Sunday, June 28, 2020

Faith of our Fathers

How grateful I am for the gift of faith. It never ceases to amaze me how God works in our lives, how much He loves us even though we are terrible and are constantly offending Him. He gives us not a second, or third chance, but a thousand chances to amend our lives. He is the most loving of fathers and it is from Him we learn about fatherhood. "Abba!" we cry out. It is only in this past decade that I've been forging a relationship with our Heavenly Father and He's still not the Person I'm closest to. No, that would be Jesus--my Friend, my Savior, my King enthroned upon my heart. He came down from heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit became Incarnate! I often think on this because it's so amazing and especially in the way He came, as an Infant!  

Fathers have such an awesome responsibility because they mirror the love of our Heavenly Father. And heaven help those who don't. I find it fascinating that both of our fathers have rejected the faith they were given and so were unable to give that gift to us. Both of our mothers are holier than our fathers, but all of the children, except two, were lost before they found Christ again. My oldest brother was never separated from Jesus (he died as a child), but the next brother in line followed in our father's footsteps. But I keep praying for conversions because there's a fate worse than death and that's eternal separation from God. I am confident that Max and Dagny will keep the faith because of Michael. Deo gratias! 

Link to Faith of our Fathers sung by the Daughters of Mary. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

So Many Feasts--Nativity of John the Baptist

The time after Pentecost is punctuated with many feasts--Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, the Assumption of Mary, Christ the King, All Saints, All Holy Souls in Purgatory, and so many more...and I'm missing the wonderful High Masses that would be scheduled for some of these Feast Days. I miss choir practice. This week was to be our chant workshop in Tampa, FL with daily Masses sung, but here I am...wanting more, wanting everything.  

Our pastor gave a beautiful homily for Trinity Sunday, reminding us how God creates, unites, renews. His very nature is love and mercy. It's relational. What does the devil do? He's not made a single thing. He only damages, divides and destroys all that is good. The spirit of evil has taken hold in our country--we're acting as if everybody has the covid, we're acting as if everybody is racist, we're acting as if we can solve problems through govt. programs. No. As Alexandr Solzhenitsyn said, "The line separating good and evil passes...right through every human heart..."

I don't want everything to go back to the way it used to be, rather, I want a revival--a Christian revival. I don't want us to be driven by fear but by love. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We're either with Him or against Him--there's no sitting on the fence. 

I read this beautiful and powerful letter Ap. Vigano wrote to President Trump and agree that we are seeing the eternal battle between good and evil playing out right now. 

We need God to save us. Scripture continually reminds us to obey God's laws or else feel His righteous and divine wrath. I know. I'm a witness. I've lived a life of sin, and I deserve death, but the moment I turned away from sin and toward Him, God showered His tender mercies on me and gave me new life. And so I say, turn to Jesus! Give Him your life and He will give you a new and everlasting life in Him. I'm not very eloquent so I share instead the prayers in honor of St. John the Baptist because he prepared the way for our Lord preaching a baptism of repentance. 

 "His name is John". Pontormo, on a desco da parto, c. 1526.
The prayers are in three parts, commemorating his decision to live a life of penance, his preaching to prepare the way of the Lord, and his martyrdom. He is a prophet for all time.

V. O glorious St. John the Baptist,
R. Greatest prophet among those born of woman, * although thou wast sanctified in thy mother’s womb * and didst live a most innocent life, * nevertheless it was thy will to retire into the wilderness, * there to devote thyself to the practice of austerity and penance; * obtain for us of thy Lord the grace to be wholly detached, * at least in our hearts, * from earthly goods, * and to practice Christian mortification with interior recollection * and with the spirit of holy prayer.
V. St. John the Baptist, precursor of Christ, R. Pray for us.
V. St. John the Baptist, shining lamp of the world, R. Pray for us.
V. St. John the Baptist, angel of purity before thy birth, R. Pray for us. 

V. O most zealous Apostle,
R. Who, without working any miracle on others, * but solely by the example of thy life of penance * and the power of thy word, * didst draw after thee the multitudes, * in order to dispose them to receive the Messias worthily * and to listen to His heavenly doctrine; * grant that it may be given unto us, * by means of the example of a holy life * and the exercise of every good work, * to bring many souls to God, * but above all * those souls that are enveloped in the darkness of error and ignorance * and that are led astray by vice.
V. St. John the Baptist, intrepid preacher of truth, R. Pray for us.
V. St. John the Baptist, voice crying in the wilderness, R. Pray for us.
V. St. John the Baptist, miracle of mortification and penance, R. Pray for us. 

MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban (1667-70). 
Even now, return to Me with your whole heart. ~ Joel 2:12
V. O Martyr invincible,
R. Who, for the honor of God and the salvation of souls, * didst with firmness and constancy * withstand the impiety of Herod * even at the cost of thine own life, * and didst rebuke him openly * for his wicked and dissolute life; * by thy prayers obtain for us a heart, * brave and generous, * in order that we may overcome all human respect * and openly profess our faith * in loyal obedience to the teachings of Jesus (☨) Christ, * our divine Master.
V. St. John the Baptist, example of profound humility, R. Pray for us.
V. St. John the Baptist, great defender of holy matrimony, R. Pray for us.
V. St. John the Baptist, glorious martyr of zeal for God’s holy law, R. Pray for us.

V. O God, we rejoice at the apostolate of Saint John the Baptist, through whom we came to know our Redeemer and King. Through his intercession we implore... (Name Your Request) V. We offer this prayer to Thee (☨) God the Father, through Christ Our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God forever and ever. R. Amen.

Conclude with an Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.
V. Pray for us, Saint John the Baptist
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ
Let us pray.
O God, who hast made this day to be honorable in our eyes by the commemoration of blessed John the Baptist, grant unto Thy people the grace of spiritual joy, and direct the minds of all Thy faithful into the way of everlasting salvation through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Flannery, Gardening, and Art

The Strange Birds of Flannery O'Connor by Amy Alznauer and Ping Zhu arrived two days early! And below are my three favorite spreads!!! The writing, as I expected, is lyrical, and having read Flannery myself and visited her homes (it's funny that both Amy and I thought of it as taking pilgrimages!) I can say both the writer and illustrator have captured Flannery's sense of the strange. It's really a pity that she never wrote any children's stories because I believe children can and do appreciate honesty in stories. And Flannery could see the truth.  

Gardening update: I've been processing a lot of tomatoes--making a mild salsa, then a medium, but now that we have more peppers, I don't know...we might have to have those deadly ABTs--jalapeno peppers filled with cream cheese and wrapped with bacon :) As it is with gardening, the critters find the goodies. At first I saw only ants--they were nibbling cowpeas down to the nub but not the black beans. But a possum or raccoon is eating our tomatoes so now I pick them earlier and let them ripen on the counter. We always have a fresh salad and I love that Michael planted not just the plain greens but spicy ones like mustard and arugula. Boy do they give a zing, especially the mustard greens. I do have to check that I accidentally don't bring in a frog or a bee. The bees like to sip on the water from the rock wool. And I love our fresh okra, except every time I pick some, someone eats them before I get a chance to make bhindi bhaji. 

Here's my girl making art with the flowers from our garden. So pretty! But God's art is the most amazing! The camera doesn't do justice. Still I take pictures just to remember what a beautiful sunset I'm treated to every evening. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Countdown, Silenced, and House of Gold

Picture book writers, I highly recommend Picture Book Builders, not just to win free books or swag, though it's lovely. A couple of years ago, I won a bookmark with a moonrock for Suzanne Slade's Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon!!! I have waited and waited for my library to get a copy--I just may have to purchase a copy for them because it's a shame not to have this amazing book for all kids to read. I've read all about the Apollo missions so it will be a treat for me to read about it in Countdown. My copy finally arrived...yay! And I love that bookmark. Can you imagine? I have a piece of the moon!!! But I digress. The PBB blog is a treasure trove for learning the process behind writing, illustrating and book design--a free education. The contributors are all so generous and I love the community they've built.

Countdown is beautifully written by Suzanne Slade and accompanied with gorgeous illustrations by Thomas Gonzales and photographs from NASA. It's a testament to dreams and human ingenuity and captures a bygone era--the race to the moon. I remember my brother glued to the radio for any news of the Apollo space program back when we lived in India. Strange how the events of the past few weeks--the Coronavirus pandemic, the riots, and the SpaceX manned flight--harken back to the summer of '69 with the Hong Kong flu, riots, and Apollo 11. 

House of Gold by Bud Macfarlane felt like a prophetic book--a global shutdown (Y2K computer bug), the chaos that ensues, a nasty flu virus taking out entire families, how a few Catholic families prepare to live off the land and be a place of refuge, and the perilous journey home a man takes only to discover that what he loved is lost...but not forever. I really enjoyed it because of the Catholic perspective. Death never has the last word. Our Lord Jesus has won the victory and in Him all things are renewed.

I went back to read Conceived Without Sin, where these characters were first introduced. This one's a domestic tale, mostly about marriage, men, and fatherhood. I will never forget the brilliant scene with Buzz explaining to Sam what the sacrament of marriage ought to be--the woman is the violin, the man the violinist and the violinist must discover how to play his violin so that it resonates. Ahem, men, please take note :)    

Pierced by a Sword was the first book I received at the Catholic Writing Conference and the first that I read. The story is set in modern times with breakdown of family and society. We meet people very much like ourselves who may be practicing Catholics or lukewarm ones or with no belief in God at all and how they respond to grace. The story was both entertaining and spiritually enriching so I placed an order for the two other books in this apocalyptic series. And if you write to St. Jude Media/Catholicity, you can receive your own copies for free. If you feel you only have time to read one, I'd recommend House of Gold. I loved it best.

This last book, For the Silenced Ones, by Charisse Milan, is one I wish didn't have to be written because it's based on a true story of a woman who was abused as a child in satanic rituals. But just as I am grateful for Holocaust survivor stories, I am grateful to Charisse for having the courage to write this book. Isn't the cover arresting? The story begins with Callie, a young wife and mother, who has panic attacks, and who begins a journey of healing through forgiveness. At times, I wondered how this child survived the horror but Jesus was with her. It always reminds me that no one can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35-39).  What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? ...For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. He is with us, especially those who are the least of us. For the Silenced Ones is beautifully written and will be a blessing to many. There are many resources in the back and on her website. Thank you, Charisse, for writing this difficult book, and I pray those who need to read it will find it.