Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Visitation - a "girly mystery" revisited

Today is the Feast of the Visitation.

In June of 2004, I posted the following:

When I pray the Joyful Mysteries, I'm sometimes struck by the intensely feminine spirituality of them. Not to the exclusion of men, but there is a special dimension accessible to women's understanding, I think.

One of the most notable is the Mystery of the Visitation. Mary, now pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, but not married, goes, maybe even flees, to visit her relative Elizabeth in a distant town. Elizabeth, with some surprise, finds herself pregnant at an age where she must have lost hope. So we have two bemused women (holy does not stop bemusement, I'm sure) who come together, who visit.

A beautiful line in Scripture: "the babe in Elizabeth's womb leaped for joy." I have such a vivid picture of two women, laughing, crying, hugging, praising God. Elizabeth was the first to recognize the presence of the Lord in Mary's womb. I am sure Mary found comfort with her cousin, safety, understanding. They also probably did a little cooking, a little sewing, told each other which neckline or hairstyle looked best on the other. Why not? They were women!

Do we recognize the presence of Christ in the hearts of our friends? Do we fully participate in God's particular love for that friend? That can be done in the context of shopping for bathing suits (a chance to exercise the virtue of mercy), or writing out recipes, or gabbing on the phone. Do we want the highest and best for our friends? When we do, I think we know that by observing the results, whether we are yet people of faith or not. But, knowing that Jesus loves you in a very specific way through me, makes me more careful of your soul, more vigilant for your salvation.

How beautiful to be a woman of God.

Wonderful Tom of the wonderful Dominican blog Disputations noted my post and added this:

I only recently became aware of the traditional pious belief that St. Joseph accompanied Mary on her visit. St. Joseph probably accompanied Mary, returned to Nazareth, and when, after three months, he came again to Hebron to take his wife home, the apparition of the angel, mentioned in Matthew 1:19-25, may have taken place to end the tormenting doubts of Joseph regarding Mary's maternity.
I have no firm opinion on the question, but I doubt I'm the only husband who knows his presence when his wife meets a beloved female relative doesn't make the moment any less girly.

Scripture records the conversation in the foreground. The conversation in the background I imagine along these lines:

JOSEPH: Hey, Zechariah.
JOSEPH: The main road through Jerusalem was in pretty bad shape, so we cut over onto that southeast trail at Jericho, you know, the one that goes past Bethany. We made pretty good time.
JOSEPH: Not much traffic, just muddy in spots. But what are you gonna do, this time of year?

Happy feast day! May your soul leap for joy in the presence of the Savior!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Why does relief inspire less prayer than panic?

Okay, 'splain this to me, Ricky -

We had a scare with my mother over the last week, worrying about potential lung cancer. The tests came back today - NOT CANCER! Some more doctoring, but not awful. We are very happy, to say the least.

I've spent a lot of time in prayer over the last week, praying for serenity, strength, patience, healing for her, healing for our family. I asked for the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux (whose own illness would give her a vivid empathy of my mother's lung troubles), the Blessed Mother (mother of mothers), everybody in Heaven I was inspired to think of. I openly begged for prayers among my blogging friends, my local friends, my fellow daily-Mass-goers (many of whom sweetly asked me her name so they could pray for her that way).

I felt great strength and peace flow through me, tempered by short bursts of wanting to clonk my mother one for her gloomy pessimism. I did some big-time prayin', folks. I am grateful for the growth in fortitude and other virtues.

Now we have the good news. WHY am I not storming Heaven with the same level of energy in praise and gratitude? Great Goddle Mighty, I've been heard! How can I not keep the praise from my lips?

What failing of human nature have I thought up now?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Lousy with litanies

Just got my order from TAN Books, who is in some financial difficulty and is asking that if you've had the urge to order a book or two, now's the time.

I ordered:

- The Three Conversions in the Spiritual Life, by Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange, O.P.
- Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, by St. Claude De La Colombiere, S.J. and Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade, S.J.
- A Prayerbook of Favorite Litanies, by Fr. Albert Hebert, S.M.

(The bindings aren't very supple, and the margins are narrow, making the books smaller than normal paperbacks, but you cannot beat the price or the subject matter. And they shipped really fast.)

The Litany book has 116 litanies! I'm looking forward to learning a few more litanies for meditative prayer. For our non-Catholic readers, a litany is a prayer form that at first glance looks like a list. It IS a list, of the particular attributes of God we are pondering. Litanies can also be prayers (NOT worship, everyone calm down) to a particular Saint, or to the Blessed Mother. The list always has two parts, a "call and response" in a way. The response can be said by a second pray-er or a congregation, if the litany is led by an individual.

At Pope John Paul II's funeral, the Litany of the Saints was sung, calling on dozens of saints by name to pray for the soul of the Pope and all of us. "St. Peter, pray for him. St. John the Baptist, pray for him. All you holy saints and martyrs, pray for him....." I was home sick watching the Pope's funeral and surfing around the media coverage, and the lovely repeated "ora pro eum" stopped commentators in their chatter to exclaim over the haunting melody and the concept of a Church confident of unity in prayer between Heaven and earth.

We just celebrated Trinity Sunday, and here's an abridged version of the Litany of the Most Holy Trinity for you:

Antiphon: Blessed be the holy Trinity and undivided Unity: we will give glory to Him, because He hath shown His mercy to us.

V. O Lord our Lord, how wonderful is Thy Name in all the earth!
R. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Blessed Trinity, hear us.
Adorable Unity, 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.... (keep repeating this)
Holy Trinity, one God
Father, from Whom are all things
Son, through Whom are all things
Holy Ghost, in Whom are all things
Holy and undivided Trinity
Father everlasting
Only-begotten Son of the Father
Spirit Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son
Co-eternal Majesty of Three Divine Persons
Father, the Creator
Son, the Redeemer
Holy Ghost, the Comforter
Power infinite
Wisdom incomprehensible
Love unspeakable, Have mercy on us.

Be merciful.
Spare us, O Holy Trinity
Be merciful, O Holy Trinity
Graciously hear us, O Holy Trinity
From all evil, Deliver us, O Holy Trinity.
From all sin, Deliver us, O Holy Trinity.
From all pride, Deliver us....
From all love of riches
From all uncleanness
From all sloth
From all inordinate affection
From all envy and malice
From all anger and impatience, Deliver us, O Holy Trinity
We sinners beseech Thee, hear us.
That we may ever serve Thee alone, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That we may worship Thee in spirit and in truth, We beseech Thee...
That we may love Thee with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength
That, for Thy sake, we may love our neighbor as ourselves
That we may faithfully keep Thy holy commandments
That we may never defile our bodies and souls with sin
That we may go from grace to grace, and from virtue to virtue
That we may finally enjoy the sight of Thee in glory
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to hear us, We beseech Thee, hear us.
O blessed Trinity, We beseech Thee, deliver us.
O blessed Trinity, We beseech Thee, save us.
O blessed Trinity, Have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Our Father (silently). Hail, Mary (silently).

V. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, in the firmament of heaven.
R. And worthy to be praised, and glorious, and highly exalted forever.

Let us pray. Almighty and everlasting God, Who hast granted Thy servants in the confession of the true faith, to acknowledge the glory of an Eternal Trinity, and in the power of Thy majesty to adore a Unity: we beseech Thee that by the strength of this faith we may be defended from all adversity. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Does that seem really long? I chopped some parts out, too. But the point of an organized list like this is that we are nudged away from the "buddy Jesus" mentality. Jesus is LORD, God of all Creation, infinite in power and mercy and justice. We are also nudged to run through how we use or ignore the Grace He gives us. Each repeated response is a separate "You are God!" or "I'm sorry!" with its own tone and meaning.

All the bases are covered in a prayer like this. I'll put others up as the feasts for those saints or aspects of Christ's life come by.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Daily Mass, Daily Mess

Light on the blogging because these last days have been filled with non-routine, mildly upsetting, semi-complicated things in my family and work. All issues will probably be resolved for the good, but they're taking up my spare time, ingenuity, patience and diligence.

I've been able to start each day with Mass; beautiful Masses, peaceful, with the sun streaming in low and muted, still spring-cool. The gold of the chalices glow quietly against the green vestments of Ordinary Time. The daily-Mass sermons are short but often theologically intricate and challenging. Everybody is so reverent; silence is complete after communion, except for the birds heard through the windows. Sigh. You'd like it.

When my life goes MY way, when I can predict even my trials and temptations, I can feel the afterglow of Mass being absorbed slowly by the new material of the day as it predictably unfolds. But now, BANG!, I'm immediately being clutched at and behind schedule and distracted.

This is a new step in spiritual growth: to maintain the balance of Mass and life so that one feeds the other instead of life robbing spirit of all the energy and attention.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

There's a ripple in the Tiber

An abfab Episcopalian blog I read every day is Pontifications. What great news today! Fr. Al Kimel, the erudite and nimble-brained Pontificator, announced his decision to enter the Catholic Church. He announces "It is also my intention to avail myself of the Pastoral Provision and to apply for ordination to the Catholic priesthood."

All of us should pray daily for new vocations to the priesthood, and the strenghthening and warming of the vocations of our current priests. This is another way of bringing holy priests to the people.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Here's a genuine "Great"

Almost without exception, the clerics in my parish have been referring to the former Pope as "John Paul the Great" and, I believe, have renamed the John Paul II Room in this manner.

'Hear, hear!' I say.

Fr. Shane Tharp has written a beautiful prayer for the canonization of John Paul that I will reprint below. I am using it to intercede for some things on my heart. I'll share one of them with you -- I'm within a couple of weeks of putting my house up for sale. It's a slow market in these parts, exacerbated by the fact that I'm a little tardy for the buy/sell rush that comes in the Spring. But I'm asking God to sell it within 9 days of its listing. My Protestant daughter said, "Oh Mom! Say a Novena." Good for her. This may be a foolish request and is certainly minor in the scheme of things. But I trust that the Father likes his children to ask for what they need and even for what they want, trusting him to do what's best.

I'll keep you posted. And, meanwhile, here's Fr. Tharp's prayer:

Prayer for the Canonization of John Paul the Great

God of Mercy and of Justice,
you graciously deigned to give to your Church a firm foundation stone as she travels her pilgrim way in the world.
Your Son called Simon the Apostle, Peter,
making him the rock upon which the Church would be founded.
In the successors of St. Peter, we hear you speaking,
strengthening the faith of your children,

You have, in every age and in every place,
led the people claimed by your Son through the visible shepherd of our unity.
We praise you for your generous care for our souls.
In our own time, you have blessed the Church with an outstanding example of truth and virtue
in the person of John Paul II.
He made of himself a gift, freely and totally given, to your Son through His Blessed Mother.
Despite sorrow in his life, he has called us, in your name,
to be not afraid,
to set out into deep water,
to not settle for mediocrity.
We praise you and thank you for your generosity.

If it be in accordance with your will,
raise this holy man to the glories of the altar.
Manifest in our times signs and wonders which demonstrate that he rests now in the glory of Heaven.
By his intercession, I bring my petition to you. (Mention your petition here.)

Glory and honor to you,
through your Son,
in the power of the Holy Spirit,
now and until the ages of man run dry.
We ask these things through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Today's Gospel reading, from Mark, chapter 9, verses 30-37:

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
"The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise."
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
"What were you arguing about on the way?"
But they remained silent.
For they had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
"If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me."

Do you think they were saying "I'm the greatest!" or were they telling each other "You're the greatest?" Would trying to set someone else up as greatest be selfless and okay, or was this an apostolic smoke-filled room, a few saying that they were the greatest and others agreeing and grouping with them? Egotist or sycophant, take your pick.

I'm relieved when I see the pre-Pentecost Apostles behaving like a bunch of maroons.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Being that way about Jesus

I first read the poetry of St. John of the Cross when I was in college. This is probably his most-read poem:

1. One dark night, fired with love's urgent longings
- ah, the sheer grace! -
I went out unseen, my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness, and secure, by the secret ladder, disguised,
- ah, the sheer grace! -
in darkness and concealment, my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me more surely than the light of noon to where he was awaiting me
- him I knew so well -
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast, which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping, and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair, it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand, suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself, laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

It made me uncomfortable. It made me feel creepy. It was too romantic. It was too over the top. To feel THAT WAY about Jesus?

To deal with my discomfort, I assumed it was some sort of high code, some sort of allegory, that nobody could love God that way. How could you?

I kept checking back on that poem every couple of years, as I wandered in and out of faith, sinning and asking, running and sneaking back. There it was, still gushing and passionate, and I didn't know what to make of it. Maybe he was insane. He certainly had a single-track mind. But it made no sense to me at all.

Glory be to God, I'm starting to understand it. I don't mean that I am getting a handle on St. John's personality, I'm not understanding it in the light of him and his faith. I'm starting to understand this: that all love, all passion, all romance, all drawings of the spirit are from God and properly belong first and foremost TO God.

It's pretty easy to get a handle on loving the unfortunate because they were created by God and Christ lives as surely in them as in me. It's even sort of easy to understand loving my enemies because Jesus loved His. But God truly desires a true Union with us. Jesus calls Himself the Bridegroom of His Church; how clear a picture do you want Him to paint for you? We CAN love Jesus Christ passionately, with the language of love! Passionate language and emotions are not inextricably linked with sex (there's a big aha!) but are nobly spent on God first, then through Him, in proper ways and times, to those around us.

All loves given to God are purified and glorified by Him and then pass through Him to the rest of the world.

Phew. I'm relieved. Now I can go back to the Song of Songs and give THAT a try.

Friday, May 13, 2005

One-step examination of consience

Dieting in faith.

Getting ready to go to my third Weight Watchers meeting this weekend. Plan is working well and I sometimes to remember to glorify the Lord in my hunger, to offer it as reparation, and to be responsible for the body He gave me. Other times I just pout.

If I feel myself beginning to start a sentence "Oh, well, what's it gonna hurt?" there's a sin coming along next. Even if I'm talking about one little cookie, or one social lie, or five miles over the speed limit.

Is there such a thing as "slightly sinful?" You can measure the bigness of sin (murder vs being impatient) but you can't use smallness to deny the reality of offending God. AND the apparent smallness of your sin is in no way an indicator of the massiveness of the sin you'd commit, given the chance.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Things I wouldn't find if I didn't have a sense of humor

This cutie was included in this morning's Opinion Journal mailing. I followed the link, out of curiosity, and found a very good article on expectations in marriage.

'And I Really Wish I'd Kept My Maiden Name'
"You're Not the Person I Married'guntzelman_lou_logo_g.eps" --headline, Loveland (Ohio) Herald, May 11

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What's the big deal?

Another Round Robin of opinions, this taken from the Angry Twins: ""List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can't really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), 'Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice.'"

1. Manicures. I like nice nails as much as any girl, but I manage just fine with a bottle of polish, a nail file, a big iced tea and a rerun of Law & Order. My friends seem to feel actually refreshed when they come back from a lunchtime manicure. A massage I get, but a manicure?

2. Rolex watches. Or any expensive watch. Here's something that gets whacked against things, rained on, shaken, scratched on the desk, dunked in the sink...and costs two grand! If I had one, I'd have to have a velvet pillow in my other hand to rest my wrist upon it as I walked around.

3. Reality TV. People say that they get "caught up in it" without meaning to, and lots of thoughtful people include the Kick-Off Of The Week in their blogs. And I appreciate the interest and connection with a favorite TV show. But in my disgruntled opinion, Reality TV is two lies in one: it isn't reality and it sure ain't TV.

4. The Powerball Lotto. Every time the prize gets past $10 million ($3 million is apparently chump change), some of my office compatriots lose no time in collecting $5 from everyone in the office and driving to the border with Indiana and buying strings of tickets. I can't seem to convince anyone that the chances of winning are not improved by purchasing more tickets! That would be a raffle, not a lotto. Of course, wuss that I am, I put my $5 in every time.

5. A closet full of shoes. Black, brown, navy blue, sandals, sneakers, a pair of black patent leather pumps for fancy. I'm set. What else do you need?
UPDATE: And one white pair, just so I can wear them only between Memorial Day and Labor Day and feel shoe-ly superior.


Monday, May 09, 2005


I've had moments of such great joy lately, but they are tinged with sorrow.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter graduated from college. Besides the inevitable inconveniences -- interminable processions of graduates, uncomfortable heat -- it was a wonderful time of celebrating accomplishment and being a family. We certainly know how to laugh together, my children and I, and the dinner after the ceremony was the best Mother's Day present I could have received. But, we all knew that that one who would have been most delighted was Julia's father. And he wasn't there.

My older daughter told me about a recent incident when she was riding home in the backseat with my son and his best friend. One will be studying for the ministry, one is in seminary preparing for the priesthood. A lively and charitable discussion about the meaning of the sacrament of Communion in each denomination was going on in the front seat, and at one red light, they both whipped out their Bibles to clarify what concepts they were referring to. I'm sure you understand the deep happiness, almost a silent chortle, that overtakes a mother when hearing a story like this about a child whose final attainment of adult maturity and well-being was not always forseeable during adolescence. Yet something is missing. I'm sure that if it is for Dave's good, God is allowing him to witness and even participate in these good things. But I have no one here who shared the uncertainty and so with whom I can share the depth of joy and gratification that I know now.

Bittersweet. Joy and sorrow, neither overtaken by the other but comingled.

I understand Mary the mother of God a little better now.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Litany of Shortfalls


There was some parenting I didn't receive
- You are my Father
There was some romancing I shouldn't have trusted
- You are the Lover of my Soul
There are some things I want, but can't find
- You are the Source of all good things
There are some evils I have gotten used to having around
- Your Passion and Death has saved me
There are some lies I tell well
- You are the Truth
There are goals for which the cost to me seems too high
- You tell me only to ask and it will be given to me
These things are big: I cannot see how I can change them
- You make all things new.
Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.

Amen. Good Night.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Even British TV is redeemable

I can't describe this story in a way that does it justice. Click here to read.

Insult added to ultimate injury

Judge Greer honored by his professional peers.

From the article:

"In addition to Greer's award, the Law Week celebration offers events that allow the community to get a closer look at what the West Pasco Bar Association and the law profession are about, Hook said.

"'It's not just about battles; law is a way of life.'"

You don't say.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Dieting with the Lord

I started going to Weight Watchers last week. It's worked well for me before and I plan to succeed at it again, for the last time. Because I have a new plan.

I'm not going to turn this blog into a weight-loss journal. What I hope for instead is to elicit your thoughts, and clarify my own, about losing weight, or conquering any appetite that has the upper hand, not by "working a program" alone, but turning it over to the Lord.

Gluttony is defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia as a vice and a moral deformity. Wow. (Read the link; it'll make you think about your next meal...) It is a sin against the moral order by eating prae-propere, laute, nimis, ardenter, studiose: too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, too daintily. Double-chinned wow.

This is a lifelong struggle for me, and I used to blame it on my upbringing, on unmet needs, blah blah blah. Or I blamed it all on myself; my moral weakness, my lack of "will-power," my general awfulness.

A little while ago, I started to understand in the light of a closer walk with Christ, that maybe both were true, maybe not. That wasn't important any more; forgive and forget. What was important is that no matter how I got this way, any continuance was a sin, greater or less. I was offending God by mistreating a perfectly healthy appetite, which He gave me to nourish myself, and have pleasure while doing it (does this sound familiar? Remind you of any other popular sin?).

I started giving particular attention to any Scripture mentioning eating and food. Recently, the Scriptures that bounced off my flab the most resoundingly were these two:

Psalm 81:10:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

Note that He doesn't say with what. We should be open to receive what we need.

Luke 1:46-55:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel,
for He has remembered His mercy;
the promise He made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

Mary's happy words to Elizabeth. He has filled the hungry with good things. No food mentioned again. I even checked the King James Bible to see what the "fancier" language had: "He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away." Just a couple of haths.

Other parts of Scripture go to considerable lengths to talk about wine, juicy food, honey, milk. Not these two particular sections, and others.

Can we open our mouths in trust and wait for the Lord to fill them? How? I know the old Irish saying "A man must wait for a long, long time for a cooked pheasant to fly through the window." I still have to cook, and add up FlexPoints (the cost of cottage cheese! The cost of a cookie!), and write it all down. But can I be obedient to the Weight Watchers plan without making it my Master?

This should be interesting. There are great graces, and some too-tight spring clothes hanging in the closet, and new clothes and health on the horizon, waiting for me.


Sample Text

We are grateful ladies with a point of view and a sense of humor. Like-hearted people are welcome. Others, too.

For a glimpse at our lighter side, hop over to In Dwelling.

E-mail us.

Sample text

"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009