You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2009.

Apologies for the lack of posting. I have been running on fumes for the last month.

Fortunately, I’m off to Sarasota, Florida tomorrow morning to vacation with my parents! I am sooooo ready for some rest and relaxation!

I will be back next Saturday, 5 September.

I do have some posts in mind that will hopefully come together by then, including some more Rosary meditations.

[UPDATE] I’m baaaack! Vacation was wonderful, and I’m so glad I got time to be with my parents, sister, and bro-in-law.  But I have to say I’m glad to be back home, with the cats and my home city where I know where everything is. Thanks for your well wishes!  :D

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Recently, my ring broke very unexpectedly.  It was the only ring I wore.  Silver with a mystic fire topaz.  This one.

I’d bought it for myself shortly after my fiancé, Patrick, died.  I’d wanted a wedding ring just like it.  At the time, I fancied it helped keep my bond with him alive and “real.”  But it was just a ring I’d bought for myself.  And I wore that ring through some incredibly brutal times.

I was sad when it broke, but then I realized that compared to the sadness I’d come through already, with that ring on my finger, it was as nothing.  In fact, I’ve come to see it as a kind of release, a liberation.  As if my ring were saying, “I belong to that time… but you do not.  I’ve accompanied you far enough.  You should go on ahead now.  Find a new ring to go with you.”

It reminded me of a very vivid dream I had one night a few years ago.  I was sitting next to Patrick.  It seemed we were up on a high cliff, overlooking a sea.  He was telling me that our ways must part and we must go on our own ways.  He said there were other people who needed my love, and I must go to them and not linger near the past any more.  It was a sweet, gentle, simply truthful scene.

I felt a definite breaking off, a definite separation.  But it was a natural break, not a painful, jarring one.  It wasn’t a complete destruction of the past–nothing can ever destroy the time we had together.  It just shrank to a broken shard that I could carry around for remembrance, but not enter back into.

Sort of like the piece of ring I still have lying on the table.  I’ll probably keep it, at least for a while.  I still admire it.  But I won’t be wearing it any more.  I won’t be having it repaired.  I’m going to let it stay broken.  And get a new ring for this new time in my life.

I’m thinking about a deep red garnet.  It can remind me of the Precious Blood of Christ that has purchased my new lease on life–not only this life, but the one to come.  Maybe this one.

Or perhaps a lovely color-changing alexandrite to remind me of life’s transience?  Perhaps this one?

What do you think?  Are there any gemstones that have special significance in Catholic tradition?

Via Catholic World News, I found the USCCB’s newly-launched site that introduces the new English translation of the Roman Missal!

Among other things, they provide a nice summary of changes in the text.

“Consubstantial” here we come!  :D

Well… eventually.  It’s still not clear when the new translation will actually be implemented.  You know it can’t happen quickly enough for me!  But at least the text is becoming more accessible and people can start familiarizing themselves with it.  I can’t imagine anybody not being moved by the new language, once they get familiar with it.

Project 2996 is an online volunteer project to remember and pay tribute to each of the 2996 innocent people who lost their lives on 9/11.

The project for this year needs lots of volunteers, so please consider signing up!  Here’s more information from the project blog:

On September 11, 2009 the participants of Project 2,996 will join in a massive blogburst. With enough participants I hope we can flood the blogosphere and the internet with the names faces and stories of the 2,996 people who were murdered for doing nothing more than living their daily lives.

If you’d like to participate, please sign up below.

  • If you’d like to volunteer to write a tribute on and post it to your own blog or website on 9/11/09, please be sure to include the URL of your site, and in the comment section tell us that you’d like to write a tribute.
  • If you don’t have a website but would still like to participate in Project 2,996, go ahead and sign up and I’ll send you updates about our progress. But if you don’t want to write a tribute please don’t enter your URL.

Like the first year, I’ll assign a random 9/11 victim to each person who wants to write a tribute. But unlike years past you probably won’t be assigned a victim right away. To cut down on on the craziness behind the scenes I’ll be assigning names in bulk along the way.

I have signed up for this year and look forward to it.  It is an honor and privilege to remember those who have died.

I wrote a tribute for a fallen hero in 2006.  Read it here.

Thank you.

A kind reader and correspondent of mine, Mark at Joe versus the Volcano, has encouraged me to read the work of the great 19th-20th century Dominican theologian, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP. I’ve slowly and gradually begun to read his The Three Ages of the Interior Life, which is available online.

Well, actually, I’ve only just begun reading the introduction–but have already have found lots to think about! Below is an excerpt from the 2nd section of the intro, called: “The Question of the One Thing Necessary at the Present Time.” (The “one thing necessary”–a phrase Christ uses with Martha and Mary in Luke 10:42–is the interior life, which Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange says “consists in hearing the word of God and living by it”; “the life of the soul with God”).

The “present time” for Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange when he was writing this work was the late 1930s. As we know, Europe was approaching what was to be a horrific catastrophe. However, as I read, I kept thinking to myself, “My goodness, this could have been written this morning!”

This section caught my attention by its talk of “the seriousness of life.”  I’m a pretty serious person.  I think one thing that defines a mature adult human being is a certain awareness and observance of the gravitas of life–and certainly the gravitas of religion and the spiritual life.  I would consider being serious a virtue.  Of course, I’ve also been accused of being a dour, joyless, uptight, crotchety hag.  I’m not sure when that became the definition of “serious.” Is it really so awful to ponder what is most important and deserving of devotion?

Without further ado, here is Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, with some reflections of mine interspersed.

Without God, the seriousness of life gets out of focus. If religion is no longer a grave matter but something to smile at, then the serious element in life must be sought elsewhere. Some place it, or pretend to place it, in science or in social activity; they devote themselves religiously to the search for scientific truth or to the establishment of justice between classes or peoples. After a while they are forced to perceive that they have ended in fearful disorder and that the relations between individuals and nations become more and more difficult, if not impossible. As St. Augustine and St. Thomas have said, it is evident that the same material goods, as opposed to those of the spirit, cannot at one and the same time belong integrally to several persons. The same house, the same land, cannot simultaneously belong wholly to several men, nor the same territory to several nations. As a result, interests conflict when man feverishly makes these lesser goods his last end.

I think of the modern Church as I’ve found it so often today: entertaining liturgy, no reverence at all, no talk of the Cross of Christ nor of the need for us to carry our own crosses, no talk of sin and repentance, no Confession lines, no whole-hearted devotion.  Replacing all of that tends to be so-called “social justice” activism that is divorced in some way (or in many ways) from Catholic moral teaching and obedience to the Church Magisterium–most often at the expense of unborn children… because what are they going to do, fight back?

I think also of the dreadful insistence on “tolerance” which actually means, “Hey, Catholic Church, you have to tolerate me no matter what I say or do or think or believe or how I define ‘Catholic,’ and if you don’t then I get to scream at you for being a bunch of backward, intolerant bigots.  I mean, how dare you stand up for absolute truth and for your own sense of identity!  And if you even think the word ‘excommunication,’ you’ll only prove yourselves to be medieval fossils.”

Related to the insistence on tolerance are the insistence on relativism and an indifferentism that favors just about everything and everybody except the Church.

The Church is discriminated against in the name of non-discrimination.  The Church is wronged in the name of justice.  And it’s done most often by people within the Church–it is what they have chosen as their serious mission in place of a serious Catholic faith.  Like the material things Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange mentions, the Church as a human, earthly institution, cannot belong to more than one group of persons at the same time.  It either belongs to Catholics, or it belongs to non-Catholics (even if they call themselves Catholics).  Until it belongs either to one or the other, interior strife and chaos run rampant.  There is nothing but division.

It is very ironic that dissenters scoff at the notion of the “institutional Church” (for them, a code phrase for the real, faithful, orthodox Church they despise).  In reality, they are seeking to steal the institution for themselves, to ensconce themselves as the institution, as the face and the voice of the Church on earth.  To once and for all have their definition of “Catholic” win out and be universally accepted.  “God?  Bishops?  Ordained priests?  Pious laypeople?  Who needs them?  We are church. [sic]  Like it or leave.”

One often feels that they have very nearly succeeded today.  “Oh, yes, there are still a few people who blubber over crucifixion, obey the pope, consider abortion the greatest evil ever, hate sex, think only men can be priests, and pray the Rosary.  But they’re just crazy extremists.  Pay them no mind.”

St. Augustine, on the other hand, insists on the fact that the same spiritual goods can belong simultaneously and integrally to all and to each individual in particular. Without doing harm to another, we can fully possess the same truth, the same virtue, the same God. This is why our Lord says to us: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and His justice; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Failure to hearken to this lesson, is to work at one’s destruction and to verify once more the words of the Psalmist: “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.”

True unity, true justice, true tolerance can only exist where there are shared spiritual goods.  In contrast to the false tolerance mentioned above, the Church embraces a true tolerance based on shared beliefs and absolute truth.  There is a genuine diversity within the Church.  In addition to the various liturgical traditions, there are individual people of all races, nationalities, ages, states in life, political viewpoints, socio-economic status, sexual orientation.  What binds us together as one Church is our belief in and devotion to “the same truth, the same virtue, the same God.”  What unifies us is our common goal of worshiping, knowing, loving, and serving God and seeking the kingdom of God.

This common ground is built into the Catholic Church via Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the Magisterium, and of course the Holy Spirit’s rule and the discipline of infallibility He exerts over our human leaders where the faith and morals of the Church are concerned.  When this spiritual common ground is abandoned and Catholicism is put up for grabs and torn to shreds like a piece of meat by various contenders… when the spiritual common ground ceases to be the most important, most serious part… then we get the chaos described above.


We conclude logically that religion can give an efficacious and truly realistic answer to the great modern problems only if it is a religion that is profoundly lived, not simply a superficial and cheap religion made up of some vocal prayers and some ceremonies in which religious art has more place than true piety. As a matter of fact, no religion that is profoundly lived is without an interior life, without that intimate and frequent conversation which we have not only with ourselves but with God.

What comes to mind here is the sometimes hotly-debated notion of “active participation” in the Mass by the laity.  Some claim that the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite by its nature engenders active participation, as opposed to the Extraordinary Form, which by its nature stifles active participation.  This claim is only true if “active participation” means exterior actions, such as speaking words and singing songs and shaking hands with your pew-mates.  Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange is saying that such exterior actions by themselves are meaningless, “superficial and cheap.”  They do not by themselves constitute “a religion profoundly lived.”  They may or may not be an indication of a religion profoundly lived.  What constitutes a religion profoundly lived is the interior life.

In my experience, both forms of the Latin Rite can inspire, foster, and deepen the interior life.  Both forms can also stifle it.  The difference lies not so much in the liturgies themselves.  The difference lies chiefly within each and every one of us.  How willing are we to dedicate ourselves body and soul, exteriorly and interiorly, to worshiping God?  That is, how serious are we about worshiping God?  If we worship half-heartedly, lazily, and without seriousness, which liturgy is used at the Mass isn’t going to matter one bit!

This is what it comes down to, dear ones: It comes down to each of us asking ourselves questions.  How seriously do I myself take practicing the Catholic faith?  How seriously do I take God?  How seriously do I take the Mass?  How seriously do I take orthodoxy?  How seriously do I take the institution of the Church?  How seriously do I take the tradition that has been handed down by the Holy Spirit through men?  How seriously do I take unity with my fellow Catholics?

We all take things seriously.  Our souls are driven by meaning, purpose, and importance.  We either take the truly important things seriously (which I think happens only when we take a serious attitude toward life in general), or we take lesser and even foolish things seriously.  Such as flawed notions of tolerance, for example.

Let’s get serious and make the right choices.

Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan recently spoke to the Catholic News Agency about challenges facing the Church in the U.S.

Notice what is the first challenge he mentions:  instability of marriage and family.

“That’s where we have the real vocation crisis,” he remarked, noting that “only 50% of our Catholic young people are getting married.”

“We have a vocation crisis to life-long, life-giving, loving, faithful marriage.  If we take care of that one, we’ll have all the priests and nuns we need for the church,” Dolan said.

I just want to say thank you and amen for shining a spotlight on the crisis of marriage in the Church and noting the relationship between the vocation to marriage and religious vocations.

I’m not sure where that 50% statistic comes from or who it includes.  I’m sure some of that 50% are entirely rejecting the Church’s teachings on sex, marriage, and family in favor of the secular world’s Unholy Trinity of fornication, cohabitation, and artificial contraception.  Some have probably been traumatized by their parents’ divorces and see marriage as something doomed to painful, life-shattering failure.  Some are probably just too immature to think about things like commitment and responsibility.  Some my age have already been married and divorced.

And then a small number of them are probably people like me: faithful Catholics who honor the holy vocation to marriage and indeed desire more than anything to fulfill it–but find it nearly impossible to meet eligible people who would make suitable spouses.  That is, people who actually share our values and beliefs.

In any case, the state of marriage and family within the Catholic Church is pretty much as messed up as in the secular world.  And our bishops and priests don’t talk about it nearly enough.  We need a major wake-up call.  Without strong marriages and families, we’re soon going to be lacking more than religious vocations.  We’re going to be lacking Catholics, period.

On a somewhat related note, I’m very close to signing on with Ave Maria Singles.  It seems to be the best hope for unmarried Catholics who are actually faithful to the Church and actually want to get married and raise faithful Catholic families.  The more I think about it and hear about it, the more I am drawn to it.

AssumptionA happy and blessed Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to one and all!  This beautiful feast day celebrates one of God’s pledges to all humankind of our own future glory if we remain faithful to Him and seek His kingdom.

Mary was the first person to receive the salvation of Christ, and we have followed her there.

Mary was the first to enter into the mystery of His incarnation, and we have followed her there.

Mary was the first ordinary human being to enter body and soul into Heaven, and we shall follow her there one day.

I love these stanzas from a traditional hymn:

Death, once the wages owed to sin,
In its defeat deserteth thee;
Thou, consort of thy dearest Son,
In body to the stars art raised.

Higher, resplendent, glorious,
Woman most perfect doth ascend:
Our human nature doth in thee
The peak of every beauty reach.

O Queen triumphant, turn thine eyes
On us exiled from Heaven and thee:
With thee to help us may we reach
The happiness of home in Heaven.

(From the hymn O Prima Virgo Prodita;
translation from the Angelus Press 1962 missal)

And then, there is Mary’s own sublime hymn of praise, the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
He has put down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of low degree;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel,
in remembrance of His mercy,
as He spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and his posterity for ever.

(Luke 1:46-55; translation from the
Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic ed.)

I’ve prayed this hymn countless times; it is a standard part of the Divine Office’s evening prayer. But as I heard it proclaimed by our priest during Mass this morning… it took on a whole new power and beauty. It brought tears to my eyes. It just reminded me of how good God has been to me personally… and how Mary has helped me to know Him and His goodness.

Let us thank the Lord for giving us such a good mother, and let us thank our mother for helping us to better know and love her Son.

At the Lay Dominican retreat last Saturday, I mentioned to Father Powell that I read his blog, and he encouraged me to leave comments.

So I left one (it’s at the bottom) that basically said, “Thank you for giving the retreat, it was wonderful, and by the way, what happens to us after we die?”

Here is his response.

:)

Dear friends, I must once again ask for your prayers for my dear father.

He had to go to the hospital yesterday with a kind of seizure.  Thank God it was not a stroke!  There was some bleeding in his brain where some tumors had been, and where he had gamma knife surgery to destroy them.  The bleeding could either be from the tumors growing back or from their disintegrating.  I hope and pray that it’s the latter!

In any case, your continued prayers are very much appreciated!  It means the world!  And you have never let us down!

I remember you all in my prayers too, as always.

[UPDATE]:  I got a message from my mom.  She and dad are on their way home.  I think everything is OK.  Thanks again for your prayers!

I’ve had a busy but wonderful weekend.  The retreat on faith and science was fantastic!  A lot to absorb, a lot to think and pray about.  Of course, I will try to share some of what I have learned and pondered.

One thing we discussed at the retreat is the nature of faith: that it is an act of trust and steadfastness.  One phrase I wrote down and that has really stuck with me is: “Faith is the habit of trusting God.”  I think that came from St. Thomas Aquinas.

Faith is the habit of trusting God. I have to say, this makes me a bit uncomfortable.  To tell you the truth, it makes me seriously question just how much faith I’ve got.  Looking back over the last couple of months, I see a pattern of me not trusting in God.  It’s something I’ve have to bring up with my confessor a few times.

Oh, I know God is good.  I know God is generous.  I know God has saved my skin (and my soul) more times than I can remember.  I know God is trustworthy and constant. I know, I know, I know.  I believe in God’s goodness and generosity.  I believe that He will not cease to save me, provide for me, be good and generous to me.  I believe, I believe, I believe.

And yet… I still have the awful habit of worrying that my life is just going to be a huge disaster and I’m never going to be happy.  I still have the awful habit of demanding that God prove to me His goodness and love… usually by demanding that He do what I want Him to do, give me what I want Him to give me–and do it now because I’m tired of waiting!

Where is the trust?  Where is the steadfastness?  Where is the good habit?  In short–where is the faith?

As if I weren’t already being haunted by these questions, our parish priest (who is also my confessor), gave his homily this morning on pretty much the exact same topic: faith as trust.  I got that sinking “This is not a coincidence” feeling deep in my gut.  That unnerving “Here we go again, the Holy Spirit is not going to let me go until He’s thoroughly banged this into my head!” feeling.

I felt like Father was speaking directly to me this morning when he said that faith is much more than just checking off the list of beliefs you assent to.  Rather, it is based on steadfast trust, on a strong personal relationship with God that perseveres even in the times when we don’t understand, even when we feel doubt.  Faith pushes us beyond the comfortable things we think we know about God and draws us into the mystery of who He really is.  It draws us into the “hard sayings,” such as that He gives us His flesh to feed, indeed to gnaw, upon.  And at that point, we, like the original disciples, have to make a choice: do we stay with Him or do we leave?

I realized that lately, in my life, I’ve come to a point where I don’t know what God is doing.  I don’t know what He’s got in the works.  I can’t see, and I don’t understand.  Doubt, frustration, and impatience creep in.  And I make the wrong choice.  I choose to go my own way.  I choose to walk away.

It’s not a permanent choice, obviously.  Something brings me to repentance.  Something opens my eyes and makes me say, “Oh Lord, what have I done?”  I think that something is the personal relationship I have formed with God so far.  It’s remembering that His love and goodness are real, that they are not just a list of things I believe.  They are the fabric of my life and who I am.  They have been proven over and over, without my demanding it.  There is something more there.

I am not without faith (thank God).  It just needs to grow.  I need to let it grow.  If I can’t see things clearly now, as is bound to happen, I don’t have to bang my own head against it–nothing is more futile than that.  Rather, I can take that opportunity to look back on all that God has done for me and given to me.  In fact, this was my confessor’s advice on a recent occasion: stop and look back to where you have been.  See the ways in which God has led you and provided for you, and see how you have received and responded–or not.  Get your bearing so that you can stay the course.

This also relates to some things Father Powell told us.  That faith is a gift from God, among countless other gifts He gives us.  God’s giving is a given.  The question is: Do we receive?  Do we receive with gratitude?  So, gratitude is an important piece of the puzzle also.  What other reaction can we have when we realize just how good God has been to us?  Does not gratitude engender trust?

So, you can see, even beyond the retreat, I have lots to think and pray about.  Lots to learn and lots to overcome.  And I’m sure the Holy Spirit will bang me on the head as much as needed.  But as always, that is a good thing.  Sometimes we need our walls torn down, and our foundations built up.

[UPDATE 1] Oh, and this section from today’s Evening Prayer scripture passage (1 Peter 1:3-7) struck out at me as one more bang on the head:

You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that you faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears.

[UPDATE 2] And then I found this quotation over at Exultet:

“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”

–G.K. Chesterton

I think this advice may resonate with me most of all.  Leave it to good ol’ G.K.!  :D

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