>Feast of Christ the King

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It’s the Feast of Christ the King!
Which  means it’s the last Sunday in the liturgical year, already!

Here is a bit of Fr. Andre, and his most excellent homily on this special day.  Go read the whole thing, his meditation on the two crowns of Christ as King is worth the time.  But for a lead in, here:

Pilate asks Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?…
Pilate’s arrogance does not intimidate Jesus, who then gives his own answer in the well-known words: “My kingdom is not from this world”….

Pilate is very astute. He does not see in Jesus’ answer a denial of his kingship. In fact, Pilate infers and insists: “So you are a king” (v 37). Jesus accepts his claim without hesitation: “You say that I am a king. For this I came into the world”. For what? To inaugurate a world of peace and fellowship, of justice and respect for other people’s rights, of love for God and for one another. This is the kingdom that penetrates our human history, illuminating it and leading it beyond itself, a kingdom that will have no end. When we pray the “Our Father”, we pray for this kingdom to come in its fullness.

Happy Feast Day.
Christ the King, my Lord and my God, pray for us. 

>Double Feast: St Luke

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El Greco, of course!

Today is the Feast of St. Luke!
You all know him, gospel writer and all.

But what sometimes gets overlooked is that St Luke is a man of many talents.  Not only was he a  a writer of the gospel and all…so his faith of course is inspiring….but he was a physician and tradition has it also an artist.  Now, the arts part has been disputed, but who can know really?  And tradition has brought St. Luke down as an  honored patron saint of the arts and painters, in fact as an iconographer of Mary…so I’m running with it.
I mean, St. Luke is like the double whammy patron of the house, or our marriage, no? Yes!  How cool! You’ve got the whole doc factor for Tom, and the arts factor for me, and the faith factor for us both! Whoa.
Frankly, I’m just really dig that.

After those two connections, you then add the whole Mary connection and well, this is a lock on the patron of the house deal for us.  We love Mary.  I love Mary!  And I love painting Mary!  So…St. Luke, he’s the man…surely to goodness he’s an intercessor to turn to.  His gospel has some of the most profound parables as well:

“Luke is the one who uses “Blessed are the poor” instead of “Blessed are the poor in spirit” in the beatitudes. Only in Luke’s gospel do we hear Mary ‘s Magnificat where she proclaims that God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53).


Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus’ life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke’s gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus’ disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: “Hail Mary full of grace” spoken at the Annunciation and “Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus” spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.

Forgiveness and God’s mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father.” 

Anyhow…just so you know.  Today is the Feast of St. Luke.  He was  born in a pagan family and was a convert to the faith.  He worked with Paul and preached the “mystery of Christ’s love for the poor.” He is inspiring. St. Luke lived the gospel through his spoken and written words, his art,  his hands.   Just like I should do, in some small measure, every day. 


From the divine office, morning prayer:

” Saint Luke gave us the gospel message and proclaimed Christ as the dawn from on high.

Painting by Maarten de Vos, 1602

So, my Tom/Coffeedoc, 
Happy Feast Day!
St. Luke, pray for us! 

>Holy Cake!

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It’s the feast of the Nativity of Mary! 

Today is the day we celebrate and remember the nativity of our Blessed Mother, Mary. The birth of the Theotokos, Mother of God. I know some have questions or issues with this whole concept…but I am all about loving our Blessed Mother, and all about celebrating birthdays, so I can run with it! Go here for a quick bit on it as well.

I am so grateful for her and for her birthday that we will celebrate with flowers for her and maybe even a yummy dessert….Because living the liturgical year is fun and cool and gives much needed texture, rhythm, and depth to the warp and woof of our lives.

And here is a lovely prayer for the day:  from the Liturgy of the Hours: 

Father of Mercy, give your people help and strength from heaven.
The birth of the Virgin Mary’s son
was the dawn of our salvation.
May this celebration of her birthday
bring us closer to lasting peace.
Grant this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.

— the Liturgy of the Hours


Birth of Virgin Mary to St. Anne in Santa Maria Novella, Florence.  By Domenico Ghirlandio


So, this is a bit rambly…but well, think of your Mother today…your Blessed Mother and maybe say a prayer of thanksgiving for her. Because like all of us moms, she loves us even when we don’t love her nearly well enough back….and, yes, in case you’re wondering, we will have cake!

Happy Birthday Mary!

“Nativitas tua genitrix virgo gaudium annunziavit universo mundo”

(Thy birth, O Virgin and Mother of God, brings joy to all the world).


>Servant of Servants

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Drawing by Matt Alderman, a fellow “Domer.”  
His pen and ink work is always fantastic.

It’s the feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great!
Or, as we know him around our house: St. Gregory, Chris’ patron.
We hit him up for prayers, ok, I hit him up for prayers for my eldest son quite often.
By which I mean, I’m a dreadful nudge about it all.  But he is a faithful patron, and I am grateful for his prayers for my son.

It’s the feast day of Pope St. Gregory the Great.

 I don’t remember all of Buddybug’s reasons for choosing St. Gregory the Great as his patron. But I suspect that his love of music was one of the links. St. Gregory promoted sacred music, now known to us as, duh: “Gregorian Chant.” And Buddybug (and his mom and dad) love Gregorian Chant. So, no surprise there.


St. Gregory is one of the few who have “the Great” attached to their name, and is also a doctor of the Church (meaning a great teacher). He sent missionaries into England and Ireland, and then Germany – spreading the hope and faith throughout Europe. He was highly educated and founded seven monasteries. Eventually he even was elected Pope. As Pope, he tirelessly worked in service for the Church.  Indeed, he is the one who so aptly coined the most appropriate and under-used title for the Pope: “Servant of the servants of God.”


I always just mostly think of my son when I think of St. Gregory the Great. And another little but extra pleasing link for me: St. Gregory’s mother was St. Silvia. My mother’s first name is Sylvia (hence, Buddybug’s grandma is Silvia). I know, teensy nothings, but yet, they make me smile. And since this saint and my boy are connected in my daily prayers, they are kind of supernaturally and eternally connected I think too (and certainly are in my head).

So, I thank St. Gregory for his prayers for my boy.
And I wish him and my Buddybug:

Happy Feast Day!!
St. Gregory the Great, pray for us!


>It’s never too late: Augustine

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Its the feast day of St. Augustine!
Ok, now this saint, from north Africa, {born in Tagaste, in Africa, in 354} is one of the biggies: a doctor of the church of course and one of the great writers throughout Church history. I like him for so many reasons, not the least of which is his connection with his mom and her devoted prayers for her son. You know, I will always have a soft spot for a mom and son….

His teachings are noted throughout Christendom for their lasting influence and, simply put, their beauty. Perhaps it was his years of living a life that was wild, utterly hedonistic, and dipped into all sorts of heresy and convoluted ideas of god…..but when he returned to the Faith, he did so in a big way, using his brilliant mind to convey the beauty of Truth to generations to come.

Indeed, this is the antiphon from evening prayer tonight:
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, 
late have I loved you.  
You called, you shouted and you shattered my deafness.”

Late have I loved you… Indeed. And perhaps, that is part of his appeal to so many, so many of us (ok, me), have really felt that, lived that. Late, have I loved You. I missed so much, for so long. The “band width” of my life was so slim, and I didn’t even know it. But I was fooled by the hedonistic life I lived into thinking it was so wide. I was arrogant enough to think I knew it all. Only, later, later when I finally “let go” of my grip on that did I finally come to realize how small it all was.

And then St. Augustine, once more, came through for me with one of his most famous prayers:

You have made us for yourself, oh God. 
And our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.” 

Ah. I know, I’m paraphrasing that quote, but that’s how it sticks in my head and heart. And that about sums it all up: St. Augustine, life in general, me in particular.

So, it’s really never too late to wake up to love.  
Thank goodness!

Happy feast day!
St. Augustine, pray for us!
{Again, a melded post…last year, busy time now, but new prayers and comments.}

>Skinned

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 Painting by El Greco

It’s the feast of St. Bartholomew!

Detail of Michaelangelo’s Last Judgement, 
w/ skin of St Bartholomew (but using Michaelangelo’s features)

Now, there is no getting around it…St. Bartholomew died a grisly death: skinned – literally flayed for his faith.  Now that’s a martyr! He was also one of the apostles (John 1: 43-51) and clearly, his faith was such that he called people to the truth and away from pagan worship.  This very thing made the rulers of the time very angry and obviously frightened at the power of this man, though we all know it was the power of the Truth, to cut through the chaff and smoke of falsehood and evil.  So, of course, they had to kill him.  We do the same thing today, and it’s a story in many of our movies today that rake in the big bucks.  But this time, way back when, the gore was real and horrifying.  But the faith was strong and true and overrides even the horror.  What treasure that truth must be for a mere man to be willing to be skinned alive to uphold it.

Collect (Prayer) of the Day: Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
painting by Rembrandt van Rijn
 Happy feast day!
St. Bartholomew, pray for us!

>B is for Bernard

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It’s the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux! 
(It’s also my Tom’s bday, but that the next post this morning!)

Now, he is a biggie saint, St. Bernard was known for his humility, intellect, mediation skills, homilies…his influence helped build the Cistercian order and spread throughout Europe, with many conversions to faith.  But for me, the big deal is that he composed one of my favorite prayers and one that I only pray when I’m really kinda desperate: The Memorare.   

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

I don’t mean to say that this prayer or any prayer works as any sort of formula or incantation, God forbid!  But what I mean is that it is a serious petition and I just don’t like to use it lightly, say for instance….”please help me get a parking place so I’m not late again.”  Or, “please pray that these kids do a decent bedtime because I am so tired and I need to be done for today” (did I type that out loud? oops..).  I use this prayer when the stakes are high and important because I know that Mary, as a mother, is faithful and wants our best good and so will take the important stuff to her son, Jesus.  And I don’t want to be a pest.  I want to approach in prayer, with this prayer, only when I’m really focused and the need is worth the pestering.  Does that make sense? I hope so.  Suffice it to say, St. Bernard also came from a big family (Seven kids, six boys, one girl…what is it with big families and saints…a training ground for holiness due to the forced coping with a certain level of chaos? Hmm, a mom’s gotta wonder…that’s my take on it anyhow and I’m sticking to it!) and he knows you don’t bug your mom without a good reason…..hence, this prayer.

Anyhow, I digress.  St. Bernard is worth a look, he’s a Doctor of the Church and a big saint.
So, my Tom, and all, happy feast day!
St. Bernard, pray for us!

>Assumptions on the Assumption

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Mary’s house in Ephesus, where she is believed to have lived out her days.
It’s the feast of the Assumption of Mary!

I know, another uber Catholic post and event. Still, fascinating and cool for us and if you want to know more, go read here. I love this one!

It’s also a big Ethiopian Feast: Ethiopian Orthodox celebrate this feast in a big way and it is called “Filsata Mariam” – and Marta grinned with excitement when told what today is. So it’s a big deal even in the the other ancient Christian faith traditions.

That said, however, this is one of those Marian Catholic things that makes some folks a bit nuts. But really, it all makes sense. It is traced back to the apostles themselves:

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when bishops from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered in Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem, that “Mary had died in the presence of the apostles; but her tomb, when opened later . . . was found empty and so the apostles concluded that the body was taken up into heaven.”
In the eighth century, St. John Damascene was known for giving sermons at the holy places in Jerusalem. At the Tomb of Mary, he expressed the belief of the Church on the meaning of the feast: “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay. . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.” from Catholic Culture.org

Again, it makes sense to me and to me, it’s beautiful.

“The Assumption completes God’s work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption. The Assumption is God’s crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we will follow when our earthly life is over.” From Catholic Culture.org

When I think of and meditate on this mystery, this feast, I always can’t help but think of Mary and her close relationship to her Son. A love from two pure souls, not smudged up by selfish hurts or striving, pure true love.

And, because it’s always about me, I think of me and my sons. I am about to take my second son up to school, to move him out of the house. My eldest has already moved back up, he left last Sunday.  And I am already starting to leak tears here and there. And it will make me cry when we have to begin our drive home again, without him. I will try not to sob (not in front of him on campus, ok? Not cool.). But I will grieve him going. I will be very happy for him to be there, but it makes me cry to let him go. The house will echo without them here.

And then, I remember, when they come back on break or I go to visit them, the electric JOY that makes the world light up and a grin break across my face and dance to my feet. And that, that feeling, that reunion is what I think about, finally, every time, on this day.

My Jon
My Chris

Because no matter how old the mom is or how old the son(s)…..that feeling surely cannot change, it hasn’t yet.

The sheer undiluted JOY that must be had at THIS reunion – when Mary is lifted to heaven, after being physically separated for so long from her only dearest Son, and His for her. Think of that glee, those grins…I don’t imagine a static statue of elegant repose and small appropriate smile on their faces. I hear and see whoops of laughter and hugs and glee and tears and grins and kisses. The best reunion of all. Glorious.

So, does the Assumption make sense? Oh yeah, to a mom, I think it makes Perfect sense. And it is a happy glorious feast!

painting by Botticini
{official busy disclaimer; much borrowed from years past, but not all…mom to eight, ’nuff said}

>St. Max, saint for modern days

>Today is the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe!

He is my son Jon’s patron and one very awesome saint.
He is a ‘modern’ saint, of the twentieth century, completely devoted to Mary and a Franciscan.

But what St. Maximilan is known for is his sacrifice, his martrydom of charity.

St. Maximilian was sent to Auschwitz Concentration camp, for being a Catholic and a priest. After ministering to his fellow prisoners during his time there, sick and hungry as the rest, Maximilian made the ultimate sacrifice: he stepped forward and volunteered to go to his death in order to spare a father of a family from this fate. St. Maximilian went to his death in a father’s place; dying after two weeks of forced starvation and ultimately, an injection of carbolic acid (and forgiving the one who gave him that shot as he was injected).

As such, not only is he a hero, among many other things, he is the patron of families, and he is the patron of addiction (the needle connection, I’m guessing, and really IMHO due to his inner core of strength and faith, something anyone prone to addiction of any sort needs to get well and be well).


We are big on family here around the coffeeblog.  We hit up St. Max for prayers for many of our friends and families who are going through different hard things but also this year for my Jon as he heads off to college and needs a strong faithful patron to also keep him in prayer.  And the prayers of a righteous man, a saint and patron of families, who knows from sacrificial living, are worth much. So, thank you St. Maximilian, for your patronage of my son, and for your prayers for so many!

Happy feast day Booboo!
St. Maximilian Kolbe, thank you for your prayers! 

Official disclaimer: Much but not all of this post is reposted from last year because things are slamming here at the coffeehouse. 

>Wordless Wednesday: saint edition

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It’s the feast of St. Clare today!

As you all know, she’s the great friend of St. Francis of Assisi, and founder of the sister order to his Franciscans: the Poor Clares.   It’s wordless wednesday, so I’ll not write much more (shock, I know)…except this quote and then prayer that sums it up from St. Clare:

“Love God, serve God, everything is in that.”

“Let us pray to God together for each other,
for, by sharing each other’s burden of charity in this way,
we shall easily fulfill the law of Christ.”

St. Clare of Assisi

The Basilica of St. Clare, Assisi 
{that’s Jon and Marta way up in the photo, tiny}

>Dia de Fiesta: Santo Inigo!

>Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola!

He is a Spanish saint and one that intrigues me, but kinds unnerves me.
Because not only is the the founder of the Jesuits, but his “Spiritual Exercises” are something that I know I should undertake, but of course, haven’t and may not ever due to my utter wimpiness.
They are rigorous to say the least, a four week program of spiritual surgery, so to speak.   I know many who have done them and say they are as difficult as reported but oh so worthwhile.  Hence, my intrigue with them but my cold feet.  Truthfully, as well, trying to gather that focused time means I have to realign the cosmos too….

But anyhow, back to our saint, he’s a biggie and he  has brought many others into the church and a life of service, not the last of which would be St. Francis Xavier and Father Pio ( a local friend), some of my favs.  

St. Ignatius was a mystic and a man of deep prayer, and his influence is still felt to this day.  He is one of the saints who did what we are all called to do: he changed the world.  He calls us all to give everything back to God himself: AMDG – “to the greater glory of God.”

Ignatius recommended this prayer:
“Receive, Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will, that you dispose of me. Give me only your love and your grace. With this I am rich enough, and I have no more to ask.”

Yeah, you see why he is compelling yet daunting. 
Right; I’ve got a loooong loong way to go.  
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

>Feast of St Martha

>Today is the Feast of St. Martha!

Which means that it is also my Marta’s feast day as well.
What a big day for her! She is also going to her freshman retreat, along w/ Hannah, today and tomorrow…I’ll post about it tomorrow.
But today is her patron’s feast day: St. Martha.

We all know the stories of St. Martha: she’s the busy, maybe pushy one.  She’s the one who loved her brother so much, she kind of hollered at Jesus, scolding him for taking so long to come to her brother’s side when he was sick and dying.  Jesus knew this family well, stayed with them frequently, and he took Martha in stride, he knew her as only Christ can, he knew her  heart.  So he reassured her and then raised Lazarus from the dead.  Well, I can only imagine that quieted her down and had her scurry to help.  But I digress…

I love St Martha for many reasons: she is much like me, very busy, sometimes losing herself in the busyness, maybe a little bossy and controlling.  (See, I told you…just like me!) She’s task oriented, but underneath it all lies a heart of love and faith.  She knew if Jesus was there, it would be ok.  She loved.  She loved her brother, she loved Jesus…and she loved by doing.

I know too, she loves my Marta, Martha.  We asked her for prayers for our discernment about bringing Marta home; we still ask for her prayers for our girl.  She did, and she does.  Our Marta is much like her, she is a doer – happiest when she is involved in DOING something and good at the domestic side of life.  She is well named.  Marta is happiest being a caretaker of sorts, as was her patron.

So today, we ask St. Martha to help us learn to serve Christ better in our service to each other, and I ask her to pray for us, and as ever,  for my Marta.

A Prayer to St. Martha
Feastday July 29th 
 
                               O blessed St. Martha, your faith led Jesus to proclaim, “I am the resurrection and the life”; 
and faith let you see beyond his humanity when you cried out, 
“Lord I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 
With firm hope you said, “I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him”,
and Jesus called your brother Lazarus back from the dead. 
With pure love for Jesus you welcomed him into your home. 

                                Friend and servant of our Saviour, I too am “troubled about many things”. 
(Pause for silent prayer.) 
Pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love, 
and that Jesus, who sat at your table, 
will hear me and grant me a place at the banquet of eternal life. 
Amen.    (Luke 10:38-42 / John 11:1-54)

>Birth of St. John the Baptist

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It’s a Solemnity!
It’s a Solemnity of a happy day: the birth of St. John the Baptist!

Now, I’ve gone over this before but a solemnity is actually a big deal feast day…not really like it sounds – solemn in the sense of sad or grim.  Rather, it’s a specially marked day to remember some of the very important figures in our faith and history.  Obviously, St. John the Baptist…he’s a biggie!

Now this also means it’s a feast day of sorts for my Jon.  You know: patron/name and so on.  No surprise then, really, that I see many overlaps in character traits between these two John’s/Jon’s.  That’s how these things seem to go.  Names somehow evolve to seem very apt.  Maybe it’s all projecting by the parents, but even so….it’s my blog and I’m the mom and I’m going with it. 

So.  Here we have a day to remember and mark: the birth of this remarkable man, the herald of Christ to come, St. John the Baptist. 

Heck, even before he was born he was jumping around and making himself known, pointing (or kicking…) toward Christ.  When Mary went to visit Elizabeth, arriving and greeting her with a big hug, John lept in Elizabeth’s womb and Elizabeth knew, deep down, that something was up.  So I’m presuming it was more than your usual kick/bump/push by the babe.  Must’a been a whopper of a flip.  Maybe a little prenatal jump for joy?  Actually yes: 

“Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed in the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:41-44
Ok, this painting is  
Visitation by Mariotto Albertinelli (1503) and I saw it in the Uffizi.
I LOVE this painting. I do.  
  

So, that’s just cool.

But, what ya gotta also think of, ok, what I think of, is that little John…he was no milquetoast.  I mean, even before he was out and squinting at the light, he was already pointing and pushing and making a bit of a ruckus.  Elizabeth, she should have sensed what was to come.  Maybe she did.  Tho, not many moms will even dare look ahead to such radical futures for their kids: heading off into the desert, scavenging for food, not wearing the nice clean linens that we got or made for them…nope, not what might have been dreamt.  But it was precisely his hardheaded radical ways that made him who he is and was.  Those very traits of fearless speaking out earned him followers and prepared the way for Christ. It was exactly like it was supposed to be.  So he got the biggest honor of all: baptizing Christ.  Whoa.  He got to take part in a miracle for all to see.  And still he was his own kind of raggedy but strong difficult stubborn self.  To the very end, even to his beheading (another vision that no mom wants to even consider, yikes).

 El Greco, you know I love his stuff….

So, for all of us, we get to think about how to be countercultural today.  How to say the truth, even if it’s hard. How to stand up for what is right, not necessarily easy.  How to stay clothed in the less than flashy skins of integrity, loyalty and humble truth.  And my Jon, he has these qualities (maybe needing some work on the humble part…he’s 18 after all….): he has deep running integrity and a radar seeking truth, he is a champion of the small and weak. 

 {Yeah, even will stand up for his sisters…go figure}

He will speak out, in the desert or in the face of the powerful.  I know he too will do great things, even if hard.  And while sometimes I might personally want to roll his head down the hall in frustration…I DO wish him a different end than that of his patron.

But today is the day to celebrate the BIRTH of St. John the Baptist, not the end.  To think of the promise that even that little baby showed and that his intuitive saintly mama knew, from the very beginning: he was special.

Happy Solemnity!

Tintoretto, 1563

>Corpus Christi

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{I posted this last  year but want to repost, since I”m traveling..and if I get it together to post fresh, well, great, and if not, I still want to mark this important day. }
 
painting by Paul Gauguin
It’s the feast of Corpus Christi: the Body of Christ.
It’s one of the greatest Mysteries of the faith, capital “M” mystery again…one of those that boggle and baffle the mind. One of those you belief or you don’t. Period.
I do.

It’s the Eucharist. The body of Christ. It’s a gift, a sacrament, it’s utterly holy and sacred and, at the same time, the most intimate thing on earth.

I can’t do this justice of course. To read more about this, with historical support, go here.
To read a good piece on how to bring together your mind, heart and senses on this, go here.

All I know is that I like thinking about connections a lot. You know that. I like that whole connected relational brought together linked adopted bonded sense in (my) life. I see it so many places that it gives me chills if I stop to think about it. And that is what I find to the utmost, mindblowing, heart zinging way in the sacrament of Communion and the Eucharist: the most intimate connection and unity that can be. Ever – in this world. And I yearn for it and reach for it and I sink into it with relief and gratitude and wallowing comfort and gratitude.
And I don’t understand it with my mind.
But my heart and soul know it’s more real than anything else.
John 6

>LIghten Up!

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It’s the Feast of St. Philip Neri!

He is a saint I should really get to know better.  Because I love to laugh and yet, too often get caught up in the to-do’s and then forget.  I forget to laugh.  And really, what a pity!

It’s too easy to think, and a common trap, that having a life of faith, trying to live a life of faith, must be so serious.  Really? Does it have to be? Well, sometimes, sure.  But always? Golly, no.  No one is going to be drawn toward any sour saints, are they? Nope.  Heck, don’t you think that God doesn’t want any sour saints either? Who would? But it’s an easy trap to fall into.  Mea culpa.

Anyhow, St. Philip Neri is a good one for reminding us that laughter is one of God’s greatest gifts to us all.  I think  you can be dead serious about what is true, even as you glory and laugh in the wonder of what that really means too.  St. Philip was very serious and devout, dedicated to his prayers, but he also had a compelling personality, loved to talk and even would have music and picnics on excursions to visit churches.  He lived in a very corrupt time; he worked hard to restore a strong spirituality by hosting “oratories,” formal talks and music that focused on spiritual topics.  Even so, he was known for  his great sense of humor and practical jokes, in addition to his gentle manner and his skill as a confessor.

He got it. St. Philip understood that you can enjoy the bounty and fun of God’s goodness, even as you live a deep and powerful life of faith.  He became known as “the apostle of Rome.” And, as that is where I am at the moment…today I will ask St. Philip Neri to say a prayer for my family here and everyone on my prayer list. 

Happy Feast Day!

Saint Philip Neri, 
we take ourselves far too seriously most of the time. 
Help us to add humor to our perspective — 
remembering always that humor is a gift from God. 
Amen

>Annunciation

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 Painting by John Collier.

It’s the Solemnity of the Annunciation.
Now you all know that this feast just resonates with me.  For me.
I wrote about some of the obvious reasons, here, last year. 
Really, I could and probably should, meditate on this feast, these images for a long time, oh…for the rest of my days.  Maybe I’d be a better person.  Surely, I’d be a better mom. Surely my faith would grow.

Because this feast is all about the letting go. 
It’s about the letting go, in blind faith…the kind of faith I can only dream of, reach toward, and pray for a glimmer. 
That kind of faith, that kind of willingness to “let go” and accept challenging, don’t know the road ahead but I’ll keep on and do my best without whining endlessly and relentlessly nagging questioning sort of faith just astounds me.  Humbles me.  Blows my mind.  Still.  Ever. 

But she did. 
Mary was a girl, a mere girl.  Not old, with decades of life to measure the probability of it turning out ok in the end, or to compare to another girl she heard of in the same spot.  She had no measuring stick but faith.  And she was able to hold her breath, think about it for a moment (Because she was not programmed like a robot, she could have said ‘no,’….Indeed, we are taught that all of creation held it’s breath.)…and say, “fiat.”
Fiat.
Ok.
I’ll do it.  “Thy will be done, not mine.”

 Painting by Henry Tanner.

Ok, right there, there it is again.  That hard stone to trip over; the one that lands me flat on my face, every time.  “Your will be done, not mine.” “Your will.”  “I’ll go with it.”
Simple, right?
Seems so. 
Should be.
But no.  Oh my, no. Not at all.

And she was surely scared, and unsure, and didn’t understand, and thought it’s impossible, c’mon.  But, somehow, her heart of hearts, her very soul twinged and twanged and she knew.  She KNEW, that this was the real deal – the realest deal.  And so she bowed her head.  She said “ok.” “Yes.” Maybe one of the most beautiful words in language, top ranks for sure:
“Fiat.”

And so, ever still, I look to her as an example of  how to do it right.
I look to her for inspiration that it can really be ok even when it seems impossible and  you just don’t know how to move ahead and you’re stepping into the dark without a light to read this new map you’ve been given.

 One of our referral pics, he was so small!

I look to this feast as a reminder and connection to my own Gabriel, my Gabriel Tariku… and how scary that was and how amazing that unknown can be.

I look to this feast, that fiat, and remember that we all get the chance, again and again, to say “Fiat.”

I see another young girl who has done that, again and again. 
And who does so, every day as she navigates a new huge world, full of wonders and hard confusing things both, struggles to learn and adapt and grieve and heal and grow and reclaim joy all at the same time. 
And I know she says “fiat.”
I think she whispers it, but oh, I know she does say it, again and again. 
And she is a little mini annunciation for me, every day. 
Will I carry her? Will I love her? Will I teach her? Will I let her teach me?
I know she says “Fiat.”
And so, so do I.  

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!

Hail Mary, full of grace
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
and blessed
is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God
Pray for us sinners
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen

>Feast of St. Agnes

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El Greco, St. Agnes.

Today is the feast of St. Agnes.
St. Agnes is a patron of many, but most especially apropos today: of young girls and also those victims of sexual assault.  Considering the news of the disaster in Haiti and the spinoff news and reality of the vulnerable children stranded by this crisis there….St. Agnes and her prayers are much needed. 

St Agnes (- 304)
Agnes was filled with the love of God from an early age, vowed herself to celibacy, and when the opportunity of martyrdom arose, she did not hide away but stepped forward and took it.

  That is really all that is known: but it is enough. We who are used to compromising with the world at every turn, and would find excuses to avoid any inconveniences that our faith might cause us, let alone martyrdom (“yes, of course I would die for my faith in principle, but wouldn’t I be able do more good in the long run if I stayed alive just now?”), should admire the simple wisdom of Agnes, realise that there are moments where compromise and moral ambiguity just will not do, and pray for the strength to live up to such moments when they happen. 
From Universalis, Commentary, Office of Readings

 St. Agnes, pray for us.
Pray for the Haitian earthquake victims, especially the children.

 

>Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

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Happy New Year!

Sounds simple, a no brainer right?
Doh….Mary gave birth to Jesus.  Yup. We’re n the midst of the whole Christmas season, surrounded by nativity scenes, Mary pregnant on the donkey, Baby Jesus in the manger….that’s the quintessential “mom” scene.
This IS one of the uber Catholic solemnities….one of the ones that cause some division.  But in my humble opinion, that division is not justified; it’s a tempest in a teapot (to use momspeak).  So, why the big deal…”Mary, Mother of God?”

Well that term took some theological argument discussion.  Ages ago, literally.  Way, way, before the “Big split (into the whole Protestant/Catholic deal).” Even way before any real divide between Eastern and Western Christianity.   Because it speaks to Jesus and his Divinity and while it seems obvious, it wasn’t so much…and you know, folks like things really pinned down officially and academically.  Hence, long ago – 431 AD – they even held a council of the bishops of the world, those who had received the faith, entrusted to them, on down in succession from the Apostles, to officially pin this all down.  Because someone was teaching that Jesus wasn’t divine from the moment of his conception or even birth, but taught that he was elevated to divinity later.   Was Jesus divine from the moment of his conception, or was he born only human?  Did Mary give birth to a human person or a divine person?  Was Mary, or was she not, in that sense, “Mother of God?”  Can we even speak those words?  Well, God chose and prepared her for Himself, from all the women of all time, to be the bearer of His Son.  And while the first person of the Trinity, God the Father is the sole source of Jesus’ divinity, from “in the beginning”, and Mary the sole source of his humanity, by the power of the Holy Spirit these two natures are inseparably, indivisibly, united in the one person Jesus Christ from the moment of His conception — thus declared the great council of Ephesus.  And as God’s Son is Divine and not only human, well, then Mary properly IS to be called the Mother of God.

The precise title “Mother of God” goes back even further, at least to the third or fourth century. In the Greek form Theotokos (God-bearer), it became the touchstone of the Church’s teaching about the Incarnation. The Council of Ephesus in 431 insisted that the holy Fathers were right in calling the holy virgin Theotokos.

Really, it just remains kind of mind blowing to me.  Mary had the choice to say, “Um, nope, not doing this, too hard, too strange…really?  Mother of God?  I don’t get it….let me think about it.”  But she didn’t.  She said “Yes.” “Fiat.”  And thus the world began to be brought back into the proper order and we were all given the best present ever.

        “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining,
               ’til He appeared, and the soul felt it’s worth”

So today I am looking at icons.  Because today, on the last day of Christmas, we celebrate the mother, the Theotokos, the “Mother of God.”  And really, icons are about the only way to begin to wrap your mind around all this.  Because who can imagine God, really?  You can’t. I can’t — not really as He is.  And as soon as you think you are…well,  you’ve fallen into presumption now, haven’t you?  So, icons are perfect for today.  They function as “little windows into heaven.”  Icons (Ikonos — Images, in Greek) are images of the true Ikon, the one who images the Father, the one who shows us the Father, the face of God, that he revealed to the world “in the fullness of time” born of a woman, of a pure and holy virgin.  Whom He loves more deeply, more perfectly than any other son loves his mother, and whom “all generations shall call blessed”.

They are not meant to be realistic or have realistic lifelike perspective.  They represent what we cannot fully see with just our own eyes and senses; they image the world beyond the veil, the divine, the eternal.  And so today I want to look at these icons and ponder them.  Ponder what it means for her to be the Mother of God, the Theotokos…what faith and trust it took to say ‘fiat’, ‘be it done unto me according to thy word.’  To contemplate the fullness of it all and take maybe one or two (or the multitude that I need) lessons from it. 

Today ends the Octave of Christmas.  The new year is launched.  It is set in motion with a remembrance of the greatest faith and hope and love.  We step into the new year on the right foot, so to speak.  Today we celebrate mom, Mary.  I like that so much.  And, it’s really no coincidence that it’s also the World Day of Peace.  Because we mom’s, we are all about peace: the seeking, the getting, the craving, the searching, the making of peace.
Peace almost always begins with the mom.

Thus, we need today’s World Day of Peace and New Year to coincide with the Solemnity of the Mother of God.  It’s a big job, a big day.  We need the the biggest hope and love of the best mother….because she brings us her Son. 

Happy New Year!
Happy Feast day!
Wishing us all a peaceful day and new year to come!

>Feast of St. John of the Cross

>

It’s the Feast of St. John of the Cross.

St. John of the Cross is one of the Doctors of the Church, a renowned Mystic, and has some of the deepest thinking and most beautiful writing of the Church.  It is no easy read however and I have only barely dipped into some of  his writings.  His most famous work is, of course, “The Dark Night of the Soul.”  I learned about him first through my love of the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, a close friend of St. John.  Together they worked to reform the Carmelite Order which had strayed from it’s founding principles of poverty and prayer.  And so they did. 

St. John knows of that tough spot, desolation, difficulty in prayer, and yet, he knows it’s bounty as well and the beauty that can be found even in that.  He writes beautifully of the call to die to one’s self.  No small feat that, but in that, in bearing life’s crosses, we become more truly us and therefore closer to God.  He also wrote that “Silence is God’s first language.”  See, so much for me to learn! That’s one of the reasons I like him. 
Here is another, a quote:

“Where there is no love, put love — and you will find love.” 
Happy Feast day!
 Icon by Lynne Taggart
 
St. John of the Cross, pray for us.

>Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

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It’s the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!
Being from the southwest, growing up in Arizona specifically, I have a special fondness for Our Lady of Guadalupe. And you know, I just like most everything about this feast day and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I love the Mexican culture, the food to celebrate, the miracles, the roses, the prayers, the colors, the music, the textiles.  What’s not to love?

The short version of Our Lady of Guadalupe is, of course, that she appeared to St. Juan Diego on his way to Mass.  She asked for a church to be built on the spot.  She asked him to ask the Bishop.  He agreed, the Bishop didn’t want to believe him.  So he kind of griped to Mary, saying that he couldn’t get the Bishop to listen and he wanted a sign..  She told Juan to gather flowers from Tepeyac Hill, (ones that weren’t indigenous and it was winter) and so he gathered the roses (that had miraculously bloomed in the winter snow) up in his cloak.  When he got to the Bishop, he spilled the roses out in the office and on his tilma (A type of cloak) was the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe!  Full wikipedia version here.

This is one of those times where once again, we see the universality of the Church.  Mary is not only our mother if you are of white european ancestry, but of course, she is mother to us all – the world over.  And in Mexico, today, you can see the festival celebrating her, complete with all the local cultural trimmings.

Coffeedoc and I went to Mexico City on his fortieth birthday, to go see the tilma for ourselves.  And you know, there was a time when part of me just kind of took the ‘folklore’ appreciation route with Our Lady of Guadalupe.  My folklore background would kick in and I’d get caught up in all the sensual aspects: the colors, textures, foods, fiestas…the layers and layers that are part of any long historical memorial.

 But, going to Mexico City, to the Basilica’s – the old and the new – well, it’s one of those things.  You go.  You see the pilgrims who have traveled there ON THEIR KNEES.  You see the thousands and thousands of milagros pinned up (Small metal tokens of thanksgiving left behind for answered prayers).  And you see the tilma.  You stand in front of the tilma, and scour it with your own eyes.  You pray. And it’s like C.S. Lewis says, to paraphrase: you either believe, or you think they are all lying (Or it’s a big scam), or that they are crazy. 

Well, I don’t think they are all lying and I don’t think that it’s a scam.  I think Our Lady of Guadalupe has made a huge difference in so many lives.  And I don’t think they are all crazy either.  Especially not after being there.  But I didn’t really ever ascribe to that one either.  I believe.  I believe Our Lady of Guadalupe is another manifestation of Our Blessed Mother.  And that like any mom, she will go to where her children are and where they need her.  And so she did. 

“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars”
Revelation 12:1 (Entrance Antiphon for Our Lady of Guadalupe)

  I recently helped Miss M, my 5th grader, learn this for a Spanish quiz at school, we prayed a spanish rosary.  So, in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe:

Ave María (Hail Mary)
Dios te salve, María. Llena eres de gracia: El Señor es contigo.
Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres. Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre: Jesús.
Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores,
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte. Amén.

>Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary
Douai, Musée de la Chartreuse

Oh, it’s a big feast today!  It’s one of those feasts: an uber Catholic one.
It’s the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation.

One of the big Marian feasts, and one that often gives many folks some consternation (from a scratch on the head to fits).  For a good explanation of it all, go here (and scroll down for all those, “What’s up with that” “How can that be?” kind of responses).  I can’t give you a great theological treatise on it.  It took brilliant theologians from the east and west to determine this one over the centuries, but they did because we are human. And our inquiring minds want to know, and puzzle and ponder.  So those who have gone before us prayed and debated and concluded.  I can say that it only makes sense to my puny brain.

For a long time, I thought that the “immaculate conception” referred to Mary’s conception of Jesus, you know, with the descent of the Holy Spirit and Gabriel and all…clean, tidy, right?  But no, it’s actually about Mary and her being preserved from the stain of original sin.  Confusing, a little, huh?  Well, this is how it parses out in my old mom brain: God himself is all love and of course, without sin.  God came to us in his son, Christ, who was also without sin (being God and all).  Since all purity and all love cannot coexist with the stain of sin, how could Christ come to us as a man, without first having a pure ‘vessel’, if you will?  Well, he couldn’t, that would not correspond with the natural/divine order.  Growing in utero is, utterly, coexisting.  So, if God cannot coexist with sin, then a human mom to be would have to be found, sinless.  And thus, since God is beyond time, he prepared Mary, {from her conception of course}, to be without sin.  Because God knew, outside of time, that Mary would be the perfect (literally and figuratively) mom for Jesus.

Now, I think that’s cool!  It makes perfect sense to me and really is one of those ‘clap your hands, I get it” kind of moments.  Yeah, it’s uber Catholic.  But hey, I love being Catholic because (well, so many reasons) its cool and rich and takes my breath away.  And of course,  I love feasts….so it’s a good day!

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

>Feast of St. Ambrose

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And not only does he have a fun cool name, he was an outstanding teacher and Bishop of the Church in the early years; elected Bishop of Milan in 340.  A wealthy politician, he ended up giving away all his material goods to the poor. 

I like him because though many thought he’d be “a player,” politically speaking, as a Bishop, he wasn’t.  At least not in the sense that was perhaps hoped for by the players of the time.  He perhaps used his political savvy, but for good.  And that is just the sort of saint we need in this duplicitous day and age of politics and media….. 

So, happy feast day, and St. Ambrose, pray for us!

>Feast Day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary

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Its the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

She is a special saint and an amazing woman. There are “Mother Teresa’s” in every generation — usually many at any given time. St. Elizabeth was one of those in her time (1207 – 1231). We’ve given our daughter SBird, St. Elizabeth as a patron and pray for her prayers and intercession for her. Today we celebrate her feast and the best way I know how is to lift from the readings of the day from the Liturgy of the Hours (with a h/t to Coffeedoc for this).

She was a daughter of the King of Hungary. She was given in marriage to Ludwig, the Landgrave of Thuringia, by whom she had three children. She frequently meditated on heavenly things and when her husband died she embraced poverty and built a hospice in which she cared for the sick herself.

Oil painting on copper by Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610)

From a letter of Conrad of Marburg, Saint Elizabeth’s spiritual director

Elizabeth recognised and loved Christ in the poor

From this time onward Elizabeth’s goodness greatly increased. She was a lifelong friend of the poor and gave herself entirely to relieving the hungry. She ordered that one of her castles should be converted into a hospital in which she gathered many of the weak and feeble. She generously gave alms to all who were in need, not only in that place but in all the territories of her husband’s empire. She spent all her own revenue from her husband’s four principalities, and finally she sold her luxurious’ possessions and rich clothes for the sake of the poor.
Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, Elizabeth went to visit the sick. She personally cared for those who were particularly repulsive; to some she gave food, to others clothing; some she carried on her own shoulders, and performed many other kindly services. Her husband, of happy memory, gladly approved of these charitable works. Finally, when her husband died, she sought the highest perfection; filled with tears, she implored me to let her beg for alms from door to door.
On Good Friday of that year, when the altars had been stripped, she laid her hands on the altar in a chapel in her own town, where she had established the Friars Minor, and before witnesses she voluntarily renounced all worldly display and everything that our Saviour in the gospel advises us to abandon. Even then she saw that she could still be distracted by the cares and worldly glory which had surrounded her while her husband was alive. Against my will she followed me to Marburg. Here in the town she built a hospice where she gathered together the weak and the feeble. There she attended the most wretched and contemptible at her own table.
Apart from those active good works, I declare before God that I have seldom seen a more contemplative woman. When she was coming from private prayer, some religious men and women often saw her face shining marvellously and light coming from her eyes like the rays of the sun.
Before her death I heard her confession. When I asked what should be done about her goods and possessions, she replied that anything which seemed to be hers belonged to the poor. She asked me to distribute everything except one worn out dress in which she wished to be buried. When all this had been decided, she received the body of our Lord. Afterward, until vespers, she spoke often of the holiest things she had heard in sermons. Then, she devoutly commended to God all who were sitting near her, and as if falling into a gentle sleep, she died.”

Happy feast day, Sbird!

St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us!

>Patron of immigrants: Feast of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

>Today is the feast of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini.
She is also known as Mother Cabrini; and a saint that is known as “Mother” is usually a very special saint indeed. Its the mom factor, they don’t throw that word around lightly, you know? Nor should they! Anyhow, Mother Cabrini is a special saint, though not as well known as many.

She is known for starting hospitals, schools and orphanages in her native Italy and then right here in America. She was sent to America by Pope Leo the 13th. And as she was born in Italy but came to live out her days in American, she is also, importantly, an immigrant. She is the first American citizen, and an immigrant to boot, to be canonized.
So, lets make a list: uber organized, holy, immigrant, strong woman in a man’s world, courageous, started orphanages, hospitals, and schools. And, last but not least, she came from a large family too. Bigger than ours even! So, how many links does that give us (by which I mean, me and my family)? I’m losing count. So, I figure she’s a sort of patron of our family and the causes that pull at our hearts….the same ones that pull at many of yours. And if that is the case for you, then have a chat with Mother Cabrini, ask her for prayers. Surely, I know, she will pray faithfully for your intentions and concerns….because she has a mom’s heart.

St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, pray for us!
Happy feast day.

>All the Saints

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The challenge of sainthood
is to go where love takes me.


Today is All Saints Day!

Another name is All Hallows Day. It follows, of course, All Hallows Eve…or, obviously, Halloween. I love that we don’t just celebrate Halloween and its not just a creepy horror fest or excuse to dress up and scarf down way too much sugar (Baby Ruth’s, Reeses, pie, oh my!) But that in actuality these are three days of remembrance.

Remembrance of what?
No, not only that you need to stay on your blood sugar meds or that there’s always tomorrow for a new diet.
Rather, its remembrance of the dead.

Its why I think the Dia de los Muertos is cool too, not creepy. Plus of course there is usually lots of food involved, especially Pan de los Muertos (Special bread), and whats not to like about that?

Its why those Dutch Veritas paintings were all the rage way back when (Ok, ok, 16 & 17 C). They were a way of reminding us that “all is vanity” in life (You know, Eccliastes and all); this life here is but a blink.

It’s remembering our dear ones who went before us, and also those who were not so dear personally perhaps, but now can be so very dear as they listen to our prayers and pray on our behalf.

Yup, I’m talking about the Saints!
We love them!

And for those who have concerns with praying to saints, I understand. But, well, here is a bit on the concept of communion of the saints. But for me, I think its one of the most cool and natural concepts of the faith and well, life in general. Because this tells us that we are connected. You all know how much I rely on those connections!

And to be connected to those who have gone before us, and who, since they no longer are bound by their human tendencies toward sin, are pure of heart and intent…to be connected to these special souls and be able to hit them up for prayers? Well, that is just too cool and a huge comfort for me.

Its a lot like asking your best girlfriend or Aunt Midge to pray for you, but knowing that the prayers will be less distracted and without any overlying layers of selfishness. For instance, “Please let Coffeemom figure this out so she will stop droning on about this, it’s making me nuts.” See, thats one kind of prayer that any earthly person might (ok, surely does) pray if I ask them to pray for me.

But we know that the saints will pray for God’s will for us, more along the lines of “O God, come to her assistance, send the graces she needs to understand your will and thus also take pity and have mercy on her best friend.” See? Much better, don’t ya think? Me too.

So, today is the day that we try to recover from All Hallows eve and the food feasting and instead feast on the deep contentment and uber coolness of knowing that the saints, both the “rock star” saints and the little known ones, will pray for us and care about our little human lives.

They’ve been there, done that, know the traps and are cheering us on our way. What’s not to like? Or celebrate? I’ll take every bit of help I can get. And, blessedly, this is real help, right now….and forever. Ah….

Photo by Richard Flynn. Saints in the cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles: Cecilia, Stephen, Casimir, Ignatius of Loyola, Frances of Rome, Bernardine of Siena, Thomas Aquinas, Katharine Drexel, John of God, Maximilian Kolbe, John Baptist de la Salle, Paul Chong Hasang, Moses the Ethiopian, Kateri Tekakwitha, Thomas More, Nicholas, Dominic, Mary Magdalen, Ann, and Joseph.

Happy All Saints Day!
I’m gonna go have another piece of pie!

>Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

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Painting by Janet McKenzie

It’s the feast of St. Teresa of Avila!
I love her. I feel she is one of my patrons due to our shared tendency toward massive headaches and migraines. Only one who has them all the time can really understand how they scramble you…and she did. So, she’s my gal!

Painting by Francois Gerard, c. 17C

But more importantly, St. Teresa of Avila is just one heck of a great saint. She is one of the three women Doctors of the Church (noting that her spiritual writings are both sound and very important, influential). For a woman of medieval times, that is no small accomplishment, not to mention: staying power! Her books such as Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection are just amazing reads. Not fast page turners, but mind blowers. You have to stop every few pages and just sort of…digest it all. And then soak it in, let it sink in….it’s great great stuff and will change your prayer life. She founded the Discalced Carmelites (Meaning “shoeless,” again, what’s not to like?) and had an ongoing friendship and correspondence with the mystic and poetically powerful St. John of the Cross {And if you want a really phenomenal book, tough, dense, but OH so worth it: read the compilation/commentary on these two together: Fire Within, by Dubay}.

But on another level, not the “resume” angle…St. Teresa of Avila appeals to me because she was first of all a real living, breathing woman. I know, they all are, doh. But what I mean is that she was a woman of opinions and ideas and kind of stubborn and pushy, even when that wasn’t always overtly sanctioned in the culture of her time. She was extremely social and loved to sit and chat and flirt even…she was quiet beautiful and knew how to use it too. She had to struggle against the urge to chat and flirt and spend too much time doing it, because she could lose afternoons to it. Sound familiar to any of you, especially you gals? Um, yeah. That stuff IS fun. Sounds pretty modern to me.

St. Teresa’s monastic cell at the Convento de la Encarnación, Ávila

And yet, even so, St. Teresa could hear in her inmost self the whisper of God who loved her as she was, more than anyone else could. And she responded, bravely, to that irresistible call. And it brought her the ecstasy of union with God in prayer. And that amazes me and intrigues me as I know firsthand how hard it is to push all those opinions and flippy chitchatty conversations out of my head to pay attention to God himself. Distraction? I’m the poster girl for it. But St. Teresa gives me hope and I have hope that she prays for me…for my attention to what is important, for responding to that call, that whisper, for my headaches, for being brave enough to listen through the din of my modern mundane life.

Sculpture by Bernini, “St. Teresa in Ecstasy”

So, happy feast day!

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

>Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

>It’s the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!

Now, you all know I love the rosary. I go in seasons of saying it faithfully and then slacking off and letting my hectic life get in the way. I think that is a common thing. However, let me say this: The day is better if I say a rosary. Even if I am distracted and rushed, it’s better if I say a rosary. I think it is the meditative aspect of it, it is a calming, deeply soothing thing. The rosary is a meditative prayer. Too often folks who don’t pray it or know how to pray it say it’s only a repetitive prayer. Well, um, yes it is repetitive. But that very repetition allows the meditation on the life of Christ and deepens it. It is a powerful prayer.

Lorenzo Lotto, “Our Lady of the Rosary”

In this prayer of the rosary we meditate deeply on the life of Christ, and ask his mother for prayers for us and our intentions, in addition to praying Christ’s prayer as well, the “Our Father.” It is a gift, this prayer. It is prayed worldwide and it is a comfort, and it teaches us to pray and meditate in order to deepen our joy. So today we celebrate the woman of this prayer, our Blessed Mother.

From the Liturgy of the Hours for today:

“Holy Mary…may all who celebrate your feastday know the help of your prayers.”

>Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

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It’s the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi!

Now St. Francis is, arguably, one of the most popular saints (no matter your denomination or even if you have any belief system at all) of all time. Period. He is, if you will, a rock star of saints. Which, yes I know, is oppositional to all that sainthood is about, but there you have it. He is. He is known and loved around the world.

But you know, my issue, and one that kind of has kept me from getting too close to St. Francis, is that he is too often sentimentalized into a sort of “saint-lite.” It seems like only the fluttery bird loving Francis is ever depicted. Churchs all over love to do the blessing of the animals in honor of St. Francis. Well, ok. I like animals too and we all know he loved them and talked to them and that’s very cool.

But really, St. Francis was a radical! He came from a very wealthy family and after living the wild life for years, to the despair of his folks, he had a radical conversion and threw it all away, literally (stripping to the skin in the public square and renouncing his inheritance…not the way I’d encourage youth to model today, but still….). He then went to devote himself to poverty and prayer and building up the Church, literally and figuratively, in joy. Even by the standards of the day, way back when, he was a holy radical. That’s the St. Francis that I like to think about, the one that draws me in and wonder, but is too often unrecognized.

Painting by Murillo, “St. Francis at Prayer”

My favorite thing about St. Francis, really, are these guys!! Also radicals for Joy, totally countercultural…… They are awesome and just light up a room when they are around. I tend to want to follow them around like a puppy. They are magnetic in their joy and just pull you to them!

Fransiscan Friars of the Renewal on tour of Ireland.

So, happy feast day!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!


>Feast of Guardian Angels

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Painting by Denice Taylor Rinks, “Guardian Angel”

Today is the Feast of the Guardian Angels.

Now some nowadays might well dismiss this as just a sentimental notion, wishful thinking, or peter pan-never grow up syndrome. Me, I just find it a comfort. I love the teaching that we each have a Guardian Angel to watch over us, I need all the help I can get and to know that my children have them as well is even more of a comfort. And yes, I believe it. I like being able to ask them for prayers and protection, I like being able to tell my kids to do so as well if they waken from a bad dream or are worried. It’s a divine comfort. Really, a Divine comfort. And such a gift.

Now angels are pure spirit so we cannot begin to know what they look like. Which I think is cool as we can imagine them in different ways. As a child we might imagine them in the more traditional or storybook images. As we age we might have very different ideas, or not. But no matter, I think the imagery and the concept and the actuality of Guardian Angels is very powerful and strikes a chord deep within us. At least, I know it does for me. We are taught as a small child in our church this simple prayer:

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

Now, I’m 47. But that can still provide some comfort on those frightening dark midnights or those worried days – to know that I am not all alone, utterly. I have a helper who is far smarter than myself. I’ll take it.


So I give you this, from the Office of Readings:

“The Lord will send his angel to accompany you and to guide you safely on your way.”

Happy Feast Day!
Guardian Angels, pray for us!

>Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux

>It’s the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux!

You all know I just love her! You all know she has heard more than one novena from me this past year (and so have you!). But you might not know that she is also a patron, we feel, of our Marta. They both have suffered from TB and from being “little and unseen.” And so we are grateful for St. Therese for her example of joy and hope in even those difficulties. We have given Marta, with her permission and understanding, the middle name of “Therese,” after this dear saint.

And just to clarify…for years I had a hard time approaching St. Therese. Her autobiography was written in the Victorian era and just TOO florid for my taste and I simply couldn’t get through it. It made me nuts and impatient and I put it down. I started wondering “Whats the fuss? Why, exactly, is she a Doctor of the Church?” Finally I read a biography of her instead, by Guy Gaucher, and that was so much better. Then I read commentaries on her life and writings and I braced myself to get break through the stylistic barrier and really read her life and words. And now I know. I know why her “little way” is so powerful; so full of hope and encouragement for each of us, for me.

And I just say this to encourage any of you who find yourself in that spot, to give her writings or the writings about her a try. The tone deafness, if you will, of our modern ear and eye, its narrow scope when judging what is and is not worthwhile….is a false constriction that forces a loss of much richness and beauty, without even realizing it. So, if she pulls at you at all…give it a try.

It’s hard to feel like you’re doing much, or even enough nowadays. Even if you are doing all you can and then some. But by refocusing, with St. Therese’s comforting encouragement and true conception of “the little way,” we (ok, me) can find value even in what seems like the most mundane of days. And man, that just gives me hope and helps me keep stepping forward.

Mother Theresa even chose St. Therese as her patron. Right there, that tells you something, eh? No surprise, a dominican puts it well:

“Her mission was in fact, just that: her testimony to hope, to the joy of faith, amidst the darkness and unbelief of the 20th century. Her little way was the tightrope of faith she walked on, through illness and obscurity, over the abyss of meaninglessness, and into the heart of God, and she did that with joy.Father Bill Garrott, OP

Happy Feast Day Marta Therese!
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us!