Saturday, March 08, 2014

Pray for Ukraine.

N.S. Mediadora de Todas las Gracias de Lipa

Pray for Ukraine.

Pray for Syria.

Pray for the victims of the downed Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777.

Pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet - even if you aren't Catholic.  You don't have to be Catholic to pray.  You don't have to be holy to pray.  If you don't know how to pray, the chaplet and the rosary will teach you.

Be kind to one another.


How to pray the Rosary.

How to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Saturday stuff - stuffed toys, rabbits, bears, cats - err ... not that kind of stuff.

So anyway.

I want to thank all my friends online who came to support me when I was sad.  You know who you are and what you did.  For a long time I thought online friends weren't real - kind of like the stuffed toys I had as a kid - but I found out you are real, and my sadness turned to joy.  Thank you all very much.

A good lesson from Today's readings at Mass:
Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined homesteads.”
- Isaiah 58: 9B-14
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” - Luke 5: 27-32

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor. - Ps. 84

It is good to be afflicted and poor.

St. John of God ... a troubled life.

At one time the Infant Jesus appeared to him and gave him the name, John of God and bid him to go to Granada.  Until that period in his life, the saint engaged in many occupations and wanderings, farmer, soldier, and shepherd.  In Granada under the influence of St. John of Avila, at the age of 42, he experienced a profound conversion - and suffered a mental breakdown.  He ended up in a sort of prison for the mentally ill and was subject to beatings and starvation, all part of the 'treatment' for mental illness in those days.  John of Avila visited the saint and helped guide him to wellness, encouraging him to devote his life caring for others.  Eventually others joined him in his work and the order of Brothers Hospitallers was formed.

His crazy period is interesting - reminding me of the Russian 'fool for Christ' vocation.  Mental instability isn't always that unusual in the lives of the saints and others who may go through intense conversion experiences.  Interestingly, as a soldier, he was nearly executed because the booty he was supposed to be guarding had been looted; a sympathetic officer obtained his pardon, thus saving his life.   I wonder if the incident could have contributed to a sense of depression or melancholy, leading to his ultimate mental breakdown?

Feast day March 8.

Brief biography here.

Friday, March 07, 2014

St. Paul the Simple

Today is also the feast day of a companion of St. Anthony of Egypt - Paul the Simple.

At the age of sixty, Paul left his wife after learning of her adultery.  He sought to live as a hermit with St. Anthony, who at first refused him.  After long testing Paul became a hermit - known for his guilelessness, simplicity and holiness - as well as the gift to cast out demons.
"They said of another hermit, that while he was undergoing temptation in his cell, he saw the demons face to face, and despised them.  The devil, seeing himself overcome, came and showed himself, saying, 'I am Christ.'  The hermit looked at him, and then shut his eyes.  The devil said, 'I am Christ, why have you shut your eyes?'  The hermit answered, I do not want to see Christ in this life, but in the next.'  The devil vanished at these words." - Sayings of the Desert Fathers

St.s Perpetua and Felicity

The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity and Companions is one of the most authentic and fascinating documentations of martyrs from the early Church on record.  The Passion narrative can be found here.

The martyrs were baptized while under "house arrest".  Both Perpetua and Felicity were mothers, Perpetua, a young woman from a respectable family entered prison with a baby in arms.  Felicity, a slave, entered prison and gave birth to her baby there - amidst mockery and contempt from her persecutors.  The martyrs died after entering the arena to be made sport of by wild beasts.  The two women embraced one another and bestowed upon one another the kiss of peace before succumbing to death.  It is one of the most moving accounts of martyrdom I have ever read - it seems to me there is nothing like it until the 20th century accounts of victims of the various holocausts and persecutions around the world.

Today the Holy Martyrs have been adopted by 'gay' religious people as models of 'gay' spirituality.  It is unfortunate and sad that the love expressed between these woman has been mischaracterized in such a base manner when in fact theirs was a chaste Christian love.  Heroic charity.  The charity of the Martyrs is unlimited however, and I trust SS. Perpetua and Felicity would help those who are misled by the revisionist hagiography to come to a deeper faith and acceptance of Church teaching.

Nothing is impossible for God, when you consider one glance from Christ can convert even the greatest sinners.  Saints such as Ignatius of Loyola have been converted by reading the lives of the saints.  Thus, some may read a fabrication, and upon deeper investigation in the process of devotion, some can discover the truth.

I've discussed the issue of 'gay' saints many times in the past, for the convenience of inquiring minds,  follow the link here.

O most brave and blessed martyrs! O truly called and chosen unto the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ! whom whoever magnifies, and honours, and adores, assuredly ought to read these examples for the edification of the Church, not less than the ancient ones, so that new virtues also may testify that one and the same Holy Spirit is always operating even until now, and God the Father Omnipotent, and His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, whose is the glory and infinite power for ever and ever. Amen.

“The entire Church in our time” is “living in the time of mercy,” Pope Francis

“We are not here to perform a spiritual exercise for the beginning of Lent, but rather to listen to the voice of the Spirit that speaks to everyone in the Church in this, our time, which is indeed the time of mercy”. - Pope Francis to the Clergy of Rome

I don't know about you, but I think it is awesome the Holy Father keeps mentioning the fact that we are living in the time of Mercy - this time specifically referring to St. Faustina and the devotion revealed to her by Our Lord.

Speak to the world about My mercy… It is a sign for the end times. After it will come the Day of Justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fountain of My mercy. —Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary of St. Faustina, 848

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Too proud to beg - "Blue Jasmine" and the rich poor.

Ashes for sinners and saints.

The reason I started rummaging through Cassian and the Desert Fathers was because I wanted to find a story about a poor woman who continued to dress in rich attire when she showed up at the hermitage food shelf - all because she was (more or less) ashamed to beg - or look poor.  Cate Blanchett's character in "Blue Jasmine" reminded me of that story - as well as a host of other stories on charity and repentance - ah! and stories on discretion and humility and non-judgement - stories the holy fathers are so famous for.

In the film, Jasmine French, sort of a Ruth Madoff character, loses everything but her Hermes handbag, Louis Vuitton luggage, and Chanel wardrobe.  She moves down the ladder to live with her tacky sister.  It's a horrible comedown - a reality check she simply can't bear.  At the end of the film, the woman is talking to herself on a park bench - the film ends - just when she is finally ready for conversion - after a bit of therapy maybe.  At that point she could be likened to Margaret of Cortona, whose lover had been murdered and she went a little crazy for a time, had no place to go, and so on.  St. Margaret was a sinner like us - and in an unique way, considering the circumstance, a bit like Jasmine.  Both had been rich ladies, both lost their lover/husband, both were involved in something shady, both ended up destitute.  Rock bottom.

Of course, such loss of fortune doesn't just happen to public sinners.  For instance, if Jasmine had been exceedingly virtuous, we might compare her to a saint like Elizabeth of Hungary.  How's that, you ask?  St. Elizabeth lost everything too, and even went a little crazy after her husband died, she was rejected by the family, and ended up homeless.  So, hitting bottom - no matter how - can happen to anyone.  Nevertheless, it is not the end - rather, it is an occasion of grace.

Maybe it's a stretch?  Maybe, but I'm convinced saints and sinners are very much closer than we think.  Closer to one another, closer to God.  "No pit is so deep that his love is not deeper still."

That said, I obviously found the stories I had been looking for in the Desert Fathers and Cassian.  It would have been my post for Ash Wednesday, but something else happened.

Anyway - what follows are the two stories that reminded me of Jasmine French ... you know ... hanging on to your designer clothes even though you are dirt poor ... maybe not.

A monk received from God the grace of ministry, to serve the poor as they had need. A woman dressed in rags came up to him to receive her share of food.  When he saw her rags, he meant to take a great handful, so as to give her a big helping: but his hand remained nearly shut and he was only able to give her a little.  Another well dressed woman came up and seeing her clothes, he intended to give her only a small portion, but his hand was opened and he gave her a big helping.  So he inquired about the women, and found out the well dressed woman had been a lady who sunk to poverty and continued to dress well because she had a standard to maintain for her family.  But the other had put on rags so she could receive more. - On Hospitality

One of the hermits said, 'There are some who do good, yet the devil insinuates a mean spirit into them, so that they lose the reward of all the good they do. 
 Once, when I was living in Oxyrhynchus with a priest who was generous in almsgiving, a widow came to ask him for a little barley.  He said to her, "Go and fetch some, and I will weigh it for you."  She brought him some, but when he weighed it he said, "It is too much!"  Making the widow ashamed.  After she left, I said, "Priest, did you lend barley to that widow, or what?"  He said, "No, I gave it to her."  So I said, "If you wanted to make her a gift, why were you so exact about the measure that you made her ashamed?"  - On Hospitality 

I think Pope Francis understands the wisdom of the Desert Fathers.

I'm reading the Desert Fathers again. They need to be read again and again and again ...

Photo: Poodle in the wild.

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." - Proverbs 16: 9

I was inspired to do something for Lent in imitation of something I read in the Fathers, but I quickly found out I wasn't strong enough.   As a consolation, I'll post a story I like very much ...
"They said of Ammon that some people asked him to arbitrate in their quarrel but the hermit took no notice of them. So a woman said to her neighbor, 'What a fool this neighbor is!' Ammon heard her and called her, and said, 'You can't imagine how hard I have tried in different deserts to be thought of as a fool! But now you have recognized that it is part of my nature to be foolish and you have made all my efforts to pretend to folly pointless." - Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Desert Fathers: What to do about thieves who break in through your garage door.*

"When Macarius was living in Egypt, one day he came across a man who had brought a donkey to his cell and was stealing his possessions. As though he was a passer-by who did not live there, he went up to the thief and helped him to load the beast, and sent him peacefully on his way, saying to himself, 'We brought nothing into this world (1 Tim. 6:7) but the Lord gave; as he willed, so it is done: blessed be the Lord in all things.'"

*While there are a number of ways thieves can break into homes, one of the easiest ways is through the garage door.

Lent - what I'm doing for penance.

Clown ministry.

I can't tell you.

St. Therese and "Philomena".

"'If I had not been accepted in Carmel, I would have entered a Refuge (for fallen women) and lived out my days there, unknown and despised among the poor penitents. I would have been happy to be taken as one of them, and would have become an apostle among them, telling them what I thought of God's mercy.'" - St.  Therese, from 'St. Therese By Those Who Knew Her'. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

God was definitely at the Academy Awards

Creative Minority Report blogger, Matthew Archbold mentioned Matthew McConaughey's acceptance speech for the Best Actor category last night, wherein he thanked God for the award.  Matt mentioned that not too many people thank God on air and that the response is often half-hearted.   Other writers have reacted to the McConaughey speech as well.

Acceptance speeches tend to ramble, people are excited and nervous - there's a teleprompter in front of them counting down time restraints, and so on.  People say dumb things, often really funny stuff - and they can get a lot of attention.  Now days, people tweet and re-tweet their reactions-comments-applause, since I'm not online, I have no idea what the responses were to McConaughey.  No big deal.  He isn't the first to thank God, and he wasn't alone doing so on Oscar night.

People often thank God for his gifts and graces - some publicly, some privately.  But no one.  No one does it better than African American actors and entertainers.  Last night Darlene Love thanked and praised God for the Best Feature Documentary Award for her work in 20 Feet From Stardom.  She not only thanked God, she praised him in sacred song, singing the first lines of the Gospel hymn: "His Eye is on the Sparrow."  She brought the house down!

God was at the Oscars.  

(The Pope didn't show up though.)

A Great American Saint - St. Katharine Drexel

The heiress who gave all she had.

Years ago I met a very good nun who told me she 'knew' St. Katharine, explaining they were both from Philadelphia.  The nun I knew was much younger than the Saint and I'm not sure of the circumstances of her meeting Drexel or if she had simply known her from sight, encountering her in public.  Sometimes we believe ourselves familiar with people whose reputation is familiar to us - without having come closer to them than a chance introduction or an occasional sighting in public.  My friend was from a very poor family in Philadelphia and entered a different congregation other than Mother Drexel's foundation, therefore I'm not sure how well she knew the saint.

Without my asking about what the saint was like, my sister friend shared reminiscences of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament with me. Speaking of St. Katharine, my friend became slightly critical of the 'heiress' - pretty much suggesting St. Katharine never had to suffer want and was able to finance the religious order and her mission to the poor with her own fortune.  I got the impression my friend was a bit envious of the saint.  Her attitude reminded me of the Gospel, "A prophet is not without honor - except in his own town ..."  Although my sister friend was a very virtuous nun herself - it appeared childhood poverty had left its scars.  

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Real-quick-like-Napoleon - before Vespers.

Cate Blanchett must win tonight.

She must.

SHE DID!  Best Oscars ever.  

Look at this from Paris fashion week - it looks like something Danielle would have put together when she was still a church-lady:

I know!

Pray for Ukraine!

So. Russia moved in a surprising way. Where will it lead?

The amazing headline: "Moscow catches the world off guard."
After the shock, the response. For two days Western governments clung to the illusion that Vladimir Putin would not ignore their concerns, despite the hour-by-hour escalation of events in Crimea.  - Source
People in the Ukraine are afraid.

NYT story here.

Pray the rosary every day.

Song for this post here.

Pre-Oscar buz! This just in ... The Catholic League Rant on 'Philomena'.

Debunking 'Philomena'...

Turns out it really is an anti-Catholic film after all...  Really?

Bigoted hi-lights from The Catholic League:
[A] film crafted by the English - The film smears the Irish Catholic Church
Coogan, Sixsmith, Dench, and Frears are all English, and Lee long ago adopted England as her home. Some things never change.
The gist of the story:
Philomena Lee got pregnant as a teenager and was sent to a convent...
Philomena, was tight lipped: she swore herself to secrecy, never telling her children what happened when she was a teenager. 
Alcohol changed that
(The author of Philomena) Sixsmith does not say whether Philomena was also bombed when they first met, though he says it was at a New Year's Eve party that same year. Lucky for her, she found an atheist willing to buy her tale.
Consider what happened: In 1952, a teenage girl with her illegitimate child gives him up for adoption because she cannot care for him. She does so of her own volition. In fact, the adoption papers clearly state, right below her signature, that she exercised her free will.
Just remember ...
The nuns were not tending to the cream of the crop.
But who cares about the facts when the goal is to smear the Irish Catholic Church? 
Philomena's son became a lawyer working for the Republican Party. But he lived a life of reckless drinking and sex, and died of AIDS
There was no meeting between him and his mother. 
Because he died.

Read the entire review debunking the film here.  Donohue does a good job placing the blame and shame right back where it belongs - on Philomena Lee:  "Those girls have nobody to blame except themselves." (Made up lines at the end of the film - which was not a documentary BTW.)

The real Philomena meeting Pope Francis.
Not that it makes any difference.

UPDATE 3/2/14

Put aside everything you have read about the film Philomena and please read this review on Catholic Commentary: Thoughts On "Philomena".  It is wonderful.  I picked up the following on the blog, a quote from Frank Duff on allowing unwed mothers to keep their babies "Thus began a revolutionary system for assisting lone mothers to keep their children.":
The depth of Frank Duff's feelings in favour of enabling single mothers to successfully keep the care of their children is revealed in a letter written in 1970, forty years after the opening of the hostel, (the Regina Coeli hostel operated in Dublin by the Legion of Mary), a letter which has earlier recognised the opposition to its work.
"I find it a little difficult in my own mind to make a broad differentiation between the determined separating of the unmarried mother from her child and the relieving of the unmarried mother from her unwanted child by way of abortion. Deep down it seems to me that those two processes have an identical root. This root would be the denial of the fact that a spiritual relationship of the supremest order exists between a mother and her child, inclusive of the unborn child." - CC