Friday Five – Volume 101

Ok. One more.

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

In the midst of her article about Seasonal Affective Disorder author Jeannie Ewing included this section on finding encouragement in the psalms.

Many people in my life have attempted to pull me out of the winter doldrums with humor or an irritating platitude, such as, “Cheer up! Everything is going to be okay.” Really? Do people actually believe these sorts of things work? I happen to believe they do not.

But what has helped me spiritually more times than I can count is turning to Scripture, especially the Psalms, which are so encouraging to me. It’s not so much a saccharine cheerfulness but an honesty about suffering that ends with hope – always hope – that somehow lifts my spirits when all else seems dark, lonely, and long.

The lamentations in the Psalms have always been some of my favorites for this very reason. Some have mentioned to me that they feel as if the Psalms are depressing parts of Scripture, and they’d rather gloss over them. I couldn’t disagree more. To me, the Psalms are prayers of desperation, praise, frustration, and loneliness that are nudging the soul to look Heavenward – to never give up, to remember that God journeys with us in our darkest moments, and to offer our sufferings to and for Him.

Hope is the message of the Psalms that firmly-yet-lovingly grips my heart so that, when I am inclined to despair, the Holy Spirit reminds me of that glimmer of light that still exists and that I know I will once again see someday.

When we are suffering from seasonal depression, it’s important for us to focus our hearts on that hope every day, and the Psalms are a perfect place to begin that journey.

— 2 —

What follows is a quotation from St. Peter of Alcantara, a sixteenth-century Franciscan. It is taken from his Treatise on Prayer and Meditation.

In prayer the soul is purified from sin, charity is nurtured, faith takes root, hope is strengthened, the spirit gladdened. In prayer the soul melts into tenderness, the heart is purified, the truth reveals itself, temptation is overcome, sadness is put to flight. In prayer, the senses are renewed, lukewarmness vanishes, failing virtue is reinvigorated, the rust of vices is scoured away; and in this exchange, there come forth living sparks, blazing desires of heaven, in which the flame of divine love burns.

— 3 —

Yet another college disinvited a speaker because of an uproar created by those same college students who consider themselves paragons of enlightenment, but only the “light” of which they approve. Generation Snowflake™ has been marching lock step like lemmings towards the dark for a decade or so now, and show no signs in stopping until they take themselves and everyone else over their cliffs of insanity. This morning in Crisis I read:

The confusion is being nurtured in our institutes of higher learning. According to news reports one university professor is banning the use of such words as “male” and “female” in her class because such words are “offensive” and “oppressive.”

Beyond banning the speech they don’t like, the campus PC police have another tool on their belt: the “pepper spray” of “trigger warnings.” In its simplest form, trigger warnings are notices that something you are about to read may cause certain readers to be uncomfortable. According to the New York Times some are even calling for trigger warnings on “The Great Gatsby” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

But in his article Frank Trotta Jr. outlines a “trigger” strategy I completely endorse: prayer triggers:

You are probably using prayer triggers now without realizing it. Do you say “God bless you” when you hear someone sneeze, as Pope Gregory decreed on February 16, 590? Then you’ve used a “prayer trigger”—the sneeze triggered a short prayer.

Did your parents train you to say grace, almost pavlovianly, when a meal is served? Another prayer trigger: the plate before you prompted you to remember to thank God for his bounty.

Here are some others. There is an old Catholic custom of “crossing yourself” when you pass a Catholic church—another “prayer trigger”—but try taking it to the next level and say a prayer for Christian unity whenever you pass a Protestant church, for example.

How about when you’re driving on the highway, and you see a bad driver. Why not use that as a trigger to say a prayer for the safety of the driver and those whom he comes near? And if he cuts you off, instead of a foul hand gesture, let him look in his rear-view and see you making the sign of the cross.

He lists several more, some of which I’ve learned to do through the years and others I’ll try to remember. It was only this past weekend that while driving by our church I taught my 12-year old son about making the sign of the cross when passing a Catholic church to honor Christ present in the tabernacle of said church. On the return trip we passed it again and as I crossed myself I glanced sideways to see him do the same.

— 4 —

We often associate Edgar Allen Poe with this time of year because of his famously spooky poems and stories such as The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, etc. But did you know that in 1835 Poe published a 12-line hymn to Mary as part of his short story Morella? Ten years later it was published as a stand alone poem titled “A Catholic Hymn.” Later it was shortened simply to “Hymn.”

There is no evidence that Poe was a Catholic so the inspiration of this poem is a mystery.

At morn – at noon – at twilight dim –
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and woe – in good and ill –
Mother of God, be with me still!

When the Hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee

Now, when storms of Fate o’ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine.

— 5 —

While unable to sleep the other night I discovered that Amazon Prime Video has a wealth of classical music concerts available, as well as documentaries and special performances by the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Yes and ABBA (don’t judge) to name but a few. I watched a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony by the Berliner Philharmoniker two nights ago, and last night watched an entertaining performance of the first (and most famous) movement from Beethoven’s Fifth in which the Discovery Orchestra’s conductor and musicians were also teaching the audience about the techniques within the score’s structure.

And then late last night I stumbled across this on YouTube. It seems that at the moment there is no escaping Ludwig, but I have to say I really don’t mind.

No cue cards, no teleprompters, and no second takes—legendary funnyman Sid Caesar pioneered live television sketch comedy with his 1950s sitcoms Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour. This classic sketch is “Argument to Beethoven’s 5th,” Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray play a married couple in a argument with pantomimed action and the dialogue is classic music.

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