Monday, November 25, 2019

Thanksgiving Blessings

We are so blessed in our parish with a pastor who loves beauty. Since last year we've been having more High Masses with simple Gregorian chant, about once a month, and over the course of a year, I can hear and feel the difference. We are getting better, more expressive, though we have a long way to go singing like the Benedictine or Dominican monks. Here are some pictures before and after Mass this past Friday celebrating the Feast of St. Cecelia, patron of musicians and the 10th anniversary of ordination of a visiting priest. We had FIVE priests, one deacon, and our Altar boys, yet still an intimate affair. So beautiful. We had a lovely reception afterwards and I brought home these flowers to enjoy. A very Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving to you and all yours.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Notes from the 7th Marian Eucharistic Conference

It just keeps getting better and better. Michael hasn't missed a single one and I won't either unless I'm invited to YALLFest. It's always the same weekend in Charleston as the ME conference in Greenville. There's just no contest. I missed Kate diCamillo though.

Friday afternoon, we went on the BMW Factory Tour. So fascinating to see how beautifully automated the process is. This is the final assembly for all the X-models and they are shipped all over the world. Every car is made to order. We are hoping our minivan lasts a few more years but our next car will either be a BMW or Volvo that's made in SC. Loved seeing all the old cars. The Isetta made me laugh--I cannot even imagine Michael trying to fit in that little bubble of a car. But we all begin with our creations somewhere. Speaking of, one of the best car movies is Tucker.

Next, as is our tradition, we went to Swad--a very homey South Indian restaurant. It's all vegetarian and delicious. Click on the link for great pictures (is it food porn if you salivate at the sight of it?)

Ah, now to the conference. It started with Mass on Nov. 9th, which is the Feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica (the Pope's local parish). It was also our 7th anniversary of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus so it was extra-special. Fr. Don Calloway gave a beautiful homily on imitating our Lord on His zeal for His Father's house. In this picture He expresses righteous anger over what's happening in the temple. He cleanses it. We hear a lot about dialogue, accompaniment and building bridges, but this isn't the time for it. We should not dialogue with falsehood. We should not accompany people when they choose to remain in sin. It is time to blow up bridges. Do not tolerate evil. Fight for truth. He reminded us that Sister Lucia warned us that the final battle will be over marriage and family

I've read briefly about Fr. Calloway's conversion but having him deliver it in person is GOLD. Can you spare an hour? It's riveting. From drug addiction, promiscuity, a life of crime, our Lady brings him to Jesus. Miracle upon miracle!!! It's a modern-day story of hope and mercy. Fr. Calloway makes a wonderful imitation of Filipino women. Everybody should have one as a friend. I am so blessed to have several, one in heaven, Liberty. At the conference I was hoping he'd have copies of his newest book, Consecration to St. Joseph, but it's at the printing press. It's shocking that in the 2,000 year history of the church, we've not had this devotion. Privately yes, like St. Teresa de Avila did, but not publicly. But I'm beginning to see that certain devotions evolve when they are most needed. God's timing is always perfect. With the horrors of the 20th century, we received the Divine Mercy. To combat the darkness, we received the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. St. Joseph, terror of demons, pray for us.

As you can imagine, Fr. Calloway has a great devotion to Mary and praying the rosary, which is simply the Word of God, and a sword. We are the Church Militant here on earth and the rosary is a powerful weapon. He told us the story of St. Dominic. When his mother was pregnant with him, she had a vision of a dog leaping from her womb with a flaming torch and who ran around the world lighting the world on fire. The rosary was given to St. Dominic and his order of preachers is called Dominicans (Domini canis, dogs of God) and they spread the Gospel through the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries. How is it a weapon? It has changed the course of history. Consider the battle of Lepanto. The Christian army was seriously outnumbered by the invading Muslim army. Yet, we won, by the power of the rosary. It saved Western civilization. And there were great missionaries who brought the Catholic faith to the East and the Americas, while Europe was losing its faith due to corruption in the church. More recently, it's the rosary that helped free the girls and women kidnapped by Boko Haram. He told us the story of Bartolo Longo, a Satanist who later renounced Satan and became a Catholic priest. I love Fr. Calloway's book, 26 Champions of the Rosary. It has a brief history of the rosary and what a powerful weapon it is in our spiritual battle. Wade Menezes (he has a most beautiful singing voice and I love that he encouraged the choir to sing the ordinary in Latin) spoke about the forgotten doctrine of the Four Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven, Hell. It is such a good book we bought multiple copies to share with our parents. Plan A for all of us is heaven! Plan B is purgatory, where we'll be purified of the last attachments to sin and then onto heaven. Hell isn't part of God's plan but it's something we choose. We have free will. Do not reject God's mercy. Some great quotes: 

Let us not forget Christ's first coming so that we do not regret His second. St. Augustine
What the world lacks today are seekers of Truth. Pope Em. Benedict XVI
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus
Do not accept anything as truth without love and do not accept anything as love without truth. One without the other is a destructive lie. St. Edith Stein
Truth is a relationship with a Divine Person. Whoever is seeking Truth is seeking God. St. Edith Stein (I need to read her books)
Truth can be assaulted but never falsified or defeated. St. Boniface
You shall know the truth and it shall make you very odd. Flannery O'Connor
Truth exists; the Incarnation happened. Dr. Carroll (founder of Christendom College)
We are living in a day and age that is making great saints. Msgr. Charles Pope (wonderful priest whom I discovered during RCIA and who answered many, many questions on the ADW blog and who continues to edify).

Fr. Wade mentioned the pattern of trials in the Church that occurs in 500-year intervals. The first 500 years, there were the great Christological/Gnostic heresies. Is Jesus God? The second 500 years brought the great schism between East (Constantinople/now Istanbul) and West (Rome) over the Pope's jurisdiction over the Eastern Bishops, along with the rise of Islam. There was also the theological debate about the Holy Spirit. The third 500 years began with the Reformation. Luther was right; the Church needed to reform its corrupt practices but instead of working from within to restore it, he broke away, resulting in an ever-splintering of Christians. Now everybody is free to interpret the Bible as he or she wishes and this is the source of confusion and disagreements and disunity. Oh, may the sad divisions cease. We are entering another great trial with the ideas of secular humanism and relativism that oppose God the Father, the Creator. There are more Nones (people who have no religious affiliation in the US and Western Europe) than ever before; there are more abortions (to the tune of a billion and counting) and "mercy" killings than ever before; and marriage is no longer considered sacred covenant between a man and a woman. Christian marriage imitates the Holy Trinity; we become co-creators with God, the marital embrace producing another person. And a baby is either male or female. What else is left to oppose? Both Fr. Dwight Longenecker and Daniel Pentimone have good articles on this topic. 

One thing I know: the gates of hell will not prevail. The Church will exist until the end of time. And we shall all be united in our belief in the Lord Jesus, one bread, one body.  There's the famous story of Napoleon telling the imprisoned Pope Pius IX that he, Napoleon will destroy the Church and the Pope just laughed and told him: we've been trying for the past 1,800 years and haven't succeeded, and neither will Napoleon. It is a pity that that there are so many scandals in the church but it's better they are exposed, brought to light, so the church can be cleansed.

Fr. Wade reminded us that a priest is a marked man. Pray for them. The devil likes to attack priests because without the priest there is no Holy Eucharist and without it, no Real Presence, no Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  

Catholicism has three foundation--Scripture, Tradition, Magesterium (which is the teaching authority). If you remove one of the legs, you fall. 

Fr. Chris Alar went through the Mass and how Scriptural it is. The first Mass was at the Last Supper in the upper room and consummated on the Cross at Calvary. I urge all of you to read The Lamb's Supper: the Mass as Heaven on Earth and by Scott Hahn and it will whet your appetite for The Fourth Cup and Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist because he explains Scripture so well. Mass is truly heaven on earth, the most beautiful thing. 

Our guardian angels are present at Mass, uniting our prayers to those of the priest, who is now in persona Christi. We are essentially at Calvary, where God the Son makes atonement for all of us (yes, every human being was redeemed except for Himself) to God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit. It blows my mind! And at the consecration, that little circle of Bread is Jesus Himself, Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity. We receive Jesus--the Way, the Truth, and the Life! We receive Him in the Word, in the Spirit, and His Body. Scientific analysis of Eucharistic miracles show that what we have is human heart tissue under duress with a blood type of AB and no Y chromosome.

Fr. Chris mentioned a very interesting story from a mystic, Maria Simma, who had visions/visitations from holy souls in purgatory asking for her prayers and sacrifices. They told her that Communion in the hand is offensive to God and the bishops who promoted this will remain in purgatory until their dioceses rescind this practice. Wow! In most countries, you receive Holy Communion on the tongue; only the priest and deacons (whose hands are holy and anointed) are allowed to touch the Blessed Sacrament. In the US it is common to have Communion in the hand and lay Eucharistic ministers to distribute it. And I think the reason so few Catholics believe in the Real Presence is because we are not practicing the faith as we should. We are body and soul and our actions reflect what's in our hearts. 

I've saved the funniest for last. It was such a great joy to listen Dr. Ray Guarendi in person. He's a husband and father to ten adopted children. He's also a clinical psychologist and has probably the best books on raising kids. Good Discipline, Great Teens saved me from much frustration. And no, I did not lower my standards. Well, maybe a little. At least they're not doing drugs, right? Dr. Ray said this is one of the first things he hears from parents we've sunk so low in our values. I told him he's the reason I didn't throttle my kids. We went through some rough times when they were 16/17 years old, wanting to be independent, free of us. I think God gave us the teenage years so that the separation is easier :) 

He said, "One of my kids said, 'I don't like you'. So what? I stopped liking you a year ago. Or so what? I have 5 or 6 who do like me." All joking aside, parenting is getting more and more difficult. I see it as the problem of absent fathers or fathers who abdicated their role as heads of household. So women tend to be the lead authorities at home. Dr. Ray admonishes the men for being too relaxed. He said to get in there and protect your wife. I am so thankful that Michael has stepped in to discipline the children, especially during the teenage years. 

Today parents ask, "Is this normal?" That's fine but they really should be asking, "Is this right?" He has many good ideas but the parents have to have the will to implement changes, especially when it comes to discipline. When I was growing up, I would never have dreamed of speaking to my mother the way my children have spoken to me. I used to say as a child that I would never do X, Y, Z to my kids but the older I got, I found myself agreeing with my mother's wisdom. Disobedience was swiftly punished. Dr. Ray said that not a single one of his ten children is stronger-willed than either him or his wife. It's all about the perception of authority. 

Right now, the biggest danger to young people is the toxic culture. More and more young people are confused about who they are (male or female) and parents aren't using common sense. It's all about affirmation and self-esteem now but it is insanity to affirm that which is not true. He said, just as an anorexic doesn't see herself the way she is, so it is with gender dysphoria. You wouldn't staple a kid's stomach--that'd be malpractice. Yet, doctors are prescribing puberty-blocking drugs and removing breasts from women who think they are men. How is this not malpractice? The vast majority (90%) of children with gender confusion will revert to their own sex at the onset of puberty. Guard and protect your kids from this dangerous ideology, that you are whatever you think you are. 

Dr. Ray is a revert to the Catholic faith. He wasn't mad; he simply drifted away. He said when people are mad, it's always over the pelvic issues (abortion, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, contraception) and never over taking care of the poor. He was in an Evangelical churches in his 30s but had a very difficult time reconciling the numerous different denominations, who disagreed on pretty important things. If they're all being guided by the Holy Spirit, who's right? People say, we all agree on the basics. But what are the basics? Infant baptism? Sanctity? Once saved, always saved? He said Protestants had really good sound bytes. Catholics need better marketing. Pete's got the Seat. The Host is the Most. Martin Luther was the first person to disagree about which books should be in the Bible. It's hard to imagine the Holy Spirit being erroneous for the first 1,500 years of Christianity. The early Christians baptized babies, prayed for the dead, believed that the consecrated Host is the Body of Christ. St. Ignatius knew St. John the Apostle! Everything the Protestants said the Catholics added was in the writings of the early Church Fathers. 

St. John Henry Newman, canonized Oct. 13th of this year, said that to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.

He said what really convinced him about the truth of Catholicity was the debate on contraception. It was the 1960s and experts were saying there were too many people. So there was a lot of pressure on the Catholic Church to go with the thinking of this age. So the Pope got a committee to study it. They all recommended contraception. However, it goes against the teaching and you cannot teach error (the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error--hey, if the Protestants can have the Holy Spirit guiding them, then so can we, no?). The pope said NO. He made dire predictions in Humanae Vitae and they've all come true. But what the pope and scientists didn't know at the time is that the birth control pill is also a very early abortifacient. But God knew. When the research came out Dr. Ray realized that the Holy Spirit indeed protected the Magesterium from teaching error.    

He encouraged parents not to beat themselves up if their children leave the faith. The tendency is to blame yourself. He said, "I have 10 kids. Some will serve the church. Some will serve time. Some will go to Penn State. Some will go to the state penn." He reminded us that even the God-man could not get people to follow Him. "You think you can do better? Stop. Your job is to raise the children. You are not their Savior."

Here are a couple of funny marriage stories for sticking with me for this long post: A woman was brought to court for stealing a can of peaches. The judge asked how many peaches were there? She said, 12. She was given a sentence of 12 days, one for each peach. The husband piped up, "She also stole a can of peas."

Uncle Guiseppe was celebrating his 48th anniversary. What's the secret, many asked. "Oh you do nice things. I took her to Italy for our 25th anniversary." What will you do for your 50th? "I'll bring her back!"

But it is always so nice to come home, and to such bounty! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Picture Books to Delight

 I am soooo thankful for all the wonderful books in my life and the people who write them. I picked up Thanku: Poems of Gratitude edited by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Marlena Myles at the Carolinas SCBWI. What a delight to read so many of my favorite writers in this anthology. Both Becky Shillington and Megan Hoyt signed my copy. Aren't the math poems brilliant? And Megan's biography on St. Hildegard is beautifully written and illustrated. 

And at the end of the book, there's a section on poetic forms and literary devices--great for home or classroom use. Since gratitude is my first emotion upon waking, this is a book I'll reach for again and again. Thanku, indeed! 

I went to Ben Pogue's book launch party on Daniel Island and had to have a copy of A Walk Along the Sea after I saw the gorgeous illustrations by Johanna Hughes. It's a lovely book, sure to become a family keepsake. We have so many wonderful memories of walking along the beach with our children, collecting shells, playing in the waves, or just sitting and enjoying the sunset. 

I love living in Charleston! It's so great to be a tourist in your hometown and Very Charleston: A Celebration of History, Culture, and Lowcountry Charm by Diana Hollingsworth Gessler is another keepsake/reference book. 

You're welcome!