“Up Hill Both Ways In Two Feet Of Snow”

 It is a right of age, to be able to tell stories of hardship, from days gone by, to the younger generation.  I can remember my parents and grandparents relating to me events of their lives, the depression, losing the herd, outdoor …uuuh pluming, WWII, wringer washers etc.  I can remember my mother’s joy, when she got an automatic washing machine and dryer.  Life has its hardships for every generation.

My experience has been, when people look back, they do so, with an element of pride, about how they endured.  Sometimes, perhaps, even a bit of boasting about their ingenuity or fortitude to obstacles of life.  I guess my observation is that any misfortune is difficult in the moment, but there is much to be learned by it.  Perseverance alone, is a good skill to work on.  

People that I know, who have endured much, seem to have gained a lot of wisdom.  Their suffering, and what they learned from it, changed how they see things forever.  So, I don’t worry about my child “missing out”, because things aren’t the way they used to be. Instead, I try to help him find alternatives to what he used to do.  Trick or Treat will be different, socially distanced, to friends and family only, and safe, but aren’t we lucky to do it at all.  We talk about what is happening in our world, and how we still have it pretty good.  I teach him to accept it and move on, and not whine about what is lost.  I help him see the big picture, and don’t let him wallow in how unfair this is.  Because fair or unfair, it is his/our reality. We have to find the positive  and persevere, bearing it all in humility, and offer up these masks and our present limitations for the glory of God.

…When I was a kid, schools and everything closed, and we had to wear masks everywhere, but we did, and we appreciated the things we could do, and because of it, we learned…

Note:  Did you know that each part of a habit has prayers or sacrifices associated with it that are ever present to the sisters daily. 

Image: Thank you to the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration,  Canton Ohio

One Issue Voters

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Many christians, who want to take the abortion issue out of voting will list the many other concerns that face us in the world today.  Social concerns about racism, immigration, gun control, the poor, education etc, are important, for sure, but do they tip the scales over a basic right to life.  This is the debate.  Those who think that the basic right to life, or pro life issues, outweigh every other issue, are considered “one issue voters”.  Of this, I have been labeled, but I beg to disagree.

I am not a one issue voter.  I do vote for pro-life candidates, because I can’t in good conscience, let my vote promote another death of a soul, unborn or born.  I would argue that abortion isn’t one issue.  We have become an abortion society.  It’s like the frog in a warm pot of water.  It will remain in the pot as the temperature increases, until it is cooked to death, because the change is so gradual that it doesn’t notice.  If you place a frog in hot water, it will immediately hop out.  If we knew how abortion would change our perspective of life in the womb in 1973, would we have been so complacent about the issue.

Conversations about gender and sexual preference have gone as far as having prepubescent children choosing their sexuality and adults discussing how pedophilia is a sexual preference.  Babies can be aborted up until birth, and there is talk about infanticide too.  How have we become a society that can’t see this, for the evil that spawns it.  Abortion is changing us, our moral compass, our souls, and it’s inviting us to turn a blind eye to it.  Abortion isn’t one issue, it is the means of evil that persuades us to ignore the God given right to life.  

Here is my litmus test.  If I have children suffering from every social problem there is, and one child is being put to death, and I have only you to help, and you must choose one situation.  Who do you think I would want you to help?  I would want you to save the life of the soul God created, and I think He would choose the same.

Why Obedience?

My son practices piano every day.  He does it without being reminded now.  In the beginning, I had to direct him to the piano, and at times, it was a struggle to get him to be compliant.  He has come to find much joy in playing it, and has even sought out music to play, in addition to his required lessons.  

My initial thought was that piano would help him improve small motor skills, in an expressive and artful way, something he was having difficulty with in school.  He, of course, didn’t know that.  To him, I was asking him to play piano, when he found more pleasure doing other things.  As a parent, I was trying to make a growth experience something he may at some point enjoy.  I wanted his obedience in this matter, when he could not understand or recognize the merit in the task.

It makes me think of postures at Mass.  We are directed as a church to sit, stand, kneel etc, during certain times of the Mass. Recently our Bishop instructed us to remain standing through the reception of Communion, as an act of unity.  Well, this was not well received by several, because they feel compelled to kneel.  I get that too, it’s what we’ve done for years, decades, and it seemed right to me also, to kneel.  I have to say though, that recently, I’ve come to see things a little differently.

Our country is so polarised politically right now.  We can’t agree on anything. As a matter of fact, if something comes up, opposite points of view are expected.  I think if Democrats and Republicans would agree on something, our nation wouldn’t know how to react.  Is this simple act of unity, as a directive from our Bishop, more important, than the pious act of kneeling during Communion?  I now believe that obedience trumps piety, hands down….and this is why.

When Jesus was found in the Temple, In Luke chapter 2, He said to his parents, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  Of course he would  be in His Father’s house.  This is the greater thing right?…to be in the temple in Jerusalem of all places, praying and teaching.  After all, “all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.”  So what did He do next, this 12 year old, who “astounded” those in the temple with His wisdom?  “But they (his parents) did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”

Jesus had just spoken to the hearts of so many in the Temple.  May I use the word again, He “astounded” them.  But, Jesus chose obedience.  Jesus chose obedience, over astounding His children in the Temple.  

This is the only story of Jesus in His childhood in the Bible.  The only recorded story of the child Jesus is a lesson in obedience.  It gives me a new perspective of obedience, and I suppose of piety also… Jesus chose obedience, over astounding His children in the Temple.

Into The Desert

Our world has been plunged into an awareness of a danger, of a life threatening body that lurks about us, identified as COVID-19.  In order to avoid this contagion, we have to change our lifestyle, practice “social distancing”, and diligently wash our hands.  COVID-19 has become public enemy number one, and it requires our prudence and compliance to the mandates given us, in order to lovingly protect each other.

In all of this fervor, I found myself missing Lent.  It seems that so much attention has been given to our confinements, that I was missing the salvific journey of Lent.  The scripture “Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” comes to mind for me.  I need to be a responsible citizen, but a steward of Lent also.  I need the mindset of offering up these sacrifices that have been thrust upon us, with submission to God.

This isolation has given us the occasion to truly embrace simplicity.  Maybe our challenge here is to live this confinement, and learn how God can move us, through this “desert”. I want to capitalize on this unique time in my life, and make it into an opportunity, to perhaps learn something about our Savior that I’ve been distracted from before.

Below are the beautiful lyrics and link to the song “Into The Desert” by Curtis Stephan and Sarah Hart.  I found this song to be a great reflection right now, during this Lent that has been so different from any I’ve known.

Into the Desert

Come, beloved, and rest your mind;

Leave the things of this world behind.

Here I will be your daily bread, all that you need.

Into the desert I will lead; here in the silence my word will speak.

And you will find the peace you seek here in the desert.

Stay, beloved, and lose your fear; there is healing and mercy here.

Here I will be a living stream, all that you need.

From this desert your life will bloom; out of despair is hope renewed.

And from this death you shall arise, arise with me.

A Week of Saints: November 18-24, 2019

Monday, November 18:  Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul

St Peter’s is located in the Vatican City State, surrounded by Rome, Italy.  It’ built on the tomb of St Pater. Constantine built the original structure that stood for more than a thousand years in 319.  It was losing its stability, so Pope Julius II reconstructed it, but it took 200 years for it’s completion. 

St Paul’s Outside the Walls the largest church in Rome, until St Peters was rebuilt.  It is built on the site that St Paul was beheaded.  Until the empire crumbled under “barbarian” invasions, the two churches, although miles apart, were linked by a roofed colonnade of marble columns.

Tuesday, November 19:  St. Agnes of Assisi, religious (1197-1253)

Agnes was St. Clare’s sister, and her first follower. When she left her family for the monastery, they tried o drag her out.  Her body became so heavy that several knights were unsuccessful at moving her.  When her uncle tried to hit her, he was temporarily paralyzed.  Agnes, like her sister was very devoted.  She was sent to be abbess to a group of Benedictine nuns, who wanted to be Poor Clares.  Agnes wanted to be with Clare and the other sisters, and after establishing the monasteries returned to San Damiano, when Clare was dying

“I come, O Lord, unto Thy sanctuary to see the life and food of my soul. As I hope in Thee,”

Wednesday, November 20:  St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, religious (1769-1852)

St Rose learned political skills from her father and love of the poor from her mother in Grenoble, France.  Her prevailing characteristic was her strong will. She entered the convent at 19, and during the French Revolution began taking care of the poor, sick, and children.  She risked her life helping Priests in the underground.  She came to America to be a missionary with several nuns. “In her first decade in America, Mother Duchesne suffered …poor lodging, shortages of food, drinking water, fuel and money, forest fires and blazing chimneys, the vagaries of the Missouri climate, cramped living quarters and the privation of all privacy, and the crude manners of children reared in rough surroundings.” (Louise Callan, R.S.C.J., Philippine Duchesne )

In poor health she got her lifelong wish, at 72, a mission, among the Potawatomi.

“You may dazzle the mind with a thousand brilliant discoveries of natural science; you may open new worlds of knowledge which were never dreamed of before; yet, if you have not developed in the soul of the pupil strong habits of virtue which will sustain her in the struggle of life, you have not educated her, but only put in her hand a powerful instrument of self-destruction”

Patron:  perseverance amid adversity,

Thursday, November 21:  The Presentation Of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary’s presentation was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century. The Protoevangelium of James tells us that Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old. Though it cannot be proven historically, Mary’s presentation emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.

Friday, November 22:  St Cecelia, Martyr (3rd century)

Although Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, there is little known about her. In the late fourth century  a church was named after her, and her feast was celebrated at least in 545. Legend has it that Cecilia was a young high rank Christian betrothed to a Roman and because of her influence he was converted, and martyred. The legend about Cecilia’s death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church. Since the time of the Renaissance she has usually been portrayed with a viola or a small organ.

“Death and hell combine to distract man with a thousand useless cares, and to engage his thoughts with a multitude of imaginary wants.” 

Patron:  musicians, poets

Saturday, November 23: St Columban (543-615)

Columban was one of the greatest of the Irish missionaries. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh.  After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for their dedication to the faith and rigors of their lives. Columban established several monasteries. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry, and his monastic rule. The Liturgical Feast of Saint Columban is November 23.

“Seek then the highest wisdom, not by arguments in words but by the perfection of your life, not by speech but by the faith that comes from simplicity of heart”

Patron:  motorcyclist 

Sunday November 24:  Feast of Christ The King of the Universe

Pope Pius XI in response to the growing secularism in the West stated how he hoped the feast would impact the laity.

“If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.”

Darkness My Old Friend

I recently watched a movie about St Ignatius of Loyola, where he suffered from the memory of his sinful past.  He accused himself relentlessly over and over, while he heard lies of despair instead of Hope in his head.  He later identified the voice of despair as satan.

My confessor directed me to find were the lies were that satan was speaking to me in my life.  I found sins that I would revisit and feel bad about, or times where I could only see injustice, and not the Light.  Although placed there as temptations to despair, I could admit my cooperation with this way of thinking, and confess it.  

I know that my Father is Love, and satan wants to separate me from the Love of my God.  I think it fair to say that if there is something that makes me feel unloved by God, then the fault is mine.  So I was motivated to revisit these difficult memories and find God in them.  If its a forgiven sin, who am I to hold onto it.  If its an injustice done to me, then I need to look for how God was present to me through that experience.  I need to replace the negative feelings associated with these things, with the Truth. I have to stop listening to the mantra of evil.  I can’t linger in the darkness of satan’s suggestion.  I need to find these little seeds of demise, and quickly bring Light to the darkness.  I need to exercise vigilance.

The movie can be found on “Formed”, and is titled “Ignatius of Loyola”.

Week of Saints November 4-10, 2019

Monday, November 4:  St. Charles Borromeo, Cardinal (1538-1584)

Charles was born in Italy and a son of  Count Gilbert Borromeo and Margaret Medici, sister of Pope. he was made Bishop of Milan. He was intent to improve the morals and manners of the clergy and laity, established seminaries for the education of the clergy, founded a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious instruction of children. He founded a society of secular priests, Oblates of St. Ambrose (now Oblates of St. Charles). Although he achieved a position of great power, he used it with humility.

Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.

Patron:  agains ulcers, appole orchards catechists, catechumens, colic; intestinal disorders;

Tuesday, November 5: Zachariah and Elizabeth Early Christian (time of Christ)

Elizabeth is a cousin to the Virgin Mary.  Zachariah, desiring a child, went to pray in the temple and was told by the angel Gabriel, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John… he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.” (Luke 1:13-15).

Zachariah was skeptical because both himself and his wife were elderly. For his skepticism, Zachariah was rendered mute until the prophecy had been fulfilled.

Elizabeth became pregnant shortly thereafter and she rejoiced.

Gabriel then visited the Virgin Mary at Nazareth, telling her that she would conceive of the Holy Spirit and become the mother of Jesus.  Elizabeth was visited by Mary, at which time Mary spoke the hymn of praise now known at the Magnificat, and after John’s birth, Zachary’s speech was restored

Wednesday, November 6:  St. Joseph Khang (d-1861)

Martyr of Vietnam. The servant of St. Jerome Hermosilla, Joseph tried to deliver St. Jerome from prison. He was caught in the attempt, lashed, and beheaded.

Thursday, November 7:  St. Didacus, Religious Brother(1400-1463)

He lived for some time as a hermit. After Didacus became a Franciscan brother, he developed a reputation for great insight into God’s ways. He volunteered for the missions in the Canary Islands.  In 1450 he was sent to Rome to attend the canonization of St. Bernardine of Siena. Didacus stayed in Rome for three months to nurse the friars, who had become ill. After he returned to Spain, he pursued a life of contemplation full-time.

“O faithful wood, O precious nails! You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you have been judged worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven”

Patron

Friday, November 8: Four Crowned Martyrs Death: 305

Two separate groups who suffered for the faith, called Sancti Quatuor Coronati, “the Four Holy Crowned Ones. Castorius, Claudius, Nicostratus, and Symphorian were tortured and slain in Pannonia, having been carvers from Sirmium. They refused to carve a pagan statue and were martyred by Emperor Diocletian. A martyr named Simplicius died with them. The second group of Four Holy Crowned Ones died at Albano, Italy. They were Carpophorus, Secundius, Severian, and Victorinus. A basilica was erected in honor of these martyrs in Rome. 

Saturday, November 9:  Dedication of St. John Lateran

St. John Lateran is the pope’s church, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome where the Bishop of Rome presides.

The first structure and its successors suffered fire, earthquake and the ravages of war, but the Lateran remained the church where popes were consecrated until 14th century.

Pope Innocent X commissioned the present structure in 1646. One of Rome’s most imposing churches, the Lateran’s towering facade is crowned with 15 colossal statues of Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and 12 doctors of the Church. Beneath its high altar rest the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds St. Peter himself celebrated Mass.

Sunday, November 10:  St. Leo the Great, Pope (d. 461)

St Leo was elected Pope in 440, he worked guiding his fellow bishops as “equals in the episcopacy and infirmities.”

Leo is known as one of the best administrative popes of the ancient Church. He worked to control heresies, and to secure true Christian beliefs. He led the defense of Rome against barbarian attack, taking the role of peacemaker.

He is known for his spiritually profound sermons.

“Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom”

Mother Thomas

 It was with such joy in her heart that she greeted me. She had just come from Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and her excitement as she told me, was like a child on Christmas morning. On the front of her habit is depicted the Eucharist in a Monstrance, the God of her devotion that is, and has been, central to her life for 60 years.  Her talents, love, and humility are so understated in her brown habit and black veil, as is her stature, now bent at her waist.  

When she was young, she studied art in Chicago, Mexico and Rome.  It was an Easter Vigil at the Vatican, that she received her vocation.  She received Communion, and she knew that her life would be devoted to Adoration.  She said, “thats all I have to say, on that.”  She had been establishing a promising career in art.  Painting was her passion, and she was ready to give it up. to adore Christ in the Eucharist.  When she entered the Poor Clares, she didn’t paint for 10 years. 

Today she had a drawing of “The Incarnation” that she had been working on.  It was filled with so many nuances of faith in the details.  Her passion was still there  and expressed beautifully in this drawing.  Then she took me into the next room, and laying on the floor was a painting named, “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and the Communion of Saints.”  It took up the entire floor of this one time chapel.  She had painted it on her hands and knees.

It is inspiring to me that in one moment, this beautiful daughter of God laid down her paint brushes for His will in her life. She  wasn’t confused by this tremendous talent given to her, when God called her to something else.  She trusted that He knew what He was about.  She pursued art to Rome, but found her life in Adoration.  After she was influenced by her life in prayer, God called her back to her paintbrushes, and now her gifts are used to glorify God!  She takes each idea to prayer, then creates with her heart.  I shared my love of St Veronica, with her.  She listened with such engaged intensity, and I could see Mother Thomas taking Veronica into her heart, as I spoke.  Her method of prayer and heart, became evident in that moment.

I hope that I can do as Mother Thomas.  To be so open to the Spirit of God that I can abandon what seems to be God’s gifts to me, for His will.

“At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Mt 4:20

A Week of Saints (September 23-29, 2019)

Monday, September 23: St. Padre Pio, Priest (1887-1968)

Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio, when he was fifteen. He was drafted during World War I, but had tuberculosis, and then discharged. In 1918, he was praying after Mass, and had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side.

Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. His confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; many said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned.  St John Paul II honored him for his prayer and charity.

“Have courage and do not fear the assaults of the Devil. Remember this forever; it is a healthy sign if the devil shouts and roars around your conscience, since this shows that he is not inside your will.”

Patron: stress relief, adolescents

Tuesday, September 24:  Blessed John Henry Newman Priest (1801–1890)

John Henry Newman, spent the first half of his life as an Anglican and the second half as a Roman Catholic. He was a priest, popular preacher, writer, and eminent theologian in both Churches. Catholic theology tended to ignore history, but instead was inclined to draw deductions from first principles. Newman taught that  lived experience of believers was recognized as a key part of theological reflection.  Newman eventually wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters that survive. After Newman died, a Newman Club for Catholic students began at the Universities.

“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons“

Wednesday, September 25:  St Cleophas (time of Christ)

One of two disciples who met Christ on the road to Emmaus. He was also identified as the father of Mary, one of whom stood with the Mother of God at the foot of the Cross. He has been identified as the father of St. James the Less and as brother of St. Joseph.

Thursday, September 26:  Ss. Cosmos & Damian, Martyrs (c287)

Sts. Cosmas and Damian were brothers, from Arabia, known for their knowledge of medicine.  Because of their faith, they never took money for their craft. Their reputation made them marked objects of persecution. They were apprehended, and beheaded.

Patron of Druggist

Friday, September 25:  St Vincent de Paul, Priest (1580-1660)

St. Vincent, known as The Apostle Of Charity, was born to a poor family in FranceFrance, about 1580. On  a sea voyage he was captured by African pirates and made a slave for two years, until he escaped. He returned to France, and began to preach missions.  His charity was extended, from children to old age. In spite of popularity, he remained deeply rooted in humility. 

“If the world takes something from us on the one hand, God will give us something on the other.”

patron:  charitable societies.

Saturday, September 28:  St. Wenceslaus, Martyr (907-935)

St. Wenceslaus was born near Prague, and was the son of a Duke. St. Ludmila, his grandmother taught him Christianity.  

After the death of his father and grandmother, at the hands of the Magyars, he was declared the new ruler.  He encouraged Christianity. His brother, invited Wenceslaus to a religious festival, trapped and killed him on the way to Mass.

Patron:  Bohemia, Prague

Sunday, September 29:  Ss. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels

Saint Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?”  He cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, and is invoked for protection against Satan. The four offices of Saint Michael are: to fight against Satan, to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy,  to be the champion of God’s people, to call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment.

“Then war broke out in heaven; Michaeland his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail.

Patron:  Guardian of the Catholic Church, Jewish People, police officers, military, grocers, mariners, paratroopers, firefighters, paramedics, sickness

Saint Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” announced the birth of John the Baptist  and the at Incarnation of the Word to Mary.

He appeared to St. Joseph and to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,* and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Patron: grocers, soldiers, doctors, mariners, paratroopers, police, and sickness

Patron:  of messengers, telecommunication workers, postal workers

Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit.  Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.

Raphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.

“I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord”

Patron:  travelers, the blind, and bodily ills