Thursday, December 14, 2017

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

Can woman become a monk?

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

Catholics have a lot of rules.

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

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

Once upon a time ...

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

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

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

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

Once upon a time.

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

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

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

As for transgender saints ...

I came across this story on Venerable Juana de la Cruz:  "Juana was born to farmers in the Spanish village of Azaña (today: Numancia de la Sagra) in Spain on May 3, 1481. She would later tell her community that God had been originally fashioning her as a male in the womb of her mother, but upon the intervention of the Blessed Virgin, she was changed into a female. As proof of this miracle, Juana pointed to her Adam’s Apple (in Spanish “nuez … en la garganta,” literally “nut in the throat”), as evidence of divine intervention. By the time she was 15, her family had identified a man to espouse her, but Juana would have nothing of this plan. Instead, she dressed in men’s clothing and fled her family home, walking to a community of women religious to begin a new life for herself. Each March, Christians continue to recreate her journey annually, going to Cubas de la Sagra (near Madrid) to visit the convent of “Santa Juana” -- officially known as the Convent of Santa María de la Cruz." - More here.

Isn't that queer?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Great Sign ...

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Santa Casa Loreto

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

Our Lady of Loreto, pray for us.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

St. Juanito Dieguito ...

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

Our Lady called him Juanito Dieguito.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 08, 2017

Pope Francis at La Colonna della Immacolata

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis at Piazza di Spagna

The conversion of Ratisbonne.

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

Conversion of Ratisbonne.

The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception - Gate of Heaven.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Dangerous liaisons ... 'The Dictator Pope'

Beware Catholic media and spokesmen ...

Robert Royal and EWTN are fundraising (that's like 'sweeps week' for media outlets - you need salacious headlines to attract an audience).  So, as I pointed out, Robert Royal is fundraising, as so many do this time of year, yet invoking the Immaculate Conception, and while insisting his publication is defending the faith, at the same time he's promoting a book by an anonymous author who takes down the papacy of Pope Francis.  I would suggest that no faithful Catholic read this type of anti-papist propaganda used to discredit Pope Francis.  This is what Mr. Royal had to say in the introduction to his revue of the book:

This is an all too brief account of a remarkable new book on the pope, which is making waves in Rome and around the world. Fr. Gerald Murray, Raymond Arroyo, and I will discuss this and other matters in greater detail tomorrow evening on EWTN’s “The World Over,” 8 PM East Coast time (Check local listings for rebroadcasts and postings on YouTube). We began our year-end funding drive on November 8, and I’d like to end it this Friday, December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. You’ve already heard more than enough on this from me. - The Catholic Thing

I've already heard more than enough from Robert Royal and the rest of Catholic media detraction and calumny against the Pope.

Yesterday I came across a Facebook post linking to a Church Militant denunciation of the Holy Father, which has since been removed.  It appears to be only a matter of time before Church Militant bails on the Pope as well - I may be wrong.  Yet all of this criticism and so-called analysis based upon conjecture, rumors and gossip, propagated by disgruntled clerical-courtesans in the Vatican, does severe damage to the faith of ordinary people and those outside the Church who are being told that Vatican II and the Ordinary Form of Mass have destroyed the Church and led to apostasy from within the Church.   

Even with limp cautions to be careful reading "The Dictator Pope" - along with the dispensation of 'a need to know', one needs to recognize that the book will take on a life of its own and become embedded in the public consciousness, not unlike Cromwell's defamation of P. Pius XII in his book, "Hitler's Pope" has.   Fr. Z exonerates his promotion of the book with the following disclaimer:

It is not flattering. Some of it resonates with what I have picked up in my last visits to Rome and conversations with friends who still labor there. There is a really bad environment in Rome right now. The tension is so thick that you could cut it with chainsaw… maybe.
REMEMBER: Most of you do not have to read this stuff. Some of us do. Most do not. Be wary, in yourself, of the vice of curiositas. Yes, there is a kind of “curiosity” which leads to sin. - Fr. Z

 Yet Fr. Z endorses the book, suggesting he can vouch for it's contents stating: "Some of it resonates with what I have picked up in my last visits to Rome and conversations with friends who still labor there. There is a really bad environment in Rome right now."  This is what gossip is.  This is hearsay and gossip.

As Fr. Z said, most of you do not have to read this book.  He doesn't have to either.  No one does.  Fr. is correct in warning about curiositas - do as he says, not as he does.

Do not donate to these people.  They engage in gossip, hearsay, and detraction - if not calumny.  They are feeding scandal and division.

Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power 
with Your Son and our Liberator, Jesus, 
take into your hands today this knot.
I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all. 

Pray for the Holy Father.  Our Lady told us, "he will have much to suffer."  I always remember the vision of St. Jacinta Marto:

"I saw the Holy Father in a very big house, kneeling by a table, with his head buried in his hands, and he was weeping. Outside the house, there were many people. Some of them were throwing stones, others were cursing him and using bad language. Poor Holy Father, we must pray very much for him." - St. Jacinta

Consider Jacinta's vision in light of how the Holy Father is being treated today - especially by Catholics - and what he himself has been saying since the beginning of his pontificate.

"Only God knows the stories of those people who have given their lives, who have died, and continue to be stoned with the hardest stone that exists in the world: language.” - Pope Francis

Pray the Rosary every day.

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

St. Nicholas, pray for us, banish the storm and strengthen us in faith!

St. Nicholas Resuscitating Three Youths - Bicci di Lorenzo

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide ...

The Mass and the daily readings from Advent are novena enough ...

In the old days, when people didn't really follow the liturgical prayers and readings the way we do today, novenas in preparation for Christmas were very popular substitutes, so to speak.  They are still used, along with beautiful devotional prayers and considerations on the mystery of the Incarnation, but sometimes keeping up can seem burdensome for people not accustomed to novenas and all the extra prayers.

Since my return to the sacraments so many years ago, I was convinced the Holy Spirit speaks to the Church daily in and through the liturgy - especially the readings at Mass, but also in and through the psalms in the Liturgy of Hours.  (The Holy Spirit is not limited by that, to be sure.)  The psalms are the words used by Christ - they reveal his heart, heart speaks to heart as it were.  This is why I like to say that the Mass, the daily readings, are novena enough.  At least for me.

Today I was consoled by the words of Isaiah, "Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide ..."  To surrender our tendency to rash judgment based upon hearsay and gossip, to let go and believe, to allow Jesus to take care of everything, establishes us in peace. 

Listen now, ruminate upon what he says to us ... what more can we ask of him?
Turning to the disciples in private he said,
"Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it." - Luke 10: 21-24
Devotion to Our Lady of Light leads to Jesus who said, 
"I am the light of the world. 
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, 
but will have the light of life"
Read the history here.

This devotion seems similar to the devotion to Our Lady of Knots, perhaps because of its depiction of angels.  I am working on a retablo similar to the one shown above, praying as I do so.  

Monday, December 04, 2017

'But I have no obligation whatsoever. Moreover, our only duty is to become united to God.'

Considerations from the saints ...

Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding,
and those who find fault shall receive instruction. - Isaiah 29:24

'We should not be concerned about such matters at all. It is true that I would be of your opinion and act perhaps in the same way had I any responsibility in the matter. But I have no obligation whatsoever. Moreover, our only duty is to become united to God. Even if we were members of those communities which are being publicly criticized for their defections, we would be greatly at fault in becoming disquieted on that account.'" - "My Sister, St. Therese" - Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face

Therese to Celine: "You have no responsibility in the guidance of souls, so to set about instructing others, even when truth is on your side, is exposing yourself to danger unnecessarily. You are not called to be a Justice of the Peace. This right belongs to God alone." - My Sister St. Therese, by Genevieve of the Holy Face

“Do not ask God to save such and such a person, or to help this one or that, but ask him that you may love him, and that his will may be done. You must talk with him familiarly, and explain to him that you want to love him well, but that you can’t do it, that many things seem obscure and illogical to you, and that you would like to understand them a little better … and do not hesitate, all day long, to invoke heaven.- Jacques Fesch

"I prefer you to make mistakes in kindness than to work a miracle in unkindness," Mother Teresa wrote to her sisters. This was a principle she herself followed. It was precisely this attitude of being kindly disposed that led her to look at others' actions in a favorable light, to give them the benefit of the doubt or to overlook a mistake. This kindness made her approachable and sought after even by people whose opinions were opposed to hers. Such kindness that communicates love was what she demanded of her sisters: "Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. In the slums we are the light of God's kindness to the poor." - St. Teresa of Calcutta, Source

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Holy Father in Bangladesh

A Shrine dedicated to the Virgin of Pompeii at Raja Rampur, 
on the outskirts of Dinajpur, in Bangladesh, is a place of dialogue between religions.

The Holy Father dedicated his address to the prayers of the Most Holy Rosary.

In the church of the Holy Rosary, the Pope spoke to encourage the faith of the priests and religious of Bangladesh recommending devotion to the Holy Rosary.  It is a beautiful summons.
Christ’s compassion. The rosary draws us into a meditation on the passion and death of Jesus. By entering more deeply into these sorrowful mysteries, we come to know their saving power and are confirmed in our call to share it by our lives of com-passion and self-giving. Priesthood and religious life are not a career. They are not a vehicle for personal advancement. They are a service, a share in Christ’s own sacrificial love for his flock. By conforming ourselves daily to that we love, we come to appreciate that our lives are not our own. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (cf. Gal 2:20). - RV
I read an article on the Pope's visit at Zenit, which highlighted the shrine seen in the photo at top.  Even Muslims venerate this image of Our Lady, as the article points out:

“The devotion of Bangladeshis, Catholics, and Muslims, for the Virgin Mary has increased over time, and I am sure that, little by little, we will be able to promote meetings, collaborations, dialogue initiatives. The Virgin Mary can smooth the difficulties and obstacles put by men,” continued the priest.
Raja Rampuris is a prized destination to entrust oneself to the “Mother of God,” whose image is displayed also in Muslims’ homes and before which women, kneeling on a mat, pray calling her “Maryam.” - Zenit

I'm so happy the Holy Father's Apostolic visit was so successful.  It is reassuring to have the Successor of Peter confirm the Church in faith.

Today we get so caught up and distracted by those who spread fear and mistrust, those alarmed by the corruption of politicians and media personalities, and most especially those who speculate and warn about the 'apostasy' and the end times, as well as a Muslim invasion.  Perhaps they read too many articles from The Remnant or 1P5 and their thinking may be muddled?  They seem to be like those who love luxury, money, power and prestige.  Yet we have a humble Pope who confirms the faith of the powerless and weakest, and shows us the way of holiness, the conduct necessary in the dark night of faith, encouraging the prayers of the Holy Rosary as a means "to be more attentive to the Lord in prayer, meditating on his word and seeking to discern his will."

"The rosary fills us with joy in Christ’s triumph over death, his ascension to the right hand of the Father and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our world. The whole of our ministry is directed to proclaiming the joy of the Gospel." - Pope Francis 

Friday, December 01, 2017

Markets fall on ABC News report that Flynn is prepared to testify on Trump and Russia.

The false gods and the idols are falling ...

Single handedly Trump is isolating the United States, which explains why Putin wanted him in office in the first place.

Hopefully he will resign before starting a nuclear war.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

This is Christmas!

Angels surround the Word made flesh.

This is the perfect creche.   It is the focus, the center of the celebration - the Word made Flesh and dwells among us.  I wish our churches looked like this, I wish Mass was celebrated like this.

This is why I began to paint icons years ago, just when most of the images were removed from churches, and many of the altars desacralized.  I was trying to fill a hole ... I began collecting religious art and relics which had been tossed out and put up for sale online.  I looked for and began to paint Spanish Colonial and Baroque religious art. I was trying to replicate what had been removed from the churches; but even more deeply, I was trying to make present something only priests can do  - only priests can confect the Eucharist.  Only priests make Christ present among us as he truly was at Bethlehem, body, blood, soul, and divinity.

This is what we try to imitate at Christmas with our decorations and nativities - yet Christ is the Mass ... 'I AM the Bread of Life'.  The Mass is Christ's Mass.  We come to adore, to worship and to receive.  Our altars should reflect this splendor, this glory, that is Christ's Mass.

This is a splendid nativity
many of us would want,
yet we had it in our churches
when the Blessed Sacrament was 
reserved on a splendid altar
and the Eucharist was
celebrated in mystery
and beauty.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Spiritual Marriage of Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos, S.J.

Holy Communion is like that ...

There is a young saint - recently beatified, whose devotion led him to the most exquisite union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus ... the spiritual marriage. Yes. It is no less strange however, that the Word, left his Father, to become one with man, to become Bread from Heaven.

Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos, S.J., First apostle of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Spain.

I read someplace that Bl. Bernardo's intercession is especially helpful to those who struggle with the vice of impurity. I think Bernardo's devotion to the Sacred Heart - the complete surrender of all his affections - is an antidote to all impurity. The grace of espousal seems to me to be similar to the consummate love of Jesus in the Eucharist for us, wherefore he gives us his body, blood, soul, and divinity at every Communion. Isn't it like that? Isn't that total union what we are called to? I like to think so at every Communion - even when I feel nothing, see nothing, hear nothing - it seems especially then that faith supplies.

I never had experiences such as those Bl. Bernardo participated in - I'm just grateful to be able to be  recollected after each Communion. Knowing he is there and I am with him. I like the way Bl. Bernardo put it: “I see that everything in my heart is moving towards God, drawn like iron to a magnet. It desires only God, searches only for God, and longs only for God….” For Bernardo, that was his constant state - and he remained faithful to the graces he received. For me, perhaps this desire is only imperfectly experienced in the thanksgiving after Communion. Which is why I never want to waste those moments of recollection.

Always holding my right hand, the Lord had me occupy the empty throne; then He fitted on my finger a gold ring.... “May this ring be an earnest of our love. You are Mine, and I am yours. You may call yourself and sign Bernardo de Jesus, thus, as I said to my spouse, Santa Teresa, you are Bernardo de Jesus and I am Jesus de Bernardo. My honor is yours; your honor is Mine. Consider My glory that of your Spouse; I will consider yours, that of My spouse. All Mine is yours, and all yours is Mine. What I am by nature you share by grace. You and I are one!” - The Visions of Bernard Francis De Hoyos, S.J. by Henri Bechard, S.J. (Ed. note: I am unable to verify this quote.)

In the ascetic-mystical life of the saints, God himself purifies the soul of disordered passions in and through purifying trials and temptations.  Thus proving true Christ's words, 'what is impossible for man is possible for God.'  Blessed Bernardo was no exception.
Apart from being favored by mystical graces, heavenly visions and saintly visitations, Bernard also suffered excruciating attacks from demonic forces. As happens to those who arrive at the threshold of mystical life, he was not spared “the dark night of the soul”, through which he struggled for five months. 
During this period, the devils began to taunt him: “Now you will see, you sanctimonious hypocrite, what it is to trifle with God when you fall into His hands!” His mind was filled with images of God as a Just Judge, Who was displeased with him. Bernard became despondent. His meditation, Mass, Communion, penances… instead of assuaging his sufferings, made him feel more wretched. The great graces and favours he had received in the past months now appeared as objects of ridicule. He could not find comfort in his companions, either. The periods of recreation after meals degenerated into pure torture.
In despair, he felt a furious urge to beat his head against a wall, to gnaw his lips or tear out his hair, or even jump out the window. More, he was violently incited to blaspheme God, the Blessed Virgin, the angels and his most beloved saints. Whenever he begged God for assistance, the devil would taunt him by saying that he had become unworthy of any grace because of his degenerated behavior. Bernard’s biggest harassment was in the temptations regarding impurity; he was bombarded by obscene thoughts and his reactions brought him to tears and made him gnash his teeth. Worst of all, he was getting more and more convinced that all the divine favors he had presumed he had received in; the past were merely illusions and only snares set up by the devil to drag him to hell.
Through it all, the power of Christ stayed with him and prevented him from going to extreme measures. Thus, in reality, he did not ever say the least word or do the slightest action that would have surprised or shocked his companions. Nonetheless, he suffered continually day and night, especially during his prayer and while going to Communion. He was facing a period of the dark night of the soul”. - Source

Blessed Bernardo died on November 29, at the age of 24 in 1735.

Something to think about ...

"You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives." - Luke 21:19

“Across that threshold I had been afraid to cross, things suddenly seemed so very simple. There was but a single vision, God, who was all in all; there was but one will that directed all things, God's will. I had only to see it, to discern it in every circumstance in which I found myself, and let myself be ruled by it. God is in all things, sustains all things, directs all things. To discern this in every situation and circumstance, to see His will in all things, was to accept each circumstance and situation and let oneself be borne along in perfect confidence and trust. Nothing could separate me from Him, because He was in all things. No danger could threaten me, no fear could shake me, except the fear of losing sight of Him. The future, hidden as it was, was hidden in His will and therefore acceptable to me no matter what it might bring. The past, with all its failures, was not forgotten; it remained to remind me of the weakness of human nature and the folly of putting any faith in self. But it no longer depressed me. I looked no longer to self to guide me, relied on it no longer in any way, so it could not again fail me. By renouncing, finally and completely, all control of my life and future destiny, I was relieved as a consequence of all responsibility. I was freed thereby from anxiety and worry, from every tension, and could float serenely upon the tide of God's sustaining providence in perfect peace of soul.” ― Walter J. Ciszek, He Leadeth Me

So yeah - keep on embellishing the Third Secret...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Fatima Studies ...

For online conspiracy theorists Fatima really is about the sensational.

Even Monsignor Pope expected some sort of great sign.  Steve Skojec sums up the disappointment so many experienced after October 13, 2017:

Many Fatima devotees were, I think it’s fair to say, disappointed when the centenaries of each of the original apparitions in 1917 came and went with no discernible event taking place to mark the occasion. For my part, I have always believed that God prefers to be less predictable than this, though there is certainly precedent for divinely-ordered things happening on important dates and anniversaries. - 1P5
Just like the disappointment after the Third Secret was revealed - 'is that it?'  It was not enough for those who claimed to know more than the Church.  It's still never enough.

Catholic World Report published a decent interview with Kevin Symonds on the 'hermeneutic of conspiracy' which surrounds the Third Secret.  The interview is getting a lot of press since Symonds discusses a formerly unknown letter from S. Lucia to Pope Paul VI concerning the trials the Church was entering.  Most people who pray knew this at the time, therefore it appears Sr. Lucia was writing to assure the Holy Father of her support and prayers, rather than making some sort revelation of what was happening.  Paul VI surely was well aware, as can be known in and through several allocutions made by him.  Most notably, 'through some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church.'

Conspiracy theorists and false interpreters of all things mystical have incorporated these saying into their 'hermeneutic of conspiracy' to not only discredit Vatican II and the liturgical reforms, but to 'stir up' contention regarding the papacy and teaching authority of the Magisterium.  Today, not a few are even turning on Cardinal Mueller and Cardinal Burke - because they support the Pope.

I would recommend reading Symond's interview, as well as his book, the cover of which may or may not have been inspired by one small detail of my painting on the Third Secret.  (I wonder if anyone will see that?)  Anyway, it's a very good read, very well written, and covers all the crazy interpretations right down to the sources promulgating the propaganda. 

I have my own theory concerning the false and/or embellished secrets of Fatima - so popular among Fatimists.  It is actually related to Our Lady's prophecy that 'Russia will spread her errors.'  Today we have proof of how that is accomplished - those who admire Putin for it should be ashamed of themselves - but apparently they are blinded by their traditionalist ideologies.  Likewise, false apparitions and messages from Necedah, Bayside, and San Damiano in the 1970's have seeped into the mythology of the trad cult, and are widely accepted as fact.  Today, everything spread by these sources - 'Michael fighting' types who contaminated the Fatima message - is now propagated as the missing elements to the authentic Fatima message.  Hence all the screwed up interpretations and expectations we've witnessed this past year.  These false threads, once authoritatively refuted, have been woven together to discredit the Magisterium even further.  Somehow I think God must be gravely offended by those false prophets who do this.

In closing I will share this from the CWR interview with Symonds, discussing authentic sources as opposed to the sometimes politically motivated sources from France and North America.

Kevin J. Symonds: I have the distinct impression that the bulk of the scholarship on Fatima is performed in Europe. Not all of it is available in English, which is most unfortunate for the Anglophone world, as we are bereft of some excellent scholarship. That said, there is the critical documentation published by the Sanctuary of Fatima, which is available in Portuguese up to 1930 and extends to 15 or so volumes. There is hope of adding to this collection the post-1930 documents. Additionally, Dr. Cristina Sobral has presented the official critical edition of Sr. Lucia’s Memoirs. The Sanctuary of Fatima is also taking some steps to make solid scholarship available in English. 
My own contribution on Fatima came out of a desire to engage an influential body of literature that has largely emanated from France and North America. In the latter, there is the work of Father Nicholas Gruner and his Fatima Center, while in France there is the work of the Abbé Georges de Nantes and his Contre-Reforme Catholique. These two groups do not always agree with each other, but there was some collaboration between them in the 1980s into the 1990s. Later, in 2006, the Italian journalist Antonio Socci joined the discussions. There has not been much (if any) critical work addressing the body of literature published by Gruner and the Abbé, though there has been some response to Antonio Socci. My book is an attempt at providing a critical assessment of some contentious points that are generally common to all three. - CWR

As I always point out regarding this subject:  In Chapter 21 of Book II of the Ascent, St. John writes that God is displeased by the request for revelations and locutions, despite the fact that some believe their curiosity to know these things is good because God has revealed himself in this manner in the past. St. John asserts that God is not pleased, saying not only is he displeased, he is 'frequently angered and deeply offended.' Explaining:
The reason lies in the illicitness of transcending the natural boundaries God has established for the governing of creatures. He has fixed natural and rational limits by which man is to be ruled. A desire to transcend them, hence, is unlawful... consequently, God who is offended ... is displeased.
St. John goes on to cite several examples of God's displeasure from scripture. Now of course St. John is speaking of the illicitness of seeking knowledge of God through revelations and locutions, and in the cases he cites, these requests run contrary to God's will and are therefore sinful. As St. John explains why it was lawful to request signs and wonders in the Old Covenant, and why it is not expedient to do so in the New. 
We must be guided humanly and visibly in all by the law of Christ the man and that of his Church and of his ministers. This is the method of remedying our spiritual ignorances and weakness; here we shall find abundant medicine for them all. Any departure from this road is ... extraordinary boldness ... one must ever adhere to Christ's teaching. - John of the Cross
 There is nothing wrong with authentic scholarship and study to clarify the Fatima Message - just be careful of your sources. 

It was revealed recently that 
Pope Benedict used to get miraculous 
hang-up calls from Bayside.
What?  I'm kidding.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

The medal of the Immaculate Conception.

November 27 marks the feast of the Miraculous Medal, otherwise known as the medal of the Immaculate Conception.  Though the feast honors the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the memorial commemorates the anniversary of the apparition of the Mother of God to St. Catherine Laboure in Paris in 1830, wherein Our Lady showed the nun the medal she wished to be made for those to wear seeking her aid and protection.  The Blessed Virgin spoke to Catherine: “Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.”  Countless miracles followed, hence the name, the Miraculous Medal.  The story here.
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Paradise of the children of Eve, refuge of sinners, consolation of the afflicted, solace in sorrow, light in darkness, enclosure for the homeless, rest for the weary, health of the sick, gate of heaven....
Pray for us who have recourse to thee, and for those who do not have recourse to thee, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to thee. Amen
O Mary, may your holy and Immaculate Conception be my refuge, my anchorage, and the way that will lead me to God.  Amen.
O Mary!  By your Holy and Immaculate Conception, make my body pure and my spirit holy.  Amen.

The medal really is miraculous, hence the name.

As Our Lady instructed St. Catherine:

 St Therese used to sneak these medals into the lining of the coats of workmen who came into the Carmel to do repairs.  I have done the same - I also hide the medal in works of art which I make.  When we do this we pray the prayer on the medal for the recipient.  It's not a talisman or magic, but rather a blessed sacramental - a sign of Our Lady's presence and protection.  Our prayer for others is an act of faith and love united to the prayer of Our Lady, of the Church, of Christ who makes intercession for us.

 The story of St. Catherine here.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Something big ...

Never ever experienced that after Communion.

That 'existential dread' ...

Churches ought to provide free services.

Malta donation box:
"Help me become a priest."

No wonder so many priests don't like the Pope.

The other day commenting on the money changers in the Temple, the Holy Father said:
Churches "cannot be run as a business, with a price list for sacraments. Money is needed for the buildings? Give gratuitousness and God will do the rest” - Read the rest here.
Alas, so many are operating like businesses.

I've seen 'price lists'. I've seen recommended dollar amounts for 'stole fees' and other services as well.  Catholics have always made offering and made the recommended stipend for Mass or the sacraments, but it was always a free-will offering.  Of course things are slightly different these days, when even 'spiritual direction' has turned into a counselling business.  For laity who put out a shingle, that's pretty much to be expected, but I'm not sure it's a priestly thing to expect payment.  A gratuitous donation is certainly appreciated, but ...

Online I've seen priests with their donate apps, increasing their suggested monthly donation rate, one guy recently upped his from $5- to $10-.  Lately I've been barraged with professional marketing gimmicks, filling up my mail box with expensive mailings from Catholic Basilica's, religious orders, and other charities.  They send booklets, assorted gifts of note papers and personalized address labels, as well as rosaries and medals - all slickly packaged with pleas for donations. Some even follow up with a 'how did you like your gift?' letter, asking for a minimal donation to cover the expense of mailing the calendar and note pads, etc.. It was unsolicited in the first place - someone probably sold my name to them or their agency doing the marketing for them. 

This is the work of Catholic marketing groups - working 'for the Church' using secular marketing strategies - paid for by the charity or institution - with the promise of prayers for your donation. Strangely enough - in some cases, the donation may just cover expenses. They send out junk, unwanted kitsch. It's money changers business - figuratively in the 'temple precincts'. I see online marketers advertising to improve church fundraising with these nuisance strategies which guilt and manipulate people into giving.  

I prefer the Pope's vision for the Church. A poor Church supported by the devout and grateful who give out of love, devotion and thanksgiving.  Church support will be there - going commercial is not the way to get it.

Friday, November 24, 2017

How lovely ... to dwell abject upon the threshold of the House of God ...

A place of encounter with God 
This littleness has a special place in the Franciscan’s relationship with God, which must be humble and confident, like that of a child; but also aware of one’s sinfulness like the publican in the Gospel. One particular aspect of this relationship is the “spirituality of restitution” to God. We must recognize that every good we receive comes from God, the supreme Good, and that all good things must be restored to Him; and “we do this through praise and we do this when we live according to the evangelical logic of the gift, that leads us to go out of ourselves to encounter others and welcome them into our lives.” - Pope Francis

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Eating at the pet's table ...

It's a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A friend told me she was asked to bring the sweet potatoes tomorrow and I suggested she just bring a bag of fresh ones - uncooked.  Wouldn't that be funny?  Something fun to talk about at the table.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple

I look to the Orthodox to help us understand this sacred feast of the Blessed Virgin.

According to Holy Tradition, the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple took place in the following manner. The parents of the Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anna, praying for an end to their childlessness, vowed that if a child were born to them, they would dedicate it to the service of God.
When the Most Holy Virgin reached the age of three, the holy parents decided to fulfill their vow. They gathered together their relatives and acquaintances, and dressed the All-Pure Virgin in Her finest clothes. Singing sacred songs and with lighted candles in their hands, virgins escorted Her to the Temple (Ps. 44/45:14-15). There the High Priest and several priests met the handmaiden of God. In the Temple, fifteen high steps led to the sanctuary, which only the priests and High Priest could enter. (Because they recited a Psalm on each step, Psalms 119/120-133/134 are called “Psalms of Ascent.”) The child Mary, so it seemed, could not make it up this stairway. But just as they placed Her on the first step, strengthened by the power of God, She quickly went up the remaining steps and ascended to the highest one. Then the High Priest, through inspiration from above, led the Most Holy Virgin into the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest entered once a year to offer a purifying sacrifice of blood. Therefore, all those present in the Temple were astonished at this most unusual occurrence.
After entrusting their child to the Heavenly Father, Joachim and Anna returned home. The All-Holy Virgin remained in the quarters for virgins near the Temple. According to the testimony of Holy Scripture (Exodus 38; 1 Kings 1: 28; Luke 2: 37), and also the historian Josephus Flavius, there were many living quarters around the Temple, in which those who were dedicated to the service of God dwelt.
The earthly life of the Most Holy Theotokos from Her infancy until She was taken up to Heaven is shrouded in deep mystery. Her life at the Jerusalem Temple was also a secret. “If anyone were to ask me,” said Saint Jerome, “how the Most Holy Virgin spent the time of Her youth, I would answer that that is known to God Himself and the Archangel Gabriel, Her constant guardian.” - Finish reading here.
Troparion — Tone 4
Today is the prelude of the good will of God, / of the preaching of the salvation of mankind. / The Virgin appears in the temple of God, / in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all. / Let us rejoice / and sing to her: / "Rejoice, O Fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation."
Kontakion — Tone 4
The most pure Temple of the Savior; / the precious Chamber and Virgin; / the sacred Treasure of the glory of God, / is presented today to the house of the Lord. / She brings with her the grace of the Spirit, / therefore, the angels of God praise her: / “Truly this woman is the abode of heaven.”