Thursday, December 01, 2022

Everything is different

I woke up thinking that - thanking God for this new day, praying immediately for an online acquaintance who is most likely dying.  

Everything must change, expectations of how things must be, or should be must be allowed to crumble.  

O my God!  I thank you for Pope Francis who has overturned the tables of our idolatry and ideology.  He has lifted burdens too hard to carry and called down the Holy Spirit to stir up the love of God in the hearts of the faithful, though our sins impede the grace of mercy which so longs to save us - the Lord comes to our help with his mighty strength.

Thank you Lord.  Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

Christmas Minneapolis Dayton's 1967.

For years I lied to people - Darold did too - telling them we were going to my sister's for Thanksgiving. People just couldn't bear the idea two guys wouldn't be with family for Thanksgiving.

This year I really will be going to my sister's for Thanksgiving.
Being alone for the holidays was never a big deal for me, and here is why.
My reputation for hating the holidays was not true. My withdrawal at from social affairs over Thanksgiving and Christmastime was a result of my work at Dayton’s and had nothing to do with the family or hating the season. For weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, it was constant work getting store interiors and windows done for Christmas – lots of overtime and some all-nighters - the night before Thanksgiving could be a nightmare. Animated windows, synched with the auditorium could make things miserable - it was like a Broadway opening. (Darold did the same work, when we first met he never liked Christmas because of it.)
Thanksgiving was a day to sleep-in since we often worked all night. Likewise in Senior year, my 1st Christmas was watchman for animated windows and getting backgrounds for Spring done. I worked until Midnight through Christmas.
Later, after entering the monastery, Christmas became a more spiritual, solitary event. Then when I worked at the Cancer Home, I worked weekends and holidays so people with families could have those days off – for nearly 16 years. Mid-week I did my artwork. Long story short, not being around was never about avoiding family or a rejection of family. To be sure, sometimes I avoided my parents on the holidays because they were trouble makers – but they never caused me to hate Christmas.
Together, Darold and I reinvented our holiday observance. It began on S. Nicholas Eve and went through Christmas, Russian Christmas and 12th Night. His mom and dad were our 'immediate family' and they loved all the celebration and food and being together. It was magical and unrepeatable.
This year I'm grateful to spend Thanksgiving with my sister and her awesome family, and Christmas with my little brother.
Happy Thanksgiving - and remember those who serve and protect.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Just some thoughts about that.

I spend too much time online.

Now that family follows me on FB, along with others who actually know me, I can no longer be quite as candid as I used to be - which was always too much.

If I say something about what I'm feeling, reflecting upon what that means to me - I get reactions I was never expecting nor looking for.  If I mention heath concerns I get offers to help - which again, wasn't what I was looking for.  Then I get post links - whatever you call being flagged in a post and I don't know how to respond, but if I don't, I'm afraid the other person will be offended.  (This is not a complaint - I'm simply reflecting on how my experience online has changed.)

I scroll looking for something funny or distracting to post as a diversion, only to run out of stuff that interests me or even make me laugh.  In the meantime I keep scrolling by people I follow or link to and sooner or later I see how mundane everything is - and sometimes downright insane.  The crazy things people post - it dawned on me, that is how I must look to others online.

The negativity and cynicism - not to mention the gossip and disparagement of others, be it political or ecclesial really is toxic.  It's contagious.  I never understood that more clearly than when I engaged in discussions - commenting with personal anecdotes regarding a couple of contemplative religious foundations.  In part I believed I was contributing positively as well a supporting some directives from the Vatican.  Long story short, I saw my good intentions were no better than a former religious' intention in exposing the problems associated with the founder and foundation of a Carmelite group out west.  I was so taken aback by the accuser's inclusion of anecdotes, videos and photos, from her former community, apparently using them to establish her credibility and provide evidence to support her report. I had to examine my own part in the brew and realized it was not good.  

I went through my archives as well as posts on Church Militant and removed all my commentary - quite ashamed I had engaged myself so imprudently and without being asked to do so.  I very much doubt my commentary made any difference and was simply anecdotal and personal opinion - yet my involvement amounted to gossip and meddling - something I've censured others for - especially in the case of the former nun in the interview.  I so want to avoid doing things like that, from now on.  

The past couple of days, others I follow online, whom conservatives call 'leftist-Catholics' have taken issue with the elections of a new President and Chairmen of the USCCB.  I looked up some of the concerns they expressed, one or two statements made by the Bishop-elect seemed just fine to me.  Yet other points the critics made - that the election was a clear message of rejection to Pope Francis, if true, is simply very discouraging.  

I don't usually follow the 'politics' of the USCCB and I'm not a bishop-watcher.  From the early days of my conversion until now, the bishops have always simply been on the periphery of my spiritual life.  I've know a couple personally, did some painting for one or two, but that's about it.  I've lived through Bernadine, Roach and others - and none of that threatened my faith or devotion.  If the pendulum has swung the other way, I'll live through this as well.  It's just sad that Catholics are so divided and that so many appear to reject the Holy Father - of course others before them have as well.  So many lay-Catholics regard the Church as a political entity and seem to take sides in the same way they do in American politics.  Taking sides and fighting and defending ones' cause to the point of detraction and calumny is a great evil.  That certainly comes out in com-boxes across social media platforms.

I hope I can learn from my mistakes and the mistakes I discover in others - which only mirror my own - especially if I want to correct or report on them.  Discretion and discernment must be my companion and teacher.


Wednesday, November 09, 2022

In the Father's Hands

Machado de Castro National Museum, Coimbra Photo: Manuel Mira Godinho (2014).*

When I feel quite lost and alone, I remember that I am not out of the Father's hands.  This image reminded me of paintings of the Father holding the dead Christ, and today it suddenly became for me my assurance and my peace.  Although all seems lost and things seem to be collapsing around me and I feel utterly alone, this image reminds me that I - we - are held (together) in the Father's embrace.  "...and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it." (Mt 16:18)

God is our refuge and our strength,

an ever present help in distress, 

Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken

and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea. - Ps 46

*The image is actually a detail of a Pieta - the Mother of Sorrows holding her Son. When I first viewed this particular image, my mind immediately went to the image of the Father receiving the Body of Jesus which is often portrayed in images of the Blessed Trinity. 

Monday, November 07, 2022

This is the best.

 This is such an important message.  I've seen unforgiveness online among Catholics, some who have even left the Church - we all need to forgive.  Over and over if need be - just as much as we all need to ask for forgiveness, especially in the sacrament of Penance - over and over and over.


Believing in the Power of Forgiveness

When I forgive somebody, one of the things that allows me to forgive is faith.

God can convert something good even out of evil. Let’s say I’ve lived through an evil; I have suffered, I was wounded, but I believe that God is powerful enough to bring goodness out of everything, even the evil committed against me. In the Gospel reading for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the angel tells Mary that nothing is impossible for God. If we have faith that God can convert a good thing out of evil—an evil that we’ve suffered through—then God can heal our wounds, and forgiveness is easier. In the world today we have a hard time forgiving, and one of the reasons is our lack of faith. We are convinced that our wounds are definitive and will never be healed; we think there is no remedy for evil.

Forgiveness is also an act of hope. When I don’t forgive, I’m condemning someone. That means that I’m identifying the person with the evil he or she has ­committed. I see the person as guilty and bad. I don’t want to forgive him or her. I have no hope for the person; I don’t think he or she can change. On the contrary, forgiving someone is a very beautiful act of hope. This person did something bad, he or she committed a wrong act, but I don’t want to identify the person with the bad action because God still loves this person who has done something bad. God is working in that person’s heart. Perhaps the person will convert. The person I’m judging and condemning will perhaps one day be a great saint. When we look at the lives of the saints, there are assassins, adulterers, criminals—but grace changed their hearts….

When we forgive someone, we set that person free of revenge or judgment. But it’s not only the other person we set free; it’s also ourselves. Every time that I forgive somebody, I set myself free…. Be encouraged to ask for the grace of forgiveness and practice it.

Father Jacques Philippe

Father Philippe is a French priest, a member of the Community of the Beatitudes, and a renowned spiritual director. / From Real Mercy: Mary, Forgiveness, and Trust, Maria Masterson, Tr. © 2016, Father Jacques Philippe, Scepter Publishers, Inc., New York, NY. Used with permission.

Friday, November 04, 2022

Antisemitism is here.


Francisco Camilo - The desecration of the Crucifix, 
or “The Christ of Injuries”.

I was scrolling through Tumblr and came across a painting from the Prado, "The Desecration of the Crucifix or The Christ of the Insults".  I didn't understand what it depicted and searched online.  It turns out the painting depicts one of the episodes in the story of desecration and offense to a crucifix, this time by a family of Portuguese Jews in Madrid in 1630.  Researching the story, I believe it to be a hysterical invention to slander New Christians or Conversos at the time, memorialized in art.  Much like 'blood libel' cases of Jews killing children and drinking their blood - a trope resurrected today by QAnon conspirators and several of their MAGA followers: E.g. "QAnon followers claim the drug adrenochrome is harvested from the blood of children by Hollywood elites."  Dig deeper and links to the Jews as perpetrators is claimed.  It's an old lie, with Christian roots.

("Kanye West's recent statements draw on longstanding anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories about Jewish people. Ye’s comments also reflect beliefs espoused by fringe anti-Semitic religious groups, including extremist sects of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement and the Nation of Islam." - read more at ADL: Kanye West - What you need to know.)

The Lisbon Massacre

The painting which caught my attention is not related to the 1506 Lisbon Massacre, since what is depicted took place at later date in Madrid.  Yet I believe it is part of the continuum of circumstances precipitated the Lisbon Massacre of 1506.  I will copy and paste, with links to another site wherein I found a good history and commentary.

A German woodcut depicting the massacre,
one of the few woodcuts that survived the 1755
Lisbon earthquake and the fire at Torre do Tombo

The Lisbon Massacre, alternatively known as the Lisbon Pogrom or the 1506 Easter Slaughter was an incident in April, 1506, in which a crowd of Catholics, as well as foreign sailors who were anchored in the Tagus, persecuted, tortured, killed, and burnt at the stake hundreds of people who were accused of being Jews and, thus, guilty of deicide and heresy. This incident took place thirty years before the establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal and nine years after the Jews were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism in 1497, during the reign of King Manuel I. Because the victims were Marranos or Conversos (Jews who had become Catholics), it was somewhat unique among incidents of anti-Semitic violence. It is also known as the Easter Massacre. It is estimated to have resulted in the violent deaths of anywhere between 1,000 to 4,000 men, women and children.
The massacre began at Convent of Saint Dominic, on Sunday, April 19, 1506, when the believers were praying for the end of the drought and plague that ravaged Portugal, and someone claimed to have seen the face of Christ lit at the church altar – a phenomenon that was interpreted as a miracle by the Catholics present.
A New Christian who also attended the mass tried to explain that this miracle was only the reflection of a light, but the crowd would not listen to him and beat him to death. As from there onwards, the Jews who were already viewed with suspicion became the scapegoat of drought, hunger and plague. - Richard Harvey, Messianic Jewish teacher in UK


Antisemitism, specifically anti-Judaism - exists on the left and the right.

Could it happen again?  It is happening  today, right now.  What it might become may be seen elsewhere around the globe - not always against Jews at first, but certainly against Christians.  E.g. The massacres and burning of churches in Africa.  The invasion of Ukraine by Russia to save the country from Satanists and neo-Nazis, are just two examples of genocidal crimes with 'religious' motivation.  In the United States, the anti-Semitic rhetoric and activities by the extreme rightwing is growing, while anti-Zionism/anti-Israel sentiments can likewise be found on the left.  It is too complicated for me to discuss here, to be sure.  However it seems to me we may be on the precipice of suffering the same kind of violence we witness in other places, Africa, Middle East, Ukraine, just to name a few.

I'm no expert or historian of course, but I believe we are on the precipice, as the Pope mentioned today in Bahrain, warning "...we continue to find ourselves on the brink of a delicate precipice and we do not want to fall."

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Self Interest Over Charity

Chiesa del Purgatorio 
Matera, Italia

Catherine of Siena refers to it as selfish self seeking.

Yesterday I was thinking about the first reading from Revelations, especially the verse:

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.” - Rv 7: 2-4, 9-14

I thought that I wouldn't like the outfit - I don't like white robes, I was thinking it wouldn't have a collar and I'd be dressed the same as everyone else.  I laughed to myself realizing how vain I am.  Even in the novitiate, I disliked having to wear a white sash instead of a belt, and I tried to keep the hood on my scapular standing so it covered my neck, as it were.  Once I asked a fellow novice if I looked fat in the habit.  (I was actually anorexic.)  Obviously I had issues with vanity and singularity.  As old as I am today, I still do if my musing on the reading from Revelations indicates anything.

Why we need purgatory.

This morning I read a meditation from St. Catherine of Genoa regarding the souls in purgatory, which drove home my point: "Only once, as they pass from this life, do they see the cause of the Purgatory they endure; never again do they see it for in another sight of it there would be self."

"Only once, as they pass from this life, do they see the cause of the Purgatory they endure; never again do they see it for in another sight of it there would be self. Being then in charity from which they cannot now depart by any actual fault, they can no longer will nor desire save with the pure will of pure charity. Being in that fire of Purgatory, they are within the divine ordinance, which is pure charity, and in nothing can they depart thence for they are deprived of the power to sin as of the power to merit." - St. Catherine of Genoa, "Treatise On Purgatory"

That is it, I thought.  If I am blessed to find myself in the white robed multitude before God, that self interest shall have been purged and consumed in the fire, the light that is God.  It is His sanctity, His purity, His consuming fire of charity which purifies and frees the soul from all selfish self seeking, all self interest, all self love.  It begins in this life and is accelerated by frequent reception of the sacraments, prayer, self-denial and charity: alms giving, service of the poor, and so on.  (Including fidelity to the duties of ones state in life.)

John of the Cross offers a kind of description which maybe analogous to that initial understanding the soul experiences in knowing the cause of their Purgatory:

"Before the divine fire is introduced into the substance of the soul and united with it through perfect and complete purgation and purity, its flame, which is the Holy Spirit, wounds the soul by destroying and consuming the imperfections of its bad habits. And this is the work of the Holy Spirit, in which he disposes it for divine union and transformation in God through love.
"The very fire of love that afterward is united with the soul, glorifying it, is what previously assailed it by purging it, just as the fire that penetrates a log of wood is the same that first makes an assault on the wood, wounding it with the flame, drying it out, and stripping it of its unsightly qualities until it is so disposed that it can be penetrated and transformed into the fire." -  Living Flame of Love

The sanctity of God makes us holy.

O my God, Trinity whom I adore; help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my Unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery. Give peace to my soul; make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place. May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action.

O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, "come upon me," and create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him in which He can renew His whole Mystery. And You, O Father, bend lovingly over Your poor little creature; "cover her with Your shadow," seeing in her only the "Beloved in whom You are well pleased." - St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

God is love.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Loving the Heart of Jesus. By a Carthusian

A wonderful meditation.

"Loving the Heart of Jesus means knowing how to suffer a lot, always, alone, in silence, with a smile on your lips, under the gaze of him who scrutinizes hearts, in the complete abandonment of loved ones, without being understood, without being pitied and consoled. ; knowing how to hide the sacred "mystery of the cross" as a priceless treasure, in the depths of the pierced and aching soul, in the midst of a heart crowned with thorns.

To love him means to forget ourselves and our miseries in order to remember only him, who is the resurrection and the life, to throw into that adorable Heart every anxious concern for spiritual progress, and even when we see ourselves fallen for the hundredth time into the same imperfections, always get up again promptly with humility and peace, trusting in the perennial miracle of his almighty grace, resting in the infinite sweetness and forgiveness of God.

To love the Heart of Jesus means to venerate the glorious stigmata of the Crucifix in the suffering, and to surround with tender affection their livid and tortured limbs, in which he renews every day and perpetuates the ineffable poem of his Passion over the centuries.

To love him means to suffer with him for his pains, and to make amends in an affective and effective, practical, effective, indefatigable, generous, intelligent way for the enormous crimes with which his enemies profane his Person, crush his honor, debase him in the mud. his dignity, insult those who represent him, and at the same time atone for the sins - materially perhaps less serious, but formally more injurious - than those who should by profession and by free choice be his friends, and instead .. "they crucify again ..." (Heb 6, 6).

Loving the Heart of Jesus means favoring and helping "with the holiness and sincerity that come from God" (2Cor 1, 12) whoever struggles for his glory, renouncing without regret, for the common good, alleged rights of precedence or patents of invention, covering with the mantle of charity weaknesses and miseries, forgetting in silence and forgiveness bitter words, unkind gestures, carefully avoiding stings of honor, petty jealousies and rivalries, which so often compromise the dignity and the success of the ministry.

To love him means to fulfill our obscure duty with faith and solicitude, in the uniformity of a monotonous and hidden existence, without expecting approval, without denigrating those who emerge, without hindering, with badly concealed envy, the initiatives of others without exulting for their failure. , without trampling on those who have fallen without denying merit or slandering intentions, in a word without impeding or condemning the good, for the sole fact that it does not bear our trademark: "Provided that in every way ... Christ is announced" ( Phil 1, 18).

Loving the Heart of Jesus means knowing how to content ourselves with what is necessary in material things, and happily surrendering the superfluous to the works of the Church, to seminaries, to poor monasteries, to missions, to his university, to anyone who knows hunger, pain, hardship, infirmity, "persecutions for justice" (Mt 5:10).

To love him means to change the gold, the silver, the gems of our casket into those works of enlightened charity that do not fear rust or thieves: "making the stones become bread" (Mt 4.3), and that the undeserved gifts of Providence be changed into instruments of mercy.

To love the Sacred Heart means «to reciprocate it with all the love it requires of us; strong love, which does not allow itself to be bent, pure love, which loves without ulterior motives and without interest, crucified love, love of preference, of oblivion, of abandonment, to let the Sacred Heart act, cut, burn, annihilate in us how sorry he is. And that is why it is so necessary to let ourselves be led by him, and to let him work in us - all hours of the day, every day of the year, all the years of life - let ourselves be intoxicated by the madness of the cross, make the hardest sacrifices, not only with fidelity and perfect submission to his plans, but also with superabundant joy: "Because God loves those who give with joy" (2 Cor 9: 7); and both when he gives and when he takes back his gifts, bless him forever.

Loving the Heart of Jesus means loving his holy Church with passion, a virginal flower sprouted from his blood, with ever more complete adherence to his precepts, becoming each of us "obedient to death" (Phil 2: 8).

To love him means to share cordially the joys and sufferings of the Supreme Pontiff - "the sweet Christ on earth" (Catherine of Siena) - and to follow in everything and always, with docility and promptness, his commands, his exhortations, his recommendations, the expression of his desires, in whatever form and by whatever means they are transmitted to us: to accept them fully, even when they are contrary to our ways of seeing, to our short views, to the ever new demands of our interest, to the empty sophisms of which so fruitful is wounded self-love. Being devoted to the Heart of Jesus means burning with the desire to make him known and loved, to extend his kingdom, to glorify his name, to carry out his will in whatever aspect it manifests itself; it means to love the men who cost his blood: to love them all." - Cartusia Lover

(Manete in dilectione mea, pp. 105-110) - Dom Giovanni Battista Simoni

Friday, October 28, 2022

Lamentations in chastisement.

Photos: Monastery of Santa María de Retuerta (est. 1146).
Today, it houses a luxury hotel.

Feeling a bit down lately.

Grief stricken might be a better term.  Confused about the state of the world, the Church and so on.  Not giving up, to be sure.  I have the rosary and the sacraments and prayer.  I'm fine and grateful to have something to offer up as a penance.  If everyone flees, if others just walk away, leaving me alone, I have the Lord, who says to me, "where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.”"

Come, all who pass by the way.

That said, I came across some photos of a former monastery turned into a magnificent luxury hotel.  (The photos shown on this post.)  It really sort of hit me.  It struck me as rather ironic. As the Church modernizes and throws out tradition, monasteries and churches continue to close - vocations lost, the faithful fall away - as in John 8: they went away one by one, beginning with the elders... (the scribes and Pharisees). The secular world is ready to grab - there is a market for the 'sacred'.

Suddenly, the world latches on to the most precious and beautiful of sacred booty to treasure, exploit and luxuriate in.  It just goes to show that someone loves tradition and fine art, even liturgical opulence.  While Catholics, "give their precious things for food, to retain the breath of life. “Look, O LORD, and pay attention to how I have been demeaned!" - Lamentations

"The foe stretched out his hands
to all her precious things;
She has seen the nations
enter her sanctuary,
Those you forbade to come
into your assembly." - Lamentations