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The name Francis likely reveals what will be the main themes of this papacy.  I’ve heard confirmations that the Holy Father chose the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, as opposed to St. Francis Xavier or St. Francis de Sales.  However, all three of these great saints have important things in common: all three of them were great evangelizers, and all three pursued a mission of building, or re-building, the Church in very difficult times.

The image of St. Francis of Assisi has often been softened in modern times into some kind of medieval hippie.  But the truth is that he–like my father, St. Dominic–lived in a time when the Church was on crusade abroad, while falling to heresy and internal weakness and corruption at home. It is said that Christ Himself charged St. Francis to re-build His Church, which was falling into ruin, while Pope Innocent III had a dream in which he saw Francis physically holding up the Basilica of St. John Lateran. St. Francis also ventured into the camp of the Sultan of Egypt near Damietta with the intent of either converting him or dying in the attempt. He kissed a leper and bore the wounds of crucifixion in his own body.  He had a boldness and toughness that he often doesn’t get credit for today.

St. Francis Xavier, one of the first Jesuits who studied with St. Ignatius of Loyola, was a fervent and fearless missionary to distant lands such as India and Japan–lands in which Christianity was pretty much unknown.  He is said to have converted more people to the faith than anybody since St. Paul.  He died just within reach of mainland China, which had been his ultimate goal.

St. Francis de Sales had close ties and working relationships with both the Jesuits and the Franciscans.  As the bishop of Geneva, he strove to re-convert and re-evangelize those around him who had left the Church for Calvinism.  His gentleness and intellect won many of them back.  He also served as a spiritual director to many, many Catholics from all walks of life to strengthen, reassure, and instruct them.  We are blessed that many of his letters and writings have survived; they are just as relevant as ever.  (In fact, I give St. Francis de Sales credit for helping me to come back to the Church.)

We are again living in very difficult times.  Traditionally Catholic and Christian nations are falling to radical secularism and so-called liberalism which is anything but liberal-minded.  The Church is imploding due to internal weakness, divisions, corruption, and scandal.  Generations of Catholics have been poorly formed and catechized and have all too easily drifted into the secular world or into other Christian communities or other religions.  Meanwhile, new generations of Catholics in places like Africa and Asia, as well as very ancient communities in the Middle East, are striving amid enormous adversities, often striving for their very lives and yet nonetheless thirsting for the Gospel and the Church, and longing for the love, support, guidance, and reassurance of their brethren and the Holy Father.

In short, traditionally Catholic and Christian lands are in dire need of re-evangelization and re-conversion, the Church is in need of re-building and re-forming from within, and Catholic communities both old and new in other parts of the world are in need of building up and support.  These processes have been begun by previous popes.  They have laid the framework and the kindling.  I believe our current pope, true to his namesake(s), is going to light it all on fire!

For myself, I can say that Pope Francis has already inspired me to greater humility, greater prayer and spirituality, and above all, greater simplicity and poverty of spirit.  All the good intentions I had for this Lent, all the disciplines, all the penances, have just been kicked up to the next level.  And believe it or not, this Jesuit with the name and heart of the great Saint Francises, has inspired me to live out more fully my Dominican spirituality.  Of course, Dominicans always have, and always will, play an important part in any form of evangelization and building up of the Church.  Dominicans, like Franciscans, are a mendicant order.  I think we may get back to those roots under the influence of Pope Francis.  And when the Dominicans get back to their roots–not only the spirit of poverty, but the very important roots of prayer, study, and preaching–great things are bound to happen!

As my sister St. Catherine of Siena said, “When you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire!”  I think Pope Francis is going to help all Catholics everywhere to be what we should be–disciples of Christ!  May it be so–amen.

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I think I am something of a rara avis among women.  I like war stories.  I like hearing about people’s experiences in the military.  Not to say that I don’t shudder and shrink at the brutality, the inhumanity, the pain and death and trauma.  But I like being amazed and humbled by the realization that people have been willing to put themselves in the way of those things for the sake of country and countrymen, to stand between those horrors and the rest of us.  Sometimes I hear people dismiss or disparage soldiers because war is such a tragedy, such a shame, such a burden.  They don’t consider that if it weren’t for soldiers, then all of us would be more directly impacted and imperiled by war, and we would all be forced to fend for ourselves.  War is never a thing to love or desire or be proud of.  But the soldiers and other people who suffer and endure and even sometimes overcome in extraordinary ways… these are people to be respected and admired and grateful for.  They are heroes, every one.

I know this probably sounds like a post for Veterans Day or Memorial Day.  But these thoughts shouldn’t be reserved for just certain days.  I think them often.  They inspire me.  They motivate me.  They instruct me.  They drive me.  They help me to remember that life is precious and a very dear price to pay.  They also encourage me in the spiritual life, the spiritual war, the Good Fight as St. Paul called it.

This is a war that we are all in the midst of–some are officers, some are foot-soldiers, some are pilots, some are special forces, some are spies, some are medics,  and some keep the fires of home and camp burning.  We too can be heroes.  Even if all we can do is stand our ground and declare where our loyalty lies–in this fallen world and even more fallen society, those things alone can be radical and heroic.  And like all soldiers, we put ourselves between the enemy and those who cannot or will not defend themselves.  We usually do it without any recognition or thanks–nor do we mind such things; we sometimes do it to the derision of those we long to protect.  This is what life is like in the Church Militant, the Church on her long march Heavenward.

I sometimes fear that the Church and Christianity (never mind the rest of our society) have become too soft, too self-indulgent, too complacent, too undisciplined, too indolent–and God knows I’ve been my share of it all, much to my shame and regret.  We all have chinks in our armor, after all, and the enemy is very subtle and slithery and knows just how to get though to us.  But I fear that too many of us have forgotten altogether where we are and what we’re meant to do.  We’ve forgotten our duty.  We’ve gotten so fixated upon false, watered-down notions of peace and love and tolerance and niceness and upon feeling good at all costs without the least concern for being good.  We count our own opinions, emotions, and preferences as far more important than doctrine, reason, and obedience.  We give more loyalty to moral relativism than to the natural law inscribed upon every human heart.

We’ve seen the results of this.  We’ve seen the Church splinter from within.  We’ve seen unspeakable tragedy and scandal shake her down to her very foundation.  THE enemy and those who serve him point and say, “You see?  I knew you Christians and your Church were rotten to the core.  You hypocrites!  You oppressors!  You can’t even save yourselves much less than the whole world.  Give it up!  Cast off the shackles.  Forget about your so-called sins and your so-called virtues.  Be nice to everybody and otherwise just do whatever feels good.  Go with the flow and get a life!”  They say this as if the Church herself and all of her loyal adherents were the source of all the misery and humiliation.  In fact, it is because some people within the Church have persistently and remorselessly done exactly what the enemy would have us do!

What serves the enemy most is serving ourselves.  Loyal service, on the other hand, demands that we lay ourselves down, set ourselves aside, and when necessary let ourselves be nailed to the cross!  Generosity is at the heart of all loyal service, be it in an earthly military or the Church.  Generosity steels our courage and discipline.  Generosity ignites faithfulness, obedience, and charity. Generosity enables us to be selfless.

And so, one of the most helpful spiritual practices I’ve found recently (via my confessor, who always seems to know me better than most anybody, even though he never sees my face) is this Prayer of Generosity, traditionally attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, who knew a thing or two about service and obedience:

Lord God, I want to love You, not that I might gain eternal Heaven nor escape eternal Hell, but simply because You are my God. Teach me to be generous.  Grant me to give to You and not count the cost; to fight for You and not mind the wounds; to toil and not to look for rest; to labor and to ask no reward, except the knowledge that I serve my Lord and my God.  Amen.

Such simple words to pray.  And such difficult words to live by!  But pray, and it will be given, often beyond our wildest expectations.  I have found this simple prayer to be very powerful.  Transformative, really.  Exactly what I needed to call forth the heroine in me and keep me from straying from my duty, which is to serve God and my fellow man, and to reach Heaven, my true Patria.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I just want to say that I am honored to be part of the Church Militant.  I am honored that God and Church would entrust such service and duty to me.  And I pray I never completely let them down.  I pray I can stand firm until the Good Fight is finished.

Related Posts:

Love and war

Allergy fog post: In which I commiserate with Elisabeth Leseur, ramble a bit about duty, and toss in a strangely relevant anime quotation

 

The annual Dallas Marathon is today. Knowing that the marathon route often presents challenges for Sunday morning Mass-goers, our parish offered an additional vigil Mass last night.  At the end of the Mass, our pastor invited all runners to come forward.  Invoking the patronage of St. John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Messiah, and St. Paul, who used the running of a race as a metaphor for the spiritual life, Father gave a blessing to the runners and their endeavors.

Although I was not among those who received the blessing, I was deeply moved by witnessing it, for it is a beautiful reminder of how much the Church honors and celebrates all good human endeavors and recognizes them as gifts from God and a means to sanctify one’s own life and the lives of others.  It gave the message that there is no good endeavor that is too insignificant or unimportant to be blessed.  Of course, it also reminded me of loved ones and friends who are runners, especially my sister, and how much I admire them and their dedication and discipline as well as physical strength.  These are things to be admired!

I have always been moved by the great variety of blessings offered by the Church through her priests, and by the love and care with which they administer these blessings. Every time I receive a new rosary, I ask a priest to bless it.  It’s such a simple thing, and yet it transforms the rosary from a string of beads to a powerful sacramental that can bring down even more graces.  Even a simple blessing received on days when I am not able to receive Holy Communion often grants a great deal of strength, healing, and spiritual sustenance.

We should never hesitate to ask for blessings from our priests. That is one of the reasons they exist: to bestow God’s blessings upon us who live on earth.  Certainly, we can, and should, pray for God’s blessing each day, but there’s something special about having a human hand raised over you, and a human voice speaking the blessing to you.  And if that hand and voice belong to an Alter Christus, it’s all the better and more special.

It is also true that we can, and should, bless each other by word and touch.  I think it is a beautiful and loving thing when parents bless their children each night.  I found great peace and comfort in giving my parents blessings when they were in the hospital, and especially when my beloved father was in his final illness.  In those situations, it’s easy to feel completely helpless and completely alone.  But saying a simple, heartfelt blessing and gently touching your loved one’s forehead and drawing a little cross there with your finger is a powerful thing.  It’s a way of entrusting them to God and His care.  It is a special, physical act of faith, hope, and charity.

Finally, we can, and should, bless ourselves, and in fact we may do this without even being mindful of it.  Each time we place our fingers in holy water and make the Sign of the Cross, we are blessing ourselves.  Do it mindfully!  Each time we say grace before a meal, we are blessing ourselves and the food we put into ourselves.  Do it mindfully!  Each time we pray a morning offering, we are invoking God’s blessing upon our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of the day.  Do it mindfully!

Catholics and our Church are sometimes misconceived as somehow being averse to the physical world, the body, and love of “ordinary” earthly life.  But our practice of giving and receiving blessings proves otherwise, does it not?  In fact, we believe that earthly and ordinary things and we ourselves can be elevated and infused with divine life.  And this divine life makes everything better and richer and more beautiful and enjoyable.

So, it seems that the United States federal government’s health care legislation has many of my fellow citizens all riled up. Personally, I have no idea what the legislation actually says or how it will play out–does anybody fully know?

It does trouble me, though. What troubles me is that many Americans seem to be under the illusion that the government is a charitable organization and that health insurance for all will translate into quality care for all. I fear that the reality is going to be harsh.

And yet, I can hardly blame anybody. An enormous void has grown in our society–a void of true charity, created with the breaking down of religious communities and religious identities and the shift toward pure secularism. The disintegration and now near-extinction of true charitable organizations such as Catholic hospitals.

And for all our anxiety and protests about having what’s left of our religious identities and charities and liberties squelched–we pretty much have only ourselves to blame. We’ve neglected them for decades, opting to go with the flow of secular society, forgetting all that our ancestors have contributed, buying into the revisionist history that claims religion has never been a force for good in society.

What we–and our country–have lost will only be restored by a trial by fire, and probably a very lengthy one. Pray and fast, brethren. Pray and fast. Start right now. And for Heaven’s sake, let’s stop complaining about the government and start taking responsibility and getting our own houses in order!

Governments come and go, rise and fall, try to replace religion and fail miserably. Sooner or later, it will once again be the Church that is filling the void of charity, striving to meet every human need and protect every human right. Let’s start preparing for that day sooner rather than later.

Many thanks to Jennifer Bitler of Doxology Design for creating my beautiful new custom blog header!  She has been a joy to work with, and her creativity and skill are plain to see.  She really listened to what I wanted, and also gave helpful expert advice.  She was very patient too, and provided many different options and possibilities to choose from.

SO–I highly recommend contacting her if you need a new blog header or any other Web or print design work!  :D

The lady saint in the image is St. Rose of Lima, one of my Lay Dominican sisters.  I was thinking about what kind of image could sum up the essence of being a practicing Catholic, and what came into my head was the very common holy card image of a saint adoring a Crucifix.  Adoring–not shunning–the Crucifix is something at the very heart of authentic Catholicism, and something that sets Catholics apart from many other Christians.  This image of St. Rose captured perfectly the love and devotion of a soul in worship and adoration of our Lord Crucified.

The splendid, majestic background image of St. Peter’s rotunda represents the “overarching” Church to which we each belong.  I wanted to have these images blended together as a way of making the point that there is no division or opposition between the individual’s private worship and personal relationship with Christ, on the one hand, and on the other, what some refer to as the “institutionalized Church.”  They are both part of the Catholic experience.

I threw all these ideas out there, and Jennifer took them and captured them in one beautiful image!  I never could have come up with it on my own.  So again, my gratitude goes to her!

I see it was only a little over a year ago when I last wrote on this topic.  Well, I’m in a similar situation once again.  At a point last week, weakness led me to a state of mortal sin.

At this point in my life, it is always a shocking and painful experience when I realize my bond with God has been severed over some foolish, selfish indulgence of a temptation.  It is utterly humiliating to wake up in the Enemy’s bedchamber and know that I went there of my own free will, abandoning the secure castle of my Lord and Father for some promise of luxury and pleasure–a false promise my mind should have easily seen through, and my love and faithfulness should have easily demolished.  It is an almost unbearable pain to find the dagger of betrayal in my own bloody hand.

But before long, the aftermath of mortal sin brings one to a stark moment of decision: continue to wallow in your own filth, compounded with self-pity and self-hatred, and thus surrender in despair to the Enemy… or rise to your feet to return to your Lord and Father and beg His forgiveness.  At this point, we all become the Prodigal Son in Christ’s parable, and if there is any shred of conscience, intellect, and love left, we know there’s only one correct choice.

We cry to God and place ourselves at His mercy.  We acknowledge how wrong we were and how much we depend on Him for health, sanity, happiness, security, and wholeness.  If nothing else, we do it because we realize how much better we are in His castle than in the Enemy’s infernal palace.  If nothing else, we do it out of base fear of the Enemy.  That is not the best and noblest of motivations, but it suffices for our merciful and compassionate Lord to gather us back into His arms and the safe confines of His castle.

We rightly rejoice in His goodness and love and praise Him. One of the Psalms in this morning’s Divine Office captures the entire experience–both the pleading and the praising–very well:

Psalm 86
The prayer of the poor man in distress
Blessed be God who comforts us in all our trials
(2 Corinthians 1:3, 4).

Turn your ear, O Lord, and give answer
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am faithful;
save the servant who trusts in you.

You are my God, have mercy on me, Lord,
for I cry to you all the day long.
Give joy to your servant, O Lord,
for to you I lift up my soul.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
full of love to all who call.
Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my voice.

In the day of distress I will call
and surely you will reply.
Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
nor work to compare with yours.

All the nations shall come to adore you
and glorify your name, O Lord:
for you are great and do marvelous deeds,
you who alone are God.

Show me, Lord, your way
so that I may walk in your truth.
Guide my heart to fear your name.

I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart
and glorify your name for ever;
for your love to me has been great:
you have saved me from the depths of the grave.

The proud have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life;
to you they pay no heed.

But you, God of mercy and compassion,
slow to anger, O Lord,
abounding in love and truth,
turn and take pity on me.

O give your strength to your servant
and save your handmaid’s son.
Show me the sign of your favor
that my foes may see to their shame
that you console me and give me your help.

I have confessed my sin to God and implored His forgiveness, and I believe I have received His forgiveness and had our broken bond mended. That is where I am now.  But as Catholic, I find that my heart still yearns for something.  It longs to make a more formal, mature, and responsible pledge of fealty to its Lord.  It longs to actively re-dedicate itself to Him and His service.  And because it is still human flesh, it also desires a more concrete and more certain expression of God’s healing and restoration.

To quench these yearnings, only one thing will do: namely, the Sacrament of Confession.  To confess my sins in my own human voice to one of God’s ordained priests, and to hear in the priest’s human voice that my sins are absolved–these are necessary for my well-being, as I have found time and time again.  I cannot over-emphasize how salutary this holy Sacrament is!

Moreover, it is a duty and a privilege to which I am bound as a member of the Church.  It must be understood that for Catholics, there is no division, no dichotomy, between God and His Church.  He is the Church’s Head, and the Church is His Body.  Only a gruesome decapitation could cause such a division.  In being bound to the Church, I am bound to God, and vice versa.  In doing my duty to the Church, I do my duty to God, and vice versa.  If the Church requires me to confess to a priest, I do not doubt for a moment that it is because God desires it.

To me, it is absolutely clear why He would desire it–as I said, I have experienced over and over how very good and necessary it is for me.  But God is more than a physician who hands me a prescription.  He is a loving Father who wishes me to possess some of His own freedom and dignity.  Presenting myself to Him in the Sacrament of Confession provides me with that freedom and dignity.  That is why it is not only a duty but also a privilege.  It is a privilege to actively co-operate in re-forging the bond between Him and myself.  It is a privilege to know that God loves me so much and regards me so much as His own child, that He calls me to take action, as well as to be a passive recipient of His grace.

As I always say, it is not an either-or situation, but a both-and situation.  Love can never be one-way or one-sided.  My going to the Sacrament of Confession is a free act of love and obedience to God, just as His granting of mercy is a free act of love and providence to me and to everybody who prays to Him.

I am still in need of going to the Sacrament… like last time, various circumstances have conspired against it.  Hopefully tomorrow evening!  I really, really, really need to receive Holy Communion!  I never realize how much it means to me until I’m in a situation where I cannot receive it.  Please pray for me as I ride out this little interval.

The Holy Father and Catholic clergy are the natural focal points of the Church for believers and non-believers, faithful and dissident, friend and foe, alike.  But the laity is where the Church’s real force resides, the force of numbers, if nothing else.  Solidarity with our clergy and with each other is so vital for the Church and so key in determining her place in the world.

The clergy can have only so much impact upon the secular world.  It is we, the laity, who either bring or don’t bring the faith into the secular world and the public square.  It is we who either confront or cower before her opponents.  As I often say, we are the front line troops–that is our vocation.  The clergy are our officers, and we need them.  But they and the Church need us and demand great things of us.  We should strive to fulfill the responsibilities of the lay vocation with salutary pride, honor, courage and steadfastness, as well as with charity and joy.

Laurence England of the blog, That the Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill, has posted a wonderful call to arms to the Catholic laity of Britain. I think Catholic laity around the world should take it to heart as well.  Here’s an excerpt (with my emphases):

… [We] need to step out of the ghetto and to wear our Catholic faith on our sleeves. It is a rallying call. Peter has come to strengthen the brethren and we indeed are strengthened! We have to stop hiding our light under a bushell. We have to be that city upon the hill that burns brightly with the light of Christ, so that all men may see it, because without the Laity, the Church simply would cease to exist.

It is easy for the secularists and the militant atheists to attack the Pope, Priests and Bishops because they have years, centuries even, of anti-Catholic sentiment to draw upon, but it is the Laity who give the Church the greatest credibility and we are harder to attack. Ultimately, the huge crowds showing our support for the Holy Father lend the Pope, the Church and Her mission a measure of public credibility that alone, by itself the Papacy and the Hierarchy of the Church cannot give Her.

While refraining from crying out, “We are the Church”, there is a sense in which the huge crowds testify to our hugely important role in bearing witness to Christ and His Church. Militant atheists despise the Pope and can claim many things about him and throw calumny against him and without too much reproach, for he is a soft target, but Dawkins cannot attack us so easily, for fear of appearing bigoted to those who also share his views. The coverage of the Pope meeting the Queen and many others will have irritated these atheists, but watching us praying, faithfully, before the Blessed Sacrament will have really and truly have got under his skin. It is our Faith that needs to be relit and placed upon the hill for the World to see. It is to us that the Holy Father entrusts the visible proclamation of the Gospel in our everyday lives, in our work, our words, our speech, our actions and our interaction with others, because the Priesthood and the Hierarchy carry different associations in terms of the perception of those who do not believe. It is we, the Laity, who are the greatest threat to the vicious rise of atheism in this country!

A few times over the last five years, I have heard myself described as a “hard-core Catholic.”  It mystifies me.  I am not exactly sure what the definition of “hard-core Catholic” would be.

I think of myself as somebody who often struggles to be a “bare-minimum Catholic.”  And I do know how to define that.  The Church in her wisdom has provided the guidelines.  They are called the Precepts of the Church.  This is how they are defined in the Catholic Dictionary by Father John Hardon, SJ:

Certain commandments of a moral and ecclesiastical nature prescribed for observance by all Catholics. Their formulation goes back to the Middle Ages, and their number has varied from four to six or more, depending on the times. A recent list of such duties “expected of Catholic Christians today” was formulated by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States, as follows:

1. To keep holy the day of the Lord’s Resurrection: to worship God by participating in Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation: to avoid those activities that would hinder renewal of soul and body, e.g., needless work and business activities, unnecessary shopping, etc.

2. To lead a sacramental life: to receive Holy Communion frequently and the Sacrament of Penance regularly.

– minimally, to receive the Sacrament of Penance at least once a year (annual confession is obligatory only if serious sin is involved).

– minimally, to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, between the First Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.

3. To study Catholic teaching in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation, to be confirmed, then to continue to study and advance the cause of Christ.

4. To observe the marriage laws of the Church: to give religious training (by example and word) to one’s children; to use parish schools and religious education programs.

5. To strengthen and support the Church: one’s own parish community and parish priests; the worldwide Church and the Holy Father.

6. To do penance, including abstaining from meat and fasting from food on the appointed days.

7. To join in the missionary spirit and apostolate of the Church.

Honestly, when I read this list and reflect upon my own life in light of it, it reminds me how much room for improvement I’ve got!  Basically, I’m still working on fulfilling the bare minimum requirements of Catholic life.  Oh, I would never willingly neglect any of these obligations.  But I know I could do much better.

Especially on #1.  I don’t ever miss Mass on Sundays or Holy Days if I can help it.  But I could do much more to really consecrate those days to honoring God.  There are unnecessary things I could cut out, and more worthwhile things I could do instead.

I suspect that as long as I live, there will always be things I can do in order to better live out these basic precepts of the Church.

So… am I really a “hard-core Catholic”?  What does that even mean?  And how is it different from being just plain Catholic?

Msgr. Charles Pope at the Archdiocese of Washington blog has recently posted some musings about the Church Militant.

The first ponders the question,  “Is the Church a Cruise Ship or a Battleship?” Apparently, for reasons I can’t understand, some folks were offended that the Church should be described with military imagery.   So Msgr. Pope followed up today with “In Defense of the Use of Military Imagery in the Church.”

Both are good reading (as all of his posts are).

I find the military metaphor glorious, exciting, and enormously inspiring.

First of all, it’s true: we are engaged in a war, whether we like it or not.  We are all born on the battlefield, and we all die on it.  It’s not a bloody war against our fellow human beings, but a spiritual war against Satan and the forces of hell.  To deny that is extremely dangerous.  To deny that plays right into the enemy’s hands.  There’s no opting out of this war.  There’s no room for pacifism or conscientious objection.  Either you fight on the side of good, or you surrender to the side of evil.

Second, it reminds me that I am a person on a mission.  I have a purpose, I have a cause, I have people and things to protect, I have people to serve, and I have a 100% guarantee that my King is the Victor.  It stirs and ignites my soul, my will, my strength, my energy.  It makes me appreciate how precious life and humanity and our fellow creatures are.  It makes me proud, in a good way, to stand side by side with angels and saints and martyrs, as well as the people all around me here and now.  It brings forth everything that is noble and disciplined, brave and virtuous in me.  It calls me–even me–to greatness.

Not greatness or significance in any worldly sense, of course.  It brings me to the greatness and significance of who I am as a child of God.  We are all His children, and His kingdom that is not of this world is ours.  Who wouldn’t fight for that?

A blessed Solemnity of the Sacred Heart to everyone!  I’ve been wanting very much to get back to writing my blog, and I have felt particularly inspired on this holy feast day.

A few weeks ago, I came to my car and found a bookmark stuck into my car window by an unknown person.  It had an image of the Sacred Heart, and a prayer to the Sacred Heart.  It was the same prayer my formation director had given me to pray when I began as a Lay Dominican postulant:

O most holy Heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore You, I love You, and with a lively sorrow for my sins, I offer You this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure, and wholly obedient to Your will. Grant, good Jesus, that I may live in You and for You. Protect me in the midst of danger, comfort me in my afflictions, give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, Your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.

For the first time in a while, I felt called back to my “normal” life.  My life is not “normal” without me writing my blog.  So… here I am, writing on the feast of the Sacred Heart!

When I think of the Sacred Heart, I think of a blazing fire.  It is such a perfect symbol of God’s love.  Each of the three Persons of the Trinity is associated with fire.  In the Old Testament, there is the burning bush aflame with a fire that burns but does not consume.  Also, God appears in the OT enveloped in smoke.  The Holy Spirit appears as tongues of flame at His descent upon the disciples.  And Christ’s heart is aflame with that same fire.  Only the most ardent of fiery loves could see Him through His Passion.

For many years, I regarded the liturgical year in terms of Christmas and Easter.  By which I mean December 25th and Easter Sunday.  Now, I appreciate and admire the very rich progression of the liturgical year–the way that liturgical days and seasons are extended across the calendar and the way that the Church emphasizes and re-emphasizes the important facts of our faith.

This week, now that Easter has ended, followed by the Ascension and Pentecost, the Church takes us back to Holy Week, to the days leading up to Easter.  This past Sunday, we celebrated the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.  It re-emphasized what happened on Holy Thursday–the institution of the Eucharist.  Today, this Friday re-emphasizes that Christ loved us so much He suffered and died for us on Good Friday.  It is as if the Church is saying, “Now that the great season of rejoicing is over, take some time to remember what led up to it.”

God loves us. His love burns like a fire.  His love has wrought the wondrous things of Creation and adopted us as His own children.  His love has shed a wonderful new light and many gifts upon us.  His love has overcome death.  You wouldn’t think it would be easy for us to lose sight of this… but we do.  So let us thank God for His Church and her constant reminders!

And let us also thank God for our priests on this final day of the Year for Priests!

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St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!
(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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