Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Making Assumptions

Today, the Churches of the West celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (while in the East, it is referred to as her "Dormition," or falling asleep). It is a Holyday of Obligation for Catholics of all rites of the Church. It remembers when the Mother of God, the Theotokos, was raised body and soul into Heaven. "Our tainted nature's solitary boast" paved the way for us, that we may one day do likewise in the resurrection on the Last Day. This dogma of the Church was defined and proclaimed infallibly (that is, without error and bound in heaven as on earth, yeah, that's how it works) by His Holiness Pope Pius XII in 1950.*

As readers of this venue are aware (and you both know who you are), I prefer the traditional form of the Roman Mass (the Old Mass, or Tridentine Mass, or Traditional Latin Mass, the juridical understatement rendered as the "Extraordinary Form," or whatever somebody out there wants to call it). I presently sing in the schola cantorum of Saint Rita's Church in Alexandria, Virginia, but tonight was a Low Mass; no singing except for the impromptu opening and closing with the only two Marian hymns the priest knows.

I went anyway. What could go wrong?

I entered the church to discover that Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was in progress and nearing an end before the Mass would begin. The vicar was celebrant for the evening, but alas, there was no entourage of altar servers to assist him, and he was alone. I thought something might be amiss. Fortunately, "Have Cassock And Surplice Will Travel" and I ducked out quickly when it was over, to fetch my vestments waiting in the back seat of my car. Any door I would have entered to the inner sanctum was locked, so I knocked, and the good Father answered, to find me rather glibly asking: "Hey, Father, you look like you could use a hand." He gladly obliged. "Yeah, sure, suit up."

Unlike the reformed liturgy, where as often as not an altar server is viewed as a nuisance unless it's a sung Mass, the older form of Mass with a congregation requires a vested clerk (either an ordained major or minor cleric, or a layman acting in his stead), if only to assist the priest with preparing the Gifts, ringing the bell, and reciting the responses on behalf of the faithful (in the event that the latter are channelling their ancestors from the Penal Days and dare not utter a peep).

Contrary to popular belief, the Low Mass actually requires only one acolyte, being all the priest is entitled to have, with a second acolyte allowed by privilege (albeit one universally indulged).

And so it goes; indeed, so it went ...

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I was blessed for this opportunity. Every boy who has ever knelt before the altar of God, and who subsequently comes of age, should have at least one chance to serve alone, all the more to appreciate the sublime beauty and noble simplicity of being one with the "alter Christus" in ascending the sacred mountain of which the Psalmist wrote.

V: Emítte lucem tuam, et veritátem tuam: ipsa me deduxérunt, et aduxérunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernácula tua.

R: Send forth Thy light and Thy truth: they have led me and brought me unto Thy holy hill, and into Thy tabernacles.

V: Et introíbo ad altáre Dei: ad Deum qui lætíficat juventútem meam.

R: And I will go in unto the Altar of God: unto God, Who giveth joy to my youth.

Psalm 42(43): 3-4

It is an action that is in union with all those present in the assembly, with the whole Church around the world, indeed, with the Angels and Saints in Heaven. And yet, in the context of the simplest of the Missa Recta, it is an intimate moment between the priest and the one who serves him.

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IMAGE: The Saint Andrew Boys' Choir, Milford, Ohio, December 1966. Yours truly is third from the right.

I can remember in the fifth grade learning the Latin that we were supposed to know. The postconciliar changes had already begun in 1965, but training for altar servers was still as much "old school" as it had ever been. Sister Shiela Marie had us repeat after her, the responses to the priest as she had written them on the board. In my parish, serving the Mass began in the sixth grade, while the fifth graders were confined to Rosary and Benediction every Friday night. Father Steinbicker called out the Mysteries of the Rosary. The servers led the Paters and the Aves, as if our training for the priesthood had already begun.

The old high altar was still holding out against the tide that year, only to be removed the following year, but our training remained the same. Two of us would stumble into the servers' sacristy early on a weekday morning, flip a coin or otherwise decide who got "the bell" (the first acolyte's position on the Epistle side) or "the book" (the second acolyte's position on the Gospel side). The more experienced server usually got the former, unless the coin toss prevailed.

Some of the boys got out of school to do Requiem Masses (funerals) during the week. Some were even picked to do Nuptial Masses (weddings) over the weekend. They usually received gratuities; yeah, they were paid! I was apparently not one of the chosen inner circle, having failed to impress the Sisters of "Charity," even though I was already reading Latin by the third grade. Then in the eighth grade, a few of the neighborhood girls decided to make me lose my composure while in the Communion line. My father upbraided me for this lack of manhood (I was thirteen), and the shame and dishonor I brought upon his noble house.

I stopped serving Mass, lacking the opportunity to earn gratuities, not to mention the aggravation of keeping the old man suitably impressed. I didn't get anywhere near it for fifteen years.

In the more recent fifteen years, the boy who wasn't good enough for weddings and funerals has been a Master of Ceremonies for Traditional Solemn High Masses, has trained dozens of servers, apprenticing emcees, and seminarians, and in the "Ordinary Form," has been a Master of Ceremonies for several bishops, two of them being members of the Sacred College of Cardinals, one of the two having been widely considered "papabile" (Italian more or less for "could be the next pope maybe") in the most recent conclave. Yeah, I wrote about that one already.

Isn't it awesome how the universe eventually achieves its balance in the form of poetic justice?

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Many have seen the famous photo at right, of a Missa Solemnis (Solemn Mass), celebrated in the shell-shocked remains of the Cologne Cathedral in the aftermath of the Second World War. My father served Mass there in 1953. During the 1940s, he had studied for the priesthood through four years of preparatory school and the first three years of college. Even in the years after he left, he maintained ties to his longtime home away from home. One of this former colleagues was in Germany while Dad was a payroll officer for his Air Force squadron during the Occupation. They made arrangements to meet there, and it was in that sacred if desolated place that the good Father could be found, early on a Sunday morning, offering Mass at a side altar, with Dad offering assistance.

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I agreed to put everything away when the Mass was over. By the time I left, practically everyone was gone. There, in the near darkness of the pews, was the good Father, breaking character and his evening of prayer just long enough to smile and wave. I don't get to serve Mass as often as I used to, but even when I was doing it every Sunday, whether as the MC for a High Mass or as a surrogate minor cleric "in choro" for a Pontifical Mass at a great Basilica, I never get tired of it.

Saint Augustine once wrote that a priest ceases to age during the moments of Consecration. One might reasonably conclude that he continues to age thereafter, but if the doctrine of "transubstantiation" is what Catholics are bound to believe, one cannot help but imagine being close to the portal connecting this world with a dimension beyond time and space.

Maybe that would explain accounts of Albert Einstein's fascination with such a belief, don't you think?

Or don't you?

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* In light of this proclamation, new Propers for the Mass (chants for the Entrance, between the Readings, the Offertory, and Communion), as well as new orations (the Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion prayers), were composed to reflect this raising of teaching to formal dogma, and as such, was ostensibly within the nefarious influence of Annibale Bugnini, who by then was already enjoying a running start to becoming the architect of the post-conciliar liturgical iconoclasm. Thus the Grand Conspiracy is worse than originally imagined by throes of über-traditionalist whipper-snappers squirming in their pews holding their precious 1948 edition hand missals, longing for a bygone era of which they know next to nothing.
 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Is Nothing (or Anything) Sacred?

June is the month that is most closely associated with weddings. Don't ask me why. But while we're on the subject, let's talk about the possibility of secular music at sacred occasions.

In particular, let's set our sights on one particular piece of music, the favorite or whipping boy of choice when Catholic weddings are planned, “The Wedding Song” originally composed by Noel Paul Stookey (the party of the second part in Peter, Paul, and Mary). A growing number of parishes and dioceses are forbidding its use, because it is a popular music selection, which is to say, secular music, making it inappropriate for sacred use.

So, if you never heard it on the radio or anywhere else, but you heard it at your friend’s wedding, you’d say: “Duuude, that’s not sacred music, that’s a pop song!”

Or would you?

You see, I don’t think people take that position with this song because their disapproval has any merit. I think they take that position because most guitarists suck at it. They don’t play it even close to the way Stookey composed it. As you can hear in the first video, his own performance at a 1986 concert, you probably don’t hear it sound like that anywhere else.

And there’s a reason.

Behind The Music

But first, some background on the song, from the “Shout Music Factory” YouTube channel.

”Wedding Song (There Is Love)" is a song written by Noel Paul Stookey in the fall of 1969 and first performed at the wedding of Peter Yarrow - Stookey's co-member of Peter, Paul and Mary - to Mary Beth McCarthy at St Mary's Catholic Church in Willmar MN: Stookey was best man at the ceremony which took place in the evening of October 18, 1969.

Stookey had written the song on a midnight flight between PP&M concert dates in San Jose and Boston setting out to write a song for Yarrow's wedding which would convey Stookey's Christian convictions while respecting Yarrow's Jewish faith.

According to Stookey, "the melody and the words [of 'Wedding Song'] arrived simultaneously and in response to a direct prayer asking God how the divine could be present at Peter's wedding." (The first two lines of the song's second verse: "A man shall leave his mother and a woman leave her home/ And they shall travel on to where the two shall be as one", is largely a paraphrase of the text of Genesis 2:24: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.") Believing he could not take personal credit for composing "The Wedding Song", Stookey set up the Public Domain Foundation which since 1971 has received the song's songwriting royalties for charitable distribution.

So, everybody can relax, no one is making a living off this little ditty, are they? Try claiming that about the stable of artists at Oregon Catholic Press, which for nearly half a century has succeeded in dumbing down the music programs for more than half the parishes in the United States. (There’s a secret to how they do it, and my Very Close Personal Friend Jeffrey Tucker explains it all for you.)

The song doesn't celebrate those who hear it, and not really the bridal couple. Whatever one thinks of it, the song celebrates how God is love, with the scriptural references to bring the point home.

Behind The Details

I was certain that Stookey played it in an alternate tuning (that is, a tuning other than E A D G B E, from sixth to first strings), which was the only explanation for its very modal quality. I was surprised to learn that, other than tuning the guitar down three half-steps (Db F# B E G# Db), or four half-steps (C F Bb Eb G C), depending on who you ask, standard tuning and chording is applied. It’s how he takes it from there (as seen in the second video by some anonymous guy who actually doesn't suck at it) that sets it apart from all the wannabes. There are plenty of websites that have the tablature to show how it’s really done, so you have no excuse to play it badly.

To put it another way, you have no excuse to suck at it.

It also doesn't hurt that Stookey uses a twelve-string guitar, both in the original recording and in the live stage example shown here. We all know at least one guy who plays only a twelve-string for the sole purpose of sounding more obnoxious than the next guy in a jam session (or at the parish "folk Mass"), but they really do serve a specific purpose in adding an additional texture, especially with picking or fingerpicking styles (as opposed to the average flattop flogger who should either invest in a six-string, or just stay home).

Roma Locuta, Causa Finita

Let's put the hit parade aside for a moment. What does the Church say about sacred music? Quite a bit, actually. In the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, issued by the Second Vatican Council in 1963, says that music for sacred worship must serve "the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 112) Further, the 1967 instruction on sacred music in the liturgy, Musicam Sacram, states that it must "be holy, and therefore avoid everything that is secular," and further, that such criterion must be "universal" in its understanding. In other words, it must not be subject to the passing whims of popular culture and fashion.

Most important, inasmuch as lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of praying is the law of believing, in other words, as we pray, so we believe), the words of the composition must be doctrinally sound. It must serve, and not offend, the Truths of the Faith and the glorification of God.

However ...

Having said this, we could subject many of the English-language hymns of the late 19th and early 20th century to the same scrutiny as luminaries of the 1960s "folk scare." One saccharine example is "Mother At Your Feet Is Kneeling," its composer identified only as "Sister SC," and composed as early as 1929 or as recent as 1952, depending on whom you ask. It was recorded for the popular charts by such crooners as Dennis Day and Bobby Wayne, and can be found in a number of preconciliar (and ostensibly traditional) hymnals.

What is it about sugary sentimentality that was acceptable before the 1960s, that suddenly becomes anathema after the 1960s? If the Psalmist wrote of praising the Lord "with trumpet sound ... with lute and harp ... with timbrel and dance ... with strings and pipe ... with sounding cymbals" (that's Psalm 150; read it and weep, suckas!), is it conceivable that He can be praised with the guitar, the stated preference by the Church for the organ in Sacrosanctum Concilium (120) notwithstanding?

So, Now What?

We may still insist that secular music has no place in a sacred setting. But if a band of monks can hit the Top 40 with an album of Gregorian chant, there’s always that chance of it cutting both ways. There's also that chance that walking the fine line between sacred and profane didn't start with Ray Repp and a bunch of singing nuns. Music is sacred on the basis on its own merits and objective characteristics, not some arbitrary classification of who did it first or how, or in which section at Barnes & Noble you find the recording.

If we want to get people to start making sense in choosing sacred music, it helps to know that to which we are both referring, as well as not referring, don’t you think?

Or don’t you?

(NOTA BENE: The above is proposed by this writer as a gedankenerfahrung, a "thought experiment," and does not take away from his dedication to the restoration of the sacred in Catholic worship, and his active promotion of Gregorian chant, the treasury of sacred polyphony, and the Traditional Latin Mass.)
 

Friday, June 08, 2018

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 wounded 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 kit and caboodle, just in case it makes a comeback.


It could happen.
 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Novena: Pentecost

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium.
Amen. Alleluia.


Give them virtue's sure reward;
give them thy salvation, Lord;
give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.


Prayer

Come, O Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, And enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V: Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created,

R: And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Oh God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Ghost, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and to ever rejoice in His consolations, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which have appeared in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To view this entire series, click here.)
 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Novena Day 9: The Fruits of the Holy Ghost

Da tuis fidelibus
in te confidentibus
sacrum septenarium.


On the faithful, who adore
and confess thee, evermore
in thy sevenfold gift descend.


Meditation

The gifts of the Holy Ghost perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Ghost, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Ghost. These fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.

Prayer

Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Thy heavenly fruits, Thy charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Thy inspiration, may merit to be united eternally with Thee in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which have appeared in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Novena Day 8: The Gift of Wisdom

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.


Bend the stubborn heart and will;
melt the frozen, warm the chill;
guide the steps that go astray.


Meditation

Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written “all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands.” It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Savior: “Take up thy cross and follow Me, for My yoke is sweet, and My burden light.”

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all passing joys and satisfactions of the earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Novena Day 7: The Gift of Counsel

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.


Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
on our dryness pour thy dew;
wash the stains of guilt away.


Meditation

The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must be done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. “Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth.”

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do Thy holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good; turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of Thy commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Novena Day 6: The Gift of Understanding

Sine tuo numine
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.


Where thou art not, man hath naught,
nothing good in deed or thought,
nothing free from taint of ill.


Meditation

Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Ghost, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion. By faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to “walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation; and may merit at last to see the eternal light in Thy light; and in the light of glory to have a clear vision of Thee and the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Novena Day 5: The Gift of Knowledge

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.


O most blessed Light divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill!


Meditation

The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth -- in relation to God. Knowledge unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God. It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life. Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else. “Knowledge is a fountain of life to him that possesseth it.”

Prayer

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, and grant that I may perceive the will of the Father; show me the nothingness of earthly things, that I may realize their vanity and use them only for Thy glory and my own salvation, looking ever beyond them to Thee, and Thy eternal rewards. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Novena Day 4: The Gift of Fortitude

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies,
in fletu solacium.


In our labor, rest most sweet;
grateful coolness in the heat;
solace in the midst of woe.


Meditation

By the gift of Fortitude, the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to undertake without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. “He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.”

Prayer

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Fortitude, uphold my soul in times of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage against all the assaults of my enemies, that I may never be overcome and separated from Thee, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Novena Day 3: The Gift of Piety

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.


Thou, of comforters the best;
thou, the soul's most welcome guest;
sweet refreshment here below.


Meditation

The gift of Piety begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father. It inspires us to love and respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers. He who is filled with the gift of Piety finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service. Where there is love, there is no labor.

Prayer

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Piety, possess my heart. Enkindle therein such a love for God, that I may find satisfaction only in His service, and for His sake lovingly submit to all legitimate authority. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Novena Day 2: The Gift of Fear

Veni pater pauperum,
veni dator munerum,
veni lumen cordium.


Come, thou Father of the poor!
Come, thou Source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine!


Meditation

The gift of Fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by Sin. It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father. It is the fear that is the beginning of wisdom, detaching us from worldly pleasures that could in any way separate us from God. “They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and in His sight will sanctify their souls.”

Prayer

Come, O blessed Spirit of Holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart, that I may set Thee, my Lord and God, before my face forever; help me to shun all things that can offend Thee, and make me worthy to appear before the pure eyes of Thy Divine Majesty in heaven, where Thou livest and reignest in the unity of the ever Blessed Trinity, God world without end. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Novena Day 1: The Holy Ghost

Veni Sancte Spiritus
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.


Come, thou Holy Spirit, come,
and from thy celestial home
shed a ray of light divine!


Meditation

Only one thing is important -- eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared -- sin. Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts, He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation, we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for “The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us.”

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, Who hast vouchsafed to regenerate us by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given us forgiveness of all our sins, vouchsafe to send forth from heaven upon us Thy sevenfold Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Fear. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

As a final note for today, we here at man with black hat just found this precious little gem. In this 1999 recording on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the late great Mother Angelica explains (among other things) these gifts for us, as only she can, before a live studio audience. Her cause for sainthood is in its very early stages, and she is missed by so many here on Earth below, including yours truly.

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are to appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Novena: Prelude

Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who is to be taken up from you into heaven had to re-schedule his departure to the following Sunday in order to accomodate the busy schedules of the faithful. Now, get back to work.

(Acts 1:11, dynamic equivalent translation)


Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Ascension. It is when Christ ascended into Heaven forty days after He rose from the dead.

Then again ...

In most provinces of the USA, and in entire countries throughout the world, the Feast has been moved to the following Sunday. We could just leave well enough alone, and transfer the obligation itself to the Sunday within the octave of the Feast, but the Western church got rid of many of its octaves in the mid-1950s, and a few more since then. You'd have to explain to people what an octave is, and that is such a pain. So unless you attend the Traditional Mass or an Eastern Rite Divine Liturgy today, in which case the aforementioned silliness does not apply, today will be remembered as just another Easter weekday.

If only they put the right spin on it, in which case it would go something like this:

“Most biblical scholars agree that Jesus ascended into Heaven forty-three days after He rose from the dead, not forty days as previously believed. The number of forty was arrived at by the end of the third century, to make it easier for the early Christians to count the days after Easter on their fingers and toes and double the total. But we’re so much more sophisticated now, and we can use calculators to count that high, or have our smartphones remind us.”

Whether or not we would fall for that, moving a Feast Day to a Sunday because we're all too damn lazy to go to Mass on a weekday (or a weeknight) makes about as much sense.

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But suppose that sacred time actually mattered, in which case it would go something like this:

The Church was born on the Jewish feast of the Pentecost. After the ascension of Christ into heaven, a group which, according to tradition, numbered about 120, remained sequestered in the Upper Room for nine days, awaiting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

They returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:12-14)

Thus the birth of our Holy Mother the Church was preceded by a novena.

From the Latin word "novem," meaning "nine," a novena is a prayer that is repeated for nine days, after which, according to pious belief, special graces are obtained. Fisheaters elaborates on the devotion, and gives a complete listing of popular novenas for any and all occasions.

The novena to Saint Jude may be the most popular, as he is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Many a Catholic has found a holy card or slip of paper in the pew with the prayer written on it, left by a pious soul whose intention was granted. One of them was the late entertainer Danny Thomas, whose devotion to the saint moved him to establish the children's hospital that bears the saint's name.

We here at man with black hat will present our (well, almost) exclusive adaptation of the Mother Of All Novenas, that which is devoted to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, over the next nine days. Stay tuned...
 

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Where Have You Gone, Quasimodo?

Today is known on the Christian calendar by at least six names.

In the traditional Missale Romanum, it is referred to as “Dominica in albis octava Paschae” -- Sunday in White Within the Paschal Octave, when the robes of the neophytes were removed eight days after their initiation into the Sacraments during the Paschal Vigil. It is also known as “The Octave Day of Easter” or more colloquially as “Low Sunday.” It has also been popularly known as “Quasimodo Sunday” (my personal favorite, hence the title), after the first words of the Entrance Antiphon, or Introit: “Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia ...” (“Like newborn infants, alleluia ...”)

In the churches of the East, it is known as “Thomas Sunday” as the same gospel is read as in the West, that of our Lord showing himself to the doubting apostle Thomas.

Since 2000, by decree of the late Pope Saint John Paul II, it is also known in the universal Roman calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday, "the culmination of the novena to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, a devotion given to St Faustina (Mary Faustina Kowalska) and is based upon an entry in her diary stating that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins." (from Wikipedia)

(I thought Confession did that already. This is what I get for using Wikipedia for an explanation.)

This brings up an issue which has concerned traditional Catholics in recent years, one that is presented in a 2010 issue of New Oxford Review by Robert Allard: "Is Divine Mercy Sunday Liturgically Correct?"

It is interesting to note that in the Tridentine Latin Mass, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the epistle reading, 1 John 5:4-10, includes the mention of the blood and water as portrayed in the Divine Mercy image, not just once but three times each. This is important to note because the Feast of Mercy was established for the entire Church universal, not just for the ordinary form of the Mass.

There's also that part about Our Lord breathing on the apostles, giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. There's a bit of mercy for the rest of us right there. Not to mention that this devotion is mandated in its timing, on the basis of a private revelation, which in and of itself is not binding on the faithful.

Such remembrances need to be harmonized with the liturgical season if they are to serve the faithful. This requires sufficient deference to the history of salvation as played out during the year, beginning with the incarnation, and on into the life, passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, followed by his ascension into Glory, and the establishment of His Church on Earth through the work of the Holy Spirit. That said, there is an aspect of this devotion that may appear problematic, one that has less to do with the Feast itself, than with the novena which precedes it, one that begins on Holy Thursday, and extends throughout the Octave of Easter.

Q. My pastor will allow us to pray the Divine Mercy Novena, but not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. He says it interferes with the Holy Triduum, which are the holiest days of the year.

A. The Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) ushers in Easter Sunday and constitutes the most holy period of the Church year. The Divine Mercy Novena does not supersede the Triduum, but extends the Solemn General Intercessions of the Good Friday observance of Our Lord's Passion and Death throughout the whole octave of Easter, building up to the day of thanksgiving for Our Lord's Divine Mercy.

This response contradicts itself. It claims that the timing of the Novena doesn't "supersede" the Triduum, and then goes on to ignore its culmination. That makes no sense. Superseding is exactly what it does.

For nearly two millennia, the Easter season, including the Octave, has been devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Under present canon law, the traditional requirement to abstain from meat does not apply on the Friday of this octave, such is the magnitude of the occasion. The Fathers of the Church have told us, we have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast. Yet the novena is devoted to chanting thus: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Granted, at every Mass offered on any given day, we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ -- the whole nine yards. But that comparison ends in the context of the liturgical seasons, the purpose of which is to shed a spotlight on a particular aspect of salvation history at the liturgical year progresses. There is sufficient reason to doubt that the emphasis made by this novena, given its timing, sheds that spotlight appropriately, even if we reduce it to a mere devotion (as opposed to the official prayer of the Church through her liturgical life).

If we read the history of the development of this Feast that is the Sunday within the Octave of Easter, if we understand what the readings and the orations are trying to tell us, we might consider the possibility that Our Lord was telling Sister Faustina something of Himself, which He has been trying to say to His Bride, our Mother the Church, all along. At the same time, She has long admonished us to be prudent with respect to the messages of private revelations. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 65-67).

While accepting the judgment of the Apostolic See in this matter of the Sunday commemoration itself, we may long for a further study of this devotion in relation to the whole of the liturgical year. Even if the novena is not "liturgy" in the official sense, its use in parishes during the octave of the Resurrection misses the big picture.

“We have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast.”

... for eight days, if not forty, and if you don't mind.

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To learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, visit the website of the Apostles of Divine Mercy at DivineMercySunday.com, or that of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at TheDivineMercy.org. For a guide to praying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, go to the appropriate page at EWTN.com.
 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

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!
 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

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
 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday

It was on a good Friday,
    and all in the morning,
They crucified our Savior,
    and our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing
And sweet Jesus,
    we’ll call him by name.


From "the third hour" until "the sixth hour." From sext to none. From noon until three in the afternoon. Scripture tells us that our Lord was dying on the cross at this time, culminating in the words “Consummatum Est” (“It is finished”).

When we were kids, growing up in Ohio, we would either go to church for Stations of the Cross or some related devotion, or if we were at home, Mom would turn the radio off, and we were told to be quieter than usual. Thus did we mark the consummation of the ultimate act of sacrificial Love, that of the Bridegroom with His bride.

PHOTO: Gail Deibler Finke

Elsewhere in Cincinnati, a venerable custom of more than a century and a half still takes place on this day.

In December 1860, a Catholic church was completed on a bluff atop Mount Adams, overlooking the central city from the east, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since the hill was too steep for a horse-and-buggy, there were a series of wooden steps built as well, leading from St Gregory Street near the river, all the way to the church entrance. The following spring saw the start of the War Between The States, and Immaculata Church became the site of devout Catholics praying the rosary for peace while climbing the steps to its entrance.

Even today, the tradition continues, as every year on Good Friday (a day when it invariably rains), an estimated ten thousand pilgrims climb the 85 steps -- the wooden ones having since been replaced by concrete -- leading to the entrance. The procession begins at midnight, with the parish priest's blessing of the steps, and continues for twenty-four hours.

The Passionist Historical Archives elaborates on the legacy of “St Mary’s of the Steps”, as does the parish website.

Finally, our meditation for Good Friday is an instrumental photo montage with the imagery of the cross by Terri Rogers.
 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Maundy Thursday

It was on a
    maundy Thursday,
        and all in the morning,
They planted
    a crown of thorns
        on our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus
    we'll call him by name.


Today begins the Sacred Triduum. I usually take the day off along with Friday, but there is much to be done at the office of late. I am off tomorrow for Good Friday. Working on that day is simply not an option for me.

The above notwithstanding, for a Catholic, as much as some try to deny it, the next three days are not business as usual. The whole of human history -- before, during, after -- turns on the events we remember this week.

Our meditation is from a poem by Jalaludin Rumi. It is translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, with music by David Wilcox and Nance Pettit, and is produced by Bob Carlton.
 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Spy Wednesday

It was on a Holy Wednesday,
    and all in the morning
When Judas betrayed
    our dear heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus,
    we'll call him by name.


This day in Holy Week is known among Western Christians by the above title (or among Christians in the East, Μεγάλη Τετάρτη, in case you were wondering), as tradition commemorates this day for when Judas Iscariot conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Our Lord, in exchange for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).

Was that a lot of money in those days?

The term in the original language, "arguria," simply means "silver coins." Historians disagree as to what form of currency is described. They could have been either staters from Antioch, tetradrachms from Ptolemy, or shekels from Tyre. (Nothing about Greek drachmas, which were either bronze, copper, or iron. Just so we're clear on that.)

Closer to the present, it is also when we here at man with black hat (more or less) interrupt our usual blogcasting in order to focus on the Main Event for the several days that follow. Stay tuned ...
 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Random Thoughts from the Desert

“Invocabit me, et ego exaudiam cum: eripiam cum, et glorificabo cum: longitude die rum adimplebo cum.”

“He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I will deliver him, and I will glorify him: I will fill him with length of days.”

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This past Sunday, the First Sunday of Lent, we heard the Gospel account of Our Lord heading out into the desert for forty days. The traditional form of the Mass for that day begins with the Introit citing a verse from Psalm 90(91), and the Tract between the readings elaborates upon the same. In its verses, we are reminded to trust in God.

During the First World War, the American soldiers of the 91st Infantry Brigade were given the text of this Psalm by their commander to recite before going into battle. They fought at Chateau Thierry, at Belle Wood, at the Argonne. Other units suffered casualties of up to ninety percent, but they suffered not one!

There are other accounts of the power of this Psalm, and other conflicts where it was used; by the British at Dunkirk during the Second World War, and by the Allied forces in Korea. Peggy Joyce Ruth writes:

Note that this verse in Psalm 91:4 declares God's faithfulness to us as both a shield and a bulwark in a double-layered analogy. The passage uses two military symbols of fortification and protection. God is our bulwark, our tower -- our wall of protection in a collective sense -- and He is also our shield -- a very individualized defense. This verse indicates double protection.

Man, by his very nature, is not a solitary creature. He is nurtured by the presence, the company of others. Left alone in solitude for too long, he will either prepare himself to be tormented by his own personal demons, or he will give in to their exploiting his weaknesses.

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I remember the years after my divorce, a period of roughly a decade (from about 1993 to 2003) that I have always referred to, as would Dorothy Day in her biography, as "The Long Loneliness." My day job was a tense environment in those days, as the old status quo in a dysfunctional government agency resisted the challenge of a younger and racially diverse generation of middle managers. The one who led our staff was a decorated war veteran, with a penchant for alcohol as self-medication, and behavior towards employees that would be most aptly considered sadist and sociopathic. He could be very charming, especially toward women. Most alcoholics learn to pull that off. It's how they get by.

I'm afraid I got the worst of it. I would be ridiculed throughout the day, every day. The staff, moral weaklings that all of them were, would be cowed into joining him. I would be handed extra assignments a few days before a vacation. I was physically ill from a gastrointestinal condition for several years during that time. At its zenith, I was prescribed Seroquel, a potent antipsychotic medication. In small doses, it treats those with the hiccups; in larger ones, those who hear voices. I was somewhere in between.

On a good day, this psychopath never spoke to me at all. For that matter, neither did anyone else. Except for matters strictly professional, I would go for days, for weeks, maybe longer, without speaking to anyone. Then I would go home to an empty basement studio apartment, with no local friends to call (or at least none who returned calls). When I wasn't going home to Cincinnati six times a year, I would call my friends from there every night. I'd run up two hundred dollars in long distance calls, in the days before direct dialing with cell phones was anywhere near as common as today.

There was no recourse. The employees union could not accept a change to its narrative, that a white employee was subject to mistreatment by a black supervisor. They would often take his side in what was obviously against regulations in the federal workplace. Upper management was indifferent to the point of being clueless, such was the level of incompetence at the time.

Eventually, the nightmare ended. The man became enough of an embarrassment to other managers -- those poseurs were even more afraid of him than I was -- and I saw an opportunity to call them all on it. (The 25th of November, 1998. I have marked the day, and remember it to this day.) The man was removed from his position over our staff, and his fellows wasted no time pretending it never happened. Life became easier after that, both on the job and at home. I found a way off that island of isolation, and I was able to make a home, to bloom where I was planted, albeit five hundred miles from the place I once called home. It took that long and took that trial, the facing of demons, the wrestling with ghosts from the past.

I eventually got off Seroquel, but there are other medications I have to take, possibly for the rest of my life.

“Then the Devil left Him: and behold angels came, and ministered to Him.” (Matt:4:11)

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Christ Himself was surely so clad in armor, as he fled to the desert to be tempted by the Evil One. Even as He was the Son of God, He possessed a human nature, one that bore witness to us in its being tested.

I could write a book about that episode in my career. Someday it will be written, but not at present. The demons that all of us face, even as "no man is an island," we must face them alone, but not really alone. The One who faced them for us has shown us how. He trusted in the Father, and so must we. That bulwark, that tower, that shield, one that is there all along.
 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

“C’mon, take me to the Mardi Gras ...”

“... where the people sing and play / Where the dancing is elite / And there's music in the street / Both night and day.”

There goes "Rhymin' Simon," in a live recording of his 1973 hit on Columbia Records. Meanwhile, this being the last day of merriment before the Great Fast (aka Lent), I am reminded of another Mardi Gras from so many years ago ...

Babes in Boyland

... and so it goes.
 

Friday, February 02, 2018

Candlemas Day
(or, why Punxatawney Phil is a Catholic)

“When the days
were completed
for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus
up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written
in the law of the Lord,
Every male that
opens the womb
shall be consecrated
to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice
of a pair of turtledoves
or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.”

(Luke 2:22-24)


Today, both the Eastern and Western churches observe the Feast of the Purification of Mary (known as "Candlemas" in the West), exactly forty days after Christmas. In the Catholic tradition, the Christmas Cycle officially ends with this day, and preparation for Lent can begin, which includes the "Carnival" season in much of South America. But today, and throughout the world, the faithful will process in and around their churches bearing lighted candles, which are blessed for the coming year.

The origin of this feast is described in detail, in this excerpt from the classic work of Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB, entitled The Liturgical Year.

The mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to Ivo of Chartres, the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by His conception or His birth, the spotless purity of His Blessed Mother. The same holy bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus who came to enlighten our darkness. St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blessed Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on top, is His divinity.

Some years ago, Duncan Maxwell Anderson of HMS Blog described certain customs of the season, as well as suggestions for family celebrations. Included are some fun facts about the real origins of Groundhog Day:

In Catholic Europe, they say that if Candlemas is clear and bright, there will be six more weeks of winter. In Germany, this idea became, "If the bear comes out and sees his shadow, he will grumpily go back into his cave, and winter will last another six weeks."

Then this feat of prediction was ascribed to German badgers.

And since badgers are not found in the eastern U.S., German immigrants to this country were obliged to depend for meteorological guidance on a species of marmot called by the Indians 'weejak' or woodchuck, also called ... the groundhog.

Today, if Punxatawney Phil sticks his nose out, you tell me if he isn't carrying a candle-holder. He's Catholic, you know.

You just can't argue with reasoning like that, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

Friday, January 19, 2018

2018 “ProLifeCon” Twitcast and Transcript

Today it begins, our ninth annual “Twitcast” joining pro-life bloggers from near and far, who all had the good sense once again, to come in out of the cold during the annual March For Life, for this year's ProLifeCon, the “premiere conference for the online prolife community” hosted once again by the Family Research Council in Washington DC.

During the event, this video clip provided a live feed of the proceedings. With its conclusion, you are invited to view the full pre-recording (which is not accessible on all browsers; no to Safari, yes to Chrome). You can learn more at the FRC website, follow the magic hashtag on Twitter: #prolifecon, or follow yours truly at: twitter.com/manwithblackhat.

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The list of speakers announced two days prior to the event (not necessarily in order of appearance) are as follows:

Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Senator Steve Daines (R-MT)
Ryan Bomberger, Founder, The Radiance Foundation
David Daleiden, Founder, Center for Medical Progress
Lyndsey Fifield, Social Media Manager, The Heritage Foundation
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Anna Hoduski, Campaign Speaker & Runner, Project If Life
Leah Jacobson, Founder, The Guiding Star Project
Abby Johnson, CEO and Founder, And Then There Were None
Brynne Krispin, Social Media Manager, Family Research Council
Andrew Moore, Digital and Creative Director, SBA List
Sarah Perry, Coalition Coordinator, FRC Action
Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
Lila Rose, President, Live Action
David Scotton, Producer, I Lived on Parker Avenue
Missy Stone, Spokesperson, Students for Life of America

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Okay, boys and girls. The annual Twitcast for the 2018 #ProLifeCon will begin shortly, courtesy of @FRCdc, for the ninth year in a row. Stay tuned ...
8:19am

Our annual Twitcast is a proud participant in the #MarchForLife2018, but for the presence of mind to remain indoors and not freeze to death. #ProLifeCon
8:23am

"Thirty seconds, everyone." #ProLifeCon
8:29am

And so it begins. #ProLifeCon
8:30am

Sarah Perry introduces the event. #ProLifeCon
8:30am

Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) #ProLifeCon
8:32am

Talking about her kids. Who can blame her? #ProLifeCon
8:34am

"Kids beating the odds remind us that every life is a precious gift." #ProLifeCon
8:34am

The House is considering legislation to protect babies born alive after a failed abortion. #ProLifeCon
8:35am

"How do we get past us versus them?" #ProLifeCon
8:36am

"The shortest distance between two people is their stories.” #ProLifeCon
8:36am

Answering questions about impending legislation. #ProLifeCon
8:39am

Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) #ProLifeCon
8:40am

Actions are being taken against abortion clinics and third-party sellers acting outside the law. #ProLifeCon
8:42am

The Department of Justice and the FBI have confirmed 15 criminal referrals. #ProLifeCon
8:44am

Planned Parenthood is now under federal investigation by the FBI and Attorneys General of a number of States. #ProLifeCon
8:45am

The Abortion Survivors Act is for both mothers and babies who survive a failed abortion and holds medical providers accountable, with criminal penalties for the latter who do not comply. #ProLifeCon
8:47am

NOTA BENE: This annual Twitcast is now available with 280 characters for each message. Twice the letters, twice the action! #ProLifeCon
8:48am

Ryan Bomberger, Founder, The Radiance Foundation (a "man with black hat" favorite). #ProLifeCon
8:50am

"Factophobia" is the fear of facts. #ProLifeCon
8:52am

"Truth ain't hate. Let love illuminate." #ProLifeCon
8:52am

"Factivist." #ProLifeCon
8:53am

There are forces in the United Nations attempting to make abortion a "human right." #ProLifeCon
8:55am

"Birth control is ... the weeding out of the unfit ..." - Margaret Sanger #ProLifeCon
8:58am

Mainstream media misleads the public on the extent of Planned Parenthood's percentage of abortion services when compared to other services they claim to provide (but are doing less with every year). #ProLifeCon
9:02am

"Half a billion dollars to an unaccountable organization." #ProLifeCon
9:03am

Margaret Sanger was a pioneer in the field of eugenics, and she is still praised today. Crickets from the media. #ProLifeCon
9:04am

Abortion has a huge and disproportionate impact on the Black community. #ProLifeCon
9:04am

"As "factivists," we can circumvent mainstream media." #ProLifeCon
9:06am

Billboard: "Abortion is systemic racism." #ProLifeCon
9:07am

Patrina Mosley of FRC is out on the Mall. No one else is ... yet. #ProLifeCon
9:09am

Abby Johnson, CEO and Founder, And Then There Were None #ProLifeCon
9:10am

"Some bios say I have five children, I actually have seven." #ProLifeCon
9:11am

"We have helped 419 people leave the abortion industry." #ProLifeCon
9:11am

"Choose life, so that you and your children may live." - Book of Proverbs #ProLifeCon
9:12am

"The pro-choice movement doesn't have to masquerade as pro-lifers to sabotage the movement, we have enough of our own to do that." #ProLifeCon
9:14am

"People (and the pro-choice movement) are watching you." #ProLifeCon
9:15am

Blaming the mother for poor choices and lack of self-restraint (or calling them "baby killers") is counter-productive. #ProLifeCon
9:16am

"I prayed every day that I might be able to speak to some of these women, that there were some of us who genuinely cared about them." #ProLifeCon
9:18am

After three years of writing letters to these women, finally got a response. #ProLifeCon
9:19am

"She was seeing what you were writing, and was looking for a sign of hope." #ProLifeCon
9:21am

"We are pro-life, but we must also be pro-love. People are watching. Choose well." #ProLifeCon
9:22am

David Daleiden, Founder, Center for Medical Progress #ProLifeCon
9:23am

(Dude, is this thing on?) #ProLifeCon
9:24am

Planned Parenthood has violated federal law with the documented harvesting of vital organs of the unborn for sale and profit. #ProLifeCon
9:26am

Two partnering companies with PP in Orange County, CA, have pleaded guilty. #ProLifeCon
9:28am

Half the undercover video footage have yet to come to light due to a court-imposed gag order. The truth will come out. #ProLifeCon
9:30am

centerformedicalprogress.org #ProLifeCon
9:33am

cmp.org #ProLifeCon
9:35am

Anna Hoduski, Campaign Speaker & Runner, Project If Life #ProLifeCon
9:36am

projectif.life #ProLifeCon
9:40am

Shares experience of running across America, including the deserts of southern California. #ProLifeCon
9:41am

"Don't be discouraged about the times of the deserts in your life." #ProLifeCon
9:43am

Back to our correspondent Patrina Mosley at the Mall. There is now a crowd, at least around her, from Arizona and Tennessee. #ProLifeCon
9:46am

INTERMISSION #ProLifeCon
9:47am

And ... we're back! #ProLifeCon
9:59am

“Using Social Media to Advance a Culture of Life” Panel with three guests. #ProLifeCon
10:00am

1. Brynne Krispin, Social Media Manager, Family Research Council (Moderator)
2. Andrew Moore, Digital and Creative Director, SBA List
3. Lyndsey Fifield, Social Media Manager, The Heritage Foundation #ProLifeCon
10:01am

Use of social media platforms such as Twitter. #ProLifeCon
10:04am

With the use of Facebook, the power is back to the individual (at the @Heritage Foundation). #ProLifeCon
10:05am

Putting out an advertisement on Twitter, the conversation remains on Twitter. #ProLifeCon
10:08am

Still having problems with blocked content (because it's "sensitive"). Screenshots of the suppression are encouraged. #ProLifeCon
10:09am

"Our facts about Planned Parenthood are coming from their own annual reports." #ProLifeCon
10:11am

"The younger generation can see the details in the sonograms, and that is very powerful." #ProLifeCon
10:17am

Beyonce showed her unborn child as a sonogram on Instagram. "How cool is that?" #ProLifeCon
10:19am

Leah Jacobson, Founder, The Guiding Star Project #ProLifeCon
10:22am

theguidingstarproject.com #ProLifeCon
10:23am

"I didn't set out to do pro-life work. Young women who found themselves pregnant would approach me on campus, with questions about what they didn't know?" #ProLifeCon
10:24am

"We believe in a model of holistic women's health care." #ProLifeCon
10:25am

"Wholistic Women's Healthcare" provides complete women's health care from the time just prior to the first onset of menses. #ProLifeCon
10:27am

"We do not reduce women to their reproductive body parts. That is a narrow and self-destructive outlook." #ProLifeCon
10:29am

Available on Facebook and Twitter. #ProLifeCon
10:30am

Missy Stone, Spokesperson, Students for Life of America #ProLifeCon
10:31am

"I worked with a lot of students around the country on a personal level." #ProLifeCon
10:31am

A young lady who was pregnant asked a student leader: "Aren't pro-life people supposed to help?" #ProLifeCon
10:32am

It used to be "click and send and I'm done," but social media has become more engaging. #ProLifeCon
10:34am

"Being where they are, showing them what is happening, and getting them involved." #ProLifeCon
10:35am

More activists are using Snapchat. #ProLifeCon
10:37am

"One of our messages with young audiences is, for example, 'Planned Parenthood, go fund yourself.'" #ProLifeCon
10:38am

"We can't be afraid of the comments section. We're going to be honest about pro-life issues." #ProLifeCon
10:42am

Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) #ProLifeCon
10:43am

"If you want to know a lawmaker's true pro-life views, ask their wife what theirs is. That's very wise advice." #ProLifeCon
10:44am

"You're only as happy as your unhappiest child. You feel the pain with the child." #ProLifeCon
10:47am

"At twenty weeks, a baby feels pain." #ProLifeCon
10:47am

As a chemical engineer with Procter and Gamble, a personal donation of a box of shampoo saved a baby's life. #ProLifeCon
10:51am

From the Gospel of Luke: "When Elizabeth greeted Mary, the baby lept in her womb, and Elizabeth cried out with joy." #ProLifeCon
10:53am

He told his colleagues to just Google "20 weeks" on the floor of the US Senate. #20Weeks #ProLifeCon
10:55am

Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) #ProLifeCon
10:57am

Author of the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" on the floor of the Senate. #ProLifeCon
10:58am


"I don't think we're gonna get sixty [votes], but we're gonna get over fifty." #ProLifeCon
10:58am

Seven countries allow abortion on demand at 20 weeks. #ProLifeCon
10:59am

"Remember the partial-birth abortion debate?" #ProLifeCon
11:01am

"Laws against partial-birth abortion because of people like you." #ProLifeCon
11:02am

"This [bill] is the centerpiece of the pro-life movement. Our time is now." #ProLifeCon
11:04am

David Scotton, Producer, I Lived on Parker Avenue #ProLifeCon
11:04am

ILivedOnParkerAvenue.com #ProLifeCon
11:06am

The mother was told by a sidewalk protester that "your baby has ten fingers and ten toes." Scotton was that baby 24 years ago, and is now sharing the truth about "the adoption option." #ProLifeCon
11:09am

Lila Rose, President, Live Action @LilaGraceRose #ProLifeCon
11:12am

"Abortion advocates paint this as a positive thing. But women don't walk into an abortion clinic because they feel powerful, but because they feel powerless. This is what actually happens in an abortion clinic." #ProLifeCon
11:18am

Pro-choicers encountered on the street in Berkeley(!!!) were shown a video of an abortion procedure. They were interviewed both before and after. #ProLifeCon
11:24am

AbortionProcedures.com #ProLifeCon
11:24am

Tony Perkins of FRC: "We are closer than ever to defunding Planned Parenthood." #ProLifeCon
11:28am

@LilaGraceRose receives this year's Digital Pro-Life Pioneer Award. #ProLifeCon
11:28am

"Thank you for being a part of this." - Tony Perkins, FRC #ProLifeCon
11:29am

Sarah Perry: "Let's go March. See you soon." #ProLifeCon
11:30am

And ... we're out! #ProLifeCon
11:30am

Thanks to all who followed our annual “Twitcast,” and a special welcome to 7 new followers. Catch the complete summation at manwithblackhat.blogspot.com. #ProLifeCon
11:31am

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