Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blog-Free Fridays

As part of my sorely-lacking Lenten discipline, I will not be blogging or reading blogs tomorrow.  If you leave a comment after I have signed off, I won't see it until Saturday.

Tomorrow is the First Friday of the month.  If you can't get to Mass or Adoration, you can still pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart, printed here for your convenience.

The Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the World, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed in the womb of the Virgin Mother by the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, united substantially with the word of God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, vessel of justice and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Divinity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father is well pleased, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, rich to all who invoke Thee, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, saturated with revilings, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, crushed for our iniquities, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, made obedient unto death, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who hope in Thee, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in Thee, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, delight of all saints, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord,
Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, meek and humble of Heart.
R. Make our hearts like unto Thine.
Let us pray
Almighty and everlasting God, look upon the Heart of Thy well-beloved Son and upon the acts of praise and satisfaction which He renders unto Thee in the name of sinners; and do Thou, in Thy great goodness, grant pardon to them who seek Thy mercy, in the name of the same Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, world without end.

Funeral Chat

Today was my little friend's memorial Mass.   I wish the skies would have been more considerate, but at least at the time of the Mass, it was just gray and not raining.  Rebecca met me at church.  We decided she would go to school late, following the Mass.  I went to work very early, left for a few hours for the Mass, and returned after dropping Becca at her school.  On the short drive over, she said to me: " You do want your funeral Mass in Latin, don't you?"

I laughed at first.  I have the music picked out for my funeral and some strict instructions about no eulogies, etc. but I honestly hadn't given much thought to the subject.  I know I'd like the priest to wear black vestments, and I clearly do not want any assumptions that I am in Heaven.  A funeral Mass is offered for the repose of the soul of the deceased.  If someone feels compelled to give a eulogy or a stand-up performance about what they suppose I'm doing in Heaven, they can save it for the luncheon afterward.  But would I want my Mass to be a requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form?

I told my daughter I'd have to think about it.  Then I asked the question no sane parent would ever ask their own child.  "God forbid, if you go before me, what kind of Mass do you want Rebecca?"

Without even a second's pause, she said she would like her funeral Mass to be in the Extraordinary Form.  "It might be the only time any of our family ever goes to a Latin Mass", she told me, ever the considerate one. Little does she know.   I come from a large Italian family known for getting demonstratively emotional at funerals.  I will never forget my paternal grandfather's funeral as long as I live.

First, the "wake" was held over not one but two nights.  The first night was for family only, the second was open to everyone.  My grandmother and all my aunts wore black.  On the evening before the wakes began, we visited my grandmother at the home she had shared with Poppy, and every new visitor was greeted by much wailing and shrieking, most of it in Italian.  Then after each outburst, she would return to praying the very large Rosary she had in her lap, until the next unsuspecting person arrived to "pay their respects."

After the night of the first viewing, one of my aunts decided a funeral home was no place for grandchildren to spend an entire evening, so she generously agreed to take all of us back to my grandparents' house until the wake had concluded.  She entertained us with stories and when the other adults arrived, my uncle Sonny took over.  He told us about the days when a wake was held with the deceased person in the house, which is where the ritual took its name "wake" because someone was expected to stay up all night with the body, another sign of respect. The men told a lot of jokes, drank and laughed.  What was so funny, their father just died?  Still, it was comforting in a way to see them give the morbidity a break.   But the real spectacle would begin on the day of the funeral.

I had never been to a burial before. I was barely ten years old at the time.  I was already freaked out about seeing my grandfather's lifeless cold body heavily made up by the undertaker lying in the casket.  There was much wailing and screaming when the undertaker tried to close the coffin before the body was transported to church for the Mass. Before he could close the lid, one of my cousins tucked a bottle of booze in the casket with my grandfather.  Not sure what that was about, but it was a strange thing to do.  At the cemetery,   just like the famous scene in The Godfather, each person laid a flower on the casket.  Not my grandmother.  She tried to throw herself on top of it, barely restrained by the family.  My theatrical aunt wailed loudly as the men tried to drag my grandmother from the grave.  I was mortified and perplexed.  My grandparents fought like cats and dogs.  I could scarcely remember a kind word being exchanged between them, and here she was, trying to jump in the grave with him.  I had never seen anything so undignified, until we were compelled to take her to the cemetery a few weeks later.  This time, she kicked the dirt around the grave.  Having visited my maternal grandfather's grave every Good Friday, I was again mortified.  We always took care not to step on any of the plots or stones, and here she was, in her black dress, kicking wildly at the dirt.  It was enough to make me never want to go to another funeral in my life.

While there have been a few deaths since then, no one has ever behaved quite like that again.  Still, my family has a lot to learn about funeral decorum.  One cousin talked throughout the entire Mass for my paternal grandmother.  Another decided that he should be the one to give the eulogy, even though my grandmother never liked him and told everyone it took years off her life when he married my cousin. At my maternal grandmother's viewing, my mother walked in, took one look at her beloved mother in the casket, and suffered a serious heart attack.  I thought I was going to have to bury both of them in the same week.

I'm very glad my little friend was given a reverent and dignified send-off today.  The priest gave a simple but touching homily about how, when she was a baby, her godparents brought her to the Easter candle to be baptised and today, her remains were once again brought to that candle so her relatives and friends could ask God to bring her soul to eternal rest.  It was an entirely appropriate funeral Mass, which is possible regardless of which form in which it is celebrated.

I still have to give Rebecca's question a bit more thought.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

At What Price Success?

OK, before I even get started - RAMBLING ALERT!

I think it was Larry D who ran a post about how people who go to church a lot are more likely to be obese. I can kind of see how that's possible.  Some folks give up a lot to be involved, and that includes exercise.  I don't know how scientific the study is, but the priest's words at the 6:30 a few weeks ago got me to thinking.  The weekday Mass I attend sometimes has better attendance than some Sunday Masses at other parishes.  The priest, in his sermon, said that he thought that people who make the effort to go to daily Mass are achievers. His words really struck me because outside of the spiritual realm, I'm as far from an achiever as you can get.

I am very torn right now about whether or not I really want to pursue my Master's.  I dropped my course this semester with the excuse that it was too much to continue studies  while I'm still getting the hang of a new job.  The reality is, I dropped it because I didn't want to be consumed with writing papers during Lent.  I don't want to take my next course because it will coincide with my involvement with the Treasures of the Church relic tour.  The truth is, the only achievements in which I have an interest are spiritual.  Outside of that, I couldn't care less about school, professional organizations, letters after my name, titles, etc.  This got me to thinking again.  Am I wasting some God-given ability?  It's hard work to complete 4 credits online in 8 weeks.  What if I had followed the traditional course of events and abandoned a career to stay home with my kids?  Wouldn't this have been more pleasing to God? What am I called to do?

It's kind of late to look on back and wonder what could have been.  The reality is that I cannot reverse the course.  If I stopped to think about all the weight that I carry, I would collapse, so I don't think about it.  There are women with much heavier burdens than the one I carry, so I cannot and should not complain.  

Last week, the Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN) held its annual congress in Philadelphia.  Some of my nurses are heavily involved in this organization and it was a sacrilege to them that I did not attend.  They brought me back some of the literature.  There were lots and lots of names that had lots and lots of initials after them.  I find this a bit amusing.  I don't know of  any other walk of life where people feel the need to have every single credential they have ever earned after their names.   I think this comes from a sense of insecurity, but who knows?  As a mother with children still in high school, shouldn't I rather concern myself with their achievements?

Anyway, this has been on my mind of late.  Am I lazy?  Does God expect more of me?   We can always do more.  I'd just rather do more spiritually.  

Fifteen Already!

Happy Birthday to my youngest progeny, Rebecca, who is 15 today.  She was born on her due date on a beautiful Saturday before Palm Sunday.  I went to bed the night before with plans to visit a thoroughbred breeding farm for their open house, but come Saturday morning, Rebecca had other ideas.  She was born at 3:55pm and oddly enough, as we waited for her arrival, my husband and I discovered we both had the same song rolling around in our heads, The Beatles' "It Won't Be Long".  It sure wasn't!

Please say a prayer for my young lady that she will continue to grow in faith and and love.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Around the Philadelphia Parishes and More

First,  a prayer of thanksgiving for the good news that seminarian Phillip Gerard Johnson continues to post on his blog.  Please pay him a visit and assure him of your prayers.  I pray that it is God's Will to bring to fruition the promise that began when this young man entered the seminary.  I continue to ask Charles Untz for his intercession in this matter.  I will have more to say about this at a later date.

Second, Matthew and Rebecca and I just returned from St. Rita's, where a meeting to firm up the volunteers for The Treasures of the Church Exposition on May 12 was held.  As I think I wrote previously, Treasures of the Church is a collection of 161 relics of the saints and a ministry of Father Carlos Martins of Texas.  St. Rita's will kick off Father Martins' tour of the greater Philadelphia area by hosting an evening with the saints on Thursday, May 12th.  A talk will be given by Father Martins in the upper church at 7pm.  At 8pm, we will journey to the lower shrine to venerate the relics, which will be displayed over 19 tables.  Father Martins will be bringing the relics to other parishes and shrines in the area and I will post that list here as soon as the rest of the details are finalized.

St. Rita's is located at Broad and Ellsworth Street in South Philadelphia.  Free parking is available in the lot immediately adjacent to the shrine on Ellsworth Street and elevator service is available between the lower shrine and the upper church.  Email me if you want more details.

This coming Sunday, St. Paul's at 10th and Christian Streets will commence Forty Hours Devotion following the Traditional Latin Mass at 12 Noon.  Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will take place until Evening Prayer and Benediction at 7pm.  The closing night is Tuesday April 5th.  If enough people commit to keeping Our Lord company at times such as these, perhaps our priests will be encouraged to consider making Adoration a regularly scheduled devotion, rather than a once a year happening.  Email me if you want more details.

Have a blessed night.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What If?

In our short procedure unit, we sometimes take nursing home patients who are in need of a blood transfusion.  Nursing homes do not store blood so rather than admit the patient for an overnight stay at the hospital, which is very costly, they will come to our SPU to get their blood.  The patients are nearly always ventilator dependent and in what's described as a persistent vegetative state.  The patient we had today was someone who was not much older than me.  The patient had suffered anoxia, which is a lack of oxygen to the brain, and that's how she came to be this way.  Through a tracheotomy, the ventilator breathed for her and she seemed not to notice anything.  It was a heartbreaking scene to behold.  Nonetheless, we cared for the patient and at the conclusion of the transfusions, the ambulance arrived to take her back to the skilled nursing facility.  I wondered if she had family.  I wondered if she was "locked in" meaning she sees, hears and understands everything but is incapable of response.

I will confess that there was a time in my life when I would have wanted my family to withdraw support if ever I wound up like this patient.  I know better, and now my fear is that in some misguided effort to spare me of any suffering, they would do to me what Terri Schiavo's husband did to her.  I don't fear for myself in that case, but for them.  And so it's been a difficult discussion with some people in my family that should, God forbid, I suffer some catastrophic cerebral event, I would want them to do only what is acceptable in the eyes of God and His Church.

I feel I have made some spiritual progress if my greater concern is offending God, rather than fearing total incapacitation like the patient today.  I'm also shocked at the reaction that people who, on the surface, are very devout and committed Catholic have when I raise this topic.

It is very difficult to watch people suffer, particularly people we love.  Our Blessed Mother bore witness to the terrible punishment her innocent Son suffered at Calvary.  It's a natural thing to have an aversion to watching a loved one endure suffering, but hopefully, should we find ourselves in that position, we can draw strength from Mary, who never abandoned Jesus, though it tore her heart to pieces to watch Him hang from the cross.

What Brings You Here

What I find far more fascinating than how many people read this blog are the reasons that cause them to stumble upon The Little Way.  Today, it seems that Google dominated the vehicle by which most readers arrived, and here are the topics of interest:

Can you not stay awake one hour?

Crawling on our hands and knees to the altar

Charles Untz

How to say the Rosary of St. Theresa

How to create a day of recollection

The little way of St. Therese

In a short bit I'll be headed to my church for our Monday evening novenas and I will remember all of your intentions for which you have asked me to pray.  Also, a timely reminder from Richard at Linen on the Hedgerow that Lent is an excellent time to remember the souls in Purgatory.   Someday, with any luck, we'll be where they are and I'm sure they will reciprocate in helping us to reach our Heavenly home.

From Terry at Abbey Roads word that today is St. Teresa of Avila's birthday.  You just never know what you're going to learn.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Panis Angelicus Casciolini

The House Swept Clean

The Gospel for today's Traditional Latin Mass was taken from Luke chapter 11, whereby Jesus drives out a demon and is accused by some in the crowd as having gotten His power to exorcise from Beelzebub.  Jesus explains the foolishness of such thinking, and then concludes with a rather ominous scenario.  A demon is driven out, and goes in search of that which he thirsts for and when he cannot find it, he goes back to where he was driven from and brings with him his legions.  Finding the place from where he was driven devoid of anything else, he and his legions move in, leaving the place in worse shape than when he originally found it.

Some years ago, I read the Malachi Martin book Hostage to the Devil and aside from the fascinating picture he provided of exorcisms, there were also many practical lessons on why possession takes place at all.  Hell is such a deplorable and horrifying place that its inhabitants look for any way they can to get out. One way is by taking bodily possession of a person.  This is often why the exorcist will hear such heart-wrenching moaning and wailing as he grows close to driving the demon out.  The demon realizes it's going back to Hell where it does not want to be, and it makes every effort it can to stay.  The exorcist, of course, does not act on his own authority in anything but always in the name of Jesus Christ, Who has power over everything, including the Father of Lies and Deceit.

If God does not possess our hearts, they are devoid of anything to prevent a demon from taking over.  The Evil One, too, thirsts for souls. He thirsts for souls because he wishes to destroy them.  Our Savior thirsts for souls so that He can redeem them and save them from the power of evil.

Today, I read a sickening and disgusting letter in the Philadelphia Inquirer from someone who does not believe in God. This person provided a host of explanations an atheist could give their children when they begin to question the existence of God.  Of those he quoted, one by Immanuel Kant really struck me.

"He who mas made great moral progress ceases to pray."

This is the antithesis of Luke's Gospel.  How horrible that someone would raise their children to believe such drivel.    I believe this is exactly the sort of thing Our Lord referred to when He talked of the house swept clean, from which the father of lies was once driven.   Why do such men not believe?  Is it because they cannot fathom a Being greater than themselves?  They share the same attitude as the fallen angel who was cast from Heaven.  Pray for such people that their hearts may be able to grasp that which their minds cannot.  And let us not think for an instant that we are capable of anything without God's help.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

This One Brief Night

I promised my friend I would visit her sister in hospice, so when I got home from work I called her yesterday.  If truth be told, I wanted to be sure her sister had not already passed.  The minute my friend heard my voice she said "You're going to the hospice, right?"  I knew this meant a lot to her. She told me she would meet me there.

I have never been fearful of death or those who are dying.  But when I got to the room,  the woman was all alone.  The disease process had not distorted her as I feared it would and though she did not appear to be conscious, she still looked like herself.  I felt a bit uncomfortable being there all alone, so I sat by her bedside and told her that I loved her and that her sister, to whom she is so attached, would be there shortly.  I tried to hold her hand, but she was burning with fever, and I didn't want to do anything that might cause her more discomfort, although she did not look to be in pain.  I could see her struggling to open her eyes when I mentioned her sister's name and when I reminded her of something we had done together.  After awhile, still waiting for my friend to arrive, I walked over to the window and took out my Rosary to pray it.

The hospice is on the sixth floor of former acute-care hospital, and the view of the city made me so melancholy and aware of how brief life is.  I could see so many places from my childhood, churches and schools, etc. I could never go back to those places and how much more I would have savored them had I known how much they would mean to me later on.  I was thinking that  if I were dying, I would like to have such a view, but in this place, which is the last stop on the journey home for many people,  the view is not there for them but for those who will go on.

Just as I was lost in thought, my friend came into the room.  She brought two sisters I hadn't met or even known had existed .  A lot of things came to mind, such as why my friend has been struggling all alone to care for her sister and a brother who is at home and also very sick.  It appeared that the two sisters had not seen the one who has been sick for a very long time.  I did not want to stay because I felt I was invading their privacy and their need to grieve while their sister was still with them.

When my uncle passed away of metastatic renal cancer a few years ago, he died in a Catholic hospice.  Every room had a beautiful crucifix and there was a statue of the Blessed Mother in the hall, the kind we had in grade school and used for the May Procession.  This was not a religious facility and it bothered me that the walls were devoid of any Catholic sacramental or devotion. I had a holy card with St. Therese as a child on it, so I tucked it under the pillow where my little friend lay dying.  The inscription on it says:

"I rejoice to be little, because only children and those who are like them will be admitted into the Heavenly banquet"

The dying woman, though she was the oldest of all of these sisters, had become very child-like in her illness.  She depended on her younger sister for everything.  I remembered when she was getting out of the car after our long day at Fox Chase, she asked me what she could do for me in return.  I didn't want to ask for anything, but I knew she wanted to do something  in kind, so I quickly said "Say a Rosary for me to get a job that I'll like."  I forgot to remind my friend of this when I spoke to her, but I trust and pray that very soon Someone else will remind her of how her little prayers for me yielded so much more than I gave her in return.

Thank you for reading these posts.  Please believe me that I do not write these things for any accolades, but simply as a way to share in the hope that they might be helpful to others.  If truth be told,  I find it very difficult to be so intimately connected with people I do not know well.  I wish I could offer the Lord a more pure gift by getting over my aversion to situations like this one, but then something tells me that He is ok with what I bring Him.  He knows it is a struggle and perhaps because of it, is is all the more pleasing to Him.


Anna passed away sometime last night.  Please continue to keep her and her family  in your prayers.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her.  May  her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace, Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blog-Free Fridays

Just a reminder that if you leave a comment after I have signed off, I won't see it until Saturday.

I had an early-morning meeting today and couldn't make it to my regular Mass, but when the meeting ended unexpectedly soon, I headed out to the little church down the road from the hospital.  I have never seen a more beautiful depiction of the Crucifixion as was behind the altar and if I get there again some time, I'll have to take some photos of it.  The stained glass windows were some of the most gorgeous I've ever seen, which was surprising.  Suburban churches are rarely known for such beauty.  The priest was also very reverent and I loved the way he was faithful to the words of the liturgy and prayed them instead of merely repeating them.  God's blessings on him and his little flock!

If They Hear Not Moses and the Prophets

Photo of the "Parable of Lazarus and Abraham" taken by Fergal Claddagh. 

This Gospel always scares me to death. What if I had not been born after Christ walked the earth?  What if I had lived when Moses did and I did not have the Gospels?  What if I did not have the benefit of Our Lady of Fatima?  Would I have believed?  Would I be begging for someone to help cool the flames to which I had been condemned? 

"Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe" - John 20:29

The Sentiments of the Psalmist

Whenever I'm having a bad day and feel guilty because I want to put down my cross, I read the psalms.  The gamut of emotions is run, everything from effusive praise to "Dear God, what ARE You thinking?"  Despair, joy, agony, ecstasy, faith, doubt, etc.  They're all there in the psalms.  From Vespers today, Psalm 80.

1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
   you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth 
2   before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
   and come to save us! 

3 Restore us, O God;
   let your face shine, that we may be saved. 

4 O Lord God of hosts,
   how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? 
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears,
   and given them tears to drink in full measure. 
6 You make us the scorn* of our neighbours;
   our enemies laugh among themselves. 

7 Restore us, O God of hosts;
   let your face shine, that we may be saved. 

8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
   you drove out the nations and planted it. 
9 You cleared the ground for it;
   it took deep root and filled the land. 
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
   the mighty cedars with its branches; 
11 it sent out its branches to the sea,
   and its shoots to the River. 
12 Why then have you broken down its walls,
   so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? 
13 The boar from the forest ravages it,
   and all that move in the field feed on it. 

14 Turn again, O God of hosts;
   look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine, 
15   the stock that your right hand planted.* 
16 They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down;*
   may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance. 
17 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
   the one whom you made strong for yourself. 
18 Then we will never turn back from you;
   give us life, and we will call on your name. 

19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
   let your face shine, that we may be saved

 I was thinking today of the times when I am disappointed by God, how I am sometimes full of despair over some of the stupidest things you can imagine.  I don't get angry at God, but I don't always bear what He sends me with joy.    After uncertainty and doubt about some issues I am facing, I felt like I had had enough, so I did not appeal to the Blessed Mother or St. Therese to intercede for me.  I appealed directly to the Lord to help me and in His great generosity, He did. I said "Lord, you know I am a wretched creature, a nothing, but I beg you to help me in this matter.  I know that I am a fool, and no one knows that better than You.  Have mercy on me and take some of this burden from me."

I was thinking of how His help had brought me such sensible or felt joy, and I thanked Him for it.  And then I got to thinking of how much easier it is to love Him when He does what I want and I was remorseful about this.  And then He asked me: "And what is it that you do when you ask for me for something and you do not get a reply?  Do you not continue to pray in good faith that I will send you what you need, regardless of whether or not it's what you want?  Do you not continue to turn to Me for help?  Then how can you say that you love Me less? "

Because, after all, love is not an emotion, whatever Hallmark would have us believe.  It's a choice.  The same one we make when we say "for better, for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health".  We may have long ago lost that spark that brought us together, but we do not abandon our spouse based on how we feel.  It is love that compels us to stay.   I am not speaking of situations where there is abuse.  I am speaking of situations where one spouse is much less imperfect than the other.  What good is working for my own salvation if I ignore the fact that my spouse may be spiraling into hell?  

Love is why, when one has an ungrateful child with a tongue as sharp as a serpent's, we do not respond in kind. It's why when one of our children makes a mess of their lives despite our desperate warnings that they would, we do not turn on our backs on them when they return to us downtrodden and defeated.  Love is why we continue to care for an elderly parent who takes their anger at their loss of independence out on us.  

The psalmist speaks of the vine that God planted.  A vine can be a thing of beauty, or it can be a choking weed that destroys everything in its path.  God loves us unconditionally.  He loves us with the intention of helping us to produce good fruit.  We can only do so when we love others as He loves us.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Gifts That Come With Dying

A woman from my church called me tonight while I was getting dinner ready.  She is the sister of the woman I drove to Fox Chase Cancer Center on Our Lady's feast day in December.  Her sister is in the final stages of her illness.   The cancer is everywhere and multi-system organ failure has begun, which means it may not be long before she draws her last breath.  She is in hospice care right now and has received the sacraments for the last time.  I knew my friend needed someone to listen, so I did the best I could.  From my years in the medical/respiratory ICU, I watched a lot of people in similar condition pass.  It's not a pretty death.  When the liver fails, jaundice sets in everywhere, including the eyes, and the loss of protein causes third-spacing, which means that fluid escapes into places it doesn't belong, causing a lot of swelling and distortion.  It's particularly hard on the dying person's loved ones, who can only stand by and watch and pray.

My friend is the youngest in the family, but her sister was always very childlike and dependent upon her.  I know she's going to feel lost without her.  When people die slowly, in a way it can be seen as a gift from God, and I urged my friend to look at it that way.  When you are caring for a loved one who will not be with you much longer, the world does not expect you to do much of anything but care for that person, so ironic as it sounds, we're given the precious gift of time.  When else can you sit with someone you love for hours?  Sadly, there are not many other opportunities for us to show such care and devotion except when someone is about to die.

I told my friend that no matter how much her sister suffered from her illness, it would not compare to the pain of watching her die.  She told me that when she is in church, she wants to scream "why?" but then she breaks down and begs God to help her.  I didn't know what to say so I said what came into my head.  I asked her during this season of Lent to think of how much in common she has with Mary, who had to stand by helplessly as her Divine Son was brutally executed.  I asked her to consider,  in spite of the grief, that the Lord loves her so much that He saw fit to allow her to share in some small measure in the pain His mother suffered in watching Him die so terrible a death.

Please keep these women in your prayers.  May God's Will be done!

The Last of the Hollywood Icons

Elizabeth Taylor passed away this morning.  She was the last in a line of Hollywood icons and remained a star, even when she hadn't made a film in years.  I used to love to imitate her in this movie.  There was a time in my youth when I fancied a career in acting, but that was a long time ago and a not very interesting story.  Anyway, watch at your own risk.  The clip is not obscene or repulsive or even frightening.  It's just a classic example of the Fifth Commandment getting shattered by someone's  words.  As for Taylor's seven husbands and eight marriages,  I'm in no position to judge, so I won't. I could never relate to her love of diamonds and glamour and her casual regard for marriage.   With her passing, I am reminded that all glory is fleeting, except for that which belongs to God.  May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


A few weeks ago, I had to complete a professional profile on myself called a DISC test.  Today, we got the results of the test and while some of the things it said about me made me uncomfortable, most of them were true.  In many things, I am a perfectionist.  I don't like to sign my name to something into which I have not put serious effort.  I don't like to take responsibility for something that was someone else's idea, especially when it's something I didn't believe in from the start.  I am hard on others and hold them to a high standard, even though I don't always let on about it, but I'm even harder on myself.

The problem with being a perfectionist, as the profile folks see it, is that if you spend too much time trying to make something or someone perfect, time passes  by and things don't get done.  Frustration sets in and you could wind up with a mess.

There is a scene in the adorable sixties film The Trouble With Angels where Rachel spends hours trying to make a cocktail dress to enter in a sewing contest.  The harder she works at it, the more of a disaster the dress becomes.  Enter Reverend Mother.  After a few words of astonishment that something could turn out so badly, she takes over and spends the next few hours, at the expense of her sleep, to confect a gorgeous concoction of tulle and silk.

The Lord works much like Reverend Mother, without the words of astonishment at how badly we mangle things.  If we waited until we were perfect to offer ourselves to Him,  we would have nothing to give Him.  Like Rosalind Russell in the movie, He says "Show Me what you did, show Me what you have" and He takes our mangled selves and makes of us a more fitting offering to His Father.

There is some advantage to be gained by making a muck of things.  When you're ashamed of yourself, you tend to have the kind of humility fitting for being in the Presence of the Lord.  Sometimes I think it's why He permits us to get into trouble just as we thing we're gaining in holiness.  Lest we get ahead of ourselves, our little transgressions nip us by the shirt collar and pull as backward as if to say "ah ah ah, not so fast!"

To be sure, it's hard work striving for holiness.  But it was never meant to be easy.  When I make an honest accounting of my sins, my first reaction is to want to recoil and say "Well, I'm not really THAT bad."  No, I  really am, and I can and must do better, much better.

St. Therese did not want to be a saint by halves.  Neither do I.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Empire of the Sun

I'm not sure why, but the events in Japan following the earthquake had me thinking about this movie.  It's one of my favorite Speilberg films, but it's painful to watch.  I was thinking about this scene, the last one in the movie, when I watched Japanese children searching for their parents in shelters set up to house the displaced. The actor is then 13-year-old Christian Bale, and I've heard but haven't verified that  the voice singing "Suo Gan" was his.

Falling Down

Today was one of those days.

The words of Emily Dickinson come to mind.

"We must be careful what we say - no bird resumes its egg"

St. Therese, the Priesthood, and Us

I have always had a deep reverence for priests and nuns.  Even during my time away from the Catholic church, I would go out of my way to help a nun or priest, particularly an elderly one.  I was born in 1960.  Growing up, a priest was accorded the utmost respect and I especially remember a priest's hands as something bordering sacred.  After all, they receive into those hands the Body of Christ daily at the Holy Altar.  I remember the old Italian ladies kissing a priest's hand and if you ever had a priest in your home, you made sure you had lint-free linen towels for him to dry his hands.   I remember how shocking it was to see one of the priests who taught at the boys' high school walk through the church into the sacristy in his gym clothes.  As a child, it bordered on scandalous.

St. Therese also had a great love for priests and indeed much of her vocation was spent praying for them.  Before she entered the Carmel, her father took her and her sister on a well-known pilgrimage to Rome.  The experience was eye-opening for young Therese because she saw glimpses of priests with their hair down, so to speak, and when she realized that they weren't deities, it was slightly unnerving.  At her young age, she realized that priests, when you get right down to it, are human beings vulnerable to the same pratfalls the rest of us are.

Father Z has some very good insights today on the priesthood and the vulnerability of priests to falling down.  I think he summarized very well that which I realized long ago.   I will go further and say that none of us should depend on the weak human beings who make up the priesthood for our own personal holiness.  It's discouraging to see someone fall from grace, as we have seen happen repeatedly.  I sometimes wonder if the reason some of the most effective preachers are so passionate is because they are preaching to themselves as well as to us.  Stuff happens, and when it does, God's forgiveness is there, whether we are a prostitute or a priest, provided we ask for it and make the appropriate reparation.

Not that what I say matters a whit, but here are some guidelines I follow when it comes to priests. I think it helps me avoid hurt feelings and affords the priest the respect and distance he deserves.  It doesn't matter whether you are male or female, this is my advice for all.

1. Never, ever go into the sacristy right before Mass begins and after it ends.  A priest needs time to properly prepare to celebrate the sacred mysteries and he should be afforded time to make his thanksgiving after Mass, if he so chooses.  The sacristy, like the sanctuary, should be sacred ground and only those with an official function at Mass belong there.  I am appalled sometimes at how many people traipse into the sacristy before our pastor celebrates Mass.  Talk about a captive audience!

2. Don't get too attached to or develop an aversion to any one priest.  Many is the time I want to find out when a particular priest is celebrating Mass so I can either avoid him or plan to attend.  We're there for God, not the priest.  Now, if  you know a priest who likes to celebrate Mass in a clown costume, that's a different story.  But make sure God is the focus and not the celebrant.

3. If you have something that could be construed as criticism of either the parish or the priest, don't decide to talk to the priest about it after Mass when he may be greeting the congregation.  And even when a priest is clearly wrong about something, don't expect him to admit it.  Criticism of anyone should always be constructive, especially a priest.  And even if you put forward a most convincing argument, don't expect to get anywhere.  One priest  I know is never wrong about anything, and it's his way or the highway.  Unless the priest is committing heresy or sacrilege or celebrating Mass in an invalid way, you may just have to put up or shut up.

4.  Don' t take anything a priest says or does personally.  Many is the time I've walked away with hurt feelings, only to realize later that the priest was distracted or having  a bad day when I approached him with what I thought was the best idea in the world.  I keep my ideas to myself or, I write about them on this blog.  It's just easier that way.

5.  Pray for priests, every day.

Attende Domine, Et Miserere

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Today's Collect

With the news about Father Corapi and the difficulties so many seem to be having this Lent wrestling with temptation, I thought the collect from today's TLM was especially timely.


O God, Who seest that we are wholly destitute of strength, keep us within and without;  that we may be defended in body from all adversity and cleansed in mind from evil thoughts.   Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen

Sunday Evening

We had a pleasant dinner with my parents tonight at their house.  It was more pleasant than usual and whether or not this had anything to do with the fact the my sister decided to eat at home is a matter of opinion.  Although yesterday was St. Joseph's feast day, we waited until today to enjoy the zeppoli.  Here is a picture of one before it got devoured.

My father has been spending some time every day building his own bird feeders.  There is one easily seen from their dining room window and we could see a cardinal enjoying some birdseed as we ate our pasta.  Yesterday, I looked out before we sat down to dinner at our house to see a cardinal sitting on St. Francis' head.  I knew he would fly away if I went and grabbed my camera, so I have to keep the photo in my mind.

We had a guest priest at Mass both at the Vigil Mass yesterday evening and at the TLM today.  After seeing how this priest celebrated Mass yesterday, I wondered how Father was going to work him into the TLM.  Let's just say that at the Vigil Mass, he donned a baseball cap at the end of his homily to drive home a point.  The congregation at the Saturday evening Mass is as different from the TLM crowd as day is from night, and they appreciated Father's props and sense of humor.  I felt a bit of panic when I saw the priest come out before the TLM started with the baseball cap in his hand. I have to say that I was in no hurry to hear this priest's homily again and the thought of having to hear it two days in a row was enough to make me want to skip the TLM for an early Novus Ordo Mass, but then I decided that if the rest of the congregation had to bear with it, so could I.  And we all survived.    Aside from what could have been a very good homily, the rest of the Mass was celebrated with the usual reverence and beauty.  The MC today was a 16-year-old boy who has a calling to the priesthood.  I don't picture this young man ever donning a baseball cap for the homily.
I wanted to sneak a peak at our pastor's face as he sat on the sedilla during the homily, biretta in place, but I know he never lets on by his expression what he is thinking.

Tomorrow begins another work week.  I can only thank God that I can still start my day in His Presence.  It's what gets me through.  I hope you have a blessed week.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

The Lord, it is said, appeared to Peter, James and John in all His Glory so that when the horror of the crucifixion took place, they might have something to strengthen them and assure them that He would indeed be resurrected.  I like to think that the Lord has given me a kind of reverse transfiguration from time to time.  Every time I get too big for my breeches, He casts His powerful light upon  my soul so that I can see how very imperfect it is.  Like lightning that illuminates the night sky and reveals that which the darkness conceals, so it is with the Lord and me.  I see the sins of my past and the ones that cling to me like poison ivy and I realize how very much work I have ahead of me to earn eternal life.

In the words of St. Therese:  "Oh my God, what then shall we see?  What will be this life which will have no end?  The Lord will be the soul of our souls. O, unsearchable mystery!"

No rest for the weary.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Carmelite Alert!!

As I expected, EWTN did not air Father Corapi's show this evening.  However, I did see an ad for a program scheduled for 2am Sunday morning that has me ready to sleep on the couch so as not to miss it.  It's a documentary on a woman who enters a Carmelite monastery.  I can't believe they couldn't find a more appropriate time to air it, but if there's anything that could keep me up until 2, this is it!

Small Blessings and Mercies

Wholly undeserved on my part were God's many small blessings today.  My oldest brought our lovable chihuahua pug mix home because she has to work all weekend.  I realized that Caitlin is lonely.  She doesn't want to move back home, but she misses us nonetheless, so having Gigi for sleepovers has brought her some comfort, like her well-worn teddy bear.

Rebecca lectored at the Vigil Mass for the first time this evening.  She had some mixed feelings about this.  She wanted to do it, but she was somewhat nervous at the same time.  I had her go over the readings several times this week.  She was still a little nervous and her voice shook just a little bit, but she was very reverent, modestly dressed and I think she provided a good example for other young people in our parish.  One of the adults who also lectors knew it was her first time, so he went into the sacristy before Mass to offer her a few words of encouragement and to remind her that lectoring is not something to be done for individual glory but simply in service to God.  Incidentally, we aren't the kind of people who feel we have to "do" something at Mass, but ours is still largely a Novus Ordo parish and as such, often in need of altar servers and lectors.

My parents surprised Rebecca by coming to the Mass tonight.  My father had a thorough medical exam on Wednesday and shocking as it seems, he was pronounced totally fine by the doctor.  We were worried that he might be accumulating fluid on the brain again as a result of the injury he had five years ago, but the doctor thinks he had a sinus infection that hit him hard but left no residual damage.  He does not feel my father should be sent for a driving test, which I still think is unfortunate.  However, I at least have my mother's word that when they want to take a long ride to Lancaster, they will ask and I will take them.

My son's grades are emailed to me every Friday.  Shocking as it is, the kid who barely made it out of the first grade has maintained an A in French all year.  When he told me what language he planned to take, I was a bit taken aback.  I thought Spanish would be easier for him, but I know he wanted to do something he thought would please me.  I am by no means fluent in French, but I think it's a beautiful language and I had hoped that the girls would take it.  Neither did.  Matt and I can have a private conversation and neither one of them is privy to it.

On Thursday, I was stopping by one of my many areas of responsibility to see how my nurses were faring and I happened upon a CD of Gregorian chant.  I was very surprised to learn to which nurse it belonged, which is further proof that no book should ever be judged by its cover.   We had a little chat about it and it turns out she loves chant and sacred music, so I brought her some of my CD's on Friday.  I had one Brown Scapular left, so I took a chance and asked her if she'd like to have it.

"I thought you'd never ask."

Why dear Lord? Why oh why are You so good to a wretch like me?

In Love With Night

The moon is absolutely spectacular.  It looks like a huge lit balloon hanging  in the night sky. Meanwhile on the streets of South Philadelphia, this glorious sight goes largely unnoticed, the sky pierced with the Saturday sounds of boom boxes and obscenities, cell phones and loud engines.  Sigh.

I know that many people are fearful of the darkness and dread the night. They have my sympathies.  If truth be told, I am in love with night.  The sky at dusk and before daybreak holds a beauty that I find captivating.  I've been known to walk into telephone poles on my evening stroll while mesmerized by the Western sky.  The night is not just a time for creeps and thugs to come out.  Some of the most beautiful plants and flowers come alive at night.  The blooms of a moon vine and the sweet aroma of night-scented stock are two reasons alone to look forward to the setting of the sun.  For about a year, I took riding lessons at night and was amazed that the horse could see his way to and from the barn in nearly total darkness.  I might add that he was aptly named Moondance.

Tonight, if only for a few moments, take some time to look at the moon.  It will be the largest and brightest  we've seen in 18 years.  Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer for the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, says the moon will be only slightly more prominent in the night sky.  Says Pitts:  “The moon has an elliptical orbit around the Earth. The elliptical orbit produces close approaches to Earth and more distant approaches to Earth called apogee and perigee. The perigee is closer to Earth than it has been in the last 18 years.”

I can' wait.

Prayer for Myself for Lent

Dear Lord,
Help me to get over myself and stop thinking of everything in my life in terms of how it affects me.  Rather, let my first concern be whether or not something conforms to Your Holy Will.  Let me disappear into the scenery so that others may be noticed and I may go unnoticed.  Let my work speak for itself and may I not feel the need for accolades from my fellow man. Let confirmation to Your Holy Will suffice as the only satisfaction I need or want.  Give me patience to deal with those who annoy me, especially in church.  Let me concern myself solely with my own behavior and not those around me.  Let me not jump to conclusions and think the worst of people who rub me the wrong way.  Grant me the grace to rejoice that even those who cause me to be distracted have been moved to visit Your Son in the Tabernacle, where He waits for them with the same love and desire that He waits for me.  Let me bear wrongs silently, both interiorly and exteriorly.   Grant me the grace to accept an unkind word or barb with the same silent humility with which Your Son  received the jeers of the mob on the day of His Passion.   Give me the same patience You have for me so that I, too, may quietly accept those who do not act quickly enough for my demands.  Lend me Your sight, that I may see You in everyone I meet, no matter how repulsive or obnoxious they may be.  Remove from my heart any hint of jealousy or resentment of those who appear holier than I do.  Rather, let me rejoice with the angels that someone other than myself might be so pleasing  to You.  May You be pleased to instill the same purity of mind, body and spirit with which you endowed the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints so that I may not be contaminated by the filth that surrounds me in the world.  May others see You in me in every encounter, especially with the poor and down-trodden.  Grant me the courage to speak up when I see a wrong being done to another human being.  Prompt me when I linger in the company of those who like to destroy others with their words to remove myself and offer a prayer for their conversion, rather than join them.   When those for whom I perform kind deeds persist in words of unkindness, remind me of all You do for me and how little gratitude I show You in return.  I ask these things through Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for my sins. In His Name, Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.  Amen.

Sad News

 I picked this up at Defend Us in Battle.  Please pray for Father Corapi.  The price that is being paid for the Church's previous transgressions when it came to sexual abuse committed by priests is that now everyone is presumed guilty until proven innocent.  No wonder this Lent had been so difficult for so many.  I do not know the details of the charges against Father Corapi, except that they are being leveled by a former employee.  I have to say that I find nothing credible in accusations made by an adult who is willfully employed by someone and then after they no longer work for them, for whatever reason, decides to commit either the sin of detraction, or,  false witness against an innocent person.  That individual is not in an enviable state.

 When the shepherd is struck, the sheep disperse.  At least that is the hope of the Great Deceiver.


St. Joseph, Pray for Us!

Prayer to Saint Joseph Before Mass

O Blessed Joseph, happy man, to whom it was given not only to see and to hear that God Whom many kings longed to see, and saw not, to hear, and heard not; but also to carry Him in your arms, to embrace Him, to clothe Him, and guard and defend Him.

V Pray for us, O Blessed Joseph.
R That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O God, Who has given us a royal priesthood, we beseech Thee, that as Blessed Joseph was found worthy to touch with his hands, and to bear in his arms, Thy only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary, so may we be made fit, by cleanness of heart and blamelessness of life, to minister at Thy holy altar; may we, this day, with reverent devotion partake of the Sacred Body and Blood of Your Only-begotten Son, and may we in the world to come be accounted worthy of receiving an everlasting reward. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Roman Missal

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Better Things to do Than Read This Blog Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Friday.  I won't be writing, reading or publishing comments.  You have better things to do than read my drivel, don't you?  Like pray the Stations of the Cross, go to confession, spend some time in Adoration, pray the entire Rosary, pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, perform some act of kindness or mercy, do something unexpected for someone who won't be expecting you,  read Sacred Scripture, meditate on Christ's passion and death,  resolve to fast or abstain from one meal, refrain from listening to music or watching television, make a thorough and exhaustive examination of conscience, think about a plan for avoiding the sin that keeps tripping you up, go to Mass and Holy Communion, tell Jesus that you love Him,  ... you get the idea!

Watering the Roots

If nothing else stays with me from the retreat this past weekend, this will.  In addressing the aridity we sometimes experience in prayer, Father reminded us of what happens when a tree lacks water.  Its roots grow deeper, searching for the life-giving water the tree needs to stay alive.  Prayer is like that too.  We won't always get the warm fuzzies when we set out to pray.  But God is still listening and His grace goes to work in us whether we feel it or not.  When we can persevere in prayer when we don't feel anything, we may actually gain more grace.

If there is anything I've learned from what I have studied about St. Therese and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, it's that too many people mistake feeling something for profiting spiritually.  Some of the greatest saints felt nothing in prayer, yet they lived joyful lives in Christ.  The soul still goes searching for Him, even when the mind is tricked into thinking that He's not there, simply because He cannot be felt.

Even when we struggle to prevent our minds from wandering,  or we are feeling so weary or discouraged that we can hardly manage to say the words, we can imitate St. Therese and heed her counsel.  "I very slowly pray a Pater and an Ave.  Then my soul is nourished more so than if I had said a hundred prayers precipitously. "

A Beautiful Irish Hymn

This is not my favorite version but still a pretty piece.  Happy St. Paddy's Day.

The Sins of the World

I don't who to credit this to, but I saw it on Caroline's blog, and I loved it.  It reminded me a bit of how St. Teresa of Avila underwent her conversion.  She had been somewhat lukewarm about her commitment to Christ when one day, at prayer, she was moved at the sight of Him on the cross.  "I saw him poor and naked, and I, too, wanted to be poor and naked."  I find this image so moving because Christ is completely alone.  It reminds me that He alone took on the sin of the world, and He alone can save me.  It reminds me that my sins put Him on the cross.  It reminds me that He would have made that sacrifice had I been the only person in the world.

BTW, The Bell of the Wanderer has become one of my favorite blogs and if you haven't visited yet, please do.  I thank God that He moved Caroline to write about her reflections.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

No Fear

What will happen, will happen.  I begged St. Rita to ask God to intervene.  She is, after all,  the saint of impossible cases.  What's happening in Japan is unprecedented.  We've been seeing a lot of unprecedented lately, haven't we?  Our Lady said the good will suffer along with the evil.  The only recourse is to her and her Rosary.  The  Son does not like to say no to His Mother.

No Words to Describe

One thing that really shocks me about this situation in Japan is that I can't believe it's happening there instead of here.   I should know better than to try to second-guess God.  As I watched reporter David Muir of ABC news sign off from an airport in Japan, I saw the despair and sadness in his face.  I would imagine he felt considerable guilt about being able to get out, knowing the Pandora's Box he was leaving behind and the suffering Japanese people who have no refuge.

According to news reports, some brave workers at the power plant have remained behind in a last-ditch, almost suicidal effort to reverse the hell being unleashed by the crippled reactors.  I would suppose that if you choose to do that kind of work, you stay with the ship, whether it can be salvaged or not.

Thinking out loud, I can't help but wonder if nuclear energy and weaponry are some of the worst examples of man taking technology too far.  I have no idea if this catastrophe is the chastisement spoken of by Our Lady of Akita.  I see the photos of the waves of the tsunami, sweeping  the symbols of Japan's economy away like children's sand toys washing ashore with the tide.  In the end, the damage caused by the earthquake may pale in comparison to a nuclear disaster the likes of which the world has not seen.  Only God knows.

The air quality in Tokyo contains 20 times the normal amount of radiation, an ominous sign perhaps.  Meanwhile, here is a link that explains the messages of Our Lady of Akita.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Examination of Conscience

Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son

Every time I trick myself into thinking I have nothing to confess, I look at a list like the one below and slink away in shame. I took this from the parish bulletin of St. Rose of Lima in Eddystone, PA.

Have at it.


Wonder if the honey-do's count as nagging?  How else is a married woman to manage getting her husband to do anything around the house?

James 2: 14-18

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

"Through the Rosary and the Scapular, I Will Save the World"

Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Haifa, Israel

Our Lady spoke those words to St. Dominic and this seems as good a time as any to remind folks of her promises.  The following information is taken directly from Our Lady's Garment. The Brown Scapular: A Sign of Salvation and Protection published by The Fatima Center.

When the community of hermits transferred their community from Palestine to Aylesford, England in 1241, St. Simon Stock was the Superior General of the Carmelite Order for men.  It was to him that Our Lady appeared, wearing the Carmelite habit.  She held out a Brown Scapular to him in 1251 "in response to his prayers on behalf of the men of the community, who, despite continuous prayer, rigorous fasts and other penances, lived in fear of going to hell for an eternity."

Handing him the Scapular, The Blessed Virgin Mary said to him: " to give you assurance that your priests and brothers will go to Heaven, I bring you a vestment, a Scapular, which shall be the privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire."

She promised St. Simon Stock that the Brown Scapular "shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.  Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."  At Fatima, Our Lady held out the Scapular to the children, wanting all to wear it and to encourage others to wear it.

Venerable Francis Ypes wore the Scapular.  One day, it fell off and as he replaced it, he heard the Evil One howl "Take off the habit which snatches so many souls from us!"  The Deceiver then admitted the things which scare the demons most: The Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, The Holy Scapular of Carmel and The Rosary.

In order to receive the promises of Our Lady to all who faithfully wear her Brown Scapular, the following conditions must occur:

1. To be enrolled in the Scapular Confraternity once, and to wear the Scapular at all times.
2. To be pure, observing the 6th and 9th Commandments
3. To pray each day The Little Office in honor the Blessed Virgin. (An authorized priest may change that requirement to praying 5 decades of the Rosary daily.

Enrollment is for life.  The first Brown Scapular must be blessed at the time you are enrolled.  When the Scapular is worn and in need of replacement, it must be burned or buried.  Subsequent Scapulars need not be blessed, though there is no contraindication for seeking to do so.  It is recommended that we wear the Scapular at all times and that if in the hospital for any reason, we should urge the medical personnel not to remove it.  When we was shot in 1981, Pope John Paul II was wearing the Brown Scapular and he told the doctors who operated on him not to remove it.

For more information on the Brown Scapular, visit

Monday, March 14, 2011

Random Thoughts for the First Monday in Lent

When my oldest daughter was four, she befriended a little Japanese girl in pre-school and the two of them grew to be the best of friends.  I was always amazed at how stoic Misho was, and her mother explained that it was part of their culture.  One hot July day the kids were playing with the hose in the backyard to cool off and one of the more mischievous boys squirted Misho in the face, full-blast.  I couldn't get to her fast enough to rescue her, but she didn't react other than to blink.  My daughter would either have screamed her head off or clocked the boy over the head.  Misho simply took it without saying a word.

As I watch the images coming from Japan, I can't but think of how that stoicism must be serving the nation now in the face of such destruction and uncertainty.  It's certainly refreshing to see a society whose inhabitants do not compound a tragedy by stealing and looting.  I simply cannot fathom the conditions and the magnitude of the loss.  I have to leave it in God's Hands.  It's hard to believe things could get worse.

This weekend at the silent retreat, the priest did something not normally done.  He left the doors to the tabernacle where the Monstrance sat open on both sides, both into the public chapel and into the nuns' chapel.  I, for one, was secretly delighted because this meant that every time the nuns gathered in their chapel to pray, we could hear them.  Around 11 am I heard their angelic voices chanting and I felt like I was being wracked into two pieces, the pain was so great.  It's hard for me to visit monasteries without thinking about what might have been.  Suddenly, it struck me that it's not the lifestyle that I long for, it's the freedom to center one's entire life on Christ and to be so near Him in the Blessed Sacrament at all times.

It occurred to me that what I have mistaken as a kind of missed vocation is really just a very natural longing for Heaven.  To me, the closest place to Heaven on earth is that Carmelite Monastery, although the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at my church fills that longing as well.   It also occurred to me that as much as I long for Him, He also longs for me, as He does for all of us.  What a great privilege to be able to sit in His Company all day Saturday.

As I have shared here before, my youngest was diagnosed with Marfan's Syndrome when she was just 2.  Before her diagnosis, we had to see many specialists, and as you might imagine, the uncertainty was the worst part.  Many times I prayed to God that He would not take her from me, but that if He did, it was His right, since she was only on loan to me to begin with.  After she was diagnosed and I realized she had something she could live with, I didn't think so much about God taking her from me.

Last week, she had a little episode that reminded me that she's still on loan to me, and I wondered what I would do without her.  My husband is a lukewarm Catholic.  I certainly haven't given up on him, but it's not the same as those families where both spouses are equally committed to the faith.  My son has the attention span of a gnat.  His first question whenever he's invited to church outside of Sunday Mass is "How long will it be?"  The oldest is in her own world, which sometimes includes God but most of the time does not.  Rebecca is the only one with whom I can share the faith.  From an early age, she loved going to church.  When my mother would mind her a few days a week, her request was always the same.  "Grandmom, take me to church."  She loves the Easter Vigil and Forty Hours Devotion as much as I do.  She loves the Traditional Latin Mass and never hesitates to come to the novena or Stations of the Cross with me.  What would I do without that?  What would I do without her?

I'm hoping never to find out.  The life expectancy for someone with Marfan's is longer than it used to be and hopefully, because she was diagnosed so young, she will live a very long time.  I do love God that much that if He asked her of me, I wouldn't hesitate to present her to Him.  But I pray that He will ask for her in a different way, one in which she would remain here on earth to serve Him.  May His Will be done!

At work, my Brown Scapular has captured a lot of attention.  Most of my staff is Catholic, as evidenced by the number who got ashes in the chapel last week and who talk to me about going to Mass, etc.   One particularly difficult personality has taken an unexpected liking to me, and I found it it's because she's a devout Catholic and heard I go to daily Mass before work.  She confided in someone else that she would like to have a Scapular like mine.  Then several other people chimed in that they, too, would love to have one.  So that's what I bought in the Avila Bookstore.  The one pictured here is identical to the one I wear.  The staff at my old job always asked me to cook for them or bring them treats from the Italian Market.  I think it's a pretty good sign that my new staff hasn't asked for anything  except the Scapular. I was all too happy to oblige.

St. Therese on Mary, Priests and the Eucharist

The following is a prayer St. Therese instructed her novices to recite every day for priests. It was written by Therese Durnerin.  (Praying for Priests by Maureen O'Riordan).

"Oh!  Give us priests!  Priests filled with the fire of true children of Mary, who will give Jesus to souls with the same tenderness and care with which you carried the little Child of Bethlehem in your arms!  In the Host, oh Mother, your Jesus is even poorer than in the crib!  He no longer has hands as tender as yours to touch Him...Give Him a generation of priests formed in your school, in the tenderness of your virginal love."

Our priests in Philadelphia are still reeling.  Please continue to remember them in your prayers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Prayer Requests

Please include Susan and Father K. in your prayers.  Both are battling very formidable illnesses.  They carry on with remarkable grace and strength.  May God's will be done, and may He continue to send them the graces necessary to carry the cross He has sent them, until which time He might decide to take it from them.

Please also include  the  co-workers that I left behind at my old job.  Things are not very pleasant there (not that they ever were) and conditions have grown worse since I left.  This leaves me with a certain amount of guilt, since I was able to prevent certain things from reaching those who reported to me.  On the other hand, it convinces me even further that I needed to move on.

The Cyrenian

Tonight is one of those nights when, sadly, I feel more identity with Simon than I do with Christ.   Christ kissed His cross and willingly took it up.  The Cyrenian had to be coaxed into helping Him carry it when He faltered.  I love Sunday.  If only I could learn to love Sunday night as much.

More on Silence

I've taken my lumps here and elsewhere for maintaining that it is disrespectful to Jesus in the Eucharist and for those still trying to communicate after having received Him in Holy Communion for people to talk out loud in church after Mass.  Someone sent me a link to Catholic Forum where this discussion took place.  Here is the advice one person offered.

"Someone told me that their solution to this is to meditate on Jesus carrying His cross to Calvary with the centurions and the persecutors jeering and shouting at Him, making all kinds of noise, and how Jesus was able to keep his mind focused on His Heavenly Father, and how he was able to fulfill His will, even with all the distractions and insults.

Ever since I heard that, it has been easier to block out the dull roar that is predominant in our Churches today."

I don't know that I would compare chatty Catholics to those calling for Christ's crucifixion, but I will  give this a try the next time I attend the Vigil Mass.  

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (Picardy)

Fending off Attacks From The Father of Lies

My grandmother never used the prince of darkness' name, and it's a habit I too have acquired.  I prefer to use descriptions of what he is.  Although he is unfortunately a very real entity, he is also a persona non grata and as such, my lips shall not mention his name.

I have been hearing more and more about people struggling with temptation.  We're not even a week into Lent and for some folks, the attacks have been pretty bad, myself included.  Cathy at Recovering Dissident Catholic mentioned a prayer chain, whereby we pray for one another and I commented that this brought to my mind an image, one of the great deceiver being bound  and rendered powerless by the prayers offered, especially to Mary, to defeat his evil promptings. With every prayer, the chain would grow heavier and more binding and he would be slowed as he clanged his way from soul to soul.

This Lent, every time you are tempted in the least to do, say or think something you know you shouldn't, say a Hail Mary for you and one for someone else.  You can rest assured the evil lurker is not just after your soul and what a great act of charity to think of someone else as well as yourself.  It has been said by those more learned than me that our Blessed Mother is no shrinking violet.  That's why the evil one told the Rome exorcist, Father Gabriel Amorth, that every Hail Mary is a hammer blow to his head and that of his minions.  My God, can you imagine what one Rosary would do to him?

There is an aid I use to help myself not go down a road I shouldn't.  Do you know how when you forget what you're going to do, if you retrace your steps, it will often come back to you?  With sin, it can work the same way, only opposite.  Sometimes something seemingly innocuous will lead to some obscene thought or image.  I take note of what it is that prompted that chain of consciousness, and then I make sure not to go down that path again.   I know, it's Avoiding Temptation 101 for Dummies, but I am a dummy and have allowed myself to head in the wrong direction too many times.  I hear the voice that yells "Stop!" and the next thing you know, I see Our Lord slipping away from me, like a boat whose moorings have come undone.

It is well worth noting again that a time of great holiness is the time to be at most on your guard.  Think of yourself dressed all in white and strolling along when a truck comes out of nowhere and splashes mud all over your nice clothes.  Had you seen the truck coming, you would have stepped away from the puddle to a place where you couldn't get splashed.  The driver would not have gotten nearly as much glee had you already been filthy.  He would have looked for someone else to soil.

Today's Gospel is a reminder to us that so far as the great deceiver is concerned, no one is off limits to his attacks, not even Our Lord.  Although Jesus might have been weakened physically by his time in the desert, it's no accident that he spent 40 days praying and fasting.  I would do well to follow His example.