Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How Our Lady protects her images ...

"...the fresco has inexplicably remained suspended in the air 
close to the wall of the chapel in the church of 
Our Lady of Good Counsel for over five hundred years."

The translation of the icon of Our Lady of Shkodra

One outward aspect of devotion to the Blessed Virgin is offered in and through the reverence we show to her in the veneration of her images.  They re-present the glories of the Blessed Virgin accorded to her by the Holy Trinity, or emulate her appearance in her life on earth, or as she has appeared to visionaries throughout history.  We also demonstrate our devotion in and through the respect shown images and sacramentals blessed by the Church.  As the Catechism explains:
2132 The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone:
Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.

Today the Holy Father once again recognized the miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Counsel for the occasion of the 550th anniversary of the Madonna of Shkodra’s arrival in the Church of Genazzano near Rome, Italy.
The celebration takes place on 26 April at the National Shrine of Shkodra in Albania.  It commemorates the arrival of the Madonna of Shkodra at the Madonna of Good Council Church in Genazzano after the Albanian sanctuary was destroyed by the Ottomans in 1467. - VR

The story of Our Lady of Shkodra
The history of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Counsel is available on several websites, so I will not go into great detail here. 
In 1467, on the 25 of April, during celebrations for the feast of San Marco in Genazzano, Italy, a cloud was seen covering a 5th century church dedicated to Our Lady. Shortly after the cloud lifted, the townsfolk, summoned by the church bells, discovered a delicate fresco of Our Lady and the Child Jesus, it was painted upon a very thin piece of unsupported plaster, and floated in a small niche of the church. Later it was revealed the image had been transported by angels from Scutari, Albania, because the region was coming under Islamic control.
"One day during the siege of Shkodra (Scutari) two escaping Albanians stopped at the Church to pray to Zoja e Bekueme (Our Lady of Good Counsel) for their safe journey. While praying fervently, they suddenly noticed the painting moving away from the wall.... The two Albanians, Gjorgji and De Sclavis,"followed the painting, as if it were a bright star, all the way to Rome, where the image disappeared. They heard rumors that a miraculous image had appeared in Genazzano. They ran to the nearby town and there discovered the painting of their beloved Zoja e Bekueme." The two "settled down and made Genazzano their home." - Source

Happy feast day.  Pray for the Holy Father as he prepares to go to Egypt.

I am all thine.

The Blessed Virgin, mother of gentleness and mercy, 
never allows herself to be surpassed in love and generosity. 
When she sees someone giving himself entirely to her
 in order to honor and serve her, 
and depriving himself of what he prizes most 
in order to adorn her, 
she gives herself completely in a wondrous manner to him.
 She engulfs him in the ocean of her graces, 
adorns him with her merits, 
supports him with her power, 
enlightens him with her light, 
and fills him with her love. 
She shares her virtues with him 
— her humility, faith, purity, etc. 
She makes up for his failings and becomes his representative with Jesus.
 Just as one who is consecrated belongs entirely to Mary, 
so Mary belongs entirely to him.”
St. Louis de Montfort

Sometimes you just have to be vulnerable ... 'yet we try to hide our poverty for as long as we can and to pretend we are strong' ...

God's ways are not our ways; God's choices are not the choices of society.
God chooses 'the poor, the weak, the needy',
those who recognize their poverty -
not just a material poverty but an inability to cope with life,
a feeling of powerlessness and not knowing what to do.
A mother who just lost a child is poor.
A man whose wife left him is poor.
A man who lost his job is poor.
The man who learns he has cancer is poor.
The - pope - who senses his body is growing older and weaker is poor.
People who are faced with difficult family situations are poor.
The problem is we refuse to admit our weakness, our needs, our poverty
because we are frightened of rejection.
We have been taught to be strong, to be 'the best'. to win in order
to become 'someone'.
Since society tends to marginalize those who are weak
we think that weakness means rejection.
So we try to hide our poverty for as long as we can
and to pretend we are strong;
 - self-sufficient -
we build up an appearance of being in control.
We need to hear that gentle, inner voice of God who tells us:
'You don't need to pretend.
You do not need to hide your weakness.
You can be yourself.
I didn't call you to l'Arche or to another form of community
first of all to help others
or to prove that you were generous or efficient.
I called you because you are poor,
just like the ones you came to serve,
and because the Kingdom of God is promised to the poor.' - Jean Vanier

Monday, April 24, 2017

Why people don't go to church on Sunday ...

Justin McClain's post on categorizing The 20 Types of People You'll Meet At Mass.  That's why.

In the case of #16, you won't meet him - you'll just see him.  Otherwise you ignore him - unless you are #9 - but you will still not speak to him.

I hope Mr. McClain didn't compose his post in his head during Mass.  What?

I know the post is meant to be humorous, but it misses.  Over the years, one of the most popular excuses I hear from family and friends as to why they don't go to church is summed up in McClain's post on the 20 types of people you will see at Mass.  The most common excuse for avoiding Mass is this:  "People are there to size one another up, see what they are wearing, talk about what they do or don't do, and categorize them."  I know otherwise faithful Catholics who have skipped Mass because of something as silly as a bad hair day.  People might talk if you don't fit 'Sunday best' requirements.  Then there are those who back slap and shake hands at Mass but ignore you in the grocery store.  What's up with that?  But I digress.

So anyway.  Go to Mass to pray, to worship - but stop eyeing your neighbor.  In big cities, like New York or Chicago, or at any urban parish, things are more diverse, and people are less likely to get into this type of petty speculation.

I think I must live here.

Decades ago, a friend of mine who cut my hair told me I was losing my hair - at the whorl - or crown of the head.  He said it was thinning.  "No it's not" I told him.  "You are going bald and you think everybody else is too."  Then he showed me in the mirror.  "That doesn't mean I'll be bald!"  Over the years, he informed me of additional hair loss - so I never ever looked at the crown of my head again.

I never permit photos of myself.  So I think I still look like I did in my twenties, until I catch a glimpse in the mirror.  Which is why I may have to cover all my mirrors as people do at Shiva.


Talk of a de-facto schism.  I'm against it.

BTW - I still have hair on the top of my head.  It is not gray, but sandy blond.  I put on a little weight, but I'm so not fat.  I'm as old as I feel think I am - although now instead of thinking in my head I'm in my twenties - I think it's more very early thirties.

I tell people I'm in my seventies and they are always so amazed at how young I look.

For someone who always believed he was ugly - my mom liked to tell us that to save us from vanity I guess - I certainly got by on my looks .... now that I'm old, I have nothing.  Oh wait - I'm not old.

Sitting Shiva.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Of all the 'conditions' necessary to receive the graces of Divine Mercy ...

Jesus, I trust in you.

"I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners."

Some argue that the plenary indulgence attached to the devotion may only be gained in and through the usual requirement, while others insist that the promises of Our Lord for those who approach him on the Feast of Mercy are fulfilled with or without fulfilling the requirements for a plenary indulgence.

Sounds confusing, right?  

We can become so scrupulous over rules and conditions, and I'm often reminded that some mystic once had a revelation that few souls receive the Jubilee indulgence - plenary indulgence - because they are not completely detached from venial sin.  Who even knows that except God?  What is needed is trust.  One can will to be completely detached, even from unknown sins and/or attachment to venial sins - one can make a sincere and genuine act of contrition.  Those who insist upon conditions and dispositions of soul, either as a means of criticism, or in an effort to discourage the smoldering wick of hope in a soul, are limiting God's mercy.  Although there are canonical requirements to obtain the complete remission of sin - those who always hold up such precautions run the danger of completely missing the deeper meaning of the Divine Mercy devotion.  They can also discourage the ne'er do wells of the spiritual life from trusting the message of Divine Mercy.  The devotion to Divine Mercy is the foot in the door of salvation.  Christ's invitation is really a 'come as you are' invite.  "Come to me, all you who are heavily burdened and weighed down ..."  He came to call sinners - those who are well do not need a doctor - the dejected do.
On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. - Jesus to Faustina
Yet, even without these requirements, our Lord's invitation to those most in need of mercy stands out in a singularly unique manner.  He told St. Faustina to go throughout the world, extending his invitation to come to him, to come to his image, depicted for her, and revealed for us, as the Divine Mercy, signed with the prayer, "Jesus I trust in you!" He promised unimaginable graces to those who turn to him: "My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity."

But back to my original point.  It seemed to me this morning that the one, great condition necessary to obtain the graces of the Divine Mercy, is of course, trust.  The other may be to show mercy to others.  To forgive from our heart.  To genuinely forgive, and forgive, and forgive.  Over and over.  To show, to have mercy upon others ... unto folly.  To will to do so and to try to do so ... that is - to 'practice' showing mercy to others.  To become a channel of mercy.

Prayer to be Merciful to Others
[This prayer gives us a true measure of our mercy, a mirror in which we observe ourselves as merciful Christs. We can make it our morning invocation and our evening examination of conscience.]

O Most Holy Trinity! As many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, as many times as my blood pulsates through my body, so many thousand times do I want to glorify Your mercy.

I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me.

You Yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy.
The first: the act of mercy, of whatever kind. 
The second: the word of mercy — if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. 
The third: prayer — if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically.

O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself, for You can do all things (163). - St. Faustina

Divine Mercy Sunday

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Another toldjaso ... Cardinal Müller on Amoris ...

"I have just about had it!"

Cardinal Müller speaks.

It is simply common sense.  Ordinary, common sense:  "The pope has not, will not, and cannot change Revelation. Some claim that the pope has changed the foundations of Church morality and has relativized the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. This he would not and cannot do."

So many act and speak as if the Church is teaching error, claiming the pope is a heretic, or a Protestant, or writing essays that the Church has become Anglicanized, and they talk defacto schism for clicks and donations and subscriptions to their more Catholic than the Church online magazines.  Their stuff cannot be said to be part of the sensus fidelium. 

"The pope has not, will not, and cannot change Revelation."

Cardinal Müller: The true intention of the apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, was to place at the center the full, complete biblical message concerning marriage as a sacrament and a way of life. In addition, it aimed to take into consideration those who, on account of various circumstances, have failed or have run into trouble, so that we would not say: “Here are those who do everything right, whereas the others do not belong to us.”
We want everyone to walk along the path of Christ’s followers, and we wish to be of assistance so that this path might be understood and put into practice.
In this sense, each debate or contention is good. This has one negative aspect, though. Namely, the debate boils down to only one issue, while other major and vital subjects raised are brushed aside. It generates small division and concern when one hears the question: “What do you think about Holy Communion for divorcees who are living in non-sacramental unions?”
We can approach this question only from the perspective of the fullness of the teaching of the Church. The pope has not, will not, and cannot change Revelation. Some claim that the pope has changed the foundations of Church morality and has relativized the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. This he would not and cannot do. - Source

Tomorrow is Divine Mercy Sunday.  Go to confession.

Friday, April 21, 2017

St. Conrad of Parzham, Capuchin lay brother

I wonder if there are any saints like him today?

Immediately after his profession he was sent to the Friary of St. Ann, in the city of Altötting. The friary served the Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting, the national shrine of Bavaria to the Blessed Mother. Conrad was given the position of porter at this shrine, and retained it until his death. Because it was a large and busy city, the duty of the friary porter was a very difficult one. Conrad was known to be diligent at his work, sparing in words, bountiful to the poor, eager and ready to receive and help strangers. Brother Conrad fulfilled the task of porter for more than forty years, assisting the inhabitants of the town in their needs of body and soul.
Conrad loved silence in a special way. His spare moments during the day were spent in a nook near the door where it was possible for him to see and adore the Blessed Sacrament. During the night he would deprive himself of several hours of sleep, to devote the time to prayer either in the oratory of the friars or in the church. It was generally believed that he never took any rest, but continually occupied himself in work and exercises of devotion.
On the 21 April 1894, Conrad died in the friary where he had served for 41 years. - Wiki

Христос воскрес! Christ is risen!

Perfect for the Easter Octave

Воистину воскрес! In truth he is risen!

Let's act like it then.

"We judge things from a merely human standpoint, as they strike the senses and our human estimation.  We judge things from a merely human standpoint, as they strike the senses and our human estimation. We fail to hold everything against the bright backdrop of faith. Instead we allow our emotions to dictate to us what is real and what is not. Far too easily we give way to our moods, our fears, our uneasy feelings.
Set your troubled hearts at rest, banish your fears. Do you love me? Then what do your ups and downs matter? I am risen and with my Father. All is unutterably well, and well forever. Dry your tears forever Mary. Choose. Live with me in the sunshine world of my Father or opt to live in your own subjective estimation of reality.
Let us not be mistaken. We are not talking about a state of emotional tranquility which nothing can disturb. We are not speaking of emotion but of faith. We must act out our faith at every moment.
Notice how often Jesus tells us that love consists in: it consists in doing what He has commanded, doing always what pleases the Father. Note, always, not just now and then when we feel alright. There must be no identifying love of God with intense feelings of love, with sublime intellectual insight. Hence there must be no anxiety, no discouragement when spiritually we feel dull and drab.
To say Jesus is risen is to say He has come back to us. This is our joy, our certainty, the security in which we live out our days.
He is with us, not in limitation but with the whole weight of His Father behind Him. He comes in the Father, with the Father. He brings the Father to us as He promised: “We shall come to them and make our abode in them.” So up, let us go forward to do the will of that same Father." - Sr. Ruth Burrows, o.c.d.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The kids will be canonized May 13...

Pope Francis on Thursday announced that the two young shepherd children from Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta Marto will be canonised during his forthcoming pastoral visit to the Portuguese town on May 13th. - Read more here.
So much about Fatima has now been confirmed.  Growing up, I was very much attached to the Fatima apparitions, the call to holiness, the promises of Our Lady - especially that she would take Jacinta and Francisco to heaven - although I was sure it would probably not be fulfilled in my lifetime.  Yet it is unfolding right now.  The example of the three children, especially Francisco and his fidelity to prayer, very much influenced my childhood piety, and as I learned more about prayer as an adult, he has been a guide and model for me to some extent.

Our Lady promised to take them to heaven, and canonization is affirmation of that promise.

What a difference in children today.  Generally speaking, I suspect the majority are raised without faith, without knowing there is really is a place called hell, or that we were created to go to heaven.  So many kids today want to be rich and famous, to attain celebrity status and fame.  I'm not even thinking of Catholic kids.  I wonder what they actually know about all of these things?  

May St. Jacinta and St. Francisco pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

The icon I made for Fr. Robert Fox.

The first icon I did of Bl. Francisco and Jacinta.

Did I mention?

I just found out the monk who was the assistant novice master in the monastery I was at, died at the end of March.  I wrote to one of my fathers there and he sent back a note that they are all getting very old and haven't had anyone enter for 3 or 4 years.   It was a short note, which said very much.


Time is short.  Very short.

Song for this post here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What Missile Crisis?

Kennedy was smarter and had better advisors.

I'm so old , I distinctly remember the Cuban Missile Crisis.  My parents were very upset, my mother praying like it was the end of the world, the television tuned up to watch and listen to President Kennedy addressing the Nation, warning Khrushchev to stop banging his shoes on the podium, and so on.  (The shoe incident wasn't part of it - just added that in for fun.  What?)  At the time, we were closer to nuclear war than anyone could imagine.  It was a big, big deal.  A serious crisis.

What's going on with North Korea?

So we are prepared for war, we have a fleet of ships over there, Pence visited the DMZ - is it real? There are growing threats of nuclear war, and life goes on.  Trump doesn't address the nation, and someone is watching Dancing With the Stars instead.

While the big news locally is the anniversary of Prince's death and the investigation into his addiction to prescription drugs.  They keep talking about it as if it was an addiction that happened accidentally.  Like it's somehow different from recreational drug use.  Maybe it started out because of over-prescribed pain medication, but like Michael Jackson's dependency, maybe that kind of blame-shift is really denial?  Clinical denial.

I think we all must be in some sort of denial - drug induced, or not. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Benedict and his drinking buddies ...

Typical.  Retire early and drink your days away.  What a crew.  Look at the one in the blue dress, cigarette hanging out of her mouth.  And they say the Irish are a bunch of drunks.


Ate things you need to know about Easter...

This is the Bun-Bunny.

1-8) Rabbits are not your friends...

Just sayin'.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

The finished icon of the Annunciation,
on my mantel for Easter.
Details here.

'After all you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.'


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Many conversions happen in Holy Week and throughout the Easter Octave.

Mine did.

Years ago my friends used to like to go to the Good Friday services high.  We were all raised catholic, and so something beckoned us I suppose.  One year, no longer high, I encountered Christ.  It was Paschal time.  It was pretty stunning.

Legend has it that at Monte LaVerna in Italy, the rocks split apart during the earthquake at the moment Jesus died on the cross.  I like to think of those legends, how the dead arose and appeared, the earth shook, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, people beat their breasts.  And Christ descended into hell, among the dead, truly the Son of God ... he descended.

So these miracles continue, especially during this holy season - I'm convinced of it.  I also think these miracles happen especially during the Divine Mercy novena.

So, let nothing impede you.  Drunk or high, steeped in sin, filthy from rolling in the mud of your passions, stop into a church.  Visit the 'tomb'.  Visit Christ in the tabernacle.  Stop and look at the Divine Mercy image, or the Sacred Heart, or the crucifix.  Just look.  Whisper a little prayer, a thought, show him your wounds ... light a candle for Our Lady.  She opens our hearts - and Christ rushes in.  Love overcomes all.

Nothing is impossible with God.  No situation, no addiction, no lifestyle.  Nothing is impossible for God to fix.

I'm convinced many conversions happen during Holy Week and Easter.  The lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised.  The power flowing from his Resurrection is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow,  and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.  He who descended among the dead is closer to you than ever ...

Jesus, I trust in you.

Second Day ...

(Artist unknown)
I like the light in this.

Second Day

"Today bring to Me the Souls of Priests and Religious, and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind."

Divine Mercy

The church where it is installed.  (I don't know where.)
I like this image very much, it is unusual.

I thought the final prayer of Pope Francis at the conclusion of the Via Crucis last night was especially poignant, and a strong impetus for those who walk in shame to run to the Divine Mercy devotion ...

O Lord Jesus! Son of God, innocent victim of our ransom, before your royal banner, before the mystery of your death and glory, before your scaffold, we kneel in shame and with hope and we ask that you bathe us in the blood and water that flowed from your lacerated heart; to forgive our sins and our guilt; 
We ask you to remember our brethren destroyed by violence, indifference and war; 
We ask you to break the chains that keep us imprisoned in our selfishness, our wilful blindness and in the vanity of our worldly calculations. 
O Christ! We ask you to teach us never to be ashamed of your Cross, not to exploit it but to honour and worship it, because with it You have shown us the horror of our sins, the greatness of your love, the injustice of our decisions and the power of your mercy. Amen. - Pope Francis

I love this image
because it feels so 'Umbrian'.