Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In Honor of The Visitation

Wall of Roses

If you like roses, you might like these next few photos. One is of my Eden, at the end of its first magnificent bloom.  Eden blooms right up into December, but the first bloom is the most magnificent and it always seems to coincide with the opening of the Devon Horse Show and Memorial Day.  Eden will continue to give me roses, but it cannot replicate this kind of show twice in one season.

The other photo is one of what I call "The Wall of Roses".  None of us knows what the name of the rose is, but this bush begins in one garden and extends down nearly to mine.  It only blooms once a year, this week, and it's like trying to count the stars in the sky at night, which is nearly impossible.  The roses don't give off a scent and their color is white, though occasionally a carnation pink one will pop up.  It's propped up by an old pear tree and is one reason to look forward to Spring.

I have another bush that's not quite in its prime yet, so as you can see, there is never any shortage of roses here.  For that reason, St. Therese has to use a bit of ingenuity when she answers my prayers, so on two occasions, when granting a particularly heartfelt and difficult request, she skipped the roses and went to the lilac bush.  The lilac bush only blooms once, but one day in July, there was part of the bush, in bloom again.  My neighbors were even astounded.  When I wondered aloud if this was the answer to my prayer, I received a loud "yes" when I went out the next morning and found that my potted wisteria bloomed again.  Getting it to bloom once takes a miracle, so to see boughs of its heavenly-fragranced flowers hanging where no bud had appeared the previous day was almost too much.

My mother always tells me the difference between a miracle and a coincidence is faith.  I have too much faith to believe in coincidences.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dear Holy Father, What About the Rest of Us?

Please Reverend Fathers, may we have one of these?

I have to hand it to people who are willing to kneel on the floor to receive Our Lord.  I wish I could do it.  Without something to grab onto, I'm not sure I'd be able to get up off the floor and I have no desire to create a spectacle.  So, I receive on the tongue at the Novus Ordo, standing up, which is less than ideal.  If anyone thinks it's just EM's who don't know how to administer Holy Communion on the tongue, they are sadly mistaken.  A lot of priests fall into this category as well.  Some examples of presenting Our Lord badly include:

The" Come and Get Him" approach, whereby if you do not open your hands to receive the Lord, the priest or EM simply stands there holding the Sacred Host, and you have to go after the Host with your mouth.  What's up with that?

The "Hurry Up and Open Your Mouth" approach,  whereby the priest or EM attempts to shove the Host in your mouth before you can say "Amen".  What's the hurry?

The "What Do You Mean You Don't Receive in the Hand" approach, whereby the priest or more likely the EM attempts to shove the Host in your closed hands.  See, that's why my mouth is open and my hands are folded upright, because I don't want to receive in the hand.

The "Frisbee" approach, one of the worst of all, whereby the priest or EM attempts to hurl the Host into your mouth so their fingers don't have to go anywhere near it.  This is especially dangerous when there is no altar server nearby with a paten.

It is so much easier to administer Holy Communion to someone who is kneeling.  I heard the characteristic "plink" sound the other morning when the Eucharist fell onto the paten (thankfully, and not on the floor).  That almost never happens at the TLM because we kneel.

If the Holy Father will only administer Holy Communion on the tongue to the kneeling communicant, why, oh why has he not made this same provision for the rest of us? Would it be asking too much to have a prie dieu set out, in those churches lacking an altar rail, for those of us who wish to receive on the tongue but don't want to risk the Sacred Host being dropped on the floor?  Or, how about inviting those of us who wish to receive kneeling to come forward at the very end of the line, so we don't inconvenience those who are on a 60 minute time-limit and can't spare an extra second in church?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Readers' Questions

In looking through the traffic sources, I saw a couple of questions which brought people to my blog.

When is a good time to pray a novena to St. Therese?

Any time is a good time.  I have heard of a novena that is supposed to be said before 11am but I'll be honest and say that I don't believe prayers should have time limits.  I don't know much about that novena, but I do know anytime I have offered intentions to the Little Flower, the time and the place did not matter.  Occasionally, a thought will cross my mind, and I'll say "St. Therese, if you see fit, would you ask God to grant me this favor."
And occasionally, she answers me in the affirmative and catches me completely off-guard since I tend not to look for an answer if I haven't offered a novena.

What time is Saturday Mass at the Carmelite Monastery in Philadephia?

Mass is offered in the public chapel of the monastery every Saturday and Sunday morning at 8am.  Only the side door is open and you have to go through the archway, up the steps and around to the left.

What is a good prayer to rid your house of an evil spirit?

First off, I don't think such matters should be handled by amateurs.  If you truly believe there is an evil presence in your home, best to start by having a priest bless the house and its inhabitants.  Let him advise you from there.  However, if you are simply wondering what you can do to prevent an evil presence in your home, you might pray daily the prayer that terrifies the devil - The Rosary.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Great World War

This clip and the music in the next one are from two of my favorite World War II movies.  A few years ago my husband put all of his father's war photos on a DVD and the kids were amazed at how much of the scenery, architecture, ruins, etc. looked like they came straight from "Saving Private Ryan".  My late father-in-law landed at Normandy a few days after the initial invasion.  Two of his brothers were in WWII with him, including Uncle Clarence, a B-17 crewman.  All of them survived and had their own interesting stories to tell.

All Glory is Fleeting

I don't know why, but I've always been fascinated by the late Gen. George S. Patton.  He was a flawed character, to be sure, but he was also brilliant.   He wasn't as eloquent a speaker as George C. Scott, but if you've ever seen actual footage of him, he cut a very striking figure.  If you are a WWII buff, I highly recommend "The Year of the General" which featured Patton, MacArthur, Romel, Montgomery, Nimitz, Eisenhower and Marshall.

Below is a clip of the music from the final scene, that contains one of my favorite lines of all time.
"A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering a warning: that all glory is fleeting."

I would qualify that to say that all  earthly glory is fleeting.

 The Glory of God is eternal.

Time to Lay the Axe to the Root

"Tina! Bring me the axe! "
"When in the morning we feel no courage or strength for the practice of virtue, it is really a grace: it is the time to lay the axe to the root of the tree, relying on Jesus alone...He helps us without seeming to do so." - St. Therese

I really need to keep reminding myself of The Little Flower's words today.

I am in the throes of another headache.  I notice now they're coming every time I have to make my Communion calls to the sick and shut-ins of our parish.  This one is more tolerable than others have been, but it's still hard to think of all I have to do.  We're having a reception after Mass tomorrow and I have to make sandwiches.  I'll make them in the morning, but I need to get to the store today to get the cold cuts, etc.  Since my husband's birthday pretty much went unnoticed on Monday due to the funeral, I promised to make it up to him tonight with his favorite dinner of soft-shelled crabs and tomato salad followed by  yellow cake with chocolate icing.  If I don't get going soon, I never will.

Work is increasingly difficult.  I realized the other day that I spend more time doing things I really can't stand doing than I spend doing things that I enjoy.  Every time there is a problem, people call me instead of learning from me how to resolve matters on their own.  It gets wearisome.  Somehow, things get done, problems get resolved, and I realize I had little or nothing to do with it.  Every morning, I beg Jesus to help me, and He does.  Because He needs no accolades, He goes about His work so quietly that I often forget He's there.

"How sharper than a serpent's tooth is an ungrateful child"

It's a humbling thing to realize that though I think I have set out to bring Him joy, I have caused Him more pain instead by my ingratitude and forgetfulness.  When someone continually takes me for granted, I think to myself: I'll show them how it feels.  I won't return their call or help them the next time they're in need so they'll get the idea.  Lucky for me, God doesn't think that way.  Mother Angelica said it's a kind of sin to underestimate God's mercy.  I say it's a  sin for me to assume God is as small-minded as I am.

There is something else hanging over my head right now.  My husband went for some routine lab work and the doctor called to say she'd like to discuss the results in person and that further testing is needed.  I kind of have an idea what she's thinking based on the tests she ordered.  This has been a bit of weight as well.  I often joke that my marriage is my martyrdom and I'm only half-joking.  My husband has his faults like anyone else and I often find myself lacking in the patience to deal with him.  I will wait and see what this is all about before I get myself worked up about it.  I keep hearing that line from Joni Mitchell's "Yellow Taxi"

"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got til it's gone".

I hope he will be around awhile longer to drive me even more insane than he does now, not for my sake but the sake of my kids, especially the two younger ones who already have so much to deal with from their health issues.  I stated thinking the other day that if this all turns out to be nothing, it could be wake-up call from God that he wants me to embrace my vocation as a wife more than I do and to live in the here and now.

We'll soon see.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Cannot Be Serious!

In case you hadn't noticed, I call a spade a spade. Liberals don't like me.  Conservatives don't like me. Fundamentalists especially have their issues with me.   I could not care less.  In college, I was voted the student most likely to say "I disagree".  I'm not interested in being right so much as I'm interested in the truth, even when that truth is uncomfortable or unpopular.  Don't say I didn't warn you!

Someone is actually promoting the theory that the Joplin tornadoes were God's retribution against America because of Obama's pronouncement to Israel on settling its borders with the Palestinians.  Just so we're clear, this isn't about Obama.  This is about the lunacy that seizes this country every time there is the suggestion that a country the size of a postage stamp should stop carving itself up into Jewish settlements.  How easily we forget that there are Palestinian Christians living under occupation.

Such thinking is even more absurd than that of the evangelical preacher who warned us that the Rapture would begin at 6pm on May 21st.

For evangelicals and fundamentalists to believe such garbage is one thing.   Think of the apparitions of Our Lady at  Fatima and  Akita.  In fact, in all of the apparitions or revelations of Our Lord and Our Lady over the past few centuries, have either of them ever even mentioned Israel?  Is there anything in the New Testament to suggest that God holds the Jewish state in such  high esteem that He would inflict punishment on her behalf? On a CATHOLIC hospital no less???

It's not a popular position to take in this country to say anything remotely critical of Israel, but when someone is stupid enough to suggest that a tornado that destroyed  a CATHOLIC hospital was God's retribution on behalf of a Jewish theocracy, I'm not going to be quiet about it.

My allegiance is to the Holy Trinity.  Not the president, not the government and certainly not to any political ideology.  I apologize to no one for it.

St. Pius X, pray for us

The World is a Cruel Place

There's an old saying that goes "even though you're paranoid doesn't mean people aren't talking about you".

A few months ago, I put a St. Therese sticker on my car's rear bumper and it seems to me that ever since then, other drivers are particularly aggressive and spiteful.  I've had people cut me off, nearly run me off the highway, and demonstrate other uncharitable (not to mention illegal!) road behavior.  I know it's probably  the Little Flower's way of getting me to pray for nasty people.

Tonight, my commute, typically 30 minutes long, was 90 minutes because of an accident that most likely involved a fatality.  There was no warning that the ramp was closed so like the other drivers who planned to exit where I do, I put my turn signal on.  No one would let me in.  I asked the driver of the car next to me to let me in, but she looked at me and then stared straight ahead.  Unbelievable.  The old me would have rolled down the window and had a few choice words for her, possibly even accompanied by sign language.  The new me could do little but seethe.  I found myself hoping that the same driver would need me to let her in up ahead so I could give her a dose of her own medicine.  How Christian of me.

Maybe the sticker had nothing to do with it, but I couldn't help but wonder.  I can't remember the last time I experienced someone so spiteful.

 I'm watching the evening news, and I see a young woman walking an emaciated dog with the sweetest face.  I truly believe there is a special place in Hell for those who deliberately abuse and starve animals.  A young woman stepped forward to foster the dog until a home is found for her.  What makes people do such things?  

I haven't done so in awhile, but I used to occasionally put together care packages and distribute them to the homeless.  The bag would include disposable wash cloths, a change of underwear, a rain slicker, gum, toothbrush, some other toiletries and snacks,  and usually a lunch with a drink.  Two of the men who were regulars on my route each had a dog, and neither of them would ever take a bite of their sandwich until they'd offered their dog one first.  Eventually, I started packing a separate care package for the dogs until one day, I mistakenly gave one to a person instead of the bag intended for people.  I couldn't blame him for being insulted and no explanation would suffice.

I know Jesus said to turn the other cheek, and that's usually ok when it's my cheek getting slapped.  When it's defenseless animals or children, it's quite another story.

I was in a little pizza restaurant with my husband some years ago when a counselor entered  with a few of his mentally challenged clients with him.  None of them could talk, but you could see how excited they were to be out to dinner.  A group of teens came in and sat nearby and quickly, the situation deteriorated.  One of the counselor's clients had no teeth, and he was fascinated by the group of teens and kept smiling at them.  Rather than return the kindness, they proceed to ridicule him.  The counselor could do nothing but ignore them.  The stupid owner of the restaurant ignored them.  Not me.  No sir.

I kept hearing them refer to the smiling adult as "Gums" and the taunts just kept getting louder.  I asked our waiter if there was nothing he could do but he said it was up to the owner.  Finally, despite my husband's pleas, I walked over to the ignoramuses  and said "Gums is better than scums, which is what the lot of you are."

Then I told the restaurant owner he was a coward.  Then I was asked to leave.

Do you think those teens learned anything from that encounter?  Probably not.  What purpose did it serve to tell them off?  It made me feel better and I also feel like maybe I shamed other people, including my spouse, into not sitting by silently and watching cruelty go unchecked. 

A few months ago, I gave a woman hell for dragging her puppy down the street by its neck while she talked on her cell phone.  She gave it right back to me.  Many people watched her as she dragged the dog over a city block, shaking their heads but not saying a word.  That's not my way.  I'm not brave.  I just could not live with myself if I didn't speak up.

"Mind your own business"

Nope. Not so long as I'm expected to be my brother's keeper.

Such Humility

I never cease to be amazed at the unutterable humility of St. Bernadette.  I was looking for last words of dying saints for a future post and came across this quote  from the visionary of Lourdes.

"They think I'm a saint... When I'm dead, they'll come and touch holy pictures and rosaries to me, and all the while I'll be getting broiled on a grill in purgatory. At least promise me you'll pray a lot for the repose of my soul."

Even someone as seemingly assured of Heaven as St. Bernadette recognized the importance of praying for the souls of the dead.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reminder: Traditional Latin Mass at St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi Church May 29th

Old-world church that looks like it was transplanted from an Italian village to a side-street in  South Phila

Don't forget to join us for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at an extraordinarily beautiful church this coming Sunday, May 29th at 12 Noon.  The celebrant will be Father Dennis Carbonaro of Our Lady of Consolation Parish in the Tacony section of Philadelphia.  St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi is the other church in the parish of St. Paul in South Philadelphia.  Now used as a worship site, this church was the first Italian national parish in the country.  The church is located at 7th and Montrose Streets in the heart of the Italian Market.

Parking is available on the street, but those who are able to walk a few blocks may wish to park in the school yard across from St. Paul's on Christian Street between 9th and 10th.

May 29th is the titular feast of this great Carmelite saint, whose motto "Pati, non mori" is inscribed on a fresco high above the main altar.

For more information, email me at j-roman@comcast.net

Ecumenical Funeral, Or How I Spent My Monday

Thanks to the GPS, we arrived at the funeral home about 45 minutes late. It would have been worse without it.  The casket was at the front of the room and my brother-in-law received condolences in a receiving line that seemed to wrap around the building.  The parlor was packed and by the time the service began at 4 pm, there were fewer seats than people.  I opted to stand so if things got too weird, I could duck out the door under some pretense.

I looked around the room to see if a minister of some sort might be present.  The closest thing was a friend of the family who apparently had been appointed as MC.  He began by saying that it was the explicit wish of the family that no particular denomination or "god" be mentioned and then he proceeded to read something from Buddhism.  If there was any lingering question about whether or not  a priest had been called to administer anointing of the sick, there was my answer - negative!   Next he mentioned that several readings had been printed and he urged anyone who felt moved to take one and come up to the podium to read it.  No one took him up on it.  Mostly a few friends got up and said nice things, and then the MC would come up again and urge us to talk to "our god" and reflect for a moment.  I asked Jesus to have mercy on me for being part of this.

When the "service" concluded, people gathered and talked, oblivious, it seemed, to the deceased lying at the front of the room.  If the casket was closed, it didn't happen while we were present, and we were there for quite awhile.  The burial is scheduled to take place at a later date with only the very immediate family present.

To add to my ire, a family friend from my sister-in-law's childhood ran up to my husband and introduced herself to my children as his junior prom date, all the while rubbing his back and generally hanging all over him.  I thought her behavior was extremely inappropriate and disrespectful and I let her know that by putting forward my hand and introducing myself as his wife.  Then I pulled him away.  I had never seen such a spectacle before and to think that it happened at a funeral was even more unnerving.  My oldest, who thinks I overreact to everything, was in total agreement with me that this woman was over the top.

Afterward, a reception was held on the waterfront.  There is a beautiful Catholic church, St. Mary's, that sits at the top of a hill overlooking the harbor. Believe me when I tell you I would much rather have walked up that hill to investigate the church a little closer.  There were lots of midshipmen from the Naval Academy taking in the sights and enjoying the weather.  I sat with my brother and sister-in-law, he being the only other practicing Catholic in the family.  My sister-in-law saw fit to tell me that while her husband is very religious, she is not, and she detests having to give money to the Catholic church, so she doesn't.  In fact, she told me, she hasn't been to church in  years.

"I can pray to God from my golf cart just as easily as I can in a church.   A church is just an excuse to collect money."

My brother-in-law proceeded to tell me he was afraid she was going to Hell.

A nice little discussion ensued and I urged my sister-in-law to do me a favor.  I asked her to read about the apparitions at Fatima and then the next time we meet, to let me know what she thought.

On the harrowing ride home, my  husband asked me why I didn't want to say anything at the service, and I told him I found it difficult to leave Jesus out of any conversation concerning the dead, and I  knew he saw my point.  Had I decided to speak, I would have said that my sister-in-law had suffered much in the last years of her life, but she never gave in or gave up.  She carried her cross with dignity and never complained.  Two weeks before her death, although she was most certainly not feeling well, she traveled to the Pacific Northwest to help care for her daughter, who had just had a miscarriage.  When it came to her girls, she would drop everything and be there for them, in whatever way she could.

When my in-laws began to fail in health and mental well-being, it was my sister-in-law who took responsibility and took action.  She bought a home where they had their own wing so she could look after them.  She encouraged my mother-in-law to start a garden and lovingly helped her mother tend to her roses each day.  She took them on short boating trips, and always managed to find the humor in everything, like the time my father-in-law locked himself in the bathroom on her boat for 45 minutes.

Many years ago, before she was married to her current husband, we were invited to Christmas Eve dinner.  My oldest was asleep by the time we left and my husband carried her to the car, inadvertently leaving behind her favorite cuddly toy, a blue Puffalump.  My sister-in-law could not stand to think of her niece awakening without her best friend, and drove that raggedy little bear all the way to our house.  She did not want her niece to be sad on Christmas Eve.

My sister-in-law was an inherently good person.  It's up to God to decide if that was enough.  But if the activities today drove home any point, it's that funerals should be an opportunity to pray for the soul of the deceased because none of us is perfect, even those of us who would call ourselves faithful Catholics.

I'll let you know what happens with my other sister-in-law the next time I see her.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Poems From Emily Dickinson

In a few hours, we'll be leaving for Annapolis for my sister-in-law's funeral.  It's going to be a long afternoon but I hope I can be of some comfort and support, if to no one else, my husband, whose birthday it is today.   In lieu of a post, I thought I'd reprint a few more Emily Dickinson poems on death. Although I like these, the one that I published last week is my favorite.

I read something very interesting about Miss Dickinson a short while ago.  There is some speculation she may have been autistic.  She never left her house, or "the homestead" as she called it, after the age of 26.

I can totally relate.

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.
Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.
We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.
Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.

There's been a death in the opposite house
As lately as today.
I know it by the numb look
Such houses have alway.

The neighbours rustle in and out,
The doctor drives away.
A window opens like a pod,
Abrupt, mechanically;

Somebody flings a mattress out, -
The children hurry by;
They wonder if It died on that, -
I used to when a boy.

The minister goes stiffly in
As if the house were his,
And he owned all the mourners now,
And little boys besides;

And then the milliner, and the man
Of the appalling trade,
To take the measure of the house.
There'll be that dark parade

Of tassels and of coaches soon;
It's easy as a sign, -
The intuition of the news
In just a country town.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Female Altar Servers and Other Points of Contention

Once again, a lively discussion ensues over at Father Z's blog about a priest who allowed females to serve at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  Personally, I don't know why a priest would want to do something so jarring.  Could he really not have found male servers?  You know what? I don't really care.  I have said everything I have to say about this subject.  I only wish Father Z could say the same.  Apparently, this is a topic he's fond of and judging from the amount of comments he gets, so are his followers and his detractors alike.

I cringe when I hear former Catholics say they joined Protestant denominations with female priests or ministers so their daughters could have more "career choices".  The priesthood and the religious life are not career choices.  They're vocations.  I was very religious as a child and it never occurred to me that I could or should become an altar server and/or a priest. But,   I had nuns who tried to foster a vocation in me.  I cleaned the convent chapel every Friday after school.  I was allowed to view Mother Superior's cell.  I was allowed to go into the kitchen for a snack and visit with the sisters.  In the summer, when one of the nuns needed to run an errand in Center City, our number was the first they dialed to ask if I could accompany the sister on the bus, etc.

We don't have that today.  Things are really mixed up The only consecrated person most children regularly encounter is their parish priest. That's great for boys, but not so much for girls. Who do the girls have to look up to in the consecrated life?

At my parish, we are fortunate to have an ancilla Domini, where the women have responsibility for greeting the faithful as they arrive for Mass and hosting occasional receptions.   Some of the men help with this endeavor as well.  It's not exactly my cup of tea, but when I participate, I prefer to look it as though I am waiting on and cleaning up after Our Lord Himself.  My daughter enjoys helping too, but neither of us feels we have to do this .  If Christ is pleased with our efforts, that should suffice.

The truth is, sometimes I'd rather be in the dining room, discussing politics or liturgy with the men, but Jesus was all about service to others and humility.  There are times when I find the comments made about the Novus Ordo and female altar servers, etc. insulting, but rather than argue or get angry, I prefer to adopt the posture of Christ and proceed in total humility.

No servant is greater than the master.

You can never go wrong being humble.

And you can never be too humble.

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

Today, for a few hours,  I'll be with a lot of people who have not made Christ the center of their lives. I shouldn't talk.  There are many times when I neglect to make Him the center of mine.  I was frazzled getting to Mass on time because I forgot to set my alarm and woke up late, and it was a full five minutes before I appropriately greeted the Lord. This despite the fact that I knelt down, as I almost always do, as soon as I entered the pew.  Sometimes, I have a habit of talking to Jesus as though He is galaxies away when, in fact, He's right there in the tabernacle.

Although I will miss the TLM today, I am grateful I was able to get to any Mass at all.  The celebrant of the Mass I attended happens to be an Augustinian who shares his birthday with St. Rita's feast day.  He always says:

"If you want to know God, get to know His friends".

St. Rita married Paolo Mancini out of obedience to her parents.  She accepted the difficulties of her marriage out of obedience to the vows she took before God in marriage.  She exemplified Christ crucified by her forgiveness of the enemies who murdered her husband.  She pleaded with God to take her sons' lives before they could offend Him by avenging her husband's murder.  She did not give up when at first she was refused entrance into the convent.  She  embraced  the stigmata that made her repulsive to others, including the sisters in her community, out of the love she bore for the Passion of Christ.

Today, she extends that same love to us.  My prayer to St. Rita today is that she will ask God to light a spark in the hearts of all those people in each of our lives who do not recognize Christ and have rejected His Love outright in the pursuit of worldly pleasures.

Nothing is impossible with God, and no one knows that as well as St. Rita.  Daughter. Wife. Mother. Widow. Peacemaker. Nun.  Saint of impossible causes.

Incorrupt body of St. Rita as it appears today

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Wonderful Augustinian Priest

Today was the final day of the triduum of the novena to St. Rita.  I felt so blessed when I saw that the homilist for all three days was Father Gus Esposito, OSA.  Father Gus, for those who do not know him, is often a retreat master at the seminary at Lent for Catholics United for the Faith (not to dare be confused with Catholics United). He is unassuming, humble, warm and devoted entirely to God.  I was surprised in one regard to learn he has a PhD, only because he is so humble.  On the other hand, he is a gifted speaker and it would make sense that he would want to be educated as much as possible in the faith.  The Holy Spirit truly rests upon this man.  Please keep Father Gus in your prayers and ask God to send many more priests like him.

It is always so edifying to see how many people come to the shrine for the novena and especially on St. Rita's feast day.  During the novena prayer, I could almost hear Heaven stormed with the pleas of the faithful who have come to rely on her.

 Father asked us to consider a single line from the Litany to St. Rita.

St. Rita, in ecstasy before the Blessed Sacrament, pray for us.

 May the devotees of St. Rita honor her by helping others love Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as much as she did.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Lost Weekend

I'd like to say that today was the end of a hellacious week, but the truth of the matter is that I have a ways to go yet.  Still, there have been bright spots..

Today we had our credentialing visit.  The surveyor was very nice and very thorough. The Lord was surely with me.  When she visited my departments, she made it clear that she only wanted to speak with staff nurses, but that she would prefer that I hand-pick the nurses as she did  not want to interfere with their duties.  When I chose an OR nurse, I picked a gentlemen who is cool under fire.  He does excellent work and has an excellent attitude but he was getting ready to bring his next patient back, so we had to scramble a bit to get his room covered.  I could see the holding area nurse throwing me daggers because I hadn't chosen her, and it's by the grace of God that I didn't.  Turns out the surveyor wrote down the names of everyone she spoke to and then later asked to see their personnel files.  The dagger-throwing nurse had something unflattering in her file and it would have opened up a can of worms.  What's a few more daggers in my back if it was for the good of the team?

The good news is that we were re-certified with flying colors.  The even better news is that the surveyor got wind of the fact that it was my son's prom night, and insisted on moving up our exit interview by a half hour so I could leave sooner.  I knew I liked her when I caught wind of the crucifix, with corpus, around her neck.

Right after the surveyor left my departments to go to lunch, the patient registrar called me aside.  He discreetly pointed to a man in the waiting room and quietly told me the "gentleman" had just refused to allow our nurse practitioner to conduct his pre-admission testing because she was black.  I was seething.  After thinking over what I should say for a few minutes, I asked the man to come into the hallway with me.  I asked him if there was a reason why he didn't want to see our NP.  He bluntly told me he didn't want anyone black touching him and then asked if I had a white nurse he could see.  I told him he could see our NP or he could leave.  He was incredulous.

"So you're not going to help me out?"

"You can see our nurse practitioner, or you can go home.  We are not obligated to accommodate your prejudice."

He thought it over and then agreed he would see her.  I admonished him that he was not to make any rude comments to her or I'd have him escorted out the door.  Then I spoke to the NP to make sure it was ok with her.  She was insistent that she wanted to conduct his testing and that I should show him in.  I'm told he behaved like a lamb.  In this day and age, it still hits me like a bucket of cold water when someone can so bluntly admit to their biases and hatred.  The patient registrar was thrilled with me for handling it as I did and then begged me  to please not look for another job.  I wondered to myself if I am really that transparent. I keep hearing a lot of that kind of thing but I suspect part of the reason is because they are wondering why someone like me would want to untangle such a mess. The truth is, there are many more kind people than there are cruel ones and I don't give up that easily.

The Boy left for his prom a little while ago.  He was so nervous I could not believe it.  His date, who is actually a classmate of our youngest daughter, is a pretty, vivacious girl who did her best to put him at ease. He looked very handsome, wearing the first suit he's owned since he made his First Holy Communion in the second grade. I hope he has fun.  I will post a gratuitous photo Matt and his date in their finery.  It's up to me to pick them up at midnight.  I hope I can stay awake that long.

Tomorrow, a couple from the Latin Mass Community is getting married in the Extraordinary Form at my church.  I'm hoping to go to the wedding.  Then the God-less-ness begins.  Sunday at Noon is my sister's shower.  My mother implored me to go and to not be late.  I will have to go to an early Mass and will miss the TLM. I can't embarrass my mother by going late, so I will make this sacrifice and offer it up.  On Monday is the memorial service for my sister-in-law Carol.    It's being held at a funeral home. No Mass.  I wish there would be a funeral Mass, but it's not my call.  Since it's not scheduled to begin til the afternoon, I will make sure to get to early morning Mass and spend some time in Adoration to compensate.

My husband is ok sometimes, and sometimes, he 's not ok.  He has spent quite a bit of time the past few days    looking for photos of his sister from their childhood.  I always commented that I thought she was a beautiful child and then grew up to be a really neat-looking teenager.  Here is a photo of Carol with my husband and the caption that came with it said: "Jim and Carol, crying".  Maybe they missed the ice-cream truck.  I thought this was such a sweet photo.  My husband cried when he saw it.  He'll be doing that for some time now.  He got hit with more bad news today.  A close friend of his was diagnosed with breast cancer.  One more person to pray for.

 Don't forget that Sunday is St. Rita's feast day.  I'm hoping to be able get over there for a little while when I return from the shower on Sunday.  St. Rita, wife, mother, widow, Augustinian nun, saint of impossible cases. I am much more verbal about my devotion to St. Therese, but the truth of the matter is that St. Rita has pulled off some biggies for me.  I prayed to her on her feast day when I learned about a three-year-old child was found floating in the family pool.  The child survived with no brain damage, which is almost unheard of.  I prayed to St. Rita when a person I worked with and who detested me was scheduled to undergo major abdominal surgery for pancreatic cancer.  The tumor was benign, which floored the surgeons.  While we're not the best of friends, the woman in question and I remain on civil ground til this day.  So if you've got a burning cause that could use some divine intervention, put it in Rita's hands.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Smallest Acts Done With Love

"You've got a lot of hard bark on you."

I can't remember what movie that's from, but it's my husband's favorite line.  I always kind of envied people with a tough exterior.  I was the sort who would tear up at the first hint of an unkind word, for as far back as I can remember.  I went out of my way to never do anything wrong because I couldn't handle being corrected, especially in public.  When I was in 8th grade, a rather gruff IHM berated me for something, and when I started to well up, she told me to knock it off or she'd "slap the tears right off my face."  Given this history, it seems ironic that I would work in nursing and especially in the operating room.  There is a saying in nursing, in which no one with their heart in the right place should ever feel pride:

 "Nurses eat their young."

We had an OR staff meeting yesterday.  We're required to have them once a month and frankly, given the choice of running these meetings or  sticking needles in my eyes, it would be a tough decision to make.  Given all that's happened this past week, I wasn't exactly feeling up to a battle, so I tried to show by my demeanor that I wasn't interested in a fight, but some smelled blood and went for the jugular.  Try as I might, I could not hide my emotions and after the meeting, one kind soul sought me out to offer some consolation.

"Joyce,"she told me, her arm sympathetically around my shoulder, "I learned early on to recognize evil.  Don't let them get to you."

When I went back to my desk, there was a sympathy card from the other units I oversee, including the doctors.  I was very touched that they took the time to write and express such thoughtful sentiments.  It made the actions of their colleagues in the OR seem very petty and mean-spirited indeed.

The Lord sends trials, and He also sends an occasional Veronica to wipe the blood, sweat and tears.  The acts of kindness will be remembered long after the sting of the barbs has subsided. And not just by the recipient.   Still, what makes people want to behave that way?  Why do people want to treat others with such contempt?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This is the Hour of Lead

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?

The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Now I Know How You Feel

Eden, nearly in full bloom.  Even in the face of grief, life goes on

Mass wasn't nearly as well attended this morning as it normally is.  The gentleman who has been battling cancer and defying the odds for the past two years was conspicuously absent.  No one seems to know where or how he is.  It was nice to just stay behind in the darkness and the quiet afterward and pray for a little while. I try not to think too much about my sister-in-law and where her soul is right now, but it's hard.  I remind myself that God's mercy will always surpass our expectations and that it's always a mistake to try to figure out what God is up to in any given situation.

Like a lot of people, I suffer from distraction at prayer.  It saddens me to think that Our Lord allows Himself to be confected from ordinary bread and wine and I can't even manage to pay attention to Him for more than a few minutes at a time before drifting off.  It breaks my heart to think that He patiently waits until my fit of distraction is over to begin to talk to Him again.

When I was growing up, I always felt like I was a more steady and reliable friend to others than they were to me.  Part of the problem was that one of my friends was extremely popular and though she always said we were best friends, the truth was that we were friends born of convenience.  When she didn't have something better to do, she'd expect me to drop everything.  When she'd have a crisis with one of her many boyfriends, she'd expect me to go running to her.  It got tiresome, especially since this loyalty was never reciprocated.  More often than not, my feelings were hurt.

Now that I am 50 years old, I have to tell you that things have not changed much.  When folks call me, sometimes in the throes of emotional or spiritual agony, the expectation is that I will drop everything for them. Being the kind of person I am, I usually do. It's just impossible for me to ignore a friend in need.   I was feeling kind of sorry for myself regarding this because I have reached out to someone whose expertise I need with a work issue, and I've yet to hear back.

And then it occurred to me.

Could the Lord think so highly of me that He would want to give me a small token of what He experiences when He seeks our friendship?  He's never too busy or disinterested to listen.  How many times have I been willing to drop everything to listen to Him?   How many times could I have offered Him solace and either ignored Him or refused outright?  How many times has He tried to say something to me, but I was too distracted by the world to listen?

"Behold this Heart, which loves men so much, but they do not want to love Me in return."

Monday, May 16, 2011


Thanks to everyone for your kind sentiments and offer of prayers.  Unfortunately, we had no sooner arrived on the ICU then we were whisked into a room and informed that Carol had just passed away.  The family is shocked to say the least.

Last night, I made the suggestion that the family call a priest.  I don't know what my sister-in-law's beliefs were at the time of her death, but we often talked about prayer and praying for people and she would sometimes email me with prayer requests.  I never got a response to my suggestion and judging from the discussions that took place in the aftermath of her passing, I doubt any one acted on it.  My in-laws were devout Catholics and only two of their children were practicing their faith at the time of their passing some 6 years ago.  So now I ask you in your charity to please pray for the repose of Carol's soul.  This is bothering my husband.  Although he's not as religious as I am, he knows the deal.  I will be going to the novena tonight at my church to pray for her as well.
Thank you and God bless you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Urgent Prayer Request

I just got one of those dreaded phone calls that wakes you out of your sleep.  My husband's sister has been ill but expected to recover.  We just got word that she has taken a downward turn and is in very grave condition.  The family was urged to come to the hospital as soon as they can, which is no easy feat at this hour given the age of the siblings, health, and the distance of the hospital,  etc.

As a former ICU nurse, I understand the prognosis is not promising, but I also believe there is nothing hopeless when it is placed in God's hands.  I was given the task of passing the information along to the other siblings.  I hated to sound so clinical about it but it's hard when people ask questions and are looking for answers.  That is the best thing I can do for my nieces right now besides pray for their mother.  I thought the other thing I could do was engage you, my dear friends, to remember my sister-in-law Carol in your prayers.

God Bless you and thank you

Treasures of the Church: Remaining Schedule for Delaware Valley

For those who live in the tri-state area of the Delaware Valley and were unable to get to St. Rita's last week, you still have a few more opportunities to participate in this beautiful part of our faith: venerating the relics of Saints who have gone before us and who intercede on our behalf.  I am hoping to get to one of these so I can take my time and relish the company of the saints without having responsibility for them.

Monday May 16 at 7:00 pm
St. Isidore Church
2545 West Pumping Station Road 
Quakertown, Pennsylvania   18951

Wednesday May 18 at 7:00 pm
St. Pius X Parish
220 Lawrence Rd
Broomall, Pennsylvania   19008
(610) 353-4880

Thursday May 19 at 7:00 pmOur Lady of Lourdes Church
6315 Lancaster Ave
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania   19151
(215) 473-1669

Sunday May 22 at 3:15 pm
Our Lady of Hope Church
5200 N Broad St.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania   19141
(215) 329-8100

Monday May 23 at 7:00 pm
St. Stephen Church
6306 Browning Road
Pennsauken, New Jersey   08109
(856) 662-9338 

Tuesday May 24 at 7:00 pm
Our Lady of the Mount Church
167 Mount Bethel Road 
Warren, New Jersey   07059
(908) 647-1075

Wednesday May 25 at 7:00 pmSt. Agnes Church
701 Little Gloucester Road
Blackwood, New Jersey   08012
(856) 228-4331

day May 26 at 7:00 pmSt. Agnes Church
701 Little Gloucester Road
Blackwood, New Jersey   08012
(856) 228-4331

Purity of Body and Mind

I received an anonymous comment from someone who is struggling with issues of purity of body and mind.   I did not think it was appropriate to publish the comment but at the same time I do not want to ignore someone who is clearly struggling and in search of help.

 I am not in a position to offer professional guidance or spiritual direction.  What I can offer are ways I have found that helped me combat attacks on my morality.  First and foremost, you should go to confession weekly and make a thorough and honest confession.  Let the priest know that you are doing your best to overcome these issues.  Realize that you need God's help and call upon your Holy Mother in Heaven to assist you.   A common mistake we make is to think we cannot approach the Blessed Virgin Mary if we are not spotless.  She was the only spotless human being to walk the earth, so why would Jesus have bothered giving her to us as our mother if only the undefiled could approach her?  As Father Corapi likes to say, your mama wears combat boots.  She can handle what you bring her, so long as your bring it to her with true contrition for your sins and the desire to overcome them.

If  you cannot pray the entire chaplet to St. Michael every day, at least pray that through his intercession and that of the Heavenly Choir of Dominations, God may give you the grace necessary to have dominion over your senses and to correct your depraved passions.  I would pray this prayer many times a day, whenever you have a quiet moment.  Follow the plea for intercession with an Our Father and three Hail Marys, the same as if you were praying the entire chaplet.

Pray  the Rosary every day, without fail.  If you can't pray it in one sitting, break up the decades, but don't miss a day.  Don't beat yourself up if you do, but try to make this a permanent habit.

If you use crude language, stop immediately.  Do not refer to anything having to do with the human body, particularly anatomy, in crude slang.  This is a portal that invites depravity.  If you cannot refer to a body part by its appropriate medical name, don't refer to it at all.  When people hear you talk this way, it's an invitation to them to believe you are game for anything.  And understand this - there is never any reason for you to discuss someone else's anatomy.  Do you what you need to do to avoid being in that situation.

If traveling in certain circles leads you to sin, say goodbye to these so-called friends.

Do not look at anything, and I mean anything, that leads you to impure thoughts or impulses.  This might mean not turning on your television set for awhile.  It may mean not frequenting certain places where you encounter men or women dressed in such a way that you are tempted by impure thoughts.  It's impossible for any of us to walk down the street with blinders on, but just because someone has dressed for attention (or hasn't dressed much in order to garner attention) doesn't mean you are obligated to look.

You may not be able to overcome these en masse.  You might need to break things up at first and when you have successfully combated one problem, you can move on to the next.  But again - realize that without God's help, you get nowhere.

My friend, know that I will pray for you as will my faithful readers.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jesus, The Good Shepherd

For the sake of those who have heard me talk about this before, please bear with me for the sake of those new to the blog who have not.  The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one of my favorite.  Nearly 30 years ago, I took a trip to England to visit a friend.  One day, we visited the Lake District and did some hiking and climbing.  As we were about to return to the car at Dungeon Ghyll, we heard a dog frantically barking at an old shepherd, a crotchety looking  fellow in tweed knickers and cap with a walking stick in hand.  The dog wouldn't quit, so the shepherd had no choice but to follow him up the side of a hill.  When he returned, he had a newborn lamb around his neck.  The dog had done its job well.

Sheep aren't very bright.  Certainly, one would expect them to be smarter than us, but there is a difference:  the sheep will listen to the shepherd's voice.  How many times do we hear our Shepherd's voice and choose not to listen?  The amazing thing about our Shepherd is that it doesn't matter how badly we muck things up.  When we are ready to return, He will be there to lead us out of the darkness.  He can meet us where we are and He will not be defiled, no matter the conditions in which we are ensconced. Knowing how faithful He is to us should not lead us to think we should do as we please and take advantage of His generosity and love for us.  It should compel us to never want to wound His Sacred Heart again.

If you are someone who is struggling with addiction or mental health issues, this is especially for you.  You carry a cross unlike any other.  Some of you feel like you will never truly be part of the church because of some flaw or deficiency that you think you have.  Some of you will be lifted up, only to fall down again.  No matter how many times that happens, Christ will be there to lead you.   Some of you lean more heavily on Him than others.  He does not care.  He is there for you to lean on for as long as you need, so long as you understand that your salvation can come only from Him.  Maybe you think that because some people have an aversion to you that Christ does also.  Not true.  A shepherd knows that despite his best efforts, the sheep are going to get dirty.  Still, he goes looking for them when they are lost and carries them closely when they need him to, like the old shepherd at Dungeon Ghyll.

He wants to carry, you too.  The question is: are you ready to let Him?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Communion of Saints

Somehow, I managed to delete and lose the entire post I just wrote and published.  Here's my second attempt.

Sometime back in December, a friend called and asked me to come to a meeting to discuss the possibility of bringing Treasures of the Church to Philadelphia.  I said yes, not knowing what to expect.  On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we began our evening in the dimly lit Adoration chapel where pink placards containing our names and prayer intentions lined the steps along with a votive candle in a glass bowl.  It was a beautiful sight and a beautiful gesture on the part of my friend.  After Benediction and Reposition, we were invited to take our placards and our candles into the friary to lay them at the feet of Our Lady.  With such a beautiful start, how could this not be a success?

Last night, this labor of love prayerfully came to fruition.  For reasons known only to God, it was decided that I would be one of only two people permitted to unpack the relics and lay them out on 19 tables. I barely had time to come home from work, shower and change and get myself to the friary by 5pm.  I was so worried about dropping a reliquary, it never occurred to me that I, along with the lovely woman helping me, would be responsible for keeping them in order.   Naturally, I messed up  the first two tables and we had to start all over again, but I was fortunate to have noticed my mistake early.  Father Carlos was very patient and kind about it.  He has an amazing system of keeping the relics organized to the point where he can blindly put his hand into the trunk and know which saint he withdrew based on the position of the relics.  Accompanying each reliquary is a plaque that gives a brief synopsis of each relic and the saint to whom it belonged.

Matthew and Rebecca were also enlisted to help with this endeavor but they were coming a little later.  I got a text message from Rebecca warning me that Matthew was threatening to show up in shorts, but, little mother hen that she is, she got him in line.  While we helped Father set up, the rest of the volunteers were reviewing their instructions and responsibilities in the friary.  The plan was to allow most of us to hear Father's talk in the upper church with the understanding that we would leave before its  conclusion and return to guarding the relics, one volunteer per table.

Some people picked their table based on the saint whose relics it displayed.  I was late picking a table and took one of the three remaining.  My company last evening was St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis Xavier, St. Dominic and .... St. John Vianney.  More than once I implored the Cure d'Ars to intercede on behalf my of my pastor, who is slowly recovering from his injuries.  Having St. Francis of Assisi near would prove to be providential, but I'll get to that a bit later.

Before we headed up to hear Father's talk, we were given an opportunity to venerate the relics in relative peace and quiet.  I joined up with Rebecca since Matthew was assigned to keep an eye on the elevator and prevent people from entering too early.  At first, Rebecca was afraid to pick up any of the reliquaries, so I took the one containing St. Therese and touched it to her forehead for her.  Then we parted ways for a short bit because I was in Carmelite Heaven.  Not only was the Little Flower's relic present, but her parents' as well, not to mention St. Teresa of Jesus, St. John of the Cross, and St. Edith Stein.  Edith Stein's relic was second-class.  Given that the Nazis burned her in an oven, no first-class relic exists.

As we were heading upstairs for Father's talk, Rebecca mentioned that she had a pins and needles sensation that would not go away on her forehead.  I didn't think much of it at first, but when she mentioned it again, I asked her if it was bothering her, worrying that maybe a dizzy spell was in the works.  She told me it started after I touched the relic to her head and while it didn't hurt, it was a very strange sensation that she could still feel.  At this point, the talk had not yet begun.  I needed to know if at any point Rebecca had overheard that sometimes, a person will feel a warm or even burning sensation when they venerate a relic.  No such discussion had yet taken place because Father had yet to talk about it. The discussion in the friary among the volunteers was solely about their responsibilities.   I'm sure you can imagine how choked up I became.

I loved how Father began his talk.  He reminded the faithful that though he would be giving a lecture, we were still in God's house and were to conduct ourselves accordingly.  He spoke of the Four Handcuffs, those things that prevent us from living in God's good graces.

1. Failure to faithfully go to Sunday Mass
2. Failure to go to confession
3. Failure to make a thorough confession
4. Failure to forgive.

Please visit Father's website for more details from the lecture.

Before the talk ended, I left to take my place at my table. It was fascinating to watch people, and mine was one of the busiest tables.  I watched a gentleman take St. Francis of Assisi and touch his relic to a large growth protruding from his head.  I watched a woman take a photo of a relative in a hospital bed and touch it to each relic on the table.  One young woman in a veil moved methodically, on her knees, to each relic, praying and touching each one to her Rosary.

In my haste to get to the friary on time, I forgot my Rosary.  The only sacramental I had was my Brown Scapular, so I touched it to the relic containing what tradition holds is a piece of the Virgin Mary's veil.  I must admit to a bit of envy watching everyone else touch their Rosaries to their favorite saints.

Finally, the evening drew to a close and Father beckoned the few remaining faithful to take their leave. Only a handful of volunteers remained so while I took down the relics, the others covered the plaques in their plastic bags and folded the blue linens that had covered the tables.  It was just before midnight by the time we got home.  On the dining room table was a note from my oldest, who had stopped by to see her dogs.  She warned us that a mouse was stuck in the sink, unable to climb out.

With great trepidation, I took a peek and sure enough, a tiny field mouse sat quivering.  We attempted to get him out, but being the girl that I am, I shrieked every time he moved.  Rebecca's idea was to put him outside, if only we could catch him. I was afraid we'd wind up pulling his tail off, he was so tiny.  Finally on his own, he leaped out, except instead of running away, he decided to hang out.  He sat on the counter, looking at Rebecca, and every time she'd get close, he'd scamper away a few feet, and then come back and do it again. She tried to scoop him up in a plastic container so we could put him outside, but apparently he was enjoying this little game of cat and mouse.  

"If we kill him, Rebecca, St. Francis will never forgive us."

Finally, the little critter got bored and took off, disappearing behind the stove.  Time to go to bed.  Rebecca told me that during Father's talk, he explained that sometimes people will feel a hot or warm sensation when they venerate a relic.  She said it meant that saint was calling you to be their friend.  She told me that when she venerated St. Mary Magdalene's relic, she got the same buzzing sensation, except it lasted only briefly.  I told her I had a slightly different take than Father Carlos.  Both Magdalene and Therese were entirely devoted to Christ.  I asked Becca to consider that perhaps they were asking her to join them in that devotion.

I have no idea what any of it meant, but I do know I will treasure what happened in my heart much longer than I will remember what car I drove or how many karats my engagement ring is or how much money I could get for my house.  Many times, we travel along the path of faith in a total fog, blindly groping and hoping we're headed in the right direction, and God sends us a gift, just to reassure us that if we put our trust entirely in Him, we will one day be able to do more than venerate the relic of saints.  We will join their company and thank them face to face for their heroic example and complete devotion to God.

What's Going on With Blogger?

I could not sign on at all yesterday.  What's more, I approved a bunch of comments, and I see that none of them are here, nor can I retrieve them.  If one of them was yours, my apologies.  I don't know if the problem was on my end or Blogger's end.  I'll be back later on this evening to tell you about Treasures of the Church last night.  Amazing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Bread of Life

One of my last stops before returning to the Catholic church was at a historic protestant church where the founders of our country once worshiped.  Even though I referred to myself as a "recovering Catholic" and essentially thumbed my nose at the place from which I came, there was a lot that simply struck me as wrong and no amount of pretending not to see could ease my conscience.

One particular Sunday, a former Catholic priest gave the homily.  The rector of the church announced at the end of the service that this former Jesuit had sought and was granted admittance into this protestant church as a priest.  Not long after, one of the assistant priests referred to this same ex-Jesuit as his husband from the pulpit.  I happened to really like this assistant priest because he was a gentle person and he gave stirring homilies.  He had a beautiful singing voice and was approachable and kind.  But he was destroying himself just the same and  preaching from the pulpit that his lifestyle was somehow normal and acceptable meant he was leading others down that dark alley with him.

St. Peter wrote of Christ that "no deceit was found in His mouth."  Jesus was a straight-shooter in today's parlance.  He didn't parse words and get caught up in minutiae. He told it like it was.  When He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well, He told her that she was right not to refer to having a husband in the singular because in fact she had had many husbands.  He didn't tell her it was ok to have had so many husbands.  He didn't tell the woman caught in adultery "if it feels good, keep doing it"  He forgave her and bade her to sin no more.

Some of our brothers and sisters are headed down that dark, dirty alley where they are lead to believe that the depravity in which they are engaged is normal, acceptable and moral.  Sometimes, I get angry because I'm trying to raise children in a world where they get conflicting messages.  They hear things that try to lead them to believe that if they reject the depravity of homosexual behavior that they are being hateful and judgmental.  The world would like them to believe that charity means anything goes, so long as no one is being murdered (that is, of course, unless the lives of the unborn are being snuffed out, in which case the world thinks murder is perfectly acceptable.)

One of the Center City churches I occasionally visit is most easily reached by traveling through a very seedy part of town where the street signs all have rainbows on them.  It saddens me to see so many young women who have butchered themselves in an attempt to look like men, walking hand in hand with other young women.  I think of the terrible destruction of God's creation when I see young men who have completely emasculated themselves, conversing with their arms around each other's waists.  I finger my little wooden Rosary and pray that they might be lead to conversion before it's too late.

Jesus told us that He is the Bread of Life.  He spoke of marriage between a man and a woman.  He ate with sinners, but  with the admonition to go and sin no more.  To pretend that it's ok for two people of the same sex to marry one another in the name of charity and love is anything but.

Photos From Palm Sunday

I refer you to Philadelphia Roamin Catholic for some wonderful photos of Palm Sunday at my parish.  The administrator of the blog is also the lead server for the Latin Mass crew and he is a most unassuming gentleman to whom many of us are so grateful for all he does.

The liturgy began at St. Mary's, the other church in our parish, and then we processed to St. Paul's, where Mass in the Extraordinary Form was offered.

There are  some good glimpses of St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi Church, where the TLM will be celebrated on Sunday May 29th at Noon.

Please keep our pastor in your prayers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Eucharist: A Compass for Our Lives

It is the greatest of fortunes that I am personally acquainted with so many priests who revere Christ in the Eucharist.  The celebrant of the Mass I attended this morning asked us to make the Eucharist the compass that guides our every move in life.  He talked about St. Maximillian Kolbe and how he spent hours preparing to celebrate the Eucharist and then more in thanksgiving for this profound privilege.

I would say that if we make the Eucharist the focal point of our lives, we cannot go wrong.  We may not have the opportunity to spend all day in prayer, as St. M. Kolbe did, but this does not excuse us from our obligation.  In our everyday, sometimes mundane lives, we are prevailed upon to consider Christ, completely humbled in the guise of bread, and make our every word, thought and action fitting for His Divine Presence among us.

When someone tries to beat us at a stop sign, it is the time to stop and say: "Lord, I will not respond in kind for your sake."

When a co-worker tries to make themselves look good at our expense, that is the time to stop and say: "Lord, I will endure this for You and the great love that you have for me in the Blessed Sacrament."

When a loved one inflicts such pain to our hearts that we just want to crumple on the floor in a heap, that is the time to stop and say: "Lord, I gladly accept this pain in reparation to You for all those who have rejected Your Love."

When another seems to be preferred over us, that is the time to stop and say: "Lord, thank you for letting me share an iota of  the pain that You above all know so well, of being placed on the back burner."

When we are disappointed because the priest who appears out of the sacristy to celebrate Mass is not the priest of our choice, that is the time to stop and say: "Lord, let me attend to the Holy Sacrifice of this Mass with the same love and attention with which Your Most Holy Mother stood at the foot of Your cross."

God Bless you.