Saturday, October 25, 2008

Our Blessed Lady's Saturday


Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday At the Foot Of the Cross

by Saint Louis de Montfort

42. First. Do not, deliberately and through your own fault, procure crosses for yourself. You must not do evil in order to bring about good. You should never try to bring discredit upon yourself by doing things improperly, unless you have a special inspiration from on high. Strive rather to imitate Jesus Christ, Who did all things well (Mark 7, 37), not out of self-love or vainglory, but to please God and to win over His fellow-men. Even though you do the best you can in the performance of your duty, you will still have to contend with contradiction, persecution and contempt which Divine Providence will send you against your will and without your choice.

43. Second. Should your neighbor be scandalized, although without reason, at any action of yours which in itself is neither good nor bad, then, for the sake of charity, refrain from it, to avoid the scandal of the weak. This heroic act of charity will be of much greater worth than the thing you were doing or intended to do.

If, however, you are doing some beneficial or necessary thing for others and were unreasonably disapproved by a hypocrite or prejudiced person, then refer the matter to a prudent adviser, letting him judge of its expedience and necessity. Should his decision be favorable, you have only to continue and let these others talk, provided they take no means to prevent you. Under such circumstances, you have our Lord's answer to His disciples when they informed Him that Scribes and Pharisees were scandalized at His words and deeds: "Let them alone; they are blind." (Matt. 15, 14).

44. Third. Certain holy and distinguished persons have been asking for and seeking, or even, by eccentricities, bringing upon themselves, crosses, disdain and humiliation. Let us simply adore and admire the extraordinary workings of the Holy Spirit in these souls. Let us humble ourselves in the presence of this sublime virtue, without making any attempt to reach such heights, for compared with these racing eagles and roaring lions we are simply fledglings and cubs.

45. Fourth. You can nevertheless and even should ask for the wisdom of the Cross, that sapid, experimental knowledge of the truth which, in the light of faith, shows us the deepest mysteries, among others the mystery of the Cross. But this can be had only by dint of hard toil, profound humiliation and fervent prayer. If you need that perfect spirit (Ps. 50, 14) which enables us to bear the heaviest crosses with courage -- that sweet, kindly spirit (Luke 11, 13) which enables us to relish in the higher part of the soul things that are bitter and repulsive -- that wholesome, upright spirit (Ps. 50, 12) which seeks God and God alone -- that all-embracing knowledge of the Cross -briefly that infinite treasure which gives the soul that knows how to make good use of it a share in the friendship of God (Wisdom 7, 14) ask for this wisdom, ask for it constantly, fervently, without hesitation or fear of not obtaining it. You will certainly obtain it and then see clearly, in the light of your own experience, how it is possible to desire, seek and relish the Cross.

46. Fifth. If, inadvertently, you blunder into a cross, or even if you do so through your own fault, forthwith humble yourselves interiorly under the mighty hand of God (1 Pet. 5-6), but do not worry over it. You might say to yourself: "Lord, there is another trick of my trade. "If the mistake you made was sinful, accept the humiliation you suffer as punishment. But if it was not sinful, then humbly accept it in expiation of your pride. Often, actually very often, God allows His greatest servants, those who are far advanced in grace, to make the most humiliating mistakes. This humbles them in their own eyes and in the eyes of their fellow men. It prevents them from seeing and taking pride in the graces God bestows on them or in the good deeds they do, so that, as the Holy Ghost declares: "no flesh should glory in the sight of God" (1 Cor. 1, 29).

47. Sixth. Be fully persuaded that through the sin of Adam and through our own actual sins everything within ourselves is vitiated, not only the senses of the body but even the powers of the soul. So much so that as soon as the mind, thus vitiated, takes delight in pouring over some gift received from God, then the gift itself, or the act or the grace is tarnished and vitiated and God no longer favors it with His divine regard. Since looks and thoughts of the human mind can spoil man's best actions and God's choicest gifts, what about the acts which proceed from man's own will and which are more corrupt than the acts of the mind?

So we need not wonder, when God hides His own within the shadow of His countenance (Ps. 30, 21), that they may not be defiled by the regards of their fellow men or by their own self-consciousness. What does not this jealous God allow and do to keep them hidden! How often He humiliates them! Into how many faults He permits them to fall! How often He allows them to be tempted as St. Paul was tempted (2 Cor. 12, 7)! In what a state of uncertainty, perplexity and darkness he leaves them! How wonderful God is in His saints, and in the means He takes to lead them to humility and holiness!

48. Seventh. Be careful not to imitate proud self-centered zealots. Do not think that your crosses are tremendous, that they are tests of your fidelity to God and tokens of God's extraordinary love for you. This gesture has its source in spiritual pride. It is a snare quite subtle and beguiling but full of venom. You ought to acknowledge, first, that you are so proud and sensitive that you magnify straws into rafters, scratches into deep wounds, rats into elephants, a meaningless word, a mere nothing, in truth, into an outrageous, treasonable insult. Second, you should acknowledge that the crosses God sends you are really and truly loving punishments for your sins, and not special marks of God's benevolence. Third, you must admit that He is infinitely lenient when He sends you some cross or humiliation, in comparison with the number and atrocity of your sins. For these sins should be considered in the light of the holiness of a God Whom you have offended and Who can tolerate nothing that is defiled; in the light of a God dying and weighted down with sorrow at the sight of your sins; in the light of an everlasting hell which you have deserved a thousand times, perhaps a hundred thousand times. Fourth, you should admit that the patience you put into suffering is more tinged than you think with natural human motives. You have only to note your little self-indulgences, your skillful seeking for sympathy, these confidences you so naturally make to friends or perhaps to your spiritual director, your quick, clever excuses, the murmurings or rather the detractions so neatly worded, so charitably spoken against those who have injured you, the exquisite delight you take in dwelling on your misfortunes and that belief so characteristic of Lucifer, that you are somebody (Acts 8, 9), and so forth. Why I should never finish if I were to point out ail the ways and by-ways human nature takes, even in its sufferings.

49. Eighth. Take advantage of your sufferings and more so of the small ones than of the great. God considers not so much what we suffer as how we suffer. To suffer much, yet badly, is to suffer like reprobates. To suffer much, even bravely, but for a wicked cause, is to suffer as a martyr of the devil. To suffer much or little for the sake of God is to suffer like Saints.

If it be right to say that we can choose our crosses, this is particularly true of the little and obscure ones as compared with the huge, conspicuous ones, for proud human nature would likely ask and seek for the huge, conspicuous crosses even to the point of preferring them and embracing them. But to choose small, unnoticeable crosses and to carry them cheerfully requires the power of a special grace and unshakable fidelity to God. Do then as the storekeeper does with his merchandise: make a profit on every article; suffer not the loss of the tiniest fragment of the true Cross. It may be only the sting of a fly or the point of a pin that annoys you, it may be the little eccentricities of a neighbor, some unintentional slight, the insignificant loss of a penny, some little restlessness of soul, a slight physical weakness, a light pain in your limbs. Make a profit on every article as the grocer does, and you will soon become wealthy in God, as the grocer does in money, by adding penny to penny in his till. When you meet with the least contradiction, simply say: "Blessed be God! My God I thank you." Then treasure up in the till of God's memory the cross which has just given you a profit. Think no more of it, except to say: "Many thanks!" or, "Be merciful!"

50. Ninth. The love you are told to have for the Cross is not sensible love, for this would be impossible to human nature.

It is important to note the three kinds of love: sensible love, rational love and love that is faithful and supreme; in other words, the love that springs from the lower part of man, the flesh; the love that springs from the superior part, his reason; and the love that springs from the supreme part of man, from the summit of his soul, which is the intellect enlightened by faith.

51. God does not ask you to love the Cross with the will of the flesh. Since the flesh is the subject of evil and corruption, all that proceeds from it is evil and it cannot, of itself, submit to the will of God and His crucifying law. It was this aspect of His human nature which Our Lord referred to when He cried out, in the Garden of Olives: "Father, . . . not My will but Thine be done." (Luke 22, 42). If the lower powers of Our Lord's human nature, though holy, could not love the Cross without interruption, then, with still greater reason will our human nature, which is very much vitiated, repel it. At times like many of the saints, we too may experience a feeling of even sensible joy in our sufferings, but that joy does not come from the flesh though it is in the flesh. It flows from our superior powers, so completely filled with the divine joy of the Holy Ghost, that it spreads to our lower powers. Thus a person who is undergoing the most unbearable torture is able to say: "My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God" (Ps. 83, 3).

52. There is another love for the Cross which I call rational, since it springs from the higher part of man, his reason. This love is wholly spiritual. Since it arises from the knowledge of the happiness there is in suffering for God, it can be and really is perceived by the soul. It also gives the soul inward strength and joy. Though this rational and perceptible joy is beneficial, even very beneficial, it is not an indispensable part of joyous, divine suffering.

53. This is why there is another love, which the masters of the spiritual life call the love of the summit and highest point of the soul and which the philosophers call the love of the intellect. When we possess this love, even though we experience no sensible joy or rational pleasure, we love and relish, in the light of pure faith, the cross we must bear, even though the lower part of our nature may often be in a state of warfare and alarm and may moan and groan, weep and sigh for relief; and thus we repeat with Jesus Christ: "Father . . . not My will but Thine be done" (Luke 22, 42), or with the Blessed Virgin: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to Thy word" (Luke 1, 38).

It is with one of these two higher loves that we should accept and love our cross.

54. Tenth. Be resolved then, dear Friends of the Cross, to suffer every kind of cross without excepting or choosing any: all poverty, all injustice, all temporal loss, all illness, all humiliation, all contradiction all calumny, all spiritual dryness, all desolation, all interior and exterior trials. Keep saying: "My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready" (Ps. 56, 8). Be ready to be forsaken by men and angels and, seemingly, by God Himself. Be ready to be persecuted, envied, betrayed, calumniated, discredited and forsaken by everyone. Be ready to undergo hunger, thirst, poverty, nakedness, exile, imprisonment, the gallows and all kinds of torture, even though you are innocent of everything with which you may be charged. What if you were cast out of your own home like Job and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary; thrown, like this saint, into the mire; or dragged upon a manure pile like Job, malodorous and covered with ulcers, without anyone to bandage your wounds, without a morsel of bread, never refused to a horse or a dog? Add to these dreadful misfortunes all the temptations with which God allows the devil to prey upon you, without pouring into your soul the least feeling of consolation.

Firmly believe that this is the summit of divine glory and real happiness for a true, perfect Friend of the Cross.

55. Eleventh For proper suffering, form the pious habit of considering four things:

First, the Eye of God. God is like a great king, who from the height of a tower observes with satisfaction his soldier in the midst of the battle and praises his valor. What is it on earth that attracts God's attention? Kings and emperors on their thrones? He often looks at them with nothing but contempt. Brilliant victories of a nation's armies, precious stones, any such things that are great in the sight of men? "What is great to men is an abomination before God" (Luke 16, 15). What then does God look upon with pleasure and delight? What is He asking the Angels about, and even the devils? It is about the man who is fighting for Him against riches, against the world, hell and himself, the man who is cheerfully carrying his cross. Hast thou not seen upon earth that great wonder which the heavens consider with admiration? said the Lord to Satan; "hast thou considered My servant Job" (Job 2, 3) who is suffering for Me?

56. Second, the Hand of God. Every disorder in nature, from the greatest to the smallest, is the work of His almighty Hand. The Hand that devastates an army of a hundred thousand (4 Kings 19, 35) will make a leaf drop from a tree and a hair fall from your head (Luke 21, 18). The Hand that was laid so heavily upon Job is particularly light when it touches you with some little trial. This Hand fashions day and night, sun and darkness, good and evil. God permits the sin which provokes you; He is not the cause of its malice, although He does allow the act.

If anyone, then, treats you as Semei treated King David (2 Kings 16, 5-11), loading you with insults and casting stones at you, say to yourself: "I must not mind; I must not take revenge for this is an ordinance of God. I know that I have deserved every abuse and it is only right that God punish me. Desist, my hands, and strike not; desist, my tongue, and speak not; the person who injures me by word or deed is an ambassador, mercifully sent by God to punish me as His love alone knows how. Let us not incur His justice by assuming His right to vengeance. Let us not despise His mercy by resisting the affectionate strokes of His lash, lest, for His vengeance, He should remand us to the rigorous justice of eternity. "

Consider how God bears you up with one Hand, of infinite power and wisdom, while with the other He chastises you. With the one He deals out death, while with the other He dispenses life. He humbles you and raises you up. With both arms, He reaches sweetly and mightily (Wisdom 8, 1) from the beginning of your life to its end. Sweetly: by not allowing you to be tempted or afflicted beyond your strength. Mightily: by favoring you with a powerful grace, proportioned to the vehemence and duration of your temptation or affliction. Mightily: --- and the spirit of His holy Church bears witness --- "He is your stay on the brink of a precipice, your guide along a misleading road, your shade in the scorching heat, your raiment in the pouring rain or the biting cold. He is your conveyance when you are utterly exhausted, your help in adversity, your staff on the slippery way. He is your port of refuge when, in the throes of a tempest, you are threatened with ruin and shipwreck."

57. Third, consider the Wounds and Sorrows of our crucified Jesus. Hear what He Himself has to say: "All ye that pass along the thorny and crucifying way I had to follow, look and see. Look with the eyes of your body; look with the eye of contemplation, and see if your poverty, nakedness, disgrace, sorrow, desolation are like unto Mine. Behold Me, innocent as I am, then will you complain, you who are guilty" (Lam. 1, 12).

The Holy Ghost tells us, by the mouth of the Apostles, that we should keep our eyes on Jesus Crucified (Gal. 3, 1) and arm ourselves with this thought of Him (1 Pet. 4, 1) which is our most powerful and most penetrating weapon against all our enemies. When you are assailed by poverty, disrepute, sorrow, temptation or any other cross, arm yourselves with this shield, this breastplate, this helmet, this two-edged sword (Eph. 6, 12-18), that is, with the thought of Jesus crucified. There is the solution to your every problem, the means you have to vanquish all your enemies.

58. Fourth, lift up your eyes, behold the beautiful crown that awaits you in Heaven if you carry your cross as you should. That was the reward which kept patriarchs and prophets strong in faith under persecution. It gave heart to the Apostles and martyrs in their labors and torments. Patriarchs used to say as Moses had said: "We would rather be afflicted with the people of God, " so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him, "than to have the pleasure of sin for a short time (Heb. 11, 25-26). The prophets repeated David's words: "We suffer great persecutions on account of the reward" (Ps. 68, 8118, 112). The Apostles and martyrs voiced the sentiments of St. Paul "We are, as it were, men appointed to death: we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men, " by our sufferings "being made the off-scouring of the world," (1 Cor. 4, 9-13), "by reason of the exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which this momentary and light tribulation worketh in us" (2 Cor. 4, 17).

Let us see and listen to the angels right above us: "Be careful not to forfeit the crown that is set aside for you if you bravely bear the cross that is given you. If you do not bear it well, someone will bear it in your stead and will take your crown. All the saints warn us: fight courageously, suffer patiently and you will be given an everlasting kingdom." Let us hear Jesus: "To him only will I give My reward who shall suffer and overcome through patience" (Apoc. 2, 6; 11, 17; 3, 5; 21, 7).

Let us lower our eyes and see the place we deserve, the place that awaits us in hell in the company of the wicked thief and the reprobate, if we go through suffering as they did, resentful and bent on revenge. Let us exclaim after St. Augustine: "Burn, O Lord, cut, carve divide in this world, in punishment for my sins, provided Thou pardon them in eternity."

59. Twelfth. Never murmur or deliberately complain about any created thing that God may use to afflict you. It is important to note the three kinds of complaints that may arise when misfortune assails you. The first is natural and involuntary. This happens when the human body moans and groans, sobs and sighs and weeps. If, as I said, the higher point of the soul submits to the will of God, there is no sin. The second is rational. Such is the case when we complain and disclose our hardship to some superior or physician who is able to remedy it. This complaint may be an imperfection, if too eagerly made, but it is no sin. The third is sinful. This happens when a person complains of others either to rid himself of the suffering they cause him, or to take revenge. Or else when he willfully complains about the sorrow he must bear and shows signs of grief and impatience.

60. Thirteenth. Whenever you are given a cross, be sure to embrace it with humility and gratitude. If God, in His infinite goodness, favors you with a cross of some importance, be sure to thank him in a special way and have others join you in thanking him. Do as that poor woman did who, through an unjust lawsuit, lost everything she owned. She immediately offered the last few pennies she had, to have a Mass said in thanksgiving to Almighty God for the good fortune that had come to her.

61. Fourteenth. If you wish to be worthy of the best crosses, those that are not of your choice, then, with the help of a prudent director, take on some that are voluntary.

Suppose you have a piece of furniture that you do not need but prize. Give it to some poor person, and say to yourself: "Why should I have things I do not need, when Jesus is destitute?"

Do you dislike certain kinds of food, the practice of some particular virtue, or some offensive odor? Taste this food, practice this virtue, endure this odor, conquer yourself.

Is your affection for some person or thing too ardent and tender? Keep away, deprive yourself, break away from things that appeal to you.

Have you that natural tendency to see and be seen, to be doing things or going some place? Mind your eyes and hold your tongue, stop right where you are and keep to yourself.

Do you feel a natural aversion to some person or thing? Rise above self by keeping near them.
62. If you are truly Friends of the Cross, then, without your knowing it, love, which is always ingenious, will discover thousands of little crosses to enrich you. Then you need not fear self-conceit which often accompanies the patient endurance of conspicuous crosses and since you have been faithful in a few things, the Lord will keep His promise and set you over many things (Matt. 25, 21, 23): over many graces He will grant you; over many crosses He will send you; over much glory He will prepare for you.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Selections From The Imitation Of Christ

Courtesy of Catholic Church Conservation (btw, what happened to Chris Gillibrand?)


Catholic Ghost Stories

Taken from Hell plus How to Avoid Hell by Fr. FX Schouppe, S.J. and Thomas A. Nelson. (TAN Books & Publishers, Inc., 1989)

A holy priest was exorcizing a demoniac, and he asked the demon what pains he was suffering in Hell. "An eternal fire," he answered, "an eternal malediction, an eternal rage, and a frightful despair at being never able to gaze upon Him who created me." "What would you do to have the happiness of seeing God?" "To see Him but for one moment, I should willingly consent to endure my torments for 10,000 years. But vain desires! I shall suffer forever and never see Him!"


On a like occasion, the exorcist inquired of the demon what was his greatest pain in Hell. He replied with an accent of indescribable despair: "Always, always! Never; never!"


Father Nieremberg, in his work "The Difference between Time and Eternity", speaks of an unfortunate sinner, who, as the result of his evil ways, had lost the Faith. His virtuous wife exhorted him to return to God and reminded him of Hell, but he would answer obstinately: "There is no Hell." One day his wife found him dead, and strange circumstance, he held in his hand a mysterious paper on which in large characters was traced this terrifying avowal: "I now know that there is a Hell!"


Mgr. de Segur relates a second fact, which he regards as alike free from doubt. He had learned it in 1859, of a most honorable priest and superior of an important community. This priest had the particulars of it from a near relation of the lady to whom it had happened. At that time, Christmas Day, 1859, this person was still living and little over forty years.

She chanced to be in London in the winter of 1847-1848. She was a widow, about twenty nine years old, quite rich and worldly. Among the gallants who frequented her salon, there was noticed a young lord, whose attentions compromised her extremely and whose conduct, besides, was anything but edifying!

One evening, or rather one night, for it was close upon midnight, she was reading in her bed some novel, coaxing sleep. One o'clock struck by the clock; she blew out her taper. She was about to fall asleep when, to her great astonishment, she noticed that a strange, wan glimmer of light, which seemed to come from the door of the drawing-room, spread by degrees into her chamber, and increased momentarily. Stupified at first and not knowing what this meant, she began to get alarmed, when she saw the drawing-room door slowly open and the young lord, the partner of her disorders, enter the room. Before she had time to say a single word, he seized her by the left wrist, and with a hissing voice, syllabled to her in English: "There is a Hell!" The pain she felt in her arm was so great that she lost her senses.

When, half an hour after, she came to again, she rang for her chambermaid. The latter, on entering, noticed a keen smell of burning. Approaching her mistress, who could hardly speak, she noticed on her wrist so deep a burn that the bone was laid bare and the flesh almost consumed; this burn was the size of a man's hand. Moreover, she remarked that, from the door of the salon to the bed, and from the bed to that same door, the carpet bore the imprint of a man's steps, which had burned through the stuff. By the directions of her mistress, she opened the drawing-room door; there, more traces were seen on the carpet outside.

The following day, the unhappy lady learned, with a terror easy to be divined, that on the very night, about one o'clock in the morning, her lord had been found dead-drunk under the table, that his servants had carried him to his room, and that there he had died in their arms.


The following is from So High the Price by Father P.T. Kelly STL, Daughters of Saint Paul, 1968. It is an incident from the life of St. Francis Jerome, which took place in Naples in 1707.

One day, the servant of God preached in front of the home of one of those unfortunate women. Rather than repent, however she did everything she could to interrupt him, even letting loose great yells, but nothing she did suceeded to distract the attention of our saint, who continued his sermon until its end.

Some days later, Father Francis passed in front of the same house, and seeing it closed, asked those who were nearby: "What happened to Catherine?" That was the name of the unhappy woman.

She died suddenly yesterday," they answered.

"Dead!" exclaimed the Saint. "Let us go and see her."

He entered the home, and climbed the stairs. There he saw the body laid out according to the custom. Then, in the midst of the profound silence that reigned over the place, in spite of the large number of spectators, he exclaimed: "Tell me, Catherine, what has been done with thy soul?"

He asked this question twice without getting an answer; but, when he repeated it a third time, in a tone of authority, the dead woman opened her eyes, moved her lips in sight of everyone and, with a weak voice that seemed to come out of a great depth, answered: "In hell; I am in hell!"

Everyone left frightened and, upon withdrawing, the Saint repeatedly said: "In hell! In hell! All-powerful God, terrible God! In hell!"

The event and words of the saint caused such an impression that many did not dare return home without first going to confession.


From the same source, quoting St. Antoninus:

A young man from a good family, who had unfortunately hidden a mortal sin in confession at the age of sixteen, continued going to Communion, always putting off, week by week, month by month, the confession seemingly so impossible. Tormented constantly and gulping down the remorse that ate his soul, he thought to make up by doing great acts of penance. Still, his conscience would not let him rest.

"I'll join a monastery," he reasoned. "There at last I will reveal all and will do penance for my sins."

But unfortunately he was welcomed as a youth of holy life and therefore the voice of conscience was overcome by shame. Once again, he put off making that 'sincere' confession. One, two, and three years passed by. Still his nerve failed, and finally upon falling sick, the poor man said to himself, "Now is my chance to reveal everything and make a general confession before dying." But even this time instead of manifesting his sins, he knowingly hid them, so engrained was he in pride. "Tomorrow I will ask for the priest and make a good confession," he told himself. But a high fever brought on delirium and he died in that wretched state without gaining consciousness.

His confreres, never guessing his unhappy end, were filled with veneration for the seemingly virtuous religious. With great reverence, they brought his coffin into the chapel.

Just minutes before the funeral, one of his confreres, about to ring the community bell summoning all to the funeral--stopped in alarm and fell on his knees at a terrible sight. In front of him stood a religious, clothed in red-hot chains. "I am in hell, the reprobate cried, "do not pray for me." It was the deceased monk. Then he related the story of his cursed shame and the litany of sacrileges. The vision faded away. Only the terrible stench remained which filtered throughout the whole monastery.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Boston Is Mudville

And there is no joy here.

The hopes for a repeat World Series title for the Red Sox ended last night, despite a good pitching performance from Jon Lester. The 3-1 loss puts an end to the 2008 season, a season in which the starting pitching was strangely mediocre, the middle-inning relief just dreadful, and the offense left far, far too many runners on base. The Sox need to pick up C.C. Sabathia as a free agent, and add another big bat to the outfield, in addition to Bay and Drew, as well as relegate Varitek to back-up status and find an everyday catcher who can hit. They also need to get Mike Lowell and David Ortiz and J.D. Drew healthy, as well as hope that Schilling can be of some help down the stretch and in the playoffs (gosh, as a player/coach, if as nothing else!). They also need to really shore up the middle-inning relief and set-up departments of the bullpen. Far too many games this year were blown by the bullpen.

Players who need the doctor to get their bodies right: Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, and Curt Schilling.

Players who need to see the shrink and get their heads right: Josh Beckett, Clay Bucholz, Hideki Okajima.

Player who needs to shell out big bucks for extensive personalized help from some Charlie Lau-type hitting guru: Jason Varitek.

Players who need to consult the golf pro and work on their broadcasting skills 'cause it's time to hang up the cleats: Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield.

Management personnel who need to be restrained, or just plain shot: whoever signed off on that idiotic trip to Japan at the start of the season, which probably cost the team 3-6 wins early in the season, and the AL East title (and home-field advantage in the playoffs, which probably would have turned the outcome of last night's game around).

They did not repeat. They almost got to the World Series, but almost doesn't count. All "almost" means, is that the Yankees' players have a 2-week headstart on their winter golf games.


First Post For Hallowmas, 2008

October 20th is when I begin to really get into Hallowmas mode, and I like to begin each year with a quotation from one of my favorite novels from my required reading at prep school.

"First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be good and bad, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.

But you take October, now. School's been on a month and you're riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you'll dump on old man Prickett's porch, or the hairy ape costume you'll wear to the YMCA on the last night of the month. And if it's around October twentieth and everything smoky smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners."

From the Prologue to Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, published in 1962.

I just happened to remember that it is October 20th (that forgetfulness seems to hit me every year). Who can't remember feeling the way Bradbury describes as childhood Halloweens approached?

Ray Bradbury is very much a modern. But his work is not imbued with modernism. You might call his style modernity without modernism. His Fahrenheit 451, which I read six years ago for the first time, is one of the most conservative statements in favor of classical learning and against the mainstream pseudo-culture of TV that you will find written in the 20th century.

Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine, and The Illustrated Man show us a most welcome positive view of small town America (with a twist, of course, this is fiction, and imaginative fiction at that). Bradbury's normative themes are refreshing and real and far more authentic to the human experience (while being faithful to the cultural tradition of which they are a part) than the works of hundreds of authors whose books cram the local Barnes & Noble or Borders.

The difference is that, in 100 years, no one will recall who these authors were, or why what they had to say. But people will still read Bradbury for pleasure.

Others achieve the same plateau of excellence: Tolkien, Lewis, Frost, O'Brian, O'Connor, Kirk, Hawthorne, Pope, Wodehouse, Waugh, Faulkner, Wolfe, O'Conner, maybe Rowling. Their stuff will stand the test of time. Not only is Bradbury a friend of what Russell Kirk called "the permanent things," and a friend of Kirk, but his work is part of that cultural patrimony we must pass down.

Bradbury has for me made October 20th a milestone, a day in which Halloween begins to be anticipated. Halloween, the eve of All Saints' and the build-up for the Catholic Day of the Dead, All Souls', has taken some hard knocks, mostly unjustified. Opportunistic modern wiccans and pagans, especially in Salem, have claimed as their own a holiday that has nothing to do with them and their New Age, and never did.

The celebration of the day is Celtic and Christian. It is the dying time of the year, with the harvest almost all in now, and even the green leaves of summer suddenly blazing into brilliant color and then dropping to the ground. The days are growing notably colder and shorter. It is the appropriate time to recall our dead, to think about, and to pray for the all the dead. The merry season of Christmas lies ahead. But, as the liturgical year winds down over the next 5 weeks, let us pause to recall death. It is the first of the Four Last Things, after all.

If part of thinking about it is reading old gothic ghost stories over a mug of mulled cider by candlelight in the privacy of one's study, or watching movies about ghosts, witches, vampires, werewolves, and monsters, or impressing the imagination of children by decorating a "haunted house" and handing out enough candy to make them spit out teeth the next day, or carving pumpkins in imitation of the Irish custom of the carved turnip of Jack of the Lantern, or burning leaves at night, there is no harm in it.

But the experience is made richer by remembering the saints of the Church on All Hallows' Day itself, and by praying for the dead, our dead, and the forgotten, unknown poor souls in Purgatory throughout November. And if dressing up as ghosts in bedsheets (I used the "Charlie Brown" costume once or twice as a kid) and going door to door like the people in Celtic villages who dressed up as those who had died during the year did to seek propitiary offerings, or those who, in Christian times, performed the luck-visit ritual of going a'souling, then it is a start.

The important thing is to get people to start to remember the dead. Then build on that foundation. Just getting them to think of the dead as something other than inventory for a graveyard and an object of horror is a necessary start. We will all die, and will want to be remembered and prayed for. Purgatory is no easy thing, if we are lucky enough to get there. So remember the dead, and pray for them, because in time you may be that poor forgotten soul in Purgatory, wishing someone would remember you in their prayers with a longing that we can scarcely conceive.

Memento Mori!

Remember that you will die, too. As you are now, so the dead once were. As the dead are now, so you will one day be.

And the number one thing the dead need is prayers. Prayers, Masses, and Rosaries are of foremost importance for the dead in Purgatory.

My Jesus, by the sorrows Thou didst suffer in Thine agony in the Garden, in Thy scourging and crowning with thorns, on the way to Calvary, in Thy crucifixion and death, have mercy on the souls in Purgatory, and especially on those that are most forsaken; do Thou deliver them from the terrible torments they endure; call them and admit them to Thy most sweet embrace in paradise.


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