Wednesday, July 01, 2015

My Canadian Moment

Today is Canada Day for some reason having to do with the British Crown deciding to throw them a bone that resembled self-determination, which they accepted without much of a fuss. I'm actually not sure, which is to be expected, since Americans know so little about their neighbors to the north, while they in turn are so completely on to their southern neighbors (that is, "neighbours").

Personally, I never met a Canadian I couldn't get along with (but for two exceptions, both from British Columbia, one of them an old Scout leader who spends too much time in the woods to develop a sense of social grace on the internet, the other a Catholic writer who spends too much time lecturing others about civility on the internet to practice it herself, but those are each another story ...). This video is a completely false but not necessarily misleading account of the story of this great and generally-more-polite-than-American nation, as told by Will O'Neill.

Tonight I'll raise a glass to them all, probably Moosehead. It's the least I could do … eh?
 

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Friday, June 12, 2015

In Corde Jesu

Today, Catholics of the Western tradition celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

Outside of devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, there is none more popular or more identified with the traditional piety of Catholic life than this feast, occurring on Friday of the week following the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was on that earlier feast when a Novena to the Sacred Heart would begin, culminating in the Mass and Office of today.

“Christ’s open side and the mystery of blood and water were meditated upon, and the Church was beheld issuing from the side of Jesus, as Eve came forth from the side of Adam. It is in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Through the wound in the side, the wound Heart was gradually reached, and the wound in the Heart symbolized the wound of love.” (1917 Catholic Encyclopedia)

There were various monastic communities who took up the devotion, but the real tip of the biretta has always gone to St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90), a Visitation nun who had a vision. While praying before the Blessed Sacrament, she saw Our Lord with his heart beating openly, and the sight of it all sent her into a spell of ecstasy. “He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart.” To say the least.

But perhaps the finest explanation of this vision can be found in an episode of The X-Files, a detective series that ran on The Fox Network for nine years, and to this day has a formidable cult following. It is from the series' sixth season, and is entitled "Milagro" (6X18), originally airing on April 18, 1999. It seems there were people being murdered by their hearts being removed by hand. FBI Special Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) visited a Catholic church, and coming across the image of the Sacred Heart, she runs into this unsavory fellow who explains the story behind the image to her. A piece of the dialogue, from the mysterious writer named Philip Padgett (John Hawkes), describes a vision:

I often come here to look at this painting. It’s called “My Divine Heart” after the miracle of Saint Margaret Mary. Do you know the story ... The revelation of the Sacred Heart? Christ came to Margaret Mary, his heart so inflamed with love that it was no longer able to contain its burning flames of charity. Margaret Mary ... so filled with divine love herself, asked the Lord to take her heart ... and so he did, placing it alongside his until it burned with the flames of his passion. Then he restored it to Margaret Mary, sealing her wound with the touch of his blessed hand.

His account portrays an almost sensuous quality to the Saint's reaction to this vision, in a way that one might rarely hear or read anywhere else. It is a sign that perhaps the influence of Christendom has not entirely faded from the popular culture, not to mention images created in tattoo parlors.

A common practice in many Catholic homes until the mid-20th century (including mine), was the "Enthronement of the Sacred Heart," in which the family placed the appropriate image of Christ on the wall, and together recited the necessary prayers, pledging the consecration of the family and the home to Him, in return for special graces. Fisheaters has a good explanation of the whole she-bang, just in case it makes a comeback.

It could happen.
 

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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Lorena



One hundred and fifty years ago today, the War Between the States finally ended -- I mean, really ended, at least in the eastern theater. Most of us associate that event with the surrender of General Robert E Lee of the Confederacy to General Ulysses S Grant of the Union at Appomattex Courthouse, Virginia, on the 9th of April in 1865. But news traveled much slower back in those days. Thompson's Brigade surrendered on the 11th of May, Confederate forces of North Georgia surrendered on the 12th, and Kirby Smith surrendered on the 26th, an action that was made official and in writing on this date in 1865.

This writer would have hoped to have shared two stories from that conflict that are of particular and personal import, both of which occurred in 1863. Hopefully this can happen before the end of the year. For now, we present a bittersweet love song that was popular among both the Blue and the Gray.

We loved each other then, Lorena,
Far more than we ever dared to tell;
And what we might have been, Lorena,
Had but our loving prospered well --
But then, 'tis past, the years are gone,
I'll not call up their shadowy forms;
I'll say to them, "Lost years, sleep on!
Sleep on! nor heed life's pelting storms."


Lorena was penned by Rev Henry D L Webster in 1856, in the wake of a broken engagement. It was put to music by his friend Joseph Philbrick Webster. It reminded soldiers on both sides of the conflict about their wives and sweethearts back home, and the heartbreak of never seeing them again. It is performed here by the late banjoist/fiddler John Hartford.
 

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Trinity

Today the Western church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Trinity, that whom is the perfect community of love, and from whom all creation originates. Its true nature, defined and redefined by sacred Councils in the first millennium of Church history, is nonetheless beyond human understanding.

But not for want of trying. (H/T to Ryan Ellis.)

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Love is a light burden that gladdeneth young and old;
Love is that blood-red winter's rose which blossometh in the cold;
He that giveth all to Love hath all that heart can hold.

Fond desire shall fade and fail as doth the flower in May;
Lust is but a fire of straw that smouldereth for a day;
Love that liveth in thy heart shall live and love for aye.

Thou that, on the Cross of Love, wast crowned of lovers King,
Melt this iron Winter, Lord, to Love's eternal Spring;
Hold and fold us all beneath the shadow of Thy wing.

Richard Rolle (1292-1349), version by Alfred Noyes)
 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother

Lovely Lady
    dressed in blue,
Teach me
    how to pray!
God was just
    your little Boy,
Tell me
    what to say!

Did you lift Him
    up, sometimes,
Gently,
    on your knee?
Did you sing
    to Him the way
Mother does to me?

Did you hold
    His hand at night?
Did you ever try
Telling stories
    of the world:
O! And did he cry?

Do you really think He cares
If I tell Him things --
Little things that happen? And
Do the Angels' wings

Make a noise? And can He hear
Me if I speak low?
Does He understand me now?
Tell me for you know!

Lovely Lady dressed in blue
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little Boy,
And you know the way!

(Mary Dixon Thayer wrote many poems in honor of Our Lady. This particular one was popularized in the 1950s by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.)
 

Friday, May 08, 2015

V-E Plus 70

To honor the seventieth anniversary of V-E Day, celebrating the Allied victory against the forces of tyranny in Europe in 1945, veteran pilots of “The Greatest Generation” take their flying machines over the Nation's Capital. More at cnn.com.

(Video courtesy of iPhone 6. Best I could do on short notice.)
 

Friday, May 01, 2015

The First of May

"When I was small, and Christmas trees were tall / We used to love while others used to play // Don't ask me why, but time has passed us by / Someone else moved in from far away …"
 

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Let’s Get Rid of Management



People
don't want
to be managed.
They want
to be led.

Whoever heard
of a world
manager?
World leader,
Yes.
Educational leader.
Political leader.
Religious leader.
Scout leader.
Community leader.
Labor leader.
Business leader.
They lead.
They don't manage.

The carrot
always wins
over the stick.
Ask your horse.
You can lead
your horse
to water,
but you can't
manage him
to drink.

If you want to
manage somebody,
manage yourself.
Do that well
and you'll
be ready
to stop managing.

And start
leading.

(A message as published in the Wall Street Journal by United Technologies Corporation, Hartford, Connecticut. – Warren Bennis & Burt Nanas. Harper & Row, New York, 1985.)
 

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Sunday, April 05, 2015

Christus resurrexit! Sicut dixit, Alleluia!

It was on an Easter Sunday,
    and all in the morning,
Our Savior arose,
    and our heavenly King.
The sun and the moon,
    they both did rise with him,
And sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.


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An Easter Homily of Saint John Chrysostom

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
 

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Saturday, April 04, 2015

“Awake, O sleeper ...”

Something strange is happening -- there is a silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.

“For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, Whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

“See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

“I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

“Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”

From a homily of St Epiphanius of Cyprus
 

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