Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Gabrielle Van Der Mal's 8th Birthday!

Happy Birthday Gabs.

Her namesake.

Her patroness.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

You talkin' to me?

To people 'like me'?

A FB friend told me, "Don't kid yourself - the pope is talking to people like you when he talks about rigid Catholics."  I responded, "I always take what he says as if he is talking to me."  (I think I know what he meant when he said, 'people like me'.)

I especially take it to heart when Pope Francis says things like this:

“It is the best way to change the world - we change, the Church changes, history changes, once we stop trying to change others but try to change ourselves and to make of our life a gift.” - Pope Francis' two centerpiece messages for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

An old Christmas Story

The extraordinary account of animal behaviour that first Christmas.
Although it is not recorded in the Bible, the story of how the lesser beasts behaved at the birth of the Infant Jesus has been handed down through generation upon generation in the animal kingdom, and the stories have varied little no matter what country one finds oneself in. Humans only know the story from their pets, the cats and dogs many people consider members of their family. Of course animal behaviourists like to claim that the animals' stories had been adapted from watching their masters set up a creche in their homes, and that they overheard the tale while the family piously read the Christmas story to children.
Perhaps - but I tend to doubt it, for why would, say a wolf in the forest know the exact same story? Or a country field mouse collect fir needles to festoon his nest with every Christmas Eve, and bring out the pine nuts he had stored up, only to be enjoyed for the twelve days of Christmas? In fact, it is the mice and rabbits who seem to have the most accurate stories of all. Of course the cats never forget a detail, therefore they deserve a great deal of credit as well. The dogs know the story, and tell it to their pups, but otherwise they don't talk about it much, they prefer to lay by the hearth and simply ponder the story quietly.
Oh I know, I know. People think it is the other way around, that dogs are boisterous and talkative, especially little dogs, that they would yap and yap about the story repeatedly throughout the Christmas season. They will argue that cats are more recollected and contemplative - but that theory doesn't hold up in this case. You see the cats acted in a most peculiar manner that first Christmas, and they are quite proud of it, since they feel their reputation for being ferocious and devious creatures had been redeemed that night. I will tell the cat's version of the story here.
How the cats took part in the birth of Jesus..
On that first Christmas eve, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of the holy Virgin Mary - and before anyone else knew about it, even the shepherds, the stray cats of Bethlehem gathered around the stable. They were hiding in the hay and behind the sleepy ox, one kitty slept on the back of donkey because it was warm, a couple of others cuddled up against St. Joseph who seemed to be asleep - although most mystics insist he was really in ecstasy.
The holy Virgin was kneeling upon a fleece laid over a bit of fresh straw, off in a pleasant corner of the stable, protected from view by the large sleeping ox and a low wall made of willow. The Blessed Virgin was in ecstasy as well, when suddenly a great light shone, and upon the fleece was a lovely newborn Infant, glistening as if bathed in star dust. No sooner had He appeared than the Blessed Mother swiftly wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger nearby. As if from nowhere, the tiniest angels appeared, about the size of bees, encircling the newborn in the manger, while strains of heavenly music could be heard, along with the gentle singing of heavenly choirs.
Joseph awakened by the humming of the tiny angels, made his way very slowly into the enclosure, his head bowed, tears streaming down a face made radiant by the light emanating from the Holy Child and his Blessed Mother. He knelt next to his wife, adoring the Holy Infant. The ox noticed and rose partially, although just enough to kneel, facing the Holy Family. The donkey did likewise. The cats, naturally shy and accustomed to being shooed away, kept their distance until they noticed all the other little animals; mice, chipmunks, rabbits, gathering in awe at the foot of the manger, completely unconcerned about any sort of threat the cats posed.
Now, as you know, stray cats are always hungry and always looking for prey - which is why many people who dislike cats, tolerated them in the first place, since they kept their homes free of pests. Amazingly, albeit unnoticed by all, the cats simply watched all the critters assembling, it seemed to them it was a living banquet being laid out before their eyes. However, grandpa cat whispered that this was not the moment or place for feasting. He proceeded to explain to the other cats that they had all just witnessed a miracle:  Indeed, God Himself, our Creator, had come down that very night to live amongst men; first of all choosing to be with the animals, the least of the creatures of earth. Grandpa nodded to all the little animals who had assembled, particularly the mice, and reminded the other cats of the scriptures which referred to the Christ when it foretold, "In that day the kitty cat will lie down with the mouse." (Grandpa cat knew the scriptures because he sneaked into Temple every Sabbath. He quickly related how the Virgin would be found with Child, that her Child is the Redeemer and Saviour, who brings peace to all the world, renewing nature itself, and so on.)
With renewed confidence all the cats crept out of their hiding places, their attention rapt upon the Divine Child. The kitties were neither distracted by the mice and other animals, nor were they a bit perturbed when the shepherd's dogs arrived... the atmosphere being so permeated with peace and joy that silent night. A few of the older cats cuddled near the Madonna and the feet of St. Joseph to warm them. As it was a very cold night that first Christmas, Our Lady picked up a very fat mommy cat and another beautiful Siamese cat, placing them gently near the Child Jesus, to help warm Him and console Him by their purring.
The End

Sunday, December 22, 2019

A New Christmas Story

Chapter Two

One day last week, before Saturday, but after Thursday, I went out to the grocery store to pick up a few things for the weekend.  The store was busy with shoppers.

As I turned to go down one of the aisles, I detected a foul odor - similar to a garbage dumpster, I looked at a customer as he passed by, to see if he showed any reaction to the smell, but he seemed not to pay attention.  I looked ahead of me and saw the source of the odor.

An old man with a beat up fedora type hat, a tattered overcoat, ragged, filthy clothes, pulling an old wire shopping cart, duck taped together, with a much used black garbage bag containing his 'stuff'.  In a sort of wire-basket attachment, I noticed some groceries, yet only a bag of Frito's stood out.

As I moved closer, the stench was more intense. Almost like moss and earth with a pronounced odor of organic decay.  I glanced to see his face but it was dirty, unshaven, his glasses so smudged I was unable to see his eyes.  I moved quickly to pass by, the odor was revolting.  At the end of the aisle, I stopped to look back, and saw him pass by other customers who seemed to be oblivious to the man, not even a reaction to the odor, which seemed to fill the aisle, much less the bizarre specter of his appearance.

I stood there for a moment, wondering what sort of apparition I had just seen.  Save for the fact I had seen the same man at the same store in the exact same circumstance last summer, I might have thought the man was a Dickensian ghost, whose appearance was some sort of warning to me.  His appearance reminded me of a character I sometimes pastiche from the work of George Tooker, into my own compositions.  That said, his visage was more frightening to me than it was repulsive.

I can't forget him, and have speculated upon his reality.  Did I alone see him, was I the only person to perceive the decayed effluvia which surrounded him?  Was he a hallucination?  An apparition?  Or was he real?  Could he be a sort of hermit dwelling in the reeds across the playing field opposite the store, along the shore of the lake?  Perhaps he's a sort of iuródivyi, or fool for Christ?  The holy fools, pilgrims and mendicants, were not sweet smelling and finely dressed - their poverty was real.  The poor today are real... was he real?

I am now ashamed I was repulsed by him, wondering if he needed help, or money?  I reasoned he must be known to the store employees, since no one seems to react to his eccentric demeanor.  By the time I got to the register, the man was gone, leaving no tell-tale scent behind.  I was unwilling to ask the cashier if he had seen him, not knowing how to describe him with an appropriate empathy, and without expressing any sense of dread.

It still haunts me, perhaps he is my personal ghost of Christmas future?  What if he be a portent of what is soon to come?  Is there more to it?  Or did I just imagine it?
Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold. - Hamlet, Act 1,5,740

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A New Christmas Story

Foxwood Tales by Cynthia and Brian Patterson

Chapter One

It was the Saturday before Sunday, and we were already afraid of Monday, because Christmas Eve was on Tuesday, and we thought we had to work that day, but we are retired and no longer work.

Today, instead of cleaning or getting the house ready for Christmas, I stared outside, waiting for the solar lights to come on at dusk.  The 'seed' lights are woven through an artificial garland of pine and woodland greens, with real pine cones, arching over the Madonna relief, mounted on the trellis.  It is the only light in the garden, until Sunday night, when the Christmas lanterns are lighted.

Inside, the Christmas tree is up, lighted and decorated of course, and Christmas candles in every window, although I need to tidy up, dust and clean, but I keep putting it off.

Oh look!  The solar lights came on!  Maybe I'll continue to stare at them for the rest of the evening.  It is so Christmassy!  The rabbits come out to look and marvel, along with all the other critters in the yard, while they weave the ivy strands into wreaths and garlands for their little cottages.  Since I enjoy watching the rabbits play in the garden, I've been putting off spraying repellent upon the hedge - which keeps the rabbits from devouring the bark.  They've trampled the snow, so it looks as if a series of guests had been wandering all over the yard and garden.  I prefer the snow to be undisturbed, but rabbits do as they please.

Perhaps the rabbits are trying to convey a message?  Maybe the messy snow is a reflection of the interior of my house?  I suppose I really do need to clean.

Which reminds me of a story I can't remember.  When I was little there was a children's book about a mouse who didn't keep house.  The home kept getting dirtier and dirtier until it blew up.  That's all I can recall, but I wonder if it blew up when she tried to light the oven?  I know.

I have to clean my oven too.

Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Today: "The Expectation of the Parturition of the Blessed Virgin Mary"

A little feast from the old Calendar.

The feast or commemoration seems to have originated in Spain, establishing the Marian character of Advent, if you will.  The Expectation of the Birth of the Lord, pondered by Mary ever virgin, Mother of God.  

This Feast, which sometimes goes under the name of Our Lady of O, or the Feast of O, on account of the great antiphons which are sung during these days, and, in a special manner, of that which begins O Virgo virginum (which is still used in the Vespers of the Expectation—see below, together with the O Adonai, the antiphon of the Advent Office), was kept with great devotion in Spain. - Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger

The Marian character of Advent.

The Expectation says it all, Our Lady expected the Messiah, as revealed to her by the Angel Gabriel.  It makes me think, how in our times we are in a sort of Marian era.  As if Our Lady is calling us to expect the Messiah, the return of Christ.  She exemplifies the conduct and disposition of soul we ought to cultivate in ourselves.  Full of hope, with a love 'beyond all telling', going within to meet him.  I don't know, of course, but it is good for me to take refuge in Our Lady.

"The Virgin, weighed
With the Word of God
Comes down the road:
If only you will shelter her." - John of the Cross 

From Marialis Cultus.

3. During Advent there are many liturgical references to Mary besides the Solemnity of December 8, which is a joint celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, of the basic preparation (cf. Is. 11:1, 10) for the coming of the Savior and of the happy beginning of the Church without spot or wrinkle.[11] Such liturgical references are found especially on the days from December 17 to 24, and more particularly on the Sunday before Christmas, which recalls the ancient prophecies concerning the Virgin Mother and the Messiah[12] and includes readings from the Gospel concerning the imminent birth of Christ and His precursor.[13]
4. In this way the faithful, living in the liturgy the spirit of Advent, by thinking about the inexpressible love with which the Virgin Mother awaited her Son,[14] are invited to take her as a model and to prepare themselves to meet the Savior who is to come. They must be “vigilant in prayer and joyful in…praise.”[15] We would also remark that the Advent liturgy, by linking the awaiting of the Messiah and the awaiting of the glorious return of Christ with the admirable commemoration of His Mother, presents a happy balance in worship. This balance can be taken as a norm for preventing any tendency (as has happened at times in certain forms of popular piety) to separate devotion to the Blessed Virgin from its necessary point of reference — Christ. It also ensures that this season, as liturgy experts have noted, should be considered as a time particularly suited to devotion to the Mother of the Lord. This is an orientation that we confirm and which we hope to see accepted and followed everywhere. - St. Paul VI, Marialis Cultus

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

There are four Marian Dogmas.

Virgin birth.

Do you know them?

Sometimes I wonder how many Catholics know the four Marian Dogmas. I expect those who want a fifth Marian dogma would know them well. It seems to me that they also know that Catholic Tradition has always recognized Our Lady as co-redemptrix and mediatrix - without making a dogmatic proclamation.

That said, there is one dogma that I truly believe many Catholics do not understand, receive, or accept. The perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As St. John Paul II expressed it:
"“Mary was therefore a virgin before the birth of Jesus and she remained a virgin in giving birth and after the birth. This is the truth presented by the New Testament texts, and which was expressed both by the Fifth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 553, which speaks of Mary as ‘ever virgin’, and also by the Lateran Council in 649, which teaches that ‘the mother of God…Mary…conceived [her Son] through the power of the Holy Spirit without human intervention, and in giving birth to him, her virginity remained incorrupted, and even after the birth her virginity remained intact.” - General Audience of Jan 28 1987
These are the four Marian Dogmas:

The Divine Motherhood; Mother of God.
Perpetual Virginity; virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus.
Immaculate Conception; Our Lady was conceived without original sin.
Assumption of the BVM; Our Lady was raised body and soul into heaven, she did not undergo the corruption of the tomb.

This is our faith.

Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
who remains the accessible Gateway of Heaven,
and Star of the Sea,
Give aid to a falling people
that strives to rise;
O Thou who begot thy holy Creator,
while all nature marveled,
Virgin before and after
receiving that "Ave" from the mouth of Gabriel,
have mercy on sinners.

Isaiah 7:14

Thursday, December 12, 2019


Just think, Our Lady appeared as the Great Sign in the Americas

Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, 
fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?
Rejoice, O Virgin Mary,
you alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world. - Little Office

La Guadalupana

Our Lady left a "permanent sign" as proof of her appearance. 

The inexplicable preservation of the tilma and mysterious image is considered miraculous.
I recall some Mariologists pointing to the apparitions at Rue du Bac to St. Catherine Laboure as initiating the Marian era of the Church.  It seems to me, the apparition and sign left by Our Lady of Guadalupe might have even greater significance.  Opening a new era, as it were, in the Church. 

San Juan Evangelita on Patmos, by Gregorio José de Lara y Priego. 
The Virgen apocalíptica depicted as la Virgen Morena, 
encompassing the tremendous mystery of the Immaculate Conception
and the 'Great Sign' seen by St. John in the
Book of Revelation.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The dead are very close to us in Advent...

Because we the living, along with the souls of the departed, await the coming of Christ together.

Don't over think what I'm trying to say.  Don't get all theological or dogmatic about it - especially who is saved or who is not, or where the departed are now. 

This morning at prayer the thought came to me that the dead are very near.  I thought of people I hadn't thought of for a long time, not just relatives either.  People I met briefly, or knew for a time and then lost track of - they come to mind.  Sometimes I think they need prayers, and I do what I can.  Other times I wonder if they are near to help me prepare for my own death.

They are near, I'm sure of it.  They go before us, we are left behind, but they encourage us to 'catch up' ... every Advent reminding us that together, we await our Savior.

Monday, December 09, 2019

The Immaculate Conception and St. Juan Diego

St. Juan Diego's feast day falls on the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at dawn on December 9, 1531.  Providentially, today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception as well.  The Blessed Virgin left her image imprinted on the Tilma of Juan Diego, miraculously preserved today.  The image resembles Spanish prototype images of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. 

"Know for certain, littlest of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of Heaven and earth." - Our Lady to St. Juan Diego

Escorted out ...

I guess they do walk around dressed like this.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Immaculate Conception

Hail, Queen of the Heavens, hail, Mistress of earth;
Hail, Virgin most pure of Immaculate Birth.
Clear Star of the morning, in beauty enshrined,
O Lady, make speed to the help of mankind.
Thee God in the depth of eternity chose,
And formed thee all fair as His glorious spouse.
And called thee His Word's own Mother to be,
By Whom He created the earth, sky and sea.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth

Died suddenly this morning.

He was a friend and my confessor for awhile.  He was a holy man.  He was only 59.

Bishop Paul Sirba has died

Dec 1, 2019
 With sad hearts, we share the following message regarding the sudden death of our beloved Bishop Paul Sirba that was sent out to diocesan clergy and employees this morning and which is being announced at Masses today.
Following is the message from Father Bissonette, who has served as Bishop Sirba’s vicar general:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is with an incredibly heavy heart that I must inform you of tragic news regarding our Bishop. Bishop Paul Sirba suffered cardiac arrest at St. Rose Church in Proctor, MN this morning, December 1st. He was rushed to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, where life-saving measures were attempted, but were unsuccessful. He was attended to by Father John Petrich who administered the last rites to him at the hospital. He was declared to have passed away at just after 9:00 A.M. this morning. Words do not adequately express our sorrow at this sudden loss of our Shepherd. We have great hope and faith in Bishop Sirba’s​ resurrection to new life, and have confident assurance that he will hear the words of our Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter in the joy of your Master.”
Arrangements for Bishop Sirba’s funeral Mass and burial will be forthcoming. Please pray for the repose of Bishop Sirba’s soul, as well as for his mother, Helen, and his siblings, Father Joe, Kathy, and John, and their families. Let us also hold each other up in prayer during this most difficult time.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord ...
- And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace ...
- Amen.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God ...
- Rest in peace, Amen.
Reverend James B. Bissonette
Diocese of Duluth 

Always Darkest Before the Dawn

The Immaculate Conception.

Hail, City of Refuge, hail, David's High Tower,
With battlements crowned and girded with power.
Filled at thy Conception with love and with light,
The dragon by thee was shorn of his might.
O Woman most valiant, O Judith thrice blest,
As David was nursed in fair Abisag's breast;
As the Saviour of Egypt upon Rachel's knee,
So the world's great Redeemer was cherished by thee.

In his book on Carmelite spirituality, Pere Marie-Eugene, OCD, points to Our Lady as our help and model in the dark night.  So many spiritual writers today refer to our times as a dark night of faith for the Church.  It seems so to me, and of course, with Advent, we are awakened in anticipation for the light of Christ on Christmas.  Our Lady is the dawn.

Her presence is quiet, and interior for those who live with her, and in her.  "This life with Mary and in Mary has thereafter its deep foundations in a purified spiritual love; it radiates exteriorly in continual and touching manifestations." (P. Marie-Eugene)  Yet Our Lady "does not dispel the darkness nor do away with the suffering" of the night.  The darkness is as it were necessary "for the purification and development of love."  Perhaps I'm unable to apply this intelligibly to the crisis in the Church and how it affects many of the faithful, but these considerations seem to help me.

Just as with the individual soul, Our Lady's interventions do not obstruct the Divine purpose.  As P. Marie-Eugene says: "Mary excels in intervening without disturbing the realization of God's design, without diminishing the salutory power of his light, nor the efficacy of his action.  She does of course intervene; but her manifestations are of a delicacy so subtle, so tender."  The author compares it to the episode in the life of S. Therese and the sweet smile Our Lady gave to Therese when she had been so sick.  

It seems to me that the reports of apparitions over the past decades can be seen in a comparable manner to the Blessed Virgin's interventions in the lives of the saints, who experienced the dark night.  Following her requests, especially those requests to avoid sin, keep the commandments and pray her rosary, is the way to find in her refuge and support in difficult times.

Hail, dial of Achaz, on thee the true Sun
Told backward the course which from old He had run.
And that man might be raised, submitting to shame,
A little more low than the Angels became.
Thou wrapt in the blaze of His Infinite Light,
Doth shine as the morn on the confines of night.
As the moon on the lost through obscurity dawns,
The serpent's destroyer, a lily amid thorns.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Feast of Our Lady of Kibeho

The feast day of Our Lady of Kibeho is November 28, 
the anniversary of the initial apparition to Alphonsine Mumureke in 1981.

"Although I am the Mother of God, I am simple and humble. I always place myself where you are. I love you as you are. I never reproach my little ones. When a child is without reproach in front of her mother, she will tell her everything that is in her heart. I am grateful when a child of mine is joyful with me. That joy is a most beautiful sign of trust and love. Few understand the mysteries of God's love. Let me as your Mother embrace all my children with love so that you can confide your deepest longings to me. Know that I give all your longings to my Son Jesus, your brother." - Our Lady to Alphonsine

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Medal of the Immaculate Conception.

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

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."
In 12 days the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  On the 10th, the feast of Our Lady of Loreto.  On the 12th, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Monday, November 25, 2019

For the Record - Pope Benedict on Pope Francis

"I must say that, unfortunately, those very bishops who oppose decentralization are those who have been lacking in the kind of initiatives one might have expected of them." - Pope Benedict
I saw this excerpt from Benedict's 'Last Testament' on FB and copied it on my FB page.  It is important enough to share, especially to contradict the anti-papist sentiment against Pope Francis.  Although, some now have turned against Pope Benedict as well, so what can I say?
A conversation broke out on Fr Angel Sotelo's Facebook wall about what Pope Emeritus Benedict thinks of Pope Francis and his papacy. As Fr Angel prudently points out, reports of certain media personalities citing "unnamed sources" should be taken with a grain of salt. Pope Emeritus Benedict simply is not the type to engage in proxy politics through intermediaries.
Moreover, as a prudent son of the Church and the only person alive besides Francis to have held the office of Roman Pontiff, any concerns Pope Benedict did have he likely would express privately to Francis, Fr Angelo suggests.
I agree with Fr Angel. Pope Benedict simply is not the type to speak behind his successor's back. Having always served God and the Church before himself, the pope emeritus would save any thoughts for private conversation between the two pontiffs.
That being said, Pope Emeritus Benedict did break his post-retirement silence with his longtime papal biographer and interviewer Peter Seewald. Their last collaborative interview took place after Pope Benedict's retirement. It is published in English under the title "Last Testament".
In it, Benedict shares his following thoughts on his successor. They give pause to those who would pit the two papacies against each other--whether from the political left or the political right:
Seewald: Many things about Pope Francis are unprecedented. He is the first Jesuit Pope; he is the first to choose the papal name of Francis; and perhaps most importantly, he is the first Pope from the ‘New World’. What does that mean for the global Catholic Church?
Benedict: It means that the Church is flexible, dynamic and open, and that it is developing from within. That it is not frozen in old patterns, but that surprising things happen again and again. That it carries a dynamism which allows for constant renewal. What is so beautiful and encouraging, is that in our times most of all there are things that one would never have expected and that show the Church to be alive and full of new possibilities. On the other hand, it was probably to be expected that South America would play a central role. It is the largest Catholic continent, and at the same time it is suffering the most and facing the most problems. It has bishops who are truly great men, and – in the midst of such trouble and suffering – a profoundly dynamic church. And so in some sense I think South America’s day had come. The new Pope, though, is South American and Italian, so he represents both the intertwining of the new and old worlds and the inner unity of history.
Seewald: With Pope Francis, in any case, the global Catholic Church is losing its Eurocentricity, or at least its Eurocentric tendencies will weaken.
Benedict: It is clear that Europe can no longer take itself for granted as the centre of a global Church, but that the Church now truly appears in its universality with equal stature for all the continents. Europe retains its responsibilities, the specific duties it has. But faith in Europe is weakening so much that, on that basis alone, Europe cannot fully and solely be the driving force behind a global Church and behind the faith within that Church. And we are seeing new elements, such as African, South American or Filipino elements, bringing new dynamism to the Church which can reinvigorate the tired West, wake it from its exhaustion, from its forgetfulness of the faith. Particularly when I think of Germany – of the power of bureaucracy there, of how theoretical and political faith has become and how it lacks a living dynamism – which often seems as though it is nearly crushed by overweight bureaucratic structures, it is encouraging that other actors are asserting themselves in the global Church as well. In the end, they are missionizing Europe anew from the outside.
Seewald: If one says the loving God corrects every Pope in his successor – in what ways are you being corrected through Pope Francis?
Benedict: [Laughs] Yes, I would say, in his direct contact with people. That is, I think, very important. He is definitely a Pope of reflection as well. When I read Evangelii gaudium, or even the interviews, I see that he is a thoughtful person, who grapples intellectually with the questions of our time. But at the same time he is simply someone who is very close to people, who stands with them, who is always among them. That he is living in Santa Marta as opposed to the Palazzo is due to the fact that he wants to be among the people at all times. I would say that that is something one can achieve up there as well [in the Palazzo Apostolico], but it does show the new emphasis. Perhaps I was not truly among the people enough. And then, I would say, there is the courage with which he exposes problems and searches for solutions.
Seewald: Your successor is not perhaps a little too boisterous, too eccentric for you?
Benedict: [Laughs] Every person must have their own temperament. One person might be somewhat reserved, the other a little more forceful than one imagined. But I do think it is good that he approaches people so directly. Of course, I ask myself how long he will be able to maintain that. It takes a great deal of strength, two hundred or more handshakes and interactions every Wednesday, and so forth. But, let us leave that to the loving God.
Seewald: So you do not have any problems with his style?
Benedict: No. On the contrary, I approve, definitely.
Seewald: The old Pope and the new Pope are living on the same patch of earth, only a couple of hundred yards apart from one another. You had said you would always be at your successor’s disposal. Does he seek out your experience, your advice?
Benedict: In general there is no reason to. On certain topics he has asked me questions, such as on the interview he gave in Civiltà Cattolica.i OK, I answer him, of course; I express myself. But all in all I am very glad that normally I am not brought into these matters.
Seewald: So you did not receive Pope Francis’s first apostolic exhortation – Evangelii gaudium – before anyone else?

Benedict: No, but he did write me a beautiful personal letter which I received along with the exhortation, in his tiny handwriting. It is much smaller than mine. In comparison, my handwriting is huge. Which is hard to believe. Yes, very. The letter was very endearing, and so I did get his apostolic exhortation in a way that was special. And it was bound in white, as it normally is only for the Pope. I am currently reading it. It is not a short text, but it is a beautiful one, and grippingly written. Certainly not all of it by himself, but much of it is very personal.
Seewald: Some commentators have interpreted this exhortation as a break, particularly because of its call for the decentralization of the Church. Do you detect a break from your Papacy in this programmatic text?
Benedict: No. I, too, always wanted the local churches to be active in and of themselves, and not so dependent on extra help from Rome. So the strengthening of the local church is something very important. Although it is also always important that we all remain open to one another and to the Petrine Ministry – otherwise the Church becomes politicized, nationalized, culturally constricted. The exchange between the local and global church is extremely important. And I must say that, unfortunately, those very bishops who oppose decentralization are those who have been lacking in the kind of initiatives one might have expected of them. So we had to help them along again and again. Because the more fully and actively a local church itself truly lives from the centre of faith, the more it contributes to the larger whole. It is not as though the whole Church were simply dictating to the local churches: what goes on in the local churches is decisive to the whole. When one member is diseased, says St Paul, all are. When, for example, Europe becomes poor in faith, then that is an illness for the others as well – and vice versa. If superstition or other things that should not occur there were to fall in upon another church, or even faithlessness, that would react upon the whole, inevitably. So an interplay is very important. We need the Petrine Ministry and the service of unity, and we need the responsibility of local churches.
Seewald: So you do not see any kind of break with your pontificate?
Benedict: No. I mean, one can of course misinterpret in places, with the intention of saying that everything has been turned on its head now. If one isolates things, takes them out of context, one can construct opposites, but not if one looks at the whole. There may be a different emphasis, of course, but no opposition.
Seewald: Now, after the present time in office of Pope Francis – are you content?
Benedict: Yes. There is a new freshness in the Church, a new joyfulness, a new charisma which speaks to people, and that is certainly something beautiful.
Benedict XVI, Pope. Last Testament: In His Own Words (Kindle Locations 720-788). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

One day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. Ps. 84

Icon I did of the Apparition of the Mother of God at Fatima 
for Fr. Frederick Miller who had been the Director of the Blue Army 
in New Jersey at the time (1991).  The icon was copied and claimed to
be an original by the painter, and presented in Russia.
The World Apostolate of Fatima claims
no knowledge of the original I painted,
despite it was used as a cover for Soul Magazine.
Sadly, even Fatima apostolates can have
credibility issues.  A fact which causes many 
to dismiss the apparition and message as 
a thing of the past.

Living by faith.

Today many are once again interpreting private revelations, at times placing greater stock in mystical visions and locutions than what the Popes have taught since Vatican II.  As many Catholics know, visionaries and locutionists are followed unquestioned, their prophecies collected into a narrative to discredit Vatican II, the Novus Ordo, and even papal elections.  I'm not sure how many of these people will ever have confidence in papal authority again, much less trust any new conclave to elect a pope.  It is important to look to the Church to interpret private revelations and prophecy, which was done with the Fatima message, albeit, not a few Catholics believe is incomplete.  

It's time to repeat precautions by the great Carmelite Doctor of the Church, St. John of the Cross.

Visions and locutions, even though from God, can mislead us. 
St. John of the Cross in Chapter 19 of the Ascent lays out proof from Scripture on how this can be, for the sake of brevity, I will only high light a few passages to help explain the dangers and misunderstandings locutions can and do generate.
"We mentioned the two reason why, although God's visions and locutions are true and certain in themselves, they are not always so for us.  The first reason is because of our defective manner of understanding them, and the second because their basic causes are sometimes variable.
Clearly in regard to the first, not all revelations turn out according to the literal meaning.  The cause is that, since God is immense and profound, he usually embodies in his prophecies, locutions, and revelations other ways, concepts, and ideas remarkably different from the meaning we generally find in them.  And the surer and more truthful they are, the less they seem so to us.
We behold this frequently in Scripture.  With a number of the ancients, many of God's prophecies and locutions did not turn out as they had expected, because they interpreted them with their own different and extremely literal method."
The letter kills, the spirit gives life.
John goes on to cite several passages from Scripture, explaining why and how the recipients got it wrong and events turned out not as human nature expected.  John then explains:
"[...] Souls are misled by imparting to God's locutions and revelations a literal interpretation, and interpretation according to the outer rind.  As has been explained, God's chief objective in conferring these revelations is to express and impart the elusive, spiritual meaning contained in the words.  This spiritual meaning is richer and more plentiful than the literal meaning and transcends those limits."
[...] "Anyone bound to the letter, locution, form, or apprehensible figure cannot avoid serious error and will later become confused for having been led by the literal sense and not having allowed for the spiritual meaning which is divested of the literal sense.  ('The letter kills, the spirit gives life' - 2 Cor. 3:6)"

+ + + + +

"It is impossible for someone unspiritual to judge and understand the things of God correctly; and one is not spiritual if one judges them literally." - All quotes from St. John taken from The Ascent, Bk II, Chapter 19

Sunday, November 17, 2019

How to pray when you don't know how.

Or simply can't.

Remember, live in the Presence of God.  Recollection is a prayer which helps us to pray always.

A Simple Way to Pray Always
After my liberation many people said to me: “Father, in prison you must have had a lot of time to pray.” It was not as simple as one might think. The Lord permitted me to experience all my weakness, my physical and mental fragility. Time passes slowly in prison, particularly in solitary confinement. Imagine a week, a month, two months of silence…. There were days when I was so worn out by exhaustion and illness that I could not manage to say a single prayer! This reminds me of a story.
There was an older man named Jim who would go to church every day at noon for just a few minutes, and then he would leave. The sacristan was very curious about Jim’s daily routine, and one day he stopped him to ask: “Why do you come here every day?” “I come to pray,” Jim answered.
“That’s impossible! What prayer can you say in two minutes?”
“I am an old, ignorant man. I pray to God in my own way.”
“But what do you say?”
“I say: ‘Jesus, here I am, it’s Jim.’ And then I leave.” After some years, Jim became ill and had to go to the hospital, where he was admitted to the ward for the poor. When it seemed that Jim was dying, a priest and a nurse, a religious sister, stood near his bed. The priest asked, “Jim, tell us how it is that from the day you came to this ward everything changed for the better? How is it that the patients have become happier, more content, and friendlier?”
“I don’t know. When I could walk around, I would try to visit everyone. I greeted them, talked a bit with them. When I couldn’t get out of bed I called everyone over to me to make them laugh, to make them happy. With Jim they are always happy!”
“But why are you happy?”
“Well aren’t you happy when you receive a visitor?” asked Jim.
“Of course, but we have never seen anyone come to visit you.”
“When I came here I asked you for two chairs. One was for you, Father, and one was reserved for my guest.” “But what guest?” the priest asked.
“I used to go to church to visit Jesus every day at noon. But when I couldn’t do that anymore, Jesus came here.”
“Jesus comes to visit you? What does he say?”
“He says: ‘Jim, here I am, it’s Jesus!’” Before dying, Jim smiled and gestured with his hand toward the chair next to his bed, as if inviting someone to sit down. He smiled for the last time and closed his eyes.
When my strength failed and I could not even pray, I repeated: “Jesus, here I am, it’s Francis.” Joy and consolation would come to me and I experienced Jesus ­responding: “Francis, here I am, it’s Jesus.”
Venerable Francis Xavier Nguyên Văn Thuân
Cardinal Nguyên Văn Thuân († 2002) was imprisoned by the Vietnamese government for thirteen years. [From Five Loaves & Two Fish, Tinvui Media, Tr. © 1997, Edizioni San Paolo, Pauline Books & Media/The Daughters of St. Paul, Boston, MA. All rights reserved. Used with permission.]

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Life imitates art ... Fr. Z is the new Robert Langdon.

Z Map.

He's been connecting dots.

And they line up to a similar pattern as that found in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons - you know, the author of those books about the Illuminati who has pretty much been condemned by Catholics online as anti-Catholic?  Hmmmmm...

Illuminati Map.

For some time, as I hear about bizarre things going on in and around the Vatican City State, I’ve been trying to connect the dots.   This morning I connected literal dots just to see what a few of these strange things looked like, mapped out.
  • There was a horrible drug fueled homosexual orgy at the Palazzo Sant’Uffizio some years back.  That’s in the very building where the CDF and the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” are housed.  Where the Faith is defended and where Tradition is being fostered.  The CDF also handles the graviora delicta, abuse matters.  This is also very close to the a) place where Peter was crucified, b) the Synod Hall, c) the Casa Santa Marta (where Francis lives), d) the Basilica where Peter’s bones are.
  • A ceremony was held in the Vatican Gardens near the Museums where a tree was planted and an imam recited a sutra from the Koran that was intended to claim territory for “Allah”.  That video was scrubbed and the whole thing buried.  I recently went to that spot and saw the tree.  There is no plaque for the event, though all the other commemorative trees have a plaque.
  • A pagan ritual was held in the Vatican Gardens near the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.  A statue of Pachamama was venerated in a ritual way.  A pagan idol was venerated, in violation of the 1st Commandment.  This idol was ubiquitous during the Amazon Synod as were black bowls used in the rite to invoke that demon.   I know at least one priest who went to that place and recited Ch. 3 of Title in the Roman Ritual to exorcise a place.
  • Pagan symbols including many Pachamama idols with obscene dehumanizing photos were displayed in a church just up the main street extending to St. Peter’s Basilica, in Santa Maria in Traspontina.  There were regular ceremonies there to venerate the demonic idols over a period of a month.  An young Austrian man took some of the idols from this church and threw them into the Tiber River.
  • During the closing Mass of the Amazon Synod, one of those black bowls with a plant with red flowers, associated with the cult of the demon Pachamama, was placed – at the order of Francis – on the very altar of Saint Peter’s Basilica directly over the place where the bones of St. Peter are located. - Wherein Fr. Z Rants.
Alert the media.  Get the presses rolling - this could be bigger than those National best sellers, Deciphering the Da Vinci Code and the Gargoyle Code!  Get Ron Howard on the phone!  No!  Get Barb Nicolosi and Act Up - get a screen play and make this film.  What?

Fr. Z just might be made a Monsignor for this one.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

So. Viganò calls for the reconsecration of St. Peter’s Basilica?

Pachamama, a symbol of earth’s fertility for Andean cultures.

Yep.  Those are the words of Archbp. Carlo Maria Viganò.

Fr.Z links to the original story/interview from LifeSiteNews.  Methinks they protest too much - but who am I to judge?

I'm certainly not afraid.  As a fan and painter of Indigenous-Spanish-Colonial art, and since I have been influenced by Spanish mysticism and spirituality since my youth, as well as that introduced by missionaries in the Americas, I have great esteem for the indigenous elements documented in Roman Catholic iconography, much of which remain to this day.

The idea that a Pachamama image(s) was found displayed in Our Lady's Church in Rome, and carried along a Way of the Cross at St. Peter's, or was used in a tree planting ceremony in the Vatican gardens, hardly rises to the Abomination of Desolation level of apostasy.  St. JPII attended similar ceremonies in Assisi, kissed a Koran, among other actions, which always unsettled the settled.  My point is, to some extent these concerns are not new - the issue of inculturation and the fears of syncretism stretch back to Colonial times.  I will offer an example from Bolivia.

San Francisco, La paz
All photos for this post
are details of the 1700's facade.

The facade of the Basilica of San Francisco in the city of La Paz, Bolivia.
A plaque at the atrium of the San Francis church that is part of the market reads: “What began causing divisions, ended up uniting two cultures in a rich blend of cultures that marks the identity of this unique city.”
In LaPaz, Bolivia, in 1549, the Franciscan order built a church. It was rebuilt some 200 years later by indigenous people who had converted to Catholicism. In its baroque-styled facade, they carved in stone the head of a bull, a symbol of the colonizers, as well as Franciscan shields, and a bare-breasted goddess, who Mendoza says is Pachamama, a symbol of earth’s fertility for Andean cultures.
Anthropologists say that the indigenous would camouflage their beliefs under Catholic ones. That created a blend of Christian and ancestral rites, called religious syncretism. It is recognized by Bolivia’s constitution under the term “Andean cosmovision,” and it is widely practiced by many in the mostly indigenous South American country. - Source
Superstitious fears.

God bless the prelates and priests concerned about the confusion in the Church, but they need to stop stirring up fears of Satanism invading the sanctuary, and giving so much credence to powerless idols - who have mouths, but speak not, who are naked, but attract not.

As Pope Francis has pointed out since the beginning of his Pontificate, real idolatry exists in the world and is perpetrated by big business, politics, prosperity-gospel-preachers, and ideological colonization - by any entity well funded by their followers.  Entire nations, along with big business take part in infant sacrifice through legalized  abortion and imposed contraception, as well as human trafficking.  One ought not forget the role big pharma, fashion and pop-culture plays in the manipulation of gender-identity,  body-dysphoria - which is worse than any form of tribal scarification-mutilation and or tattooing to 'please the gods'.  The priests of Baal cut themselves to gain favor with their false gods.   Our generation is idolatrous to the extreme, we embrace these forms of pagan ritual in ordinary life.  Look how prevalent piercings and tattoos are even among devout Catholics. 

Just remember, Pachamama and many other pagan effigies hold places of honor on church facades and in the interiors of churches throughout Europe since Medieval times and earlier.

On April 23, 1758, The Basilica was officially consecrated - as it is.
Maybe someone might want to inform Vigano?