Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Works of Mercy--Moments of Grace

Morning Prayer's reading today reminded us of all the things that cannot separate us from the love of Christ: anguish, distress, persecution, famine, peril, persecution, or the sword. A consoling thought. But the terrible things in that list are still pretty terrible.

Friends, we know from the news a lot of people are suffering from disasters these days. They are experiencing the things in that list of St. Paul's.   And one reason those things will not separate them from Christ's love is that He will come to them through the members of His body on earth, right?

You probably already know what to do, but in case you hadn't yet gotten online to send aid, I thought I'd post a few links to make it easy. (And thank you to Norman Hartley for suggesting that I bring all this up on the blog. As he pushed me now I'll push all of you.)

The Knights of Columbus  are your one-stop shop for donating either to help victims of the massive flooding in Louisiana  or to do whatever can be done to help victims of Christian Genocide in the Middle East.

You also know about the recent earthquake in central Italy. Catholic Relief Services is always an option, but  as fans of the Liturgy of the Hours, you might be particularly interested in helping the Benedictines of Norcia, whose monastery was severely damaged. Norcia, as you may know, is the birthplace of St. Benedict, who more or less invented the Divine Office. This particular monastery includes a number of Englishmen and Americans, and they are devoted to maintaining the traditional rule of St. Benedict. Their chant CD is a bestseller on Amazon. Buying that would be one way to support them, but you could do a lot more to help their rebuilding effort by making a direct donation to them.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

St. Louis IX and Disappointing Children

It's a bit late in the day to be writing about today's saint and office, but I've been travelling most of the day, and then setting up a new laptop after the old one died on me.

Today's second reading from the Office of Readings stayed with me all day. It's a letter of advice from St. Louis IX, King of France, to the son who would succeed him. It's beautiful! It's wise!  Here's some samples:

My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation... You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.

If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.

Listen to the divine office with pleasure and devotion. As long as you are in church, be careful not to let your eyes wander and not to speak empty words, but pray to the Lord devoutly, either aloud or with the interior prayer of the heart.

Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can... Be just to your subjects, swaying neither to right nor left, but holding the line of justice. Always side with the poor rather that with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. See that all your subjects live in justice and peace...

Be devout and obedient to our mother the Church of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff as your spiritual father. Work to remove all sin from your land, particularly blasphemies and heresies...

One year, after finishing this reading, I wondered whether St. Louis' son took this advice to heart and became a king worthy of such a father. Unfortunately, Louis, son of Louis, died before he could succeed to the throne. The next son, Phillip, is described in Wikipedia as "soft, timid and indecisive." The description of his reign, although not horrible, doesn't come across as that of a great king. He was mediocre at best. 

If your children don't seem to be turning out quite the way you'd hoped, you might find a sympathetic saintly friend in Louis IX.  

As always, if you have any questions related to the Liturgy of the Hours, please comment below and I' (or one of my smarter readers) will do our best to respond.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

St. Pius X has no Memorial this year, but...

Due to today being a Sunday, we don't do the memorial of St. Pius X.

But if you have the time, check out the Office of Readings, second reading for his memorial. It's all about the psalter and the value of praying the Psalms. There are a handful of readings throughout the year with this topic. They are priceless reminders of what it is we are doing when we observe the liturgical hours.  Since we layfolk have no canonical obligation to do this, it is easy to let this practice fall by the wayside when life gets busy, or when we get bored with it. (That happens to everyone now and then.) We need the occasional shot in the arm to get us over that hump of boredom or distraction. So look St. Pius X up in your breviary and get inspired.

Or if you have no breviary, just read it here:

The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name. Following a custom already established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Thus was born what Basil calls the voice of the Church, that singing of psalms, which is the daughter of that hymn of praise (to use the words of our predecessor, Urban VIII) which goes up unceasingly before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and which teaches those especially charged with the duty of divine worship, as Athanasius says, the way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him. Augustine expresses this well when he says: God praised himself so that man might give him fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God.
  The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, as we read in Scripture itself, yet the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song, and in the process of singing brings forth its own special fruits to take their place beside them. In the same place Athanasius rightly adds: The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions. Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.
  Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Solemnity Alert! Evening Prayer I tonight!

The Solemnity of Our Lady's Assumption into Heaven begins with Evening Prayer I tonight.

But you already knew that, right?

source: wikimedia commons

Saturday, August 13, 2016

They're Canonizing Him?

Three modern popes have been raised to the honors of the altar in recent years. These would be Pope St. John Paul II, Pope St. John XXIII, and Blessed Pope Paul VI. If you recall, there was some controversy attached to each of these.

Some (not all or even very many) Catholics of a traditionalist bent objected that these popes were (by their standards) too liberal.   And the super-liberal fringe, although quite happy with the canonization of Pope John, were less pleased about the other two, who in various ways did not march to their progressive drums. Articles and essays streamed through the press and blogosphere, decrying various actions (or failures to act) on the parts of these popes that the authors did not like, among them:

  • calling for the Second Vatican Council
  • allowing the revision of the Roman missal, a.k.a. the Novus Ordo
  • reaffirming the Church's teaching against artificial contraception
  • delaying too long before reaffirming said teaching
  • NOT excommunicating all  priests and teachers who dissented from the teaching on artificial contraception
  • failing to  approve ordination of women
  • failure to see through the deception of Legionairies of Christ founder Marcial Maciel (all true saints are able to read souls, don't ya know?)
I don't think any of the critics questioned the extraordinary holiness of any of these popes, but it seems that their critieria for  papal sainthood or beatitude is someone who  a.was heroically virtuous and b. agreed with the critic on every point about how to lead the Church. 

Which leads me to wonder how third century Christians would have reacted to the saints we commemorate today, St. Pontian, (pope) and St. Hippolytus (anti-pope!). 

You heard me right. While Pontian (and two of his predecssors) reigned, Hippolytus was leader of a rigorist faction that believed the faith was not being adequately defended and maintained in its original purity by current leadership. His followers in the clergy elected him as  a rival pope. Pontian, on the other hand, humbly offered to step down in favor of any legitimately elected successor if that would help resolve the schism. 

This was back in the days when Christianity was still frowned upon by the Roman empire. In the year 235, the Emperor Maximus launched a persecution that swept up both Pontian and Hippolytus and sent them to a gulag on the isle of Sardinia. Pontian and Hippolytus supported each other during their last days on earth, which included torture and hard labor in  salt mines. Hippolytus repented and reconciled with the Church. They died there and were acclaimed as both martyrs and saints. Hippolytus was the first anti-pope, and the only one honored with sainthood. 

Did critics have a field day over these two? Were conservatives appalled that a schismatic like Hippolytus could be canonized? Or perhaps the liberals were: Hippolytus was a rigorist who felt that notorious sinners could never be readmitted to communion--how could a man so lacking in mercy be canonized? Or maybe some felt Pontian was wrong to make overtures to the Hippolytus faction by offering to resign rather than taking a more hardline approach.  Who knows? But it's fun to speculate. 

Anyone  following  the attempts at reconciliation  between the Holy See and the SSPX might offer a prayer to these two on this, their memorial. 

Image result for st pontian and hippolytus free images

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Breviary Bookends!

I was staying in the quaint town of Clarence, NY these last few days, and spent some time haunting various antique and collectible places. When I saw these monk bookends for $12 I knew they were just the thing for keeping our breviaries and hymnals tidy and accessible. Aren't they nice? I think they must be Benedictines. Unfortunately there is no identifying marking or label so I can only guess where they were made. Spain or Mexico, maybe.