Friday Five – Volume 87

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

Season Five of the popular television series “The Walking Dead” debuted last Sunday. It wasn’t watched in our house as we did away with our satellite feed eleven months ago. Here’s one popular blogger’s description of what I missed:

In the first half-hour alone, there were was a huge explosion and raging fire, four executions by throat-slitting, numerous shots of humans butchered for cannibal feasts, zombies eating screaming people alive, Rick shivving two people in the throat and then machine-gunning another four in the back, and Carol smearing herself with a corpse’s entrails. The second half-hour brought us the Terminus henchman threatening to snap an infant’s neck before being beaten literally to death by Tyreese, followed by Carol hearing harrowing tales of rape from another Terminus flunky before shooting her in the thigh and leaving her to be ripped apart by the undead. Oh, right — there were also more allusions to serial rape in the episode’s final minutes. Basically, the entire 60 minutes was a sneak preview of daily life in ISIS’s caliphate. A show that’s forever threatening to put you to sleep decided to wake you up by punching you in the face repeatedly, and I gotta say — I kinda liked it.

I’m quoting this not to condemn or criticize those who are fans of the show, but merely to synthesize what we feed ourselves. For full disclosure I should mention that I watched the abbreviated first season’s six episodes, but stopped watching about halfway through season two.

I feel compelled to ask: How can anyone deny that we are immersing ourselves in a Culture of Death when this, and other things like it are celebrated in our media and pop culture? We moan and complain that someone has to be held accountable or responsible for the downward spiral of our society, yet who is ready or willing to hold themselves accountable?

*****

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful,
or believe to be beautiful. 
—William Morris

I wrote this quote down recently in my journal having read it somewhere that I cannot remember. Morris is talking about our houses, but I think it also applies to our souls. It echoes what St. Paul wrote to the church members at Philippi:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

So with that in mind here are a few selected journal jottings from my recent retreat.

— 2 —

Imagine a clear, still lake. You can see a mirror reflection of the opposite shore and skyline in the still water that is as smooth as glass. Imagine a single, small pebble tossed onto the lake and the image being distorted by the ripple. The circular rings gradually growing in size and spreading over the mirror and disrupting the reflected image.

This is like the effect of sin on the human soul.

*****

Post-lunch: I’m sitting with my eyes closed on the patio behind the dining hall. There is nothing like the sound of the South Dakota wind—through the trees, leaves, tall grasses—nothing. It’s the same as it was when I was a small boy lying on my back listening under the big blue skies with the puffiest white clouds in a field on my grandparent’s farm with their dog Smokey sitting beside me as my arm rested on his warm back.

The silence is so loud.

patio at broom tree

*****

It was not nearly as dark inside St. Isadore’s tonight as it was two years ago. Has my “spiritual eyesight” improved?

— 3 —

Cadgwith
By Lionel Johnson (1867-1902)

My windows open to the autumn night,
In vain I watch’d for sleep to visit me;
How should sleep dull mine ears, and dim my sight,
Who saw the stars, and listen’d to the sea?

Ah! How the City of our God is fair.
If, without sea and starless though it be:
For joy of the majestic beauty there,
Man shall not miss the stars not mourn the sea.

I read the second half of this poem in the forward to a book I brought on my retreat. It was not identified, and a quick search on the internet revealed the rest of the poem, its name and author.

We do not need to be on a remote, rural retreat to experience beauty in God’s creation. It is our responsibility, however, to slow ourselves down. To talk to our Creator through the use of prayer. To listen.

We must find an oasis of prayer in our spiritual desert pilgrimage.

— 4 —

One of our final readings and meditations was on Luke 24:13-35: The Road to Emmaus. My scribblings and notes below.

“Stay with us.” (v.29)

“Stay with me.”

Commit to time with the Lord at some point each day. A mini-retreat.

Ask God to help me find time for that “oasis of prayer” each day. In addition to the Eucharist or in the Sacraments.

Where are those times I recognize the Lord?

When are the times I can’t see Him?

From “slow of heart” (v.25) to “hearts burning within us” (v.32). This is how it is for us if we are of the world too much and not making time for an oasis of prayer in our lives each day. The world dulls our spiritual senses and our heart slows. A retreat is one way to stoke the fires within again and cause our hearts to burn with love for our Lord.

I have been praying for God to grant me Fortitude, Wisdom, and Hope. This weekend he showed me how to have all three: Prayer. Deep, communal prayer.

— 5 —

#5 is a passage from a book I’m reading that combines two of my favorite subjects: St. Ignatius and the Camino de Santiago. The author is setting out on his trek accompanied by his wife Evie, and the company of saints he has asked to “walk” with him.

__________

Along with my chortling mother, I wanted to share the Camino experience with my younger brother. Growing up together I hated to share anything with the obnoxious, competitive creep. But then we did grow up and, as so often happens, became best friends.

Almost every workday Adam and I sent each other short e-mails, his from an office on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center in New York City. Regardless of the content of our messages, the subject lines always referenced Jack Daniel’s. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Adam’s message was cryptically entitled, “JDJDJackJDJDDanielsJDJD.” In it Adam noted that the account he was in the office early to work on that day “will be the end of me.” That fateful morning my brother and best friend, J. Adam Larson, became one of the casualties of the horrific terrorist attack on our country.

Ten years later, I continue to be consoled by words of Saint Ignatius, who considered all of life on earth a pilgrimage, with heaven as its destination.

If we had our fatherland and true peace in our sojourn in this world, it would be a great loss to us when persons or things which gave us so much happiness are taken away. But being as we are pilgrims on this earth, with our lasting city in the kingdom of heaven, we should not consider it a great loss when those whom we love in our Lord depart a little before us, for we shall follow them before long to the place where Christ our Lord and Redeemer has prepared for us a most happy dwelling in His bliss.

Keeping Company with Saint Ignatius: Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, by Luke J. Larson, pages 42-43.

__________

I, too, have come to see life as a pilgrimage. Many refer to it as a journey, and it surely is that. But there is a difference between the two. A journey is the act of traveling from one place to another. A pilgrimage is defined as being longer than a journey, with the destination being a sacred place.

In this life we may make several journeys. Not all of them will have an end destination defined and we’ll find ourselves simply floating on the stream of this life. I believe that every step (and even misstep) along the path is necessary and brings me closer to that sacred place in which I will share eternity.

I am a pilgrim.

A praying pilgrim.

*****

A Prayer for One’s Vocation in Life
Lord, make me a better person: more considerate toward others,
more honest with myself, more faithful to you.
Help me to find my true vocation in life and grant that through it
I may find happiness myself
and bring happiness to others.

(from The Manual of Prayers, p. 302.)

Same as it ever was

From the CERC comes this homily excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI:

temptationThe human being does not trust God. Tempted by the serpent, he harbors the suspicion that, in the end, God takes something away from his life, that God is a rival who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast him aside; in brief, that only in this way can we fully achieve our freedom. The human being lives in the suspicion that God’s love creates a dependence and that he must rid himself of this dependency if he is to be fully himself.

Man does not want to receive his existence and the fullness of his life from God. He himself wants to obtain from the tree of knowledge the power to shape the world, to make himself a god, raising himself to God’s level, and to overcome death and darkness with his own efforts. He does not want to rely on love that to him seems untrustworthy; he relies solely on his own knowledge since it confers power upon him. Rather than on love, he sets his sights on power, with which he desires to take his own life autonomously in hand. And in doing so, he trusts in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.

*****

I have met these people.

I know these people.

I have been these people.

I am, sadly at times, still these people.

Same as it ever was.

Sunset at Broom Tree

Saturday, September 27, 2014
Broom Tree Retreat Center – South Dakota

After dinner I spent some time preparing for and then made a good confession. I finished my penance in the chapel and then went outdoors just in time to watch yet another beautiful sunset at Broom Tree. While watching the large orange-red ball settle over the prairie I prayed Vespers, using a solitary bale as a table to hold my breviary. I sang-whispered the hour’s hymn and this excerpt was especially fitting:

The fiery sun is already going down.
Do You, light unending, blessed Godhead,
three in one, bring light to our hearts.

Standing with my back resting against a stack of large, round bales of hay I snapped a few photos after I finished praying. And then I decided to capture the last three minutes of the setting sun in order to be able to return to this place and scene again when I need or desire to revisit such a place and moment in time.

I invite you to watch along with me. Lean back in your chair (imagine it’s hay). Turn up your speakers. You will hear the chirping of crickets and the occasional buzz of a bug or two in the field. Feel the warmth of the sun on your face; at the same time notice the slight chill on your arms and legs as the sun’s light is only hitting the highest portion of your body as early autumn’s evening chill is setting in.

And now whisper: “Thank you, Lord, for this day. Thank you for bringing light into my heart.”

*****

hayfield sunset_2

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sts isadore and maria sunset

*****

vespers at sunset_3

Photo credits: the author

Enrolling in the School of Prayer

With age comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom. I’ve lived long enough to know that my hope lies not in political answers being provided to solve the ills of this world. Indeed I no longer believe man is himself capable of solving them. He simply is not capable of getting out of his own way.

As Msgr. Charles Pope wrote on September 30th:

At the end of the day, government cannot remedy our fallen tendency to be obtuse, rebellious, greedy, and licentious. It is really more the role of culture and the presence of a strong, prophetic, organized, and effective Church that must, by God’s grace, work to remedy the worst of the ills we face. The notion of a large government role in creating a just society is too easily a form of utopianism.

Monsignor Pope goes on to say that

“Fulton Sheen once remarked  that we have tried every means to change the world but one: holiness. Government cannot save us; only God can save us. And God works through grace and the transformation of the world—one soul at a time.

As one commenter in that article said: Caesar gives us license; only God grants us liberty. It is in wisdom that my experience has also taught me that I am, in fact, a Catholic first and am American second. I love my country very deeply. But if push comes to shove (and it appears that shoving is an integral part of the political landscape nowadays) I will stand with Christ and not with Caesar, no matter what political party he or she belongs to. I’m in full agreement with Heather King when she wrote:

I’ve hitch-hiked across my country; our country. I’ve driven back and forth across it twice. I’ve camped, hiked, and walked its mountains, deserts and streets. I’ve prayed on its freeways, wept at its beauty, grieved at its struggles. But, bound by the First Commandment, I don’t worship a flag. I don’t kneel before a political system. I don’t adore a military power.

I kneel before the altar in a Catholic church. I worship Christ.

I don’t believe that it’s a reactionary hyperbole to say that what I just wrote above can or will be used against me or my loved ones one day. In this age of endless war, unfettered government surveillance and drones flying over our heads can we honestly say otherwise? When the full force of the government can be used to force otherwise innocuous bakers into the courtroom where they will lose not only their business but their freedom by ordered into “sensitivity training” can we seriously say that there is no longer a risk to hold certain positions in this country and give voice to them? That is a world of “political truth”, which means only that the truth can change depending upon the zeitgeist of the day and whatever political party in power.

There are no political solutions man is capable of to alleviate the ills and injustices of our world. There is only holiness. There is only God. I can’t tell you for certain when I realized this. In fact, it was many years ago. But I didn’t accept it until the last year or two. It was then that my interest landed fully in the school of prayer. It was also then that I came to realize and accept the fact that living and professing a lifestyle of prayer will involve my learning to be more selfless and in a way selling myself out to this end. There is no other way to go but “all in”.

As I’ve written before I’ve been reading many books and articles on prayer for the past year. But I’m also doing it. Not just reading, thinking, understanding, planning or imagining myself praying. I am participating in prayer. In his book Prayer for Beginners (Ignatius Press, 2000) Peter Kreeft warns us to “not be like the theologian who after death was given the choice between going to Heaven or going to a lecture on Heaven and chose the lecture.”

I choose Heaven.

Too often anymore we say to someone who is in pain things such as “sending positive thoughts your way.” Or “sending you positive vibes.” Or “my thoughts and prayers are with you.” Of the three, the last one is the worst in my opinion because the first two are New Ageist poppycock, but if you tell someone you are sending prayers their way you should at least make an attempt to follow up on it. But we cover ourselves in a security blanket by adding “thoughts” to that phrase. We won’t pray for you, but we’ll think of you. Or at least we will until we scroll down to the next headline or social media post.

Then again, perhaps that’s why so many revert to the “positive vibes” nonsense. They don’t want to be held responsible for their actions or to get involved. It’s easier and less incriminating to type a flippant bit of folderol and move on.

The very definition of prayer is a conversation with the Creator of the Universe. If you tell me you are going to have that conversation on my behalf shouldn’t you at least follow through? Besides, every time I see someone is sending out positive vibes I imagine them doing this:

aquaman

*****

Below are some quotes I underlined in just the first four chapters of Kreeft’s little book. The pictures are from my visit yesterday afternoon to the Holy Family Shrine near Gretna, Nebraska on I-80. As you can see it was a rainy, overcast day. I’ve never been there during a sunrise, but I can tell you from experience that the sunsets can be nothing short of spectacular from that vantage point.

HF shrine01

Eating keeps your body alive, and prayer keeps your soul alive. Praying is more important than eating because your soul is more important than your body. Your soul is more important than your body because your soul is you, your personality, your self. You will get a new body after death, in the resurrection at the end of the world. But you will not get a new soul; you will only purify and sanctify your old one, because you are your soul. The “you” that will get a new body is your soul. (p.11)

HF shrine02

Why pray? Because only prayer can save the world. … nothing else can ever cure our sick world except saints, and saints are never made except by prayer. (p.14)

[Prayers] correspond to our three deepest needs, the fundamental needs of the three powers of our soul: prayer gives truth to our mind, goodness to our will, and beauty to our heart. (p.15-16)

HF shrine04

Prayer gives truth to our mind because it puts us in the presence of Truth itself, the divine Mind who designed our minds and our lives and our whole universe. …we need to rehearse now for what we will be doing forever in Heaven, if we want to be utterly practical and realistic. (p.17)

HF shrine05

Praying is like gardening: the growing of something alive—in this case, alive for eternity. It is gradual, and it is invisible, but it is the difference between life and death. … Prayer is plant food. This plant—your soul—is going to be transplanted at death into an immortal, eternal garden. (p.18)

HF shrine07

Brother Lawrence says, in The Practice of the Presence of God, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it (Letter 5). (p.18)

Prayer is the only way to spiritual progress. (p.21)

HF shrine08

We must pray in order to grow, and we must grow because Infinite Love will not, cannot, settle for less than the greatest joy of which his beloved creature is capable. Even good earthly fathers want the very best for their children; why do we expect our Heavenly Father to be any less demanding and leave us alone? That is what uncles do, not fathers. Christ did not teach us to pray, “Our Uncle who art in Heaven.” (p.22-23)

HF shrine11

Prayer is necessary because without it we cannot attain the meaning of life, the end and purpose of our existence. Becoming saints is the meaning of life. It is why we exist. It is why God created us. (p.23)

HF shrine13

Prayer is our first step in becoming saints. The second step is charity, a life of love, the ecstasy of giving ourselves away over and over again forever, as each of the Persons of the Trinity do. (p.24)

HF shrine14

The single most important piece of advice about prayer is one word: Begin! (p. 25)

Life contains many hardships and pains, but prayer is not one of them. (p.26)

HF shrine17

Prayer is love. To love anyone is to seek his presence, to seek intimacy and union. (You do not love someone if you do not want to spend time with him). Love is also communication. (You do not love someone if you do not want to talk with him and get to know him better.) (p.26-27)

HF shrine18

It is true, as John Bunyan said, that God infinitely prefers a heart without words to words without a heart when we pray. (p.28)

HF shrine19

The familiarity of prayer is wonderful because it is familiarity with God. (p.29)

HF shrine20

*****

All photos taken by the author with an iPhone 5s.

Back from retreat

Sunset at Vespers on Friday evening

Sunset at Vespers on Friday evening

Late Sunday night I returned home from my second Ignatian retreat since 2012. I once again traveled to Broom Tree in southeastern South Dakota for 70 straight hours of silence that began after dinner on Thursday night and came to an end late Sunday afternoon. I haven’t decided whether I’ll write about it as I did last time. The 2012 retreat became a chronicle that I wanted to share with everyone. This time I focused on prayer and my communing with God. It was much more personal. It was very fruitful.

I have a few anecdotes and a photo or ten I’ll share at some point. The drought of 2012 is over, the grounds were green, and I was able to spend time once again with Cocoa the dog. After spending four days disconnected from the outside world with no internet or news, no texting and no phone, it was jarring to come back and watch the news Monday night. As in 2012 I took Monday off from work in order to ease back into the world. During my purposely slow day I took a forgotten sheet of homework to my daughter’s classroom at school. Then I drove to the newly renovated Piedmont Shopping Center in the middle of Lincoln where I bought a cup of coffee and took a guided tour with my friend and owner of the soon-to-open new location of Gloria Deo (the store is beautiful!). I returned home and spent the afternoon in prayer while staining a stack of 1x4s that I’ll be using to hang the lattice from beneath my deck. Finally on Monday night I watched the news and skimmed the headlines online. It was then and there that it became very clear to me just how broken we, and our world, truly are.

Cocoa resting beside me on a bench in the shade after she'd accompanied another retreatant around the grounds.

Cocoa resting beside me on a bench in the shade after she’d accompanied another retreatant around the grounds.

During my retreat a story was told of a Carmelite nun from the Midwest who, after not leaving her cloister for over twenty-five years, was flying to Boston for a conference at which she had been asked to speak. While walking through O’Hare airport in Chicago she turned to her traveling companions and asked: “Why are the people so sad?”

She was able to see on the faces of those around her what we’d all see, but have otherwise grown to numb to see. We’ve become acclimated to it. I was only gone for a little over four days and I can see it.

Below is a poem I wrote down during the retreat. The video is something I saw only this morning. I wanted to share them both. Both, in their own way, address the question poised by the Carmelite nun as she walked through the busy Chicago airport.

******

A Hollowed Space to Be Filled

A cup must be empty before it can be filled.
If it is already full, it can’t be filled again except by emptying it out.
In order to fill anything, there must be a hollowed-out space.
Otherwise it can’t receive.

This is especially true of God’s word.
In order to receive it, we must be hollowed out.
We must be capable of receiving it,
emptied of the false self and its endless demands.

When Christ came, there was no room at the inn.
It was full. The inn is a symbol of the heart.
God’s word, Christ, can take root only in a hollow.

- William Breault, SJ (Prayers to accompany the Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises)

*****

 

Friday Five – Volume 86

I should call this one the Hand-Sanitizer Edition. I’ve managed to catch my daughter’s nasty cold and am looking at the screen with bleary, puffy eyes and sniffling like mad. Every five minutes (or less) I’m squirting yet another pool of sanitizing gel onto my hands and trying to maintain my train of thought. Fortunately I compile these Friday writings as I do almost all of my posts the night before at home and email them to myself to tweak or post. I say fortunately because I’m not sure my head is clear enough to think too much today.

As I said a week or so ago I’ve been studying and practicing much prayer, so you’ll see that theme reflected below. While I use the sanitizer to eradicate the germs from my hands I use those same hands in prayer to erase the barriers between myself and God. A sanitizer for the soul, if you will.

I apologize for the length of this post. It may be the last one for awhile due to the busyness of life in the coming week(s) so I got a little windy with my quotations.

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

I’ll begin with a snippet from a daily blog recommended to me recently by my friend Fr. Hottovy called “Oh……….. Francesco: The meditations and reflections of a Secular Franciscan in the 3rd Millennium”. Last Friday’s entry:

If we want to be a real follower of Jesus, we must stop judging and gossiping. But how do we break these lifelong habits? How can we end these ways of thinking that are celebrated in western culture in reality TV and tabloid journalism? With prayer.

We will feel less insecure and feel less need to look around at the ways others live, if we really feel deeply in our hearts how much we are loved by God. Letting God love us, a love that transcends the very flaws we want to hide, will heal the need in our lives to look so harshly on others. We can allow God’s endless love to wash over us until we really feel how much God delights in us.

I have put this to work in my own life. I found that some people were frustrating the bejeebers out of me and I realized that in the end all I can do is pray for them.

Addendum: I don’t like how I phrased that. “…in the end all I can do is pray for them.” It seems to denote that it’s the least I can do, or the last resort left to me to offer or do for someone. In truth, it is the most important thing I can do for anyone and should be the first thing I do. I need to make sure I reorient myself in that endeavor going forward.

prayer_church

— 2 —

Also last Friday Bishop James Conley of my home, the Lincoln (Neb.) Diocese, wrote in his weekly column on the subject of “The Joy of Religious Life—and the Joy of Christ”. It was a column about religious life and vocations, but not just for those considering the priesthood or becoming a religious sister, etc. It is a call for all of us. I’m going to share a few portions that I highlighted when reading:

The life of prayer, of contemplation, of silence, especially, that religious embrace is a witness to all of us in an era of disconnectedness, and noise, and distraction.  The silence the religious embrace—the willful disregard for the distractions of this world—is what makes their joy more complete. 

[...]

All truly profound things occur in silence: conception, the consecration, the sunrise, the blossoming of a flower, and true contemplation in the depths of prayer.

[...]

And in the quiet contemplation of Christ, all of us are called to the joy that makes the Christian life beautiful, and delightful.

The direct link to his column is not working for whatever reason so you’ll have to type it into your search engine of choice to try to locate it. I can only echo what Bishop Conley writes: it is in the depths of contemplation in prayer that I find great joy. In that joy I am renewed. I am ever young.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

— 3 —

In my continued research of the history and development of the Divine Office I was at long last able to obtain a rare and therefore somewhat expensive copy of The Breviary Explained by Pius Parsch. Originally written in German, the English translation was published in 1952. I first learned of the book due to excerpts from it being used in the introductory sections of the Baronius Press edition of The Roman Breviary that I use for prayer each day. I finally located a copy at Loome Theological Booksellers and in reading it so far have determined it was a good purchase. I plan on writing a book, guide or course of my own one day on the Divine Office (today known as The Liturgy of the Hours). Parsch will figure prominently in that research.

Back to the subject at hand. What I enjoy the most about praying the pre-Vatican II office is the clear order of the day and the week. I’ll write more of this later but I find that in this modern life in which we are pulled a million different ways by a million different distractions competing for our time and attention I require a footing…a foundation. It reminds me that there is an order to Creation and to this Life and that I need to be in tune to that. I don’t think I’m alone in this need. In praying the universal prayers of the Church at set times I join my own prayers to those of others around the world who are doing the same. That is both powerful and comforting. So building upon what Bishop Conley said above I turn to Parsch:

The Church lives in and along with time, a fact we see plainly in the Church’s liturgical year, and even more so in her Office. Through the latter we can sanctify and consecrate our entire day to God. Christ’s words, “Pray always and faint not,” become a reality in the Office. For each part of the day the Church has its special prayers to form an hour whose contents are suited to the needs of that hour of the day. The day is somewhat like a journey through the dry desert of life, where every three hours we come upon an oasis with the cool water of God’s grace in the pleasant shade of His protection. This is what each hour of the Office is, an ardent turning to God in our passage through the day.

From The Breviary Explained, by Pius Parsch. (B. Herder Book Co., London & St. Louis, MO) 1952. Page 29.

prayer_nun on balcony

— 4 —

I shall tell you something else which is very important for busy people like you who say they have no time to pray.

Try to look at the reality in which you live—your work, your commitments, your relationships, your meetings, your walks, the shopping, the newspapers, the children—as a single whole from which you cannot disengage yourself, a whole which you have to think about.

I shall say more: a whole by means of which God speaks to you and through which He guides you.

So it is not by fleeing that you will find God more easily, but it is by changing your heart that you will see things differently.

The desert in the city is only possible on these terms: that you see things with a new eye, touch them with a new spirit, love them with a new heart.

— Carlo Carretto, The Desert in the City

Source: Heather King

prayer_tree

— 5 —

A story from the life of Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II) has always touched my heart as a father. It came on the heels of his mother Emilia’s death. His father, Karol Sr., was a lieutenant in the Austrian army. This excerpt speaks to the importance of our example as parents as well as peers.

From the time of Emilia’s death, Karol and the Lieutenant lived alone. They were extremely close. At some point, they even started sleeping in the same room. The Lieutenant was a force for rectitude and piety, one of several key influences in Wojtyla’s religious life. As pope, John Paul II remembered that, “Day after day I was able to observe the austere way in which he lived. By profession he was a soldier and, after my mother’s death, his life became one of constant prayer. Sometimes I would wake up during the night and find my father on his knees, just as I would always see him kneeling in the parish church. We never spoke about a vocation to the priesthood, but his example was in a way my first seminary, a kind of domestic seminary.”

I love that. A “domestic seminary.” The fact remains that the home is where life’s lessons are still taught. They are either poor lessons or good ones. And if absent the vacuum will be filled by lessons learned elsewhere: on the street, at school or the residence of friends. If you are not a father you still have a responsibility to yourself and to your loved ones to live those good lessons and pass on your own. And if you are a father, then these words from an article written by Deacon Branson Hipp are for you to show that it’s not just the parents of saints who set the example. And who knows? Your children may become those great saints that future stories will be written about.

My dad never read Chesterton in his life. He doesn’t smoke a pipe or dress like he lives in the 1930’s. He often wears jean shorts (sorry to sell you out Dad), and he doesn’t have a fancy beard. He appears as just another guy.

But my dad works hard, is good at his work, is faithful to his wife, and lovingly raised five kids with no complaints. Very often he would get the raw deal in birthdays and celebrations, but he never seemed to mind. I never, ever, heard him fight with my mom, because whenever they had a disagreement, they would go behind closed doors to rationally figure out what to do next. He goes to Church every Sunday and he prays daily for his family. He is an amazing cook and is funnier than I give him credit for.

He’s stubborn and often drives me crazy.

But he is a real man, and he taught all of us kids that to be a man means humility and faithfulness, holy steadfastness to one’s state of life, whatever that is. He is a man, and a great father. At the end of the day, the externals matter a whole lot less than we think they do. They are flashy, but they don’t endure.

*****

prayer_woman with rosary

*I acknowledge that I have readers who are single mothers raising children on their own. You are more than capable of setting this example for them as well and encourage you to do so. I know it’s hard, not from my own experience but due to the stories I’ve seen, heard and been told by you. I also believe that God has granted you special graces and strength you may not yet know to accomplish these things. I pray daily for you.

Prayer images source.

“We submit to every demand of Love.”

Have you ever felt as if God is speaking to you? Leading you? Directing you? That He is trying to get your attention in some way by constantly bringing to your attention a subject, item or idea? This is how I’ve felt recently with regards to the Divine Liturgy – the Catholic Mass. While my work continues on studying and creating an outline about the Divine Office (more on that another time) the Mass has come to the fore. Most likely because the Divine Liturgy and the Divine Office are so closely related and fit so neatly hand in hand. It may be to awaken me from my malaise and to remind me of what I bear witness to each time I attend Mass; to shake me from complacency that may be setting in and succumbing to what Father Richard Heilman referred to as spiritual lethargy.

It could also be that God is answering the prayer that I have prayed each day for the last three weeks, brought about by my recklessly immersing myself in and internalizing the overwhelming horrors from Syria and Iraq as I prepare for my own son’s departure into the Marine Corps. Each day I pray for Fortitude, Wisdom and Hope. That has become my mantra, and I believe God is showing me where the answers await.

“I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur (as though God were not there): in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us.” – Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

Lord, grant me the gifts of Fortitude, Wisdom and Hope. Make me salt, and make me light. Let me never be indifferent to Your presence in this world and in my life. Amen.

Below are two passages about the Mass from books that I am currently reading. Or finished, as I completed my journey with Christopher late last night.

There was no indifference or complacency to be found at Iwo Jima at this Mass.

There was no indifference or complacency to be found at Iwo Jima at this Mass.

The first passage is from David Athley’s Christopher. It is from an email written to the book’s protagonist by his long-time love. She is a devout and practicing Catholic. He, while Catholic, will only attend Mass and not receive Communion. Somewhat of a mystic, he refuses because he recognizes Holy Communion for what it is, and is not confident that he would be able to withstand the consuming of Christ’s body and blood, soul and divinity. It is a beautiful summation of the Mass.

The second passage is an excerpt from The Portal of the Mystery of Hope by Charles Péguy.

*****

Dear Christopher,

Despite all the damage done by sinners in the Church, the Mass is the hope of civilization.

The Mass is the pinnacle of philosophy. Our minds approach the Holy Gifts in fear of God, the beginning of wisdom. Our hearts accept the Holy Gifts in love of God, the end of wisdom.

The Divine Liturgy is the epitome of language and poetry. It is the most powerful form of drama, a play that appears to descend into tragedy, yet ends in the height of heavenly bliss.

The Mass is housed in the most glorious architecture ever constructed. Not all churches are grand, but the world has been given the supreme cathedrals to remind us of the majesty of the Maker, who appears on the altars.

The Divine Liturgy is the grand unified theory of physics. Beyond all of the quarks, multiple dimensions, and dark matter is the greatest gift to science: Transubstantiation.

The Mass is the quintessence of agriculture – the simply fruits of the earth transformed into spiritual nutrition.

The Mass is the bloodline of the best art. From icons to stained glass to mosaics to statuary to all of the variations of paintings, the Sacrifice enlivens creativity.

The Divine Liturgy is a perfect education. It is reality. We kneel. We bow. We give up our rebellions and embrace the hierarchy of the created order. We submit to every demand of Love.

The Mass gives voice to the music of angels, the chant of nine choirs and seven heavens. It culminates in the most noble act of physicality. We accept into our bodies the Creator of all flesh, in whom we live and dance and have our being.

The Mass is the most personal relationship that one can have with God.

The Mass is the most heavenly occurrence on earth, and the most viciously attacked – from within the Church and without.

The Mass has produced the humble, superhuman saints, multitudes of heroic men and women, from the beginning of the Church to the end, miracle workers from every walk of life – patrons for every holy passion.

The Divine Liturgy of Heaven gathers the most purposeful community in the world, the assembly of Communicants. Beyond the goodness of human friendship, the friends of Heaven are perfected in the Feast.

The Mass makes life worth living. It is the gateway out of our self-inflicted pain, to fully enter into the death and resurrection of Christ.

Will you, in the name of Love, become a Communicant?

TheMass

Photo credit: catholicbible101.com

I am so resplendent in my creation.
In all that happens to men and to people, and to the poor.
And even to the rich.
Who don’t want to be my creatures.
And who take refuge.
From being my servants.
In all the good and evil that man has done and undone.
(And I am above it all, because I am the master, and I do what he has undone and I undo what he has done.)
And unto the temptation to sin.
Even.
And all that happened to my son.
Because of man.
My creature.
Whom I had created.
In the conception, in the birth and in the life and in the death of my son.
And in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

In every birth and in every life.
And in every death.
And in eternal life that will never end.
That will overcome all death.

I am so resplendent in my creation.

That in order really not to see me these poor people would have to be blind.

*****

“Hear Mass daily; it will prosper the whole day. All your duties will be performed the better for it, and your soul will be stronger to bear its daily cross. The Mass is the most holy act of religion; you can do nothing that can give greater glory to God or be more profitable for your soul than to hear Mass both frequently and devoutly. It is the favorite devotion of the saints.” – St. Peter Julian Eymard