Saturday, November 07, 2009

Normal, good people...


They really do exist.
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I drove out to Stillwater, Minnesota yesterday to advise a friend on the set up of a gift shop within his bookstore.  He and another fellow own a rather prestigious antiquarian book-selling company, and at their separate facility which happens to be their theological bookstore, they want to begin selling fine Catholic gifts and art.  They are off to a good start - I'll write about the shop another day however.
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What impressed me about these fellows, my friend in particular, is how solid and steady they are; in faith, in business, in family, in morals, and so on.  My friend is very well educated and learned, a devout Catholic, a husband and father of 3.  He is very well balanced and open, in fact I think he is one of the most humble, easy going guys I have ever met, as is his wife.  I could never begin to say enough good about them.  His business partner, staff and coworkers obviously respect him, as he surely does them, and everyone works together very well.  The business operates in an atmosphere of peace and joy and genuine good will.
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I comment on this because such ordinary good lives appear to have become truly extraordinary in our day - at least in my experience.  Now that I am older and fortunate enough to capture a glimpse into the lives of people such as these folks, I'm able to appreciate what a normal, good life is:  The living out of God's will and purpose for His beloved, the fecundity and happiness of family life as it is meant to be, the mutual charity, friendship and fraternity between business associates, coworkers and employees, and so on.
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This post may sound strange, but I didn't come from such a good, much less stable background.  For most of my life I wasn't ever certain what normal was, and believe it or not, I was kind of scared of it when I saw it.  Now that I'm older and less affected by trend and social expectations and fear of not fitting in, I have a deeper appreciation for what I once considered ordinary and uninteresting.  The new normals in contemporary culture has forced me to recognize the greatness of ordinary life - the real normal.  Indeed, I'm deeply edified and consoled such goodness prospers and continues to exist.
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Now days I hope and pray even more for families, that they remain untainted and undisturbed by the contagion of the world's slow stain:  I pray for an increase of good, moral, faithful - especially Catholic - moms and dads and children.  These are the foundation of civilization, and must be defended, protected and supported.  The family is THE common good. 
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Art:  Peter Paul Rubens - Holy Family With Saints

Bloggers.


"We're dealing with sick people here, you understand. Dangerously sick people!" - Nurse Diesel

Friday, November 06, 2009

The forgotten war in Afghanistan



The one the Soviets lost...
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The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, only to withdraw in defeat 10 years later - the war has often been called the Soviet's Vietnam.  If I remember correctly, the Soviet military suffered as much from low morale as they did from casualties during the conflict.
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The unwinable 9 Year war.
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"Between December 25, 1979 and February 15, 1989, a total of 620,000 soldiers served with the forces in Afghanistan.  There were 469,685 sick and wounded, of whom 53,753 or 11.44 percent, were wounded, injured, or sustained concussion and 415,932 (88.56 percent) fell sick. A high proportion of casualties were those who fell ill. This was because of local climatic and sanitary conditions, which were such that acute infections spread rapidly among the troops. There were 115,308 cases of infectious hepatitis, 31,080 of typhoid fever, and 140,665 of other diseases. Of the 11,654 who were discharged from the army after being wounded, maimed, or contracting serious diseases, 92 percent, or 10,751 men, were left disabled.
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After the war ended, the Soviet Union published figures of dead Soviet soldiers: the total was 13,836 men, an average of 1,512 men a year. According to updated figures, the Soviet army lost 14,427, the KGB lost 576, with 28 people dead and missing. - Source
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Casualty of war.
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After watching news coverage of yesterday's tragic massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, I was reminded of the collapse of Soviet military morale during their unsuccessful war in Afghanistan.  As most people know, Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot and killed 12 fellow soldiers and injured at least another 30 on Thursday, November 5.  Although motives of of terrorism are hinted at today, I wonder if this attack could be less an act of aggression against U.S. policy, and more complicated than his personal unhappiness over being deployed to Iraq?  Might it be a sign that American military morale is getting dangerously low,  that our soldiers are being stretched too thin?  
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Although Hasan was going to Iraq and not Afghanistan, there is the real possibility he could have switched his allegiance from supporting U.S. policy to fighting for the terrorists.  After all, why would he shout "Allahu Akbar!" before opening fire?  We may never find out for sure if he dies.  In the meantime, I will not be surprised if that becomes the official story, while the very serious issue of morale may get pushed to the back burner.  Hopefully we will find out the truth if the shooter survives his injuries.  (He is currently on a ventilator.)
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Collateral damage.
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Spontaneous interviews with civillian personnel and wives of soldiers associated with Ft. Hood suggest that domestic violence and smaller skirmishes between soldiers are not uncommon at the base (and other military bases).  I may be mistaken, but could this be an indicator of low morale amongst soldiers, as well as a precursor to greater violence, such as we witnessed yesterday?  BTW - Ft. Hood is surrounded by the town of Kileen, where a man shot and killed 23 people in 1991.
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Whatever the case, we need to pray for our soldiers and their families, as well as support them - now and when they return as veterans too.  We can never forget the courageous men and women - the living and the dead - who serve our country.
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Photo:  Soviet War Dead:  Afghanistan War monument in Donetsk.

What's so wrong with American nuns?


What's with the Visitation?
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In a nutshell:
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The official that initiated the Vatican's investigation of women religious in the United States admitted this week that the enquiry was fueled by concerns that American nuns had become overly secularized and influenced by feminism.

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Cardinal Franc Rodé told Vatican Radio on Wednesday that his office decided to launch the investigation -- officially called an apostolic visitation -- after hearing "critical voices from the United States"  The cardinal, who is prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, indicated that "an important representative of the Church in the United States" was among the critics.

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He said the representative -- whose identity was not revealed -- had "alerted" him "to some irregularities or deficiencies" in the way the religious sisters were living. "Above all, you could speak of a certain secularist mentality that has spread among these religious families, perhaps even a certain 'feminist' spirit," the cardinal said. - Whispers in the Loggia


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Photo credits:  I don't know - but get this!   Adoro and Cathy are starting a Catholic feminist club modelled after Theology on Tap?  I know!
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An excerpt from the annoucement:    "If you want hard-core REAL Catholic, AUTHENTIC feminism at its best, this is the club you've been waiting for. And it's going to need YOUR help to get it going...  This is about REAL hard-core theology, REAL issues in the Catholic world today, and REAL argument..."
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Catfight!
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Thursday, November 05, 2009

H1N1 - conspiracy?


The vaccine - bioweapon?
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This may not get much press except for blogs and a few conservative news sites:  Dr. Teresa Forcades is a Spanish Benedictine nun at the monastery of Sant-Benet, in Monserra-Barcelona. She is a doctor physician specializing in internal medicine, PHD in public health at Barcelona’s university, specializing in the USA at the State University of New York. She gives verifiable scientific data concerning the disturbing irregularities related to this subject of flu pandemic, the restructuring of criteria by WHO to proclaim a pandemic, and what that means to sovereign nations. The information is relevant to all countries, all people.  Click here to watch the video interview with Dr. Forcades.  (It is divided into segments and is quite long, so have patience.)
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I have no idea what to make of this information... but what if?

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Links:
Spanish Doctor reveals information about Swine Flu
The outbreak in Ukraine.
205,00 sick in Ukraine

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Art:  Illumination - The Great Plague

Momento mori


The joy of being forgiven.
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The Lion and the Cardinal is posting amazing images on death this month, be sure to visit.
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Yesterday was my day of recollection and I was able to make my confession.  No matter how often I confess, I now try to do so as if it will be my very last confession - for me, it is a great help to making a good confession.  Imagining the prospect of death helps to rend one's garments as it were - to the point one stands totally naked before God, without excuse or defense except His saving grace and mercy - which rends the heart in loving contrition.
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Art: Requiem Chasuble, Benedictine Abbey of Kremsmünster, made c1630.  Lion and the Cardinal 

Detail


Triptych of the Epiphany - Hieronymus Bosch
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Some art historians have speculated the half-naked, effeminate figure sporting a crown resembling thorns, stealthily emerging from the stable, represents the Antichrist.  I think so too.
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Reading some of the hate-filled, anti-Catholic rhetoric militant homosexualists are spewing in the wake of the Maine referendum defeating SS marriage,  a gay Antichrist does not seem too far fetched.  (Maine became the 31st state to vote down gay marriage.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

End of life costs...


DOA
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I just had my will done by an attorney - the hourly fee for all of her work - which included a bit more than a simple will: $275.  I'm not complaining, believe me.  But providing for end of life expenses can add up.
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Just like funerals - pre-planning has its advantages I'm sure, but I'm not there yet.  Although I would prefer to be cremated, which is permitted by the Church.  From what I understand, it appears one's body is required for the funeral Mass, and only afterwards may it be cremated, followed by a proper burial in a vault or the ground - and only then in a cemetery.  I have often wondered why however. 
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Why does an intact body have to be preserved for the funeral Mass when the ashes are the complete remains anyway?  I've also wondered why one would have to go through all the expense to be embalmed and processed and packaged by a mortician to be ready for church.  After all, it's an added expense, not to mention a burden for the poor. 
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I suppose I could allow my intact body to be buried if it didn't have to be embalmed, reviewed, or placed in a box or a concrete vault.  I'm fairly certain one doesn't have to be embalmed, but most people seem to be if they are to make a reviewable event out of their funeral.  And of course funeral directors have to sell coffins, or at least arrange the sale of a vault in the ground - for the remains or cremains, makes no difference in Minnesota.  It seems like insider trading to me - the funeral director, the mortician, the church, and the cemetery - all in cahoots...  I probably shouldn't suggest that though. 
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I would prefer to be interred just like the monks of old - a shrouded body lowered into the ground.  Why do secular funerals have to be so elaborate and expensive?  Or do they?
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Anyway, the Italian Bishops are coming up with new guidelines - although I doubt the funeral homes and morticians will be disappointed.  K'ching!   Church in Italy to issue clarification on cremation.
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Oh well, something else I have to take care of.
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Art:  Antoine Joseph Wiertz - The Premature Burial

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Still Curious?


Another thing...


I was supposed to be someplace today but I couldn't make it.
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Sunday a friend asked me what I do with my time when I am not painting or working in the yard.  People really want to know what I do - Do I volunteer?  Do I go to church?  Do I visit people?  Do I travel?  They really want to know what I do.  I always answer, "Nothing."  When pressed, I reply, "Really, I don't do anything."  It is the same with my health, "How are you doing?"  Again, I answer, "I'm doing fine."  They press, "No, how are you really?  How's your health?"  I answer, "I'm doing well - really."  "But how is this or that you had problems with?"
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"Every thing is fine, I assure you."  At least that is what I tell the curious ones.
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"God never commands the impossible, as St. Augustine states, but in commanding He admonishes us to do what we can and to ask (pray) for grace to accomplish what we ourselves cannot do." - Providence, Garrigou-Lagrange

Some stuff...



First - St. Martin...
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Today is the feast of Blessed Martin de Porres, the Dominican lay brother who died in Lima Peru in 1639.  He was friends with St. Rose of Lima and St. John Macias - and all three are my friends.  As a young school boy I was very much attracted to these Dominican saints, especially intrigued by their severe penance and untiring generosity to the poor.  Of course, their mystical graces were especially attractive to me - Rose and John had been blessed with visions of Our Lady and the Child Jesus, whom the Madonna permitted them to hold in their arms.
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Some details of a saint's life should probably have been kept private however.  Such as Martin's penances.  I read once where he had a servant-man scourge him each day before dawn in the lowest level of the church tower.  In our perverted age, such severe penances are incomprehensible.  Nevertheless Martin was very good, very kind... he even had an animal shelter, and like St. Francis and other holy men and women, enjoyed a certain sovereignty  over these creatures.  I pray he will be kind to me.
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"Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them."
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Today's readings at Mass for Tuesday of  the 31st Week apply perfectly to St. Martin.   "Have the same regard for all, do not be haughty but associate with the lowly." (Rom 12:16)  And, "Then the master of the house commanded his servant, 'Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.'" (Luke 14)  This is what the religious orders have always done; from St. Martin, to the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, to the Little Sisters of the Poor, to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and the Missionaries of Charity.  
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The saints, Martin, Rose, John and Mother Teresa have all been elevated to the altars first and foremost for the greater glory of God, then for our edification and assistance, as well as examples of how we might put into practice the commands of the Gospel in imitation of Christ.  I mention this because I read a disturbing piece on Christopher Hitchen's anti-Catholic calumnies against Bl. Teresa of Calcutta over at WDTPRS.  (Prayer and sacrifce in reparation and for the conversion of sinners is very much needed.)
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And then...
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A local newspaper columnist is doing a story on blogs and asked to use an excerpt from one of my posts - I said okay after determining the feature would be a harmless story covering a day in the life of local blogs and bloggers.  The columnist sent a follow up question asking us why we blog, with a request to keep our response concise.  I returned my two line answer immediately:  "For attention.  That's pretty much it." 
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After all this time blogging, I realized it is what it is.
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Photo:  Close up of my relics:  The silver reliquary contains 1st class relics of St. Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres, and John Macias.

Prayers of reparation


James Mary Evans posted about the return of a blasphemous theatrical production called Madonna's Christmas Celebration:  Written and performed by Braden Chapman, who goes by the drag name “Mimi Imfurst,” Madonna’s Christmas Celebration show is in its 4th year of production. From reports and the website, the show claims to “offer insight into the psyche of the teen mother and the choices Mary had to make as a 13 year-old bride.”
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Last week I noted on another site news of the production of a gay calendar out of Portugal which mocks the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I would never link to it or show the images which offend God so very much. 
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However, I was pleased to find the following prayers of reparation on James Mary Evans' blog, Orate Fratres.  Please click here to find other prayers and special dates to join together in prayers of reparation and asking for the conversion of sinners.
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Chaplet of Reparation
(This prayer is for private recitation on rosary beads.)
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Please pray this chaplet as often as you can — anytime, anywhere — especially at times and places where our Holy Triune God is most offended and unloved.
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Begin with the Sign of the Cross (Kiss the Crucifix.)
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Recite the Apostle’s Creed
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Praying for the increase of Faith, Hope, and Charity and the intentions of our Holy Father, pray separately on the first bead and next three small beads and concluding on fifth bead:
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1 Our Father/ 3 Hail Marys/ 1 Glory Be.
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Pray on the large bead before each decade:
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Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly, and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of his most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversation of poor sinners.
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Pray on the ten small beads of each decade:
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My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.
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Following the ten small beads of each decade, pray:
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1 Glory Be
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Followed by:
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“O most holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God, I love You in the most Blessed Sacrament.”
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Conclude the 5 decade chaplet with:
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"Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy... etc.”
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Imprimatur: Most Reverend Peter J Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte
December 8, 2004
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Art: Nuestra Señora del Rosario. Por Juan Pedro López (1724-1787). Oleo sobre madera. Marco original por Domingo Gutiérrez. (1709-1793) Vidrio original

Monday, November 02, 2009

Little compromises



And the contagion of the world's slow stain.
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Fr. Angelo Mary writes eloquently on St Catherine of Genoa and purgatory today.  St. Catherine is one of my favorite saints and a great mystic who balanced an intense prayer life with the demanding and practical work of a hospital superintendent in 16Th century Genoa.  She is best known for her treatise on purgatory.  Superficial students of her work - like me - can find themselves initially contented by an abridged edition of her treatise, while imagining her doctrine somehow mitigates the severity of the sufferings of purgatory.
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A cursory reading of the Saint's work seems to lift the veil of terror and fear often associated with purgatory and presents it as an endurable course of passive purgation.  This due in part to the soul's divinely infused conviction of it's own sin, the just punishment due, as well as the necessary purification required to see God in the beatific vision.  Alternately, the soul experiences a deep peace and interior joy, along with a growing intensity of the love of God amidst suffering.   And so I always convinced myself  "purgatory ain't so bad" and rolled over and fell asleep.
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Reading Fr. Angelo's post, as well as an early morning recollection of a few sins I had somehow justified to myself as being not that serious, awakened me to what St. Catherine feared the most in the spiritual life, "the contagion of the world's slow stain".  That imperceptible tendency to compromise and allow little affections grow and infest and corrode our best intentions, permitting even venial sins - knowing a splash of holy water properly used can forgive them... Nevertheless, compromise upon compromise, lulling the soul to sleep.
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Fr. Angelo's wake up call.
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St. Catherine of Genoa (+1510) was a great mystic who was given insights into the plight of our poor brothers and sisters in Purgatory. Like all mystics she was given an understanding of supernatural realities that she had a hard time putting into words. The pain of the Poor Souls in their purification was beyond her ability to describe. But so was the love and joy of these souls who were so drawn to God by the bands of His love and who were so eager to be delivered from the imperfections that hindered them from uniting themselves to Him completely and freely.
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The world lies to us about happiness and about the relative value of the experiences of this life as compared with those that exist beyond the veil of death. Every time we sin we make a false estimation of the consequences of our actions. We take imprudent risks to our own detriment. We sell our inheritance for a bowl of porridge. All the while we settle on a transient relief from suffering and purification, like addicts getting their next fix only to crash harder than before.
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St. Catherine has no words for the extremity of our danger . . . and of the love that is the cure of our torpor. The souls in purgatory when they were alive thought too little about their danger and too little about love. Now they think nothing of their pain and only about the love of God. They will their purification. They do not sleep and they have no desire for it. Yet for all their love and joy in the midst of their pain, it is for them no merit, for their time has passed. - In Extremis
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St. Catherine pray for us to be converted by the love of God.  Safeguard us from illusion and the deceptive contagion of the world's slow stain.

All Souls...


Need Our Lady.
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If they didn't understand that in life - they will after death.
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Art: Patrocinio de la Virgen del Carmen a la animas del purgatorio. Siglo XVIII

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Wet puppy


All Hallows Day


Dead people, saints, and holy souls...
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I chose to use my painting Gioia's Dream for this post, which will be one last ghost story for the weekend.  It's just a short one...  Boo!
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Gioia's Dream
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Once upon a time, shortly after my brother died, his daughter had a dream of him... She was in a an immense hallway standing before a door she felt compelled to open, although fearful of what might lie behind it, the little 15 year old tried to open it.  The door knob was hot but somehow she managed to turn it just enough so that it exploded open, revealing a raging furnace of fiery chaos.  Amidst the conflagration she could hear gasps and cries...  Suddenly she could see, making his way through the flames, her dad, arms outstretched as if pleading, grasping for help, his face contorted in pain.  The End. 
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So anyway - today is All Saints, All Hallows day.  A holy day of obligation landing on a Sunday - how fortuitous.  Today, as every Catholic knows, the Church honors all saints, not just the canonized, but everyone who made it through that door (purgatory) my brother was trying to get through, and into heaven.  Of course some perfect people go to heaven immediately after death without stopping in purgatory - just as others go straight to hell - but mystics and theologians think the majority of the saved spend some time in purgatory.  Unless the person just passed - never say die to new age/ordo people.
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Why?  Because at many a Catholic funeral (and all protestant and non-denominational ones), the person who passed goes straight to heaven - no one goes to hell or purgatory or limbo - but straight to heaven - where they do whatever they did do on earth with great perfection and unending bliss:  drinkin' high-balls with the angels... in rock 'n roll heaven... lookin' down on all those they left behind, sayin' - "I love you all dearly, now don't shed a tear, I'm spending Christmas with Jesus this year!" - Stuff like that.  Don't cry for me Argentina!
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Well - happy All Saints day - just do not forget to pray for the dead - even if you get a poem saying, "Merry Christmas from Heaven" - throw it out.

The Tango as a sacramental...



Another "off-beat" Theology of the Body teaching moment: 
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I love to tango.
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As a single Catholic woman, this isn't always easy. Argentine tango can be danced close -- very close. Its intimacy and passion can sweep me into the romantic ozone layer, obscuring any sense of reality. It lures me into wanting more -- more intimacy, more connectedness, more transcendence.
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So why do I tango? Because Argentine tango conceals many profound spiritual lessons. Our relationship with God is meant to be one of intimacy and passion. So it is with tango. In the spiritual life, God leads and we follow. So it is in tango. In the Eucharist, God gives Himself away to us. The same should be true in tango. Argentine tango takes the abstract concepts of our faith and makes them concrete. Let me explain.
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For years, I begged God to send me a nice, Catholic tango partner. When this didn't happen, I finally realized the virtue of dancing with different men -- it forced me to become a good follower.
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...Another reason tango has been good for my Catholic faith, and it has to do with Pope John Paul II's theology of the body. The pope's fundamental premise is that the body reveals God. When we look at male and female, the very structure of the body tells us that it's made for union. Male and male aren't made for nuptial union. Female and female aren't made for nuptial union. Only male and female are made for nuptial union.
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How could this possibly apply to tango? Danced in all its beauty and artistry, Argentine tango expresses the theology of the body: The man gives himself away to the woman, the woman gives herself away to the man, and suddenly the two are no longer dancing as two but as one. Right before our eyes we see union and communion, two and one, giving and receiving. The man and woman are a visible sign of the self-giving union between Christ and the Church.
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Despite the many times I've been tempted to throw in the tango towel, this is why I continue: Tango is not just a dance, it's sacramental. - Katrina Zeno for Inside Catholic
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Wow!  I think this woman is totally serious! 
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I'm not a prude, but a little consideration ought to be given to the occasion of sin such intimacies may open one to, as the woman stated, "Its intimacy and passion can sweep me into the romantic ozone layer, obscuring any sense of reality. It lures me into wanting more -- more intimacy, more connectedness, more transcendence."  Such drama.  One ought to give some consideration to what the saints have said regarding simple folk dancing:
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" Is there any place, any time, any occasion wherein so many sins of impurity are committed at the dancehalls and their sequels? Is it not in these gatherings that people are most violently prompted against the holy virtue of purity? Where else but there are the senses so strongly urged towards pleasurable excitement? If we go a little more closely into this, should we not almost die of horror at the sight of so many crimes which are committed? Is it not at these gatherings that the Devil so furiously kindles the fire of impurity in the hearts of the young people in order to annihilate in them the grace of Baptism? Is it not there that Hell enslaves as many souls as it wishes? If, in spite of the absence of occasions and the aids of prayer, a Christian has so much difficulty in preserving purity of heart, how could he possibly preserve that virtue in the midst of so many sources which are capable of breaking it down?" - St. John Vianney
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High kicks and twirls with the woman's crotch on a man's lap strikes me as a little risque.  Reminds me of a fun disco number however...

Ooooh I, I love the nightlife
I love to tango
I got to boogie
Please don't talk about love tonight
Please don't talk about sweet love
Please don't talk about being true
And all the trouble we've been through
Ah, please don't talk about all of the plans
We had for fixin' this broken romance
I want to go where the people dance
I want some action
I want to live
Action, I got so much to give
I want to give it
I want to get some too  - Listen.
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That is just TOB bullshit honey.