>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!

>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)

>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

>Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

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Now there are many reasons to be fond of St. Thomas Aquinas, especially here in our little/big family.  First off, of course, there is my dearest Coffeedoc, who, as we all know, is really named Thomas.  Such a great name. 

Other reasons run from loving the Dominicans, in general, and these ones, in particular…..to the fact that he is a patron of scholars and academics, he was underestimated and considered to be slow; dim even. 

 Our wonderful Nashville Dominicans….love them!

Little did his contemporaries know, he was a genius.  A future Doctor of the Church; by which I mean, he is an “authorized teacher” of the Church.   You want to learn good solid doctrine? Go read up on some St. Thomas Aquinas! Anyhow, this silent genius was also made fun of, just like so many of us, he was um, larger than the standard….and between his silence and his bulk he was often called the “Dumb Ox.”  Awwww.  That’s just mean.  And at University!  Sheesh!

Anyhow, the point being: he is a saint for us all.  If you a hyper intellectual, a struggling student, someone struggling with their excess girth, ahem, someone who is underestimated, bullied, someone trying to live a chaste life (Which we all should, but that’s another post.  And get your mind out of the gutter, “chaste” doesn’t have to mean prudish or pathetic.), teachers, Italians, aficionados of Italy….you name it.  In our house we will have a particular devotion to St. Thomas, asking him for prayers for our Buddybug as he ventures forth, all too soon, to study here for a semester. 

But really, almost any way you look at it, or him, St. Thomas Aquinas is a good egg, all around.   

St. Thomas Aquinas is a saint to learn a bit more about, and one much needed in our confused post modern times.

Happy Feast Day!
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

>Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

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 The Conversion of Saul
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
1542-45

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
Now, we all know St. Paul, he’s a big fish – so to speak.  No matter your denomination, he’s a ‘heavy hitter.’  But I kind of like that today we are not remembering just him, but specifically his conversion.  And really, this IS one of the really fascinating things about Paul, for me anyhow.  Maybe because I am SO resistant to change.  And Paul, he should be (if he isn’t already) the patron saint of change, of stubborn people, of opinionated strong-willed folks.  Oh gee, maybe he’s been one on MY patrons all along and I am only now figuring it out.  Doh!

But I digress.  Anyhow.  Paul’s conversion fascinates me.  It resonates with me.  Not because I’m all about persecuting innocent folks (I hope. Hush, Jon, I heard that!).  But rather, it’s because he was SO sure he was right, and filled with such pride and anger and intent about it all.  It was his mission to search out and imprison Christians-followers of Christ.  He HATED them.

And I find that really so intriguing, and so telling, and apropos of today.  Isn’t that just what is going on today? In our modern, oh-so-enlightened, world?  We all do the same darn thing.  Sometimes even to the same levels of persecution and self-righteous surety.  Even the hate.  But the point is just this: Saul/Paul (he was born Saul, of course, and renamed Paul by Christ at his conversion) didn’t KNOW.  He thought he knew it all, all about those Christians, all about what they were about.  But he was wrong.  He didn’t KNOW them.  His hatred of them was manufactured from his own pride and ignorance and misguided ideas.

Oh.  Ouch.

How often do I do that?  Too often.
How often does the world, the media, the shouting commentator, do that?  All the time.

And I think that maybe we all need to get knocked off our horse now and then.  I know I do.  And really, literally, Saul was KNOCKED off his horse (which I just love, such a great real life thing to happen, sorry Paul, but I do, love that).  Blinded by the light of Christ.  And that light, really SEEING him, and being called by name by him…it changed everything.  It was Saul’s conversion.  It converted his whole self, down to his very name.  And he let it.

He let it change him.

That’s the second part of this that I have to just sit down and contemplate, for the rest of  my life.  Every day.  And still it will boggle my mind.  Because isn’t that the hardest thing? Ok, for me, I think it is.  Change.  I struggle with it, all the time, every day just about.  I resist the big changes, drag my heels through them, or pretend I’m not resisting and steamroll through them to find the new (as close as possible to the old) normal to get back to my comfort zone.  I hate being out of my comfort zone.  Hate it.  But Paul embraced that, in a humbling yet total all-in way.  And in doing so, he changed the world. Whoa. That’s something for me to think about.

So, enough blathering.  Enjoy this feast day.  I think it’s a cool one, hip and modern in its own way.  Timeless.

Happy Feast of Conversion of St. Paul!
St. Paul, pray for us!

>Feast of St. John of the Cross

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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 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 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!

>Feast of St. Jerome

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Painting by El Greco, “St. Jerome, cardinal”, c. 1587-1597

Today is the feast of St. Jerome!

He is a the famous curmudgeon of the bible – by which I mean, he is a Doctor of the Church, and famous for his translation of the bible from the original Greek into the vernacular of the day: latin. He was a noted scholar with a keen mind and a sharp tongue as well as gifted in languages.

‘Saint Jerome and the Angel’ by Simon Vouet, 1625

If he was alive today he, who knows how he might have put all our instant mass media to use….he was well known for his scathing letters and commentary on all sorts of goings on in the culture and even the church at the time. He was not a mushy feel good sort of guy, he was grouchy and reportedly ill tempered and critical, with ascetic leanings. Sort of like an old, holy version of a modern day James Carville maybe, but OH so so much better.

Painting by Joos Van Cleve, “St. Jerome” c. early 16C

And that’s the thing that I tend to take away from St. Jerome. Not only is he the patron saint of librarians, students, school-kids, translators (and hey, I should be hitting him up for prayers daily, what have I been thinking?), archivists and so on. I think he just might be the ticket, the patron and go to prayer guy for grouchy critical folks like me! He shows us (ok, me) that even us grumps can get to heaven and God can work even through the grouchiness and beyond. It gives me hope, I tell ya!

Painting by La Tour, “St. Jerome”

Happy Feast Day!
St. Jerome, Pray for us!

>Feast of St. Matthew

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Painting by Caravaggio, 1602

It’s the feast of St. Matthew today!

We all know of course that St. Matthew is one of the authors, divinely inspired, of the four gospels. So, a biggie, a bona fide, called by Christ, apostle. He was one of the shocking picks of the day, a hated tax collector for the hated Romans, and yet, Christ saw his interior heart.


But, beyond even that, Matthew is a great saint to remember, oh always, as he shows us how to set aside ourselves and, in the modern ad lingo of the day, “just do it.”

Who knew, he was the first Nike athlete? Just a spiritual one! But do it, he did. When Christ called him, he didn’t dither or hedge or ask for the fine print…as you might expect from a villified tax collector. Nope, he just said, “Ok, I’m coming with you,” and he got up and went. Done.

Painting by Rembrandt, St. Matthew and the angel, 1655

St. Matthew is of course the patron of bookkeepers and accountants and tax guys, but really, maybe he should be hit up as a patron of those of us who have a hard time making decisions, or those folks who’s bumper stickers read “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” Because St. Matthew walked away from all of that, without looking back. He gives me hope because it helps me know that even those of us who get mired in the worldly cares of the day, the trap of fretting over or wishing for money/lifestyle, those who are unpopular and even scorned (rightly or wrongly)….there is hope for us all. Whew!

Etching by Jacques Callot, c 15 century

And on a personal note, I love St. Matthew for two reasons in particular. On a tiny “small world” note: he is thought to have possibly worked and lived in Ethiopia for a time (so hey, gotta love that…). And he is the patron to my dear nephew Matthew, now a big old sophomore in college out east, who doesn’t come see his aunt often enough (hint, hint Matti). But I count on him to watch over my nephew, especially as he sets forth into the world. He’s a terrific patron, and I’m glad he’s praying for my Matti.

So, happy feast day!

St. Matthew, pray for us and for our Matti-mo!

Painting by El Greco, c 1610-1614

>A dear feast: Mother Teresa!

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Today is the feast of Mother Teresa!
Oh, how I love her!!!

As it is for so many around the world, her story and life is just SO compelling to me. But Mother Teresa was no fluffy saint, of course. She did the hard work, the gritty work that most could never even imagine to try.
Whod’a thunk that even Mother Teresa could be controversial? Someone who literally changed the world for good. But even so, she is. Partly because she could be a bit difficult and would stubbornly move ahead with a project, despite all practical facets not being evident. Some have called her work and faith into question after her “dark night” was revealed. This is when she spent many years without the consolations in her prayer life that we all crave. It was a time of hanging in with her faith and prayers and work, despite the lack of sure comfort that is so often found in prayer (the consolation). Rather, she had those hard dark times of prayer where its like shouting into the dark. And even so, she kept going and held on to her faith, not letting go. This, to me, is all the more reason to marvel…..those times are when it’s so hard to hang on and not go seeking something, anything, else to provide that comfort once again.
But for me, look what this woman did. She loved, in action and emotion, the poorest of the poor. That’s a pat phrase, but in reality, it is a very tough thing to do, particularly if you are coming from a life of relative comfort and ease (and she was coming from a convent that she loved). And it was hard. She didn’t have any supernatural grace to not be repulsed by the sickness and the smells and the discomforts and difficulties. But she did them anyway. Because she was able to see Christ in them. And that perhaps, IS her grace. But that is ours for the asking as well….its just an awfully tough question to ask, eh?
All that said, she is one of my very very favorite saints (or, officially right now “Blessed”s). She has one of the faces that is just radiant with beauty. One of that that makes me exclaim “Oh, such a face!” And I love her. And I ask for her prayers, every day. And I am not graced with being able to SEE as well as she does, but some days, blessed days, I might catch a faint glimmer of what she saw.

Happy Feast Day.
Blessed Mother Teresa, pray for us!

>Feast of St. Monica

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Painting of St. Monica, by John Nava

Today is the feast of St. Monica!
Here is one of the premier examples of patience, especially for us moms.
Really, I should unofficially consider her a patron, because here is a mom who showed such patience and perseverance in prayer…and these are some of the traits (especially that whole patience thing) that I severely lack.

Painting of St. Monica, by Janet McKenzie

St. Monica, a saint from north Africa, prayed for the conversion (successfully) of her husband and his mother. But, most famously, she prayed and prayed faithfully for the conversion of her wild, wayward son, Augustine. Augustine was a son that would give any mom many sleepless nights and teary phone calls with girlfriends. And while Monica wasn’t of the phone call era, I suspect she had many a night awake fretting over her boy. He was wild and ignored her pleas, getting into all sorts of revelry (can read more about him tomorrow on his feast day!).

But Monica persevered, because this was her son, she knew the truth and she had the faith that her prayers would be answered according to God’s will….sooner or later. Well, it was something like 17 years later, but it happened. Not only did Augustine turn his life around and step back onto more solid ground, but he converted to the faith and was ordained by St. Ambrose himself.

I like to think it is in no small part due to the faithful lasting sure prayers of his mom, as well as her prayerful example and steadfast love, no matter what. She didn’t shun him. She might well have corrected him, being his mom and all (whether or not he listened)….. {I know this is an old holy card image, but it makes me laugh.
It’s St. Monica praying for St. Augustine,
but that’s the same look my boys have when I’m giving them advice…
which is surely also a scene from the life of these two!}

….but she never stopped loving him. And that is what will turn even the hardest furthest of hearts back to the truth of Real Love. So I love St Monica, and she reminds me to never give up. Ever.

Happy feast day.
St. Monica, pray for us!

>Feast day of St. Jane Francis de Chantal

>Today is the memorial of St. Jane Francis de Chantal.
Now, she is a fascinating saint to me because, for one thing, she was mother to seven children.
That’s right!
Mom to seven kids, and STILL she made it to sainthood.

I’m tellin’ ya, it gives me hope, it does.
If nothing else, here is a gal that I figure can understand me to a fair degree and I can hit up for prayers on my behalf.
We moms of big families stick together!

She was french, born into a noble family. She also married a nobleman. Which is cool in it’s own way because, once again, we see that saints can come from any circumstances; it’s the disposition of our hearts and the choices we make, not the situations we are born to that determine the outcome. I think that’s fairly encouraging! St. Jane was widowed due to a hunting accident – her husband was shot. She struggled for many years to forgive the man who killed her husband; eventually she succeeded after much prayer and counsel.

Her closest counselor, friend, confident was none other than St. Francis de Sales (another top notch fav saint, and the author of this amazing book). So, here we have St. Jane showing us the importance of true friendship and how a holy friendship can lead to amazing things. Another reason I am keen on her. Her long friendship with St. Francis led her to eventually found the order Visitation nuns. Eventually she founded eighty-five convents.A woman who can be a mom to a bunch of kids, manage her household in a holy manner, forgive the hardest things and be a long and true friend, and still then manage to found an organization that does eternal good in the world…..now there is an example!
I have much to learn from a woman like St. Jane.
She is not of this era, but I daresay that Oprah and the modern reality tv micro-celebs could take a lesson from her too!

St. Jane de Chantal, pray for us!

>Feasts and family ties

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It’s the Solemnity of St. Joseph!
Now, this is a biggie, St. Joseph is one awesome saint. Only the best would be selected to be the earthly father of Jesus, right? Right! You all know him, I hope, a holy righteous man, given the highest honor imaginable (short of mom….): being dad to Christ.

I love him for that. And I love him for the example he gives us of steadfast love and doing the right thing with compassion and honor and love.

Now, there is one little thing though, that makes me a bit nuts regarding St. Joseph…. It’s not really about St. Joseph, him, the man. Rather, its more about the titles slapped on St. Joseph.
Yeah, you guessed it. It’s an adoption thing.

St. Joseph should be the biggest patron for adoptive families going. It brings me to this nit picky pet peeve of mine: that everyone always has to clarify when they talk about him and his relationship to Jesus.

Holy Family by Raphael

Every single time I read it or hear it: “St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus” or some variant I think, “Sheesh!” Because, really……did they really think of it like that back in the day…those days? Do you think that when the women were standing around yakking and they saw Jesus playing with his pals and heard Mary call for him or Joseph, do you think they asked Jesus “where is your foster father?” NO. They said, “Hey, where’s your dad? Your mom wants him.” Of course they did. Now, I don’t mean to be irreverent…but c’mon.


It’s like where I live now, (maybe it’s everywhere, but I only now notice, so I’m calling it regional…don’t get in a snit, no offense intended, I already said it my personal pet peeve). Here, people commonly say, “That’s my stepsister” or “That’s my stepson” or “Stepmom” or whatever. And it doesn’t matter how long they’ve lived together, it could be forty years and they still have to clarify this, even in a casual social setting (I’m not talking about complicated genealogical papers here or anything that could remotely necessitate such fine tuning). That slays me! Why can’t ya just say, “That’s my sister”? I mean, really, why?

I know. This is a weirdness on my part. But every time I hear them qualify St. Joseph’s relationship to Jesus it kind of gets my back up. It’s the same as when media always have to delineate that the celebrity’s “adopted son” did this or that. It’s his kid. Period! Don’t say my kids are each other’s adoptive sister or brother, and don’t, really don’t, tell Coffeedoc that he is Gabey’s “foster father.”

I guess it’s that same prick I feel when someone asks about their “real mom”, um, me. Or even worse, “Which ones are yours?” um, let me count…yup, all of them! I know what they are getting at and that it is a fumbly thing, especially if they are not in the adoption world, but still. Me. No qualifiers required. This is not to diminish the kids’ first mom, or birth mom, or first family…but really, no qualifiers are necessary once they are in mine. No adoptive, foster, step, ya da yada whatever label is needed. They are our kids. Done deal.

Back in the day, St. Joseph’s day, to be exact… family was often built by promise. A special kind of promise, a “covenant” promise. A covenant cannot be broken. It is bigger and stronger than a meager promise or intention, it is stronger than a paper legal contract, it is a covenant, a vow before God. It is eternal. And it was a common manner of forming family. Sure some kids and folks might have just kind of been taken in and eventually been considered a part of the big extended clan. But there were also covenants that built families. And just as God made a covenant with his people, St. Joseph made a covnenant to this baby and to his wife. So he was not just a foster father…..he was his dad, here on earth.

Icon by Brother Claude Lane, O.S.B

Maybe this sets me off because it’s hard to shake off the flimsy postmodern standards and loose contracts that define family nowadays. And so too, too many tv shows of divorce court and meaningless family ties have disintegrated the meaning of the term ‘foster father’…..I can nod to that. And so too, our family ties in our modern era tend to be much more formalized on long legal papers and the term “foster” parent means something different in this usage. And I am no theologian so perhaps the finest points of this description of dear St. Joseph elude me. But, it still bugs me. So, yeah, this is an adoption rant.

Poor St. Joseph, I feel like he doesn’t get a fair shake. He cared for, loved, guarded, protected this little baby, had to flee into Egypt for pete’s sake. He lived a quiet unnoticed life. He didn’t get the kudos for raising this special child, nor was he supposed to, then. But, now, we know him for what he was: a strong, humble, holy man, who obeyed God’s call and made a covenant to be the father to this baby here on earth….a giant step out in faith. St. Joseph was Jesus’ earthly father – his dad. And he is an excellent example and intercessor for adoptive parents and families everywhere.

Happy Feast Day!
Go eat some pasta!
And for some beautiful thoughts on St. Joseph and hope,
go here, to Deacon.

St. Joseph, pray for us!

God our Father,
Creator and Ruler of the universe,
in every age you call man
to develop and use his gifts for the good of others.
With St. Joseph as our example and guide,
help us to do the work you have asked
and come to the rewards you have promised.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
New St. Joseph Weekday Missal

>Feast Day: St. Francis de Sales

>It is the feast of St. Francis de Sales!

This saint, this man has been deemed one of the Doctors of the Church, meaning one who’s writings and ideas are formational; the depth and understanding of their faith and the orthodoxy of their theology is held in highest esteem.

His book, “Introduction to the Devout Life” is a classic and a challenge – to my way of life and thinking and being. It humbles me: when I read (or reread) it, I tend to hang my head and think, “dang, right, gee whiz….oh, very good, man!” (It is initially difficult to get past his literary device of addessing his writing to “Philothea” {student} but once you do, you’re good to go/read/soak it in.) I recommend it to anyone, it’s very well worth the effort.

This saint is one of my favorite writers and a gentle soul. He was known for his gentle kind ways
and his simple clear explanations. He was great friends with another saint I love, St. Jane de Chantal. He taught her to be a saint ‘where she was’, in her station in life….she didn’t have to go be a desert hermit or do heroic acts, but rather quietly live a holy life, where she was (which is of course, SO much easier said than done!).

Although he earned degrees in both law and theology, he realized he had a vocation to the priesthood and ultmately even became Bishop of Geneva. He is the patron of writers and journalists, so he is also a timely saint, in this era of crazy media and bloggers all taking up their own little mini journals…like me. This prayer below, from his Treatise on the Love of God, shows why he is so good, and why I hang my head and see, once again, just how far I have to go. sigh.

Prayer of Dedication by St. Francis de Sales

Lord, I am yours, and I must belong to no one but you. My soul is yours, and must live only by you. My will is yours, and must love only for you. I must love you as my first cause, since I am from you. I must love you as my end and rest, since I am for you. I must love you more than my own being, since my being subsists by you. I must love you more than myself, since I am all yours and all in you. Amen.

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!

>The Holy Innocents

>There are some feast days in the Church that are hard.
I suppose they all should be in a way…in that the term “feast day” when applied to a Catholic memorial, often and traditionally (but not exclusively, see Feast of the Holy Family, above) means the day of passing from this material world into everlasting life. It means death. But it also means a step into the most real life and the one that is eternal, with no suffering and glorious true union with Christ; therefore for that person – unspeakable joy.

And that is the prelude to today. Today is a double whammy, so to speak.

First, this post, we have to talk about today’s feast day, this fourth day of Christmas: the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Or, I have to talk about it because I am out of sorts over it, in a blue funk.

I hate this feast day. It is so hard to wrap my mind around this one and it leaves me out of sorts, every year. My poor skills in communicating, much less writing coherently here, combined with the whole mystery surrounding this feast leaves me stuttering over words.

And yet, this is an important day to remember.

And as mom, it touches a very deep part of me in hurt and anger and sorrow. This part of the Mass reading for this day, it makes me cry:

Matthew 2:18
“Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation:
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled because they were no more.”

Therefore, instead of stumbling along with my utterly inadequate words, I leave you with what I turn to: art and the writings of holier, more learned people. The art is posted, a few pieces. The words are below:

Matthew 2:16
“Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.
“There is no easy explanation for suffering, least of all for the suffering of the innocent. St. Matthew’s narrative, which we read in today’s Mass, shows us the suffering, apparently useless and unjust, of some children who gave their lives for a Person and for a Truth whom they didn’t even know.”
In Conversation with God 1, Advent and Christmastide

“There is anguish for us, twenty centuries later, in thinking of the slain babies and their parents. For the babies the agony was soon over; in the next world they would come to know whom they had died to save and for all eternity would have that glory. For the parents, the pain would have lasted longer; but at death they too must have found that there was a special sense in which God was in their debt, as he had never been indebted to any. They and their children were the only ones who ever agonized in order to save God’s life”
F. J. Sheed, To Know Christ Jesus

Painting by William Holman Hunt

This feast day, I halfway want to ignore it…certainly not talk about it, explain it. Is recognizing it condoning it? That’s a nonsensical question but it springs into my head. It’s that torn jumbley feeling.

But it’s not that the Church made this stuff up, it’s not a novel or a screenplay. It’s real. It happened. It’s not the Church doing revisionist history or some horror writer hoping to make a buck. It’s biblical. It’s horror. It’s an historical event that makes us weep and cringe even today – because it is evil. It is face to face with unspeakable evil. And it is just too close for comfort. But, then again, evil usually is. That’s part of it’s whole package. It should make us shrink from it, and shake our heads without comprehending, asking “why, how” as we weep. But even the glory of Christmas, the birth of this baby, cannot be fully comprehended without the cross, and it was found and pointed to, from the very beginning. Go here, to an article by the excellent Amy Welborn for a worthwhile read on that.

“…these innocent lives bear witness to Christ who was persecuted from the time of His birth by a world which would not receive Him. It is Christ Himself who is at stake in this mass-murder of the children; already the choice, for or against Him, is put clearly before men.”
Catholic Culture.org


“Oh God, on this day, the Holy Innocents gave witness to you, not by words but by a martyr’s death. We profess our faith in words: grant that the holiness of our lives may confirm the witness of our tongues.”
Collect of the Mass

>Feast of St. Juan Diego

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It’s the feast day of Saint Juan Diego!

St. Juan Diego is the simple farmer that saw Our Lady of Guadalupe and followed her requests in simple faith. He walked fifteen miles to get to Mass, because of his love for the Eucharist and his faith. He was not a powerful man or an educated person. He was a peasant of the times, of no standing in his community. But his humble faith was true and sure and his love for the Blessed Mother helped him carry out her requests, with led to thousands of conversions of faith. He didn’t thoroughly understand the task that was being asked of him, but he was ready to do his best to try, out of faith, hope, and love.

I could learn something from him.
St. Juan Diego, pray for us!

>Feast of St. Nicholas

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Painting by Paolo Veronese

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas!
You know, Santa Claus. St. Nick.

It’s Advent! What better feast can you find in this season of preparation?

The timing here is always perfect, more so for us this year.
Miss M has been asking the classic kid question of the season: “Is Santa Clause real?”
Sigh.
“Yes. Santa Clause is St. Nicholas and he is real.”
That usually suffices for now, but as my eldest said “Ah, it’s over Mom. She knows.”
Maybe. But not enough to run with it and declare it out loud, it’s one more year of the shiver of wonder, the fading “maybe.”
So we’ll take it and run with it too.

But even so, today is the feast of the real St. Nicholas and it’s a fun thing to remember and celebrate. The most common thing to do is to set out shoes and fill them with a few gifts, sort of an early stocking but with a shoe. I always intend to do this. I have never managed it. But it sounds like fun! This site has a lot more ideas too on how to mark this day.

Painting by Otto Van Veen

So my girl might be figuring out the logistics of the secular Santa fun. But the real St. Nicholas is still worth knowing and remembering today. His greatest gift was not the legendary gifts he left in the night but his staunch defense of the Church and her teachings and his faith. And that is all the more reason to celebrate this saint, especially at this time of year.

The legend of Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Jolly Old St Nick, is great fun and we play along too. But of course it is advent and we prepare for the coming of Jesus, the incarnation and it is in this that we meet with the message of St. Nicholas and the import this season. Buddybug’s professor made a great point about this in a lecture this week, go see, a little gift of something to ponder during these cold nights leading up to Christmas.

The St. Nicholas Society has a good set of prayers for this day, here. But I’ll leave this one below, a good one to try, maybe that plus setting out some shoes and sweets….

Good St Nicholas,

Help us prepare for the miracle of the coming of Jesus.
Help us not to be blind to the gifts of getting ready.
Help us be sincere in the greetings we send and receive, with love and prayer.

Kind St. Nicholas, protect us from fatigue, stress, overspending,
yet help us to be kind and generous of heart to all,
especially those who are alone, financially poor and fearful.


May our celebration of your feast lead others to see the true meaning of giving and receiving
and guide all people to
the greatest of all gifts, Jesus Christ, prince of peace and child of Mary,
Our Lord and only Savior.


Amen.

>St. Francis Xavier: Feast Day!

>It’s the feast day of St. Francis Xavier!

Now, this is another of the saints I’m fond of, this Spanish saint is patron of African missions. He was also (in a timely link) a successful missionary in India for ten years, he loved it there. He eventually set out for the islands and China. He never made it to China, but he was an intrepid voyager, facing stormy seas and strange customs and countries. He relied on his faith and purpose, and he persevered. In doing this – persevering and respecting the foreign cultures he encountered – he not only followed God’s will for him, but pulled many to him and to God. He is considered “to have converted more people to Christianity than anyone else since St. Paul.” (see more, here).
For those homeschoolers out there, or anyone who wants an interesting, quick reading bio of this saint (and others), get Louis De Wohl’s book on St. Francis: Set All Afire.

You know I like to remember the feast days. With my daughter still in Africa, a saint that is a patron of African missions and was a courageous traveler is on top of my short list to ask for prayers: for her, for us to be together, to go get her, for all the traveling families on the road to bring their families together. That’s what St. Francis Xavier did too, just on a bigger scale.

St. Francis Xavier, pray for us!

>Feast Day: St. Theresa of the Child Jesus aka St. Therese of Lisieux

>So, today is the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux!

The novena finishes today and it’s been a nice quiet start, often early in the morning, to my days. Thinking about her and her ‘little way’ is a nice reminder to me as I prep to start the typically hectic days around here. The Deacon’s Bench speaks well about her and the constant call to conversion, here. And that is one of the important things for me about this saint: her constant reminder to struggle against our own self-ish selves. Mine. Me. That really, it’s NOT about me at all. It’s about everyone else.

From Deacon:
“Conversion isn’t a one-time event. It isn’t a moment. It is thousands of moments. It is a lifetime of moments.”
snip.
“Loving, and growing in love, is part of our lives as Catholic Christians – part of our own ongoing conversion in each. The effort is unceasing. “

Happily, I’ve been pestering her for prayers for another (ok a few) in this novena and I am sure she is praying for them too. And that is such a comfort to me and hopefully to those others who know they are specifically in this novena too.

Years ago at the National Shrine of St. Therese, near ChicagoSo today is her feast day, and I will remember her with her flower: roses. Happy Feast Day!

>Feast Day: St. Jerome

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St. Jerome, by Peter Paul Rubens

It’s the Feast of St. Jerome today.

And I don’t want to blast you all with endless saint feast days, but then again, why not? Because, well, we Catholics, we love a feast and any reason to feast! {maybe that’s just me…my wardrobe is saying, um, yeah!} Kidding, mostly….

Truly, I DO love the whole liturgical year deal. I know I’ve said it before on this blog, but it bears repeating: it just gives such a richness and texture to our year. Days of feast and fasting, seasons of expectation and celebration, and yes, days of mourning as well (lent and Easter week can be tough). But yeah, it does make my days a little richer, have a little more meaning, when I think about the saint of the day and if they have a special connection to me or my family or friends – or if they set an example worth considering (and gee whiz, they are saints, they do!).

So today is the feast of St. Jerome and he is the patron of a dear friend’s son, so a friend of ours. Happy feast day Joe!

To read more about him go here and here. And he is worth knowing a bit about, as St. Jerome was the one who translated the bible from the Hebrew into the common language of the time: Latin. Hence his translation is known as the Latin Vulgate (“vulgar” meaning common). So, clearly we are all in some debt here. He’s an important saint to know, and he is also in fact a Doctor of the Church.

St. Jerome, by Fra Filippo Lippi

I like thinking about St. Jerome because here he is, a ‘big hitter’, and yet, he is also historically known to be a cranky guy. He was known for his bad temper and stories of it abound.

And for me, on a day with little sleep (ok for many days now), up at 4:30 to give a breathing treatment to Little Man after listening to him bark cough and wheeze, that gives me comfort.
Even we cranks have the potential to grow into saints. It gives me hope.

Plus, on a personal aside (I know, the whole thing is a personal aside) I am thinking about asking for his prayers in assisting me in learning Amharic. I am dreadful at languages and I will need “the gift of tongues”, so to speak, to learn this language in preparation for our next daughter to come home!

St. Jerome, pray for us!

>Feast Day: Saint Augustine

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Image courtesy of Augnet.org

It’s the feast of Saint Augustine!

Yup, his mom’s feast day was yesterday. I think it’s nice to have them together on the calendar, fitting. And yup, yesterday I made mention of a brief bit about him: Doctor of the Church, Bishop of Hippo, born in North Africa, biracial, lived in Italy and Africa. But go to the ever interesting Anchoress, here, or here to read more, in depth.

Here’s the deal with Augustine. He is recognized by so many, not only Catholics, as an intellectual giant. He was brilliant. But the thing about Augustine that is so appealing I think, at least to me, is that he lived a real honest to goodness human life that so many of us can relate to. I mean, he was a total hedonist for a good while, he led a live that was centered in well, him, and what was fun and felt good if you didn’t like it (mom) then, that was too bad but oh well. He thought fairly well of himself, knew he was smart and thus knew better than his old mom and those stodgy fogies.

He was, well, us, me.
Only, finally, realizing the emptiness of such a life, did he bitterly cry out from the depths of his soul to God . And of course God responded. He was just waiting on him.

As St. Augustine said, “Late have I loved thee.” Ah, that’s it. That’s me. Again and again.

And the rest, is, well, history. And we are so lucky, no, not lucky, so graced to have this intelligence and tempered faith be turned in eternal service to the Church. We are all so fortunate to have his writings and prayers to learn from and soak into our hearts and souls.

“You have made us for Yourself, O God.
And our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

>Another Hero, another feast day

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Meet Edith Stein,
aka St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

She’s one of my heroes. She is an amazing woman. It’s her feast day today. Go read about her here.
She was born and raised Jewish and German, after she went to university she became an athiest. She was an amazing intellectual and scholar studying philosophy and the then current academic vogue of phenomenology. However, after reading another one of my favorites, and one of my patron saints, St. Teresa of Avila, she recognized Truth. And she converted to the Catholic church. That was a huge thing to do, in wartime Germany for a Jewish raised athiest scholar…to convert to Catholicism. Also not so popular at the time. Her mother sat shiva for her. Not only did she convert, she became a Carmelite nun, first in Cologne (where my guys, husband and big boys were able to visit her convent, so cool!) eventually ending up in Holland. However, even that wasn’t far enough from the Third Reich and eventually she was taken from her convent and transported to Auschwitz, where she died, a martyr for her faith, in the gas chambers for being both a Jew and a Catholic, a double whammy for the Nazi’s.

She’s a hero though, she spent her life searching for Truth, no matter if it was popular or vogue or presented challenges or changes. In a way it was her intellectual craving to search for Truth no matter where it took her, but of course, it was also Grace calling her to Himself.

Anyhow, I think she is a modern example of courage and strength, and of course she appeals to that part of me that connects with my Jewish grandmother and my old academic self. But mostly, she is just another strong, courageous woman for me to look to, as an example of one who stood for Truth, regardless of whether it was popular or easy. I need that example, maybe especially today.

“God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him — really rest — and start the next day as a new life.”
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross