Saturday, October 14, 2017

On the Dissolution of Monasteries: Kloster Himmerod closing after 900 years.

This is sad.
A Cistercian monastery that's existed for almost 900 years in what is now western Germany is closing down for good, due in part to a shortage of monks.

The Himmerod Abbey was founded in 1134 by the French abbot Bernard of Clairvaux.

But it had just six resident monks before the closure that was decided this week. That's down from about 30 monks in the 1970s. - Vatican Radio
Modern times.

Catholics online will invariably point to the decline in religious vocations, especially monastic vocations, blaming the changes since Vatican II and especially the liturgical reform.  Save the liturgy save the world - save vocations.  You think.  I'm not so sure.  I'm not an expert, but I think the problem has more to do with modern times and affluence than liturgical ritual.  Monastic discipline and community life just isn't that attractive to younger people, when you can be just as holy living in a house with a great job as a single person - or a married man.  Why, you can even brew your own monastic beer right in your own kitchen.  You can travel at will, and do anything you want, and become a saint too.

I'm being a tad facetious, but I'm not the only one who thinks this way.  A friend directed me to a Crisis article on the subject of vocations by Br. Justin Hannegan, titled Sacrificing Religious Life On the Altar of Egalitarianism.
What happened to religious vocations? Some commentators blame heterodoxy within American orders. Others blame our glitzy, debauched culture. Still others blame a prevailing spiritual malaise amongst Catholics. But there is another cause for the vocations crisis that commentators fail to recognize: vocations directors, counselors, and authors, despite their best intentions, systematically undermine religious vocations.
Suppose that you are considering religious life. Today’s vocations counselors will advise you to search your heart for a desire to live religious life; and they will tell you that if you don’t find this desire you are probably not called.
The prevailing opinion amongst those who talk and write about discernment is that God calls men and women to religious life by placing an innate desire for religious life in their hearts. If you have no such desire, it is unlikely that you are called.
This advice, although it looks harmless on the surface, ends up thwarting religious vocations. Men and women who prayerfully examine their desires almost never find a strong desire for religious life lodged in the depths of their hearts. Religious life, in itself, is not a desirable good. Religious life is a renunciation. It is a kind of death. It involves turning one’s back on what is humanly good and desirable. 
Consider the life of a Trappist. A Trappist monk deprives himself of sleep, deprives himself of food, gives up a wife and children, puts aside the joys of conversation, gives up his personal property, rises at 4:00 in the morning every day to chant interminable psalms in a cold church, loses the opportunity to travel, and even relinquishes his own will. The thought of being a Trappist is not an appealing thought. It instills a kind of dread—the sort of dread that we feel when we contemplate a skull, or when we stand over a precipice, or when we look across a barren landscape. All forms of religious life have this repulsive effect. All forms of religious life, at their very core, consist of three vows—poverty, chastity, and obedience—and each of these vows is repulsive. The vow of poverty means giving up money and property; the vow of chastity means giving up a spouse and children; and the vow of obedience means giving up one’s own will. No one has an innate desire to sever himself from property, family, and his own will. No one has an innate desire to uproot three of life’s greatest goods. Such a desire would be mere perversion. - Read the rest here.

Religious life goes against nature, one sacrifices one's very self to follow Christ.  One has an innate desire for union with Christ, and to be sure, there is a universal call to holiness, but religious life is  total abnegation.  It's different.  It really is a higher calling, 'many are called' but few choose to follow.  I'm not sure the devil induces many to leave religious life, I think it may be man's concupiscence following legitimate goods, preferring a comfortable life to a difficult one.  As Hannegan said:
If we want to revitalize religious life, we need to rethink our methodology. We need to stop telling people to look within their hearts for an innate desire for religious life. They have no such desire. Instead of asking people whether they desire religious life, we should ask them whether they desire salvation—whether they desire to become saints. If sanctity is the goal, then religious life and all its harrowing renunciations begin to make sense. Although religious life is the hardest, most fearsome way to live, it is also the most spiritually secure, most fruitful, and most meritorious. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux tells us that because they renounce property, family, and their own wills, religious “live more purely, they fall more rarely, they rise more speedily, they are aided more powerfully, they live more peacefully, they die more securely, and they are rewarded more abundantly.” - ibid
It is too bad the abbey is closing, having survived the Reformation.  It will be transferred to the Diocese of Trier now, which isn't much of a guarantee for preservation.  Collectors of religious artifacts and antiquities might want to make inquiries.  Too sad.

Available for weddings and Mystery Dinner theater parties.
Hotel and spa opening soon.

Friday, October 13, 2017

High School Reunion

Dancing to the Beach Boys.

I'm glad I didn't go now.

Friends are posting photos on their Facebook pages and almost all of those photographed looked old.  I recognized one woman who maintained her youthful beauty, posing with some old guys I thought must have been faculty members - turns out they were students.  For the most part, I was only able to recognize one or two people I actually knew.  Then it dawned on me, I didn't really know that many kids at school in the first place.  Oh!  Oh!  And the lights were so bright.  I thought they could have at least kept the place dim.  Everyone looks better in dim light.

Not sure what was happening here.

Or here.  I don't recognize any of them.

Now I'm thinking I was never in their class - in more ways than one, I guess.  What?  I'm so kidding.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hollywood corruption and Trump-family values ...

Just some thoughts.

"They're all pigs." Katherine Hepburn said that in an interview years ago when speaking of Hollywood.

She would never have been surprised by Harvey Weinstein's sexual exploits which have made headlines this past week. It kills me that grown-ups in the United States appear to be so outraged. Just a week ago, most of the eulogies for Hugh Hefner pretty much condemned Hefner as the most wicked man who ever lived. We Puritan Americans really love to get on our high horse to condemn pigs - dead or alive - acting so shocked by their slutty behavior. Yet we elected a pig as president. As I noted a few days ago on Facebook:

Trump has made the presidency a prime-time soap like Dynasty. He's turned it into a reality show - after so many fell for this guy's shtick - and continue to do so. Everyone got on their high horse about how evil Hugh Hefner was and yet Donald Trump has been the Sorcerer's Apprentice all along, perfecting the art of deception. The Ken-doll of the American dream - he's glamorized adultery, and has used his women to enhance his celebrity, and now the first wives club are fighting over him like Crystal and Alexis on Jerry Springer. He stages everything and everyone around him like a cheap reality show. They live like European royalty, and pretend to that type of status, and are concerned only with money, power, and prestige - he's turned the presidency into a family business for personal gain and interest. Talk about defacing the flag, disrespecting our country - I'm ashamed of the entire family, I'm ashamed of the entire administration.

Yeah.  So I had a knee jerk reaction to Trump's wives twittering online, posting my own indignation on my Facebook page for all to see.  Yeah, well.  No one cares.

That said, many of us with or without a past could/should be ashamed of ourselves as well, acting all holier than thou about this stuff when it leads the news. It seems to me this is the definition of corruption - rotten to the core.  

I doubt these behaviors are limited to Hollywood executives and political leaders.  In fact we know they aren't.  It happened to me when I was younger and dumber working in visual merchandising.  Over the years, friends and acquaintances have told me similar stories - equally as lurid.  Men and women told me of their 'involvement' - sometimes they had been the predator. 

I'm not saying we can't condemn bad behavior when we see it or come to know about it, but we need to be honest with ourselves and others, and we need to stop being so annoyingly self righteous about it.  Religious people and secular people can be equally self righteous.  Lately secular moralists are just as bad if not worse than the religious people they condemn, hypocritically calling out their political opponents for their vile immorality.  It's called 'virtue signalling' - and on Facebook, it has a way of sucking you in.  

Facebook is dangerous.

We cannot manipulate God.

Many Catholics expect some sort of great sign tomorrow.

October 13 is the centenary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima in 1917.  The 100 years 'prophecies' have nothing to do with the original message of Our Lady at Fatima, the idea that something bad will happen if Our Lady's request weren't fulfilled just exactly like 'we' expected then to be.  The 100 years mark is based upon the the story of the consecration of France to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  It was delayed by a hundred years and voila - the king is dead and the French Revolution happened.  It's not 'wrong' to make comparisons and speculate that since times are bad - something worse may happen.  Or, why not something great and wonderful like a miracle - again?  It could happen.

I suppose - but is that how God works?

We want to call down fire from heaven, but is that what God wants?  Or should he do what we say and want and take revenge upon all the wicked?  Or should he make a miracle so that everyone will believe?  That happened at Fatima, and many, many believed.  Likewise many did not - and humanity went from bad to worse.  So much worse, that people refused to believe men were capable of such atrocities, so we now have people who deny the holocaust, or try to blame it on the devil - unwilling to believe men can do evil all on their own. 

We need to get real.

We need to stop putting words in God's mouth and inventing new messages from Our Lady and making ourselves out to be co-prophets.  I don't think that is what Fatima or the faith is all about.

It bears repeating ...

Keep the following in mind regarding Fatima and private revelations:

"What matters is the public message ... Sr. Lucia was charged not only to transmit a secret to the Pope, but also to make known to all the world a public message."  - Cardinal Ottaviani, 11 February 1967

Concerning the content of the secret, Sr. Lucia explained, "The part necessary for the people to know was already known since 1917."

So what was essential to be known was already known in 1917.
"This had all been said in 1917, that is, that men must amend their lives, that they must not offend God, that he is already much offended." - Sr. Lucia
Anything more, or demanding this or that be revealed, or waiting in anticipation for some Divine intervention to rapture the faithful out of a crumbling world, seems to me to border upon presumption and tempting God. 
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
In Chapter 21 of Book II of the Ascent, St. John goes on to say 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.' The following may well apply to the inordinate curiosity some have regarding the secret of Fatima, a morbid inquiry which may likewise displease God:
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. - John of the Cross
 It is also important to keep in mind the precautions of St. Hannibale Maria di'Francia:

My dear father, to consider any expression of the private revelations as dogma or propositions near of faith is always imprudent! The mistakes could amount to thousands. Poulain substantiates this fact with examples of saints we venerate on the altars. It is not surprising because the visions or the news undergoes some modifications while passing through human channels… Aptitudes and dispositions may not be the same: a psychological, moral spiritual, physical event can modify them, hindering the spiritual enlightenment from shining perfectly in the soul. Thus the person is unaware of circumstances, details or propositions, and is mistaken involuntarily. In fact, everything is received through and according to the subject.
This is proved by experience, by the mystical theologians, such as St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa, Castrotevere, Poulain, etc. By prudence and reason we cannot accept all the words of revelations as they were propositions near to the faith; still less when they are contrary to the authoritative opinion of renowned writers and to the simple, beneficial devotion of the saints. - Source

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Monsignor Pope: The times are urgent.

Now this is the commentary/homily on last Sundays Gospel I was pretty much looking for ... kinda-sorta.

I would like to reflect on Sunday’s parable of the vineyard owner to see its application to our times. Here is a brief summary:
A landowner set forth a vineyard with great care and lavish attention. He then entrusted it to tenant farmers. At harvest time, he sought his share of the produce. Yet instead of giving the owner what was due him, the tenant farmers refused, ridiculing, beating, and even killing the servants sent to collect his share. They end by killing the landowner’s own son.
When Jesus asks his audience what they thought the owner would do in response, they replied that he would put the men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who would give him the produce at the proper time. Obviously, they did not realize that in the parable the Lord was actually describing them, and that such a judgment would be upon them unless they repented.
This is not merely a story told to illustrate a moral point. It had an actual historical fulfillment and remains a “real-world scenario” even today. The vineyard set forth with love and great care was Israel. God was the landowner, who gave them the land, protected them with His law, and sustained them with His love and providence. The servants who called for the fruits represented the prophets. Jesus Himself is the son whom they kill. Even in spite of this crime, God allowed Israel 40 biblical years to repent and come to believe in Him, sending forth apostles, evangelists, and teachers to convince them. Still, there was a collective and obstinate refusal to believe in Jesus, the Messiah sent to save. So, in A.D. 70, God permitted the unrepentant people to wage a foolish war against the Romans. The result was that the Romans conquered Jerusalem, utterly destroying it and the Temple. According to Josephus, 1.2 million Jewish people lost their lives in that terrible war. 
The parable was a true warning of the destruction that was sure to come unless repentance and faith replaced the obstinate refusal to obey and believe. It is tragic that things were so bad that God had to act drastically in order to reset the moral and spiritual order, to and save even a few.
I would argue, based on prophecy, that we are nearing such a time now and that we must urgently pray for both mercy and repentance. The warnings and prophecies of Our Lady in the past one hundred years have become more urgent and even dire. - read the rest here.

St. John XXIII

John XXIII went as a pilgrim to the Holy House of Loreto
to pray for the Second Vatican Council.

The fires in California

All I can do is pray.

It is a terrible sight, an awful reality.  People losing absolutely everything - getting out with the clothes on their back in some cases. 

I'm not linking to any news stories just because it is already the top story everywhere else.  I wouldn't dare connect this to any type of prophecy - none of that makes any difference when one is in the midst of such devastation.  No soothsayers necessary.

Pray and get aid to those suffering - that is what is needed.

Our Lady of the Fire
Beata Vergine del Fuoco

O Lord, You miraculously protected and preserved the image of the Mother of Your beloved Son from the destruction of fire. Grant that through her merits and intercession, we may escape the fire of hell thanks to the fire of Your love. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Maybe something really is happening?

Our Lady of Candelaria by Cristóbal Hernández de Quintana. 
The shrine of the Virgin of Candelaria can be found on the island Tenerife. 
She is the patroness of the Canary Islands.

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
(Today's First Reading, Jon 3:4-5)

"I felt my spirit flooded by a light-filled mystery which is God and in Him I saw and heard: the point of the flame-like lance which detaches, touches the axis of the earth and it [the earth] shakes: mountains, cities, towns and villages with their inhabitants are buried. The sea, rivers and clouds leave their bounds, they overflow, flood and drag with them into a whirlpool, houses and people in a number unable to be counted; it is the purification of the world from the sin it is immersed in." - Sr. Lucia, 1944, Tuy

I think a closer read of the blog Unveiling the Apocalypse might help explain things.  Just a thought.

The author, Emmett O'Reagan connects the above quote from Sr. Lucia to a possible eruption in the Canary islands which has the potential to devastate the entire Eastern Seaboard with a killer tsunami.  It isn't far fetched, since it is also predicted by science.  Skeptic that I am, I came across this bit of news today - which segues with the Fatima centenary fears making the news this week, in anticipation of October 13th.

FEARS of a volcano erupting on the Canary Islands has sparked panic as the Spanish archipelago was hit by more than 40 earthquake tremors in just 48 hours. - Story here.
I don't know how reliable a source Express UK is, I haven't checked other sources, but the story did impress me that I might be wrong in my skepticism and that the rest of the world may be right... you know, 'is it just me'?

Something to think about ...

"But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'"

A poor person has a mysterious power: in his weakness he is able to open hardened hearts and reveal the sources of living water within them.  It is the tiny hand of the fearless child which can slip through the bars of the prison of egoism.  He is the one who can open and lock and set free.  And God hides himself in the child. - Jean Vanier

Monday, October 09, 2017

I know the guy in the middle

and the one on the right.

The relics of St. Charbel

I went to visit the relics of St. Charbel yesterday.

They were at St. Maron's Maronite Church in Northeast Minneapolis.  I was alone except for another woman in the church.  For a very long time I was able to pray quietly. 

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Mass Chat: I think the Pope is right.

It just might be the priest's fault.

Last evening I was at Mass and a kindly priest was filling in for the evening Mass.  He's from the seminary - an excellent priest, no doubt.  A family with young kids was sitting ahead of me.  I've seen them before - they are a large family and rather devout.  Two of the preteen boys were slumped over and or slouching during Mass.  One kid held his head with both hands, not that he was ill, he was totally bored.  I listened to the music, the readings, the homily.  The kid was right - the entire thing was so banal, so boring.  I normally don't pay any attention to how people act during Mass, I don't care.

I remain rather recollected at Mass so I never notice much, but these kids were right in front of me, I couldn't avoid seeing them.  So I put myself in their place and tried to experience Mass as they did.  The woman doing the readings flat-lined - which is fine.  The responsorial was well sung - but it really isn't a spontaneous responsorial when it's a rehearsed and conducted performance by the new music director with a really great voice.  (I know the place of the responsory, so I'm not suggesting it be spontaneous.)  The Gospel obviously echoed the first reading and the priest preached about that - at length.  Nice biblical commentary and very smart exegesis, with something about being judged in the end, but we should  have no anxiety about it.  In the meantime the boys were kicking one another without even cracking a smile.  They knew what to do all through Mass, because they politely greeted me at the sign of peace, bowed at communion, and so on.  So they went through the motions and couldn't wait to get out.

Please don't be angry with me - I'm neither trying to channel the pope or complain about priests.  I'm just reflecting on what I observed in the light of all the controversy surrounding the pope(s), liturgy, priesthood, and vocations.  I could feel the boys apathy, I could feel their boredom.  It really isn't the priest's fault - but I'm not sure it was the boys fault either.

So why did the tenants of the vineyard not cooperate with the landowner?

The priest reminded me of the priests and seminarians the Pope complains about.  Perfect decorum, devout Mass according to the rubrics, well prepared homily - perhaps a little too academic and a bit too long.  Nothing engaging.  Very safe - but no 'fires' started.  (If it had been the Extraordinary Form of Mass the kids maybe would have been curious, but unless the priest was on fire himself, the kids could have slept through it.)  Even when the priest is 'enthusiastic' and animated, very often it's more about popular catch phrases and chuckles than real life problems.  Last evening I half expected to hear something about the social problems in the world, anxieties people have about war and peace, not to mention some kind of instruction regarding the confusion in the church and the world.  Nothing there.  It seemed so perfunctory.

The Holy Father is right.  I am convinced that is why many priests don't like him.  He's never departed from Catholic teaching or proposed heresy.  People say he does, but it's a convenient criticism by those who don't like him in order to deflect his efforts at reform.  Even lay seminary professors feel challenged and insulted, which says to me there really is something wrong in formation.  Think about it.  Piously repeating 'save the liturgy save the world' anthems doesn't make a priest fervent or holy.

What the Pope said yesterday ...

Drawing inspiration from the bible passage in which the Lord says to the prophet Jeremiah: "Get up and go down into the potter's shop", the Pope explained that “priestly formation depends first of all on God's action in our lives and not our activities, adding, it is a work that requires the courage to let oneself be molded by the Lord, for it transforms our heart and our lives.” 
During his address the Pope stressed that if one does not let oneself be molded like clay by the Lord every day, he becomes a priest who is out of the office with inertia, without enthusiasm for the Gospel or passion for the People of God. Instead, Pope Francis said, the seminarian needs to be guided by the Lord, as the craftsman, being led to become more and more his daily disciples. 
The Church, Pope Francis said, “needs priests capable of proclaiming the Gospel with enthusiasm and wisdom.”
Finally, the Holy Father left the group with a question, “What do I want to be? A "priest in the lounge", quiet and well-arranged, or a missionary disciple whose heart is burning for the Master and the People of God? - Pope Francis

Just a thought.  I may be wrong.  I'm not picking on priests.  All the priests I know are on fire with the love of God and are above criticism and are living saints.  What?