Sunday, October 30, 2011

TLM for Feast of Christ the King at St. Paul's Philadelphia

The Little Miss was given permission to start taking photographs at our Sunday TLM.  I was so concerned that she would create a disruption that I didn't even know where she was until Holy Communion, when I realized she'd been sitting in the front row, as she had been directed to do, all along.  And she wasn't a disruption at all.  The shutter on the camera she used, borrowed from her older sister, is silent, so unless you were sitting directly behind her you'd never know she was taking photos.  She did not take photographs during the consecration because she didn't feel it would be proper, but she was assured that Father would not object to photos of the elevation of the Host, so perhaps next time.  With practice she will get better and eventually, we hope to create a website dedicated to St. Paul's and the Traditional Latin Mass.   Many thanks to Mr. Tom Rudolph for his help and patience.

The altar before Mass

After the Asperges Me 
Father vesting at the sedilla

The chanting of the Epistle
The sermon

The offertory

The Dismissal
Recessional after the Last Gospel

Something Sweet for Sunday

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Eager Anticipation

I so look forward to the inception of the New Missal Translation that I've decided to celebrate a little early.  I've already started making my responses according to the new translation.  Don't get all bent out of shape. I'm doing it very discreetly.  Not like the women who can't bring themselves to refer to God as  Him and try to drown out everyone around them at Mass during the offertory.  I make my responses just loudly enough.  And in a few short weeks,  I will be able to make my responses audibly and won't be considered a disruption or attention-seeker.

Depending on where I go to Mass, I'm not always alone in making my responses that way.  I've heard a smattering of "and with your spirit" at my own parish.  I love it.

At the Saturday Vigil Mass, we've been reviewing one particular part of the new translation each week.  Our priest had us start with the easier prayers, like the Sanctus, and we are currently working our way toward the Confiteor and the Creed.  By the time the first Sunday in Advent rolls around, we'll be well on our way.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!

Our liberation is at hand.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Come To Me

It is nearly impossible for me to leave work at the end of the day without first making a visit to the chapel.  This is what I imagine the Lord might be saying to me, if only I could hear Him.

You are not here simply because you want to be. You are here because you heard Me calling to you, and you indulged Me.   I have not called out to you alone, but as this moment, before this tabernacle,  you are the only one to have heeded My call.    When I look at you, know that I am not seeing you as you might think.  When you sit before Me, I don't see the shortcomings that sometimes make you think twice about visiting Me.  All I see is a soul I love so much that for it,  I gave My very life.  What you must accept is that what I did for you, you could never do for Me, because I neither demand it or expect it. 

 I hear you calling to Me throughout the day as you face problem after problem.  I desire that you should call upon Me as a source of strength.  Know, daughter, that I never tire of hearing your voice. Still, you have only to ask me once to take your problems into My Hands and I will come to your aid.  I know what you need before you do, but the confidence that you place in Me is a source of delight.  It pleases Me to hear you give thanks to Me for the mercies I shower upon you so that others may come to know Me as you do. 

 It is the end of the day, and your family will be looking for you.  I know the duties of the household need your attention. Go, and bring the peace that only I can give with you. Remember me, as you always do, when  you sit down to the evening meal.   Tomorrow is another day, and I will be right here, where I always am, waiting for you. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Mocking Voices of Doubt and Despair

When I hear the word evil, an image immediately comes to mind of a dark, formless hulking figure intent on destruction.  Sometimes, though, evil doesn't  manifest itself that way. Sometimes, evil comes at you from places where you least expect it and because of this, you could be fooled into thinking that it is you who are evil.

Evil is not always a boogie-man waiting to leap at us from a dark corner.  Sometimes, evil arrives with a smile on its face and a kind word meant to distract while the knife is plunged between your shoulder blades.  The bigger the smile, the harder the force with which the knife is aimed.  Sometimes, that evil even has the nerve to call itself a Catholic, and in the name of defending the "values" of the faith, it will come at you with such force you are left breathless.

At some point in my life, I hope that I learn not to retreat in the face of such attacks. I'm not there yet.  My first reaction is to recoil and go running in shame, wondering how I can have the nerve to think I'm a good person with honest motives rooted in the love of Christ.  Maybe it's part of my over scrupulosity.  I don't know.  But I really need to overcome this because that old demon, despair, is looking to get back in to the clean-swept house, and he'll do anything to gain entry.  Hard to believe that it would be another so-called Catholic who would attempt to afford him entry, but there it is, in so many ways.

Today, it came in the form of a co-worker who is, behind my back, "counseling" one of my problem employees.  He attempted to characterize my struggle to hold this person accountable (lest she find herself unemployed) as decidedly unCatholic.  I asked this person to consider my premise that while we can turn the other cheek, we also have a responsibility not to aid and abet those intent to keep on the wrong path.  It's not fair to the co-workers who have to pick up the slack for this person, who has no desire to change, and we're certainly not demonstrating true Catholic charity by offering the necessary correction.

That demon comes in other forms, too.

1. The priest who tells me to mind my business when I ask him to speak to a brand-new priest who is not purifying the chalice after Holy Communion.

2. The staff member who questions my Christianity because I insist that she carry her fair share of the workload.  Her beleaguered co-workers would beg to differ with her and they expect me, as their superior, to hold her accountable.

3. The unbeliever who twists your words and tries to make you question your worth as a Catholic

4. The priest who questions my Christianity when I voice concern about giving a Catholic award to a person blatantly living in contempt of the church's moral teachings.

I should have seen this coming.  It always happens after a time of intense union with Christ and the inner joy that comes with frequent reception of the sacraments and commitment to prayer.

One of these days, I'll learn.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Label Says It All

Almost forgot - when I got home from the asylum, er uh, work, I found this bottle on the counter top. I don't usually drink, but I thought I should give this a try when I saw the label.   Where do they come up with these names?  Maybe the vineyard owner used to work in healthcare.

When Scripture Speaks to You

Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God's will - St. Paul's letter to the Roman Chapter 8

I was  so moved by this reading this morning because I'm still struggling with my frequent failure to turn to prayer when I'm tested.  This week, I have really been tested, mostly because of difficult employees, and I can't say that my private reaction to their behaviors is what it should it have been.

Today, I had to confront someone about her disruptive behavior and as this was not the first time we were having this discussion, I had to initiate the disciplinary process, which is never an easy thing to do but which is necessary for the welfare of the employee as well as the co-workers who have to suffer through the bad behavior.  A few minutes into the conversation and I could clearly see that I had unleashed something I wasn't going to be able to get back into the bottle.  And then doubt began to cross my mind.  Had I been cruel to this person?  Had I taken everything into consideration?  But the longer our encounter continued, the more convinced I became that I was correct to address her and that it wasn't going to be easy.  I began to see first-hand someone who may not be mentally stable and I had a fear that after our talk she might try to harm herself in some way.    So I decided to give her another chance before I implement the action against her.

I felt a lot of anger toward the person I had replaced in my position because she had swept so many issues under the rug.  But did I once turn to the Lord and ask for His help in handling a situation I knew wasn't going to be easy?  In fact, I had no idea how difficult it would be.

I stole away from the insanity of one of the departments for which I'm responsible to visit the Lord in the chapel for a few brief moments.  When I entered, I saw two men, dressed all in white, kneeling at the altar.  In fact, one wasn't kneeling, he was prostrate on the floor and for a moment, I was concerned that he had collapsed and needed help. I caught the attention of the other man and asked if they were ok, and he nodded in a reassuring way that told me he appreciated my concern but that I needn't worry.

The man who was prostrate was crying, and for a moment it occurred to me that maybe a family member had just passed away.  Then he began praying out loud, something that I would ordinarily find disturbing.   And as he prayed, I almost felt like he was praying the prayer that I should have been praying.  He poured out thanks and praise to Jesus for His mercy and kindness to all, and he cried because so few know Him and love Him.  I have no idea what event precipitated this but I was glad to be there.  Before I knew it, I started to cry, too.  What a mess I am.

The other night I came home with a pounding headache.  Matthew and I both have a sinus infection, and while we're  feeling better, we had a rough couple of days with the kind of pain that is overbearing and unrelenting.  And once again, I failed to do what I should have done and fell into sin and then spent hours  ruminating over how I'd tripped out and stumbled yet again.   When will I ever learn that the Lord will not give up on me, even when I give up on myself?

I was getting dinner on the table tonight when a thought suddenly occurred to me.  There is a weekly Wednesday evening Mass down the street from me which is preceded by confessions. 

"I'll be right back" I said and dashed out the door as the incredulous family was left to ask: Where the heck is she going?

Sure enough, a priest was hearing confessions, there was no one else in line, and through the Alter Christus I was relieved of the burden I was carrying.  The priest is newly ordained and when we finished, I asked him to never forget the power he holds in his hands.

"Never forget Father, that at your words, the Lord sees fit to come down and be received in your hands and at your word, He sees fit to dispense absolution on a wretch like me."

"Please don't forget to pray for me."

If I do, the Lord will find a way to remind me.

Prayer of a Priest

Please go to Richard's blog and read this beautiful prayer, Prayer of a Priest on a Sunday Night, which was written by a priest.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vangelis - Jerusalem (Chariots of Fire)

I had a rough day and felt like I need some inspirational music to help lift my spirits.  It started with an employee from my previous job having the audacity to call me at my present job and tell me how I ruined her life. I called someone this evening to see if perhaps she'd gotten fired or something, but she didn't.  Who knows what brought this outburst on. I really wish St. Therese would manage her namesakes a little better than this ( just kidding Saint Therese!)

My favorite version of this Blake poem set to music by Parry.  Not sure how my Catholic Brit friends feel about this "hymn" but I can't but love it.  This is the most rousing version with which I'm familiar and thus my favorite.  One time, our former organist at the TLM had the schola sing "O Salutaris" to this melody.  I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven.

Tuesday Hit and Hurry

The Boy is doing very well at his new job at the bakery.  He has to be at work by 7am on Saturday mornings, no easy feat for a kid who loves to sleep, but he gets himself up and off without any prompting from us.  Now if he would only do the same on Sunday mornings when it's time for Mass.  It's been such a gift for him to have this little job, to feel he's productive and to have a little money of his own.  Matt keeps asking me how he's going to be able to manage money when I'm gone and I keep assuring him that his sisters will be here to help him when I no longer am.

We bought the house we're living in from Jewish friends of ours who rented it out for years to a couple with 11 kids. The oldest son had a brain injury that required constant supervision and they once confided that the reason they wanted to keep having children for as long as they were able was so they could ensure that there would always be a sibling to look after him.  I try to keep that family in my prayers but I confess I don't always remember to do so.

The rodents are alive and well.  Apparently, as Julie pointed out to me some time ago, rats need to be bathed, so last night was the first time Rebecca attempted this feat. I was horrified to see the spotted one LEAP out of the tub several times and right onto her arm.  I didn't know rodents could fly! Thankfully, I was not landed upon by either of them because I surely would have died.

I know a lot of bloggers have been feeling lately as though they are reaching for things to write about.  I have that feeling myself. I've noticed I've lost a few followers.  Not sure why, but I think its' good for me.  I can't say it enough times that it's too easy to get caught up in stats and when that happens, I know that I have no longer made Jesus the focus of this enterprise, small as it is.  So in a special way, thanks to those who have dropped from my roll.  A little humility is a good thing.

Rebecca was given permission to begin taking photographs at the TLM at our church. I look forward to sharing her work with you, with my pastor's permission of course.  I'm so grateful that we have this beautiful Mass to look forward to each week and I just wish more people would take advantage of the opportunity to avail themselves of it.

I have to say that for all the jokes I make about my husband, things seemed to have improved vastly between us since I returned from Italy.  We are closer and I'm not as apt to let the little things he does drive me crazy.  In fact, we have had a few near-disasters in the past month, including a foreclosure notice on the house, this as a result of my check being stolen from the collection plate and the fact that I forgot to let the mortgage company in on the fact that I have a new bank account.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that my former employer is suing me for the price of tuition, when in fact I was required to take the courses that I did and never took a dime of tuition money in the previous 12 years that I worked there.  If the Lord sees fit, He will deliver me from this trial and if it's my responsibility to pay this back, He will make that apparent too.  I believe this unity and new-found sense of calm is one of the graces received through my prayers during the pilgrimage.

Things are far from perfect and they always will be and that's OK.  The only perfection will be found in Heaven, God-willing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Looking Ahead

The annual Advent Silent Retreat at the Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery will take place on Saturday, December 3rd. I haven't received the application yet but it should be forthcoming. Let me know if you're interested so I can forward one to you.  I don't know who the retreat master is but should also have that information shortly. Regardless of who the priest is, the fact remains that you get to give the entire day to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the beautiful Holy Spirit chapel.  The day begins with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at 8AM and includes two convocations, breakfast and lunch, Adoration, Rosary, and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.  There is also ample opportunity to support the sisters by making a purchase in the Avila Bookstore and maybe even do some Christmas shopping for a fellow Catholic who would treasure a book or sacramental from the Carmel gift shop.

The utmost silence will be observed so that we can hear what Jesus wants to say to us as well as tell Him what is in our hearts.
The altar of the Holy Spirit Chapel at the Philadelphia Carmel.  The mosaic is of St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of Avila,  with the prophet Elijah in the burning chariot above them.

Hail, Holy Queen on Organ, Arranged by Proulx

Only Children and Those Like Them

On the ride home from my parents' house last night, I passed a house that was all lit up for Halloween, and as I looked at the enchanting scene of pumpkins and lights, I felt the pang of longing I do when I recall the innocence and happiness of my childhood.

It occurred to me that this might be what Heaven will be like.  Heaven will be the Christmas where the lights never have to come down, the summer vacation in the woods that never ends, the Monday off from work.  This made me realize why it is that summer vacations are always so short and why Monday always seems to come around sooner than Friday is.  I thought that I understood why we spend more time working than playing.  Without the hard times, we might have little or no appreciation for leisure.  The way that we lighten our load is to do all things in His Name.

There is something else I have been wondering about lately, and that is the sadness the the Lord must feel at the loss of so many souls.  I remember reading once that God never rejects His creatures.  What then does He feel when He cannot bring a soul to Himself because that soul spurned Him?  Does He continue to hear the cries of those who are sent to the Netherworld as the reality of the fate they have chosen sinks in?

I wonder and because I do not have the mind of God, I cannot know.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen

The King gives a wedding banquet for his son, but the honored guests spurn the invitation.  The Gospel tells us that the second round of  guests came from all walks of life.  One was too busy with his farm, another had to return to his merchandise.

Our priest reminded us today that if all who have been called would show up to the feast, the church would be overflowing with people and there would be many in the street clamoring to get in.  That is not the scene at my church and there are probably few, if any, that would fit this description.

There are some days when things don't go so well for me, spiritually speaking, and I think to myself that if a truck came along and splattered me all over the interstate, I'd be hard-pressed to get into Heaven.  And then I have a couple of thoughts about this. If we honestly try to do our best, it shouldn't be hard to imagine that a benevolent God would not pull the rug out from under us at a time when we're at a spiritual disadvantage.  By no means I'm advocating a life of sin and assuming that God will call us when it's most convenient for us. I'm only saying that He knows we are human and bound to fall and that if we make every effort to keep His precepts, we will not find ourselves being cast into the darkness, with much moaning and gnashing of teeth.

We cannot comprehend God.  We're not required to do so.  We're required to have faith, to trust and to do our best, confident in the knowledge that His Grace will suffice.

Something Sweet for Sunday

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Traditional Latin Mass For All Saints and All Souls

St. Paul Church at 10th and Christian Streets in South Philadelphia will celebrate the feast of All Saints on November 1st  with a traditional Latin Mass at 7PM.  The following evening, a solemn requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form will be offered at 7PM for All Souls Day.

St. Paul is located on Christian Street between 9th and 10th Streets and there is free parking in the schoolyard directly across the street from the church.

If you are a blogger who lives in the vicinity of Philadelphia, please consider posting this information on your blog to help get the word to others.

Thank you!

No Sense of Urgency

Tomorrow is Sunday, and in the United States, that has come to mean one thing: Football.  Now, don't get me wrong - I enjoy Sunday football as much as anyone.  But it's not a priority.  Getting everyone to Mass and paying God the minimal homage He asks of is what drives the day.  I try to refrain from food shopping and household tasks and to make it truly a day of rest and relaxation spent with the family.  I would never think to skip the Noon TLM for an earlier Mass in order to catch a 1pm opening kick-off.

Turn on the television, listen to the radio or read the papers and you might think the nation was preparing for war every week.  In a sense, it is.  Football is a human demolition derby predicated on military strategies to advance in enemy territory.  Since each team generally plays only 1 game per week, there is ample time to analyze what went wrong and what must be done to improve.  Players are criticized, called out and scrutinized to an extent I certainly hope I would never have to endure at work each day.  Then again, I don't get paid millions of dollars or subject my body, a temple of God, to punishment.

You will hear no such talk on Sunday about how to advance against the enemy of our souls to gain ground on our journey to Heaven.  People will wear their football jerseys to Mass ( at the Novus Ordo, that is, I've never seen it happen at the TLM), skip out early or not bother to go at all if there is a game at stake.

Now, I will also admit to you that not only do I love watching football, but I can get rather emotional in rooting for my Cowboys.  When they went to the playoffs against the NY Giants a few years back, I actually considered praying to St. Therese to help them win, but I just couldn't.  When there are so many poor souls in need, even though I know God's generosity is boundless, I can not bring myself to pray in any sincerity for a pass not to get intercepted or for the kicker to make a 58-yard field goal.  Nor would I pray to win the lottery or hit the jackpot at a casino.  These are all frivolous activities that we enjoy and I think that would be ok if we didn't make them the be all, end all of our existence.

How many Catholics with seasons' tickets for an NFL team spend an iota of what they do on football to support their church?  The Phillies have had something like 150 or so consecutive sellouts.  Nothing wrong with watching baseball.  But how many Catholics who plunk down $120  for two good seats at the Park would even thing about putting that much in a special collection to support their church or a mission?  From the number of closings and churches in need of repair, I'd say not too many.

When is the last time you heard any of this mentioned in a sermon?  Maybe the last time you heard your pastor talk about the devil or going to hell.  There would be no need to talk about our obsession with sports at the TLM because the regulars who commit to a 90-minute or so Mass on Sundays are the choir.  At the Novus Ordo, it's another story because there you would be more likely to encounter some folks who don't have their priorities straight.

I don't believe that God expects us to wear sack cloth and ash and spend our entire lives in a state of penance.  But the flip side is that we are expected to keep the Sabbath holy and devote adequate time to prayer, penance and good works.  Despite what some would like to think, we can't just do some of what is asked of us and ignore the rest.  The "but I'm a good person, I don't hurt anyone" is not going to fly when when a strong defense is needed most.

It will take more than a good defense to gain entrance into Heaven.  Daily Mass whenever possible, commitment to a strong prayer life and frequent confession are the minimal armor a warrior needs to do battle and make progress.  Too bad not many will be reminded of this on Sunday, either because they couldn't be bothered to go to Mass or because the priest couldn't be bothered to discuss Heaven and Hell.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Daily Reflection I Received at Work Today (Very Apropos After The Nightmare)

" Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. "

I Corinthians 13:12

When the breeze catches the surface of the water, the mirrored reflection is disrupted but hints of the colors remain. As we strive to reflect the joy of Christ, we allow interruptions to distract us. Peace and calm will return to you.

Others will see Our Lord clearly through you.

This reflection is the property of Perfect Peace.

Earning My Children's Livelihood

This morning as I drove to work in near blackness, so dark was the road, I wondered why I do this every morning.  Why do I leave my house at 5:30 AM and risk hitting a lovesick deer to start my day at Mass?  An unexpected traffic snafu made me later than usual, and as I hurried down the corridor to make it to the chapel without being late, I heard a voice behind me say: "Hey, what's the hurry?"

I thought of the time St. Therese reproached a novice for dilly dallying on her way to chapel.

"Is this how a mother of souls earns her children's keep?"

And I borrowed her line, saying I didn't want to be late to earning my children's livelihood.  But what does that mean?

Some people are really wonderful at saving money.  I'm not one of them.  Unfortunately, the green stuff means very little to me, so I think nothing of it, which I suppose is an easy thing to say when you have a job.  What I'd like to think I'm very good at investing in is the spiritual life.  Every Rosary when I have a splitting headache and would rather just go to sleep; every early-morning Mass when I'm tired and would like to sleep for another hour;  every unkind thought or word that I prevent from escaping my lips - all of it adds up.

It is not just for me that I do what I do.

"Pick up a pin from a motive of love", said St. Therese "and you may save a soul."

If a soul as nearly perfect as hers could profit spiritually from so simple an act, imagine what our greater sacrifices might yield for us and for those we hold dear.

As far as success stories go, I'm at the bottom of the totem pole in our family.  I still live in the city.  I don't have a vacation home or a pool out back.  I don't have a luxury car.  Most of my furniture is second-hand stuff picked up over the year.  And you know what? I couldn't care less.

My investments have helped procure miracles,  bring about conversions and ease the suffering of friends and relatives.  I trust that the times that I have worthily received and offered the Eucharist for the intention of the souls in Purgatory may have won someone's release.

"But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." St. Paul Corinthians 2 4:7

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Vision Meant to Discourage, or to Encourage Introspection?

Dreams, I have found, can often recall an event that we do not remember exactly as it happened.  Or dreams can pose a question to us that we were not even aware we had on our minds.  Dreams can be of value in the sense that they can sometimes jog a lagging memory or bring something to the forefront that we hadn't previously considered.

Last night, I had the kind of dream I could not wait to awaken from.  This dream had one purpose, which tells me it wasn't sent by God.  It was meant to strike fear and despair into my soul.

In this dream, I was in a room that resembled a dark cellar, and a woman dressed as one might expect the Blessed Virgin Mary to appear was sitting at a desk, reviewing my papers.   In so many words, she told me what a disappointment I'd been and that my only chance of ever reaching Heaven was to spend the rest of the time left to the world in Purgatory. She pointed to a darkened room from which I could hear much moaning and wailing.

"But how long will I have to stay?" I cried.

"It will seem like forever and it very well might be."

I remembered what my priest had once told me, that when we pray for a soul in Purgatory, Our Lord goes to that soul to let them know they are being remembered and by whom.  I asked the woman if Jesus would visit me to let me know if anyone was praying for my release.

"No" came the cold reply.

I asked why, and the woman told me very matter of factly that I'd been a huge disappointment. I listed all of the things I had done in life that I thought demonstrated my love for God and she shook her head.

"What makes you think you'd go to Heaven for any of those things?", and she banished me to what I can only assume was Purgatory. And as I entered the darkness, I was convinced I would never see God, and I wondered to myself why I had been lead to believe that every Mass, every Rosary or sacrifice would ever amount to anything in the life to come.

I cannot describe the feeling of despair that set in, which is how I know this was not from God.  Such doubt could only be the work of the devil, or so I thought.

The dark night of the soul is something sent by God.  This was not a dark night of the soul.  This darkness was meant to destroy a soul, to have it say "why bother anymore, there is no chance of Heaven, so I might as well do as I please."

I was never so happy to awaken as I was from this weighty scene.  And the more I thought about it today, the more it occurred to me that perhaps it did have some value after all.  Why do I do what I do?  And how does it compare to why the saints did what they did?  Perhaps God had a hand in this after all?

St. Therese did what she did purely out of love for God and her burning desire to do whatever would please Him, without any sensual (meaning felt) benefit to herself.  Why do I do what I do?  Sure, I can say it's because I love God, but is that purely the reason?  Isn't the reason I do what little I do to be able to see God face to face someday?  And isn't that a symptom of self-love?

It further occurred to me that if I loved Him as I should, I would give no thought to what my sacrifices will earn me in the world to come.  And I would do anything He asked without hesitation. Only then will I have separated from myself and formed a perfect union with Him.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Test of Spiritual Mettle

I brought only one book to Italy with me, Story of a Soul, which I tried to read from a little each night.  Each hotel room I stayed in was furnished with a Bible, so I read a little bit from the New Testament as well, but mostly, with the little bit of time on my hands at night, I would read St. Therese's autobiography.  I never cease to be amazed at her resolve in the face of unimaginable physical suffering.  Through it all, she never stopped praying, even when the only prayer she could manage was: "My God, I love You".

If I came home determined to do one thing, it was to have the resolve not to give in to sin and temptation when I am physically not up to snuff.  Every time an uncharitable or inappropriate thought attempts to cross my mind, I have a choice. I can choose to see where it leads me, or I can close the door on it by immersing myself in prayer.  The prayer can be as simple as a Hail Mary.  The choice is mine and I am working to make the right one.

A friend and I have been discussing the recent pilgrimage we took and the spiritual benefit we gained from it.  Particularly because of my trials with J I felt as though I had squandered a wonderful opportunity.  I was grateful for my friend's perspective.  As Richard Collins pointed out, a pilgrimage wasn't meant to be overly enjoyable, but was I wrong for seeking some solitude?  My friend reminded me of the process involved in refining gold.  It's not a glamorous or painless process, but look at the end result.

The pilgrimage was a test of a different kind of mettle.  Perhaps I wasn't meant to behave perfectly toward a poor soul but simply to learn from the experience so that the next time the Lord puts a J in my midst, I might react more charitably and see the gift he apparently was to my friend.  I think I might be on to something with this because of what happened Sunday morning.

Sunday is the one day of the week I like to pray my Rosary while still in bed.  The rest of the week, I pray it before or after Mass, but I enjoy the quiet of my room on Sunday morning after Mr. Little Way has departed for early Mass and the kids and canines are still asleep.  Then I head down to wake my son for Mass (something he refuses to do on his own, but I digress) and catch up with the paper and the blogs and whatever goodies my husband has brought back from the bakery.  This Sunday, there was a rap at the door at the crack of 9am, and I was ready to blast a Jehovah's Witness, only it wasn't a JW, it was a friend of my husband's whose elevator doesn't reach the top floor.  I was really po'd because I don't relish uninvited, unannounced guests, especially during Sunday Silence (thanks Allison, for that!)  so I stomped up the steps as my husband opened the door to him.  I had a choice. I could continue my tantrum and stay upstairs and bang doors and stomp and make my displeasure apparent, or I could go down stairs and be gracious.  I did something in the middle.

The marvelous thing about inconsiderate people is that it can be difficult to offend them, and so this gentleman was oblivious to my displeasure.  He asked me about my trip to Italy and more than any other person  with whom I had discussed the trip in person, he showed a keen interest in the holy places we saw, asking me what my favorite place was and why.  He said he hoped I had brought back some icons, so I showed him the triptych of St. Michael. He was in awe, telling me how St. Michael was his patron saint and how much he'd give to have been able to visit the grotto.  The next thing I knew, the Lord was putting words not my own into my mouth.

"Would you like to have this?"

I nearly gasped myself at the offer.  Surely, this wasn't me doing the asking, but I had no choice now but to play along.

"Are you sure?" was the incredulous response.

That was all the affirmation I needed.  I still had the wrapping that had safely seen St. Michael home from Italy, so I got him ready to go.  The poor guy was so ecstatic, he just started rambling.

"This means a lot to me. I lost all my icons in the divorce. I can't believe you'd give this beautiful icon away."

I'm hoping that when I handed that triptych over, I also relinquished the selfish part of me that seeks my own pleasure and contentment, whether or not it's at the expense of a poor soul or not.

"God's not fooling around with us anymore," my fellow pilgrim and friend told me.  "He's expecting some serious change from both of us."

And with the help of His Grace alone, He will get it.

Don't Try This At Home

Good news.  Rebecca had her doctor's visit today.  While it was recommended that she have minor surgery to eradicate the cyst, the doctor assured me it's not urgent and can actually wait until Christmas break.  There was no sign of infection and no need to put her on antibiotics.  I was afraid to tell her this,  but decided it was better for me to fess up.  I actually irrigated and aspirated the cyst myself over the weekend and got rid of the troubling debris.

"Good job!"  she congratulated me.  "You fixed the problem, for now. How did you do it?"

I told her and she was very impressed.

What I didn't tell her or anyone else for that matter,  is that this time last year, I aspirated a cyst I had - on my eyelid.  I wouldn't dream of attempting that on someone else's eyelid, but when a friend described the procedure she had to remove a chalazion, I knew there was no way I was letting any surgeon, no matter how good, anywhere near my eye with a Bovie knife.  I will spare you the gory details but will tell you there is no sign the pesky thing was ever there and the "procedure" took less than a minute and did not require any electrocautery.

Some people fix their own computers, work on their own cars or unclog their own toilets.  How many people do you know can fix their own eyelids?  Perhaps a better question is how many people do you know are crazy enough to try?

Some Things Are Better Left Unknown

Mr Little Way had a gig at a lovely winery in upstate New York yesterday, so it was just me and the kids at my folks' house for dinner.  I'm not sure why, but the oldest decided to share something that happened shortly after we adopted Gigi, our little chihuahua pug mix who now thinks she's a coyote.  But that's a subject for another post.

It seems Caitlin was on her way to work when one of Philadelphia's Finest called her, identifying himself as a sergeant.  What could be wrong, she thought?  Is our house on fire?  Did something happen to Mom or Dad?

The officer informed her that he had Gigi with him in his squad car and he would like nothing more than to deliver her to our house.  Caitlin was incredulous but assured the officer she would make certain someone was there to receive the little bugger.

Next, she called my husband and nonchalantly asked him how Gigi was.

"She's fine," Mr. Unconscious told her.

"Where is she?"

"Oh, she's right here," he said, digging his grave a little deeper.

"Really?  Well you might want to look a little harder.  The police have her and are about to drop her off to you."

Turns out when he opened the door for UPS to sign for a package, Houdini slipped by him.  She tried to jump in a car with two girls who then notified the police.

I couldn't wait for him to return home last night so I could remind him of this incident, as he was carelessly leaving the door open once again as he banged his drum cases into the house.

"Gigi and I have put that incident behind us and moved on, and I think you should too," he said,  wishing with everything he's worth that I would.

The Lord even protects the 4-legged members of our family.

Monday, October 17, 2011

And Now a Word About My Boss

Although my employees celebrated this on Friday, today is officially National Boss' Day.  I used to have a bumper sticker that summed my boss up very well.

My boss is a Jewish Carpenter.

His benefits are out of this world

Please keep Rebecca in your prayers.  She has a minor medical issue but which is of greater concern because of her heart problems.  Hopefully, some antibiotics will help without further ado.  She's reading Story of a Soul.  I told her today I was asked to help a friend with something very special at the Carmel in December and she pleaded her case for me to bring her along.  When I told her she couldn't come along because of her age, she reminded me that Therese entered the Carmel at the same age Rebecca is - 15.  Well, take your case to the Pope, I told her.   A little bit of silliness can be a good thing sometimes.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Something Sweet for Sunday

Judge Not

An orthodox Jewish woman I know has two children.  "Hannah" as I will call her for the benefit of this post, wears a head-covering in public at all times, strictly observes the Sabbath and identifies from her appearance alone as a devout Orthodox Jew.  Hannah has had difficulty conceiving and would like nothing more than to fill her home with as many children as God sees fit to give her.  Yet there are busy-bodies who do not know the trials she has suffered who assume she must be using contraception because she only has two kids.

Diane arrives late and leaves early to Mass every single Sunday.  This causes some whispers about how she must only show up for Holy Communion so she doesn't have to sit through the entire Mass.  What people don't know is that she is caring for a demented relative who cannot be left alone for very long.  An elderly neighbor relieves her for a short time on Sundays so she can steal away for a few minutes. She would not feel it was safe leaving for more than this.

Jack doesn't leave the pew to go to Holy Communion .  He's a daily communicant but one Monday, he remains kneeling while the rest of us approach the altar.  Well, there could only be one reason for this - Jack must be in a state of mortal sin.  Otherwise, he'd come forward like the rest of us.  One problem with jumping to that assumption - Jack is scheduled for a medical procedure  and he's forbidden to take anything by mouth, including the Eucharist.

You get the point.

We are not privy to the personal lives of others, nor should we be if their behavior does not directly affect us in some way.  Yet I will be the first to admit I have jumped to conclusions when I have seen any of the scenarios I described above.

My second prayer for myself, after asking the Lord to help me get over myself, is to beg to be freed from the beam in my eye.  However, I admit  I often don't know what that beam is.  I look around feeling inferior many times to others who appear more devout and pious than I do and then somewhere along the course of time, I discover an imperfection on their part, like the friend who never realizes the hurt her curt words cause others or the man who has been living out of wedlock for years with a woman yet still presents himself for Holy Communion.

The bottom line is that nobody's perfect and each of us have our special projects to work on that we don't need to reach across the aisle to try to correct someone else.  I wonder how much holier I'd be if I strictly minded my own affairs.

Horses wear blinders because they're supposedly dumb animals who need to have distractions blotted out.

What's my excuse?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Catholic LIfeguard

The Little Way welcomes Catholic Lifeguard to the blog roll.  Rebecca discovered this blog for me and I just love how the author provides very simple phrases that pack some very powerful messages.  Check out this Catholic warrior's blog.

As for that Patheos thingy, I'm not too sure about that.  I have a problem with Catholics getting paid to blog, unless of course they're donating it all to charity.  Maybe it's because I always have a thousand grammatical mistakes and typos but I don't see how blogging is work, first of all, and second, why anyone thinks that by sharing their pearls of wisdom, (which are hopefully inspired by the Holy Spirit and thus belong to Him), they deserve to be compensated.

I've been asked a few times to join other sites that feature multiple authors and while I'm grateful for the invitation, I prefer to do it my way.  What you see is what you get, and I take full ownership for it.

Have a glorious feast day.

St Teresa of Jesus

"God has been very good to me, for I never dwell upon anything wrong which a person has done, so as to remember it afterwards. If I do remember it, I always see some other virtue in that person."

                                               How I wish I could say the same of myself!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Monte Sant'Angelo

Glorious bells!

After the trials of Sunday, Monday arrived as a cool, brilliantly sunny day and a cloudless blue sky.  We didn't have a wake-up call but our instructions were that we'd be leaving San Giovanni Rotondo by 10:30AM.  I really wanted to go to confession and what better place to seek the sacrament than at the shrine dedicated to Padre Pio?  The confessionals were in the lower part of the shrine and it seemed I had arrived just in time for their scheduled start. I checked the schedule posted on the wall to see if any of the priests spoke English.  There were two priests who spoke German, Italian and English.  I sat down in a pew and waited. It would be a full 90 minutes before my turn and I began to worry that I wouldn't get back in time for the bus to depart on schedule.  But my turn eventually came and I entered the "confessional", which was actually a room.  As you entered, there was a kneeler and a screen and next to it a chair for face to face confessions.  Just as I attempted to kneel, a hand waved me over and bid me to sit in the chair.  I don't know why but I was expecting a German priest, so imagine my surprise at finding an Indian cleric waiting for me.  As soon as I began, he paged through a little book he had and I guessed that he was looking for the absolution in English.

You might think that with two friars on our travels one of them might offer to hear confessions, but that didn't happen and it was just as well because this Franciscan friar's advice, which I will keep private, was right on time.  I left feeling very light and optimistic that I could handle the rest of the journey with a minimum of tension.

Once again, there was a luggage fiasco to be sorted out.  It didn't take as long as you might think to get it right and we were on our way to Gargano.

As you may recall, I pray the chaplet to St. Michael on a mostly daily basis (occasionally, I miss a day).  Besides Lisieux, the grotto dedicated to him is the place on earth I most desired to see, and the fact that Monte Sant'Angelo was included on this pilgrimage is what sold me.  Here is a link to the basilica's website where you will a photo of the awesome statue of St. Michael that graces the altar.  Photographs were strictly forbidden in the basilica, so I will only have exterior photos to show you.

On the way there, one of the gentleman that had recently joined the quiet people in the back of the bus asked me what I knew about the basilica and I proceeded to tell him what I knew. I encouraged him to look for the chaplet when we got there and to start praying it.

The story is that a wealthy land baron lost his prize bull and searched for the beast for days.  He finally found it, kneeling at the mouth of a cave and refusing to budge from its position.  The baron was so incensed at the animal's stubborn refusal to move that he shot an arrow at its massive bulk.  The arrow did not strike the bull but instead made a u-turn, piercing the baron's foot.  Convinced this was some sort of sign but perplexed nonetheless, he went to the bishop to recount what happened.  The bishop ordered 3 days fasting and prayer and at their conclusion, the Archangel appeared to the bishop, telling him that there was to be no more shedding of bull's blood and that he would like a basilica built at the site of the cave in his honor. (There was a Roman cult at the time that practiced its paganism by bleeding bulls in caves).  But the bishop was skeptical.

Two years later, Michael again appeared to the bishop and intervened during the battle of Siponto.  But it took a third appearance before the bishop was convinced when the Archangel ordered him to enter the cave where he found an altar.  St. Michael told the bishop he need not consecrate the basilica because he himself had consecrated it with his presence.  It was then that the bishop finally commissioned a church to be built there.

It was an appearance by St. Michael in the 1600's during a plague that brought even more pilgrims to the site and many renowned saints have traveled there in homage including Bernard of Clairvaux and Francis of Assisi.

Now that you have the history, I will simply say that upon arriving in the little town which overlooked the Adriatic, I went directly to the basilica.  I got there with a Mass already in progress, so I stood in the back wishing I had gotten there 15 minutes sooner.  At the conclusion of  Mass, the prayer of consecration to St. Michael was prayed in Italian and then the priest departed and the chapel emptied.

Unlike the other major basilicas we visited, you do not climb steps to enter the main sanctuary.  Here, you go down a series of winding staircases until finally, you reach the cave.  I felt like I had found Heaven on earth and I was not disappointed.  A sister monitored the chapel, occasionally pleading for silence and reminding the faithful not to take photographs.  I honestly don't understand why Catholics would enter a sanctuary like this and feel compelled to snap a photograph before greeting the Lord, but that's exactly what I saw repeated over and over again.  One man actually argued with the sister when she told him to stop taking photos and I shushed him because I felt she needed back-up. I can't imagine arguing with a religious in such a sacred place, but there you have it.

I knelt down to pray my Rosary and I felt that the solitude and the beauty that the chapel afforded made up for the tortures on the bus the previous day.  It had been a very long time since I had been able to remain so focused in prayer, which I only remember because of what happened next.

As I fingered my Rosary and meditated on the Joyful Mysteries, my eyes momentarily closed, I felt a tap on the shoulder.  One of the more gregarious and least reverent people on the trip pointed to a book and asked me if I had seen it.  He shattered the solitude I had finally managed to achieve and my response was to wave him away, pointing to the Rosary.  I just cannot imagine a person so lacking in self-control that they would interrupt a person in prayer to show them a souvenir.  It's not like he couldn't have shown me the book when I left.  And he was the same person who had complained to me about J interrupting him as he prayed in Assisi!

I concluded my Rosary and then visited the tiny Blessed Sacrament chapel.  This was a crude and tiny little basilica and for me,  it exuded holiness and the sacred more than any other place we'd been to.  Whatever happened from then on would be ok with me after this experience.

We had lunch at an adorable little restaurant.  J sat with me and he started a topic which was off-limits.  I wasn't nasty or mean but I told him very directly to drop the subject and never bring it up to me again.  He lowered his head and sat in silence for the next 10 minutes, but after his quiet tantrum, he eventually came around and engaged in conversation again.  Our waitress was a bit on the plump side and she had a face like a Botticelli angel.  She paid ample attention to J and to the other single gentleman on the trip who was also at our table and I soon noticed that she would bring them extra appetizers, etc.  Like the waitress in Visso, she had only to endure them for the length of the meal and if I could manage a week with them, I was sure she could handle an hour.

The meal was second only to the lunch prepared for us by the Benedictines.  Dessert was a luscious bowl of ripe fruit and something Italians call the "host".  Honey-soaked almonds sandwiched between two razor-thin wafers.  Simple and delicious.  We left the restaurant and were given 45 minutes to shop and take photos, so here goes.

The castle at the entrance of the town dedicated to the Archangel Michael

The entrance to the basilica

There was no shortage of images of Michael beating the tar out of you know who
Another image of St. Michael
Even a hotel named after the Archangel
Street scenes
More winding streets lined with shops

Monday, wash day in Gargano
That blue is not the sky, it's the Adriatic sea
Imagine having such a view from your rooftop!
The contrast of the rooftops against the sea was gorgeous
The best was saved for last.  We boarded the bus for the very long ride to Rome.  We made 3 rest stops on the way.  At our last stop, I got out of the bus to take a closer look at a church bell that was ringing in the twilight.  I looked a little closer at the pasture in front of me and realized there was a shepherd bringing his sheep in for the night.  You could heard the bleating of the sheep and the jingling of the bells they wore around their fuzzy little necks.  A few sheepdogs worked to round them up and even in the dimming light, I could see a white figure lying in the grass that seemed to have escape their notice.  I waved to the shepherd and pointed to the light-colored clump.  He whistled and the animal slowly rose to its feet. It wasn't a sheep after all but an aging dog who needed a lot of momentum and encouragement to get up on his old legs.  The bell continued to toll and the end of our trip in Italy could not have ended in a more enchanting way for me.

Thank you, Lord, for looking after us and blessing us with so many privileges.

Blurry, but not in my mind's eye. The grayish looking blurs in the forefront are the sheep going in for the night


Here they are, Heckel and Jeckel or whatever their names are this week.  I walked in to find the brown and white one planting a kiss on Rebecca's lips. Guaranteed to scare the boys away and I'm glad for it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Padre Pio Comes Through for Me

I left out an important detail of our night in San Giovanni Rotondo.  After being unable to sleep because of the lack of air and the mournful sounds of the poor lost dog outside, I must have finally drifted off because around 3AM I awoke in the worst pain in my life, a pain with which I'm unfortunately quite familiar.  It was obvious that I had a kidney stone, which would surely put a damper on things for me.   There was no way I was going to go to a hospital in Italy.  No sir.  I was going to have to ride this out until we left for home. If you've ever had a kidney stone, you know this is virtually impossible as this is not a pain you can ignore and a change in position does nothing to relieve the discomfort.  Imagine 9 hours on a plane with a kidney stone. I'd sooner fly with a screaming infant.

I had nothing with me to kill pain except Ibuprofen and it was going to take a toxic dose to have any effect. I was sure this was my come-uppance for my lack of charity earlier regarding the Rosary.  But fortunately, God doesn't think the way we do.

"I know what I'll do," I told myself, like the dishonest steward in the parable.  "I'll beg Padre Pio to help me."

And that's just what I did.  I got on my knees and pleaded with the saint to intervene for me.  The miracle is that the pain subsided substantially and other than a few twinges, it disappeared altogether.

Thanks be to God, and for Padre Pio for his glorious intercession.

A Day Laden With Trials in Lanciano and San Giovanni Rotondo

Sunday, a week to the day we arrived in Rome.  We were scheduled to leave Cascia at 7:45 AM to head to Lanciano, site of a  Eucharistic miracle, where one of the friars would be celebrating Mass in English for us.  Sunday is a very busy day in Cascia and buses are confined to a more stringent barrier than they are during the week.  Another group was leaving when we were, and we were given stickers to adhere to our luggage so that our cargo would go to the correct bus, but I had no faith in that system given the kind of luck I was having, so at 7:15 I dragged my suitcases up the hill to meet the bus.  It was chilly and there was fog but I didn't care - I knew where my luggage was.   There was some confusion about where our group was going to meet, so for quite awhile, I waited alone.  Finally, I saw another pilgrim straggling up the hill and I told them to let the rest of the group know I was already where I should be.

One of the friars had to return to Rome but the other was going with us.  After our journey to Lanciano was underway, the trip organizers decided we would pray the Rosary. It would have been advisable to simply allow the priest to lead us, but my friend decided to allow the group to volunteer to each take a mystery. I knew this was going to be a problem when one of the women, instead of simply announcing the mystery, decided to give an emotional mini-sermon about the Resurrection.  I know I sighed heavily because I truly feared what was going to come next.

I really hated to hear the recitation of the Rosary deteriorate into amateur hour, and I know that my sentiments are not exactly charitable, but I feel strongly that lay people should leave the preaching to the clergy and that the Rosary is a beautiful prayer that stands on its own merit and doesn't need embellishing.

The thing I feared most came true with the fourth Glorious mystery.   I am not going to say any more about it except that I could not wait for it to end, so offensive was the sound to my ears.  Can you imagine saying that about a prayer as beautiful as the Rosary?  When it mercifully ended, those of us in the back of the bus said an Act of Contrition for our lack of charity.  Trouble was, the fifth mystery was also recited by the same person. I heard a voice behind me say "Please, God, let it  be over".  You had to be there to know why. I couldn't help but feel anger at my friend for thinking it was a good idea to turn the microphone over to these people, especially the last one.

At Lanciano, I can only describe our quest to hear Mass as chaos.  I was reminded of the dreadful scene in the Sistine Chapel where I thought we would be suffocated to death.  This wasn't much better.  It was apparent that there was no real plan for us once we arrived and for awhile I feared we would have no Mass at all.  We were bounced from place to place,having to push through the crowed and finally, we went out into the cloister to allow the Mass in progress to end and the church to empty.  Finally, we were asked to come back inside and our priest was permitted to use the main altar.  The readings were handled by the same person who had taken the last two mysteries of the Rosary, in much the same way. I thought it was miraculous he didn't decided to give his own sermon while he was up there.  But that would not be the last of him.

I am ashamed to say that I was still so worked up after the Rosary fiasco on the bus, that I thought it might be best if I didn't receive Holy Communion, but then I thought better of it.  No mere human could have been expected to hear what I did and not feel some anger and resentment.

After Mass, we viewed the remnants of the Eucharistic miracle, still preserved in a reliquary behind the main altar.  A priest who had begun to have doubts about the Real Presence elevated the Host at the consecration when suddenly, the Host began to drip Blood.  The Blood was collected in a chalice and both the Host and the Blood were analyzed found to be human, type AB.  I did not take pictures of these sacred relics but you can google Eucharistic miracle at Lanciano and see for yourself.  Above is a shot of the main altar.  The church is now run by Franciscans and since this  was only a few days before his feast, the statue of St. Francis was displayed prominently.

Unlike the other beautiful basilicas we saw, this church was worn and seemed in need of repairs.  It had been ravaged by several earthquakes ( the Eucharistic miracle survived them all) and it was in a part of Italy not very well off, but the Mass that preceded ours was  beautiful and packed with the faithful.  The friar who helped our friar set up for Mass was typically Franciscan ( at least to me) - joyful and patient.

After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we got back on the bus for the ride to San Giovanni Rotondo so we could visit the church where Padre Pio received the stigmata and lived out his life.  The beautiful Adriatic Sea could be viewed from the bus and with the combination of the surrounding mountains we had a picturesque ride unlike any I'd ever experienced in the States. I didn't get the mountain in this photo, but take a look at how blue the water was.
At three o'clock in the afternoon, the same person who mangled the Rosary and handled the lectoring duties as Mass was invited to take the microphone again to "pray" the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I could not believe that after what we endured that morning, that someone's misplaced sense of charity made them think it was ok to subject us to this again.  This, in my mind, was only going to further encourage the individual to continue to take it upon themselves to make themselves the center of attention at the expense of the prayer.  To make matters worse, the person decided to chant the chaplet.  That was the end of it for me.  I got out my iPod shuffle and began playing my Gregorian chant set to nature sounds.  The Asperges Me set to the sounds of running water and a wood thrush chirping saved my life, literally.  I would not have been able to endure that sound again.  God have mercy on me for saying it.

Sometime late in the afternoon, we arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo.  Some of the best photos I saw from the bus, which meant I had to keep them in my mind.  If I have complaint about our bus driver, it's that he didn't allow us more picture-taking opportunities from the road.  Anyway, I saw a scene that made me think of the wedding reception at the end of Fellini's Amarcord.  A large family set up a table in the middle of a rocky pasture, put a white tablecloth on it, and began spreading out their feast.  This same scene was repeated several times before we reached the town.
The convent (in Europe, priests live in convents and nuns in monasteries) where Padre Pio lived

I have to say that I don't think St. Padre Pio would have chosen the design of the new basilica dedicated to him, but the older church, where he had lived and served, was another story.  Try as I might to have some quiet prayer time, however, the fellow members of my entourage would not permit it.  I grew increasingly frustrated that day with the obvious lack of reverence and silence in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
There are many altars throughout Italy that have an image of Christ entombed beneath them

I had to visit the gift shop because a friend had asked me to do them a favor and bring something back and when I got there, the sisters from New York had invaded the place in a frenzy, buying up every Padre Pio holy card and medal in sight.  Those ladies could sure shop.  We were told to meet outside at 6:30 for a special surprise.  We were taken to the library in the shrine where we were treated to an English version of a documentary of a Padre Pio film with rare footage of him.  It was charming to see him with his friars, who obviously loved him very much, and to see him gently chastise the filmmaker for intruding upon him.  The conclusion of the film showed the exhumation of his body from its original tomb.  Our narrator informed us that he was not found to be incorrupt but it was obvious that it was still Padre Pio.

When the film concluded, our host encouraged us to add our names to the mailing list and he invited us to purchase Mass enrollment cards for the sick and deceased.  Unfortunately, we had to depart by way of going past the sacristy, and I was simply mortified at how loud the group was.  Shushing people and asking them to be quiet had no effect whatsoever.  I tried to run up the stairs ahead of everyone so I didn't have to be part of the obvious disturbance they were causing to the priest trying to celebrate Mass.  Some of the altar servers were sent out to tell us to be quiet.  Why did it have to come to that?

One of the most beautiful versions of the Madonna  I saw in all of Italy
Back in the night air, it was decided that the more elderly members of our group would need taxis to take them to our hotel, which we had yet to see.  Padre Pio was obviously big business in this little town as every corner seemed to hold a vendor where his image was purveyed in every conceivable form.  Below is a photo of the lighted archways that adorn the town at night.
We ate dinner close to 9:30 at night.  This was the nicest of all the hotels we had stayed in.  Forget the fact it had no air conditioning and I couldn't open my window wide enough to get any air and that the restaurant workers taunted some poor lost dog all night until someone yelled "Jack-asses!" out the window at them... it was still a nice hotel.

Tomorrow, we would set out for the place that most convinced me I needed to go on this trip - the grotto where the Archangel Michael had appeared in the fifth century.  But not before I went to confession at Padre Pio's shrine.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Just in Case You Were Wondering...

1. The rats are still alive.  In fact (gulp) one of them might be pregnant.  God help me if that's the case.  I wish Rebecca had told me before we adopted them that rats can get pregnant when they're a month old.  Ours are a couple of months old.  Too late now.  One of these days I'll get a photo of the little buggers posted.  They really are as sweet as everyone says they are.  And curious, too.

2.  No, I did not go to Italy without addressing my hair color.  My mother phoned me two days before I left to make sure I had made an appointment to get it done.  Who did she think was going to care about my roots in Italy, the Pope?  Nonetheless, I broke down and bought a box of Clairol, opting for a darker color and a cheaper option than going to a salon.

3.  I can't believe Red October is now Dead October.  For a team to win 102 games and collapse like they did is shameful.  Pitching wins so long as your team scores at least one run.  The Phils couldn't even muster that.

4. I'm grateful for the blessing of a new car. OK, not brand-new, but new for me. I traded in my gas guzzler for a pre-owned (USED) Toyota Rav4.  Now I'll have 4WD when I need it, so rest assured there will be no snow whatsoever in the Northeast this winter.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

5. I can't believe it, but I'm actually contemplating another trip next year, and only because my mother brought it up again that she'd really like to go to Lourdes and Fatima.  I have to say I don't relish the idea of having to make connecting flights in Portugal and France, but the dear woman has never traveled outside the US in her life, and if she's willing to leave my father for a week to do this, I can't justify saying no.  We'll see.  I'm not married to the idea.  There is a trip to France that includes Lourdes, Nevers and Lisieux, which I would prefer over Lourdes and Fatima.  Maybe I'll be able to talk her into it, IF I decide to go at all.

6.  Yes, I successfully got the salami, olive oil and prosciutto past the customs folks.  This despite the fact that a suitcase sniffing dog was on the job.  I'm shameless about it, too.

7. Last but certainly not least, St. Therese has come through again.  Gary has made a complete recovery, including kidney function, and a cousin diagnosed with a form of brain cancer that is usually fatal within months of diagnosis is now approaching 3 years of remission.   While in Italy, I read the postscript to Story of a Soul that describes her final sufferings.  I am still amazed at the graces with which she was endowed and her generosity in dispensing the favors she won on our behalf, for the sake of her Beloved.

Last Night in Cascia

The basilica dedicated to St. Rita

We were scheduled to meet outside the upper basilica at 6:30pm to allow time for the scheduled Mass to conclude and the faithful to depart.  With some time on my hands, I visited some of the shops that boasted of the finest lacrime de cinghiale, or tears of the wild boar.  I had no interest in the liqueur, but I did want to buy some salami and prosciutto to bring home. I had heard that if you got the butcher to vacuum pack it, you stood a better chance of getting it through customs.  Without speaking a single word of Italian, I got everything I wanted, precisely as I wanted it.  Now the trick would be getting it safely to my family or, having it confiscated at the airport.

You could get yourself in a lot of trouble on this little street.
At the appointed time, we met on the steps of the basilica and went inside, where we gathered near the main altar.  I have to say I was not so impressed with this basilica as some of the frescoes had a very modern, almost amateurish look about them.  If I were going to build a basilica to St. Rita, I would want it to be of more classic, traditional beauty than this one.  But people don't go to Cascia to see beauty.  They come to pay homage to the saint who always hears their prayers and uses her power to open His Heart to persuade God to grant favors thought impossible to human skill and effort.*

After giving us a brief overview of the basilica, we went over to the grille behind which lay the body of St. Rita.  We prayed the novena prayer to her and then sang the hymn that is sung after every novena every Wednesday at the church named for her in Philadelphia.  It was a very moving tribute and many of the group were sniffling.  I think I had cried myself out the night before but I still felt moved by the beauty and simplicity of these simple gestures of honor.  When we left the basilica, it seemed like bells were ringing from every direction.  It was an other-worldly sound that I had so looked forward to hearing in Italy.  I was not disappointed.

I thought about how unbelievable it was, that instead of spending her feast  at the Carmel, as I normally do, I was spending St. Therese's day in Cascia with another very special saint who has faithfully heard and obtained for me my pleas.

Meanwhile, back at our hotel, a few more busloads of pilgrims had arrived. so the joint was jumping.  To add to the excitement, the Italian soccer team beat their opponent 3-0.  I have never heard such frenzy in all my life.  I had to walk through a thick fog of cigarette smoke to escape the noise and take a final night-time walk in the little town.  The bats were doing their thing, flying like chickens without heads past the belfry, and the stars did their part to draw my attention to the night sky.

Tomorrow, we would leave Cascia and head for San Giovanni Rotondo, the highlight of the trip for many of the people in the group. I would have to wait one more day for the grotto I had come to Italy to see.

*From the novena prayers and hymns to St Rita