Thursday, December 31, 2015

52 Saints ~ Introduction and a Few Suggestions

Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, Van Eyck
The 52 Saints series begins this Sunday with Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. If you did not know about this series before now, a group of friends and I are going to write posts about a different Saint each Sunday in 2016. All the weeks are not taken, so if you are interested in joining us, please let me know.

When you read the post about Bl. Elizabeth, you will see that the entire first section is about how I came to choose this saint--well, about how I didn't exactly choose her. The reason I wrote about this at such length is so that you might see that there are more possibilities to this series than perhaps you have imagined. It's fine to write about a saint with whom you are already familiar, and whose story you want to share--especially if your experience with the saint is part of the story--but you might also consider praying about who you ought to choose and keep your eyes open for someone new. So, while I will need to know about a month, or so in advance who is writing about whom and when, I'm not asking anyone to commit to every saint now. Of course, if you know whom you want to write about, let me know so someone else won't get there first.

There are two pages on the sidebar, one with a list of the people who have said they will write and the saints they have chosen, and the one with the definite schedule. You will see that the first four weeks are covered. You can't leave comments there because I have found that it is when people comment on the pages (as opposed to posts) that the comments quit working right. If you want to tell me something you can leave a comment here, or email me.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

52 Authors Complete

As many of you know, for the the past 52 weeks, a group of those who frequent Maclin Horton's blog, Light on Dark Water, have been writing about a different author every week. Here is the complete index.

Week 1: Flannery O'Connor

Week 2: Thomas Howard

Week 3: Salman Rushdie

Week 4: Mark Helprin

Week 5: Henri de Lubac

Week 6: Robert Scheckley

Week 7: P. G. Wodehouse

Week 8: Hans Urs von Balthasar

Week 9: Ronald Blythe

Week 10: Larry McMurtry

Week 11: Imre Madach

Week 12: J. R. R. Tolkien

Week 13: Dean Koontz

Week 14: Rosemary Sutcliff

Week 15: Hilaire Belloc

Week 16: Madeleine L'Engle

Week 17: Christopher Derrick

Week 18: T. S. Eliot

Week 19: Etienne Gilson

Week 20: Penelope Fitzgerald

Week 21: Elizabeth Goudge

Week 22: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Week 23: Gillian Allnut

Week 24: Anne Pellowski

Week 25: Josef Skvorecky

Week 26: E. B. White

Week 27: Ross MacDonald

Week 28: W. S. Merwin

Week 29: Josephine Tey

Week 30: William Butler Yeats

Week 31: John Henry Cardinal Newman

Week 32: Thomas Mann

Week 33: Marion Montgomery

Week 34: G. K. Chesterton

Week 35: Sydney Taylor

Week 36: Charles Dickens

Week 37: Alexander McCall Smith

Week 38: Chaim Potok

Week 39: Graham Greene

Week 40: Mary Douglas

Week 41: Louise Fitzhugh

Week 42: Gerard Manley Hopkins, S. J.

Week 43: Madison Jones

Week 44: Rumer Godden

Week 45: Jane Austen

Week 46: Leo Tolstoy

Week 47: Walker Percy

Week 48: Mary Renault

Week 49: Thomas Merton

Week 50: George Orwell

Week 51: David Hume

Week 52: Jean Daniélou


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Reed of God ~ The Lost Child

The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple, stained glass by Mary Lowndes,
after William Holman Hunt
When my youngest daughter was a child, she used to ask me why The Finding in the Temple was a mystery. I never had a very good answer to that question. Then the first page of this chapter made it clear to me. Why was it that Jesus let his mother think that He was lost?
Why did Christ treat Our Lady in this way?
Well, that is a mystery indeed.

We all lose our children in some way. As they grow up we lose those lovely, cuddly babies who teach us things about love and fear that we never understood before. We lose those hysterically funny three year olds, masters of comedy and philosophy both. We lose those wonder-filled early school aged children. We lose them for a time, or maybe for the rest of our lives, when some tragedy, physical or emotional, separates us. And, Miss Houselander explains, Mary suffers the loss of her son so that she can share this with us. She, the perfect model of her Son, undergoes a purification she does not need.
But during her whole life she accepted everything which in our case is a necessary purification but in her case was the proof that she loved us with Christ's love.
And she did not suffer only the loss of a child, she suffered the loss of God, and as Miss Houselander says:
Everyone experiences this loss of the Divine Child. Everyone knows it in different ways, and in different degrees.
Mary experienced this not only when Jesus was lost at the age of twelve, but at times throughout her life when He was traveling and preaching and she did not know where He was. She suffered His loss at the foot of the cross, and yet again when He ascended into Heaven. And so, when He seems so very far away from us, we know that she has been there before us. As she trusted Him completely in this darkness, she can teach us to trust Him likewise.

This is going to be the last post in this series this year. I may finish up the book at some other time, maybe in Lent. I'm sure next week will be too busy for me to write much and probably too busy for anyone else to read.

All of the posts in this series can be found by clicking HERE.
Unfortunately they are in reverse order, so you have to scroll down to get to the beginning.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ Third Saturday of Advent

A few more pictures from last weekend. Taken on the Second Saturday of Advent. You can click on a picture once (not twice) and see a slideshow of all of them.

I'm pretty sure this is St. Francis, since it's in an area dedicated to him, but he is holding a dove, which, since the name of the retreat center is St. Columba, is quite appropriate.

Twelth station. 

I really love all these gray and brown shades of winter with just an occasional touch of color.

Lonely little berry

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.


Novena to St. Martin de Porres

Prayer to St Martin de Porres (Begin with this prayer every day.)

Most humble Martin de Porres, your burning charity embraced not only the poor and needy but even the animals of the field. For your splendid example of charity, we honour you and invoke your help. From your place in heaven, hear the requests of your needy brethren, so that, by imitating your virtues we may live contentedly in that state in which God has placed us. And carrying our cross with strength and courage, may we follow in the footsteps of our blessed Redeemer and his most sorrowful mother, so that at last we may reach the kingdom of heaven through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

First Day
St Martin’s Humility
St Martin imitated our Lord Who was meek and humble of heart. There was no pride or vanity in Martin, who realized that God is our Creator and that we are His creatures. Martin understood that God loves us as children and only wants us to be happy. So he had the wisdom to surrender entirely to the holy will of God. Let us imitate St Martin by humbly doing the will of God in all things.

Prayer: St Martin, ask our Lord and his Blessed Mother to give us the grace of true humility that we may not become proud, but may be contented with the gifts that God gives us. Obtain for us the light of the Holy Spirit that we may understand, as you did that pride is an obstacle to union with God, and that true happiness comes only from doing the will of God. Amen.

Recite one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be.
St Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Second Day
St Martin’s Love of God
St Martin was entirely filled with the fire of God’s love. He knew that God sent His Son into the world to suffer and die on the cross for our sins. This thought stirred Martin’s heart with deep affection for so loving a Redeemer, and his whole life gave evidence of his sincere gratitude. May we, too, learn to love our Saviour more and more and show our love by our good works.

Prayer: St Martin, why are our hearts so cold and lacking in love for the Son of God, who became a little child for our salvation? Why are we so slow to love Jesus, who loved us so much that he gave his life for us? Ask God and Our Lady of Sorrows to make us realize that the only way to happiness is by loving and serving God with our whole heart and soul. Amen.

Recite one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be.
St Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Third Day
St Martin’s Love for the Poor
St Martin was called “The Father of the Poor.” He saw the poor, the sick, and the dying as children of God, and he helped them in a thousand practical ways. He studied medicine that he might know how to cure the sick. Every day he distributed alms to the poor. He built an orphanage for children. Let us imitate the charity of St Martin, that God may bless us as He blessed him.

Prayer: St Martin, teach us to be generous with the gifts that God has given us. Make us sympathetic toward those who are suffering and afflicted. Pray to our Redeemer and to Our Lady of Mercy that we may always be kind and generous to our neighbours because they are the children of our heavenly Father. Amen.

Recite one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be.
St Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Fourth Day
St Martin’s Faith

St Martin had a lively faith in all the teachings of the Catholic Church. He knew the Church was founded by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who came to teach us the way to the Father. God rewarded St Martin’s humble faith by enlightening his mind so that he could understand the mysteries of our holy religion. May God give us the grace always to believe the truths which he has revealed.

Prayer: O St Martin, we need strong faith in God and His holy Church, especially in these days when religion is often considered unimportant. Bring all people to a knowledge and love of the true Church, that they may find the way of salvation and happiness. Ask Christ and Our Lady of Good Counsel to make us faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in life and in death. Amen.

Recite one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be.
St Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Fifth Day
St Martin’s Confidence in God

St Martin put all his trust in the goodness and promises of God. He hoped to obtain an eternal reward, through the grace of God and the merits of Jesus Christ. We know that St Martin’s trust in God was not in vain. We, too, are confident that God will forgive us our sins if we are truly sorry, and that he will give us everlasting life if we serve Him faithfully, by obeying His commandments.

Prayer: St Martin, help us to have a great confidence in almighty God. Make us understand that He is one friend Who will never desert us. Keep us from foolishly presuming that we will be saved without doing our part, but keep us also from despair, which forgets the mercy of God. Ask Jesus and His Mother to increase in our hearts faith, hope and charity. Amen.

Recite one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be.
St Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Sixth Day
St Martin’s Devotion to Prayer

St Martin kept his mind and heart always lifted up to the Creator of all things. His prayer came from the depths of his being, not just from his lips. He naturally turned to praise and thank God, and to ask Him for help. St Martin prayed with humility and perseverance, and God answered his prayers in miraculous ways. Martin will pray for us before the throne of God in heaven.

Prayer: St Martin, help us to have great faith in Christ’s promise: “Ask and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you” (Mt 7:7). Make us faithful in participating in Holy Mass and in devoting time to personal prayer every day, to obtain the blessings of God. Ask the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary to intercede for us too. Amen.

Recite one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be.
St Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Seventh Day
St Martin’s Spirit of Penance

St Martin was a hard worker who dedicated all his energies to his ministry. He did not seek an easy comfortable life. Even though he laboured so hard, he also imposed on himself severe penances for his sins and the salvation of others. If so holy a man did penances, how much more should we, who have seriously offended God by our sins!

Prayer: St Martin, from you we learn how to be dedicated and unselfish. You teach us to avoid idleness and self-seeking. Give us some of that spirit of penance which you had, so that we may be constant in the struggle with temptation. Ask Jesus crucified and Mary, the Queen of Martyrs, to give us the grace to fight the good fight. Amen.

Recite one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be.
St Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Eighth Day
St Martin’s Reward

St Martin died a holy and peaceful death. He had spent his life doing good as a humble brother of the Dominican Order. But whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Soon his heroic life became known all over the world, and on 6 May 1962 Pope John XXIII solemnly proclaimed him St. Martin de Porres. Let us rejoice that we have such a powerful intercessor among the saints of God!

Prayer: St Martin, you have been raised up by God to show us the way to our true home. You have given us the good example and the encouragement that we need. We now realize from your life that all we have to do to win the reward of glory is to love and serve the best of Masters. May we ever be humble that we, too, may be exalted unto everlasting life. Amen.

Recite one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be.
St Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Ninth Day
St Martin’s Miracles

St Martin performed many miracles during his life and after his holy death. We can go to him with confidence for he will obtain our petitions if they are for our true welfare. His great heart loves to help us in every way. We have only to tell him our troubles and to ask him to help us. If we do our part, we can be sure that our friend St Martin will do his part.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Who inflamed the heart of St Martin with an ardent love of the poor and who taught him the wisdom of always surrendering to God’s holy will, grant that, like him, we may be ever truly humble of heart and full of Christ-like charity for suffering humanity. Amen.

Recite one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be.
St Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ Third Tuesday of Advent

A few pictures from my weekend.

Where I was. I spent most of my time when I wasn't walking around on that screened-in porch. You can see a larger version of the pictures if you click on one. Just click once.

The view from inside the porch.

When I came back to the hermitage after walking Saturday afternoon, it was very noisy. Both the sky and this tree were filled with starlings. Miraculously, I managed to take five pictures in which there are no birds. I did get a few here.

I really like these. They were growing all around the Stations of the Cross. 

I'll post some more colorful stuff in a couple of days.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Reed of God ~ Et Verbum Caro Factum Est

Seven Sacraments, Rogier van der Weyden

In this chapter Ms. Houselander begins by talking about one of my favorite subjects, the unity of body and soul. She writes:
It seems very difficult for people to realize that the Word is made flesh. first of all, the flesh is a stumbling block. There are two schools of thought: one thinks (or feels) that the flesh is wholly bad' the other, that it is absolutely good.
After giving examples of the two schools, she writes:
The first reason why there is a flaw in all the several attitudes to "the flesh" which I have mentioned is that so many people think of soul and body as two separate things necessarily in conflict. 
And then after discussing how it is true that in the battle between good and evil, the flesh has a proclivity to side with evil, she says:
That the Word was made flesh does mean, however, that the word became human, and a human being is a unity of soul and body in which the Spirit abides and which He wants to change from the weak thing it is to the glorious thing which he intended it to be from the beginning of creation. 
After this there is a discussion of the culmination of this unity in the body of the Lord and in sacrament and Sacrament: in the Eucharist  and in Marriage in particular. As in the passage about the Fugue in the last chapter, it would be wonderful to listen to this as a meditation, especially the passage about marriage.

As I was thinking about writing this post, I began to realize something about Sacraments. We know from the catechism that a Sacrament is "an outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace," but it is also, I think the perfect unity between the material and the spiritual--between body and soul. They are in some way a pledge of the day when we will no longer need, but in this way will be sacraments.

Thanks to my friend, Paul, for reminding me of the above picture.

All of the posts in this series can be found by clicking HERE.
Unfortunately they are in reverse order, so you have to scroll down to get to the beginning.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ Second Saturday of Advent

More here. I think the last picture is the best.

I love it when my gingko drops it's leaves and makes this beautiful yellow carpet. 

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Reed of God ~ Fugue

I have been trying to write something for several days, but just have not been able to find the time, and in a little over an hour, I'm going to leave to spend the weekend in a hermitage, so I'm going to keep this brief. I'm also pretty sure that most of y'all don't have much time either.

 This section begins with a lovely meditation on the life of Christ imagined as a musical composition. It's much better just read or heard than talked about though, so I'm not going to talk about it, but just recommend that if you haven't read it, you find a quiet place and sit down and do so. Or better yet, I have been meaning to mention that Reed of God is available as an audio book and it's well worth listening to, especially for meditative sections like this one.

The main passage that I wanted to write about was this one.
Experience has taught us that war simplifies life. Every individual would experience some equivalent of the Passion even if there were no war; but war makes it visible and even simple, and shows us how the Passion of Christ can be each one's individual secret and at the same time something shared by the whole world.
It is a moment in which the world needs great draughts of supernatural life, needs the Christ-life to be poured into it, as truly and as urgently as a wounded soldier drained of his blood needs a blood transfusion.
In many souls, for this very reason, Christ will say: "It was for this hour that I came into this world."
Although we are not living in the middle of the kind of war that Caryll Houselander was enduring in the 1940s in England, we are certainly surrounded by wars and the threat of violence. And, of course, there is a great ideological war being waged against our culture and our faith, and we, just as much as people in during WWII, need those "great draughts of supernatural life."

It is the last sentence that strikes me though. Just as Christ said that he came into the world for this hour, he would say to us that we--each one of us--came into the world for this hour--December of 2015.

Whether you are a young mother, a teacher, an electrician, a retired person--whoever and wherever you are--you are here to give birth to Christ in the world, and as Miss Houselander says, you can only do this by unity with the Holy Spirit. That is why it is so important to find some kind of space in our days to create that emptiness in our souls.

Yesterday's gospel was from Matthew 11, the chapter that says, "...the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force." That is such an enigmatic passage, but it is increasingly clear to me that unless we confront the busyness of our lives with violence, we will never be able to reclaim even a moment's silence. I know that it is much easier for me than for many of you, especially those of you who have small children. I'm pretty sure that if, when my children were young, someone who had just told me they were going to spend the next to last weekend before Christmas in a hermitage had told me I needed to find a quiet space in my day, I would have been either terribly amused or terribly angry, but unexpected quiet moments can open up even in the busiest lives, and even a small victory here can make a huge difference.

All of the posts in this series can be found by clicking HERE.
Unfortunately they are in reverse order, so you have to scroll down to get to the beginning.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ Second Thursday of Advent

Just go some place quiet, close your eyes, and listen.

And after that you might just look at the close up of Yo Yo Ma's left hand that begin at 3:16. That's pretty beautiful, too--fearfully and wonderfully made.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ Second Wednesday of Advent

I did not have time to write anything about Reed of God and I've been singing this all evening, so I thought I'd post it here. It's about time for The Messiah.

I knew I had posted this on Facebook last year, and so I did a search for it and found that it was on December 10. I guess I'm a few hours early this year.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This is the statue that stands outside the door that leads into the transept of my parish church. I stop and say a little prayer there almost every time I go into the church. I love that blue.

To see all of the posts in the this series, click HERE.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ Second Monday of Advent

This is a picture of my oldest and youngest (at the time) granddaughters about three years ago when the oldest was about 17. In Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton says that when a person has been raised as a Christian, even if he has lost his faith, "for him there will always be some savour of religion about the mere picture of a mother and a baby . . ." I think that holds true for this picture, too.

To see all of the posts in the this series, click HERE.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Reed of God ~ Et Homo Factus Est

Giotto: Nativity: Birth of Christ, Scrovegni Chapel
All things were made by him;and without him was made nothing that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in the darkness,and the darkness did not comprehend it."  John 1, 3-5
This is a very short section, but it contains the most powerful concept of all, which is that Mary, in giving Jesus her humanity, gave Him death.
In giving life to Him she was giving Him death.
All other children born must inevitably die; death belongs to fallen nature; the mother's gift to the child is life.
But Christ is Life; death did not belong to Him.
In fact, unless Mary would give Him death, He could not die.
Unless she would give Him the capacity for suffering, He could not suffer. 
 I find this overwhelming. I really don't have anything to say about it. I suppose it's one of those things that Mary pondered in her heart.

Then Miss Houselander talks about the birth of Christ as a separation from Mary and says this:
The description of His birth in the Gospel does not say that she held Him in her arms but that she "wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger."
As if her first act was to lay Him on the Cross.
She knew that this little son of hers was God's Son and that God had not given Him to her for herself alone but for the whole world.
This is one of the greatest of all the things that we must learn from our contemplation of Our Lady.
All my life, pictures of the infant Jesus wrapped up in swaddling clothes and laying in the manger have bothered me because I couldn't stand the thought of those delicious little arms and legs being all bound up and hidden away. I have in the past five years had experience with my grandchildren being swaddled--only for sleeping--and I can see that it works and the babies seem to like it--although I seem to be incapable of the art of swaddling--still, it seems so stiff, and babies are so un-stiff.

And this image of laying the infant on the cross, while theologically correct and all, again is overwhelming. I know of course that Mary had to hold Jesus to feed Him and I'm sure that she did play with his little fingers and toes, and I hope that she was able to do this without always thinking of what was to come.

The real message that Caryll Houselander is trying to convey, though, is that Mary was aware that her son was given to her in order to be given to the world, and that she could not try to hold him too close, or protect him from all the horrors that were to come. She also writes about how this is true for all mothers. Our children are, "...part of a whole and that the whole is the family of God, to whom every child born owes all the love and service of a brother or sister."

I also wanted to mention the above quote from John which introduces this chapter. In Catholic churches today, the translation we read says, ". . . and the darkness has not overcome it," while many translations use some verson of, ". . . the darkness did not comprehend it." The latter has a much deeper meaning, I think, especially when we think about the definition which uses comprehend in the sense of containing or enclosing. The Light was too great to be held bound by the darkness.

And finally, there is this:
We need to say to ourselves a thousand times a day: "Christ wants to do this"; "Christ wants to suffer this."
And we shall thus come to realize that when we resent our circumstances or try to spare ourselves what we should undergo, we are being like Peter when he tried to dissuade Our Lord from the Passion.
There is one tremendous answer to the question which is reiterated to the point of utter weariness: "Why should I?"
It is another question: "Ought not Christ to suffer these things and so enter into His glory?"
All of the posts in this series can be found by clicking HERE.
Unfortunately they are in reverse order, so you have to scroll down to get to the beginning.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ First Saturday of Advent

I must have listened to 15 or 20 different renditions of this song trying to find what I wanted. I resisted listening to this one that kept popping up in the sidebar, but well . . .

To see all of the posts in the this series, click HERE.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Reed of God ~ Advent

Advent is the season of the seed; Christ loved this symbol of the seed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
The Advent, the seed of the world's life, was hidden in Our Lady.Like the wheat seed in the earth, the seed of the Bread of Life was in her.Like the golden harvest in the darkness of the earth, the Glory of God was shrined in her darkness.Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence.It is the season of humility, silence, and growth.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She had nothing to give Him but herself.He asked for nothing else.She gave Him Herself.

And so to Caryll Houselander it is all this simple. We surrender ourselves to Christ and He plants the seed of Himself within us. And our part is likewise simple. We go about doing the duties of our daily life and he grows silently within us.

Sometimes we are so impatient. We try to force His growth, but like that apple pie she mentions, if you take it out of the oven too soon, you don't have an apple pie.

I can remember that when I was in my 20s and 30s, and maybe even my 40s, I tried so hard. I wanted so much to be super-holy, but it wasn't working very well, and I doubt if my motives were very good anyway. People tried to tell me that it took time, that He slowly change me, but I couldn't really understand how this could be so.

And now in my 60s, I can see how all the time while nothing seemed to be happening, so many of the
prayers that I prayed--usually by rote and without much attention--were being answered. While I was working so hard trying to change A, and mostly failing, He was forming B, C, & D in my soul. I really didn't have much to do with it at all. I just realized once day, "Oh, I'm not scared of that any more," or "I've really gotten to love doing this." I think he must give us A to play with so we won't get in the way while He's working on B, C, & D like we give a small child a toy to distract him from the needle that the doctor is about to stick in his leg.

If we are going to make an apple pie, we have to know all the ingredients and perform every step of the preparation in the right way if we want the pie to turn out right. But even the most educated scientist in the world could not tell us all the tiny minutiae that go into forming a baby in the mother's womb. True, we try to eat right, and live healthily so that the baby will be well, but in truth, the process is a mystery. And the growth of Christ within us is an even greater mystery.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There is much more in this section, but if I try to write about it, I won't be able to post tonight. If there's anything else you see there that you would like to mention, please do.

All of the posts in this series can be found by clicking HERE.
Unfortunately they are in reverse order, so you have to scroll down to get to the beginning.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ First Thursday of Advent

Image Source: Used by permission of the artist, Owen Swain,
all rights reserved 2014 (may not be reproduced for
personal or commercial use without written permission of the Artist)
Another beautiful image by my friend Owen Swain who painted my St. Martin de Porres icon. She has the most joyful expression on her face.

To see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ First Wednesday of Advent

Listening this time: Alison Krauss, Yo Yo Ma, and Stephen Foster

To see all the posts in this series, click HERE.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Reed of God ~ Fiat

Fra Filippo Lippi, Annunciation
The surrender that is asked of us includes complete and absolute trust; it must be like Our Lady's surrender, without condition and without reservation.
In this section Caryll Houselander refers repeatedly to Mary as a child, and says she could not have been more than 14. I have no idea whether or not that is an accurate statement, or whether or not she would have been thought a child in that time and place, but sinless as she was, she certainly had the mind and heart of a child. She was, indeed, as she was when she had, "...just come from God's hand." The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that only someone very young could have responded to Gabriel as she did. It had to be someone who had never been betrayed or seen real corruption who could be brave enough to offer that total surrender.
"Be it done unto me according to thy word" seems a very bold prayer indeed in view of the words we know God has uttered. It would be easier to sacrifice some big thing to God, to impose some hard rule upon ourselves, than to say, "Do what you like with me."
 At the heart of this surrender is trust, trust in the only One whom we have any reason to trust. And yet, in practice Our Lord is far down on the list of those or those things in which we place our trust. In our everyday lives we trust in a hundred different things: our car, elevators (ugh), our intellect, our friends, too many to enumerate, all of which may fail us without notice. And then, of course, Miss Houselander mentions money. Who of us does that think that just a bit more money could make us more secure?
Money means the safest, swiftest travelling, the speediest spoken or written word (Could she even have imagined how swifly our words travel now?), the warmest clothing, the best medical aid.
Small wonder is it that gradually, without know it, we have come to trust more in money than in God.
From his earliest childhood the modern man is brought up to value money above all else and even to value himself by his capacity for getting it.
It is hardly surprising, when we think of all that money has come to mean to men, that if the breadwinner suddenly changes his mind and sets some other thing higher, he is thought to be a traitor in his own home.
And yet, every day now we see images of people, who were formerly secure in comfortable lives and with enough money, trudging in long, exhausted lines of refugees, leaving behind all the things they trusted in and on their way to who knows where?

What does it take for us to make that great leap of faith into the heart of Him who is the only safe refuge? It's understandable, of course, when we look at the lives of those who have made that leap. From the outside it looks pretty terrifying.
"Be it done unto me according to thy word" surrenders yourself and all that is dear to you to God, and the trust which it implies does not mean trusting God to look after you and yours, to keep you and them in health and prosperity and honor.
It means much more, it means trusting that whatever God does with you and with yours is the act of an infinitely loving Father. 
It seems impossible to choose this kind of vulnerability, and yet, it is only on the other side of that leap that we can be really peaceful, that we can see that every loss is a gift and every pain is the coin of the realm, that we can look into the future without fear.

All of the posts in this series can be found by clicking HERE.
Unfortunately they are in reverse order, so you have to scroll down to get to the beginning.


P.S. I know you're out there. I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dwell on These Things ~ First Sunday of Advent

St. Elizabeth Working for the Poor, Marianne Stokes
If I had to choose one image that embodied my idea of the perfect Advent, this would be it.

To see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.


The Reed of God ~ Emptiness

As I was reading this morning in preparation for writing this post, I remembered why it's difficult to write about Caryll Houselander's work. I see a passage that I want to quote, and then I can't figure out where to stop. It's impossible because almost every paragraph is quotable. It's also rather difficult to comment on what she says because she says everything so well, there's not a lot left to say--but we will do our best.

I also figured out that there is no way I can cover all three sections of Part I in one post, so I'm going to write on Emptiness  today, and then on Fiat Tuesday, and Advent Friday. For the most part I'm going to just share a few passages that struck me, comment briefly, and then leave the floor open for any comments on these or other passages.

This first series of quotes is very long, but I think it describes very well what we are about in this discussion.
That virginal quality which, for want of a better word, I call emptiness is the beginning of this contemplation.
It is not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning; on the contrary it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it is intended
. . . 
Emptiness is a very common complaint in our days, not the purposeful emptiness of the virginal heart and mind but a void, meaningless, unhappy condition.
Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures, doubts, anxieties and fears; and these sometimes further overlaid with exhausting pleasures which are an attempt, and always a futile attempt, to forget how pointless such people's lives are.
. . .
The question most people will ask is: "Can someone whose life is cluttered up with trivial things get back to this virginal emptiness.
Of course he can; if a bird's nest has been filled with broken glass and rubbish, it can be emptied.
At the beginning it will be necessary for each individual to discard deliberately all the trifling unnecessary things in  his life, all the hard blocks and congestion; not necessarily to discard all his interests for ever, but at least once to stop still, and having prayed for courage, to visualise (sic) himself without all the extras, escapes, and interests other than Love in his life: to see ourselves as if we had just come from God's hand and had gathered nothing to ourselves yet, to discover just what shape is the virginal emptiness of our own being, and of what material we are made. 
 I think we are all pretty familiar at least in some way with practicing this emptying out process in Lent, but it's only been in the last several years that I've attempted it in Advent. It is so much harder in Advent because we are surrounded by people we love who have expectations in which we play a part. In fact, that is probably the biggest obstacle to reaching this virginal emptiness. I'm at a stage in my life where I have a fair amount of control over this, but I know that some of the people who have told me they were interested in this discussion still have young children, and that finding even a few minutes a day will be difficult, so I suggest we all pray for one another to be able find as much time as we can.

That last paragraph pretty well delineates our task. The word escape really jumps out at me. As much as I crave silence and reflection, I still paradoxically find myself turning to things: movies, the internet, etc., that keep me away from that silence. I'm intrigued by this notion of seeing myself as if I had just come from God's hand. I'm not even sure how you can do this, but I want to try to just sit with that a while.

So, any thoughts or comments?

Just a bit of housekeeping--it is possible to reply to a specific comment instead of just adding your comment to the end of the list; HOWEVER, I would advise that you do not do this. I have found that this becomes very confusing and that people miss comments because they are tucked away under the original comment. If you want to reply specifically to something, just reference it in some way--by addresses the person by name or quoting part of the original.

All of the posts in this series can be found by clicking HERE.
Unfortunately they are in reverse order, so you have to scroll down to get to the beginning.


Friday, November 27, 2015

The Reed of God ~ Reading for Week I

As a clear and untilled space thou madest the divine ear of corn to burst forth; hail, thou living table having space for the Bread of Life; hail, perennial Fountain of living water.                                                                           The Akathist Hymn
The picture above shows the flyleaf of my copy of The Reed of God which I bought at a used book sale years ago. I like it because the previous owner's name is so biblical. Maybe his middle name is Hadadrimmon. I like that name because it's in one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament, Zechariah 12:11, "On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo." I keep meaning to look for ways to use that phrase. I don't know if you can see the address on that label at the top of the page, but if you can, don't use it. I haven't lived there in fourteen years.

So now, down to business. This week we will discuss Part One of The Reed of God (Emptiness, Fiat, Advent). I will write some kind of introduction on Sunday, and then we can discuss that section through the week. This is NOT, however, a cut and dried assignment. If that's too much for you to read in a week, don't let that deter you from joining in. Read what you can. Participate when you can. The last thing I want is for anyone to think this is overwhelming. The idea is to create a peaceful space in the havoc, not to increase the havoc. I probably won't even finish that much before I write the introduction, although I'm listening to the book on Audible while I'm working or driving, so maybe I will. You, however, don't need to read it all before Sunday, just 6 or 7 short pages a day (in my edition) beginning Sunday.

If you have looked through the book you will recognize the above quote from the flyleaf before Part I. If you are interested, you can read more about the Akathist Hymn here.

See you Sunday! I'm really looking forward to this.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dwell on These Things

Certainly, we have all seen and heard a surfeit of terrible things in the past weeks and, indeed, almost constantly for years. And the daily readings from Maccabees at Mass have been an echo of the evening news.
[From the descendants of Alexander’s officers] there sprang a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus, once a hostage at Rome. He became king in the year one hundred and thirty seven of the kingdom of the Greeks. 
 In those days there appeared in Israel men who were breakers of the law, and they seduced many people, saying: “Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us.” The proposal was agreeable; some from among the people promptly went to the king, and he authorized them to introduce the way of living of the Gentiles. Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the Gentile custom. They covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant; they allied themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to wrongdoing. 
 Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, each abandoning his particular customs. All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king, and many children of Israel were in favor of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.                                                         I Maccabees 1
And now, as Advent rapidly approaches, everything in our environment seems to war against it. In the midst of a world which seems increasingly dangerous, we now find ourselves surrounded by the claptrap and cacophony of the secular Christmas season which seems increasingly inappropriate. Only the most determined effort will dispel our nagging fears, and ward off the pressure and distractions of the moment.

And I am determined. I've been thinking a lot about how to keep the world at bay for the next four weeks and one of the things I've hit upon is this.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.   Philippians 4:8
I am going to try everyday to look at, or listen to, or read something beautiful. I've been thinking about what every mother knows and that is that when you are expecting, nothing matters except the baby. All your plans, all your efforts, all your decisions revolve around that little life that has been entrusted to you, and one thing your want for that child is that his life will be filled with beauty. And so, as I wait for the infant Jesus to be reborn in my heart this Christmas, I am going to try to make a beautiful little place to receive Him. I plan on posting some of this on the blog, I'm not going to commit do posting everyday, but as often as I can.

Photo Credit: Nancy Derham

To see all the posts in this series, click HERE.

P. S. I'm going to take a look at Reed of God tomorrow and decide how much we should read during the first week.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Yet Will I Praise Him

From today's first reading from Macabees:
When [Eleazar] was about to die under the blows, he groaned and said: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.”
Suffering terrible pain with joy in our souls--this seems to be almost impossible. And yet, slowly, over many years, if you can learn to accept suffering as God's will for you that day, it begins to happen. It's very strange because the suffering is no less suffering, in fact it might be even harder than before, and yet, that joy begins to grown and it brings peace with it. Part of that peace, I think, is the realization that this is what you are called to do. It's not your part to fix whatever is causing the suffering, or try to manipulate people into doing something that would make your suffering stop. You just pray and offer it to God and endure--but it's a joyful endurance nonetheless.

I'm not an expert at this by any means, but I do sometimes experience it.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Reed of God ~ Advent Book Discussion

In December of 2012, the first Advent of this blog, I wrote this post about Caryll Houselander's The Reed of God. While I was not very successful in writing about it that year, I have read some part of the book every Advent since, and this year, I thought I would try something different. As you can tell from the title of the post, I hope to have a discussion of the book during Advent. I'll post something every Sunday, and we can discuss it during the week. I'll divide the book into four sections and write a post about that week's section on Sunday and we can discuss it during the week.

I know this is a bit early, but I wanted to give everyone that was interested time to get the book if they don't already have it. I'm hoping it will provide a quiet little moment of reflection in all the craziness of the month. Some of my friends in my book club have said they would be interested, so I'm hoping it will work. Any amount of participation will be fine.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Shame and Glory

I've been wanting to get a picture of this for a long time, but when I pass it, I'm either on my way to work in a hurry, or coming home exhausted. Today, I left work a bit earlier than usual, and unbelievably I didn't have to stop for anything, so I pulled in the gas station across street. It's the only place to pull over within about eight miles of the sign, so I was fortunate that it was across the street. You don't find signs like this just anywhere. Note the nice crop of kudzu on the bank on the left. It's much more contained than your usual kudzu jungle.

As I was walking (quickly) across the street, I noticed a nice sunset, and just aimed my phone quickly toward the west and got this shot just before the approaching car got too close for comfort.

It strikes me that this might make a nice Easter picture.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015


If you click on the picture, you can see it much better.

This American Woodcock was sitting on the sidewalk in front of the grocery store when I came out tonight. That shadow was made by my cart. He's about 6 or 7 inches tall and about 10 inches long. He was absolutely still, and for a few minutes I thought he might be a stuffed toy because his feathers were a bit fuzzy.  Then, finally, he moved his head. I've never seen one around here before, even though I live in a place that would be much more suitable for a forest-foraging bird than a shopping area with acres of concrete. He must have been migrating south for the winter and gotten a bit off-track.

Wikipedia tells me that William G. Sheldon says in his Book of the American Woodcock that, "[i]ts many folk names include timberdoodle, bogsucker, night partridge, brush snipe, hokumpoke, and becasse. I think I like timberdoodle the best. It's hard, though to choose between timberdoodle and hokumpoke.

I could not believe how close he let me get to him. I must have been about 18" away, and he sat there and let me take about 10 pictures. After about ten minutes it occurred to me that half of what was in my cart was frozen (at least it had been when I left the store), so I probably ought to go home. I wondered if he were injured and unable to move, but when I drove by on my way out, he had gone. I hope he found a forest. I wish he'd come live in the one beside my house.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Feast of St. Martin de Porres 2015

Image Source: Used by permission of the artist, Owen Swain,
all rights reserved 2014 (may not be reproduced for
personal or commercial use without written permission of the Artist).
As most of you who read this blog know, St. Martin de Porres is my favorite saint and, I would say, the patron of this blog. In fact, he has his own little blog on the sidebar. In the history of this blog, there have been, as of a few seconds ago, 132,000 pageviews--whatever that means--48,102 have been for St. Martin's novena. I'm not sure how long that has taken, but the first comment was in May, 2013. I have been noticing an especially high volume on the blog this last week, and then I realized that it was people coming to get the novena in preparation for the feast day.

The above picture is one that I commissioned from an artist that I met through Heather King's blog, Owen Swain. As you can see, he is very talented, and his prices are very reasonable, i.e. what you can afford, so if you are looking for any original art, you might check him out. The original is 10.5 x 10.5 and is waiting patiently to be hung in my dining room. By the way, I am not in the habit of commissioning paintings, I just could not find a picture of St. Martin that I liked, and I knew that Owen, a Catholic, would seriously pray about the picture and respect the subject.

This evening, as this is the first time, I think, that I have remembered St. Martin's feast before the actual day, we are going to attend a Mass in his honor at our new parish, St. Peter's is also the home of the National Shrine of St. Martin de Porres, and our priests are members of the Dominican Province of St. Martin de Porres, so it looks like we've landed in the right place.

St. Martin de Porres, pray for us.


Monday, November 2, 2015

52 Authors, Rumer Godden

 Here is my last post for the 52 Authors series. If you haven't checked these out, you ought to read a few. There are some really good ones.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Update on the 52 Saints

With Paul's help, I have put a list of all those who have volunteered to write posts for the series in a page on the sidebar. Thank you all very much. 


Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Hallow's Eve 2015

“I always wonder,” said Lise, “why, in Britain and America, we make Hallowe’en into a frightening thing with, for children, ghosts and skulls, witches, spiders and black cats, when it is the eve of one of the most radiant feasts of the year—All Saints, all those men and women who have shone out light and goodness, courage and faith into the world.”
 “And All Souls is radiant too,” said Soeur Marguerite—it followed the next day. “For us there is loss, but for the dead, for him or her, it is the culmination, the crown . . . .” Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy, Rumer Godden
Many Christians eschew all the ghosts and skulls, witches, etc. of Halloween out of fear, and I have to admit that I have been among them. Now, not so much, although I do think that you can go overboard, and sometimes in a dangerous way. However, there is a better reason to not get too caught up in the spookiness of the evening, and that is because we might miss the glory of the coming day.

Apparently, this is what they do in Sweden on All Saints' Day Lovely.
Photo Credit: David Castor


Monday, October 26, 2015

Learning to Read

It's been about four years since I got my first Kindle Fire. When I bought it, I didn't really have any intention of reading books on it. I just wanted a cheap tablet. Gradually though, I started buying books. At first I just took advantage of really good deals, like free books or all of Walker Percy's book for $2.00 each. Then I bought some more. I like the idea of being able to go on a trip and just take that Kindle instead of eight books. You have to have at least eight books because you never know what type of book you're going to want to read at any given moment, and they're heavy and take up a lot of room.

Pretty soon, I was reading everything on the Kindle Fire. It was convenient in a lot of ways. Easy to take with me, and easy to take notes. I'm no good at taking notes with pen or pencil. I just don't do it. All-in-all I liked it, and I still like it, but then, there is the glaring problem. (There's a glare problem, too, but I can deal with that.)

You can do a lot more on a Kindle Fire than read. You can check your email incessantly. You can check Facebook. You can play solitaire. You can take pictures. It is, basically, the most distracting item that I own.

Too much stuff
All this distraction militates against sitting for long periods of time and reading your book. Sometimes the distraction creeps in in subtle ways. What is this French word? Oh, I can just look it up on Google. Twenty minutes later, I get back to the book. After awhile I realized that I was incapable of just sitting down and reading for more than about 10 minutes at a time. This is really bad!

So, I have spent the last few months training myself to read without interrupting myself. Doing what I used to do for hours at a time if left alone, has been a real battle. Lately, it has begun to get better. For one thing, many of the books that I have been reading for the 52 Authors series are not available as ebooks. When I'm reading a real book, the distractions are still close by, but not actually part of what I'm holding.

There's a lot written about problems with the internet. People are worried about security and the potential for constant surveillance, and those are very real problems. But what really bothers me is how it changes me. All my life, one of my greatest pleasures has been sitting with a books and losing myself for afternoon or evening. For years, I've been looking forward to the day when I retire and can read the books that I never have time for now. I don't want to lose this opportunity because I'm wasting my time doing worthless things.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

52 Saints ~ Help Needed

See below if you are having trouble leaving comments.

...but I'm really thinking about it as 52 people who were saints.

As some of you know, I have been contributing to a series on 52 different authors on Maclin Horton's blog, Light on Dark Water. During the year, people have been suggesting different topics that we could write about next year, and two of those topics were 52 Movies and 52 Saints. Then, someone had the idea that we should do movies there, and saints here, so that is what we are going to try to do. Several commenters from that blog have volunteered to write about saints here, but I would like some of the people who read The Three Prayers to contribute also. I know you are out there because you have told me so, and I know that several of you would be more than capable of writing a post about a saint--or two--or three, so I hope you will volunteer.

I've been thinking a lot about this project, and about how we can keep it from becoming just a lot of pious hagiography. If I'm going to do this--if we are going to do this--I would like it to be a bit meatier than that. I've been trying to think of ways that that could happen.

At first I thought that we shouldn't do saints that were really popular like Francis, Theresa of Avila, etc., because there are a million websites out there that have so much stuff about them and everybody knows it all, but then it occurred to me that if you can talk about them from a different angle, one that not so many people are familiar with that could be great. I mean, everybody knows most of what is in Story of a Soul, but if you could write about St. Thérèse's letters, or her correspondence with the young priest, Maurice, that would work well. Or it could be some personal experience you had with the saint, for instance, I could write about the things that happened on our family's trip to visit St. Thérèse's relics. Or you could write about different authors who have written about the saint or a review a book, for instance, Heather King has a very nice book about the year she with Story of a Soul. There are just a lot of different ways to approach the saints.

It would be nice, though, to have some saints we don't know very well. Pope St. John Paul II canonized so many and there ought to be good information out there. And someone asked about Orthodox saints, and that would be great, but not protestants who we think are probably saints.

 I plan to do this on Sundays, so I would need them by Saturday. I will take the first Sunday and I will write about Junipero Serra.

So, if you are willing to give this a try, please let me know in the comments, or contact me any way you know how. Tell me what saints you want to write about, and if you have an idea of when you want to do it, tell me that, too.

 If you are thinking you can't do this, please give it another thought.


For some reason, it's very difficult to leave comments here and I have no idea what to do about it. When you write a comment, copy it before you submit it and then you can paste it and resend if it doesn't appear. It usually works the second time around. I'm really sorry about this.