on antibiotics going on the second month now. My health is like a soap opera. The worst part is being a burden, as well as a disappointment to others.
"We would like never to fall. What an illusion! What does it matter, my Jesus, if I fall at every moment? I come to recognize by it how weak I am and that is gain for me. You see by that how little I am able to do and You will be more likely to carry me in your arms. If you do not do so, it is because you like to see me prostrate on the ground. Well, then, I am not going to worry, but I will always stretch out my suppliant arms toward You with great love. I cannot believe You would abandon me." (Letter to Celine, April 26, 1889)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Jeffrey Mylett

I'm stunned. I met this guy when I lived in Assisi - we shared a room at the Atonement Sisters, just up from the Basilica Santa Chiara. I had a photo of myself with him - that I sent to David and Stephanie - they were supposed to send it back! David! I want it back!

Jeff was in Assisi because he loved St. Francis and was spiritually seeking after acting in "Godspell". He was very humble - he told me he was in "Godspell" but I hadn't realized he had a starring role in it. We became friends in that short time. We went to the Carceri together, I stayed for a few days, when I returned, he was gone.

Tonight, as I was looking for a good looking character to post for my profile photo, I came upon Jeff. I was so sad to learn he had died. I know we all die, but it's stunning to find out, no matter when. I'm absolutely stunned.
We were the same age...I'm jealous...and deeply saddened. He died in 1986.
Wow! I'm just so saddened. I didn't know.

Now that's a Holiday!

Jennifer Holiday.
You know - I still listen to her CD with "And I'm Telling You - I'm Not Going!" The very best rendition ever - from the original Dream Girl! Although I haven't seen "Dream Girls" the movie yet. I think Jennifer Hudson will do it justice however. (Her best break came when she was voted off American Idol.)
Anyway, while we're on the subject of Kwanza. Yeah, it's not going to catch on, no matter how much media likes to pretend. I mean, Christmas is Christmas, ask any practising Christian of African descent.
Kwanza is an intellectual forgery, seeking to supplant the Christian celebration of Christmas with a nature based, ethnic parody of a religious festival. Do people really buy it? Gosh, I don't think so.
Nevertheless, I'll go see "Dream Girls" as part of my celebration of Misrule. For the lowdown on the Kwanza thing, MSN has the details.
Oh, and happy Festivus too!

Back to gossip...

Pictured, "Man with his head in the sand"...a common disorder many bloggers attempt to help other people with.
Did you get a chance to read Eric Scheske's piece in the National Catholic Register on gossip in the blogosphere? Now this is an excellent article on the subject, and he's a good writer to boot, in fact that's a good Catholic newspaper isn't it. That's the Catholic spirit Eric!
"Why are rumors a natural part of the blogging media? They lack the rigors of doing real research and verification. On more than one occasion, a reader of my blog has written to me, stating that my facts weren’t quite right. I respond unapologetically: “Yup, my facts may have been inaccurate. It’s just a blog. I link to my source and let my readers make up their minds.”

Don’t get me wrong. I try to present accurate facts. I never re-produce something that I know is wrong and I often check and verify my facts. Just last month, for instance, I started to refer to Jacques Maritain as a convert to the Catholic faith from Judaism. Something told me to look that up and, indeed, I was wrong. Maritain was raised Protestant." Eric Scheske
Yup. I think I pretty much said as much in my own interview with a local Catholic newspaper whose bosses seem to dislike bloggers.
Happy Misrule!
"Eat Sand!" - Jon Lovitz for the Spirit.


Now would be the time to celebrate.
Eric at the Daily Eudemon remarked that if people have post holiday depression, they probably followed the American custom of celebrating throughout Advent. It's a good point.
Kids understand the season of Christmas, no doubt because they have the week off. Adults, who take their vacation time this week, may also understand. While those who pray and looked forward to the Nativity, will especially understand the joy of the season.
The Lord or Abbot of Misrule.
Today is Boxing Day in the UK and Canada, my favorite resource, Wkipedia, has the history:
"There are disparate theories as to the origins of the term. The more common stories include:

It was the day when people would give a present or Christmas 'box' to those who have worked for them throughout the year. This is still done in Britain for postmen and paper-boys - though now the 'box' is usually given before Christmas, not after.

In feudal times, Christmas was a reason for a gathering of extended families. All the serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord, which made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends to the serfs. After all the Christmas parties on 26 December, the lord of the estate would give practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each family would get a box full of such goods the day after Christmas. Under this explanation, there was nothing voluntary about this transaction; the lord of the manor was obliged to supply these goods. Because of the boxes being given out, the day was called Boxing Day.

In England many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day's work on the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day.

In churches, it was traditional to open the church's donation box on Christmas Day, and the money in the donation box was to be distributed to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day. In this case, the "box" in "Boxing Day" comes from that lockbox in which the donations were left." Wkipedia
(Boxing day may be a good way to re-gift the gifts you neither like or want - rather than going to the department stores to exchange them, yeah, that's not going to fly.)
Now the Lord of Misrule goes back to Mediveal times, the origins of which are traced to pagan Rome, wherein it was celebrated for the feast of Saturnalia. Again, Wkipedia:
"The Lord of Misrule, known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots, was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant or sub-deacon appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness and wild partying, in the pagan tradition of Saturnalia. The Church held a similar festival involving a Boy Bishop. The celebration of the Feast of Fools was outlawed by the Council of Basel that sat from 1431, but it survived to be put down again by the Catholic Queen Mary I in England in 1555.

While mostly known as a British holiday custom, the appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome, from the 17th to the 23rd of December, a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the good god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were turned topsy-turvy as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. This holiday seems to be the precursor to the more modern holiday, and it carried over into the Christian era." Wikipedia
As Carnival, which really begins on Twelfth Night, January 6th, the Church would often condemn the practices associated with the Lord of Misrule. (It is so easy for us mortals to become debauched.) Yet a re-adaptation of the custom, with discretion, could help people celebrate Christmas well, while refraining from the temptation to be so caught up in the manufactured commercial observance of the Holiday, which more or less ends on Christmas day night - for those who fall for the hype.
It makes me wonder if much of the holiday blues isn't the result of celebrating too much before Christmas, as Eric suggests. Or is it that many people in our culture lack an authentic spirituality, not to mention catechesis?
I'll tell you this, if my Company (which is a Catholic Company) would host our annual Christmas party the week after Christmas, instead of the week before, I would definitely attend...although it interferes with every one's vacation time I suppose.
In the days I entertained, I always had a St. Nicholas dinner, and then, an Epiphany party, and little gifts were given at both to all of my guests. I more or less stopped doing these, since guests caught on and started bringing me gifts - they didn't understand that it was just for them to receive and enjoy, and the events became an obligation to buy something for me and each other in return. That gift giving thing can get so out of control. (That could explain another reason people get depressed after Christmas, they have to pay the bills. Or they didn't get the coat they wanted!:)

Monday, December 25, 2006

On the feast of Stephen

Good King Wenceslas did something today - I can't remember the words of the carol though.
The 26 December is the feast of St. Stephen, martyr. As I mentioned in an earlier post, never be surprised by violence and tumult during the time we commemorate the birth of the Prince of Peace, that is, at Christmas.
Steven is the protomartyr for Christ, a deacon in the early Church, Saul (St. Paul) was there to witness the stoning. Everyone knows the story. I believe his feast is celebrated to demonstrate what it means to be a disciple of Jesus so that we who celebrate Our Lord's Nativity may not lose sight of the cross. While the witness of Stephen may encourage those who are suffering amidst the celebration of Christmas.
The radiant countenance of Stephen's face as he was being stoned, seeing Our Lord in glory as he did, mirrors our own joy of seeing the Divine Infant Jesus in the extreme poverty of Bethlehem. After all, it couldn't have been very pleasant laying in a manger, in a cold, dirty cave, amidst the animals and the odors associated with them. Yet heaven and earth rejoiced that day, and Love was made visible to all.

One more picture...

My Bambino on Christmas Eve...He has His toys, St. Nicholas came from the Orthodox Church and the Latin Church. The relic of St Francis de Sales has been there all along with The Virgen of the Apocalypse...St. Joseph is in the illumination from the minature book. The angels brought the crown that usually adorns the top of the Christmas tree.

Lord of Misrule...

Fond reminiscences of Christmas past...I'm verklempft!

(Caution, do not read unless you received a sense of humor for Christmas.)

"I am so sick of this Christmas B--- S--- ...put your Christmas presents away and get out!" -My mum on Christmas afternoon.

I can't stand it. I've been way too serious for too many days in a row - Christmas is fun - I can't be so solemn! I have to break the holy-holy atmosphere here.

I was like this in the monastery as well - I always had to do something stupid to make people laugh - and get myself in trouble in the process - like pretending to be extremely drunk as I walked down the cloister after compline. How was I to know we had tipplers in the Abbey who thought I was making fun of them? Geesh! Monks can be so sensitive.

Or when I had to call the other novices after work detail in the garden, "Aelred, Isaac, c'mon honey - it's bath time!" I was pretending to be Ward Cleaver, you know, Beaver's dad, although I said it in June's voice. I had no idea it sounded gay - nor was I aware we had...

Of course, there is nothing like those wonderful family Christmas memories to crack me up either. (I imagine most everyone has delightful holiday memories like these.)

Such as the Christmas when my dad finally got a job and all my mother wanted was a coat for Christmas. He was gone all Christmas Eve day - shopping, although, he spent most of the day in a bar - just making it to the department store before it closed. When he arrvied home, drunk and late, he proceeded to show Skip and Beth and myself the coat. Of course I, the budding ready-to-wear expert asked, "Are you really going to give her that?" It looked like an old ladies coat made out of foam with a dead rat collar. Well, he gave it to her, and she opened it - knowing, I'm certain, it would be ugly.

Sure enough, it hit the fan.

"Where'd you steal this rag? The Goodwill?" said Betty, dryly and ever so coldly. "Beth, fix me another drink." Then the tears came flooding out and complaints on how she never got a decent Christmas present in her life, and how she bought a mink coat for her sister-in-law when her brother was broke and she was never paid back. And suddenly, "Baby Jane" was in the house. Tears turned to wild eyed fury, and shouts. Oh! The drama!

Enter Jack Nicohlson from "The Shinning" - shouting over mom, "I bought that G-- D--- coat at the Emporium and the sales clerk said it was the current fashion."

"For your bitch of a mother maybe!" At this point she was ready to fight - my mom and dad had such chemistry!

"Don't call my mother a bitch!"

"Well, she's nothing but a slut - married six times - give her the G-- D--- coat! You were drunk when you bought this Sunny Boy! It's a markdown - the tag is still on it!" She screamed, throwing the coat onto the Christmas tree - in other words, she threw down the gauntlet.

Whack! Her glasses go flying across the room. Before new tears and laments, my mom - who could be very funny, calmly asked my dad, "Oh! So now you're going to buy me a new pair of glasses for Christmas as well! Aren't you just a giver though!"

The kids were in the kitchen pretending to appreciate their presents - hoping to dad fixes another drink...we eat...I'm old enough - 6th grade I think, to get out for midnight Mass - while Skip and Beth took off for friend's houses.

The End.

Christmas is fun - just wait until twelfth night - that is the most fun! (I wonder if I should do a twelve days of Christmas series of Christmas memories?)

Oh Tannenbaum! At The Met Museum NYC

I'm still trying to take a better photo of my Christmas tree - until then, this is the very best Christmas tree in the world, with a lovely Neapolitan presepio at the base.

We really have the Germans to thank for the continuity of the Christmas tree. I read where the Holy Father has two trees in his apartment. (I hope his kitty cat is with him.) He also has all of his Bavarian delicacies to eat, and Kloster beer. I wonder if he will have marzipan? It would be fun to spend Christmas with him.

One should read Athanasius Contra Mundum for a fine history of the Christmas Tree and it's Christian significance.
This is the best close up I could find of the Presepio, from the collection of Loretta Hines Howard. In addition to this donation to the Met, she also donated a lovely presepio to Regina Laudes, the Abbey in Bethlehem Connecticut, where Mother Delores Hart resides.

The Word became flesh...

"One Word the Father spoke (Which is His Son) and this Word He speaks in eternal silence, and It is in silence It is heard by the soul." - St. John of the Cross

The Grace of God Has Appeared...

And the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light...
For today a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord!
A blessed and holy Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve...

A painting by Michael Sowa. (See, the guy has his computer!)
"Alone on Christmas"
(Actually, I'm not alone, a friend is here. But I love quiet Christmas eves.)
Being alone on Christmas is rather nice if one is religious - especially so when one is a Catholic.
As one ages, especially when one is single, Christmas changes. The emphasis, in my experience, is less upon self, gifts and parties, and becomes decidedly more spiritual, concentrated upon the mystery of Christ's birth, while focused upon others and their needs. (Even when one is a hermit of sorts.)
Being alone is not as frightful as others think. Men and women enter cloistered monasteries and never see their families or share in worldly celebrations, just as hermits have done for centuries. The urban hermit does likewise.
Christmas is completely different for the mature person, since the celebration has long evolved to acclimate the person to relishing the solitude.
Those who need compassion, our thoughts and prayers - as well as our presence, are those abandoned in nursing homes, or those who have recently lost a loved one, thus radically changing their experience and perception of Christmas.
Others in need are the soldiers, whether in combat or stationed away from family and loved ones, many away from home for the first time.
The men and women in prison - even if it is a psychological prison of some illness or disorder, along with the homeless of course, and the indigent.
There are families trapped in abuse, battered wives and children. The sexually exploited of all ages, as well as those entangled in the drug culture, or a life of crime and violence of any sort.
Neither can we forget those who refuse to believe in Jesus, or those who may not understand Him, or even know of Him.
These are the people who are really alone on Christmas, and not always by choice.
Let us remember them when we visit the creche to adore the Divine Infant Jesus.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Devotion to the Nino Jesus in Carmel

Pictured, "The Nino of St. John of the Cross."
The Carmelite nuns of Lake Elmo first introduced me to devotion to the Child Jesus as a young adult at the time of my conversion and return to the Church in 1972.
As a child I never felt attracted to the devotion of the Infant Jesus, mostly represented as the Infant of Prague, as I pretty much thought it sissified and only for little girls. I was more attracted to the mature Jesus, especially His Sacred Heart, probably because I needed a strong masculine model in my childhood, since my father was often absent.
It wasn't until my second conversion in 1978 that I was able to embrace the devotion completely. In the early 1970's, after returning from a rather sinful life, my focus was upon the passion of Christ, particularly His Holy Wounds, and Holy Face, devotions that are the balm of penitents.
Later, the Carmel of Our Lady of Divine Providence at Lake Elmo, Minnesota, finally published their novena booklet to the Infant Jesus. Mother Paula sent me a copy practically each time we corresponded. The nuns made public their custom of the monthly novena to the Infant Jesus from the 16th to the 25th of each month. I adopted the practice in union with them.
This happened at a time of awakening in my second conversion, wherein I understood the roots of my sin went all of the way back to childhood, hence the Divine Child Jesus became my companion and counsellor in the process. In the beginning I could only bring myself to venerate Him as the Bambino in the poverty of Bethlehem. Gradually, as He took me through His Childhood while mirroring my own, I was able to embrace every aspect of His Childhood, delighting in nearly every representation, albeit the Bambino remains dearest to me.
The monthly novena is an efficacious spiritual practice. It focuses the soul upon the mystery of the Incarnation, the Nativity, and the early years of Our Lord's life. The nuns recommend that one not limit the Divine Child by asking for particular favors, since He already knows our needs. I pray the novena to draw close to the Divine Child with the confidence that I shall want for nothing. However, He is a little Child and He knows how little children are, hence he is never put off by our particular requests, indeed, He enjoys listening to them.
The chief effect of devotion to the Infant Jesus is He becomes our constant companion, and increases our capacity to love. In some cases He heals the wounds inflicted upon us in our childhood, tracing our sins to these roots, helping us to overcome them, or at least humbly repent, with greater self knowledge each time we fall. The Infant Jesus instills humility, confidence and love, as He traces out the way of Spiritual Childhood for us.
The Divine Child is vulnerable and open to all, especially sinners. He teaches us to refrain from judging another, or condemning another, and if we do, He quickly reminds us of our own sins to gently reprimand us. With him the soul is able to see the Divine spark within even the most hardened and offensive person, often indicating to us that person's pain, loneliness, and isolation. The Divine Child teaches us to love and have compassion, even upon ourselves - He rejects no one who comes to him. He elicits such a love from our hearts that we quickly find ourselves loving without desire for sensual gratification or self-seeking, rather loving for Love's sake alone.
The monthly novena also prepares us for the Solemnity of Christmas, since we are already disposed to the true meaning of the feast. Devotion to the Divine Infancy prepares the heart, as a farmer has plowed and planted his field. waiting for the heavenly dew of this mystical night, when the grace of God has appeared. Although, this night, even the least prepared soul, upon gazing at the Divine Infant cannot help but be impressed with His merciful is not just the many He invites and welcomes, but all.
Tonight, in Carmel, the nuns, with lighted candles, will process with the Infant Jesus, from cell to cell, looking for room at the Inn. Each nun, will arise to meet her Bridegroom until all the community has joined the procession. Finally they will arrive in chapel and place the Little Jesus in the manger, and midnight Mass will commence. During the Octave of Christmas, the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague will be exposed in the extern chapel for the veneration of the faithful.
The Infant Jesus once revealed to the venerable Fr. Cyril, "The more you honor me, the more I will bless you." Indeed, He has certainly blessed our Carmel with many fervent and holy vocations in response to their devotion. He has blessed me as well.
Merry Christmas!