Tis the season…. of ADVENT!

This time of year brings out one of my greatest frustrations– the rush to reach Christmas whilst passing over Advent, as though time would move faster. Advent is probably the most under-appreciated and most forgotten liturgical season. Advent and Lent are similar liturgical seasons in that both demand an attitude of repentance (in preparation for the celebration of the coming Christmas/Easter). However, Advent is  less somber than Lent and is a season of joyful expectation. It’s also a season of waiting and patience. We join ourselves to those in the Old Testament who awaited the coming of the Messiah. Though the length of Advent is short, it’s impact is great. And while at the time of the writing of this post, Christmas is but a week away, let me remind you: IT IS STILL ADVENT! So whilst you rush around to finish your Christmas shopping and prepare for your Christmas traditions, take a few moments to remember that Christmas is not about anything other than the Incarnation of the Son of God. Nothing else matters. Nothing. So if your plans are going to keep you too busy to bear in mind that great truth, then trim your plans so you can focus on what really matters: the Infant born to bear our transgressions and pour out His Precious Blood for us.

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear…
O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who orders all things mightily,
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go…
O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty, and awe…
O come, O Rod of Jesse free,
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave…
O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery…
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight…
O come, Desire of nations, bind,
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of peace…

Good reads for Advent:
the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, especially in light of the “O Antiphons
The Incarnation Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus Living in Mary by John Saward

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Happy Feast of All Saints!

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Church Triumphant– all those glorious Saints in Heaven, whether canonized or not, who have fought the good fight of faith and won. It’s a great day to pray the Litany of the Saints. Praying the Litany of the Saints always brings to mind the first verse of Hebrews 12, and when reading Hebrews 12, I call to mind the Litany of the Saints…

“And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. For think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds.”

Hebrews 12:1-3

We are not alone in the battle for sanctity. We are surrounded by the witness of those who have gone before us and left us examples of heroic virtue in faith and holiness. We look to them for guidance, strength, and encouragement knowing that we can do all things by the grace and merit of Jesus Christ.

So today, pray the Litany of the Saints… ask the Saints to intercede for you… and read up on the lives of the Saints!

Good Reads for All Saints Day:
Any biography on the lives of the Saints
Saints Who Raised the Dead by Fr. Albert Hebert
Mysteries, Marvels, Miracles: In the Lives of the Saints by Joan Carroll Cruz

The Real Story of Halloween…

… Or “All Hallows Eve” (i.e., the evening of All Hallows– All Saints–Day) as it was traditionally known, is a Catholic holiday which unofficially recalls the reality of Hell and the despair of the damned. This ‘scary’ subject is the source for the scary/gory/evil ideas about Halloween which popular culture has turned into a celebration–not of triumph over evil– but a celebration of it. Is Hell a scary topic? Of course, but along with the reality of Hell and the punishment of the damned Catholic parents (and all in charge of handing on the Faith) are responsible for teaching the end of the story… namely, Our Lord’s words, “… rest assured for I have conquered the world.” (cf. John 16:33).

Instead of dressing up as secular/profane characters, today would be a good day to dress up as Saints and talk about their virtues and holiness. Instead of gorging on commercial candy, make some Italian ‘Ossi di Morto’ cookies (bone cookies), sugar skulls, toasted pumpkin seeds, “Soul Cakes” (doughnuts), etc.  and celebrate the triumph of Jesus Christ over sin and death (… and Hell) and the fact that through Him we can also be spared the eternal torment of damnation.

Lastly, since it is the last day of October (the month of the Rosary) pray a Rosary today for the conversion of unbelievers and the lukewarm.

Reads for Halloween:
The Dogma of Hell: Illustrated by Facts Taken from Profane and Sacred History by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, SJ
(TAN Books has an edition that also includes How To Avoid Hell by Thomas A. Nelson)
Hell and its Torments by St. Robert Bellarmine
Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Life Everlasting by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Ossi di Morto Cookie Recipe (taken from FishEaters)

1 1/4 cups flour
10 oz almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 oz pine nuts
1 TBSP butter
A shot glass full of brandy or grappa
The grated zest of half a lemon
Cinnamon
One egg and one egg white, lightly beaten

Blanch the almonds, peel them, and chop them finely (you can do this in a blender, but be careful not to over-chop and liquefy).

Combine all the ingredients except the egg in a bowl, mixing them with a spoon until you have a firm dough. Dust your hands and work surface with flour, and roll the dough out between your palms to make a “snake” about a half inch thick. Cut it into two-inch long pieces on the diagonal. Put on greased and floured cookie sheet, brush with the beaten egg, and bake them in a 330-350 oven for about 20 minutes. Serve them cold. Because they are a dry, hard cookie, it is good to serve these with something to drink.

(I made these cookies last year along with some (poorly crafted) sugar skulls, and they are relatively easy to make and rather tasty!)

Our Lady of the Rosary (aka Our Lady of Victory)

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (also known as Our Lady of Victory).  These two titles are intertwined, especially as we remember today the great victory at the Battle of Lepanto. Led by Don Juan of Austria, the battle of Catholic naval forces of Spain, Austria, and Genoa was won over the Turkish fleet (of Muslims using thousands of Christian slaves as rowers). This victory is credited as belonging to Our Lady because Pope St. Pius V, knowing the Christians were at a disadvantage in battle, called on all of Europe to pray the Rosary for victory. They did, and the Christian fleet was victorious. The Rosary truly is our greatest ‘weapon’.

In honor of Our Lady, pray a Rosary today (and every day!). Imagine if Christians all joined together in praying the Rosary for victory over some of the evils of today: abortion, euthanasia… how quickly we would be empowered if more people would trust in God.

So, in honor of Our Lady today pray a Rosary (today, and every day!). Heed the words of Our Lady at Fatima…

PRAY THE ROSARY EVERY DAY!

Good reads in honor of this feast of the Most Holy Rosary:
Marian teachings of the Popes
The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis Marie de Montfort
The Rosary in Action by John S. Johnson

Here is G.K. Chesterton’s poem Lepanto

White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run,
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young,
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold.

Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world.
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain – hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri’s knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunset and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,-
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, ‘Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces – four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.’
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still – hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St Michael’s on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes,
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip’s in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial, and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John’s hunting, and his hounds have bayed –
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives, sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign –
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade…
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)

The Guardian Angels

“See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 18:10

Today, October 2nd is the Feast Day for all our Guardian Angels. While there are traditionally believed to be 9 choirs of Angels in Heaven (Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones, the Dominations, Virtues and Powers, the Principalities, Archangels and Angels), it is the lowest class–the Angels– who are sent to be our Guardian Angels. However, lest anyone take offense that the lowest class of Angels are given to us as Guardians we would do well to remember the great power of the Angels; and that Satan (/Lucifer) was defeated by the Archangel Michael (Revelation 12:7+).

The existence of Angels is a Biblical fact. The Old Testament shows God’s Angels as His ministers who carried out His Will, and who were at times given special commissions. In Genesis 28-29, Angels act as the executors of God’s wrath against the cities of the plain, and they also deliver Lot from danger. In Exodus 12-13, an Angel is the appointed leader of the host of Israel, and in 32:34, God tells Moses: “my Angel shall go before thee”. We also have the story of Tobias where the Angel Raphael intimately and expressly guides and helps Tobias and his family through (seemingly) ordinary human affairs (marriage, sickness). Angels are also mentioned in the Psalms: Psalm 90:11: “For he hath given his Angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Cf. Psalm 33:8 and 34:5.) Lastly, in Daniel 10 Angels are entrusted with the care of particular districts; one is called “prince of the kingdom of the Persians”, and Michael is termed “one of the chief princes”; cf. Deuteronomy 32:8; and Ecclesiasticus 17:17.

The New Testament reveals the mission of the Angels more clearly, as Hebrews 11:1 sums up nicely: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” Angels are to help us, if we let them, get to Heaven. I quoted above where Our Lord spoke directly about the Angels– and that passage is traditionally used to defend Guardian Angels. At our Baptism (some theologians argue birth), we are given an Angel to guard and protect us– to help us on our way to salvation. In Luke 22:43 an Angel strengthens Our Lord in His agony. And in Acts 5:19 an Angel of the Lord led St. Paul and the Apostles out of prison, and later on in Acts 12:7+ an Angel helps St. Peter escape from prison. It’s interesting to note that the mention of Angels in the New Testament is equal to their mention in the Old. It was the privilege of Angels to announce God’s plan of salvation to Mary, Zechariah, and the Shepherds; and Angels were present and ministering to Christ all throughout His life (He conversed with them, they ministered to Him after the Temptation, they assisted Him in His agony, and they were witnesses to His Resurrection).

(The above is most definitely not an exhaustive reference to Angels in the Sacred Scriptures… indeed, their presence is numerous!)

So, in honor of today’s feast do not forget to pray to your Guardian Angel today (and then make this [praying] a habit for every day!). To help me remember, I added the Guardian Angel prayer to the last prayers after reciting the Rosary (ex. Salve Regina, “O God whose only begotten Son…”, St. Michael Prayer, Prayer to my Guardian Angel, etc.)

(For those seeking marriage, you would also do well to remember that the Angels have played important roles in aiding some of the most important marriages in history: Isaac and Rebecca (Genesis 24:7), Tobias and Sara (Book of Tobias), and Our Lady and St. Joseph (Matthew 1:20+)… so it would be especially beneficial to remember the holy Angels!)

There are also several good philosophical reasons for believing in the existence of Angels… but I’ll save that for a later time (…and check out my reading suggestions if you are interested).

Prayer to your Holy Guardian Angel:

Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
to whom His love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide, Amen.

Latin:

Ángele Dei,
qui custos es mei,
me, tibi commíssum pietáte supérna,
illúmina, custódi,
rege et gubérna.
Amen.

Good Reads for today:
The Book of Tobias (found in complete (Catholic) Bibles)
Treatise on Angels by St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica I, Q. 50-64)
The Angels and Us by Mortimer Adler

Our Lady of Sorrows… Mary as Co-Redemptrix

“And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:34-35

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows… probably one of my ‘favorites’. There is a shrine in Carey, Ohio to Our Lady of Consolation. When you walk in, on the right hand side is the statue the shrine is named for… but the side the draws my attention, is the left side… Our Lady of Sorrows:

And just underneath the altar: the cause of Mary’s deepest sorrow:

Her Son, her Divine Son, Our Lord, lying in a tomb after being falsely accused, spat upon, treated with such indignities, scourged, paraded like a criminal, and then crucified between two thieves… all for love of us.

Catholic tradition sees seven sorrows (or dolors) of Mary. Seven times the sword that the prophet Simeon predicted would pierce her soul, pierced her Immaculate Heart. First, the presentation in temple where Simeon foretells the coming sorrows. Second, when the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) must flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous rampage. Thirdly, when on their way back from Jerusalem they “lost” Jesus for 3 days whilst he was in the Temple. Fourthly, as Our Lady watched her scourged and bleeding Son carry His cross to Calvary. Fifthly, at the crucifixion as she stood beneath the Cross of her Son, pouring out His innocent precious Blood for the salvation of sinners. Sixthly, when after the death of Jesus, they lowered His bleeding Body from the Cross and she received her dead Son into her arms. Finally, when they laid the Body of Jesus in the tomb and sealed the sepulcher by rolling a large stone in front of it. Mary suffered with Jesus, as Simeon had foretold, she consented to God’s plans without knowing the details of their unfolding. One of my favorites lines from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is when he shows Mary during the scourging at the pillar, she says, “My Son… when, where, how… will You choose to be delivered of this?” She doesn’t cry out, she doesn’t seek to stop His sufferings… she trusts. And in doing so, suffers with Him.

This is what the Church means when she calls Mary Co-Redemptrix. Mary is the woman with the Redeemer. It is impossible to tear Mary from our Redemption. Our Redemption (Jesus Christ) began in her. Our Redemption came through her. She was chosen, and she consented. She stood in sorrow unimaginable beneath the Cross of Our Lord and offered Him to the Father, trusting completely in His plan of salvation.

Today especially, and always: Our Lady of Sorrows, ora pro nobis! (pray for us!)

Mother, have pity on me, who has not loved God, and who has so greatly offended Him. Thy sorrows, it is true, assure me of pardon, but that is not sufficient. I wish to love God. Who could obtain for me that grace if not thee, who are the Mother of holy love! O Mary, Thou consolest everyone; favor me also, with thy consolations. Amen. (Prayer of St. Alphonsus Liguori)

Catholic reads for the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows:

The Foot of the Cross by Fr. Frederick W. Faber

Happy Birthday to the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin; give me strength against thine enemies, and against the enemy of the whole human race. Give me strength humbly to pray to thee. Give me strength to praise thee in prayer with all my powers, through the merits of thy most sacred nativity, which for the entire Christian world was a birth of joy, the hope and solace of its life.

When thou wast born, O most holy Virgin, then was the world made light.

Happy is thy stock, holy thy root, and blessed thy fruit, for thou alone as a virgin, filled with the Holy Spirit, didst merit to conceive thy God, as a virgin to bear Thy God, as a virgin to bring Him forth, and after His birth to remain a virgin.

Have mercy therefore upon me a sinner, and give me aid, O Lady, so that just as thy nativity, glorious from the seed of Abraham, sprung from the tribe of Juda, illustrious from the stock of David, didst announce joy to the entire world, so may it fill me with true joy and cleanse me from every sin.

Pray for me, O Virgin most prudent, that the gladsome joys of thy most helpful nativity may put a cloak over all my sins.

O holy Mother of God, flowering as the lily, pray to thy sweet Son for me, a wretched sinner. Amen.

(Prayer by St. Anselm)

September 8th the Church celebrates the birth of Our Lady, esteemed Mother of God, who, by her Immaculate Conception was also born free from all stain of sin. She is the solitary boast of our race. So in honor of Our Lady’s birthday pray the Rosary, pray the Angelus, the Litany of Loreto, the Salve Regina, and don’t forget Mary’s own prayer: the Magnificat

Good Reads:
The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori
True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort