Saturday, March 19, 2016

Solemnity of St. Joseph

Pietro Annigoni, St. Joseph and the Christ Child in the Carpentry Workshop, 1963. 
Fresco, San Lorenzo, Florence.

Happy feast day!

I like thinking of St. Joseph, wondering about him.  I'm not very fond of reading scholarly observations on what he was like or what he did, and all of that - simply because they are often too idealized, too perfect, too accomplished.  I rather like to think of Joseph in more simple terms, an honest man, a patient man - a quiet man - not so much silent, as quiet.  I love the painting I used of him, it's a detail of a larger work by Pietro Annigoni.  One can see St. Joseph's fondness for the child Jesus.  His intended touch, a caress, doesn't quite settle upon him, as the little Jesus works intently upon his little project.  Joseph and Mary pondered much in their hearts - the Gospel tells us that about the Blessed Virgin, and so it must have been with Joseph.  I think Joseph was very much restrained in his affections, in his speech, and so on.  I've met men like that - mostly monks - but some ordinary men.  They're often old ... often described as kindly ... they sometimes have watery eyes.

Sometimes I wonder if St. Joseph's feast is kept during Lent, frequently falling near to Holy Week because he 'missed' the Passion of his son.  I wonder if God arranged it thus to spare his sensitive soul from the sight of the suffering Servant, as Isaiah spoke of, a prophecy Joseph would have known about?  I say that because I like to imagine that Joseph was especially disturbed when the little Jesus was lost in the Temple - for three days the parents searched for him.  What anguish and sorrow must have filled St. Joseph's heart?  As father, protector, he could never let any harm come to him ... perhaps the artist who painted this image is telling us that? I wonder if this scene took place after they returned to Nazareth?  Joseph knew he couldn't cling to him.  Couldn't hold onto him.  Couldn't hold him back.

Love hurts.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Blessed Martyrs for Peace: The Four Missionaries of Charity Sisters in Yemen

Sister Anselm, Sister Reginette, Sister Judith and Sister Marguerite, 
pray for us!

The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee!

The Superior and another sister survived, explaining: “Who would have found the sisters’ bodies and who would ever tell us what happened? God wants us to know.”

New eyewitness details have emerged on the heroic witness of these nuns and their companions. Read more here: Eyewitness Account of ISIS Attack on Mother Teresa's Sisters in Yemen.

It is edifying and thrilling to read.  So deeply moving to read this: "Sr. Sally told Sr. Rio she is so sad because she is alone and did not die with her sisters."  In modern times, in similar cases, survivors expressed the same regret.  In other instances, those who fled had a change of heart and returned to join their fellow martyrs.  

+ + +

O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.

The Passion of Christ ... in real time.

The art of Jerzy Duda-Gracz, a Polish painter who died in 2004.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ordinary life and the Passion of Christ

Polish painter Jerzy Duda Gracz depiction of Christ before Pilate. 
The striking paintings of a Polish Catholic convert 
depict the Stations of the Cross, Jerzy Duda Gracz (1941-2004)

I think contemporary renditions of the Passion of Christ are important for us to understand the suffering of Christ - caught as he was between the politicians and spiritual leaders of his day - as well as the common, ordinary people whose allegiance and fidelity was as fickle and disparate as our own.

The agony, the arrest, the trial, the scourging, the condemnation, the death and burial - took place amidst much chaos, much clamor - people mocking, scorning, as they rallied to follow the events with a sort of lynch-party mentality - imagine a Bosch painting - revealing the ugly side of humanity.  The lies and hypocrisies exposed, the lusts and indecency out in the open.  

Yet Jesus walked in peace through the midst of them.

I think it is the same for Jesus, and ourselves, today.  The fighting - the competition between politics and religion and our social calendars and agenda; the betrayal of trust, the hypocrisy, the in-fighting, the name calling, vanity and greed, placing our trust in all that is not God, the lying ...

So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area. - John 8:59

We encounter Christ rejected, in the sin that wears a thousand faces.
How could we possibly have the heart to mock these people or to hate them, this multitude of sinners with whom we rub shoulders?
The solitude of God in fraternal charity; it is Christ serving Christ, Christ in the one who is serving and Christ in the one being served. - Madeleine Delbrel

He walked in peace through the midst of them. 

God's crazy love for us ...

So amazed is Catherine of Siena at the endless mercy of God that she calls God “crazy.” In her Dialogues she writes, “O eternal beauty! O eternal goodness, O eternal mercy! O crazy lover! You have need of your creature? It seems so to me, for you act as if you could not live without her. Why are you so crazy? Because you have fallen in love with what you have made! You are pleased and delighted over her, as if you were drunk with desire for her salvation. She runs away from you and you go looking for her. She strays and you draw closer to her.” - Source

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I've just about had it with all of this religious crap.

Then she said, "I can't take it anymore."

The Religious Communities May Be the Worst

Story here.
I knew one of these guys - 
I attended regularly at the parish he was at.  
I knew his pastor
at the time.
Doesn't make me an expert, of course.  

The 'worst' as regards cover-up and reassignment, that is.

Especially if they are dwindling communities.

I think it has always been like this.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Omaha Cathedral 'Flower Fest Rampage'

 I can't stop laughing ....

Is that a cappa magna?

Flower Fest Rampage....

Dismembered mannequins...
strewn down the steps.
Oh! The carnage!

+ + +

I wonder if Kenney was taken out through the Door of Mercy?

Well, it was amusing...

Holy St. Cecilia!

Church lady drag-ball fashions from Downton Abbey?

Yeah, I'm just the janitor -
I do the clean up work, that's all.
Just doin' my job!

For more photos of just how bad the presentation was, go here.

BTW: The figure I tied into Downton Abbey is more probably Dolly Levi from "Hello Dolly".  Could it be more gay?  I don't think so.

Another update:

Beauty and the Beast
"Some mannequins that are part of the show were toppled over, 
and several others tossed outside on the steps of the church, 
the Rev. Michael Gutgsell said."
"tossed outside on the steps of the church
I am laughing so hard!

I came across even more photos and this:
Show will go on... 
The Cathedral Flower Festival will go on as planned this weekend, despite some damage caused during an incident about 8:15 Friday morning, the church’s pastor said. 
Some mannequins that are part of the show were toppled over, and several others tossed outside on the steps of the church, the Rev. Michael Gutgsell said. 
Omaha police were contacted and a member of the cathedral maintenance staff was taken away by officers, Gutgsell said. 
The man offered no explanation, Gutgsell said. (That's not true.
The flowers, he said, were virtually untouched. The displays will be repaired for the show to open as planned. - Source

I was laughing so hard.  Fr. Gutgsell's letter to Mr. Kenney was weird:

In a letter of termination two days after the festival incident, Gutgsell wrote to Kenney: “None of the florists and none of the volunteers, any number of whom took time off their work or traveled some distance, had the slightest intention or reason to dishonor the Cathedral. You assigned the word ‘desecration’ to the entire project and as a result slandered anyone associated with it.” - Source

If only Christopher Guest would do a film based on this story.

Song for this post here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The devil made them do it ...

Jan Saenredam

Oh no he di'n't.

Today's reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel is excellent catechesis on temptation and lust.

Especially for those who 'struggle' with these types of sins - yet maintain a 'relationship' with the sources of 'their' temptation.  Although we know, as St. James said:  "each man is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire."  Lust.

The story of Susanna is all about that which is obviously very commonplace today. Sex-lies-social media: Lust, voyeurism-porn, soft-porn or 'Beefcake', covetousness, infidelity, hypocrisy, lies. How seductive is grace and beauty, vain rejoicing in natural goods.

The men lusting after Susanna were old, respected elders and judges, reputed to be religious. Their story helps to understand the 'stages' of temptation and sins of the flesh ...
They suppressed their consciences;
they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven,
and did not keep in mind just judgments. - Daniel 13
Religious men sometimes can do this quite easily.  Even if they are faithful to their religious obligations.  Say their Office, say their prayers, keeping up appearances, and so on.

The old guys - the judges in the story, suppressed their consciences - they wouldn't look to heaven, that is - they performed their prayers - perhaps - but they did not truly pray.  They did not pray in the midst of temptation - and no fear of just judgment for sin could deter them from following their lust. As the Prophet Daniel exclaimed: beauty has seduced you, lust has subverted your conscience.

That is exactly how we fall into sin - young men and old.

Gay Catholics would do well to consider this.  Especially when they flirt with temptation, occasions of sin, and most definitely sexually open-ended same sex relationships in intimate, exclusive friendship, and so on.

Today's meditation in Magnificat from Ven. Louis of Granada is also very helpful in understanding the 'treacherous vice' of lust ...
This treacherous vice begins in pleasure, but ends in and abyss of bitterness and remorse ... The more you indulge in these infamous gratifications, the more insatiable will be your desire for them, the less they will satisfy you.  It is the nature of these pleasures to excite the appetite rather than appease it ... - Ven. Louis of Granada

 ...each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 
- James 1:14

Justice and peace have kissed ...

Mercy and truth have embraced ...

St. Therese once told a novice - or another sister, who disagreed with her concept of merciful love, that if what she expected from God was his justice, that is surely what she would receive ...

This was Thérèse's discovery: what gives God joy is the power to give more than what is required by strict justice, freely, based on our needs and the exegencies of his nature which is Love, and not on our merits.
Thérèse felt acutely the tension of her surroundings, the opposition between her light, her needs, and what she saw being practiced around her . People kept score with God. When you stood before the eternal Father who was to judge you, he would look at your list of merits. You would have obtained so many indulgences, you would have so many merits, and your place would be assigned. For her part Thérèse said: I shall take care not to present any merits of mine, but only those of our Lord. As for me, I shall have nothing, I do not want to present anything, I prefer to let God love me as much as he wants." Then she added, "It is because of this that I shall get such a good reception." Here we have the heart of her teaching. - Bl. Marie-Eugene ocd - Carmel in the Desert

I often think of that these days.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

If you miss Downton Abbey so much, why not watch this ...


I still think I'm right about the fascist categorization ... and here's why 99 ...

Because Hillary and Bill and Barry have all been accused of being Marxist Communists and friends of Communists and, and, and, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Doran and the Weather Underground and Crosby, Stills, and Nash ... Won't you please come to Chicago and Hanoi Jane Fonda and Saul Alinsky - c'mon - that's kind of Russian.  So anyway - I grew up thinking the Left were communists and now people are trying to say they are fascists?  Really?  I don't get it.  (I wasn't a Political Science major, obviously.)

These conversations are kind of like the priest telling a gay guy that he, the priest, is SSA but doesn't inhale and then gives him his phone number and tells him to give him a call.  What?  Was that a bad thing to say?

So seriously.

I don't need to be right, I don't have to prove a point, I don't need people to agree with me - and I could even be wrong.  But you people who are so attached to labels and acronyms and party politics and movements and, and, and ... need to get your terms straight.  Yesterday I posted something of a 'profile' for why Trump (may be) is a narcissist.  I linked to a blog post whose author cited an expert who may lack a certain degree of academic credibility - it worked for me nonetheless.  I worked for a guy like Trump once - he was my vice-president.  The narcissist takes advantage of dictatorial powers, must be in control, must never be opposed, and so on.  So, I 'instinctively' recognized the mega-narcissism in Trump.  (Anyone who ever watched The Apprentice could, as well.)

That said, Mr. Vandelay - I mean Sam Vaknin,
a mental health expert and author, has studied over 600 hours of Donald Trump footage and made the harsh conclusion that Donald Trump is not simply a classic narcissist — he is, in fact, a “malignant and, probably, psychopathic narcissist.”
Vaknin says, the diagnosis for Trump is rather easy, although he does qualify that with the fact that no mental health professional can make a true diagnosis without lengthy testing and engaged dialogue with the person being diagnosed. But based on 600 hours of observation, Vaknin feels confident that Trump is a disturbed person. - Finish reading here.
'A disturbed person' - aren't we all lately.  Nevertheless, the traits fit - but who believes in stuff like that unless it supports their agenda?  Psychiatrists differ on such simple questions as, is homosexuality a mental disorder or not?  

Back to Tea With Mussolini.

I think it's because of some of the dowager nobility online (and offline - e.g. Mrs. Schlafly), who have come out for Trump that I was instinctively reminded of Maggie Smith's character, Lady Hester and her admiration for Il Duce, that I connected Trump to Mussolini style Fascism.  I came across a Salon article which helped support my theory.  (I know - I expect I'm not 'supposed' to agree with such articles.  Eyeroll.)

Trump may not be Hitler ... but ...

In an interview with Slate, the historian of fascism Robert Paxton warns against describing Donald Trump as fascist because “it’s almost the most powerful epithet you can use.” But in this case, the shoe fits.
Like Mussolini, Trump rails against intruders (Mexicans) and enemies (Muslims), mocks those perceived as weak, encourages a violent reckoning with those his followers perceive as the enemy within (the roughing up of protesters at his rallies), flouts the rules of civil political discourse (the Megyn Kelly menstruation spat), and promises to restore the nation to its greatness not by a series of policies, but by the force of his own personality (“I will be great for” fill in the blank).
To be fair, there are many differences between Italian Fascism of interwar Europe and Trumpism of (soon to be) post-Obama America. For one, Mussolini was better read and more articulate than Trump. Starting out as a schoolteacher, the Italian Fascist read voraciously and was heavily influenced by the German and French philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Marie Guyau, respectively. I doubt Trump would know who either of these two people were. According to the Boston Globe, Trump speaks at the level of a fourth grader. - Read more here.

To be really fair - I recognize the bias in the Salon article as well as the Vaknin analysis.  My point is that these articles resonate with me, they clarify for me my caution as regards Trump - which tends to accelerate every time I see crazed fans reaching out for selfies with the guy, or twittering 'hail Trump' tributes online.  People are certainly free to do that of course, but any credibility they had once before with me is diminished.  And if they think Pope Francis is an anti-pope or heretic, that's it - they have moved into right-wingnut territory for me.  We can still be friends of course, because I tend to love crazy people - although the self-righteous-churchy-types are more difficult to be around - ask any pastor.  But I digress.

So - to be fair - and I always am ...

A friend sent me a blog post titled, Wm. Bennett on Trump.  Now Bill Bennett is someone I pay attention to, and give a lot of credence to.  His observations make a lot of sense, especially in the light of what took place in Chicago this weekend - the protests to silence Trump and so on.

What I See Happening In a Trump Presidency
By Bill Bennett
They will kill him before they let him be president. It could be a Republican or a Democrat that instigates the shutting up of Trump.
Don’t be surprised if Trump has an accident. Some people are getting very nervous: Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Jon Corzine, to name just a few.
It’s about the unholy dynamics between big government, big business, and big media. They all benefit by the billions of dollars from this partnership, and it’s in all of their interests to protect one another. It’s one for all and all for one. - Source

Again - this resonates with me and is why I posted a photo of Trump with the Clintons last week or the week before.  Instinctively I have had the impression that there is little difference between Dems and Republicans - that it is a big machine.  Why else do you think abortion is still a civil right, that it is still legal?  But I digress.
(Bill Bennett continued...)

It’s a heck of a filthy relationship that makes everyone filthy rich, everyone except the American people. We get ripped off. We’re the patsies. But for once, the powerful socialist cabal and the corrupt crony capitalists are scared. The over-the-top reaction to Trump by politicians of both parties, the media, and the biggest corporations of America has been so swift and insanely angry that it suggests they are all threatened and frightened.
Donald Trump can self-fund. No matter how much they say to the contrary, the media, business, and political elite understand that Trump is no joke. He could actually win and upset their nice cozy apple cart. It’s no coincidence that everyone has gotten together to destroy The Donald. It’s because most of the other politicians are part of the a good old boys club. They talk big, but they won’t change a thing. They are all beholden to big-money donors. They are all owned by lobbyists, unions, lawyers, gigantic environmental organizations, and multinational corporations – like Big Pharmacy or Big Oil. Or they are owned lock, stock, and barrel by foreigners like George Soros owns Obama or foreign governments own Hillary and their Clinton Foundation donations. - Source
And the following echoes the sense of what I said above, as to why abortion is a sacred rite in our country:
Don’t you ever wonder why the GOP has never tried to impeach Obama? Don’t you wonder why John Boehner and Mitch McConnell talk a big game, but never actually try to stop Obama? Don’t you wonder why Congress holds the purse strings, yet has never tried to de-fund Obamacare or Obama’s clearly illegal executive action on amnesty for illegal aliens? Bizarre, right? It defies logic, right? - Source

*Ed. note:  First correction, 3/13/16 @4:36pm.

It turns out Bill Bennett did not say or write the above.  A reader posted a link to Truth or Fiction indicating the attribution is unfounded.  In fact - and thank God this is true, Bennett said he would not be okay with a Trump candidacy.
HANNITY: So you OK with a Donald Trump candidacy?
BENNETT: No, I’m not OK at all!
HANNITY: Why not?
BENNETT: Because I look at a man and the totality of his acts and his record and the things he has and stood for. And I think, probably, he’s not very principled in terms of his convictions anyway, except he, you know, is a businessman who does things his way, his own idiosyncratic way.
My apologies - I should have vetted the transcript I used.  The part about the 'establishment' just worked so well with what I was trying to say.

Note to self: Double check your sources.

Yeah, so ...

Chaos, indeed.

So this is what I can do.

Stop pretending.

I think everyone needs to do that.

I read a thing at Renew America, a priest suggesting Trump could change and become like Reagan - since people are already comparing him to Reagan - I guess...  The priest calls it hope.  It's strange to me because I've long not placed hope in any man, any political party, and certainly not in any Supreme Court justice - and this is where I come from, suggesting that the GOP has held pro-life Americans captive for years with their false promises.  Again I digress.

From Matt Abbott's reprint of the Ohio priest's essay:
    Many have compared this consummate capitalist-candidate to former president Ronald Reagan (may he rest in peace), who himself was seen as 'too much,' or even extreme, in the course of his candidacy.

    It appears that many, even among those of a conservative bent, have subconsciously relinquished much of their personal capitalistic, work ethic-related convictions. They have despairingly felt that our nation has crossed a line, or has gone beyond the point of no return, and that to restore a society which would basically recognize St. Paul's words that 'Those that do not work, should not eat' (2 Thess. 3:10) is hopelessly harsh and no longer sustainable. Hence, we see the fear that Trump causes in the hearts of such voters.

    There have been disturbing and legitimate Catholic concerns relative to Trump's affirmations of the work of Planned Parenthood and ambivalence relative to the attacks on the sacrament of matrimony, let alone toward sodomy-based lifestyles. Yet let us not be cynical toward the possibility of an evolving enlightenment of a candidate toward a more pro-life stance.

    After all, Reagan, while then governor of the hyper-progressive state of California, had signed into law in 1967 that state's abortion law. Yet he went on to become the nation's most pro-life president ever.

    Trump has adamantly promised to end the half-billion dollar annual funding of Planned Parenthood, has shown support for the First Amendment Defense Act (restoring religious freedom), and supports the repeal of socialized medicine (Obamacare), among other positive stances.

    So let's pray that Trump's enlightenment will continue in this promising direction. The general election is still many months away! - Source

Been there, done that. I did the same justification with Bill Clinton - I was as sincere as this priest.  You are trusting in men when you do that.  I think we are easily manipulated and misguided.  Go ahead - pray for Trump and all the politicians.  Pray for God's will to be done.  Vote for Trump if you want to.  It's all good.

Just remember: 
A king is not saved by his army,
nor a warrior preserved by his strength.
A vain hope for safety is the horse;
despite its power it cannot save.

As Dawn French might say:  "I'll never be a good conservative - but I might be a martyr if they killed me quick."

h/t to Ray for the Wm. Bennett piece.

A thought for Passion Sunday

In days of old, repentant souls trampled the world underfoot, left everything behind to seek God in the desert ... in solitude.

In our day, we are shown how to do this more practically.  In the midst of clamor and chaos, much like Christ experienced in the way to Golgatha - we can find that solitude in holy recollection, carrying within us the passion of Christ ...

We, the ordinary people of the streets, do not see solitude as the absence of the world but as the presence of God.
Encountering him in all places is what creates our solitude.
For us, being truly alone means participating in God's solitude.
God is so great that nothing can find room anywhere else but within him.
For us, the whole world is like a face-to-face meeting with the one whom we cannot escape.
We encounter his living causality right there on the busy street corners. We encounter his imprint on the earth.
We encounter his Providence in the laws of science.
We encounter Christ in all these "little ones who are his own": the ones who suffer in body, the ones who are bored, the ones who are troubled, the ones who are in need.
We encounter Christ rejected, in the sin that wears a thousand faces.
How could we possibly have the heart to mock these people or to hate them, this multitude of sinners with whom we rub shoulders?
The solitude of God in fraternal charity; it is Christ serving Christ, Christ in the one who is serving and Christ in the one being served. - Madeleine Delbrel