Tuesday, January 21, 2020

I'm not finished.

I haven't posted much on the blog - but I'll be back.  Soon.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Praying for Cardinal Pell

Cardinal George Pell has reportedly been moved 
from his central prison in Melbourne 
to a high-security facility in regional Victoria 
after a drone had flown over the prison. - Source

This is sad.  I believe Pell is innocent.  He's being moved because they don't want him photographed.  The conditions in the new prison are supposed to be pretty bad. 

"Cardinal Pell knew from hard personal experience how virulent the anti-Catholic atmosphere in Australia had become. As a member of the College of Cardinals and a senior Vatican official, Pell enjoyed Vatican citizenship and held a Vatican diplomatic passport; he could have stayed put, untouchable by the Australian authorities. Yet he freely decided to submit himself to his country’s criminal justice system. He knew he was innocent; he was determined to defend his honor and that of the Church; and he believed in the rectitude of the Australian courts. So he went home." - George Weigel

Sunday, January 05, 2020

The Epiphany of Hieronymus Bosch

I thought of the Bosch while meditating on today's Gospel.  The kings represent the Turks, ‘Ethiopians’, and Mongols - reminding me of all the powers interested in the Middle East today.  In the background is the figure of the Antichrist - at the time Herod, the precursor of the Antichrist.  He is depicted as a voluptuous sensualist - vain, narcissistic and corrupt.  He is Antichrist since he wants to destroy the child Jesus.

We read the Magi were warned to not return to Herod and they left by a different route.  We know the Holy Family fled, and that Herod massacred the Holy Innocents to ensure he killed his rival.  How like our times, I thought.  Children, babies, the unborn - are eliminated in our day, legally and illegally.  Others are driven away from their homeland, or exploited and given over to slavery. 

St. John tells us there are many Antichrists among us.  Herod is one prototype.  The Bosch figure is perhaps a warning, a projection of what will be in the end times.  An immoral, corrupt hedonist, rallying 'those who walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise government: audacious, self willed, they fear not to bring in sects, blaspheming.'  (2 Peter 2:10; Douay-Rheims Haydock)

The Epiphany is much more than that, of course.  It is the manifestation of the divinity in Christ, and it is threefold:  To the gentiles in the adoration of the Magi, in the baptism by John in the Jordan, and in the wedding at Cana.  

Imagine - wanting to kill the Messiah, the Savior, the King of the Jews?  As the angel said to St. Joseph: 'Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.' (Matt 2:13)

Many today are out to destroy - in the end, they fail.  "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail. (Matt. 16:18)

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Thoughts and prayers.

That time the Holy Father tripped.

People hate that saying.

I thought I'd use it for the title of this post - just for fun.  I post everything on Facebook and do not take time to write very much on the blog.  On FB you can post a link and quote, as well as a few thoughts, and it's done.  Now that I take care of my friend, I'm always in the same room with him when I'm online, he also watches TV, likes to talk, and needs attention.  That makes it difficult to compose a post.  I'm not complaining - just letting my friends know why I'm not posting so much.

Recent news on the Holy Father incited his critics to condemn him for slapping the hand of a woman who yanked his arm.  The poor woman appeared to have something urgent to say or ask, but the Holy Father nearly lost his balance and was obviously in great pain.  I don't know how he does it - he walks the entire length of the basilica, greets pilgrims, and travels so much - never even taking a vacation. He has one lung, obvious sciatica and most likely painful arthritis, and when he was yanked back, I think there was pain - from the look on his face. I'm certain he was sincerely sorry he offended the woman, I also think he is humble enough to accept being seen as imperfect and just like anyone else who loses their patience under stress.

I'm reminded of St. Therese, whose birthday it is today, when on her deathbed, sisters in her community found her 'imperfect' and not a saint.  Mother Agnes noted a couple of occasions when Therese lost her patience - although we would never have noticed it or thought it an imperfection or a fault.

"Four months before her death, Therese was running a high fever. One of the nuns came in and asked her help in a very delicate piece of painting.  Just for an instant a very slight blush betrayed her effort to keep her patience.  That evening she sent a little note to M. Agnes, humbly admitting her weakness.  'This evening I showed you my virtue, my treasures of patience.  I who am so good at preaching to others.  I am glad you noticed my imperfection.  It does me good ...'"

Later, a lay-sister brought Therese some broth, which she refused because she was so ill it would cause her to vomit.  The sister was offended, and Therese apologized, asking the sister's pardon.  The sister remained disedified and later told another sister, "Sr. Therese is no saint!  She is not even a good religious!"  Later, when Therese was told about it, she rejoiced.  She was happy that she was found to be imperfect, and especially a bad religious - on her deathbed.  Her joy was in knowing that  she too needed the Divine Mercy.

Little Therese told M. Agnes:  "The fact that people find me imperfect brings me real joy, and what brings me even more joy is to realize this myself and to feel the need for God's mercy at the moment of death."

I think Pope Francis is very much like St. Therese, may she obtain for him all that is necessary to lead the Church.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Gabrielle Van Der Mal's 8th Birthday!

Happy Birthday Gabs.

Her namesake.

Her patroness.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

You talkin' to me?

To people 'like me'?

A FB friend told me, "Don't kid yourself - the pope is talking to people like you when he talks about rigid Catholics."  I responded, "I always take what he says as if he is talking to me."  (I think I know what he meant when he said, 'people like me'.)

I especially take it to heart when Pope Francis says things like this:

“It is the best way to change the world - we change, the Church changes, history changes, once we stop trying to change others but try to change ourselves and to make of our life a gift.” - Pope Francis' two centerpiece messages for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

An old Christmas Story

The extraordinary account of animal behaviour that first Christmas.
Although it is not recorded in the Bible, the story of how the lesser beasts behaved at the birth of the Infant Jesus has been handed down through generation upon generation in the animal kingdom, and the stories have varied little no matter what country one finds oneself in. Humans only know the story from their pets, the cats and dogs many people consider members of their family. Of course animal behaviourists like to claim that the animals' stories had been adapted from watching their masters set up a creche in their homes, and that they overheard the tale while the family piously read the Christmas story to children.
Perhaps - but I tend to doubt it, for why would, say a wolf in the forest know the exact same story? Or a country field mouse collect fir needles to festoon his nest with every Christmas Eve, and bring out the pine nuts he had stored up, only to be enjoyed for the twelve days of Christmas? In fact, it is the mice and rabbits who seem to have the most accurate stories of all. Of course the cats never forget a detail, therefore they deserve a great deal of credit as well. The dogs know the story, and tell it to their pups, but otherwise they don't talk about it much, they prefer to lay by the hearth and simply ponder the story quietly.
Oh I know, I know. People think it is the other way around, that dogs are boisterous and talkative, especially little dogs, that they would yap and yap about the story repeatedly throughout the Christmas season. They will argue that cats are more recollected and contemplative - but that theory doesn't hold up in this case. You see the cats acted in a most peculiar manner that first Christmas, and they are quite proud of it, since they feel their reputation for being ferocious and devious creatures had been redeemed that night. I will tell the cat's version of the story here.
How the cats took part in the birth of Jesus..
On that first Christmas eve, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of the holy Virgin Mary - and before anyone else knew about it, even the shepherds, the stray cats of Bethlehem gathered around the stable. They were hiding in the hay and behind the sleepy ox, one kitty slept on the back of donkey because it was warm, a couple of others cuddled up against St. Joseph who seemed to be asleep - although most mystics insist he was really in ecstasy.
The holy Virgin was kneeling upon a fleece laid over a bit of fresh straw, off in a pleasant corner of the stable, protected from view by the large sleeping ox and a low wall made of willow. The Blessed Virgin was in ecstasy as well, when suddenly a great light shone, and upon the fleece was a lovely newborn Infant, glistening as if bathed in star dust. No sooner had He appeared than the Blessed Mother swiftly wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger nearby. As if from nowhere, the tiniest angels appeared, about the size of bees, encircling the newborn in the manger, while strains of heavenly music could be heard, along with the gentle singing of heavenly choirs.
Joseph awakened by the humming of the tiny angels, made his way very slowly into the enclosure, his head bowed, tears streaming down a face made radiant by the light emanating from the Holy Child and his Blessed Mother. He knelt next to his wife, adoring the Holy Infant. The ox noticed and rose partially, although just enough to kneel, facing the Holy Family. The donkey did likewise. The cats, naturally shy and accustomed to being shooed away, kept their distance until they noticed all the other little animals; mice, chipmunks, rabbits, gathering in awe at the foot of the manger, completely unconcerned about any sort of threat the cats posed.
Now, as you know, stray cats are always hungry and always looking for prey - which is why many people who dislike cats, tolerated them in the first place, since they kept their homes free of pests. Amazingly, albeit unnoticed by all, the cats simply watched all the critters assembling, it seemed to them it was a living banquet being laid out before their eyes. However, grandpa cat whispered that this was not the moment or place for feasting. He proceeded to explain to the other cats that they had all just witnessed a miracle:  Indeed, God Himself, our Creator, had come down that very night to live amongst men; first of all choosing to be with the animals, the least of the creatures of earth. Grandpa nodded to all the little animals who had assembled, particularly the mice, and reminded the other cats of the scriptures which referred to the Christ when it foretold, "In that day the kitty cat will lie down with the mouse." (Grandpa cat knew the scriptures because he sneaked into Temple every Sabbath. He quickly related how the Virgin would be found with Child, that her Child is the Redeemer and Saviour, who brings peace to all the world, renewing nature itself, and so on.)
With renewed confidence all the cats crept out of their hiding places, their attention rapt upon the Divine Child. The kitties were neither distracted by the mice and other animals, nor were they a bit perturbed when the shepherd's dogs arrived... the atmosphere being so permeated with peace and joy that silent night. A few of the older cats cuddled near the Madonna and the feet of St. Joseph to warm them. As it was a very cold night that first Christmas, Our Lady picked up a very fat mommy cat and another beautiful Siamese cat, placing them gently near the Child Jesus, to help warm Him and console Him by their purring.
The End

Sunday, December 22, 2019

A New Christmas Story

Chapter Two

One day last week, before Saturday, but after Thursday, I went out to the grocery store to pick up a few things for the weekend.  The store was busy with shoppers.

As I turned to go down one of the aisles, I detected a foul odor - similar to a garbage dumpster, I looked at a customer as he passed by, to see if he showed any reaction to the smell, but he seemed not to pay attention.  I looked ahead of me and saw the source of the odor.

An old man with a beat up fedora type hat, a tattered overcoat, ragged, filthy clothes, pulling an old wire shopping cart, duck taped together, with a much used black garbage bag containing his 'stuff'.  In a sort of wire-basket attachment, I noticed some groceries, yet only a bag of Frito's stood out.

As I moved closer, the stench was more intense. Almost like moss and earth with a pronounced odor of organic decay.  I glanced to see his face but it was dirty, unshaven, his glasses so smudged I was unable to see his eyes.  I moved quickly to pass by, the odor was revolting.  At the end of the aisle, I stopped to look back, and saw him pass by other customers who seemed to be oblivious to the man, not even a reaction to the odor, which seemed to fill the aisle, much less the bizarre specter of his appearance.

I stood there for a moment, wondering what sort of apparition I had just seen.  Save for the fact I had seen the same man at the same store in the exact same circumstance last summer, I might have thought the man was a Dickensian ghost, whose appearance was some sort of warning to me.  His appearance reminded me of a character I sometimes pastiche from the work of George Tooker, into my own compositions.  That said, his visage was more frightening to me than it was repulsive.

I can't forget him, and have speculated upon his reality.  Did I alone see him, was I the only person to perceive the decayed effluvia which surrounded him?  Was he a hallucination?  An apparition?  Or was he real?  Could he be a sort of hermit dwelling in the reeds across the playing field opposite the store, along the shore of the lake?  Perhaps he's a sort of iuródivyi, or fool for Christ?  The holy fools, pilgrims and mendicants, were not sweet smelling and finely dressed - their poverty was real.  The poor today are real... was he real?

I am now ashamed I was repulsed by him, wondering if he needed help, or money?  I reasoned he must be known to the store employees, since no one seems to react to his eccentric demeanor.  By the time I got to the register, the man was gone, leaving no tell-tale scent behind.  I was unwilling to ask the cashier if he had seen him, not knowing how to describe him with an appropriate empathy, and without expressing any sense of dread.

It still haunts me, perhaps he is my personal ghost of Christmas future?  What if he be a portent of what is soon to come?  Is there more to it?  Or did I just imagine it?
Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold. - Hamlet, Act 1,5,740

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A New Christmas Story

Foxwood Tales by Cynthia and Brian Patterson

Chapter One

It was the Saturday before Sunday, and we were already afraid of Monday, because Christmas Eve was on Tuesday, and we thought we had to work that day, but we are retired and no longer work.

Today, instead of cleaning or getting the house ready for Christmas, I stared outside, waiting for the solar lights to come on at dusk.  The 'seed' lights are woven through an artificial garland of pine and woodland greens, with real pine cones, arching over the Madonna relief, mounted on the trellis.  It is the only light in the garden, until Sunday night, when the Christmas lanterns are lighted.

Inside, the Christmas tree is up, lighted and decorated of course, and Christmas candles in every window, although I need to tidy up, dust and clean, but I keep putting it off.

Oh look!  The solar lights came on!  Maybe I'll continue to stare at them for the rest of the evening.  It is so Christmassy!  The rabbits come out to look and marvel, along with all the other critters in the yard, while they weave the ivy strands into wreaths and garlands for their little cottages.  Since I enjoy watching the rabbits play in the garden, I've been putting off spraying repellent upon the hedge - which keeps the rabbits from devouring the bark.  They've trampled the snow, so it looks as if a series of guests had been wandering all over the yard and garden.  I prefer the snow to be undisturbed, but rabbits do as they please.

Perhaps the rabbits are trying to convey a message?  Maybe the messy snow is a reflection of the interior of my house?  I suppose I really do need to clean.

Which reminds me of a story I can't remember.  When I was little there was a children's book about a mouse who didn't keep house.  The home kept getting dirtier and dirtier until it blew up.  That's all I can recall, but I wonder if it blew up when she tried to light the oven?  I know.

I have to clean my oven too.

Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Today: "The Expectation of the Parturition of the Blessed Virgin Mary"

A little feast from the old Calendar.

The feast or commemoration seems to have originated in Spain, establishing the Marian character of Advent, if you will.  The Expectation of the Birth of the Lord, pondered by Mary ever virgin, Mother of God.  

This Feast, which sometimes goes under the name of Our Lady of O, or the Feast of O, on account of the great antiphons which are sung during these days, and, in a special manner, of that which begins O Virgo virginum (which is still used in the Vespers of the Expectation—see below, together with the O Adonai, the antiphon of the Advent Office), was kept with great devotion in Spain. - Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger

The Marian character of Advent.

The Expectation says it all, Our Lady expected the Messiah, as revealed to her by the Angel Gabriel.  It makes me think, how in our times we are in a sort of Marian era.  As if Our Lady is calling us to expect the Messiah, the return of Christ.  She exemplifies the conduct and disposition of soul we ought to cultivate in ourselves.  Full of hope, with a love 'beyond all telling', going within to meet him.  I don't know, of course, but it is good for me to take refuge in Our Lady.

"The Virgin, weighed
With the Word of God
Comes down the road:
If only you will shelter her." - John of the Cross 

From Marialis Cultus.

3. During Advent there are many liturgical references to Mary besides the Solemnity of December 8, which is a joint celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, of the basic preparation (cf. Is. 11:1, 10) for the coming of the Savior and of the happy beginning of the Church without spot or wrinkle.[11] Such liturgical references are found especially on the days from December 17 to 24, and more particularly on the Sunday before Christmas, which recalls the ancient prophecies concerning the Virgin Mother and the Messiah[12] and includes readings from the Gospel concerning the imminent birth of Christ and His precursor.[13]
4. In this way the faithful, living in the liturgy the spirit of Advent, by thinking about the inexpressible love with which the Virgin Mother awaited her Son,[14] are invited to take her as a model and to prepare themselves to meet the Savior who is to come. They must be “vigilant in prayer and joyful in…praise.”[15] We would also remark that the Advent liturgy, by linking the awaiting of the Messiah and the awaiting of the glorious return of Christ with the admirable commemoration of His Mother, presents a happy balance in worship. This balance can be taken as a norm for preventing any tendency (as has happened at times in certain forms of popular piety) to separate devotion to the Blessed Virgin from its necessary point of reference — Christ. It also ensures that this season, as liturgy experts have noted, should be considered as a time particularly suited to devotion to the Mother of the Lord. This is an orientation that we confirm and which we hope to see accepted and followed everywhere. - St. Paul VI, Marialis Cultus