Saturday, September 16, 2006

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (Sept. 15)

From yesterday's Office of Readings; From a sermon by St. Bernard, abbot:
The martyrdom of the Virgin is set forth both in the prophecy of Simeon and in the actual story of our Lord's passion. The holy old man said of the infant Jesus: "He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted." He went on to say to Mary: "And your own heart will be pierced by a sword."

Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus -- who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours -- gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.

Or were those words: "Woman, behold your Son," not more than a sword to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of stone and iron though they are!

Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.

Perhaps someone will say: "Had she not known before that he would die?" Undoubtedly. "Did she not expect him to rise again at once?" Surely. "And still she grieved over her crucified Son?" Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary that at the passion of Mary's Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.
Stabat Mater dolorósa juxta Crucem lacrimósa, dum pendébat Filius. Cujus ánimam geméntem, contristátam et doléntem, pertransivit gladius. O quam tristis et afflicta fuit illa benedicta Mater Unigéniti!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Benedict XVI: Faith, Reason and the University... and Islam?

Read what the pope actually said at Regensburg concerning Faith, Reason and the University. It is, of course, very good when read from beginning to end! Is a statement, a quotation, taken out of context, really a sound reason to start riots and burn him in effigy?

And it bothers me that it seems that the news media is the primary cause of this pain, provoking anger in the Muslim world by latching on to this quotation and reporting things like, "POPE SLAMS ISLAM", when in fact, the lecture has nothing to do with Islam itself, and only uses the quotation to develop its key points, including the condemnation of religious violence. One hopes that this lecture is translated into Arabic and other languages to allow people to understand it. The media involvement underscores the reality that, by and large, the media is no friend of ours if they encourage things like this.

Knowing that people are dear to our pope's mind and heart, I have no doubt that he is grieved by this, and so I expect him to address it further -- even if its cause was frivolous -- because the events underscore deeper realities. He won't ignore them. The Vatican is assuring people that the pope's feelings echo those expressed by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Nostra Aetate:
The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I once had a talent...

... for creating names, just because...

Anyway, Matt, you can't worry yourself so much about the policies of the University...
I like to anyway...
Alan (me):
C'mon, Match, you have to look on the bright side...
Did you just call me Match?
Hm. Yes, I certainly did.
That's what happened to me; My name used to be Pat. Just accept it, Match.
Okay.... Alatch.
Hmm. No.
And it was so. You had to be there. Though of course, this was certainly no Tu es Petrus moment, because I could never arrogate myself to that level... but just so...
And then there was Musical Taste

Your Taste in Music:

80's Alternative: High Influence
90's Alternative: High Influence
Progressive Rock: High Influence
80's Pop: Medium Influence
80's Rock: Medium Influence

I don't know... it's true enough, I suppose, but what about Mozart, Lassus, Victoria, Byrd, Tallis, DuFay, and Palestrina?! These guys could give Pink Floyd a solid trouncing any day of the week...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Blessed Virgin Compared To The Air We Breathe

by Gerald Manley Hopkins, S.J.
WILD air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that 's fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing's life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life's law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God's infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race --
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess's
Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
This one work has to do --
Let all God's glory through,
God's glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.
I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
She, wild web, wondrous robe,
Mantles the guilty globe,
Since God has let dispense
Her prayers his providence:
Nay, more than almoner,
The sweet alms' self is her
And men are meant to share
Her life as life does air.
If I have understood,
She holds high motherhood
Towards all our ghostly good
And plays in grace her part
About man's beating heart,
Laying, like air's fine flood,
The deathdance in his blood;
Yet no part but what will
Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn --
Bethlem or Nazareth,
Men here may draw like breath
More Christ and baffle death;
Who, born so, comes to be
New self and nobler me
In each one and each one
More makes, when all is done,
Both God's and Mary's Son.
Again, look overhead
How air is azurèd;
O how! nay do but stand
Where you can lift your hand
Skywards: rich, rich it laps
Round the four fingergaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot,
Charged, steepèd sky will not
Stain light. Yea, mark you this:
It does no prejudice.
The glass-blue days are those
When every colour glows,
Each shape and shadow shows.
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, not alter it.
Or if there does some soft,
On things aloof, aloft,
Bloom breathe, that one breath more
Earth is the fairer for.
Whereas did air not make
This bath of blue and slake
His fire, the sun would shake,
A blear and blinding ball
With blackness bound, and all
The thick stars round him roll
Flashing like flecks of coal,
Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,
In grimy vasty vault.
So God was god of old:
A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must make our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man's mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God's love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.
Cocky Convert Syndrome

After I was received into the Catholic Church in 1997, I was a cocky convert; I must've driven my college roomies nuts. Mea culpa! It took a few years for me to realize that I didn't have to "know everything" all of the time; that it's okay to have to grow-up in the faith a bit more, studying it, and most importantly, humbly living it out. Today, I feel much more grounded and solid in my faith than I did in 1997. I feel I can much more easily articulate sound teaching (at least I hope it's sound!) without getting frustrated with others or bursting an artery in my brain.

I think the cockiness arose from the fact that I felt I had to constantly justify my decision, which was a big one, and when I felt the prompting of the Spirit to accept the sacraments, I was sure I was doing the right thing. There were those who couldn't accept what I did, and I recall how a few months before my reception into the Church, my Baptist youth pastor (who had, up until that point, encouraged my study of the Catholic Faith) sent me a very warm Valentine's card urging me to reconsider my "choice of church" for fear that I had been too influenced by Satan and the Catholic "mystique". It's so easy to throw around the Scriptural and Patristic one-line proof-texts, thinking "Here it is, why can't you see it?! You have to see it!" And then I think, if this is real faith, and if this is truly God's gift, then maybe I have to let them see it in me too... in my life, in my choices. After all, it is the Holy Spirit who touches hearts.

I think another reason for the cockiness is the amount of attention converts get nowadays... from their parishes, friends, and family. Suddenly it seems there's something special to someone who would choose to accept the faith most are born in to. Yes, it may be true that most adult converts may have studied the faith to a level beyond the average cradle catholic, yet when it comes to the lived experience of that faith, converts are just beginners. We need the entire community. We're Catholic, after all, and we're all called to be saints.

And so I get worried when I see the potential for cocky convert syndrome in other converts, who obviously have a good zeal and love for the Church. The ability to articulate the truths of the faith is not automatic and takes more than just an intellectual understanding; Rather, the lived experience of these truths can give substance to the belief.

St. Augustine of Hippo, pray for us!


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