Sunday, December 17, 2017

A beautiful life.

Sister Mary Ann Sullivan, ocso 
of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey,
died on May 13, 2017.
More here.

This morning I had a sense that a friend died.

Afterwards, I opened an envelope containing the newsletter from Our Lady of Mississippi Abbey, and sure enough, Sr. Mary Ann was on the first page.  Moments before, I thought - I should open my mail, I bet Sr. Mary Ann died.  (I don't open my mail as soon as I receive it, I like to pretend it's an exercise in detachment to set it aside until Sunday.  I'm not at all detached though - just nuts.)

Anyway, Sr. Mary Ann was always very kind to me. I thank God for her holy life and fidelity. It is a great thing to persevere in the monastery until death.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Great Performances


They who truly adore God must adore Him in spirit and in truth.

I watched a bit of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert on PBS last evening.  I think it was from last year and it was very grand, as usual.  They had a live nativity which was styled and costumed very much like a Neapolitan creche.  I thought the presentation was rather Catholic.  If the presentation could have included a priest and deacons dressed in elaborate vestments, along with a couple dozen altar boys, partially obscured amid clouds of incense, it would probably attract crowds of traditional Mass Catholics.

The idea came to mind after I saw a couple of Facebook notices that the FSSP church in North Minneapolis is hosting Cardinal Burke tomorrow for a Pontifical Mass.  Today the had a Rorate Mass - candlelit.  I do not recall attending either as a young boy, but I knew the school sisters were happy to attend.  Friends on Facebook noted they would be attending both events this weekend.  The Masses are beautiful indeed, yet the notices do impress me as promotional ads for a special performance - staring Cardinal Burke, and that sort of thing.  Before you get mad that I said that, please know that I understand that it is not like that - but it may seem like that to outsiders.

See that your bodies are living temples of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in you.

It's a curious situation the Latin rite finds itself in.  One Mass in two forms, as well as two calendars for the two forms.  A week or so ago I praised the beauty of a Mass celebrated at a Baroque altar and a friend suggested I go to All Saints, the FSSP parish, mistaking my admiration for the beautiful setting, as well as my regret that many churches got rid of so much ornament, as a sort of unhappiness with the Ordinary Form of Mass.  I'm not at all unhappy with the Ordinary Form.

Many traditionalists complain the Ordinary Form is all about the people and the personality of the priest-celebrant.  That's not my experience.  That said, advertising this Cardinal or that Bishop appearing for a Pontifical Mass at the Throne with several priests and deacons and dozen of altar boys in attendance, amid clouds of incense, seems like promoting an episode of Great Performances.  It is said the Ordinary Form is narcissistic with all the attention upon the celebrant and not worship, all about 'us' and not God.  I think not.

I love this.

The interplay of light and darkness speak to the meaning of Advent and the coming of the Light of the world.

I also believe it is an error to think that one form of Mass is holier than than the other, or more efficacious than the other.  This seems to be the defense on some level, and that simply is not true.  (I'm also thinking it is very wrong to play the EF against the OF, and/or to discuss its use in terms of regime change and who is for it or against it, as well as to enlist new followers or promoters as one would for a theatrical production, and that sort of thing.)  The Rorate Mass is a beautiful celebration in honor of Our Lady, and the theological/mystical symbolism is very rich, so I am not at all dismissing it.  But what exactly is a Rorate Mass?

The Rorate Caeli Mass is a traditional Advent devotion wherein the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary for Advent is offered just before dawn. In many instances families and individuals travel an hour or more, rising and arriving very early for this stunningly beautiful Mass. The interplay of light and darkness speak to the meaning of Advent and the coming of the Light of the world. - Finish reading at FSSP

I think some people are drawn to deeper devotion in and through the traditional liturgical rites.  Nothing wrong with that at all.  It is their personal experience but it cannot be stated that therefore the extraordinary Form is holier or more pleasing to God when in fact the Church celebrates the Ordinary Form as the central form of the liturgy.  (I'm not a liturgist so I'm not sure I expressed that well.)   Playing the two forms against one another, or saying one is more efficacious than the other is an error.  It seems to me that attitude is also a form of snobbery which is often observable in other areas of the lives of such people.  (It's sometimes fairly obvious on social media.)

Something to think about from St. John of the Cross...

The reason, then, why some spiritual persons never enter perfectly into the true joys of the spirit is that they never succeed in raising their desire for rejoicing above these things that are outward and visible. Let such take note that, although the visible oratory and temple is a decent place set apart for prayer, and an image is a motive to prayer, the sweetness and delight of the soul must not be set upon the motive or the visible temple, lest the soul should forget to pray in the living temple, which is the interior recollection of the soul. The Apostle, to remind us of this, said: 'See that your bodies are living temples of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in you.'  And this thought is suggested by the words of Christ which we have quoted, namely that they who truly adore God must adore Him in spirit and in truth.  For God takes little heed of your oratories and your places set apart for prayer if your desire and pleasure are bound to them, and thus you have little interior detachment, which is spiritual poverty and renunciation of all things that you may possess.
In order, then, to purge the will from vain desire and rejoicing in this matter, and to lead it to God in your prayer, you must see only to this, that your conscience is pure, and your will perfect with God, and your spirit truly set upon Him.

Of certain evils into which those persons fall who give themselves to pleasure in sensible objects and who frequent places of devotion in the way that has been described.
Many evils, both interior and exterior, come to the spiritual person when he desires to follow after sweetness of sense in these matters aforementioned.  For, as regards the spirit, he will never attain to interior spiritual recollection, which consists in neglecting all such things, and in causing the soul to forget all this sensible sweetness, and to enter into true recollection, and to acquire the virtues by dint of effort. As regards exterior things, he will become unable to dispose himself for prayer in all places, but will be confined to places that are to his taste; and thus he will often fail in prayer, because, as the saying goes, he can understand no other book than his own village. - S. John, Ascent

There is an often repeated 
complaint that the 'Presider's Chair'
in the 'Novus Ordo' either 
took the place of the tabernacle
or blocked the view
of the tabernacle,
and made the narcissistic celebrant 
the focus.

 *The word 'gaudy' is derived from 'gaudium'.  Isn't that interesting?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Once upon a time ... something happened.

The Story.

I began writing stories from my life years ago, but I always stopped abruptly at some point, simply because the narrative would get too serious or I'd try to insert some sort of moral or psychological analysis - beyond my competence.  I wanted it to be factual, but funny - because humor made it seem everything is okay.  I also wanted to be sure I came off as being unscathed and perfectly adjusted despite everything.  Yeah, like I said, humor was necessary to escape pity - be it self-pity or that of others who may be more condescending in their sympathy.  Likewise, no one wants to admit to personal problems publicly.

Sometimes that can be warranted however.

Recently on Facebook I really did connect with family members I haven't been in touch with for years - as well as some old friends.  It's wonderful to be back in touch - to catch up, to reconcile.  For me it was a sort of 'It's A Wonderful Life - George Bailey' event.  It's a good thing and I'm very happy and grateful for it.

Then I crashed, so to speak.  The reason I need to write about it is that for years I blamed my family for causing these flashbacks of anxiety and depression.  Of course I knew they couldn't take the blame for my problems, and I knew they were not the actual cause - and that there was nothing wrong with 'them'.  But with every contact, I recalled emotionally, or felt the traumatic feelings and panic I experienced as a child.  Sometimes these feelings would emerge after a phone call, or just picking up a message on the answering service.  I was in huge denial that I probably have PTSD, which could be triggered - especially during the holidays - by something so simple as an invitation to a Christmas party.

This year, when apparently everything was just fine with the family, the panic hit me harder than ever.  Yesterday I had a flashback of some events which I witnessed as a toddler.  What I can say about it is that I know from experience what real terror is.  That's all I can say at this point.  I could speak/write about it and detail every single event, but I won't do that.  It's a breakthrough nonetheless.  In years past, some members of my family mistook my distancing myself, as well as my avoidance of them as a sign something bad happened between us.  That wasn't why I kept a distance of course, and to be sure I never harmed a member of my family - but that was their 'default' position as to why I avoided family contact.

What happened to me, the terror I witnessed, happened when I was a toddler and a young child.  I suppressed it, and denied it, I even joked about the bad stuff that happened.  That's how I dealt with it.  When it caught up with me, I fled - I ran away.  I left home in senior year, I moved away and tried to invent a new life for myself, and with each new try, I strayed further away.  I did everything in my power to avoid the pain - which is the only reason I left family and friends behind - over and over again.  It's why I never stayed in one place.

Anyway.  It all caught up with me this week.  Looks like there really is something called PTSD.  Prayer really helps.  Patience obtains all.
Sometimes God "may allow or cause you to go through difficult trials of faith when you will not be able to cope with your problems by yourself…. 
The experience of not being able to cope with something, and the feeling of loss, can cause you to have the desire to look for his coming. This is a chance for the growth and the deepening of your faith." - Fr. Dajczer
It's all good.  I learned a great deal this week, and my friend Fr. P offered Mass for me.  Thanks to all for your prayers.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

ASK FADDA or QUAERITUR: Can a man become a nun?

Can woman become a monk?

The issue of a transgendered nun came up in a small corner of Blogwarts once again today, which reminds me of a few saints stories - and a Cardinal who once sponsored a transgender vocation when he was but a wee bishop in a dell. As any priest should know by now, there is some precedent for the curious case of a transgendered woman becoming a nun, or a trans-man becoming a monk - but not a priest of course.  Never ever a priest.

Catholics have a lot of rules.

Fr. Z lets Fr. Ferguson tackle the QUAERITUR, and he does a fine job.  (I wish I could write with a British/Irish accent, it would make everything so homely and charming... think of Barry Fitzgerald in 'Going My Way'.)  Father references the Canons on the subject, as well as all the vetting and formation rules, regulations, and guidelines within religious formation programs, as a way to sort out all the defective aspirants.  Religious-monastic life is highly regulated and guidelines are sharply defined.  We have seen how well the rules work with no homosexuals allowed in seminary or admitted to ordination, and never in religious life.  Shivers!

Anyway, Fr. Ferguson on when someone identifies as a male ...
If someone who is female but “identifies” as male somehow manages to get through the application process, years of formation, and all the necessary vetting and, horrifically goes through an ordination ceremony, she enters the church building not as a priest, but as an excommunicated woman in virtue of canon 1378.2.1.
If a man attempted to enter a religious community of women, and somehow managed to bluff his way through the formation process, there would not be an automatic excommunication, but he would not in any way shape or form become a nun. He would be a man masquerading as a nun – which might be funny in a movie or play, but in the light of eternity and divine judgment, which we all will face, is a serious and blasphemous action. 
Anyone who assisted, or colluded, or covered for the folks who lie to the Church in order to pretend to get ordained or pretend to take vows will also be subject to penalties in this life, and judgment in the life to come. - Can a man become a nun?

Once upon a time ...

A canonist and bishop allowed a transgendered person to become a nun.

First of all, the man discussed extensively here, went through sexual reassignment procedures and lived as a woman, formed a pious association of the faithful with another woman and intended to live as a consecrated woman religious, popularly identified as a nun, but in reality a sister. This she was apparently allowed to do after abjuring his former way of life - or something to that effect. The aspiring religious found approval, but a very, very, devout lay-woman, concerned about scandal, went over the bishop's head and appealed to the Vatican, and the nascent little community was disbanded. It's over and done with, the poor transgendered person cast out onto the existential periphery and forgotten.  (It should be noted the person had mental health concerns which the bishop hopefully took into consideration before approving of the community in the process of formation.)

Nevertheless, Fr. Z's quaeritur reminded me once again that stranger things have happened, that the road to salvation, the way of holiness is indeed open to all. Even transgender persons. Recall, if you will, what Jesus said in the Gospel when speaking of celibacy, how some men were made eunuchs by men, while some were from birth, and so on. Likewise, it was to a eunuch the Apostle Philip was sent and baptized in Acts. Of course I know, eunuchs were not transvestites, neither were they made so with the intention of becoming a woman, but their condition, in itself, was not an impediment to conversion.

Make of that what you want, there is evidence in history that women posed as men to enter religious communities. I doubt anyone way back when would have been so foolish as to want to be a woman - women had no rights or freedoms in those days. Although, it used to be good to be a man - before American entertainment media and advertising emasculated him, but I digress.

St. Marina the girl-monk.

Long ago, there was a little girl named Marina. Her dad wanted to be a monk but was responsible for the little girl's welfare, so he took her to live as a monk with him - disguised as a boy. (Nature-nurture?) The little girl-disguised-as-a-boy grew up to be disguised as a man. After Marina's father died, she remained living as a monk - undetected by the other monks.

One day, an innkeeper's daughter became pregnant and accused Marina of fathering the child. Marina never defended herself and was sent to do penance. After five years of expiation, she was received back into the monastery. Once again, the fact that she was a woman went undetected. At her death, her sex as well as her innocence was discovered. Today her story is regarded as simple legend by some scholars, although there are feast days set aside for her, one on February 12. Her cult remains active in the Orthodox Church. (Adapted from Attwater, Dictionary of Saints)

There are many stories of men and women disguised as someone or something living and dying in monasteries.  Although it's doubtful a trans person would try to fool anyone today, and even more unlikely they would even want to - or could - get through the battery of modern discernment processes.  Normal people don't even want to go through that sort of brainwash and degree requirements.  Which may explain why there are no longer lay-brother vocations any longer.   

As for transgender saints ...

Never mind.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Great Sign ...

“When the image of the Virgin appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego, it was the prophecy of an embrace: Mary’s embrace of all the peoples of the vast expanses of America – the peoples who already lived there, and those who were yet to come. Mary’s embrace showed what America – North and South – is called to be: a land where different peoples come together; a land prepared to accept human life at every stage, from the mother’s womb to old age; a land which welcomes immigrants, and the poor and the marginalized, in every age.  A land of generosity." - Pope Francis 2013

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Santa Casa Loreto

When I was in Loreto I spent every day in the Holy House at the back left corner.  I never saw the frescoes - I never realized they were there until I saw photos of the interior (above) many years later.  I wish I could go back to that.

Our Lady of Loreto, pray for us.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

St. Juanito Dieguito ...

A triptych I did a long time ago, terrible photo, but the only one I have.
It is based on a nicho I once saw, but I added two of my 
favorite Mexican saints, Felipe of Jesus and Miguel Pro.

Our Lady called him Juanito Dieguito.

How sweet is that?  This indigenous peasant man was favored by Heaven.  The lowliest man in Mexico was visited by the Empress of the Americas, the Queen of Heaven commissioned him to announce her message.  Juan Diego was 57 years old when Our Lady called him.  Our Lady told him she was mother of all those who lived in this land and that she wanted a chapel built so that she could could relieve the sorrows of all those who come to her in need.  He protested saying he was a man of no importance, and that she would be better off choosing another.  Yet she encouraged him not to fear, lovingly assuring him, "No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?"  It makes me cry.

Little father St. Juanito Dieguito
pray for us, pray for all the Americas,
remember especially your people 
who suffer
and are turned away from our borders.
remember those who have lost homes and possessions,
those who find themselves
like those who no longer have a homeland 
and seek to immigrate
to new lands - help us to embrace one another
in our poverty and homelessness
and desperate need of 
the Mother of God
and of mercy.

So many people are losing everything in the fires in California, so many others have already lost their homes and possessions, family, pets and even faith.  Yet Our Lady assures us, "Am I not here, I who am your mother?"  When we cry, doesn't she enfold us in her arms?  No matter who or what we are, what condition we are in, spiritually and physically.  Is there a prison so enclosed, a pit so deep, that her love is not deeper still?

I was sad because some of my friends are sad, a couple have serious illnesses, much of the news is sad, all is sad.  Yet Juanito Dieguito helped me to see Our Lady this morning.  Not as he did of course, but as she is, present spiritually, manifested in her images, which I try to copy.  Images and devotions which leads me to prayer and deeper devotion - and an intimacy I can't explain.  I can say even more frankly than St. Juan, I'm a man of no importance.  And that is wonderful to know, to experience, to be.  It gives me hope.

The outer doors of the triptych
depict Francis and Clare
since the message of Guadalupe
was first entrusted to the Franciscans.

Anyway - these are the holidays - holy-days - which we all can delight in, abandoned and poor though we may be.  Our Lady visits us ... she roams the world looking for the dejected, the outcast.  Yesterday she manifested in the Church as the Immaculata, today she calls us with Juanito Dieguito to confidence and love, tomorrow she lifts us up and carries us within the Holy House, demonstrating that we are on a journey to our true homeland, Heaven.  The Holy House of Loreto is a sign for us, a reminder that we are pilgrims, our home here is not lasting.  In a few days we will see that Great Sign, the Virgin clothed with the sun, the ever Virgin Mother of God has already been revealed for all to see at Tepeyac, one Saturday morning so long ago, on December 9, 1531.  We still see her, we still hear her: "I am the compassionate mother of you and of all you people here in this land, and of the other various peoples who love me, who cry out to me ..."

I rejoiced when I heard them say, let us go to God's house ... even now our feet are standing within your gates O Jerusalem!  Jerusalem built as a city, strongly compact...

Photo, Showers.  Prisoner with tattoo
of N.S. Madre de Dios de Guadalupe
Danny Lyon, 1968
Holy Mary, Mother of Guadalupe,
pray for us sinners,
and at the hour of our death.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Pope Francis at La Colonna della Immacolata

Immaculate Virgin,
175 years ago, not far from here,
in the church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte,
you touched the heart of Alphonse Ratisbonne, who at that moment,
from being an atheist and enemy of the Church,
became a Christian.You revealed yourself to him 
as a Mother of grace and mercy.
Grant that we too, especially in times of trial and temptation,
may fix our gaze on your open hands,
hands that allow the Lord's graces to fall upon the earth.
Help us to rid ourselves of all pride and arrogance,
and to recognize ourselves for what we really are:
small and poor sinners, but always your children.
- Prayer of P. Francis

'We want to thank you for the constant care ...'

Every year the Pope visits the La Colonna della Immacolata, this year Pope Francis followed tradition, with great devotion.  He stopped to lay a bouquet before the icon Salus populi Romani before the ceremony at Piazza di Spagna, and before returning to the Vatican, he visited Sant’Andrea delle Fratte.  I wish I could have been with him.  S. Andrea delle Fratte is a miraculous place - it was for me the very first church where I attended Mass when I first arrived in Rome, at the altar of the Immaculate Conception.  The Immaculate Conception ...

Visit to Basilica of Mary Major 
On his way to Piazza di Spagna this year, Pope Francis also stopped to visit the Basilica of St Mary Major where he laid a floral wreath below the icon of Salus Populi Romani, depicting Our Lady and the Christ Child. This is the same image the Pope always prays at both before and after his apostolic journeys abroad.
Alphonse Ratisbonne 
Before returning to the Vatican later in the afternoon, Pope Francis paid a private visit to the Rome Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. 
It was here, 175 years ago, that a French Jew by the name of Alphonse Ratisbonne, experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary. At that moment, in the words of the Pope, “from being an atheist and enemy of the Church, he became a Christian”. 
Even more so, following his conversion, Alphonse became a Jesuit priest and missionary and ended up cofounding his own religious Congregation dedicated to Our Lady of Sion. - VR

So many years ago when I first entered the chapel at S. Andrea it was evening and just getting dark, the chapel was dark except for the image of the Immaculata - it was brightly lit.  So bright it seemed like a vision to me and I fell to my knees.  Then Mass began.  This was before I knew anything about Ratisbonne.

Pope Francis at Piazza di Spagna

The conversion of Ratisbonne.

It is a wonderful story, and is pretty much responsible for the great popularity of the Miraculous Medal of the Immaculate Conception.
Alphonse Ratisbonne was the son and heir of a wealthy, aristocratic family of Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. When Alphonse was still a child his older brother, Theodor, converted to the Catholic faith and became a priest. The family reacted with hostility and horror. Alphonse resolved never to communicate again with his older brother, and developed a violent antipathy to the Catholic faith and to all things Catholic. Although Alphonse was entirely atheist in his beliefs, and non-practicing as a Jew, he felt a great love and loyalty for his fellow Jews, and devoted much of his effort and wealth to better their social condition. At the time of his conversion, Alphonse was 27 years old, and engaged to marry his uncle's beautiful daughter and to take his place as a partner in his uncle's bank. During his engagement Ratisbonne noticed a subtle change in his religious feelings; he wrote ... - finish reading here.

Conversion of Ratisbonne.

The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception - Gate of Heaven.

"A praise of glory is a soul that lives in God, that loves him with a pure and disinterested love, without seeking itself in the sweetness of this love, that loves him beyond all his gifts." - St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

HAIL, Virgin, most wise!
Hail, DEITY’S shrine!
with seven fair pillars,
and table divine!

Preserved from the guilt
which hath come upon us all!
Exempt, in the womb,
from the taint of the fall!

O new Star of Jacob,
of angels the Queen!
O Gate of the saints!
O Mother of men!

To Zabulon fearful
as the embattled array!
Be thou of the faithful
the refuge and stay.