Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Feast of St. Martha
Wednesdays are a treat for me because Fr. Mitch Pacwa celebrates Mass on EWTN and he always increases my understanding of both history and Sacred Scripture. I always remember the beautiful Lenten retreat he offered on Isaiah 53. Don't ever miss the chance to learn from him. Today is the feast of St. Martha, the busy and efficient hostess who was reprimanded by Jesus because she wanted her sister, Mary to help. 40 Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” 41The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-41). Today we see Martha grow in faith. Here's the Gospel:

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

Fr. Mitch begins with the fact that God loves us, not to be confused with affection, which is a normal human response. Even the animals have affection. But love comes from God. God *is* Love. It is so great and infinite that He gives His only Son so that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish (John 3:16). Jesus loves the Father and each of us so infinitely that He goes to the Cross willingly to save us. And this is why we are able to love another. It's about offering ourselves to God and accepting Him. It's about offering ourselves to our neighbor and accepting them.

Jesus loves Martha and Mary and Lazarus. They are His friends and they love Him too. Underpinning this love is faith. And you can see how Jesus draws Martha closer in this exchange and deepens her faith. She believes Lazarus wouldn't have died if He'd been present. She believes in the resurrection (the Pharisees and Essenes do, but not the Sadducees). And when Jesus tells her HE *is* the Resurrection she professes her faith. She believes Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. The wording is very similar to Peter's confession of faith (Mt 16:15-16):

15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16* j Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood* has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18k And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19l I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 15

So if we've received the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, and if we nurture them, we continue to grow in them. But once we reach heaven, faith and hope disappear--we don't need faith because we will see God and we don't need hope because we're in heaven. Only love remains! But oh, this is just an inadequate summary. If you have a chance, listen to his homily (~12 min). 

It was this feast day that we got to attend at EWTN six years ago on our way to see my brother. How the time has flown. And how much our Lord has brought me closer to Himself. My prayer is that all who read this will be brought closer to Him too. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Congaree National Park

I love living in SC. We mostly go to the beach since we're so close to the ocean but once in a while we like venturing into the forests. Congaree is only a couple of hours away so when Dagny had a day off we went for a hike. I've not done anything strenuous for a long time and boy were my feet sore! But it was a lovely change of scenery for all of us. It's so wonderful being out in God's creation--so many marvelous things to see, sounds to hear, and the imagination to run free. What stories these trees could tell.

It's an old growth forest with some of the trees over a hundred years old. The tall cypress trees produce "knees" from the roots, probably to stabilize it given it's a floodplain. I loved listening to the hum of insects, the bird calls, the woodpecker hammering away. My favorite was listening to two baby raccoons chirp as they scuttled away from us. Soooo cute. The old growth forest is beautiful but also very buggy. I was covered from head to foot and still where my clothes stuck to me, I got dozens and dozens of mosquito bites. I look like I have the pox. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Magdalen and Me

Resurrection by Fra Angelico 1440
Yesterday was the Feast of Mary Magdalen, the Apostle to the Apostles because it was she who announced the good news to them. I love her so much and identify with her because like the Magdalen, I'm a sinner who's contrite. She is the woman whom Jesus heals of seven demons (seven deadly sins), who washes the feet of Christ with her tears and then dries them with her hair when He is dining with the Pharisees. They are surprised he'd let a woman of such ill-repute touch Him. But our Lord tells them that she has loved much. Is she the same Mary (of Bethany) who sits at Jesus's feet to listen, who breaks open a jar of costly nard to anoint our blessed Lord? I don't know. We know Jesus tells Judas the traitor to leave her alone, to let her prepare His body for burial. We do know she's the same Mary who accompanies our Lord to the Cross, and who is the first to see the risen Christ because she goes to the tomb early Sunday, while it was still dark, to anoint His Body. She's expecting to anoint a corpse, instead she sees two angels at the tomb. I love this painting by Fra Angelico because it tells the story so beautifully.   

St. John evokes the Song of Songs, which are love songs and can be very erotic but I've come to the conclusion that marital love is the perfect metaphor because there is no other equivalent to express how passionately God loves us. Think of the four stages: betrothal, wedding, consummation, birth. In the Magdalen, the conversion is complete.

I've been pondering this love for a long time, how He loved me from the beginning, how He loved me while I was still mired in sin, how He extended His Hand to me, drew me close even though I was filthy, and washed me tenderly. And no matter how often I fall, He picks me up, washes the dirt and grime off me and makes me pure again, the way I was meant to be. His love is constant, always seeking, and never satisfied until I am with Him and He in me.

Well, we finally got some time at the beach. So peaceful and beautiful, the water as warm as a bath! Deo gratias!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Obstacles, obstacles, obstacles

No beach time even though it's hot and humid. Dealing with a sick kitty--she's better now but for a while I worried she might get dehydrated and wasn't looking forward to a big vet bill. But she turned a corner with prayers to St. Francis. What joy to hear her lapping up the tuna water! I still don't know what she ingested that made her so sick, but I'm thankful to have my sweet Jules back, meowing for more tuna. Benny missed her too--he wandered about aimlessly until she got better. I felt aimless in my writing too.

Then Max sliced his finger at Dashi while making basil butter. I took him to ER to get stitched up (I didn't know you could stitch through a nail). Max was brave, but I could tell how much it hurt to get the anesthetic. Reminded me of the time Michael had a similar injury whacking a bush...and how I had to take him to ER with three little kids in tow. The anesthetic didn't take and instead of having to go through the pain again, Michael got sewn up without it. 

I couldn't get the car started after, but I kept trying and it finally roared to life. So Michael and I made plans to go to the beach the next evening--it'd be perfect after a long, hard week of work. But, no luck. There is something seriously wrong with the ignition system. So today Michael's taking it apart, trying to fix it. Prayed to St. Eligius for his intercession. Thank God for saints and handy men. I'm making good progress on my Crown of Sanctity book (it's a tome at 500+ pages but free for the kindle, folks). Ironic how much I want to oppose the Divine Will at this moment. Pray for me.  

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

I find it fascinating that the original devotees at Carmel were actually disciples of the prophets Elijah and Elisha who honored the Virgin Mother who would bear the Messiah. Once God entered time through Mary and redeemed mankind on the Cross, they became Christians. Here are the beautiful meditations from Dom Prosper for today's Feast Day. On this day in 1251 AD, she appeared to St. Simon Stock and gave him the brown scapular, which so many of us wear to remind us of our own devotion to the mother of our Lord. She is the Queen Mother and we can appeal to her for all our needs. She fights continually on our behalf to bring us to Jesus. 

She brings us Christ and we return to Him through her. St. Bernard of Clairvaux tells us how. "God has willed that we should have nothing that did not pass through the hands of Mary." Wow! All the graces we receive from God are through her. She sings the Magnificat, "My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..." I am convinced that the world will be reconciled through her to Christ, especially once I began to read some of the literature associated with her appearance to the three little children at Fatima. She appeared to them and told them to pray and fast for poor sinners.  

I have been so saddened to learn about the destruction of Christian churches and statues over the past couple of weeks in the US. I know Christians are persecuted elsewhere but I didn't expect this vandalism here. But this weekend, I was most sad to learn that the Hagia Sophia, one of the oldest churches ever built dedicated to the Wisdom of God, is going to be turned into a mosque. At least the sacred art was protected as a museum. Do take a look before it's destroyed. I'm afraid many of the churches in Europe are already museums. We must return to our Judeo-Christian roots before we lose our great heritage. 

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Summer Fun

I've been serious lately but I wanted to share with you some summer fun. The kids were  taking care of our neighbor's pets and here's an unusual one--a flying squirrel. Thankfully, they didn't lose the little fellow. They've been out with their friends and Max even got to visit with his girl. We had enjoyed her company so much when she stayed with us before Easter break, when their schoolwork went online. I loved having another daughter.

Friends of ours were giving away many books so Max carted home three boxes--mostly classics and history. Why, yes, I see some home organizing and tidying up in my very near future while the kids are still home to help :) And Dagny brought home this beautiful wedding dress. I can already picture her... and oh how we already pray for their future spouses. Sunrise, Sunset. How's your summer? 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Apocalyptic Fiction, Nonfiction, and the Saints

Today is the Feast Day of St. Maria Goretti, whom I learned about when I was a child of 8 or 9 years. My mother told me about her, how heroic she was forgiving the man who assaulted her (without telling me any of the details--I had no vocabulary for anything sexual at the time). But over the years, this little saint has accompanied me and taught me so much and how blessed were we to have had the opportunity to venerate her relics several years back. She makes an appearance in my historical, as does St. Joan of Arc and I love having their guiding hands upon my own as I dive into final revisions. As you can imagine, forgiveness is a major theme. This book and this movie remain a favorite--appropriate for kids age 10 and up. 

I just finished A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. It's in three parts--Fiat Homo, Fiat Lux, Fiat Voluntas Tua--and I enjoyed these three linked shorts tremendously. They all take place in a monastery in the American Southwest centuries after a nuclear holocaust in the 20th century. Since it was man's technology that caused the devastation, all books were destroyed. The monastery becomes a place for keeping not only church history but also a place to preserve knowledge via "booklegging" as well as the memorabilia of an engineer-turned-monk. You get to see the result of man destroying himself, his thirst for knowledge, his desire to transcend his lowliness, and the price he pays for an even greater knowledge. I love science fiction that asks big questions--man simply cannot save himself from his fallen nature. We need God.

Another book that has a feel like that of science fiction is Antichrist and the End Times by Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi. You might recall his wonderful lectures on angels and demons and living in the Divine Will  that I summarized. Well, I read this gem five years ago and am re-reading it again in light of all the crazy things happening in our world and I can't help but think that we are in for some awful trials and tribulations before the era of peace promised in the book of Revelations. This is the best book on eschatology I've ever read. Fr. Iannuzzi begins with Scripture, followed by the visions of saints and prophets, the signs of the times, the warnings and miracles and some thoughts on the final coming of Christ. Contrary to what you might think, this is NOT the end of the world. But the period of mercy is ending soon and with its end comes judgment. What is interesting is that there will be an illumination of conscience, that is, we'll see ourselves as God sees us and will have a chance to repent and come to Christ, begging forgiveness for our sins. And so I beg you to prepare yourselves, both spiritually and physically. Do not put off the good you want to do. Use your time, talents, and treasures wisely because life is short. When I started poking around the internet to see what new insights there might be, I came across Mark Mallett's blog. Wow! He, along with Daniel O'Connor (another teacher of living in the Divine Will), has made several videos on the book of Revelations. I've only seen one but they have one on each of the seven seals and they promise to be edifying. 

And so we pray: Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. Amen.