Saturday, December 17, 2011

Jyoti Amgi - the doll lady.

"She's just like a little doll, and has always been veddy, veddy popular!"  said her parents during the press conference after signing with Mattel, the famous toy manufacturer.  "So many, many Sheiks and Shahs and Nabobs and Maharajahs tried to buy her for their daughters, that we felt it was time to go public and have replica dollies manufactured for sale for all the rich children in the world who have no siblings."

I made that up. 

The real story about Ms. Amgi, who measures just over 2 feet may be found here.  Perhaps her celebrity and earning potential will encourage Indians to permit girl babies to be born and treat the women of their nation with greater respect. 

George Tooker, RIP

I just found out George Tooker died earlier this year.  Of all the modern painters, he was one of my favorite artists.  I called him a couple of times, but he had a hard time hearing, though I intended to write him, I never did.  I prayed very much for him and mostly united my prayer to his own, but I never got the sense he was dead.

I'm always the last one to know it seems. My dad's brother just died this past year and no one told me until recently - likewise, last year, I missed another uncle's funeral. I'm too reclusive I guess.  I'm not complaining however.

Tooker was Catholic, coming into the Church not long after his partner died in 1973. 
Vermonters can see his work in St. Francis of Assisi Church in Winsdsor. Tooker painted a large seven panel mural for the church in 1980 depicting the seven sacraments.  A devout Catholic, Tooker's funeral was held at the church on April 8, 2011. - Source 

George Tooker's conversion reminds me of another man I admire for his acceptance of Church teaching, Pier Vittorio Tondelli.  (I wrote about him here.)

A medieval skyline...

Showing a better way to hunt.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas displays of devotion... err, emotion.

That 'miss'.

It is probably just me, but I think a couple of displays being twittered about online just don't make it - they miss.  The intentions are good - the execution poor and misleading...

"Rejoice, Bride of God..."*

The image of "Mary" checking her pregnancy test - looking distressed.  Somehow religious people are touting a contemporary notion that Our Lady was like today's unwed mother, that her pregnancy was unplanned, that she would have been anxious about it - that she would possibly fear the consequences.  These are religious people imagining this stuff.  I can understand non-religious people, or Protestants and other non-Catholics thinking that - but Roman Catholics?  No.  No.  No.  The notion is ignorant of Catholic teaching on the Immaculate Conception, the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth and so on.  The ad campaign promotes bad Mariology, bad theology, and sentimentalism.  To find out what I'm talking about, go to: Mary's pregnancy test.

Eucharistic flashmob in California.

Occupy this, flash mob that.  I get it - but I think it's lame.  I actually commented on the original article writing something like:  "Big eye roll.  How hip.  It was orchestrated badly and executed poorly.  The priests were in albs and stole - the monstrance was carried in a suitcase.  They coulda/shoulda at least included some solemnity - using candles - even battery type candles, as was once done when taking viaticum to the dying, and then possibly exposing the Blessed Sacrament in a much more dignified fashion."  The 'mob' part - that is the participants kneeling was probably the most effective aspect.  Nevertheless, I do not think it is the proper use of the Blessed Sacrament.  As one commenter noted, "Someone needs to read Redemptionis Sacramentum. This is an abuse of the sacrament, however well intentioned." (MTCLAX at Jesus in the Mall post.)  I totally agree. 

*Sections from the Orthodox akathist Hymn to the Mother of God.
When the bodiless learned of the secret command, he came in haste to Joseph's house and said to her who knew not wedlock: He who bowed the heavens by coming down is contained wholly and unchanged in you. Seeing him take the form of a servant in your womb, I stand in awe and cry out to You: Rejoice, O Bride unwedded.

Rejoice, O Bride unwedded, the world's salvation.Both now and forever…Rejoice, treasury of purity, through whom we have risen from our fall. Rejoice, O Lady, sweet-smelling lilly that sends forth its fragrant scent to the faithful. Rejoice, aromatic incense and precious oil of myrrh. 
Most-holy Mother of God, save us.

More exalted than the heavens, rejoice, you who carded earth's foundation painlessly in your womb. Rejoice, O sea shell who dyed with your own virgin blood the divine purple robe worn by the King of angelic hosts. GloryLady, you truly gave birth to the divine Giver of the law who washes clean the lawlessness of all. O incomprehensible depth and ineffable height, Maiden unwedded, through whom we are deified.

Most-holy Mother of God, save us.

Amazed was the universe by your divine glory. For while never experiencing marriage, you held, O Virgin, the God of all in your womb, and gave birth to an eternal Son who grants salvation to all who chant hymns of praise to you.

Most-holy Mother of God, save us.

Rejoice, for you carried in your womb the Way of life. Rejoice, Bride of God, all-blameless Maiden, who saved the world from the flood of sin. Rejoice, awe-inspiring message and report, habitation of the One who is Lord of all creation.

Most-holy Mother of God, save us.

(The Akathist Hymn and Small Compline)
H/T to Deacon Greg for posting the stories.

BREAKING! Congress overturns incandescent light bulb ban!

Wow!  Congress can do something worthwhile!
Congressional negotiators struck a deal Thursday that overturns the new rules that were to have banned sales of traditional incandescent light bulbs beginning next year.

That agreement is tucked inside the massive 1,200-page spending bill that funds the government through the rest of this fiscal year, and which both houses of Congress will vote on Friday. Mr. Obama is expected to sign the bill, which heads off a looming government shutdown.

Congressional Republicans dropped almost all of the policy restrictions they tried to attach to the bill, but won inclusion of the light bulb provision, which prevents the Obama administration from carrying through a 2007 law that would have set energy efficiency standards that effectively made the traditional light bulb obsolete. - NYT

This should make Fr. Reichstag happy.  What? 

The Novena for Christmas begins today...

Come Lord Jesus!

Little Jesus, unto thee I flee,
through thy Mother praying thee
in my need to succor me.
Truly I believe of thee
God, thou art, with strength to shield me;
full of trust I hope of thee,
thou, thy grace, will give to me.
All my heart I give to thee,
therefore of my sins repent me;
from them breaking, I beseech thee,
Jesu! from their bonds to free me.
Firm my purpose is to mend me,
nevermore will I grieve thee;
wholly unto thee I give me,
patiently to suffer for thee,
thee to serve eternally;
and my neighbor like to me
I will love for love of thee.
Little Jesus I beseech thee,
in my need to succor me.
That one day I may enjoy thee,
safe with Joseph and with Mary,
and angels all, eternally. Amen.
(Prayer of Fr. Cyril of the Mother of God.)

Chapel veils... how to look good in one.

Caroline Lee Bouvier Canfield Radziwill and her sister Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis:  Way back when...

Extreme Cosmetic Surgery...

I think St. Teresa of Avila was friends with her - oh wait - maybe that was an ancestor.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Case of the Consecrated Host and...

What appeared to be a miracle at the Church of St. Augustine.

The jury is in and the verdict is: "The result of natural biological causes."
H. Corby Kistler, a mycologist and adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, said Wednesday that Fusarium fungus might have caused a red pigment on the St. Augustine host. "Fusarium species are common environmental contaminants and often infest wheat and wheat products," Kistler said.
What we are discussing here is what happened to a consecrated host, which was found on the floor at the Church of St. Augustine in South St. Paul, Minnesota after Mass on June 19, 2011.  The host was placed in an ablution cup (a small bowl of water) to dissolve, and then to be discarded into the sacrarium in the sacristy.  That was when a substance resembling blood appeared on the remaining particles, suggesting a miracle.

Catholics should not be disappointed in the results of the test since we already know by faith that our Lord Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the consecrated host - the Eucharist: The Most Blessed Sacrament is our living sign of Christ's presence; the Real Presence is the real miracle.

I can't remember where, and I may be wrong in interpreting it, but John of the Cross writes somewhere that God is not often pleased to have to send miracles.*  And in this case, perhaps especially so, since it could have added fuel to the argument some people make that the EF Mass is somehow better and holier and more pleasing to God than the OF Mass.  Just personal speculation of course.

Photo credit and story here.

*"It is not God's desire that miracles be performed; when he works them he does so out of necessity.  He consequently reprimanded the pharisees because they were unwilling to believe without signs; 'if you do not see signs and wonders you do not believe.' [Jn. 4:48]" - Ascent, Bk III, Chapter 31: 9.  Please note:   I am no authority and it is possible that I could have misappropriated the passage from St. John to the type of circumstance discussed here.

Fatima, the secrets and those who claim to interpret them.

Conspiracy theorists take note.

The following essay is the best piece I have ever read pointing out the errors and presumptions of the Fatimists, as the author refers to them.  Some who read this blog are amongst them.  I will reprint the entire article here for your convenience and enlightenment...
Catholics often criticize Protestants for their subjective “private interpretations” of the Scriptures that give short shrift to tradition. Some Catholics, however, are guilty of the very same thing when it comes to private revelations — messages reportedly given by Jesus or Mary to some individual or group of individuals. The 1917 revelations given by the Blessed Virgin Mary to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, during World War I, at the outset of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, constituted possibly the most portentous wake-up call the Church has ever received. But the interpretation of the three “secrets” our Lady entrusted to the children have been subjected to the vagaries of private interpretation by Catholics who give short shrift to the Magisterium of the Church.

The most egregious example of this phenomenon comes from a Canadian priest, Fr. Nicholas Gruner, the so-called Fatima priest, and the Fatima Center he founded. Fr. Gruner was ordained by the bishop of Avellino, Italy, in 1976, and transferred to Canada, but was suspended after refusing to return to his home diocese. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy confirmed his suspension a divinis (the loss of faculties for celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, etc.) in 2001. The archbishop of Hyderabad, India, however, disagreed with the suspension and incardinated Gruner there — giving rise to confusion about Gruner’s ecclesiastical status, and claims by his supporters that his suspension was invalid.

For many years Fr. Gruner has been insisting that the request our Lady made at Fatima for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart by the pope in concert with the bishops of the world has not been made in the way the Virgin requested. His sticking point is that the consecration of Russia has not been made by name.

In December 1983, after consulting with Sr. Lucia, the only living Fatima visionary, Pope John Paul II sent out letters inviting all the world’s Catholic bishops, and some Orthodox bishops, to join him in a joint act of con­­secration, scheduled for the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1984. In the consecration, the Pope, accompanied not only in spirit by the bishops to whom he sent the letters, but also physically in St. Peter’s Basilica by numerous bishops and cardinals, consecrated the whole world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Reportedly fearing retaliation from the Soviet Union, which at the time was threatening to crush the Solidarity movement in Poland, the Pope added a diplomatic but pointed consecration of Russia herself: “In a special way we entrust and consecrate to you those individuals and nations that particularly need to be thus entrusted and consecrated” (italics added).

Asked a number of times whether this consecration fulfilled our Lady’s request, Sr. Lucia wrote, “Publicly, in union with those bishops who wished to associate themselves with His Holiness, he made the consecration in the way in which the Blessed Virgin had wished that it should be made. Afterward people asked me if it was made in the way our Lady wanted, and I replied: ‘Yes. From that time, it is made!’”

In November 2001 John Paul II, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, and several others met with Sr. Lucia and asked her about the dissatisfaction expressed by Gruner and others over the lack of explicit mention of Russia, and their continuing requests to “re-do” the consecration. Sr. Lucia mentioned that her community simply threw such petitions away, adding, “I’ve already said that the consecration our Lady wished for was performed in 1984, and that it was accepted by Heaven.”

Proponents of re-doing the consecration have suggested that some of Sr. Lucia’s comments on the consecration were made under “coercion” by superiors or even by an “impostor,” and that the consecration could not have been properly made since Russia has not really been converted — although the Berlin Wall came down, militant Soviet atheism is a thing of the past, religious freedom is allowed, President Dmitri Menvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are Orthodox Christians, and very positive steps have been taken toward the ecumenical union of Orthodoxy and the Church of Rome. One could argue that the situation in Russia at least compares favorably with that in Portugal, about which our Lady, according to Sr. Lucia’s Fourth Memoir, promised that “In Portugal the doctrine of the faith will always be preserved.” In Portugal, according to a recent Harris Poll commissioned by Pax Liturgique, a mere 11.7 percent of those who identify as Catholics attend Mass weekly. Some preservation!

Possibly the Fatimists are expecting the sudden, mass conversion of all Russian citizens to the Catholic Church, the cessation of all social injustice, and the abrogation of all corruption — in other words, a “conversion of a nation” in a literal sense (the first ever!) that would make the emancipation of Christianity under Constantine in A.D. 313 look like a mere blip in ecclesial history.

Another example of Fatimists’ private interpretation of this private revelation is their claim that there was a “fourth secret” given by Mary to the children at Fatima. In the official and historical account of the visitation, our Lady entrusted three secrets to the three children at Fatima. The first secret included a vision of Hell and God’s wish to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the salvation of sinners; the second was a warning about the danger of a second world war and the spread of Soviet communism (a nascent, isolated movement at the time). Sr. Lucia wrote down the contents of these two secrets in 1941. She entrusted information about the third secret to her bishop in 1944, and it was sent to the Vatican in 1957. Pope John XXIII and his successors each read the secret and, in 2000, after much anticipation, the text of the secret was published by the Vatican. It contains a vision of the pope and the faithful of the Church enduring persecution and martyrdom as they ascend a mountain. At the top of the mountain stands the cross, at the foot of which the pope is murdered by soldiers.

Fr. Gruner and his clerical and lay supporters held a “Fatima Challenge” conference in Rome in May 2010 to complain that an alleged addendum to the third secret has not yet been revealed. They point to circumstantial evidence: (1) In her Fourth Memoir Sr. Lucia writes that our Lady said, “In Portugal, the doctrine of the faith will always be preserved, etc.” The “etc.” in this prediction seems to indicate that a part of the secret has not yet been divulged. (2) There is some discrepancy in references to the “one page” and “four pages” on which the third secret was written. (3) Archbishop Loris Capovilla of Loreto, Italy, once referred to an envelope signed by multiple witnesses after the secret was read by Pope John XXIII, and that envelope seems to have gone missing. (4) Pope Benedict XVI recently affirmed that the Fatima revelations refer not just to the past but also to the present and future; but earlier explanations of the third secret, including explanations by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger before he became pope, indicate that it refers to the past, in particular to the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981.

The 2010 conference included a representative of “the other side,” Giuseppe De Carli, author of The Last Visionary of Fatima and The Last Secret of Fatima, books that include extensive interviews with Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone refuting the “fourth secret” hypothesis. De Carli, who died shortly after the conference, became flustered at one point in the cross-examination, saying, “When a secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, says that the envelope mentioned by Capovilla corresponds to what was read by John XXIII, either John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI are liars, or we need to believe it.”

What, indeed, have the Fatimists, with the assiduity of professional sleuths, been looking for? Why are they so suspicious of a Vatican collusion in deception? A recent pamphlet, The Still Hidden Secret, published by the Fatima Center, proposes that the fourth secret probably contains an apocalyptic vision, and that it is “related to the vision in which the Virgin explains in Her own words how an internal crisis of faith and discipline in the Church is accompanied by a chastisement of the whole world, including the bishops, priests and laity who are killed ‘one after another’ by the same soldiers who have already executed the Pope.” Catholic News Service reports that some Fatimists “have deduced that the secret foresaw the changes of the Second Vatican Council, especially in liturgy and ecumenical dialogue, as part of the ‘great apostasy’ which church leaders refuse to acknowledge.”

Do we really need a special revelation from our Lady to tell us that there is an internal crisis of faith and discipline in the Church? And to warn about terrible persecutions, already gathering momentum in many countries? Aren’t we capable of reading the signs of the times ourselves? It seems that the Fatimists’ sleuthing is really a desperate attempt to find in the secrets an authoritative reason to reject Vatican II and all the Popes since Pius XII.

The Fatima Center held a follow-up conference, called “Consecration Now!” in Rome this past May for the purpose of gaining popular support for a formal re-consecration of Russia by name. They are hoping that a massive groundswell of support will finally force the hand of Pope Benedict to accede to their request.

But would it not be more appropriate for followers of Mary to demonstrate the filial obedience required of Catholics by trusting the Popes, ceasing with the distracting accusations of Church-wide cover-ups and a faulty consecration, and focusing on the simple yet major request made by our Lady at Fatima: that Catholics say the rosary often, and at least one time in their lives go to confession and receive Holy Communion on five successive first Saturdays of the month, in reparation for sin? This was the central message of the Fatima revelations, a message that risks being lost amid the Fati­mists’ agitation for the re-consecration of Russia and their fascination with third- and fourth-secret conspiracy theories. Something even more miraculous than the tearing down of the Berlin Wall might result if this request were widely heeded. - Howard P. Kainz for New Oxford Review

Howard P. Kainz is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Marquette University and a former executive council-member of the American Catholic Philosophical Association. A widely published author, his most recent book is The Existence of God and the Faith-Instinct (Susque­hanna University Press, 2010). 

Photo credit:  ROFLOL!  I have to link to the source.  Sorry.  Remember in the '70's when Baysiders were claiming Pope Paul VI had a double?  Supposedly the real PPVI was drugged and replaced with an impostor who implemented all the changes that came after the Council.  I wonder which one cried in the sacristy after learning he cancelled the Octave of Pentecost?  Ecclesial urban rumors... pay no attention.  "Come on Poodle, get your cape - we're leaving!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In memory of St. John of the Cross

Considerations more respectful.

St. John is one of my very special patrons.  I am not a Carmelite except by affiliation in and through the Confraternity of the Scapular - I wear Our Lady's 'hidden' habit out of devotion to her, and in that devotion and through the grace of God, I developed under the sound guidance of Therese, Teresa, and John.  I'm 'too little' as St. Therese might say, to be a member of any order, or to have any status.  That was never my call.  That said, the teachings of the saints are for all of us to learn from, according to our state in life.

I've always been fascinated by St. John's request to Our Lord, "to suffer and be despised."  Driven by divine love, he asked nothing more than what Our Lord had chosen for Himself on earth.  John possessed the spiritual maturity to know what he was asking - many of us do not however.  I think most of us - especially myself - attach conditions to our willingness to accept from God's hands all the sufferings he is pleased to send us.  Frequently we lack the patience needed to follow Christ in the narrow way that leads to life.  St. John practiced heroic patience - and therefore he is a very powerful intercessor for those who suffer in any way.  St. John once said, "the holier the confessor, the gentler he is and the less he is scandalized at other people's faults, because he understands man's weak condition better."  One can perhaps accommodate this exhortation to confidence for those of us who are spiritually bereft, yet who seek his intercession.  In other words:  'The greater the saint, the more accessible he is to the littlest - the weakest of us." 

Instead of using something from the writings of St. John of the Cross to edify and inspire for his feast day, I found something perhaps easier to digest, written by St. Francis de Sales, very much related to suffering and being despised.
PATIENCE: Its GreatValue and Proper Exercise.
"Patience is necessary for you; that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise.' If our Saviour himself has declared, 'In your patience you shall possess your souls,' should it not be a great happiness for man to possess his soul? - and the more perfect our patience, the more absolutely do we possess them. Let us frequently call to mind, that as our Lord has saved us by patient sufferings, so we also ought to work out our salvation by sufferings and afflictions; enduring injuries and contradictions with all possible meekness. Limit not your patience to this or that kind of injuries and afflictions,but extend it universally to all those that it shall please God to send you. Some are unwilling to suffer any tribulations but those that are honorable; for example, to be wounded in battle, to be a prisoner of war, to be persecuted for religion, or impoverished by some lawsuit determined in their favor; now these people do not love the tribulation, but the honor wherewith it is accompanied; whereas he that is truly patient suffers, indifferently, tribulations whether accompanied by ignominy or honor. To be despised, reprehended, or accused by wicked men is pleasant to a man of good heart; but to suffer blame and ill-treatment from the virtuous or from our friends and relations, is the test of true patience. I admire the meekness with which the great St. Charles Borromeo suffered a long time the public reprehensions that a great preacher of a strictly reformed order uttered against him in the pulpit, more than all the assaults he received from others; for as the sting of a bee is far more painful than that of a fly so the evils we suffer from good men are much more insupportable than those we suffer from others; and yet it often happens that two good men, having each of them the best intentions, through a diversity of opinion, foment great persecutions and contradictions against each other."
"Be patient, not only with respect to the subject of the affliction which may befall you, but also with regard to its accessories or accidental circumstances. Many could be content to encounter evils, provided they might not be incommoded by them. I am not vexed, says one, at being poor, if it had not disabled me to serve my friends, to give my children proper education; or to live as honorable as I could wish. It would give me no concern, says another, were it not that the world would think it happened through my own fault. Another would be content to suffer the scandal patiently, provided no one would believe the detractor. Others are willing to suffer some part of the evil, but not the whole; they do not complain on account of their sickness, but for the want of money to obtain a cure, or because they are so troublesome to those about them. Now, I say, we must not only bear sickness with patience, but also be content to suffer sickness under any disorder, and in any place, among those persons, and with those inconveniences, which God pleases; and the same must be said of other tribulations, which God pleases; and the same must be said of other tribulations. When any evil befalls you, apply the remedies that may be in your power, agreeably to the will of God; for to act otherwise would be to tempt divine Providence Having done this, wait with resignation for the success it may please God to send; and, should the remedies overcome the evil, return Him thanks with humility, but if, on the contrary, the evils overcome the remedies, bless Him with patience.
"The following advice of St. Gregory is useful: whenever you are 'justly accused' of a fault, humble yourself, and candidly confess that you deserve more than the accusation which is brought against you; but, if the charge be false, excuse yourself meekly, denying your guilt, for you owe this respect to truth, and to the edification of your neighbor. But if, after your true and lawful excuse, they should continue to accuse you, trouble not yourself nor strive to have your excuse admitted; for, having discharged your duty to truth, you must also do the same to humility, by which means you neither offend against the care you ought to have of your reputation, nor the love you owe to peace, meekness of heart, and humility." - Finish reading here.
"Consider frequently Christ Jesus crucified, naked, blasphemed, slandered, forsaken, and overwhelmed with all sorts of troubles, sorrows, and labors; and remember that all your sufferings, either in quality or quantity are not comparable to His, and that you can never suffer anything for Him equal to that which He has endured for you" - St. Francis de Sales


For the Memorial of St. John...

An obscure quote attributed to Fr. John of the Cross:

"Live, live, live.  Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!"


Disclaimer:  I know.  But it's not from the same John of the Cross whose feast it is today.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This is so easy for me...

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Bishops ask Catholics to see Christ in immigrants.

Hispanic bishops from 33 different U.S. dioceses thanked immigrants for their contributions to society and called on all Americans to welcome newcomers with respect and Christ-like love.

In a Dec. 12 letter, the bishops expressed their solidarity with those immigrants “who lack proper authorization to live and work in our country” and invited them to participate fully in the life of the Church in America.

Among the signatories of the letter are: Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, and Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas of Chicago.

They recalled how the Holy Family was forced to flee to Egypt, and reminded immigrants of their “infinite value and dignity” as human beings who are made in the “image of God.” - CNA

St. Toribio Romo, pray for us.

A few years ago, I mentioned in a post how the Holy Family were in a sense, not only immigrants, but refugees as well, and online theologians quickly argued against that notion.  It is nice to read that the Bishops see a similar reflection in the plight of the Holy Family, identifying it with the plight of the immigrants of today.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Such drama.

The purgative stage of illness.

When we are sick, all of our bodily eliminations literally spew out the impurities that pollute our system and are responsible for making us sick.  You can be so sick you almost feel better after vomiting repeatedly - just for a minute or so, of course.  Have you ever been so sick you can't even pray?  That can happen.

I'm just starting to feel better today - I'm regaining my perspective I think.  I have to think of it as a real purgation nonetheless.  Finally this morning I was able to 'say' my prayers, and I thought of Catherine of Genoa right away - therefore she is my patron for the day.  Did you know she once told an uppity priest that if she thought for one minute his habit would make her holy she'd rip it off his back and put it on and live a religious life.  What's that got to do with anything?  I don't know.  But I love her and she knew first hand about purgation, sickness and depression, and unsentimental charity.

This morning I noted on Spirit Daily an essay on Purgatory based upon some private revelations - I didn't read it all - just skimmed it - but it led me to re-read something from John of the Cross, from his Living Flame of Love, which resonated with me more clearly.  As I always say, St. John writes for contemplatives, I don't consider myself one of them.  He also writes about the various stages of the spiritual life - especially in advanced souls, something I don't concern myself with since it is all above me.  Nevertheless, the psychological state John describes strikes me as helpful in shedding some light on the very idea and purpose of purgatory - here on earth and in the actual state after death.  I'll share some highlights here.

The purgative way.

"Spiritual writers call this activity the purgative way. In it a person suffers great deprivation and feels heavy afflictions in his spirit , which ordinarily overflow into the senses, for this flame is extremely oppressive. 
In this preparatory purgation the flame is not bright for a person, but dark.  if it does shed some light, the only reason is that the soul may see its miseries and defects.  It is not gentle, but afflictive." 

[I want to stop right there for a moment.  This is what many saints described in their conversions - which were not overnight excursions.  Think of Angela d'Foligno and Margaret d'Cortona - they went in stages - and others went in longer stages.  Like Sr. C., the nun I mentioned in a former post, she lived in affliction all her religious life and only on her deathbed did she experience any consolation.  Most of us believe we are converted, do a little penance, make a few sacrifices, do the right stuff, and boom!  We're all spiritual and good.  I don't think we can comprehend authentic Roman Catholic spirituality with a new age, prosperity gospel mentality.  But I am no one to listen to.  Let's get back to the text.]

"Sometimes, out of his goodness, god accords some delight in order to strengthen and encourage it, the soul suffers for this before and after with another trial.  Neither is the flame (the Living Flame, the Holy Spirit)  refreshing and peaceful, but it is consuming and contentious, making a person faint and suffer with self-knowledge.  Thus it is not glorious for the soul, but rather makes it feel wretched and distressed in the spiritual light of self-knowledge which it bestows.  as Jeremiah declares, God sends fire into its bones and instructs it. [Lam. 1:13]; and as David asserts, He tries it by fire. [Ps. 16:3]

At this stage a person suffers from sharp trials in his intellect, severe dryness and distress in his will, and from the burdensome knowledge of his own miseries in his memory, for his spiritual eye gives him a very clear picture of himself.  [...]  This purgation resembles what Job said God did to him: you are changed to be cruel toward me. [Jb. 30:21]  for when a soul suffers all of these things jointly, it truly seems that God has become displeased with it and cruel.

A person's suffering at this time cannot be exaggerated; they are but little less than the sufferings of purgatory." - St. John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love, Stanza 1, Commentary, 18-21

And just think, Job was a just man.  Elsewhere St. John quotes scripture, "Only with difficulty will the just man be saved." 

Art:  Catherine of Genoa.  I got this from Idle Speculations, which has a very good post on St. Catherine which I found after searching for an image of the saint.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's probably better...

It's probably better that I do not write too much when I'm sick and feverish.  If you've received any correspondence from me in the past day or so, please disregard.

Thanks to everyone for the emails and your prayers.