Search This Blog

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday.......

has been particularly exciting this year because of the canonization of two new saints of the church, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Not only that, but the mass of canonization was celebrated by not one but two living popes, Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. So yes, a major papal fest!

    Been listening to the whole thing on the radio, following along with some of my favorite blogs. I must admit that, initially, I felt the whole process of canonization was moving a bit fast and bordering on something of populist hype to connect with heaven. I was skeptical of the move to wave the miracle quota, and felt strongly that Pope Pius XII was getting cheated out of his chances for sainthood for the simple reasons that he has been falsely accused of doing "nothing" to help the Jews during the Holocaust and that he was more reserved than some of his successors. Truth be told, he did everything in his power to help the Jews in a way that would not make things worse for everyone, and his reserve was only matched by a deep humility and commitment to his people.

    But while I still believe that his cause for canonization should be brought back to the fore (along with Mary, Queen of Scots and King Henry VI, of course!), I have grown quite comfortable and happy with the concept of Pope John and Pope John Paul becoming saints. Taking the time to grasp the "logic" behind what may seem like mass hysteria makes it quite clear that these two new saints are not just "shoe-ins". Their lives were exemplary, their trials sustained, their triumphs enduring. Sure, they were imperfect like the rest of the human race and made their mistakes in public and private decisions. But, aside from the Blessed Mother, what saint has ever been perfect? They certainly never pretended to be.

    As someone born during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, listening to his canonization and the outpouring of affection for him was moving. Hearing recordings of his homilies, his warm Polish accent touched a chord in my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I guess I realized how much, in an odd way, I missed him. Somewhere in the back of my mind, he has always been "the pope". He gave so many people hope and courage in the midst of troubled times throughout the world. His injunction "Be Not Afraid" inspired a young Hispanic musician who has no arms but plays the guitar with his feet to write a Spanish-language song for him by that title. He had played for him once before when he was alive, and played at his funeral.

    Having Polish blood in my veins just adds to feeling of connectivity. Today, a reporter observed all the Polish flags held high in the Roman piazzas and queried, "Are there any Poles left in Poland?" It's so appropriate that they should be present for the canonization of one of their own, and on Divine Mercy Sunday of all days. St. Faustina, a humble Polish nun, seen as simple-minded and uneducated by worldly standards, became the great Apostle of Mercy through her mystical experiences which brought the world the Divine Mercy Chaplet Devotion. It was Pope John Paul II who designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. In more than a coincidence, he died on the eve before the feast in 2005.

    As for Pope John XXIII, well, I'm Italian, too! And I wonder sometimes if his sense of humor and mind have the same cultural roots. He was, by all accounts, a cut-up in the best sort of way. One of my favorite anecdotes has to do with a very unflattering portrait that was painted of the pudgy pontiff. After it was unveiled, the pope went up to it and wrote something in the corner. People initially thought that it was his signature, but upon closer examination they realized it was a Bible verse. They looked it and discovered it came from the story of Christ walking on water: "Do not be afraid! It is I!"

    Another anecdote reveals the moral strength of this pope, who some consider unduly liberal because he launched Vatican II, a good idea with a lot of good results and also a few ugly ones due to gremlins getting into the systems. Anyway, the story goes that a French diplomat and his wife were planning of visiting the Vatican. She came dressed in extremely inappropriate attire, including a very high mini-skirt. The pope took notice, picked up an apple, and handed it to the woman, who inquired in a puzzled tone, "What is this for, your Holiness?" "My dear," the pope replied sweetly, "Eve did not know she was sinning until she ate the apple."

    With a generally buoyant attitude in the midst of all sorts of conflicts, he had a way of disarming cranky characters he came across. When an American diplomat with an anti-Catholic background approached the pope and grunted, "I'm a Baptist," the pope responded brightly, "And I'm John!" Also, when a lady in a crowd was heard to mutter, "He's so fat!", the pontiff replied, "Madam, the conclave is not a beauty contest." When asked how many people worked at the Vatican, he answered, "Oh, about half of them." He was also known for composing the ultimate short-and-sweet nighttime prayer: "God, it's your Church; I'm going to bed."

    But both Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were not just fuzzy feel-good characters. They both endured the horrors of WWII first hand and struggled to weave through the increasing threats posed by Communist regimes. Both did an amazing job of forwarding peace and freedom in the world, as well as making deeper movements towards ecumenical relations between Catholics and non-Catholics of every stripe. Pope John was influential in helping defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis which might have turned into a nuclear war. Pope John Paul, as we all know, was among the "Big Three" (American Pres. Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher being the other two) who helped bring down the Berlin Wall.

    Pope John used Vatican II as a means of clearing out some of the stuffiness of Church practice and opening the doors to inter-religious dialogue, while Pope John Paul apologized for the past wrongs done by the Church and initiated the World Day of Prayer. While there may be some legitimate disagreements about all the connotations, the concept was certainly a positive. And how can we leave unmentioned his other great contribution to my generation, World Youth Day? And the way he came to be there with his children, even as his own illnesses were sapping him of all his former vigor? As it was said then, this pope taught us, as Christians, how to live and how to die.

    All in all, the Church is blessed to have these exceptional men and pontiffs for saints. I am proud to be Catholic all the more because of their shining examples, and I look forward to hopefully meeting them both in Heaven someday. Until then:

Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II: We Love You! Pray For Us!

John XXIII and John Paul II: Two Popes; Two Saints


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shakespeare and St. George......

share their "special day" together, since the great English Catholic playwright was said to have been born and died on April 23, the feast of the dragon-slaying Early Christian martyr of the Roman Empire. Coincidence? I think not, and neither, it seems, did Shakespeare, who made quite a to-do about promoting "his saint" in his plays. So here, for this April, are a few of Will's best-loved speeches from the ever-inspirational Henry V in celebration of another link between jolly old England and Bella Italia ;-) 

P.S. Fun fact: The employees at the Vatican still take St. George's day off!  

"Once More Unto he Breach, Dear Friends!"

HENRY V: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

HENRY V: Upon the king! let us our lives, our souls,
Our debts, our careful wives,
Our children and our sins lay on the king!
We must bear all. O hard condition,
Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath
Of every fool, whose sense no more can feel
But his own wringing! What infinite heart's-ease
Must kings neglect, that private men enjoy!
And what have kings, that privates have not too,
Save ceremony, save general ceremony?
And what art thou, thou idle ceremony?
What kind of god art thou, that suffer'st more
Of mortal griefs than do thy worshippers?
What are thy rents? what are thy comings in?
O ceremony, show me but thy worth!
What is thy soul of adoration?
Art thou aught else but place, degree and form,
Creating awe and fear in other men?
Wherein thou art less happy being fear'd
Than they in fearing.
What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,
But poison'd flattery? O, be sick, great greatness,
And bid thy ceremony give thee cure!
Think'st thou the fiery fever will go out
With titles blown from adulation?
Will it give place to flexure and low bending?
Canst thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,
Command the health of it? No, thou proud dream,
That play'st so subtly with a king's repose;
I am a king that find thee, and I know
'Tis not the balm, the sceptre and the ball,
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,
The farced title running 'fore the king,
The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp
That beats upon the high shore of this world,
No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,
Not all these, laid in bed majestical,
Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave,
Who with a body fill'd and vacant mind
Gets him to rest, cramm'd with distressful bread;
Never sees horrid night, the child of hell,
But, like a lackey, from the rise to set
Sweats in the eye of Phoebus and all night
Sleeps in Elysium; next day after dawn,
Doth rise and help Hyperion to his horse,
And follows so the ever-running year,
With profitable labour, to his grave:
And, but for ceremony, such a wretch,
Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep,
Had the fore-hand and vantage of a king.
The slave, a member of the country's peace,
Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wots
What watch the king keeps to maintain the peace,
Whose hours the peasant best advantages.

St. Crispin's Day Speech

HENRY V: What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honor.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honor,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honor
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,
And say "To-morrow is Saint Crispian."
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say "These wounds I had on Crispian's day."
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

"Cry, For God, Harry, and St. George!"

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vision Forum.....

was a name of a well-known Evangelical Christian ministry and adjoining store founded by Doug Philips and based in San Antonio, Texas. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association publicized it, as did quite a few other popular homeschooling resource centers. As a Catholic homeschooling student, I have received catalogs from them through the HLDA and always had mixed emotions about their philosophy on life and the merchandise they sold for a variety of reasons.

      Now, just recently, the brand name has been completely liquidated as the result of an “emotional” extramarital affair on the part of Doug Philips. Having a wife and eight children and projecting the “perfect” family image just made this revelation more of a blow to Philips’ followers and employees, who were actually the ones who made the final decision to shut down shop before things could get any worse. Needless to say, reactions on the whole have been diverse, and often quite nasty as opposed to an appropriate attitude of Christian forgiveness. Sadly, homeschooling, religion, and stay-at-home moms in general are going to be getting the worst of the flack. But here, for what they’re worth, are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

    Some of the themes put forward by Vision Forum I agreed with, such as the importance of faith and family, remembering Christian history and heritage, and making homeschooling a feasible opportunity for more people. However, I disagree with some of their most strongly-held views, especially the belief in a patriarchal society and the submissiveness of women. This goes so far as to discourage girls from going to college and pursuing a career,  insisting that true “Biblical womanhood” is fulfilled through the roles of wife and mother alone.

    I am a great believer in the importance of sanctity of marriage and family, for both men and women. I also believe that men should, if possible, be the main bread-winners for their families so that women can focus more on raising any children they might have. But circumstances often prevent this from being practical in today’s economy, and it is often necessary for both adults in a household to pursue jobs. Also, many girls would feel totally unfulfilled if they did not exercise their academic gifts in a college setting and pursue the career of their interest. It would be not only ridiculous but selfish for their parents to hinder them.

    On the other hand, I don’t think girls should be forced out of the home or made to feel stupid or lazy should they decide to pass on college and focus more exclusively on home economics. Their homes can be centers of learning, culture, virtue, and a practical and artistic intelligence that equals the benefits of scholastic pursuits. The demeaning of women as sexy objects or ambitious money-makers will always pale in comparison with an honest appreciation of them as soul mates and gifted individuals, whether they find their calling as stay-at-home moms or teachers educating students or doctors caring for their patients or military administrators helping defend their nation or an artist bringing beauty to the world, or what have you.

    Young men should be taught to be gentlemen, but never silky cads. In other words, by all means open a door and pull up a chair for a lady, but do it to honor her place in the fairer sex, not to demean her as somehow inferior or obtuse. Treat her as an equal, not as an alien! A friendship has got to be on equal footing in order to work out right. A marriage all the more so. Vision Forum’s insinuation that a wife is pretty much there only to “bless her husband’s vision” instead of it being a two-way street is just plain wrong. This doesn’t mean we have the exact same roles. He may be considered more of the “head” of the household, while she would fill in the “heart”. But I’d like to see one of those body parts dare to order the other to be “submissive”.

     In the Vision Forum catalog, the girls’ section was always a lot smaller than the boys’ and included only the frilliest of items. Personally, I am a blouse-and-skirt girl who is dedicated to the concept of modesty in dress. I love dressing up in old-fashioned outfits. But even in my youth, while I was certainly not a tom-boy, I wasn’t particularly prissy in a baby-doll fashion either. I’d much rather play with my stuffed animals and send them on epic adventures or reenact some battle involving Robin Hood. So the point is girls should not be treated as stereotypically tame and frowned upon if they have any sense of adventure in their blood.

     By contrast, the boys’ section of the catalog is loaded with guts and gusto. Too much, as a matter of fact. Exactly what mother in her right mind would entrust her 7 or 8 year old son with a real tomahawk? What about knives or air pistols? It’s beyond me why the boy-themed pages are almost exclusively stocked with killer weapons learning to hunt as a family. I am not against owning firearms, per se, as a legitimate means of self-defense. But young children need not identify with them as play toys. Furthermore, boys should not be expected to have some sort of “killer instinct” by birth. I would not want my family to learn the “thrill of the hunt” nor to take pleasure it taking the life of another living creature.

    “Manliness” is fine and dandy in and of itself, but it should not be put on steroids. There’s nothing more annoying than a young man trying to be super-macho in a cheesy manner. Frankly, if he can’t be sensitive and compassionate in addition to manifesting his inner warrior instinct, he’s lost me completely. True manhood (or womanhood, for that matter) is not something to be worn on our sleeves or flaunted about. It is a quiet strength and gentle nurturing, a humble courage and hearty sense of humor that I find the most appealing. It is doing our daily task to the fullest and loving one another as Children of God. Gender distinction should serve to draw us together, not blind us to one another’s needs or make us cardboard cut-outs of some pre-designed model we are all supposed to fit.

     The idea of raising sons with heroic ideals is great, but the turn-out will no doubt be quite an overview of the realities of human nature. I don’t mean to sound like a cynic, but somehow I have a hard time picturing any of my lads rescuing me from anything! Like, if I was kidnapped and tied to a stake, about to be turned into a hot lunch by a hoard of cannibals, I could picture several methods they may try to use to extricate me from the sticky situation. For example, one might approach a hungry tribesman and say, “Yo, dude, this is like so…not nice! Why don’t you just, like, turn the little lady lose?”

    Another might begin rattling off demographic stats about international cannibals and the varied designs of their primitive cooking utensils. Another might try to distract them with sitcom impersonations. Another might read The Riot Act and tell them to disperse under penalty of indefinite period of incarceration. Some of the others might simply refrain from involving themselves, for fear of getting into a scramble with indigenous peoples and either dirtying their potential political careers or tailored suits. The best of the bunch might throw a wild punch or strike an impressive Judo pose before being pulverized. Hey, it’s the thought that counts.

    Okay, okay, maybe I'd come up with a few better results from them than all that, as I’m sure they'll insist if any of them read this post! But my main point is to burst the bubble of some girls who cannot see past their own vision of practically-perfect-in-every-way “White Knights”. While such paragons may be in short supply, basically decent young guys with quirks and imperfections and a lot of maturing to do are not. They are the ones with whom lasting friendships can be built, who we can share things with, and knock around with, and trust to watch our back (as best they can!), and even argue with before bouncing back and making up. It is through these types of lasting friendships that deep romances are more likely to naturally blossom.

Too be continued......

It's the thought that counts.....sometimes!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week Reflections......

quotes, homilies, and poems to put us all in the solemn yet hopeful spirit of the coming days.

Christ Hes my Hairt, Aye

For us that blissed bairn was born,
For us He was baith rent and torn,
For us He was crownit wi' the thorn,
Christ hes my hairt, aye

For us He shed His precious bluid,
For us He was nailit tae the rood,
For us in mony a battle stood,
Christ hes my hairt, aye

Nixt Him, tae lufe, His mother fair,
With steadfast hairt forevermair,
Scho Byre and birth freed us frae care,
Christ hes my hairt, aye

-- anonymous Scots-English poem

The Convert

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead.

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

-- G.K. Chesterton

Victimae Paschali

To the paschal Victim let Christians offer
sacrifice and praise.

The Lamb has redeemed the sheep: Christ,
the undefiled, has to the Father sinners

Life and death contended in an astonishing
battle: Life's captain is slain,
yet lives to reign.

Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
"I saw the tomb of the living Christ and
the glory of the risen one.

"I saw the angels who bore witness, the
winding cloths and linen: Christ my hope
has risen: His brethren he will precede
to Galilee."

We know that Christ has truly risen from the
dead: O victorious King, have mercy
on us.

Amen. Alleluia.

-- attributed to Wipo of Burgandy, 11th century Sequence for Easter Sunday

"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death. By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste - or foretaste - of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires." 
-J.R.R. Tolkien

"Listen, my dear Cors, why don't you forgive God for allowing pain? If He didn't allow it, human courage, bravery, nobility, and self-sacrifice would all be meaningless things.”

-Abbot Zerchi, "A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Walter Miller Jr.   

From an Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the king sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled. 

Truly He goes to seek out our first parent; He wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow prisoner Eve from their pains, He who is God, and Adam's Son.

The Lord goes into them, holding His victorious weapon, His cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees Him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: "My Lord be with you all." And Christ in reply says to Adam: "And with your spirit." And grasping his hand He raises him up, saying: "Awake, O Sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. 

"I AM your God who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

"I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be  held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I AM the life of the dead. Arise, O Man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

"For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who AM above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, Man, I became as man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to the Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

"Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, and in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my image. 

"See the scourging on my back which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one. 

"I sleep on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from you side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you. 

"But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who AM life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before ages." 

-- anonymous early Christian

"For us He was nailit tae the rood....."