Saturday, April 28, 2012

Life, Death, and Reconciliation: The Descendants and Gran Torino

I've watched two movies in the last couple of weeks that have a lot in common: the death of a mother, the alienation of a father from his children, a re-engagement with life, and an eventual reconciliation. There are also many differences between the two. One mother has been a good and faithful wife; the other has not. One takes place in a declining working-class neighborhood; the other is set in luxurious locations in Hawaii. One leaves the viewer with a sense of hope; the other leaves him thinking, "Well, that's nice, but what happens next?

The Descendants' Matt King has been so busy with his law practice and the handling of his family's hereditary estate on Kauai that he hasn't had much time for his family. Now his wife, Alexandra, is in a coma in the hospital after a boating accident and he hopes that when she recovers, he can begin to make up for past mistakes. Before very long we learn two things: she's been having an affair with someone whom she wants to marry, and she is going to die. Throughout the rest of the movie, Matt and his 16 and 10 year old daughters try to come to terms with Alexandra's life and death, and to rebuild their relationship with one another. In the end they succeed, and the final scene shows the three of them snuggling together on the couch, eating popcorn and watching TV.

It's a beautiful (scenically), well-made movie and the actors play their parts well, but there is an emptiness throughout the movie. After Alexandra dies, there is a scene in which Matt and his daughters take her ashes out in a canoe and dump them into the ocean. There's an "is that all there is?" feel to the scene. She was alive and now she's gone, and that seems to be it. There's no promise of anything beyond this life, and one wonders what can possibly hold the family together now.

When my friend Amy told me that I should watch Gran Torino, I thought, "A car movie?" Then when she said that was a Clint Eastwood movie, I thought, "Really? Wasn't his last movie about euthanasia?" However, she then said the magic words which will get me to watch most anything, "It's really Catholic."

The movie opens with the funeral of Walt Kowalski's wife. Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) stands stern and unmovable as guests file by the casket. During the funeral, the young priest, Fr. Janovich, gives a rather pat homily that might do for a family whose faith is important to them, but is powerless to touch or console Dorothy Kowalski's family. It becomes quickly obvious that there is only the most tenuous of relationships between Walt and his two sons and their families, and that this is unlikely to change.

Walt is a Korean War veteran and he is angry. The world around him is changing and he doesn't like the changes. His neighborhood is now filled with Hmong refugees. He has nothing to say to his neighbors and they have nothing to say to him. So, he sits on his porch, drinking beer and scowling at the world.

Not only is Walt unhappy with his neighbors, but Fr. Janovich is making his life difficult. Father made a promise to Dorothy that he would get Walt to go to Confession, and he is determined to keep his promise. I like this character. He is naive and sometimes gauche, but he is also brave and faithful

Events conspire to involve Walt in the lives of his next door neighbors, a young woman named Sue and her brother Thao. It's his growing affection for these two young people and the wider Hmong community that brings Walt back into the land of the living. It's his efforts to help Thao find his way in the world and escape the clutches of the gang that is trying to recruit him that bring him to the point where he must face the demons of his years in Korea, and risk everything to save his friends.

Unlike The Descendants, Gran Torino is filled with hope. In fact, the characters in one way or other display all the virtues, both theological and cardinal. It's a bit rougher around the edges (Oh, who could imagine Clint Eastwood rough around the edges?), but it tells a story of true reconciliation.

One warning, is that Gran Torino is filled with language that will manage to offend almost everyone. It's not only crude, it's decidedly not PC. I don't find this as offensive, though, as the language of the daughters in The Descendants. It's very irritating, but it's pretty much what we have come expect from children in movies nowadays.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Heavenly Cakes and Pies

I've been sort of worried about being so negligent about writing lately, but then . . .


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Since We're Talking about My House

My house was originally a dogtrot cabin. It probably looked pretty much like the one below. It was built in 1896 by a farmer named Fonzie Scott and we bought it from his great grandson, who had lived here when he was first married. I have pictures of the house when there was a pen around the front yard for the cows. They used to eat off the porch. the cabin on the right, which is now my bedroom, was once used to hold feed for the cows.

Over the years the family built a room behind the room on the left which is my dining room and another behind that which is my kitchen, and a bathroom (thank goodness) on the right side of the kitchen. They closed in the dogtrot and made into a foyer with a closet at thThis e back.

This is the way that the house looks now. The man that sold us the house remodeled it when he got married and added two bedrooms off the left side. You can see part of that addition in this picture. I looked and looked for a picture without snow and I know I have several, but they are hiding from me.


Simcha Fisher

Even more amusing that usual today.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Sometimes I Forget . . .

How beautiful our property is. I really should go outside more.

I've been really busy the last few days, but this evening it was so pleasant I decided I better go for a walk. After about five minutes, I had to go inside and get my camera.

I don't know what this stuff is called but it smells like heaven. For about the last twelve miles of our ride home it is everywhere. The whole countryside is full of its scent.

This is a path that links the part of the field that is around our house with another field further out. The guy we bought the house from cut three acres out of the original property because he thought he could sell it to our neighbors and make more money, but there it sits. I was really surprised when I went back there today. Last year the temperatures in the spring went from the 40s to the 90s very quickly. We had no spring and a hot, hot summer, so I never walked back this way. The trees on the right line a ditch and have always been there. Five years ago, there was a field on the left. Two years ago, the trees were about as tall as I am. Now its like walking on a path through the woods.

This is a path that leads away from our house. I like to think that I will spend more time outside this year, but we'll see.

I have parts of two posts sitting here waiting to be finished. I hope I get to write more about them soon.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Gillian Welch in Memphis

I have a ticket. First row balcony. It's a small concert hall, so that's pretty close to the stage. I am very excited.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Penguins Explode!

The blurb above my gmail today read, "penguins explode for 10 goals in rout of flyers."

"Horrors!" I thought. "What happened to the poor penguins?" Can you imagine how long it takes a person who is not even a sports fan, much less a hockey fan to decipher that sentence--not to mention the irritation at the misspelling of route.

I was really pretty amazed how widespread exploding penguins are, but then I'm culturally backward.


R.I.P. Dick Clark

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ruination Day

I'm a few days late with this, but I didn't want to post about ruination during the octave of Easter, and I thought that to post it on Emancipation Day might seem like the wrong message.

Ruination Day (Part 2) is the second of a two part song on Gillian Welch's album Time (The Revelator), the first part being April 14 (Part 1). This was the day that Lincoln was shot in 1865; the day that the Titanic hit the iceberg in 1912; it was "Black Sunday," the day of the worst Oklahoma dust storm in 1935.

I'm not really sure what Casey Jones has to do with it. He did die in April, but it was later in the month. Maybe it's just the idea that he was moving so fast towards death. You can read the lyrics below the video on the YouTube page. Here's a video of April 14 (Part 1).

The first time I listened to the album Time (The Revelator), I was thinking, "Oh, I'm not going to like this." The whole tone of the album was different from that of Revival which is the only other Gillian Welch album that I am very familiar with. Overall, Revival is more upbeat (musically although not necessarily emotionally). It moves faster and even the songs with sad lyrics are fun to sing. And some of the sadder lyrics have an underlying sense of hope.

Although there are some fast and fun songs on Time, to listen to most of it is to be in a trance. The two songs above are slow and dreamlike. The final song, I Dream a Highway, is a dream, fourteen minutes and 39 seconds of thoughts and images winding sinuously in, over, and around each other, flowing from theme to theme in the way that dreams do, or perhaps more like that half-consciousness that comes right before sleep.

As I said, at first I didn't think I was going to like the album at all, but as I've listened to it 5 or 6 times in the last couple of weeks, I've grown to like it more and more. The slower songs have haunted their way into my affection. They are fairly hopeless, and almost unbearably sad, but undeniably beautiful.

And then there is Elvis Presley Blues with Elvis shaking it like a chorus girl, and a Harlem queen, and a holy roller with his soul at stake. I've never been a great Elvis fan, but I think everyone who grew up in Memphis, as I did, is always aware of him at every turn, and has a sort of affection for him. Everyone has an Elvis story, and this is one.

After hearing Everything is Free, a song about the effect of modern technology on the livelihood of musicians, I felt a bit guilty about embedding the video in this post. But then, someone told me they had bought the album after reading the post, and I remembered that I have bought quite a bit of music after hearing it here, so I figure it's good exposure.

I still do not love this album as much as I love Revival, but maybe in time I will. It's definitely worth listening to several times before making any judgement.


Monday, April 16, 2012


Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
John 20:24-25

Didymus, which means "twin"--I must have heard this hundreds of times, but yesterday was the first time I ever wondered about this. Why was he called "twin"? Did he have a twin? And if he did, where was his brother, or I guess it could have been a sister. Was his twin a believer? Alive? Somewhere during my search for images, I read that there is a theory that the reason why he was called that was that he looked so much like Jesus and was sometimes portrayed that way in icons of Jesus and his disciples. It's just something else that we don't know.

This is the way that we always see Thomas portrayed, touching the wounds of Jesus. What an overwhelming experience that must have been. I've written previously here and here about the wounds of Christ, how they draw us and bind us to him, how He chose to retain those wounds in His glorified body. Thomas's statement that he wouldn't believe unless he put his finger and hand into Christ's wounds didn't come out of nowhere. It was directly related to the experience that the other apostles had had.

Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
John 20:19

Jesus chose to reveal His identity to them by showing them His wounds. Thomas was only taking that revelation a step further. I've always thought that the epithet Doubting Thomas was not quite fair, and I've always wondered why the Church chooses to read the above scripture on his feast day instead of the one that talks about his brightest moment when Jesus was going to heal Lazarus, although it would put Him in some danger.

So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
John 11:16

Happy Birthday, Papa!

In case you haven't heard, today is the 85th birthday of Pope Benedict XVI. There is a picture here of the Holy Father praying with his brother. (You will have to scroll down.) How wonderful to be able to share your 85th birthday with your brother.

During the last 15 years or so of John Paul II's papacy I would occasionally think, "Well, I know that he is probably going to die before me and whoever they choose to replace him will be a horrible letdown. Well, thank goodness I have been proved definitely wrong.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Gone Fishing

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.
John 21:1-14

When I heard this gospel read at Mass yesterday, there were a few things that struck me as though I had never heard them before. One thing was that 153. As Father said yesterday, "It doesn't say 'hundreds,' or 'about 150,' or 'purt near a hunnerd and fifty-fahve,' (I assure you that this is not Father's usual accent.) but 153. Well, it must mean something, but there seem to have been many interpretations over the centuries. You can see some of them if you go here and scroll down. I seem to remember hearing sometime or other that it symbolized all the nations of the world, and that seems to be as good a guess as any, but I guess it will have to remain a mystery. If I had written this gospel, one might perhaps assume that I had been thinking, "Hmm. If I put a precise number there instead of rounding it off, people will puzzle over it for all time," but John doesn't seem to have been a whimsical sort of guy.

The most arresting passage was that which spoke of the exuberance of Peter, who on hearing John say that it was the Lord, jumped immediately into the water. He didn't worry about what the other disciples were doing. He didn't worry about the fish. All he cared about was getting to Jesus as fast as could. Like Mary, he chose the better part. And this was the man that Jesus chose to feed His sheep, the one who was heedless of all save his Lord.

When I was thinking about this earlier today, I remembered how I had almost had to be compelled to go to Mass yesterday. The only time that I can go is during my lunch hour, and it makes lunch a very rushed affair. I kept the car so that I could go--maybe--if things worked out. I went back and forth in my mind all morning long, and in the end went rather reluctantly. The only thing that got me there at all was this persistent thought that I ought to go. One wonders why the Lord would even want me under those conditions, but apparently He did. How different from Peter's enthusiasm.

Another thing I realized was that although this was the third time that they had seen Jesus since His resurrection, they still did not recognize Him until He performed the miracle. I think I must have always had some kind of hazy notion that once He appeared to them, He was around them pretty much for all of the 40 days, but apparently this is not so. They never seemed to really know if they would see Him again, and they were surprised when they did. It must have been nerve-wracking for the apostles. It makes their experience during this time much more like ours. I can imagine Peter, after waiting anxiously for Jesus to show up again, saying, "I can't bear this anymore. I'm going fishing."

And finally, there is that lovely invitation, "Come and have breakfast."


Friday, April 13, 2012

Awake, Arise, Lift Up Your Voice

This video is going around Facebook. I don't usually have time to look at the videos that people post, but I'm really glad I saw this one. It starts off slowly, but I think you will be glad if you stick with it--and in a way it continues the Resurrection theme.

I'm still really busy at work and we're going out tonight, so this might be it for today.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Another Kind of Resurrection

Heather King writes in Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux:

All along I had thought that the Attachment, or midlife crisis, or dark night of the soul, or whatever my experience had been, was a terrible stumbling block, a sign of shameful weakness, evidence of some core, incurable insanity: in short, The Problem. Now I knew that, in some very difficult, mysterious way, it had actually been The Solution. My struggle went way beyond any relationship with, or way of seeing, a mere human being. All along, I had thought my error lay in failing to find the formula to love correctly, unselfishly, when the very idea of trying to perfect myself, with respect to human relationships--or any other way--was the real problem.

Forget trying to achieve your own holiness, Therese seemed to be saying: you are infinitely too feeble, weak, and misguided to accomplish anything on your own. You're like a bleating lamb, wandering blindly around with your divided, wayward heart. You're like a lost sheep, trying to get spiritual good marks by denying your humanity. You're like a straying member of the flock, off in a corner trying to heal your own wounds and relieve your own obsessions. Stop struggling, and the kingdom of God will be accomplished through you. Sit down on the floor, like a baby, and Christ will bend down and lift you up.

I'm in a bit of a rush today. I hope to write more later, but I'm not sure I'll get time.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pre Raphaelite Easter

Morning of the Resurrection-Edward Burne-Jones
A Better Resurrection

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb'd too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, loot left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm'd with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall--the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish'd thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
Christina Rosetti
Not particularly joyful, but then Pre Raphaelites weren't. It's hard to be haunted and cheery.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Queen of Heaven Rejoice, Alleluia

One reason that I am posting this is that every year I forget to switch from the Angelus to the Regina Coeli until we are two or three weeks into the Easter season. This way I'll be sure to remember.

Queen of Heaven Rejoice, Alleluia.
For He Whom thou didst merit to bear, Alleluia.
Has risen as he said, Alleluia.
Pray for us to God, Alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, O, Virgin Mary, Alleluia
Because the Lord is truly risen, Alleluia.

Let us pray,

O God, Who through the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, has vouchsafed to make glad the whole world, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, his Mother, we may attain to the joys of eternal life. Through this same Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is the way I say it. Apparently, nobody on the internet says it exactly the same way as I do, but then, everybody seems to have a slightly different translation. So, to be entirely accurate, I will give you the original version.

Regina coeli, laetare, alleluia: Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia. Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, Alleluia,
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.

Oremus: Deus qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus, ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum dominum nostrum.

And if you want to learn how to chant it, you can do so here.

Thanks to Craig for finding these chants.


Saturday, April 7, 2012


Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

St. John Chrysostom, Easter Homily

Holy Saturday

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

'See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."

From an Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday


Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

The Power of Christ's Blood

If we wish to understand the power of Christ's blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. "Sacrifice a lamb without blemish," commanded Moses, "and sprinkle its blood on your doors." If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord's blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy Eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

“There flowed from his side water and blood.” Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolised baptism and the holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit,” and from the holy Eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.

St. John Chrysostom, Catecheses


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday

This is surely what we read in the Proverbs of Solomon: If you sit down to eat at the table of a ruler, observe carefully what is set before you; then stretch out your hand, knowing that you must provide the same kind of meal yourself. What is this ruler’s table if not the one at which we receive the body and blood of him who laid down his life for us? What does it mean to sit at this table if not to approach it with humility? What does it mean to observe carefully what is set before you if not to meditate devoutly on so great a gift? What does it mean to stretch out one’s hand, knowing that one must provide the same kind of meal oneself, if not what I have just said: as Christ laid down his life for us, so we in our turn ought to lay down our lives for our brothers? This is what the apostle Paul said:Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we might follow in his footsteps.

This is what is meant by providing “the same kind of meal.” This is what the blessed martyrs did with such burning love. If we are to give true meaning to our celebration of their memorials, to our approaching the Lord’s table in the very banquet at which they were fed, we must, like them, provide “the same kind of meal.”

St. Augustine, Treatise on John


Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I will be away until Easter, but there will be something here everyday if you care to look.

Thanks to everyone who commented on the Stations of the Cross, both on the blog and in person.


The Fourteenth Station~Jesus is Laid in the Tomb~Waiting

In every life of every Christian there are countless resurrections--just as there are always many times when every Christian is buried with Christ.

In the soul of the sinner Christ dies many deaths and knows the glory of many resurrections.

In the souls that have served Him faithfully, too, there are long periods that seem like death, periods of dryness of spirit when all the spiritual things that once interested them have become insufferably tedious and boring, when it is very difficult, even sometimes impossible, to say a prayer . . . .

One of these things [which the souls who follow Christ in His suffering will imitate] is lying in the tomb, bound and restricted in the burial bands. There come times in every life when the soul seems to be shut down, frostbound in the hard, ironbound winter of the spirit; times when it seems to be impossible to pray, impossible even to want to pray; when there seems to be only cold and darkness numbing the mind.

These indeed are the times when Christ is growing towards His flowering, towards His spring breaking in the soul--towards His ever-recurring resurrection in the world, towards His glorious resurrection in the hearts of men.

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There seems to be nothing that we can do in these times to honour God, but by ourselves there is nothing that we can do at any time. In Christ we can do just what He did, remain quietly in the tomb, rest and be at peace, trusting God to awaken us in His own good time to a springtime of Christ, to a sudden quickening and flowering and new realization of Christ-life in us.

Caryll Houselander, The Way of the Cross

"Nothing we can do"--and one of the things that's almost impossible to do is to remember that Christ is, indeed, doing something in you during those times. It takes a long time come to the place where you are able to hold on to that hope. It's a mystery why we have to go through these times, but looking back I always find that they result in much more growth than all the times when things seem to be going well. Maybe when we are happy and content and feel like doing God's Will, we are so busy trying to do it that we get in His way. Maybe when we're desolate, we give Him room to work.

CH writes here of the end of this frozen experience coming quickly like Spring. And Spring does break out so quickly. You step outside and there are daffodils--and, over there, forsythia--and the redbud is blooming. I think that only once have I experienced the end of a period of desolation in that way. For me, it is always more like dawn on a cloudy day. I'm in the dark and there is no perceptible change, but then I realize it's lighter, and even then it takes a good while for the clouds to clear away and the sun come out. But, come out it does.

And am I happy when the sun comes out? Well yes, I'm grateful, and I enjoy it, but I never quite trust it. I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop. In some ways I'm more comfortable, not with the frozen, icebound winter, but with the kind of gray, rainy winter that we have around here. There's so much less scope for disappointment when I'm there. I know this is bad, and it's a lack of trust, but it's something that is very difficult for me to overcome.

However, I have noticed as I have been writing these meditations that joy seems to be sneaking up on me from every direction. When I was on my retreat, I went early to Mass because it said in the bulletin that they prayed the rosary before Mass. They said the Joyful Mysteries. What was that all about? And then there was that quote from St. Augustine, and a tape I listened to in the car on my trip home that said much the same thing. And when I sat down to write the meditation on the 12th Station, I had no idea that I was going to end up writing about joy. And when I sat down this morning, I didn't have any idea that I was going to end this series like this either. And I'm not too sure that if anyone else had been writing about joy during Lent, I might not have been irritated. But, you know, once Jesus was in that tomb, He wasn't just lying around waiting. He was doing this:


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thirteenth Station--Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross~Motherhood

Mary remained silent, as so often before she had remained silent, in the crowd; but now Jesus shared her silence. Jesus and Mary alone were silent in the midst of chaos, when the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom and the graves were opened. They alone remained calm when those who a few moments ago had mocked at Christ, and those who had hammered the nails through His hands and feet, shouting and laughing to one another, were seized with dread and confusion of mind.

One of the soldiers came to pierce the heart of Christ with a spear, and as he drove it into His side blood and water flowed from it. Mary knew that that stream of blood was her own blood, emptied at last from his sacred veins, and she knew that that water that sprang like the spray of a fountain from His side was the mysterious breaking of the waters of birth. It was the birth of Christ in man, her son Christ who would indwell men until the end of time.

They took His body down from the cross and laid it in His Mother's arms, and she held it upon her heart; and in it, all those Christs to come to whom she was Mother now.

Caryll Houselander, The Way of the Cross

Who can imagine the grief that Mary must have felt when they placed her Son in her arms for the last time? On the other hand, this was the moment that she had been anticipating since Gabriel's visit, and now the worst was over. Perhaps along with her grief, she felt a certain peace when she heard Him say, "It is finished."

Her task, of course, was far from finished. Now, instead of being the mother of one perfect Son, she had a whole world full of sinful sons and daughters to tend to. How she must have loved John, and all those men that her Son had chosen, and how much they must have loved her. And how patient she must have had to be with all their faults and quirks and disagreements.

Mary was present at the birth of Jesus, and at the birth of the Church, and at the birth of every one of us. She has been our mother for our whole lives. Whenever our own mothers have failed us through tiredness or impatience, sinfulness or death, she has been there to help us even when we were unaware of her presence. Help of Christians, Refuge of Sinners, Seat of Wisdom, Mother of Good Counsel, she is all of this and more.

As in the case of many earthly mothers, sometimes her children run away. Whole denominations of her children have run away; some are even afraid of her. Still, I believe that she continues to work in their lives, quiet, unassuming, waiting for the day that they recognize her for who she is.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. John 19:26-27


Monday, April 2, 2012

The Twelfth Station--Jesus Dies on the Cross-Joy?

To His enemies this seems to be the hour of their triumph and Christ’s defeat, but in fact it is the supreme hour of His triumph. Now when He seems to be more helpless than He has ever been before, He is in fact more powerful. When He seems to be more limited, more restricted, His love is boundless, His reach across the world to the hearts of men in all ages is infinite.

But to those who look on, how different what appears to be happening seems to what is really happening. How certain it seems that Christ has been overcome, that His plan of love for the world has failed utterly, that He Himself is a failure, His “kingdom” a pitiful delusion.

Caryll Houselander, The Way of the Cross

I have often thought that when Judas kissed Jesus on the cheek all the devils in Hell must have been laughing in triumph. How much more bitter this must have made their hatred when they learned what had really happened. So often, we are like a color-blind person looking at one of those circles full of many different colored circles that you see at the optometrist’s office. If only he had the eyes to see, he would know there was a number in the circle.

There was a time about 25 years ago when I was going through terrible spiritual struggles, and in the midst of it all I noticed that this phrase kept turning up in the Liturgy of the Hours, “The wood of the cross has become the tree of life.” Whenever I read it, the pain in my heart seemed to ease a bit. Then, a friend sent me an Easter card. It was shaped in the form of a cross, white with little vines and flowers growing all over it. A couple of days later, another friend sent me a similar, but not identical card. Eventually, I worked my way through the difficulties, but I never forget that it’s the wood of the cross that becomes the tree of life.

Recently, my spiritual director asked me to classify the major events in my life by listing them under the different mysteries of the Rosary--sorrowful, joyful, glorious, luminous. It seemed like an easy thing to do, but as I wrote I found that it was more difficult than it appeared on the surface. Things that had been devastating at the time have turned out to be glorious and vice versa. My joys and my sorrows seem to be the same things.

I remember that when I was a child, I would hear prayers that talked about “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears” and wonder what the heck that was all about. When I was a teenager and older people would talk about life being hard, I didn’t want to hear it. I would push that knowledge away, and I have seen my own children do that. Now I can see that “the valley of tears” and “the valley of the shadow of death” are the same as the green pastures in which He makes us lie down. We may only be able to get a glimpse of that now, but in the end, I’m convinced that we will find it to have been true. I find myself in this last week of Lent in pretty much the same frame of mind that I was in Advent, waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour.

The this morning’s Office of Readings St. Augustine says, “Brethren, let us then fearlessly acknowledge, and even openly proclaim, that Christ was crucified for us; let us confess it, not in fear but in joy, not in shame but in glory.”

Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world.
Come let us adore.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Revived and Redeemed: Gillian Welch and Heather King

For the past two months, I've been listening to Gillian Welch's first album, Revival, over and over again whenever I have been alone in the car. I love every song on the album. I love Ms. Welch's strong, flexible, homey voice. It's exactly right for the lyrics. I love David Rawlings's guitar. I don't know the right technical vocabulary to describe what I'm talking about, but his guitar riffs seem to grab me right in the chest and pull me along with him. I love the stories in the songs. I love it that the songs are in my range. I'm never happy unless I can sing along. This may be why I only listen when I'm alone.

The song that has really resonated with me this Lent, though, is By the Mark. I spent a long time deciding which of the three available videos to post because they all have their drawbacks, but I've chosen this one because it's the version of the song that's on the album. You might want to ignore the video, it has about 3 times as many pictures as it needs--some good, some not--and the person that assembled them was way too attached to his zoom.

I came fairly late in my life to an appreciation of this type of kind of music. When I was younger, none of my friends or family would have given it the time of day. It just wasn't in my world. I love it now because this type of song speaks to something that is so elemental. There's no complicated theology here, just an acknowledgement that this is the God Who was wounded for His people and that He draws us by the power of those wounds. When He rose from the dead, He could have returned in a "perfect" body, but He chose to come back to us marked with these signs.

Heather King makes a similar observation in her memoir, Redeemed: A Spiritual Misfit Stumbles Toward God, Marginal Sanity, and the Peace That Passes All Understanding. has always seemed to me a deep and shattering mystery that when Christ appeared to His disciples after the Resurrection, He still bore the wounds. One of the things this seems to say is that our suffering counts. Our wounds aren't wiped away, as in a fairy tale: our bodies and souls bear their marks into eternity. Maybe that's how we'll recognize, or classify, or take joy in each other after we die, because maybe then we'll see how our suffering helped someone else, or perhaps saved another from suffering.
About 15 years ago, a friend told me about a young man with Down Syndrome who had recently died. He had been a great friend of her little boys, and they were asking what would happen to Kenny. Their mother said something to the effect that Kenny would go to Heaven and be happy, and that he would be healed and beautiful when they met him there. The boys said, "We don't want him to be beautiful. We want him to look like Kenny."

This really started me thinking about what beauty really is and what we will perceive as beauty in Heaven. I have several friends who have died and I feel just like those little boys. When I see them again, I want them to look like themselves. They were beautiful to me already.

So, maybe Ms. King is right. I don't know. I wrote in another post of how we meet Jesus wound to wound. All of my wounds: the scars from childhood injuries, from operations, from abandonments, from the suffering of those I love, cry out to be subsumed and healed in the wounds of Jesus. We need for Jesus to be wounded.

I love the Anima Christi:

O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
Where is there a safer hiding place?

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Crown Him the Lord of love,
Behold His hands and side,
Rich wounds yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear the sight,
But downward bends his wond'ring eye
At mystery so bright.

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I first read about Heather King's trilogy of memoirs, Parched, Redeemed, and Shirt of Flame (although I persist in thinking of the last as, Shirt on Fire) in a comment by Matthew Likona at The Korrektiv. The books chronicle her journey from being "a blackout drunk for 20 years" to being a passionate Catholic. She knows about being wounded, and she knows about being healed. Her books are will worth reading, especially the last two.

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My favorite picture from that By the Mark video.