Saturday, October 03, 2009

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

If today were not a Sunday, it would be celebrated liturgically as the feast of the great Carmelite Theresa (or Therese) of Lisieux.

I think it is no exaggeration to say that she has become the most celebrated female saint since Jeanne de Arc and Bridget of Ireland. Her autobiographical Story Of A Soul is a modern Catholic classic. The spirituality of her "little way" has become a role model for millions of the faithful (and was a source for the spiritual approach to life of Opus Dei's founder St. Josemarie Escriva de Balaguer).

You may explore her poetry in e-book form here.


Our Blessed Lady's Saturday

Our Lady's Rosary

Dear Mother, I bring Thee roses
Because they are so sweet,
But lilies, my favorite flowers
I am placing at Thy feet.

Accept with each Hail Mary
A rose for Thy crown so bright;
Please don't forget the lilies,
The lilies so pure and white.

Let them be a bond of love
And understanding rare,
And send a blessing from above
In answer to my prayer.

Loneliness would be unknown
If more people came to Thee,
With their trials and sorrows
And said their Rosary.

With each Hail Mary, they would find
Their load much lighter grow,
And in humility, kiss the cross
In peace, would onward go.

Alice W. Sparks in
Robert, Cyril, Our Lady's Praise in Poetry,
Poughkeepsie, New York: Marist Press, 1944.


Friday, October 02, 2009

Our Angel Guardians

OK, no mention of the Guardian Angels would be complete without Hansel and Gretel, the image in a million homes and instantly familiar to almost all Christians. Now we move past this chestnut to other, better traditional images of our Guardian Angels at work.

I have often thought, though it is utterly inadequate, and probably impossible, that I would love to sit down with my Guardian Angel, and chat about things over a cigar and a glass or two of Drambuie, and a darned fine steak. A meaningless impulse, since Angels probably do not consume things like that. But, one born of gratitude and love, nevertheless.

One notion about Angels that I am pretty sure we need to dispel is that Angels are the souls of people who have died, gone to Heaven, and "earned their wings." Frank Capra, God love him, really planted that one firmly in the American psyche in It's A Wonderful Life. But it is wrong. Angels are a separate order of creation. People do not become Angels. They can become Saints. Not Angels. Angels never were people living on earth. Saints were. Therefore, we ask for the intercession of "All the Angels and Saints." We are praying for the prayerful assistance of two different and non-overlapping groups.

People who thrive off popular culture over the last 20 years or so have gone absolutely ga-ga over Angels. Most of what we see about them is sickly-sweet and sentimental in the extreme. And even in these very traditional Catholic images of Guardian Angels, the people they are guarding are always depicted as children. Why are there no good traditional depictions of Guardian Angels watching over adults? My own upbringing did not emphasize the presence of our Guardian Angels. But I have felt the presence of mine strongly as an adult, and never more than in the last 5 years.

The powers of our Guardian Angels are impossible for us to fathom. They work in numerous ways. I know I have benefited from my Guardian Angel's power to delay me with something that annoys me, but delays me just enough to keep me from some catastrophe, like a wild car wreak.

The number of ways in which my own Guardian Angel watches out for me is incomprehensible. He must be working non-stop, and working not just in my vicinity and on what I am concentrating on at the moment, but in numerous vicinities and numerous spheres of my existence simultaneously. The power of the Guardian Angel to protect me in so many ways all the time is, while awesome to me, just a pale shadow of the power of God.

In a family, the various Guardian Angels of the household must cooperate with each other in interesting ways. They must be very sad when families break up.

We, each of us, owe our Guardian Angel thanks in so many ways, we can never adequately express it. Our Guardian Angel has done more for us than even our earthly parents. And, unlike our earthly parents, our Guardian Angel is always there until the moment we die, and probably still protecting us in Purgatory. Thank you, Guardian Angel. I love you.

Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and to guard, to rule and to guide.


Friday At the Foot Of the Cross

My Dear Lord and Savior! Though I am but a sinful servant, I approach Thee with confidence, for Thou hast said in Thy goodness and mercy: "Come to me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you." Thou wilt not despise a contrite and humble heart. I am truly sorry for having offended Thee by my sins, because Thou art infinitely good. I have wounded Thy Sacred Heart by foolishly resisting Thy holy will and transgressing Thy Commandments; but I love Thee now with my whole heart and above all things. I adore Thee truly present on the Altar. I have a great desire, dear Jesus, to receive Thee in Holy Communion, and since I cannot now approach the Holy Table to be united to Thee in the Blessed Sacrament, I beseech Thee most earnestly to come to me at least spiritually and to refresh my soul with the sweetness of Thy grace.

Come, my Lord my God and my All! Come to me, and let me never again be separated from Thee by sin. I wish to become like to Thee. Teach me Thy blessed ways; help me with Thy grace to practice meekness, humility, purity, charity, and all the virtues of Thy Sacred Heart.

Oh Thou Lamb of God! Who takest away the sins of the world, take away from me whatever may hurt me and displease Thee. With St. Francis of Assisi I pray: May the fire of Thy love consume my soul, so that I may die to self and the world for love of Thee, Who hast vouchsafed to die on the Cross for the love of me!

Jesus, I consecrate to Thee my heart with all its affections, my soul with all its powers, and my body with all its senses. In union with Thee I will labor and suffer to do the Heavenly father's will. I will ever be mindful of the presence of my God and strive to be perfect. Bless me in life and in death that I may praise Thee forever in Heaven. Amen.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Traditional Mass At Boston College

Two quick pics courtesy of the New Liturgical Movement:



2nd Guardian Angels
3rd St. Theresa of Lisieux
4th St. Francis of Assisi
8th St. Bridget of Sweden
7th Our Lady of the Rosary (Lepanto)
9th St. Denis
11th Bl. Pope John XXIII
12th St. Wilfred of York
13th St. Edward the Confessor
15th St. Terese of Avila
16th St. Gall and St. Gerard Majella
17th St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
18th St. Luke the Evangelist
19th North American Martyrs
20th St. John Cantius
21st St. Gaspare de Bufalo and St. Ursula and Companions
22nd St. Mary Salome
23rd St. John of Capistrano
25th Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, and SS. Crispin and Crispinian
28th St. Jude and St. Simon
31st All Hallow's Eve (Halloween)

The month of October is dedicated by Holy Mother the Church to the Holy Rosary and Our Blessed Lady of the Rosary.

The entire month of October is within the Season After Pentecost, or "Ordinary Time". There are no embertides in October.

Popular novenas during the month of October include the Novena to Saint Jude.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI's published prayer intentions for the month of October, 2009 are:

That Sunday may be lived as the day on which Christians gather to celebrate the risen Lord, participating in the Eucharist.

That the entire People of God, to whom Christ entrusted the mandate to go and preach the Gospel to every creature, may eagerly assume their own missionary responsibility and consider it the highest service they can offer humanity.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Well, They Did Back In

The Sox clinched the AL Wild Card last night, despite losing, courtesy of Texas being suckier than they have been, and losing again.

So I bite my tongue and refrain from saying, "You might want to clinch something before proclaiming the games at this part of the season meaningless."


Saint Jerome

The Golden Legend

The Catholic Encylopedia

A familiar image to old readers, once a banner image here at Recta Ratio


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm Only 45

But generationally, I match up with people much older.

My recent genealogical discoveries got me thinking. My family seems to have a predilection for having children late in life. Technically, my parents were old enough to have been the parents of people who are now around 70!

My father was 44 when I was born. He was born in 1920. My parents were Depression/World War II generation. Many people my age have grandparents in that generation.

I discovered that my grandfather was 15 in 1901, which places my grandfather's birth year on or about 1886. My grandparents were late Victorian/Edwardians. That would be the great-grandparents, or maybe even the great-great-grandparents of many, if not most people 45 years old today.

My great-grandfather was 50 in 1901. That means he was born just after the Famine around 1851. My great-grandparents were early Victorians. That would be 6 generations back for many, if not most, people my age.

My family has only advanced 4 generations in 160 years! Many families advance 6-7 generations in that time.

The fact that my generational cohorts are much older than those of most other people probably goes some way in explaining who I am. I am much less accepting of changes in social mores, far more conservative politically, and very attached to old ways. I even prefer to dress and groom in a manner that would have passed muster in the years before I was born. I was brought up by people whose outlook was a generation "behind" other parents. And they were brought up by people who likewise were a generation "behind."


Backing Into It

The Red Sox will make the playoffs as the American League Wild Card (the Red Sox have been the primary beneficiary of the wild card since its inception), barring some incredibly bad luck. They lost last night, but so did Texas, so the magic number for the wild card dropped to just 1 game. All they have to do is either win one of the last six games, or have Texas lose 1, and bingo, they are in.

I fully understand that Francona's goal is to rest his veterans and have them healthy for the playoffs. So we are seeing a lot of young players this week. When you play every game like it is Game 7 of the World Series, chances are the team will be burned out when the timing is most critical. Remember Don Zimmer's 1978 Red Sox, with Butch Hobson manipulating the bone chips in his elbow before every game so that the elbow would not lock up on him and he could play 3rd base.

But the Yankees are going strong into the playoffs (we face LA in the first round and the Yankees face whoever ends up on the top of the AL Central, Detroit or the Twins). And the Red Sox are backing in, and backing in from a much weaker position than the Yankees. The Yankees swept the Red Sox last weekend, and no one cared or was upset. This dolesn't bode well.

Yeah, I know: the playoffs are a whole new season. But momentum in the final weeks of the season can be a really good thing to carry into the playoffs, and Francona is risking the team coming in a little stale, with this lackadaisical "we're in anyway," "these games don't matter that much" attitude.

Time will tell if he is right. The man has won 2 World Series with the Sox mostly with this same philosophy, so maybe he knows better than I do.


God Bless My Little Friend

I saw this pic over at Mulier Fortis yesterday. Odd timing, as the kitten in the pic resembles my little friend Sonny, who died last night. God bless him.


Michaelmas 2009

Today is Michaelmas, the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels.

Saint Michael, perhaps the greatest of the Archangels, is the protector of the Church.

Michaelmas was a quarterly rent day in England and Ireland. It is the start of the university term at both Oxford and Cambridge. Presents and feasts featuring geese were very much the custom at this time of year.
Check here and here for Michaelmas customs.

Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio, contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute, in infernum detrude.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
Defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the
Wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him,
We humbly pray.
And do thou,
O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
By the Divine Power,
Thrust into Hell
Satan and all the other evil spirits
which prowl about the world,
Seeking the ruin of souls.

St. Michael protecting a newly deceased soul from the clutches of demons lurking by the deathbed.

Saint Michael also has another important duty. He is the principal usher of newly deceased souls to heaven. Medieval Books of Hours, as part of the Office of the Dead, often included a deathbed scene, where the soul of the just-departed leaves the body, and St. Michael has to fight off various demons who try to snatch the soul and carry it off to Hell. St. Michael is, therefore, one of the saints whose intercession is customarily invoked for a happy death, along with Our Blessed Lady, St. Joseph, and St. Peter.

And of course, St. Michael is believed to be the one who will measure the worthiness of souls at the Last Judgment, as seen in this detail from Memling's Last Judgment triptych.

Here is a site with prayers to Saint Michael, including the variations of the basic prayer above.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Saint Wenceslaus

I'm always jumping the gun on Christmas. But this time, I'm innocent. Today is the feast of Saint Wenceslaus.

Actually, my reading of Visits To the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Alphonsus Liguori (I've recently begun incorporating his method for visits with my Eucharistic Adoration routine) brought an explanation for the obscure text of one of my favorite Christmas carols.

St. Francis of Assisi used to go to communicate all his labors and undertakings to Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament. But tender indeed was the devotion of St. Wenceslaus, duke of Bohemia, to the Most Holy Sacrament. This holy king was so enamored of Jesus there present, that he not only gathered the wheat and grapes, and made the hosts and wine with his own hands, and then gave them to be used in the Holy Sacrifice, but he used, even during the winter, to go at night to visit the church in which the Blessed Sacrament was kept. These visits enkindled in his beautiful soul such flames of divine love, that their ardor imparted itself even to his body, and took from the snow on which he walked, its wonted cold: for it is related that the servant who accompanied him in these nightly excursions, having to walk through the snow, suffered much from the cold. The holy king, on perceiving this, was moved to compassion, and commanded him to follow him, and only to step in his foot-marks; he did so, and never afterwards felt the cold.

Now I understand the context of the verses of Good King Wenceslaus!

Never read the story before.

"Sire the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how. I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps my good page. Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed
Therefore Christian men be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

A brief biography of Saint Wenceslaus can be found here.

Catholic Forum features a brief account of his murder by his own brother.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

From The Liturgical Year, by Abbot Prosper Gueranger, OSB:

THE Gospel, which is now assigned to the Mass of the seventeenth Sunday, has given it the name of the Sunday of the love of God, dating, that is, from the time when the Gospel of the cure of the dropsy and of the invitation to the wedding-feast was anticipated by eight days. Previously even to that change, and from the very first, there used to be read, on this seventeenth Sunday, another passage from the new Testament, which is no longer found in this series of Sundays: it was the Gospel which mentions the difficulty regarding the resurrection of the dead, which the Sadducees proposed to our Lord.{St. Matt. xxii. 23--33.}

The judgments of God are always just, whether it be, in His justice, humbling the proud, or, in His mercy, exalting the humble. This day last week we saw this sovereign disposer of all things, allotting to each his place at the divine banquet. Let us recall to mind the behaviour of the guests, and the respective treatment shown to the humble and the proud. Adoring these judgments of our Lord, let us sing our Introit; and, as far as regards ourselves, let us throw ourselves entirely upon His mercy.

The Church, by thus giving these words from St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, again takes up the subject so dear to her, viz., the dignity of her children. She beseeches them to correspond, in a becoming manner, to their high vocation. This vocation, this call, which God gives us is, as we have been so often told, the call, or invitation, made to the human family to come to the sacred nuptials of divine union; it is the vocation given to us to reign in heaven with the Word, who has made Himself our Spouse, and our Head.{Eph. ii. 5.} The Gospel read to us last week was formerly the one appointed for this present Sunday, and was thus brought into close connexion with our Epistle. These words of St. Paul to the Ephesians are an admirable commentary on that Gospel, and it, in turn, throws light on the apostle's words about the vocation. `When thou art invited to a wedding (cum vocatus fueris) sit down in the lowest place!' These were our Lord's words to us last Sunday; and now we have the apostle saying to us: Walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, yes, walk in that vocation with all humility!

Let us now attentively hearken to our apostle, telling us what we must do, in order to prove ourselves worthy of the high honour offered to us by the Son of God. We must practise, among other virtues, these three---humility, mildness, and patience. These are the means for gaining the end that is so generously proposed to us. And what is this end? It is the unity of that immense body, which the Son of God makes His own, by the mystic nuptials He vouchsafes to celebrate with our human nature. This Man-God asks one condition from those whom He calls, whom He invites, to become, through the Church, His bride, bone of His bones and flesh of His flesh.{Eph. v. 30.} This one condition is, that they maintain such harmony among them, that it will make one body and one spirit of them all, in the bond of peace. `Bond most glorious!' cries out St. John Chrysostom---`bond most admirable, which unites us all with one another, and then, thus united, unites us with God.'{ST. CHRYS., in Ep. ad Eph., Hom. ix. 3.} The strength of this bond is the strength of the holy Spirit Himself, who is all holiness and love; for it is that holy Spirit who forms these spiritual and divine ties; He it is who, with the countless multitude of the baptized, does the work which the soul does in the human body---that is, gives it life, and unites all the members into oneness of person. It is by the Holy Ghost that young and old, poor and rich, men and women, distinct as all these are in other respects, are made one, fused, so to say, in the fire which eternally burns in the blessed Trinity. But, in order that the flame of infinite love may thus draw into its embrace our regenerated humanity, we must get rid of selfish rivalries, and grudges, and dissensions, which, so long as they exist among us, prove us to be carnal,{1 Cor. iii. 3.} and, therefore, to be unfit material either for the divine flame to touch, or for the union which that flame produces. According to the beautiful comparison of St. John Chrysostom,{ST. CHRYS., ubi supra.} when the fire lays hold of various species of wood which have been thrown into it, if it find the fuel properly dry, it makes one burning pile of all the several woods; but, if they are damp and wet, it cannot act on them separately, nor reduce the whole to one common blaze. So is it in the spiritual order; the unhealthy humidity of the passions neutralizes the action of the sanctifying Spirit; and union, which is both the means and the end of love, becomes an impossibility.

But our Lord does not stop there; He obliges them to acknowledge, at least implicitly, the Divinity of the Messiah. He puts a question, in His turn, to them, and they answer it by saying, as they were obliged to do, that the Christ was to be of the family of David; but if He be his Son, how comes it that David calls Him his Lord, just as he calls God Himself, as we have it in Psalm cix., where he celebrates the glories of the Messiah? The only possible explanation is, that the Messiah, who in due time, and as Man, was to be born of David's house, was God, and Son of God, even before time existed, according to the same psalm: `From my womb, before the day-star, I begot thee.'{Ps. cix. 3.} This answer would have condemned the pharisees, so they refused to give it; but their silence was an avowal; and, before very long, the eternal Father's vengeance upon these vile enemies of His Son will fulfil the prophecy of making them His footstool in blood and shame: that time is to be the terrible day when the justice of God will fall upon the deicide city.


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