Monday, February 19, 2018

Well Said: Embracing the Future

To have a child is to embrace a future you can't control.
Radio Lab, Tom French, 23 Weeks 6 Days episode
We tend to think of what we can't control in terms of dread, of the worst that could happen. But what if we turn it around and think of the times joy or happiness has surprised us? That is something we can't control either. And a child brings those in measures overflowing, in unpredictable ways.

Worth a Thousand Words: Bouquet of Flowers

Henri Rousseau, Bouquet of Flowers, 1909-1910
via Arts Everyday Living

Thank you for the prayers

The Beyond Cana retreat went really well, with five couples refreshed and renewed in their marriages. As well, we always experience many blessings while we are helping put the retreat on and this time was no exception.

Our thanks to everyone who supported us in prayer!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

3rd Sunday of St. Joseph

Lorenzo Lotto. Madonna and Child with St. Jerome, St. Joseph and St. Anne.

Joseph, Husband of Mary

Painters have traditionally depicted Joseph as an elderly man in order to emphasize the perpetual virginity of Mary. Yet it is more likely that Joseph was not much older than Mary. You don't have to wait to be old or lifeless to practice the virtue of chastity. Purity comes from love; and the strength and joy of youth are no obstacle to a noble love. Joseph had a young heart and a young body when he married Mary, when he learned of the mystery of her divine motherhood, when he lived in her company, respecting the integrity God wished to give the world as one more sign that he had come to share the life of his creatures. (St. Escriva, Christ is passing by)

Let us ask the Holy Patriarch to teach us how to live this kind of love in the circumstances to which God has called us. We want this love that lights up the heart (St. Thomas, On Charity) so that we may perform our ordinary work with joy.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Litany for Lent 1

Years ago I regularly posted a Friday litany during Lent. And I'm in the mood to do it again. Here we go with one of the shortest I've ever seen ... from a spot that has many good litanies to offer.
Litany for Lent
Lord Jesus, you have come to save us from our sins.
Lord, have mercy.

You fasted to encourage us to do penance.
Lord, have mercy.

You suffered temptation to give us strength.
Lord, have mercy.

You were transfigured to give us hope.
Lord, have mercy.

You suffered insults to bring us salvation.
Lord, have mercy.

You accepted death to bring us life with you.
Lord, have mercy.

Gone Retreatin'

As regular readers know, Tom and I have been part of the Beyond Cana retreat team for about 12 years. Ever since it has begun at our parish, actually.
The Beyond Cana® marriage retreat offers the time and tools to restore and strengthen marriages - with God and His direction for us at the center.

It's a 2½ day retreat designed to enrich the marriages of couples who want to focus on the communication, respect, love, and intimacy that are so integral to a good marriage.
It is presented twice a year and it's that time again! Please keep the team and the attending couples in your prayers. I'll be back on Monday!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lagniappe: Roman Libraries

I do not know whether any lending-libraries existed in Rome, but there were reference libraries, not only in Rome, but also in the country towns. Aulus Gellius says that once, when staying with a distinguished man at his villa near Tivoli, an argument rose among the guests on the danger of drinking iced water in hot weather. Those who considered the habit harmless doubted certain quotations made by a fellow guest, who, to prove his point, ran out to the public library and returned with a quotation from Aristotle strongly denouncing iced water as dangerous to health. Gellius adds that the guests were so much impressed by the quotation that they all decided to give up iced water in future. What interests me is not their decision, but whether the man who ran to the library was allowed to return with a copy of Aristotle, or whether he just wrote out the quotation; and this Gellius leaves in doubt.
H.V. Morton's A Traveller in Rome (1957)
Funnily enough, what interests me is just the opposite from Morton. I find it fascinating, and also hilarious, that all it takes is a quote from one famous philosopher and everyone decides to change their habits. Then, as now, food fads require very little traction to become authoritative and have everyone jumping to adjust their lifestyles. Human nature really doesn't change from age to age.

Worth a Thousand Words: Dogs from Europe

Hashimoto Kansetsu (1883 - 1945), Dogs from Europe
via Wikipedia

Lent and Fasting From Meat on Fridays

Reposting this because, well, it's that time of year and we all need a little help with the fine points of what the Church means by "meatless!" 

Also the point about fasting from flesh is one that strikes me hard every time I think of it.

From the USCCB's Lent FAQ:
Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.
In America, fasting from meat led to the fish fry as a
Lenten tradition. (Public domain photo.)
I was looking for this for another reason, actually, but it applied to the question our retreat group was asking about providing a Friday lunch including Tomato Basil Soup made with chicken broth.

I think the main reason, though I now have lost the place I originally read this, is that the original intent of fasting from meat is that we are fasting from ... flesh.

It is because Christ put on flesh to become man that we fast from it in penance for what He went through on our behalf.

A lovely connection isn't it?

At least it is to me.

And to have to dig into each ingredient turns it into an exercise in scrupulosity for me. I like that they make it easy for us that way.

I've always cooked with those sorts of guidelines for Friday fast days (heck, every Friday is a fast from meat at our house). So it's nice to see it spelled out ... no need for any vestiges of guilt when I put a bit of lard in our refried beans for those nachos!

Praying for the victims and their families in Florida

I was horrified, as were we all, to hear about the shootings in Florida. And when I read Archbishop Chaput's response, it echoed my own.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia issued a Feb. 15 statement in wake of the shooting in light of his past experience as shepherd of Denver.

“Nineteen years ago, I sat with the parents of children murdered in the Columbine High School massacre and buried some of their dead. Nothing seems to change, no matter how brutal the cost. Terrible things happen; pious statements are released, and the nation goes back to its self-absorbed distractions.

“The latest massacre in south Florida requires two things from all of us. We need to pray for the victims and their families because, as I witnessed firsthand at Columbine, their suffering is intense and long lasting. And we need to be angry: angry at our lawmakers for doing so little to prevent these catastrophes; angry at our news and entertainment media for simultaneously feeding off these tragedies and fueling them with a steady stream of sensationalism and moral incoherence; angry at ourselves for perversely tolerating these things, and then forgetting them until the next round of violence.

“This is Lent. As a people, we have a lot to repent and confess. And let's not lie to ourselves that tighter gun restrictions — as vital and urgent as they now are — will solve the problem. We've lost our respect for human life on a much broader scale, and this is the utterly predictable result.”
We talk and talk and what is being done? Little. We point our fingers and argue and settle back down into thinking it won't happen again. We fail both the victims and the perpetrators who, if they were in their right minds, would be horrified at what they have wrought.
Dearest Lord, have mercy on us. Show us the way. Help the suffering victims and grieving families and friends. Heal us all.
I can do little right now except pray. And yet, I am also helping prepare for our parish's semi-annual marriage retreat. It is our bit, the entire team's effort, to help make this world a better place. One where the goodness can ripple out and affect a broken world.

Doubtless there is more I can do, but for right now I am thankful to have this event to throw myself into.
Please, dear Lord, use us all to restore respect for human life so we may love one another as you love us.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Black Bean Tamale Pie

Just in time for Lent and more emphasis on meatless meals — this Black Bean Tamale Pie is really delicious and serves a lot of people! Get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Lent and Me

Giving up:
  • Most of the internet, except for Happy Catholic which will be like my little hermitage. No Facebook, Goodreads, or Letterboxd.
Adding on:
  • Daily Mass during the week. I've been dreading it. Not dreading Mass but getting myself to follow a strict enough schedule to fit it in. That's the challenge.
  • The Power of Silence by Cardinal Sarah.
    I began this a couple of weeks ago and a few paragraphs daily are perfect morning reading for Lent.

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
    Waiting for Heather Ordover at CraftLit to begin Anne of Green Gables I roamed over her vast library and remembered that I didn't listen to Little Women when she covered it. I picked up the audiobook to accompany her excellent commentary. Reading it when younger I never paid attention to the Pilgrim's Progress theme that runs throughout. Heather is making sure I don't miss that theme and the simplicity of the book's old fashioned values is proving quite strengthening right now. I realized this morning that it is also excellent Lenten reading.

Ash Wednesday - A Little Fun

Because this makes me laugh every time, I repost ...

Ash Wednesday is the chance for single Catholics to identify other singles who are, as my friends would say, really eligible! In aid of that, we present:
Catholic Pickup Lines
(originally appeared in the now defunct Envoy magazine)

10. May I offer you a light for that votive candle?

9. Hi there. My buddy and I were wondering if you would settle a dispute we're having. Do you think the word should be pronounced HOMEschooling, or homeSCHOOLing?

8. Sorry, but I couldn't help but noticing how cute you look in that ankle-length, shapeless, plaid jumper.

7. What's a nice girl like you doing at a First Saturday Rosary Cenacle like this?

6. You don't like the culture of death either? Wow! We have so much in common!

5. Let's get out of here. I know a much cozier little Catholic bookstore downtown.

4. I bet I can guess your confirmation name.

3. You've got stunning scapular-brown eyes.

2. Did you feel what I felt when we reached into the holy water font at the same time?

1. Confess here often?

Worth a Thousand Words: Ash Wednesday

Carl Spitzweg, Ash Wednesday
via Wikimedia Commons

Ash Wednesday: All other loves will enslave us if they are not ordered to Him

Rerun because I need to read this every year.

Painful though the process may prove to be, I ask God for the transformation I need to become closer to the person He created me to be.

Let's begin with the collect for today.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
I like this for several reasons, but foremost today it calls to mind that we are in a spiritual battle. It never does to forget that, especially with Satan's wilderness tempting of Christ as prominent as it is during this season.

Daniele Crespi (1597 - 1630)
Il Digiuno di San Carlo Borromeo / The fasting of St Charles Borromeo (c. 1625)
(Read more about the painting and the saint at Idle Speculations where I found the painting)

I always need help having the proper perspective to prepare for Easter.
The Liberating Power of Serving God

"No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Mt 6:24)

God did not save the Israelites from slavery in Egypt so that they might become slaves again by bowing down to the golden calf in the desert. Nor has he freed us from the slavery of our sin so that we might bow down to the work of our own hands or to any other creature, including ourselves and our own desires. Strange as it might seem, we are not really free when we consider ourselves the masters of our own lives. From precisely that standpoint, we quickly fall into the trap of serving someone or something else: our self-images, our bosses, our spouses, our corporations, our tyrannical two-year-olds or teenagers, our homes, our cards, our portfolios, our social statuses, our egos, and the list goes on and on.

When, however, we seek to serve God, we soon learn that we thereby allow God to serve us. He wants our hearts precisely so that he might reign there: more as servant than as king. It is he who sets the table before us, who washes our feet, waits upon us, and invites us to eat of his own body. As servant, he not only nourishes us, however; but he also liberates us fro inordinate attachments that both weigh us down and enslave us. He does not merely liberate us from without, by removing obstacles that would hinder his coming into our hearts. He also and more profoundly liberates us from within; for once we have received him, he beings making order within us, freeing us from all that prohibits us from the interior freedom that characterizes the children of God. He will not allow any competition for his love; for all other loves will enslave us if they are not ordered to him, who alone can render us free.
Taken in this way, we can see how it is actually a relief to have done self-examination to see what has enslaved us, usually without our having been aware of it at all. What a relief to set that down. Even when we miss it, when we long for it, when we are annoyed because we can't have it, there is still a sense of relief in being forced to see with open eyes just what our addictions really are. To see how they have become so much more important to us than the harder path that leads us to a more loving relationship with God. Clarity matters. We have to know what rocks are in the way in order to avoid them.

The Putting on of Ashes
From the Initial "M" in the Introit of the Mass of Ashes on Ash Wednesday
From the Missal à l'usage de Saint-Didier d'Avignon c. 1370
Via Idle Speculations which has information about the tradition of ashes on the forehead
We surely can see why the readings for today included this from Joel which spoke to my heart.
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.
And this from Psalm 51, also part of today's readings, which is surely what we all crave.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise
I do praise him for giving us this season of Lent ... which is something that I never, ever feel until it has begun. But now that I am face to face with Lent, having considered this morning that "Remember, man you are dust and to dust you shall return" ... which means, get serious because you never know when this life will end ... I remember how good it is to consider priorities, to leave behind the transitory, and strive upwards toward the immortal life we were made to have.

Yes, Lent is good.

Bread and Water by Duane Keiser
Catholic Culture has a wonderful page about Lent with many links to activities, prayers, recipes, and readings.

They also offer free e-books which have daily reflections on the readings and saints for the liturgical year. I have used these for several years now and cannot recommend them highly enough.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lagniappe: The Thing About New Orleans

That's the thing about New Orleans, now. It's a generous city. Give you what you want before you hardly know to ask for it. Trouble is, acourse, that a man wants a number of things that aren't particularly good for him. And those sort of things are a New Orleans specialty.
Owen Parry, Rebels of Babylon

Worth a Thousand Words: Carnival Keepsake

1892 Mardi Gras Invitation
via Letterology

Do yourself a favor and click through to see some of the simply sumptuous invitations from the Golden Age of Mardi Gras. This one began life folded in pumpkin shape. Go see!

Prepping for Lent: Are You Ready to Rumble?

Every year I have to psych myself up for the Ash Wednesday fast. Rereading this helps.

Fasting. No one likes it. Even people who don't care about food too much don't like it. And no wonder. We get hungry, we get cranky, we're uncomfortable ... darned uncomfortable.

I rarely remember to think about it more deeply than than to offer it up for someone in grave need.

This from my quote journal reminded me to think about fasting in a very different way. I thought I'd share it.
Lenten Fasting
Jesus fasted simply because he wanted to, as the gospel clearly says. But why? Because hunger never comes alone; hunger usually touches us very deeply, not just physically but deep in our heart. Hunger in a sense wounds us; it undermines something in us which up to that moment had been inviolable. It causes a kind of vaccuum, tears open an old wound, and even at times leads to dizziness. Precisely for that reason fasting and hunger can change something in us, can even bring about a genuine transformation.

Whatever is thus touched or kindled is not always honorable or satisfying ... In order to be able to test us the devil has to take advantage of our weaknesses, both our physical and spiritual weakness, the hunger which torments us and makes us afraid of losing our life.

For along with hunger other desires and temptations immediately surface as well, even in the case of Jesus: the seductive challenge of easy success, the desire for earthly fame, the hunger for power in this world, sensuality in all its forms. Fasting half opens the door we so often want to keep shut, even with a double lock. For immediately after the first hunger and the first desire, the other hunger and those other desires surface as well, desires which seek -- with equal bitterness and equal power to disturb us -- to take possession of our heart. No one ever fasts with impunity ...

However, Jesus had come for this very purpose. Not to crush all desires and temptations, nor to conquer them honorably. The contrary is true ... Our fasting even today risks opening the door to the excitement of the desires it threatens to unleash, a door which looks out on the other shore of our desires, not on their dark but on their light side: God within us; God who desires to be loved; God who hungers for us and we for him, passionately.
Father Andre Louf, O.C.S.O. (Magnificat)
I do have one practical piece of advice to offer ... hunger comes in "waves" so if you suddenly feel those pangs, quite often you can remember that and when you come to think of it again then the hunger has receded. That helps me anyway.

Mardi Gras Prayer

It is good for me to have this reminder in prayer, which I have posted for the last few years. We tend to think of the feasting of Mardi Gras as being totally opposite to the fasting of Lent. But they don't have to be. If we turn our eyes toward God the entire time, feasting and fasting can be seen as sides of the same coin.

In these or similar words, we can pray in the spirit of this day.
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for it is from your goodness that we have this day
to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent.

Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat.
Today we feast.
We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us.
We thank you especially for one another.
As we give you thanks,
we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do.
As we share these wonderful gifts together,
we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those
who need our support.

Prepare us for tomorrow.
Tasting the fullness of what we have today,
let us experience some hunger tomorrow.
May our fasting make us more alert
and may it heighten our consciousness
so that we might be ready to hear your Word
and respond to your call.

As our feasting fills us with gratitude
so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us
a place for deeper desires
and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor.
May our self-denial turn our hearts to you
and give us a new freedom for
generous service to others.

We ask you these graces
with our hearts full of delight
and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead.
We ask them with confidence
in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Worth a Thousand Words: Waxwing

Waxwing, Remo Savisaar

Well Said: A powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance

The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.
Paul Johnson

Today is Merry Monday!

The day before Shrove Tuesday and the onset of Lent. This day, spent in dissipation, was said to leave everything with a bluish tinge through inebriation.

Prepping for Lent: Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving

How do you know it’s Lent?

It’s not so much by the ash mark on your forehead or fish marks on the calendar. Tradition tells us that Lent has three distinguishing marks: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

This three-part series will examine those practices. Prayer is surely the best place to begin, because it’s the one that unites them all. Fasting and almsgiving are themselves just forms of prayer.
Mike Aquilina
No one explains Catholicism more understandably than Mike Aquilina. So it's only natural that I turn every year to his wonderful pieces about the basics of Lent:

If you ever wondered why we have to fast, how giving to the poor is prayer, or how to better incorporate prayer into your Lenten life, then this series is for you.

It will help you get in the mindset to let God in deeper and to have a more meaningful Lent.