Saturday, April 14, 2018

Friday, April 13, 2018

Rejoice and be glad ...

The cloister of St. Camillus.

Picking it apart.

Not me, but many others seem to be.  Especially the contemplatives online.  Some complain the Holy Father dismisses centuries of monastic-contemplative tradition, objecting that the Pope "demeans the silence of monastic retreat, taking little digs at Cardinal Sarah."  These writers seem to be predisposed to read everything the Pope says as an attack upon tradition.  Albeit the exhortation is prefaced by the following provision:
What follows is not meant to be a treatise on holiness, containing definitions and distinctions helpful for understanding this important subject, or a discussion of the various means of sanctification. My modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4). - Guadete
It's an extremely pastoral document not intended to be a profound treatise on prayer and spirituality.  I receive it as a sort of 'little way' of holiness, for ordinary people.  The Pope specifically references ordinary saints, as well as the prayer of the Russian peasant-pilgrim on his way through villages and country, monasteries and cities.  While reading the document I thought of contemplatives who lived among men, ordinary people of the streets such as Madeleine Dubrel, Benedict Joseph Labre, Dorothy Day, and so on.  These holy people and many, many other saints would never feel their prayer life, their spirituality, or their devotion at Mass was threatened or compromised by the Holy Father's exhortation.  My goodness, the Holy Father is esteemed by contemplative monks and nuns in enclosed monastic life - his closest allies, as it were, are the Discalced Carmelites of Argentina.

If a good man reproves me, it is kindness.

The psalm celebrates the joy of being corrected, of being taught, of being reprimanded, yet many Catholics complain that the Holy Father takes 'swipes' at this or that person.  They seem to consider him as a sort of tyrant, or a bitchy, mean-spirited dictator.  They are convinced he's an abusive father.  I have never understood that.  I have to wonder if their spiritual directors and the formation they received was always complimentary, or maybe they see themselves already perfect?  When I get like that I always go back to John of the Cross in the section he writes about the faults of beginners, or Garrigou-Lagrange and his counsels regarding retarded souls.  Something is always wrong when we refuse correction and reprimands.

It is fine to have one's own opinion and to express it - but it is better not to be too attached to it, to become stuck in it.  To try and persuade others with one's personal opinion or bias, especially in an attempt to convince others that the Pope is so dysfunctional that he speaks in code and passive-aggressively disparages those he dislikes strikes me as a a problem a bit like transference neurosis.  People tend to project their bias and fears onto the other.

St. Catherine of Genoa

On silence.

I doubt the Holy Father was taking a swipe at Cardinal Sarah, much less denigrating contemplative monastic silence.  As a Jesuit schooled in the Exercises he surely knows and values silence.  What an astonishing claim that he is promoting the active life over the contemplative.  He is speaking to us about combining the two, the integration of the two - which is precisely why he cites ordinary people, sharing homely anecdotes to illustrate his point.  The intellectuals criticize it as banal, yet what was the hidden life of Jesus of Nazareth?  How very ordinary and mundane was the holy family-community life in Nazareth, which prompted even the disciples to ask, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"

How do critics miss the point of what the Holy Father is saying?  To whom he is speaking?  He is speaking to you and me.  Ordinary people:
To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. - Guadete

Integrating the spiritual life.

Since silence is so important for the holy ones who teach in seminaries, preside over digital parishes and write spiritual books and blogs, why do they listen to talk radio as they drive to and from the airport, the mall or the office?  Why do they have ipods playing hours of music, or listening to some web-authority's pod-cast on how bad the Novus Ordo is, or how Humanae Vitae is being undermined?  How early do these lay-contemplatives arrive for Mass?  How long do they stay in Thanksgiving after Mass?  How many hours a day do they set aside for prayer and meditation?  Just wondering.

Even in monastic life there is activity.  Yet I believe the Holy Father is speaking directly to ordinary people here.  Lay people, consecrated religious whose work can sap their strength, priests who smell like their sheep, or even the nursing home patient sharing a room with a talkative roommate, who needs the television on for most of the day or night.   Contemplative life is very practical and the Pope recognizes the need for silence and solitude.

29. This does not mean ignoring the need for moments of quiet, solitude and silence before God. Quite the contrary. The presence of constantly new gadgets, the excitement of travel and an endless array of consumer goods at times leave no room for God’s voice to be heard. We are overwhelmed by words, by superficial pleasures and by an increasing din, filled not by joy but rather by the discontent of those whose lives have lost meaning. How can we fail to realize the need to stop this rat race and to recover the personal space needed to carry on a heartfelt dialogue with God? Finding that space may prove painful but it is always fruitful. Sooner or later, we have to face our true selves and let the Lord enter. This may not happen unless “we see ourselves staring into the abyss of a frightful temptation, or have the dizzying sensation of standing on the precipice of utter despair, or find ourselves completely alone and abandoned”.[28] In such situations, we find the deepest motivation for living fully our commitment to our work.
30. The same distractions that are omnipresent in today’s world also make us tend to absolutize our free time, so that we can give ourselves over completely to the devices that provide us with entertainment or ephemeral pleasures.[29] As a result, we come to resent our mission, our commitment grows slack, and our generous and ready spirit of service begins to flag. This denatures our spiritual experience. Can any spiritual fervour be sound when it dwells alongside sloth in evangelization or in service to others?
31. We need a spirit of holiness capable of filling both our solitude and our service, our personal life and our evangelizing efforts, so that every moment can be an expression of self-sacrificing love in the Lord’s eyes. In this way, every minute of our lives can be a step along the path to growth in holiness. - Gaudete
St. Xenia

The hermitage within.

There is a prayer one can practice incessantly - it is the prayer of recollection, the practice of the Presence of God.  Even in the midst of much noise after Mass, one can be silently in communion with God whom they have just received - imitating the silent, loving action of Jesus in the Eucharist.  JPII knew that.  Benedict XVI knew that.  Pope Francis knows that.  It seems to me, Pope Francis is telling us to try it.

Read and listen with an open heart.  Allow yourself to be taught.  The Carmelite Doctors of the Church tell us that.

St. Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero
Smelled of his sheep.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Some new paintings ...

Blessed Miguel Pro
T. Nelson
8" x 10"
Acrylic on canvas.

S. Aloysius Gonzaga
T. Nelson
5" x 7"
Acrylic on board.

Wood Crucifix w/Juniperro Serra medal.
T. Nelson
7" x 5"
Acrylic on wood.

St. Sebastian
T. Nelson
8" x 10"
Acrylic on wood.

T. Nelson
5" x 9.5"
Acrylic on wood.

St. Francis
T. Nelson
5" x 9"

Our Lady of Light
T. Nelson
8" x 11"
Acrylic on wood.
Lapis lazuli and crystal.

I scanned the images and some of the panels have raised ornament which blurs the painted image somewhat.  These are a sample of the collection I've been working on since Christmas.  Nothing is for sale at this time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

And now, for something completely different ... Pope Francis admits he was wrong.

And asks for forgiveness.

The official inquiry into the Chilean Bishop Scandal has concluded and the Holy Father admits he was mistaken in his initial responses.  The Vatican Press Office has posted his letter, which other media outlets are reporting on.  The following is the 'Google translation' of a portion of that letter with a link to the Holy See.
Now, after a slow reading of the minutes of said "special mission", I believe I can affirm that all the testimonies collected in them speak in a stark, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and I confess that it causes me pain and shame .
Bearing all this in mind, I am writing to you, gathered at the 115th plenary assembly, to humbly request your collaboration and assistance in discerning the short, medium and long term measures to be taken to reestablish ecclesial communion in Chile, with the objective to repair the scandal as much as possible and restore justice. 
I plan to call them to Rome to discuss the conclusions of the aforementioned visit and my conclusions. I have thought of this meeting as a fraternal moment, without prejudices or preconceived ideas, with the sole objective of making the truth shine in our lives. On the date I entrust to the Secretary of the Episcopal Conference to make me reach the possibilities.
As far as I am concerned, I recognize and so I want you to transmit it faithfully, that I have made serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information. From now on I apologize to all those I have offended and I hope to be able to do it personally, in the coming weeks, in the meetings I will have with representatives of the people interviewed. - P. Francis

The secular news report here.

It's all very straightforward.
We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28
Prayers for the Holy Father - sharing his shame.  

Jesus the 'fundraiser'? Huh?

St. Lawrence Distributing The Treasures Of The Church 
by Bernardo Strozzi

Seriously, Catholics online are getting nuttier and nuttier ...

If we consider how Jesus started his ministry to proclaim the Kingdom of God, we learn two tips about fundraising. Yes, even Jesus collected funds, and he had a unique approach. [Matthew 23:23, Luke 8:1-3, Luke 10:7]
Before he dove into his mission, which included asking for donations, he did two important first steps that we should replicate. First, he paused to reflect on what he was going to do, and then he checked that his apostles were clear about what the mission was. - Source

This guy has a business, a sort of basic training for successful Catholic fundraising.  It's his job.  Fine - everyone needs to survive.  Jesus was not a 'fundraiser'.  Nor were the disciples.

"The community of believers was of one heart and mind ... "  Acts 4:32-37  It wasn't a business.

As the Holy Father has often 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.

Church people are leaving Facebook for other social media sites, subscription blogs and personal websites - making the announcement to make sure readership and donations continues.  One highly successful blogger-priest has increased his monthly donation app once again to $10.  These businessmen are highly critical of the Pope, the bishops, Vatican II, the Ordinary Form of Mass and so on - and they try to sell readers on their faithful commentary on Catholic teaching.  They are unashamed.  (Which is why I suggest avoiding many in Catholic social media and get your news from approved sources, diocesan news-sites and so on.)

Be careful of fundraising businesses.

I love to repeat how the Missionaries of Charity are adamant about no fundraising.  The Missionaries of Charity never engage in fund-raising. From an interview with Mother Nirmala, M.C.:
Q: What about financial means: food, medicines, material goods?

Sister Nirmala: Absolutely nothing is lacking. God provides-- everywhere in India as well as abroad. You know, that is the promise of God for us. When Mother started the society and Mother was called, she did not start on her own, Jesus called her to start this congregation. He wanted her to be poor and the poorest of the poor. He wanted her to be empty-handed and serve the poorest of the poor free. It is such a paradox, isn't? He said: I will provide. That was Mother did, and that is what we are continuing to do: trusting in God's Providence, serving the poorest of the poor, free. And God does it. His promise is fulfilled every day. All we need to do is to keep being faithful to our commitments, to answer the call of God, everything else follows.

Q: But Sister, what would you tell those people who are so afraid of lacking the "indispensable?
things every day, or those who want to possess more material things?

Sister Nirmala: Trust in the Lord and do your best. Let the kingdom of God in your lives and he will provide everything.

Q: How does the Order cope with all the financial and economical demands?

Sister Nirmala: By trusting in God, and he is providing. We never ask for things. People just come and give. Everywhere they want to carry out fundraising activities, we say: "Please don't
fund-raise; we don't want to use Mother's name. No."
We want people acting on their own. We want their spontaneous collaboration. But if somebody is going around fundraising in Mother's name, we don't accept it. We want to depend on God's providence--only. - Source

Remember, 'there is great gain in religion, provided one is content with a sufficiency.' - 1 Timothy 6:6

St. Lawrence Distributing the Goods of the Church
by Strozzi

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"You are a teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?" - Today's Gospel

The Serpent Lifted Up
People come bringing their defilement (stains) into the churches, 
and this is very good. 
But it would be even more in conformity to the spirit of Christianity if, 
more than that, 
Christ went bearing his presence into the places 
most defiled with shame, misery, crime, and affliction. 

"The wind blows where it will..." - John 3:7b-15

I would avoid the usual voices in Catholic media (Catholic World Report, 1P5, LifeSite, Church Militant, and most Catholic bloggers - even reputable Catholic academics) - they look for errors and have their minds made up as to what the Holy Father says or does and what he 'really' means. They think he speaks in code and they attribute all sorts negative meanings to every allocution and every exhortation.  CWR Carl Olson suggests the Pope is taking swipes at the likes of Cardinal Sarah when he speaks about how we (laity and active priests and religious especially) "are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action."  This is something S. Catherine of Siena and S. Teresa of Calcutta would have understood immediately!

These critics seem unable to step out of their 'paradigm' - aka 'bias' against Pope Francis. Let them stop their ears and tear their garments all they want - don't be angry or let them unsettle your peace.  Do not let their propaganda against the Pope discourage you.

Instead, keep your hearts open and your souls burning brightly, ever grateful for the light that is pouring into the Church. Pray very much for the Holy Father ... and 'rejoice and be glad'!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Eternal life ...

Lately I've been thinking very much about the Last Things.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in adoration praying.  It was Divine Mercy Sunday of course.  I pray always for my family and friends, especially those who are away from the Church.  Those who die without the sacraments I commend to Divine Mercy and Our Lady Undoer of Knots.  These days when everyone claims distress over so much confusion in the world and the Church, I am not confused about my need for Divine Mercy as transmitted through the Church and the Sacraments.  As the Holy Father pointed out, using the words of St. Therese: "The saints avoided putting trust in their own works: “In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you empty-handed, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justices have stains in your sight”.[60]

Having said that, I care very much for my friends and family who have left the Church - most of whom live or lived far better lives than I have. I grew up praying for my parents, who in the end died with the consolation of the sacraments.  For a Catholic the sacraments are the ordinary channel of God's grace, giving us good hope of salvation.  It is why we strive to be faithful and frequent the sacraments, and pray to be preserved from an unprovided death.  I may have not stated it very well, but it would be a serious matter to deliberately leave the Church.  I was always taught that and have always prayed 'for my brothers who are away'.

I went online to find something definitive regarding the fate of those who leave the Church and die.  I will post it just to remind Catholics who may think it is of little confidence.

Full Question 
If a Catholic converts to another religion, will he attain heaven? The debate in our family is that the Lord will still accept the fact that he is practicing a religion even though he converted. My answer to them is that he will not attain heaven, although how can I judge? 

Ultimately, you cannot judge since you do not know for certain the state of the person’s conscience. This does not mean, however, that you cannot or should not warn the individual against the gravely dangerous course of action he is undertaking. 
The First Vatican Council pointed out that in addition to intellectual arguments for the truth of the Catholic faith, God "confirms by his grace those whom he has translated into his admirable light [i.e., of the Catholic faith], so that they may persevere in this light, not abandoning them unless he is first abandoned" (Decree on the Catholic Faith 3).

Those who have embraced the Catholic faith are thus in a special position because of the extra grace they are given in maintaining their faith.
"The situation of those who, by the heavenly gift of faith, have embraced the Catholic truth is by no means the same as that of those who, led by human opinions, follow a false religion; for those who have accepted the faith under the guidance of the Church can never have any just cause for changing this faith or for calling it into question. (Decree on the Catholic Faith 3)" - Catholic Answers

So pray.  Pray, pray, pray.  Frequent the sacraments.  No matter what happens, no matter what your state in life, no matter your 'moral condition' or conflict with Catholic teaching - never, ever leave the Church. 

A proverb often mistakenly attributed to Luther, works in this case: "Katholish ist gut sterben." - "It is good to die Catholic."

The Feast of the Annunciation and the Call to Holiness

 I would like these reflections to be crowned by Mary, because she lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other. She is that woman who rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword. Mary is the saint among the saints, blessed above all others. She teaches us the way of holiness and she walks ever at our side. She does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us. Our converse with her consoles, frees and sanctifies us. Mary our Mother does not need a flood of words. She does not need us to tell her what is happening in our lives. All we need do is whisper, time and time again: “Hail Mary…” - Pope Francis

More Mother than Queen - S. Therese

I'll never forget when I was painting a replacement icon* of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for a church in Albany, Minnesota.  I was working intensely, finishing highlights, and it seemed to me Our Lady said, "I'm venerated as Queen, but when I lived on earth I was ordinary and did very ordinary things.  People need to know this."  I kept working of course, pondering the words, and considering how true they were, the Holy Family was very hidden, very ordinary, dutiful and very much part of the community.  They modeled the 'domestic church' but they were not isolated or self-sufficient, rather they were united, or incorporated into the Jewish community in which they lived.

I mention that because of the Holy Father's new Apostolic Exhortion, Guadete et exsultate, released today.  After a quick read, it strikes me as the jewel of his pontificate.  Many will discuss and critique the letter with great insight, but for me, I am deeply touched and thrilled that the Holy Father has articulated - or summed up - his 'little way' of holiness for the Church.  He answers questions, he completes the thoughts and aspirations of so many of the 'ordinary people of the streets' so to speak.  I can't wait to ponder the document in prayer.  What a wonderful gift to the Church on this Our Lady's extraordinary feast day.

An excerpt.
59. Once we believe that everything depends on human effort as channelled by ecclesial rules and structures, we unconsciously complicate the Gospel and become enslaved to a blueprint that leaves few openings for the working of grace. Saint Thomas Aquinas reminded us that the precepts added to the Gospel by the Church should be imposed with moderation “lest the conduct of the faithful become burdensome”, for then our religion would become a form of servitude.[64] 
The summation of the Law 
60. To avoid this, we do well to keep reminding ourselves that there is a hierarchy of virtues that bids us seek what is essential. The primacy belongs to the theological virtues, which have God as their object and motive. At the centre is charity. Saint Paul says that what truly counts is “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). We are called to make every effort to preserve charity: “The one who loves another has fulfilled the law… for love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:8.10). “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Gal 5:14). 
61. In other words, amid the thicket of precepts and prescriptions, Jesus clears a way to seeing two faces, that of the Father and that of our brother. He does not give us two more formulae or two more commands. He gives us two faces, or better yet, one alone: the face of God reflected in so many other faces. For in every one of our brothers and sisters, especially the least, the most vulnerable, the defenceless and those in need, God’s very image is found. Indeed, with the scraps of this frail humanity, the Lord will shape his final work of art. For “what endures, what has value in life, what riches do not disappear? Surely these two: the Lord and our neighbour. These two riches do not disappear!”[65] 
62. May the Lord set the Church free from these new forms of gnosticism and pelagianism that weigh her down and block her progress along the path to holiness! These aberrations take various shapes, according to the temperament and character of each person. So I encourage everyone to reflect and discern before God whether they may be present in their lives. - Gaudete et exsultat

Happy Feast Day!

*The original Perpetual Help image above the side altar was paper under glass, although it was  deteriorating, so the pastor commissioned the icon painted on wood.  I also made a crown studded with semi-precious stones and diamond chips, in the style of the Roman icon.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

His mercy endures forever.

"Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion." - Our Lord to St. Faustina

You will prepare the world for My final coming. (Diary429)

Speak to the world about My mercy ... It is a sign for the end times. After it will come the Day of Justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fountain of My mercy. (Diary 848)

Tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near. (Diary 965).

I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of sinners. But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation. (Diary 1160)

Before the Day of Justice, I am sending the Day of Mercy. (Diary 1588)

He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice. (Diary 1146).

For more information on Devotion to the Divine Mercy go here.