Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chill Out and Cheer Up With St. Thomas Aquinas

A bit late in coming, but my homage to St. Thomas for today. This post originally ran two years ago.

"Blessed be the Lord; for love of him St. Thomas Aquinas spent long hours in prayer, study and writing." (Lauds, Jan. 28th)

St. Thomas Aquinas is a favorite in our family, so we will certainly be praying the full office in his honor, using the common for doctors of the Church.   My husband's degree is in Thomistic  philosophy, and we'll be sending a third child to Thomas Aquinas College next year to study the same.
 I'm not  a  scholar, but whenever I dip into the Summa, I am  impressed and delighted at  St. Thomas' method of setting out a question, stating objections, and then giving  g his reasoned conclusion. I love GK Chesterton's biography of St.Thomas, which you can get for only $2 on Kindle. What stands out in St. Thomas' life, even more than his intellect, is his purity, and I don't mean just in the chastity sense, but pure as in single-hearted. He had no interest in his academic reputation or importance or  career. All he cared about was Truth.

St. Thomas reasoned and wrote about thousands of topics. These ranged from  sublime to  practical. Book II of the Summa deals with the moral and spiritual life.  One section, "Of the remedies for sorrow or pain"(Part I Q.38), contains much of the same advice that we still see today when we open those magazines whose covers promise " Simple Ways to Lift Your Mood". St. Thomas recommends that we:
1. Vent a bit:"tears and groans assuage sorrow... a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up."
2. Indulge yourself in some way:"sorrow is driven out by pleasure"
3. Take a hot bath and get a good night's sleep: "sorrow,by its nature, is contrary to the vital movement of the body; and consequently whatever restores the bodily nature to its due state of vital movement, is opposed to sorrow and assuages it."
5. Talk to a friend:"when a man's friends condole with him, he sees that he is loved by them and this affords him pleasure."
Last and not usually mentioned in today's articles:
6. Contemplate the Truth: "And therefore, in the midst of tribulations, men men rejoiced in the contemplation of divine things and of future happiness...in the powers of the soul there is an overflow from the higher to the lower powers; and accordingly,the pleasure of contemplation overflows so as to mitigate even that pain which is in the senses."
All in all, great advice to help you forget your troubles and get us through the dreary days of winter. Now I think I'll take a bath, have some hot chocolate, and go get a good night's sleep. I'll save contemplating the truth for the next hour of the liturgy.

Yep, Me and Pope Francis are getting it done!

Well, no. I"m just being facetious here, linking my activities with the tsunami of good stuff happening as a result of Pope Francis' outreach to everyone. But it was a thrill when this came from a new reader: 

"Hi Daria. as a 'lapsed Catholic of many years, I never even considered praying the LOTH. When Francis was elected pope, I was pleased & surprised & felt a need to start attending mass again. So I did and I began attending RCIA classes in September. When someone mentioned praying LOTH I looked up resources about it on net & ended up ordering "The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours". It was so much help! I got the app for my NOOK and later got hard copy of 'Christian Prayer'....without you book I don't think I would have ever started praying LOTH...thanks so much!" --Lori

 But Lori's note demonstrates that, contrary to what some have said, the new, Francis-driven
resurgence of interest in the Church is not a matter of shallow individuals  running after a Catholic rock star.  It takes more than that to sign up for RCIA, let alone take on something like the daily Liturgy of the Hours. Clearly in Lori's case, Christ called out to her--through Pope Francis--and she responded. May God be praised! Alleluia!

Welcome home, Lori! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Realism from DeSales on Lay Spirituality

Welcome, new blog follower Rita! Pleased as punch to have you.

In today's Office of Readings, St. Francis De Sales has some excellent advice for laity trying to develop a spiritual routine:

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.

Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfils all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.

I wonder what this saint would think about lay people using the breviary? My guess is that he would have advised Philothea against it, unless she were fluent in Latin, and living a life of leisure. He might have recommended one of the shorter, devotional offices that had been devised partly with lay use in mind, such as the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or one of the many shorter "Book of Hours" that had been  popular in both Latin and vernacular languages for the literate classes since the middle ages.

He'd probably be happy that the Church has made it's official liturgical prayer more accessible to the laity, and would be saying "Amen" to the Church's recommendation that we adapt the Liturgy of the Hours to the particular circumstances of our lives, rather than driving ourselves crazy trying to keep up the entire daily cycle of seven hours with monastic fidelity. He'd be all on board with the recommendation that laypeople focus on lauds and vespers as the "hinges" of the day, and not worry about the rest unless it really made sense given the kind of lives they lead and the promptings of the Spirit. 

How do I know whether the prayer life I've chosen is working? St. Francis D. says a suitable prayer life will make the rest of your daily vocational duties go better, not worse:
...each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.

Okay, it's weekly Q&A time.  All comments and questions are welcome. Just hit the word "comment" and let 'er rip. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Weekly Q&A

Welcome new blog followers Dorothy and Susan. Make yourselves at home.

It's weekly Q&A time and just as a reminder--there are no stupid questions.

Just a weekday in ordinary time, but isn't it wonderful, week after week, to pray with God's word and be daily reminded of dozens of truths? Just at random, today's lauds and vespers place these incredible thoughts and images into our minds and hearts:

In you is the source of life; in your light we see light.

For you spoke and they were made, you sent forth your word and they were created.

At all times bless the Lord God and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors.

The Lord is my light and my help, whom should I fear?

There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long,
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to savor the sweetness of the Lord , to behold his temple.

He rescued us from the power of darkness!

Miles of commentary could be written on each of these lines--and have been.  At the same time, each verse is a diamond that needs no setting.  And we get to see/say/remember lots of  stuff like this every single day. Just one more reason why the Liturgy of the Hours is so amazing, and ought to become better known.

So, any questions?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Another Goes His Way a Weakling and a Failure

Another meditation by guest blogger Owen Swain

Another goes his way a weakling and a failure,
     with little strength and great misery --
Yet the eyes of the Lord look favourably upon him,
     he raises him free of the vile dust.

Lifts up his head and exalts him
     to the amazement of the many. - Sirach 11, First ReadingOffice of Readings, Tuesday of the First Week of Ordinary Time.

As we begin Ordinary Time again we find in the above quote a spiritual economy that is so extraordinary it must shock people who live according to a secular value system. Could it be that when we are most weak, when we are very poor materially or spiritually or both, and even when we have failed, that this is exactly when  we are most open to the great mystery of a undeserved love?

Jesus recalls the divine Wisdom of this spiritual economy of God in the, perhaps more, familiar words of his sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew's Gospel.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven . 
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Mt 5.3,5 NRSVCE

St. Basil [close to the heart of this writer, a Basilian Lay Associate], in the Second Reading of the day, "Love of God is not something that can be taught" which is rather daunting for the priest, the parent or anyone who finds themselves a teacher. Love of God is totally the gift of God and likewise, says St. Basil the our reason, "implanted in us like a seed." St. Basil saw his role as teacher to be "to try to fan into flame the spark of divine love that is hidden within you, as far as I am able through the power of the Holy Spirit."

Sometimes then the greatest teacher is providential experience, a kind of experience that is not capricious or based on feelings, though effecting our emotions to be sure but rather is grounded in the reason implanted in us and grown as we embrace the Love that is contrary to what we might, ironically, naturally think. What do I mean? 

Reflecting on these two Readings I looked for a connection between them and found one sensible to me in the words of another saint, a teacher by lived experience as much as by word and someone declared not only saint but Doctor of the Church, a woman, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.  In a stellar book I am bound to mention again come the words of the saint in a letter to her sister who was both her natural sister and a fellow religious, Marie. Thérèse wrote to answer Marie's objection, "Yes, you [Thérèse] posses love, but I myself [do not]! This brief reflection cannot do justice to the spiritual desperation that Marie expresses. Thérèse also wrote to the young man, Maurice, a religious in the making who wrote to her often with objections of his failures and with words echoing the concern that too many of us share, concern that we are simply to ordinary, to plain even to mediocre to amount to much of anything in Christ.

Thérèse's response to each is as revolutionary as the words of Sirach and of our Lord Jesus and as I close with them I pray with St. Basil that the Holy Spirit may speak to our hearts and minds, especially those who may feel weak and useless and poor.

"Let me tell you, Marie, that my desires for martyrdom are nothing. It is not they which give me the unlimited confidence which I feel in my heart. . . .What pleases  God in my little soul is that He sees me loving my littleness and m y poverty: it is the blind hope that I have in His mercy. [The emphasis is Thérèse's.] That is my only treasure. Why can it not be yours/ . . . To love Jesus, the more one is weak, without desires and without virtues, the more one is suitable for the operations of (God's) consuming and transforming love. It is confidence and nothing but confidence that must lead us to love."

"[Maurice] the more one is weak, without desires and without virtues, the more one is suited for the operations of God's love consuming and transforming love."

-  -

Beloved: be loved!
owenswain.com / artist

Painting; The Thankful Poor (1894), Henry Ossawa Tanner
Book; Maurice and Thérèse the Story of a Love, [Archbishop] Patrick Ahern, published by Darton, Longman and Todd, 1999

Friday, January 10, 2014

With All Your Holy Martyrs

Another guest post from Owen Swain

"With all your holy martyrs,
-- we offer our bodies to you as consecrated victims."

Ever praying the Divine Office and wonder, What do I do with that? or, How can I pray that with any honesty? That happens to me, perhaps more often that I would like.

The line from the Intercessions of 'January 10 or Thursday after Epiphany Sunday' [as the "Kenyan" Breviary puts it] is definitely one of those lines.  I read that this morning [as I write this it is January 10] and thought, I cannot say that with any degree of integrity. I am not consciously offering my body up to death for the sake of Christ. I live in a country that, at present, does not suffer from physical violence against Christians. It is not likely that I would have to die for my faith here and there is no way of taking that absolutely physical word bodies I  to make some tidy philosophical/spirituality application. No, holy martyrs leaves little fudge room.

So, how to make this real?

I pause at that line and simply invite God to direct my heart. 

I realize that in many parts of the world today Christian souls are literally dying because they are Christian, cultural or 'faithful'. I pray for the repose of their souls and for the witness of their deaths. One only needs to review the past month to know, Christians are being martyred ; Nairobi, Syria, the sad list grows. I pray especially for the souls who will die this day because of their faith in Christ. 

Then words of sacred scripture come to mind

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. - Philippians 2.12,13 NRSV. Emphasis mine.

Well. I have often meditated on that verse but never in this context. I ask the Lord of hosts to grant me the desire to serve his will in death, as a martyr if that call is made of me.

I am grateful for the Liturgy of the Hours because it takes what might have been a mere vague sense of this matter somewhere in a closet down a long haul located in the very, very back of my mind and brings it to the fore and asks me to respond, to be real.

- - 
Bonus Note 1 on the "Kenyan" Breviary.

The Kenyan Breviary does something very simple and helpful. It restores the V[erse] and R[esponse] notation marks, in bold and red ink, at the opening of each days "Office of Readings." How is this helpful? Aside from the aesthetic pleasure of seeing the little red V and R in public recitation so much clearer. Even when the public is just my wife and I but it would be especially welcomed in larger groups such as our Basilian Lay Associate as it would make very clear to all, who says what when. Nice.

Creators of the up and coming American version of the LOTH, ph-lease, take note {smile}. 

-  -

Beloved: be loved!
owenswain.com / artist

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Weekly Q&A -Octave of Epiphany Edition

This week is not officially called the Octave of the Epiphany, but the liturgy certainly makes it feel like one. Every this week the antiphons have us relive the revelation of Christ to the nations, and anticipate those two other great theophanies : the Lord's  baptism and in a lesser way,  the miracle at Cana.

I'm reading lots of interesting things about this on the internet. For example, that legends say that Jesus was baptized on the same day (thirty some year later) that the magi had come. Interesting, although we don't really need a calendar coincidence to tie these two events together in our minds.

This is just about the single most difficult time of year to find your place in the breviary. If you go to ibreviary.com  (or just hop on the widget to the right and click on morning or evening prayer) you can receive a confusing explanation of the problem. It has to do with the way the editors of the American breviary did things back in the 70s, apparently departing from the official Roman breviary just enough to make an already confusing book even more so. It's really too bad, because all the eager beavers who received their first breviary as a Christmas gift will hit this train wreck and get badly discouraged. If anyone asks me, I just tell them to stick with a digital breviary until ordinary time starts up again next week. Then they'll get a few nice, uncomplicated weeks of plain old psalter, with only a once-a-week excursion to the proper for Sundays. This way, they will have established basic familiarity with the hours, and won't feel too stressed by turning to the proper every day once lent begins.

Welcome new blog followers Ed, Andrew, and Vicki.  This is the place to share your enthusiasm for the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as your questions.

I haven't labelled a post as a Q&A for quite a while. Sorry about that. Having my entire family over for Christmas this year kind of put the blog on the back burner. But I do resolve to get back to a weekly Q&A post with more consistency. So don't be shy---if something about the LOTH doesn't make sense, just add a comment and I"ll get back to you within 24 hours.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pass Unnoticed and Rejoice For Ever

note from Daria: introducing Owen Swain, whom I've invited to do a few guest posts. 

"Let all who hope in you, Lord, pass unnoticed and rejoice for ever."

These words* from the Office of Readings, Responsory for January 3, The Most Holy Name of Jesus -- the day I am sitting down to write this little introduction of myself to the good readers of this Daria's Coffee & Canticles blog -- are so beautifully just-the-opposite of pop culture wisdom 

The very medium I am writing in and for, the Internet, has voices beyond counting that each cry out for attention; me over you; I'm here, I'm important too. Every social network update says, "Please, notice, me. Please, remember my name."  Yet we are encouraged, 

"Let all who hope in you, Lord, pass unnoticed and rejoice for ever. You will overshadow them.
-- and those who love your name will glory in you."

There it is. When we are noticed by the Beloved of our soul, when we embrace that we are his beloved we welcome being overshadowed by him, our desires are realized in him, not in others, not in ourselves and can rejoice in being unnoticed by others. 

As the Holy Spirit "overshadowed" the Blessed Mother at the Annunciation [Luke 2] when the Second Person of the holy Trinity was conceived in the Virgin's womb, without the aid of man, we should rejoice to be overwhelmed. "Every generation" calls the Mother of God blessed and yet I imagine she continues to ponder all things in her heart, taking every devout attention we render her and by it happily directing us to her Son, our Lord, Jesus. Mary gets a lot of attention from Catholics and rightly so, yet I imagine she is as happy today as she was 2000 years ago to go unnoticed.

While it no doubt seems and odd hope to want coming from someone invited to write for a blog, I do hope that I may pass unnoticed. No, really. 

It's funny because during my past eight years on-line as clergy-convert I have most definitely coveted attention, some of that normal, some of it the stuff one takes to the sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession. Funny because just as I was ready to essentially let go of being much on-line, along came Daria inviting me to guest write. And that may just be a good fit.

In a recent post Daria noted things she has in common with Fr. Robert Barron. Reader Alan then commented that he also share some of the same commonalities. Me too.

We are all born in 1959. While those three were coming alive in their faith at age 19, I was, at age 19 making my first commitment to Jesus Christ; in the Protestant parlance of my time, "as Lord and Saviour of my life". Had I known anything about anything like the LoTH then I would have jumped in with both - um, hands. However, it was not until years later as an ordained Pentecostal pastor that I met an Anglican Priest who introduced me to their Book of Common prayer and something called a liturgical calendar. I know, but for all our focus on Bible and Holy Spirit and experience I had zero training in historic Christianity, except through a particular filter and that system did not include historic Christianity but where it served its own purpose and we knew  of the Catholic Church only as that which needed "Reformation."

If that Anglican Priest thought me some kind of spiritual provincial (i.e. "backwater" "red-neck" "inadequately trained") he was kind enough to not mention it. My love for the LoTH came later, much later. I hope that love for The Hours and for Christ will come through whatever I write for this blog.

That is, I hope that whatever I write will be used of the Lord, not for the sake of itself or to give me props but to encourage the reader to pray the universal, official, liturgical prayer of Church that since Vatican II the laity has been blessed with and encouraged to engage. I hope anything I share will move that person, the beloved of Christ to know he and she is be loved by the Beloved, that the confidence of our own name will be known in being overwhelmed in the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

owenswain.com / artist

*You may be saying, "Wait, my copy of the four volume edition of the Liturgy of the Hours doesn't have those words or this feast day at all and my 2014 St. Joseph Guide book shows the feast as optional, notes that this is "(New)" and says, "No official texts yet exist in English." That's true and not true.

There may be no existing text in English for the yet to be published revised edition of the LoTH published in the United States by Catholic Book Publishing Corp, but since 2009 there is text in English for this feast day in the four volume set of the LoTH, Pauline Publications Africa (sometimes called the "Kenyan" edition on this blog and elsewhere on the Internet. And, oh happy day, I have a copy. I love (LOVE) it. Perhaps more on that in future posts as it is the primary edition of the LoTH that I will be referencing in my posts of C&C. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Greg and Baz - a lesson in Friendship

Today's saints share a feast mainly because of  their great friendship. Both are doctors of the Church; we have several readings coming up from each of them in the next few months. But today we get a lesson from Sts. Gregory of Nanzianzen and Basil the Great that is not theology at all. When Gregory gave this eulogy  of his friend, he probably didn't even think of it as a teaching on Christian friendship. He was simply reminiscing about his dear friend Basil and the good old days at Athens U. But what a fantastic model for friendship it is! Look how Gregory built up Basil's reputation to others at school:

 I sought to persuade others, to whom he was less well known, to have the same regard for him. Many fell immediately under his spell, for they had already heard of him by reputation and hearsay.

What was the outcome? Almost alone of those who had come to Athens to study he was exempted from the customary ceremonies of initiation for he was held in higher honor than his status as a first-year student seemed to warrant.

And how they treated the inevitable competition among students to achieve top honors: 

The same hope inspired us: the pursuit of learning. This is an ambition especially subject to envy. Yet between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted, not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s success as his own.

Scholar Milton Walsh, author of Witness of the Saints, says that on the topic of the Holy Spirit, Gregory was the deeper theologian of the two.  Yet Gregory always credited Basil as the source of his own teachings. Today's second reading helps us see that these two are not just considered saints for their theology, but because of their holiness; their heroic charity. 

We'll hear more from St. Gregory of Nanzianzen on the feast of the Baptism of Jesus (Jan.12), and two days after that, we'll read an excerpt from Basil's Rules for Monks.

Perhaps we could best honor these two saints today by making contact with an old friend whom we haven't spoken to in a long time. Right now I"m thinking about my best friend from high school. Unfortunately I don't know how to reach her, but I think I'll say a rosary for Maureen  today.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What do Fr.Robert Barron and I have in common?

Let's see. He is a priest and world famous preacher,evangelist, and YouTube sensation.  I'm a mother of seven and obscure  writer.

But Father B. and I are the same age. When he talks about growing up in the post-Vatican II era of "beige Catholicicsm" , a.k.a. "banner & collage catechesis" I know exactly what he's talking about. Those were dark times. Or at least, beige times.

Today I learned something else that Fr. Barron and I have in common.
I had EWTN on again for Pope Francis' vespers at St. Peter's basilica. After it ended, EWTN had to fill in ten minutes or so with various short clips before it was time for the regularly schedule  program to begin. There was Fr. Barron, speaking about his first year of college. "Who is the most important person in your life?" the teacher asked. "Naturally we all replied 'God'", Father recalled,"Then the teacher challenged us by asking us how often we talk to this most important person, this best friend--once a week? once a month?"

Robert Barron took his teacher's words to heart, and decided to meet the challenge of maintaining frequent contact with God by--you guessed it--getting a breviary and praying the Liturgy of the Hours faithfully. He was nineteen years old. A year after he made that decision, another college kid made a similar decision.
(That would be me.)

So Father Barron and I share a lifelong attachment to the prayer of the Church, not just as liturgy, but as a way to connect personally with the Lord multiple times per day.