Category Archives: asceticism

Flannery and Psalm 19

When I first read Flannery O’Connor (also 20 years ago), I had the same reaction as Melody Lyons describes here. Since that time, after learning how much evil there is (and how much has been covered up in our society and church) , suffering through my own chronic health problems and my husband’s sufferings from Marfan syndrome and his death this past October, I have a whole new appreciation for Flannery.
“Show me what is my secret sin” (Psalm 19) is the purpose I think of all of her works. Reading her stories and essays, after understanding their anagogical meaning, does lead me to make a better Confession as I realize how much sin I tend to rationalize and excuse unknowingly instead of repenting and confessing it.     Father Theodore from the Norbertines wrote an excellent homily that encouraged and inspired me to pray the prayer of the psalmist.  (http://104.236.240.51/our-top-secret-sin?page=2 is the link if that one does not work.)   
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“With zeal, I have been zealous”

I took “OCDS” off my Facebook profile.
But I feel more Carmelite than ever.

I just don’t know how I can be “Catholic” anymore.  And the questions I have are so deep and existential that no one can answer them but God.

Kindly people are answering with platitudes and apologetics.  Folks, I was reading Catholic Answers when I was 12.  I read the entire New American Bible, with footnotes, from ages 12-14 because at the time as a Catholic among Protestant kids in the South, “Have you read the whole Bible yet?” was a kind of a status question I wanted to be able to answer affirmatively.  I spent most of 1990 and 1991 reading Lewis, Merton, St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. JP2, etc.

St. John of the Cross wrote Dark Night of the Soul while he was imprisoned by his “brothers in Carmel.”  The Dark Night is when one is cut off from “the Church” by the wolves in shepherds’ clothing.The Carmelite motto comes from 1 Kings (3 Kings in the traditional naming) 19:14:

[14] With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant: they have destroyed thy altars, they have slain thy prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away.

coat_of_arms_ocd_discalcedcarmelites

 

Juridically, one must be a “Catholic in good standing” to be OCDS.  I do not believe that the man posing in white robes in the Vatican is the Vicar of Christ.  I believe the true Vicar of Christ has been forced into hiding for the past 5 1/2 years, per numerous prophecies, some of which have come to us through Carmelite mystics.

I believe that, in order to truly be a good Catholic, one cannot at this point even pretend to be loyal to a man who:
a) As Archbishop actively covered up sexual abuse
b) Was a Jesuit but broke their Rule by accepting ecclesiastical preferment
c)-zzz) Do I really need to list them?
At this point, anyone who supports “Pope Francis” is either a raging liberal, poorly catechized or so blinded by an oddly inconsistent popalotry that they are willing to say that a cube is round if the “Pope of Humility” says so.
So until this mess is cleared up–and one way or another–I’m tired of playing “undercover Catholic” within the Church, though ironically, it is now the “Vatican II Catholics” who are demanding Ultramontanism.

But I’m going through a deep spiritual crisis, and it’s not one anyone has an answer to, or can answer, except God Himself.  And if and when He does answer, whatever it is, I know I’m not going to like the experience:
1) I’m wrong and Francis is legitimate, and I have to completely rethink my understanding of everything
2) I’m right, and we’re in for some pretty drastic Chastisements before either the Second Coming or whatever the “Era of Peace”/”New Springtime” is
3) The immediate future of the Catholic Church will be more the long, arduous persecution that then Fr. Ratzinger predicted in the late 60s
4) The Orthodox are right, Roman Catholicism is and always has been a vast conspiracy of homosexuals, and I have to rethink several fundamental aspects of my spirituality and theology.
5) The notion that there’s one, “True” Church is wrong and God doesn’t care as much as we’re told He does.
6) Then there’s always the fear of C. S. Lewis and St. Francis de Sales that God’s just the Cosmic Vivisectionist.

I was diagnosed with Epilepsy last month and while researching it, found all these articles with convincing explanations that the Bible is nothing but a series of stories about epileptics having seizures, and I have to admit they’re pretty convincing.

The only thing I cannot accept is that God doesn’t exist, because His intervention is too obvious in my life.

For example, He worked an amazing miracle this weekend, dissipating Hurricane Florence, though most people are chalking it up to “unpredictable weather” and “the media got it wrong,” which means the next time there’s a hurricane they won’t prepare and it will get worse.

I keep asking Him to intervene, and He seems to remain silent while things keep getting worse.

Life is always “One step forward; two steps back,” and us “Older Brothers on the Porch,” begging for the Father to show us some love, get maligned, while His vicars don’t just greet the Prodigal siblings returning (which we’re more than happy to do): they go out to them in the mud and tell them to stay in the mud because God loves them just the way they are, and God made them that way, and we’re the wrong ones for being so judgmental.

At what point does one give up trying?  Which “trying” should I give up?

If God doesn’t care, why should I?

But He remains silent.

I was going to quote Holy Father John, but I decided to quote Eliot’s Ash Wednesday, instead:

“Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will

And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,

Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.”

To the individual who used my information to open a Belk Account

Since you tried to steal my identity, I’m here to reclaim it.  My name is John Hathaway.
You obviously know my address as well as SSN because the card was sent to my home.  If you want my identity, I think you should know what goes along with it.

You’ll probably never see this, but hopefully it will go viral.

I have Marfan syndrome 
(Regular readers should know this)
If you want my name and my “credit,” would you like the dissected and twice-grafted aorta that goes with it?  How about the brain aneurysm? The scarred lung? The leaking heart valves?  The bleeding and bruising from Coumadin?  The joint and rib pain?  Would you like to share in those?
Would you like to share in wondering any  time you have a sharp pain if it will be your last, in genuinely being aware–every day of your life–that you have no idea when you will die?  Many people live that way, of course.  Maybe you do, but most do because of the threat of violence from people who care more about $200 watches than they do about other human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God.

I am Catholic
I have a deep love for Jesus Christ, and the Church He established, particularly His Mother and His Saints in Heaven.  If you want to share in my “identity,” I invite you to share in the love of Christ.
I wish I could afford to be as generous as the Bishop in Les Miserables.
But I do forgive you, and I do call you my brother.

You need to know that your action has violated three of God’s Ten Commandments,

The seventh, eighth, and tenth, specifically.
7.  You have obviously stolen my legal “identity,” and you have stolen two expensive watches from Belk.
8.  You have also born false witness against me by performing an act in my name that I never would have done.
10. You have done this out of covetousness.

For my part, I forgive you, and God is willing to forgive you, too.  If you are not baptized, please seek out any Christian, but ideally a Catholic priest or deacon, and request to be baptized.  If you are baptized, please find a priest and confess your sins and sin no more.

You need to know that your action has done in my name something that I find morally repugnant

I can’t remember the last time I bought anything at Belk.  I don’t even wear a watch, and if I did it would be the least expensive, most practical watch I could find.  I think it’s wrong to pay more than $30 for shoes without a good medical reason or more than $30 for a watch for the same.  The most expensive items of clothing I have ever bought myself were the blazer for my wedding, which I still wear; the overcoat I bought at Penney’s in 2005 to wear over my blazers when I worked outside the home; and a few other blazers for when I worked, which I gave away to charity because I believe and do a very poor job of practicing the teaching of St. John the Baptist that anyone with two coats should share with the one who has none.

My family spends way more than we should, but most of that is on fast food.  With six people with various physical impairments and on the autism spectrum, we have  a lot of medical appointments.  Other than that, our incomes goes to housing, utilities, food, and a bit of technology.  We enjoy way too many luxuries yet far less than most Americans.

I would never spend $200 for a watch, much less $400 for 2!  And these days I’d buy a $30 cell phone rather
We don’t even have enough to regularly donate to the Church.  Usually, when we do plan to give something to the Church, we find some person in urgent need first.  I don’t say this to brag, but to make an appeal to you not to be materialistic and greedy, and to think about others.

I once dropped a credit card at a gas station.  The person who found it used it to buy gas someplace else.  While I disputed the charge, I also thought “At least they did something practical.”

We are just getting our credit up to where we might be able to get a loan to make repairs on our home without appealing to charities for help in making them.

It is cosmically unjust that if I apply for credit at a store I actually shop at — and not because I need it but just to take advantage of one of those offers and then pay it off — I get denied, but you, my brother, have managed to get credit at a store that I rarely even enter to buy products that I not only would never buy but whose very existence I consider mortally sinful per the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.

For those reasons this hurts me deeply, but I seek the grace in my pain.  I pray that, like St. Stephen and St. Paul, my prayers will inspire your conversion and we can be together in Heaven where we will both share the identity of Christ.

_Twin Peaks’_ Maj. Garland Briggs–a sincere Christian in television

WARNING: If you haven’t seen Twin Peaks, and believe spoilers do just that, proceed with caution; if you have never watched and agree with Flannery O’Connor that fiction is better enjoyed when you know what’s going to happen, read on!)
With “Season 3” of Twin Peaks airing, I’ve been reading a lot of websites and just began reviewing the original series/first two seasons.  This will be my fourth viewing of the series since its original run–once on DVD about 15 years ago and on Netflix about 5 years ago, after the Psych tribute episode.
Before the show was “put on indefinite haitus” by ABC–Whovians, Trekkies and Star Wars fans have nothing on Twin Peaks fans in terms of waiting–there was an outline written for season 3.  As with many cult shows that have been continued in comic book and/or novel form, some fans who were comic book writers approached David Lynch about 10 years ago to try and convince him to let them turn that outline into a comic book series.  Lynch famously declared Twin Peaks dead.
Whether he changed his mind or actually intended to surprise everyone for the show’s 25th anniversary (“I’ll see you again in 25 years”), had that comic book been made, we might not have gotten an actual show.  Amazingly, of the characters who were not already killed off, five cast members have either passed away or refused to participate.
Ironically and problematically, two of those five play characters who are immortal: the late Frank Silva, who played the immortal demon BOB, and the living Michael J. Anderson (“Man from Another Place/Dwarf/MIKE’s arm”).  The other actor who passed away (though a Warren Frost, Miguel Ferrer and Catherine E. Coulson died shortly after filming of The Return was completed) was Don S. Davis (1942-2008), who played Maj. Garland Briggs.  A veteran sci-fi actor, he played Capt. William Scully on The X-Files, and IMDB quotes him saying he enjoys playing science fiction characters because it’s one of the few genres where you are still able to have flawless good guys.
Rolling Stone (in an article I just found) lists him as the show’s 8th best character, noting that he is the inversion of its “you can’t tell a book by its cover” theme.  I’ve seen at least two websites (possibly from the same person) calling him not just the greatest character on Twin Peaks but one of the greatest TV characters ever.
The scene that introduces Maj. Briggs is a family dinner.  His son Bobby, Laura Palmer’s “official” boyfriend, has just been released from jail after being held for fighting and for suspicion of being Laura’s murderer.  Family dinners, whether at home or at the homey RR diner, are a recurring motif of the original series (which could be contrasted to the motif of Roadhouse and barroom dinners in the new series/third season).  Whether it’s the Haywards who are set as the model of the loving, wholesome family yet the parents are clueless about their daughters’ lives, and two of the daughters show up only a couple times, the Palmers and their horrible secrets, or the Hornes and their facade of respectability amid mental illness and infidelity, the dinners usually have the same dramatic function as Ewing family dinners on Dallas.
The first time I saw the scene, it seemed like Maj. Briggs was being presented as another example.  Sitting in his USAF uniform, he starts the meal saying grace–the only character who does so, IIRC, though the Haywards go to church.  He then proceeds to calmly but formally lecture his son (“Robert”) on the value of teenage rebelliousness but his job as a father to guide Bobby’s rebelliousness within the standards of society and their family.
Bobby doesn’t speak, leading to a talk about the various meanings of silence.  He pulls out a cigarette, and his father reaches across the table, slapping it out of his mouth.  The cigarette lands in Mrs. Briggs’s meatloaf, and she barely reacts.  Maj. Briggs says that he is very tolerant but has his limits.  Again, at first sight, he seems to be another example of hypocrisy, and a seemingly wholesome family covering up abuse that leads to the child’s reckless behavior.  As time goes on, Maj. Briggs is revealed to be a very different character and becomes by the end of the second season, the show’s moral center.  The first time the show aired, I puzzled in retrospect over that scene.
When I rewatched it the second and third times, I assumed that it was just an early scene before the character had been sufficiently developed.  This time, it struck me as very well-planned.  As Rolling Stone put it, they want us to see him as a seemingly authoritarian and abusive father.  But just as the seemingly loving and gentle Leland Palmer (spoiler alert) was possessed by a demon which drove him to molest and murder his own daughter, the seemingly stern and gruff Maj. Briggs is actually loving and gentle.
In the aforementioned outline for Season 3, the plan had been for Maj. Briggs to become the main hero.  Whether it was resolved quickly or over the season, the plan was that (spoiler alert) Maj. Briggs would go into the Black Lodge and rescue Cooper.  Though Cooper is superficially an innocent, we know that he is gluttonous, lustful and has committed adultery.  When he invades the Black Lodge to rescue his girlfriend, he gets trapped there and replaced by BOB occupying his physical body because of his own sinfulness.  Originally, had Don S. Davis not passed away, Maj. Briggs would have been the only character worthy of facing the Black Lodge without being corrupted, so whether it would have been a long or short storyline, Briggs would have been the one to bring Cooper back.
(Spoiler) On the new show, one of the mysteries is that his decapitated body was found in South Dakota, and, even though he was reported dead in a fire in 1989 (the events of the 1990-91 series all took place fictionally in February and March 1989), he was in his early 40s when he died.   We recently learned on the new show that he had been in another dimension for 25 years–whether it was the Black or White Lodge has yet to be revealed.
Seen through those eyes, as well as the eyes of real world experience, that first scene looks very different.
Maj. Briggs, even though he refers to patience having its limits, does not lose his cool.  His son, already in trouble with the law, does something completely disrespectful.  It is a controlled and calculated gesture.

EDIT: Don’t know why I never noticed this before, Bobby Briggs standing before a huge crucifix/home altar:
Bobby Briggs Crucifix.png

Vegetables and Grace

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Grace is received according to the mode of the receiver.

So are vegetables.

Some people naturally love vegetables. Most people don’t.

Most people love a few particular vegetables. For me, my favorites are broccoli and spinach, which I’d eat an entire package of on my own if I could but I take Coumadin so I’m only allowed to eat small amounts of them. Ironically, a few months ago I ate a whole bag of broccoli by myself and sent myself to the ER with a clot.

If we don’t have any desire to eat vegetables, we need to have our desires adjusted before we can eat them.

If we grow up eating vegetables, it is easier to love them as an adult. Often, if we grow up eating both, or having our vegetables coated in twinkies, as someone recently suggested, then we are really being taught that vegetables are not desirable.

If we have a desire to eat vegetables but a greater desire to eat junk food, we might eat *some* vegetables but not all the vegetables that are being served to us because we spoiled our dinner by filling up on junk food.

If we fill up completely on junk food, we have no room for vegetables.

So it is with grace.

Our Father in Heaven is offering us a smorgasbord of spiritual vegetables. Our Lady of Victory told St. Catherine Laboure that the precious stones falling from her hands on the Miraculous Medal–the stones which Mel Gibson symbolically has her casting to the earth in The Passion of the Christ, are the graces that go to waste because people aren’t willing to receive them.

Original sin and concupiscence are such that most of us are disinclined to accept His Grace.

Some people are born more naturally receptive to grace.

Some people are born with an inclination to particular graces from God, rather than having a well-balanced spiritual diet, gorge themselves on one kind of grace to the detriment of their overall spiritual life (such as a preference for Scripture or a particular devotion, a scrupulous devotion to COnfession, fasting excessively, doing charitable works without prayer, etc.).

Some people are raised in holy homes and taught to shun the world.

Some people are raised by holy parents who try to teach them the right way, but the enemy sows his seeds of spiritual junk food anyway, and the parents themselves don’t realize the subtle ways they’re teaching that God is second in their lives or that faith is not desirable in itself.

Most people don’t even try to accept God’s grace, and if they try, they get their souls so full of sin that they can’t, and they need to get that out of their systems, one way or the other, before they can take in the graces God is trying to offer them.

“Three Felonies a Day,” Clintons and Irish Travelers

In 2009, an attorney named Harvey Silverglate published a book called Three Felonies a Day that became a kind of a meme or urban legend, that seems sensationalist but is really based on simple facts.  He used to have a website that summarizes his book, but I can’t find it.  First, most federal law does not include the condition of “criminal intent.
The FBI recently said that Hillary Clinton should *not* be prosecuted for “gross negligence” in exposing classified information because she didn’t know any better, yet a Naval servicement is charged with a felony for taking six photos of the inside of a submarine (and potentially going to jail when crewmembers of the same ship did the same and received internal disciplinary actions).

Second, federal law is so pervasive.  One of Silverglate’s examples is the “Honest Services” clause of the mail-and-wire fraud statute, which is so vaguely worded that anyone who calls in sick to go shopping or see a show is guilty of a felony.  Speaking of which, technically using an alias online is wire fraud.
Ever download or record something copyrighted without paying?  Pass off someone else’s work as your own?  How many times does the average person break copyright law?
What about EPA regulations?
Almost anyone involved in education has done something that violates FERPA.  Almost anyone involved in healthcare has violated HIPAA or ACA.
Then there are the stories Silverglate tells us people wandering onto federal property, not realizing it, since there’s so much of it, and being charged with traspassing or theft.

Personally, I think Silverglate’s *three* felonies a day is optimistic.

Another issue Silverglate doesn’t touch on, at least in that context, is the “witch hunt” scenario.  The New England “witch” scare that led to the Salem Trials started with a book by one of the Mathers about “witchcraft” (Catholicism) among Irish and Caribbean slaves.  Now, some “witches” were selling what we’d now call recreational drugs like marijuana and “magic mushrooms.”  Sometimes, they or other witches were the forerunners of Planned Parenthood (the only convicted witch in Virginia history was convicted of selling abortifacients and contraceptives, and pardoned centuries after her execution by Tim Kaine).  Some were practicing voodoo and other pagan religions, but whatever their reasons for being accused, those who were “guity” admitted it, and took deals by “naming names.”  The women they named were mostly innocent, but since they *were* innocent and knew nothing of “witchcraft,” they were prosecuted.

The same happens today with many federal cases, particularly the “War on Drugs”: a criminal keeps his family in the dark about his activities.  When he and his wife or roommate or whomever are arrested, he takes the deal and names his wife or roommate or whomever as knowing about it.  The innocent and ignorant person goes to jail.

And because these laws are so vaguely worded, and so expansive, anyone can be prosecuted for any reason if the government wants to.  Joe Schmoe gets fired or sent to jail for checking his work email at home, but Hillary Clinton is running for president?

Meanwhile, there’s a local story about the indictment of 20 “Irish Travelers” on 45 fraud charges.  I had first heard of Irish Travelers through their popular culture representation, and, being inclined to support an underdog, have had a hard time discerning whether the allegations are accurate.  If you’ve ever heard of “red Irish” versus “black Irish” (a rivalry once depicted on 30 Rock between fictional Jack Donaghy and non fictional Conan O’Brien), or “lact curtain Irish” or “Shanty Irish,” that’s the Travelers.  Whether they’re related to “real gypsies” is disputed.

As disdained as the Irish are in general, the Travelers in Ireland are disdained by the other Irish, as well.  Around here, I find that when non-Catholics hear I’m Catholic, they think I’m a Traveler.  When other Catholics around the state hear I’m from North Augusta, they think “Traveler.”  Ironically, Travelers drive much nicer vehicles than we do, generally dress and style their hair “expensively” (even if the follow out-of-date fashions).

On All Saints’ Day about 5 years ago, we had to drive upstate overnight because my wife had an event there for work, and one of our kids had a medical appointment.  When we went to get dinner after arriving in Greenville, we realized we’d left our only card at the McDonald’s we stopped at for lunch.  We called to cancel it, but it was too late to go to the bank in person for a withdrawl.  Finding myself, in the middle of a real life occurrence of a cliche scam, I took the kids to Mass then asked for help.  The parish business manager was the usher, and he got the pastor, who gave us the $60 I requested.  That covered a hotel room (how many parents have saved on hotel rooms by undercounting their kids?) and some vending machine food.  In the morning, I *did* go to the bank and get the cash, then came back to the church to give back the $60.

The business manager said, “Thanks for restoring my faith in humanity. Keep the money and do something special for your kids.”  He mentioned the Irish Travelers in North Augusta (I guess he thought we were Travelers), and recommended their church as a beautiful place to visit, as it had rescued the stained glass windows from an old church in Philadelphia.

It took us a while to actually visit, because we were worried about their reputation for being clandestine, reclusive, etc.  While they have a reputation for wearing fancy clothes and hairdos, and the women *do* have 60s and 80s style hair, for daily Mass and devotional services, at least, they dress pretty much like my wife and I do (hence the common impression of people, especially when I’m wearing the jacket they gave me–more on that later).  They usually wear religious t-shirts or hoodies.

Their liturgical music is Haugen-Haas, and the most orthodox publications in their vestibule are the diocesan newspaper and Catholic Worker. Otherwise, it’s the “Fishwrap,” US Catholic or Commonweal–I forget which.

OTOH Their parish has Adoration, various Novenas, Rosaries, Legion of Mary and a few other groups.  They have an outdoor shrine to the Infant of Prague.

We don’t know if the first daily Mass we went to there was something special, or they just always have a meal, but contrary to reputation, they invited us to join them after Mass for a very nice little buffet in the vestibule.  The “lace curtain” part of their reputation is of course a penchant for enjoying fancy food, fancy houses and fancy cars that makes this Carmelite rather uncomfortable.

We went that once for daily Mass in the evening.  Then in the Lent before my surgery, we went for daily Mass and Stations on Friday.  That was when I noticed the women wearing the religious hoodies and asked about them.  They offered to give me one next week, for free.  We asked for mutual prayers.  We came almost every Friday that Lent for Stations, and after a few weeks, they gave me a very nice St. Michael hoodie that I still have but sometimes feel embarrased to wear.  Once, last winter, we passed a group of men at Wal-Mart who saw my hoodie and said, “He’s not one of us.  Wonder where he got that?”

We’ve been once or twice since for Mass, and I went to Adoration a few months ago.

Seeing all the women praying in church, with their 60s style hair, with very few men there, made me feel  like I was in a mafia movie: the women in church, praying for the men who were out commiting crimes for a living (if reputation was deserved, and the truth is probably somewhere in between.

What I don’t understand, though, is how the fraud the Irish Travelers commit to get their fancy belongings is any different than the fraud committed by Hillary Clinton or anyone else who’s rich.  It’s not envy to point out that it’s extremely difficult to become extremely wealthy without commiting some sort of crime or sin.

Most of the articles focus on misrepresenting income to get Food Stamps and Medicaid, and I see comments online from African Americans–a community also stigmatized as being full of criminals and committing the same kinds of crimes–rejoicing.  It is horrible how we, as liberals put it, “Other” everyone.  It’s always “those people,” and the accusations against “those people” usually apply to “us,” so long as we’re the “good guys.”  Every villain is the hero of his own story, after all.

We hear about the Travelers getting paid to do work at people’s houses, doing a bad job, and then leaving.  I’ve experienced a lot of workers like that over the years, from licensed repairment to MDs.  If a doctor charges me $500 to tell me I’m being a hypochondriac and doesn’t even run a test, I still have to pay him, then he goes and uses my money to make the payment on his BMW.  If an Irish traveler charges me $500 to paint my house, does a cheap job that washes off in the next rainfall, and disappears, I’m out $500 that he uses to make a payment on his BMW.

I’ve read articles about previous raids and investigations that turned up nothing but some unaccounted for cash.  That actually sounded suspicious to me, like they *were* hiding something, but still, it strikes me as a witch hunt.  And as Hillary Clinton races to the White House on the backs of deleted emails, compromised National Security, dead ambassadors, dead friends, dead witnesses, dead lawyers, dead soldiers and dead babies, it seems hypocritical now for the government to prosecute anyone for any reason.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Evening Prayer II

If you are a brother or sister in Carmel, or a member of a parish or town named for Our Lady under this title, happy Solemnity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel! If you are not, happy optional memorial! (A little humor)

You can find the Carmelite “Propers” (the parts of the Liturgy of the Hours specific to different feasts; as opposed to the Ordinary and the Commons) at this site http://carmelcanada.org/liturgy/office.pdf.
If you can find a way to access the site, please make a donation to them for their service. It is a tragic injustice that the liturgy, which is supposed to be the common prayer of the Church, is copyrighted. I understand in one sense why, but I wanted to provide a convenient blend of the texts, since, though praying online is helpful, flipping between screens or apps can be distracting and cause things to refresh.
So I’ve provided links to different sites, and reflections on each passage to fall under “fair use,” while providing a guide to deeper prayer. Again, please donate to the people who provide these great services for free.

God, come to my assistance.
Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

[Hymn]

Flos Carmeli, vitis florigera,
Splendor cæli, virgo puerpera, singularis.
Mater mitis sed viri nescia
Carmelitis esto propitia, stella maris.
Radix Iesse germinans flosculum
Hic adesse me tibi servulum patiaris.
Inter spinas quæ crescis lilium
Serva puras mentes fragilium tutelaris.
Armatura fortis pugnantium
Furunt bella tende præsidium scapularis.
Per incerta prudens consilium
Per adversa iuge solatium largiaris.
Mater dulcis Carmeli domina,
plebem tuam reple lætitia qua bearis.
Paradisi clavis et ianua,
Fac nos duci quo, Mater, gloria coronaris.

Ant. 1 I am the Handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you have said.”
Psalm 122I rejoiced when I heard them say: “Let us go to God’s house.” And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built as a city strongly compact. It is there that the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord. For Israel’s law it is, there to praise the Lord’s name. There were set the thrones of judgment of the house of David. For the peace of Jerusalem pray: “Peace be to your homes! May peace reign in your walls, in your palaces, peace!” For love of my brethren and friends I say: “Peace upon you!” For love of the house of the Lord I will ask for your good. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: — as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. – See more at: http://divineoffice.org/xmas-0101-ep2/#sthash.vQumIqyC.dpuf

How does this speak to us as Brothers (and Sisters) of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel?

Ant. 2Mary heard the word of God and kept it; she pondered it in her heart.
Psalm 127
If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat, when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. Truly sons are a gift from the Lord, a blessing, the fruit of the womb. Indeed the sons of youth are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. O the happiness of the man who has filled his quiver with these arrows! He will have no cause for shame when he disputes with his foes in the gateways. Glory…
See also http://www.athanasius.com/psalms/psalms5.html

this is one of my favorite Psalms. It speaks particularly to the vocation of the secular, but also to the spiritual fatherhood and motherhood of the Friars and Nuns. The first historical Carmelites were former soldiers who laid down their physical arms for spiritual warfare. The Scapular is both our shield and our token from Our Lady.

Ant. 3The Apostles were constantly at prayer together, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Canticle – See Revelation 19:1-7
Alleluia.
Salvation, glory, and power to our God:
(Alleluia.)
his judgments are honest and true.
Alleluia (alleluia).

Alleluia.
Sing praise to our God, all you his servants,
(Alleluia.)
all who worship him reverently, great and small.
Alleluia (alleluia).

Alleluia.
The Lord our all-powerful God is King;
(Alleluia.)
Let us rejoice, sing praise, and give him glory.
Alleluia (alleluia).

Alleluia.
The wedding feast of the Lamb has begun,
(Alleluia.)
and his bride is prepared to welcome him.
Alleluia (alleluia). Glory…

See also http://www.liturgies.net/Liturgies/Catholic/loh/mary/eveningprayerii.htm
How are we preparing ourselves to welcome our spiritual Bridegroom?

A Reading from the Letter to the Galations (4:4-6)

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5
to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. 6 As proof that you are children,* God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. See http://www.usccb.org/bible/galatians/4

To be brothers of Our Lord, we must humbly accept the mantle of obedience, as He did.

Responsory
I will cry out with joy to the Lord;
my soul will rejoice in my God.
–I will cry out with joy to the Lord;
my soul will rejoice in my God.
For he has clothed me with the garment of salvation and robed me in a mantle of justice.
–My soul will rejoice in my God.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
–I will cry out with joy to the Lord;
my soul will rejoice in my God.
“Receive, my beloved son, this habit of your Order. This shall be to you and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire.”

Canticle of Mary
Ant. Today we received the Virgin Mary as our mother. Today, she has taken pity on us. Today, all Carmel rejoices in the solemnity of the Blessed Virgin, whose name we bear.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my Spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant. From this day forward, all generations will call me blessed, for the almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name. He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation. He has shown the strength of His Arm; He has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things; the rich He has sent away empty. He has come to the help of His servant, Israel. For He has remembers His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham, and his children, forever. Glory . . .

The privilege of the Scapular is neither a symbol nor a superstition, but to die clothed with the Scapular, the garment of work in a religious habit, is to die doing God’s work.

As we honor the holy Holy Mother of God, under whose name and patronage we live, let us pray with confidence to Christ our Lord and say:
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”;
–may we stand with Mary among the poor and humble of the Lord, so that you may be our only wealth.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”;
–in following the Immaculate Virgin may we come to live that purity of heart which makes us eager to see the Father’s Face.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe”;
–with Mary at our side, may we never cease to trust in the love You have for us as we journey in this night of faith.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “You ought to pray always and never lose heart”;
–teach us to pray like Mary, treasuring Your Word in our hearts and proclaiming it in our lives.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “A new commandment I give you; love one another as I have loved you”;
–united in heart and mind, may we be ready to spend our lives for our brothers and sisters and share with Mary in Your work of redemption.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

Dying on the cross, You said to John, and through him to all disciples, “Behold your Mother”;
–may all those who trusted in Your everlasting mercy [especially ____] rejoice one day with you and Mary in our Father’s house.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

Here list your own intentions.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.
Our Father .. . .

Prayer
Lord God, You willed that the Order of Carmel should be named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Your Son. Through her prayers, as we honor her today, bring us to your holy Mountain, Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

May the Lord bless us, protect from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.


St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the malice and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Power of God, cast into Hell Satan, and all the other evil spirits, who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Click here for my Litany to Carmelite Saints

From the First Epistle of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians:
<blockquote>Let our whole body, then, be preserved in, Christ Jesus; and let every one be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him. Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect unto the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by [mere] words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence. Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were made, who and what manner of beings we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness. He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into His world. Since, therefore, we receive all these things from Him, we ought for everything to give Him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.</blockquote>

Yes! Here, at last, is my understanding of Suffering

For the past couple days, I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, OCD’s Practice of the Presence of God.

A forerunner of St. Therese’s Little Way, whose short collection of letters is often identified as a perfect example of Discalced Carmelite spirituality, Br. Lawrence has never been able to be elevated to the altar even as a Servant of God because we know so little of his life.  Like Thomas a Kempis, and the housewife in C. S. Lewis’s Great Divorce, I think his obscurity even in the eyes of the Church is ironically a sign of his great Sanctity.  Br. Lawrence’s 11th letter summarizes exactly my view on the meaning of illness, and what I pray for when asked to pray for someone who is ill:

Eleventh Letter: I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains; but I pray earnestly that God gives you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross. He will loose you when He thinks fit. Happy are those who suffer with Him. Accustom yourself to suffer in that manner, and seek from Him the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He judges necessary for you.
Worldly people do not comprehend these truths. It is not surprising though, since they suffer like what they are and not like Christians. They see sickness as a pain against nature and not as a favor from God. Seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress. But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of God, out of His mercy and as the means He uses for their salvation, commonly find sweetness and consolation in it.
I pray that you see that God is often nearer to us and present within us in sickness than in health. Do not rely completely on another physician because He reserves your cure to Himself. Put all your trust in God. You will soon find the effects in your recovery, which we often delay by putting greater faith in medicine than in God. Whatever remedies you use, they will succeed only so far as He permits. When pains come from God, only He can ultimately cure them. He often sends sickness to the body to cure diseases of the soul. Comfort yourself with the Sovereign Physician of both soul and body.
I expect you will say that I am very much at ease, and that I eat and drink at the table of the Lord. You have reason. But think how painful it would be to the greatest criminal in the world to eat at the king’s table and be served by him, yet have no assurance of pardon? I believe he would feel an anxiety that nothing could calm except his trust in the goodness of his sovereign. So I assure you, that whatever pleasures I taste at the table of my King, my sins, ever present before my eyes, as well as the uncertainty of my pardon, torment me. Though I accept that torment as something pleasing to God.
Be satisfied with the condition in which God places you. However happy you may think me, I envy you. Pain and suffering would be a paradise to me, if I could suffer with my God. The greatest pleasures would be hell if I relished them without Him. My only consolation would be to suffer something for His sake.
I must, in a little time, go to God. What comforts me in this life is that I now see Him by faith. I see Him in such a manner that I sometimes say, I believe no more, but I see. I feel what faith teaches us, and, in that assurance and that practice of faith, I live and die with Him.
Stay with God always for He is the only support and comfort for your affliction. I shall beseech Him to be with you. I present my service.

To Hipster Dad and Trad Dad

A few days ago, Aleteia started the latest round of parents-at-mass wars by reprinting a CatholicMom.com column from last June, by one Thomas Tighe, a self-described “hipster dad,” who writes about one of those incidents I’ve blogged about before where people come up and say rude comments to parents trying their best to teach their kids how to behave at Mass.  Now, whether Mr. Tighe’s description of his attempts really qualifies as “his best” is a matter for debate but of prudential judgement.  I know, though, that when our kids were little, one of the major reasons we shunned the cry room as often as possible was to avoid the bad example of parents who brought snacks and non-relevant toys (we would always try to get the kids to bring religious books and sometimes religious toys).

Sometimes, a cry room is necessary.  Sometimes, a vestibule or a trip outside church is necessary.  Indeed, I got so used to taking my autistic son out of church that I realized at one point last year I preferred being outside, listening on the speaker.

I like the anecdote about Ven. Fulton Sheen, when a lady took a crying baby out of Mass during his homily: “Madame, you needn’t take the baby out on my account.  He isn’t bothering me.”
“No,” the lady replied, “but you’re  bothering the baby!”

Yes, parents of young or disabled children have no Mass obligation, but that is precisely why attending at all is an act of heroic virtue.

Nevertheless, I’m inclined to agree with Tighe, especially given the absolute vitriol that people were spewing in response to his column.  For example, Steve Skojec weighed in with the perspective of a “certain kind of traditionalist.”

Skojec takes the “absolute silence” perspective, including suggesting that it’s a sin to drop a book.  I’m sure he’d be deeply offended by the sound of my wheelchair or the number of times I drop things at Mass!

I wish I could get people like you to stop quoting Mark 10 as a justification for irresponsible parenting. I have always brought my children to Mass, letting the little children come unto Him…but I’ve also always reminded them that the Mass is a supreme act of worship of Our Lord on the Cross, not a friendly gathering where Jesus told the little guys cute parables. . . .

Yes, when the Apostles were complaining about children, they were mad that the children were being perfectly well behaved and wearing their blue blazers with brass buttons.  And when Jesus said you can’t get into Heaven unless you learn to be like children, He meant perfectly silent and well-dressed.

When people have offered actual help, or talked to our kids helpfully, I’ve welcomed it.  Once, when my kids got distracted by the Christmas Tree at the Christmas Eve vigil, the pastor gently said, “I realize you’re excited because it’s Christmas, but please wait till after Mass to look at the tree.” Another time, as my eldest daughter loudly proclaimed her responses at our parish, a lady behind us kept whispering in her ear.  I braced myself when the lady approached me after Mass.
“How old is she?” she asked.
“Five,” I said.
“You must have taken her to Mass since she was a baby.  I kept leaning over and telling her how impressed I was that she knew her responses.  I have a daughter who’s a nun now, and she knew her responses when she was 5, too.”
A few times, we went to Sunday evening Mass at my alma mater’s campus chapel.  We were flabbergasted when the young priest pointed to our kids as an example of how to behave at Mass!   “Those little children know how to behave at Mass better than you college students!” Then when the baby woke up and started crying, he said, “Now, see?  You’ve woken up the baby!”
I went to daily Mass there once with my son, when he was 2 or 3 but not yet diagnosed autistic.  Father asked if I wanted to lector.  I said, “What about him?”  “He’ll be fine!”   I shrugged my shoulders, got up to read, and my son started following.  I gestured to return to the seat, and he did.
My eldest daughter once got up and laid prostrate in front of the altar after a homily about kids at Mass.
She had grown up attending a monthly “Reform of the Reform” Latin Ordinary Form liturgy in Northern Virginia, and the occasional High Mass Extraordinary Form in Richmond.  When she was 2, she sang her Latin Mass parts well enough to impress a Juilliard-trained composer and choral director.
After we moved to SC, there was a monthly EF low Mass we would try to attend.  Once, when she was 5 or 6, confused by everyone being silent during the liturgy of the Eucharist, she began singing the “Salve Regina,” perfectly.  She was sitting a few rows behind me, with her godfather.  I turned to shush her, but almost everyone smiled and gestured as if to say, “she’s fine.”

A few years later, at another parish, I was sitting up front with the younger two, and an elderly couple behind us kept leaning over and whispering what I sensed were gentle admonitions to my son.  After Mass, they asked, “He’s autistic, right?”  I said, “Yes.  They both are.”  They said, “We have an autistic grandson.  We know how it is!”

But we’ve had enough nasty comments to know some people will never be satisfied.
One of the times I tried to bring my son to the low Mass, he whispered some questions but was relatively well-behaved.  Nevertheless, this older gentleman came up and yelled at me, saying, “I raised nine children, and I taught them to behave themselves at Mass!”  I really got the impression that he was as mad about my daughter’s devotion as about my son’s curiosity.  Two other ladies followed him and said, “Don’t listen to him, you’re doing great!”

I often tell the story of taking all four kids to a “Holy Hour” by myself. They’d been to Benediction many times, and knew some of Evening Prayer from my saying it at home.  I was holding the baby.  The then 6 and 4 year old were focusing on the prayers. My son was walking up and down the pews, but being quiet, as he’d done at the aforementioned college mass, which was a huge improvement for him.
They used illicit, barely recognizable, texts for Vespers and Benediction, politically correct, Charismatic and “interfaith friendly.”  At Benediction, they “voted” on which hymn to sing instead of “Tantum Ergo,” and sang “Amazing Grace.”
At the Magnificat, Divine Praises and other points, my kids said the correct translation with me.  Afterwards, the deacon who led it came up and told me how distracting my family was, and children shouldn’t be present at such a “solemn event.”

The last time we had a direct encounter, my wife was in the back with the younger two, who were both sleepy, as they often are, from their meds.  These two old ladies told my wife that our kids were distracting them by sleeping!

So, whether they’re actually being bad, or they’re actually participating, or they’re being quiet but sleeping, we’ve gotten both positive and negative feedback from strangers and clergy.

Yes, there are some people who are blessed with peaceful, well-behaved children, and like other people blessed with particular virtues, they shouldn’t lord it over others.  But there are also some whose kids’ perfect behavior can be a bit scary to the rest of us.

For the past several months, we’ve been regularly attending a Byzantine church that we have visited from time to time over the past 5 years, and I always found the kids seemed to be better behaved and attentive there.  In Advent, I suggested going to the OF Vigil Mass (it didn’t work out because we all got sick), and the kids said, “Do we have to?!”  They find the chanting both soothing and easy to participate in. They love having the icons to pray with. Like me, they find incense bothers them allergy-wise, but they also find it calming (even when they were smaller, they seemed to settle a bit at Vespers as soon as the Censer passed).  They like the community meal after Liturgy.  When there are a lot of children, the DRE gathers them and brings them up to sit in front of Father during the homily.

On Sunday, we were a bit late as usual.  It was Theophany, so there was an especially long liturgy.  I brought three because our middle daughter was sick, and my wife stayed home since I’m the one who usually does.

We stood/sat in the back.  In the second to last row, there was a visiting family–very obviously Latin Rite traditionalists.  The father and sons were all in suits.  The wife and daughters, all in dresses and veils (while veiling is traditional in the East, it’s not an “obligation,” and from my research veiling is usually avoided in the Melkite Church to avoid confusion with Muslims).   My two youngest ended up right behind them.  I was across the aisle.  My teenager was at the other end.  We’d been told to take empty holy water bottles when we came in.  So my son kept playing with his holy water bottle.  After a while, he came over and told me that he realized we had forgotten to get his morning pills before we left the house! I thanked him for holding it together so well, and took him out to the car to take his pills.  I was happy he was holding it together so well, but still trying to keep him in control.  He kept bugging his younger sister, and she kept shushing him.  The lady in the veil in front of her kept turning around and admonishing *her*.

Later in the afternoon, since I didn’t recognize the family, my wife asked our daughter if she recognized the lady.
“Which lady?”
“The lady who kept turning around and correcting you,” I said.
“Oh, *that* lady,” she sighed.  I should note that, of our four children, she’s the most resistant in matters of faith and has already developed the impression that God is a dictator Who just has a bunch of rules and wants to “get” people, in spite of our efforts to teach a balanced view of the faith.  If she grew up in one of these, “children should be seen and not heard” families, what would her faith be like?

Why are we being told to take “Pride” in Sin? People apparently forget that pride *is* a sin.

And that’s it, right there: “Love yourself.” “Make yourself like gods who know.” “I will not serve.”

The term “seven deadly sins” really means “seven deadly vices”–seven bad habits that could, individually or in combination, kill the soul.  The seven capital vices are pride, lust, envy, sloth, greed/avarice, gluttony, and anger/wrath.   I don’t know why the traditional lists leave out despair, but let’s look at them, particularly in a rough correspondence to the theological and cardinal virtues.  Here’s a good summary article that attempts to parallel the “seven virtues” with the seven deadly sins by grouping them into two categories each: three spiritual and three corporal.  It also suggests the “remedial” approach to the virtues, and here is another.

What disturbs me most about the “Progressives” is how everything has become about “Pride.”  Lust is one thing, but pride quite another.  Certainly, neither side of the Culture Wars has a monopoly on anger, greed, or gluttony, but that people who profess to be Christians are not only falling for but promoting a message of “pride” is horrifying.

St. Thomas Aquinas addresses “Pride” in Question 162 of the Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologica.

Article 6. Whether pride is the most grievous of sins?

Objection 1. It would seem that pride is not the most grievous of sins. For the more difficult a sin is to avoid, the less grievous it would seem to be. Now pride is most difficult to avoid; for Augustine says in his Rule (Ep. ccxi), “Other sins find their vent in the accomplishment of evil deeds, whereas pride lies in wait for good deedsto destroy them.” Therefore pride is not the most grievous of sins.

Objection 2. Further, “The greater evil is opposed to the greater good,” as the Philosopher asserts (Ethic. viii, 10). Now humility to which pride is opposed is not the greatest of virtues, as stated above (Question 61, Article 5). Therefore the vices that are opposed to greater virtues, such as unbelief, despairhatred of God,murder, and so forth, are more grievous sins than pride.

Objection 3. Further, the greater evil is not punished by a lesser evil. But pride is sometimes punished by other sins according to Romans 1:28, where it is stated that on account of their pride of heart, men of sciencewere delivered “to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient.” Therefore pride is not the most grievous of sins.

On the contrary, A gloss on Psalm 118:51, “The proud did iniquitously,” says: “The greatest sin in man ispride.”

I answer that, Two things are to be observed in sin, conversion to a mutable good, and this is the material part of sin; and aversion from the immutable good, and this gives sin its formal aspect and complement. Now on the part of the conversion, there is no reason for pride being the greatest of sins, because uplifting whichpride covets inordinately, is not essentially most incompatible with the good of virtue. But on the part of the aversion, pride has extreme gravity, because in other sins man turns away from God, either through ignoranceor through weakness, or through desire for any other good whatever; whereas pride denotes aversion from Godsimply through being unwilling to be subject to God and His rule. Hence Boethius [Cf. Cassian, de Caenob. Onst. xii, 7 says that “while all vices flee from Godpride alone withstands God“; for which reason it is specially stated (James 4:6) that “God resisteth the proud.” Wherefore aversion from God and Hiscommandments, which is a consequence as it were in other sins, belongs to pride by its very nature, for its actis the contempt of God. And since that which belongs to a thing by its nature is always of greater weight than that which belongs to it through something else, it follows that pride is the most grievous of sins by its genus, because it exceeds in aversion which is the formal complement of sin.

Reply to Objection 1. A sin is difficult to avoid in two ways. First, on account of the violence of its onslaught; thus anger is violent in its onslaught on account of its impetuosity; and “still more difficult is it to resistconcupiscence, on account of its connaturality,” as stated in Ethic. ii, 3,9. A difficulty of this kind in avoidingsin diminishes the gravity of the sin; because a man sins the more grievously, according as he yields to a less impetuous temptation, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiv, 12,15).

Secondly, it is difficult to avoid a sin, on account of its being hidden. On this way it is difficult to avoid pride, since it takes occasion even from good deeds, as stated (5, ad 3). Hence Augustine says pointedly that it “liesin wait for good deeds“; and it is written (Psalm 141:4): “In the way wherein I walked, the proud [Cf. Psalm 139:6, ‘The proud have hidden a net for me.’] [Vulgate: ‘they’] have hidden a snare for me.” Hence no very great gravity attaches to the movement of pride while creeping in secretly, and before it is discovered by thejudgment of reason: but once discovered by reason, it is easily avoided, both by considering one’s own infirmity, according to Sirach 10:9, “Why is earth and ashes proud?” and by considering God’s greatness, according to Job 15:13, “Why doth thy spirit swell against God?” as well as by considering the imperfection of the goods on which man prides himself, according to Isaiah 40:6, “All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field”; and farther on (Isaiah 64:6), “all our justices” are become “like the rag of a menstruous woman.”

Reply to Objection 2. Opposition between a vice and a virtue is inferred from the object, which is considered on the part of conversion. On this way pride has no claim to be the greatest of sins, as neither has humility to be the greatest of virtues. But it is the greatest on the part of aversion, since it brings greatness upon othersins. For unbelief, by the very fact of its arising out of proud contempt, is rendered more grievous than if it be the outcome of ignorance or weakness. The same applies to despair and the like.

Reply to Objection 3. Just as in syllogisms that lead to an impossible conclusion one is sometimes convinced by being faced with a more evident absurdity, so too, in order to overcome their prideGod punishes certainmen by allowing them to fall into sins of the flesh, which though they be less grievous are more evidently shameful. Hence Isidore says (De Summo Bono ii, 38) that “pride is the worst of all vices; whether because it is appropriate to those who are of highest and foremost rank, or because it originates from just and virtuousdeeds, so that its guilt is less perceptible. on the other hand, carnal lust is apparent to all, because from the outset it is of a shameful nature: and yet, under God’s dispensation, it is less grievous than pride. For he who is in the clutches of pride and feels it not, falls into the lusts of the flesh, that being thus humbled he mayrise from his abasement.”

From this indeed the gravity of pride is made manifest. For just as a wise physician, in order to cure a worse disease, allows the patient to contract one that is less dangerous, so the sin of pride is shown to be more grievous by the very fact that, as a remedy, God allows men to fall into other sins.

Article 7. Whether pride is the first sin of all?

Objection 1. It would seem that pride is not the first sin of all. For the first is maintained in all that follows. Now pride does not accompany all sins, nor is it the origin of all: for Augustine says (De Nat. et Grat. xx) that many things are done “amiss which are not done with pride.” Therefore pride is not the first sin of all.

Objection 2. Further, it is written (Sirach 10:14) that the “beginning of . . . pride is to fall off from God.” Therefore falling away from God precedes pride.

Objection 3. Further, the order of sins would seem to be according to the order of virtues. Now, not humilitybut faith is the first of all virtues. Therefore pride is not the first sin of all.

Objection 4. Further, it is written (2 Timothy 3:13): “Evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse”; so that apparently man’s beginning of wickedness is not the greatest of sins. But pride is the greatest of sins as stated in the foregoing Article. Therefore pride is not the first sin.

Objection 5. Further, resemblance and pretense come after the reality. Now the Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 7) that “pride apes fortitude and daring.” Therefore the vice of daring precedes the vice of pride.

On the contrary, It is written (Sirach 10:15): “Pride is the beginning of all sin.”

I answer that, The first thing in every genus is that which is essential. Now it has been stated above (Article 6) that aversion from God, which is the formal complement of sin, belongs to pride essentially, and to othersins, consequently. Hence it is that pride fulfils the conditions of a first thing, and is “the beginning of allsins,” as stated above (I-II, 84, 2), when we were treating of the causes of sin on the part of the aversion which is the chief part of sin.

Reply to Objection 1. Pride is said to be “the beginning of all sin,” not as though every sin originated frompride, but because any kind of sin is naturally liable to arise from pride.

Reply to Objection 2. To fall off from God is said to be the beginning of pride, not as though it were a distinctsin from pride, but as being the first part of pride. For it has been said above (Article 5) that pride regards chiefly subjection to God which it scorns, and in consequence it scorns to be subject to a creature for God’ssake.

Reply to Objection 3. There is no need for the order of virtues to be the same as that of vices. For vice is corruptive of virtue. Now that which is first to be generated is the last to be corrupted. Wherefore as faith is the first of virtues, so unbelief is the last of sins, to which sometimes man is led by other sins. Hence a glosson Psalm 136:7, “Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof,” says that “by heaping vice upon vice a manwill lapse into unbelief,” and the Apostle says (1 Timothy 1:19) that “some rejecting a good conscience have made shipwreck concerning the faith.”

Reply to Objection 4. Pride is said to be the most grievous of sins because that which gives sin its gravity isessential to pride. Hence pride is the cause of gravity in other sins. Accordingly previous to pride there may becertain less grievous sins that are committed through ignorance or weakness. But among the grievous sins the first is pride, as the cause whereby other sins are rendered more grievous. And as that which is the first incausing sins is the last in the withdrawal from sin, a gloss on Psalm 18:13, “I shall be cleansed from the greatest sin,” says: “Namely from the sin of pride, which is the last in those who return to God, and the first in those who withdraw from God.”

Reply to Objection 5. The Philosopher associates pride with feigned fortitude, not that it consists precisely in this, but because man thinks he is more likely to be uplifted before men, if he seem to be daring or brave.

 

What does it mean to be “Positive”?

“Turn The Radio Up,” the first single from Barry Manilow’s 2001 Here at the Mayflower, was his first top 40 hit on the Billboard A/C charts since 1989’s “Keep Each Other Warm.”
Often compared to “Daybreak,” it’s a catchy tune of the “inspirational” sort, but in the context of recent thoughts, Something occurred to me listening to it yesterday:

turn the radio up
hear the melody
turn reality down
there’s too much talk about blues
to much of the time
turn the radio up
hear the harmony
turn the negative down
turn the radio up
everything will be fine

Primarily an emotion-based message, it works like any platitude in certain contexts. If “listening to the radio” is taken as a metaphor for rather than distraction from prayer, it works.
However,

worryin’ don’t do no good
so throw your cares away
come on people life’s too
short a stay
hey hey
everybody now

Again, a worthy though on its own, but there’s a subtle problem: feeling well is what counts, not being good.

Now the one that struck me, in terms of how words are ambiguated:

don’t give in
no matter what they say
out with the negative
you find the positive way

“Positive” has come to mean, “feels good,” while “negative” is “feels bad,” versus meaning “adds something” or “does something” on the one hand or “takes away something” or “does nothing” on the other. Technically, in one sense of the “negative way,” the essence of Carmelite spirituality, the approach to problems Barry is suggesting–shutting out the world and praying–is the “negative way,” the way of negation.
In a different perspective, though, the sense of “positivity” here, the annoying way of the optimist, the positivity of the person who smiles with not true joy or humor, is a bad negativity: listening to other people fiddle while Rome burns, so to speak.
To be detached for God is as “positive” as it gets. To be detached and not care-whether one’s expression is a frown or a smile-is truly negative.
That is why, when one suggests, “As Catholics, we need to be more positive,” meaning, “We have to do stuff, not just complain,” some people get angrier and think you mean “Shut up and do nothing and post cute cat pictures.”
It’s also why, in “support groups,” if you talk about the actual problems you’re there to get “support” for, people say, “you’re being too negative.”

“We deserve our punishment”

I know a lot of people  who suffer from chronic pain.  Most of my Marfan friends are non-Catholics, and I observe how very differently they approach the question.  Often, “Offer it up” has become such a cliche that it loses meaning.  Even Jesus cried out from the cross, and sometimes that’s what we have to do, but we must always remember to keep focused on the goal.  I constantly have to remind myself of these things:

1.  “Though He was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, . . .”

2.  “We deserve our punishment, but this Man has done no wrong.”

3.  “In my own body, I fill up what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”

4.  Mother Angelica once asked, “Why me, Lord?”  She got a response: “Why Me?”  She never asked again.

5.  A single mortal sin merits eternal suffering.  The worst we can bear here is nothing compared to that.  Imagine enduring *anything* forever.  My mom’s all-time favorite homily was, “You think it’s hot here?!”

C. S. Lewis once responded to someone who said, “It’s hot as Hell,” with “How would you know?”  When I was in CVICU last year, thinking I was dead and in Gell, everything seemed unendurable because ?I thought it was forever.  I was hot (high grade fever and screwed up post op metabolism).  I was thirsty (living off a feeding tube and npo).  I was in pain.  Most of all, I was *bored.*  I couldn’t move or speak.  I was strapped in a bed with tubes all over my body.

The only way to survive such a situation without despair is the Lord’s grace.  The Voice kept telling me to stop waive ring and make a choice.  It kept telling me it was over: I was in Hell or destined for it, that Jesus would never forgive me.  Yet, I thought of Faust, and I prayed, and I used the seemingly endless monotony to pray.  In particular, I thought about “70 times 7 times,” though I confused it as “70×70” and couldn’t remember if I was supposed to ask or grant it, so I kept naming people in my prayers and asking their forgiveness while offering mine.  I prayed the Pater repeatedly, the Publican’s Prayer and St Dismas’s prayer, over and over, 24/7, for at least 2 or 3 days.  My recovery began.

T. S. Eliot’s _Four Quartets_ “East Coker” IV

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That quesions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind us of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood-
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

Why Kenny Rogers and John Lennon were wrong

“The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep,” said one.
“Imagine all the people living for today,” said the other.

Our neighbors like to have bonfires on the weekends and play the radio.  Usually, they do it in fall and our relatively mild winters, but, given the bad winter we’ve had, coupled with yard debris, they’ve been having them the last several weekends.  When we were leaving for Mass, the repulsive “Imagine” started playing on the radio at the neighbors’.  I quickly started the car engine, knowing it was on Casting Crowns.  I thought about switching to Fr. Antonio Vivaldi’s _Four Seasons_, but figured I’d rather hear content to get Lennon’s book of Marx out of my head (so to speak; “Imagine” came out nearly a year after “American Pie”).  I didn’t, and it fit in with the weekend’s meditations.

“Imagine all the people living for today”??
That’s exactly why we’re in the mess we’re in.  That’s what Thomas Hobbes famously describes as the state of nature: the war of “all against all” because everyone is “living for the moment,” and “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

"YOLO? No, bro"

Living for today is a good thing if you’re focused on the eternal “today” that is our destiny.

In his address at the 1998 Seattle C. S. Lewis Institute, Peter Kreeft quoted Voltaire saying that too many people had their minds on Heaven and Hell and not on France.  “I don’t know where Voltaire is now,” said Kreeft, “but, wherever he is, he’s not in France.”

Me with Peter Kreeft and Tom Howard

Me with Peter Kreeft and Tom Howard

Liturgically, this weekend’s theme of course was resurrection in anticipation of the upcoming Easter.  Saturday, we also celebrated the Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, known for his preaching on the Last Things, for promoting the following:

Prayer of St. Vincent Ferrer to be Sinless at the Hour of Death

Lord Jesus Christ, who willest that no man should perish, and to whom supplication is never made without the hope of mercy, for Thou saidst with Thine own holy and blessed lips: “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, shall be done unto you”; I ask of Thee, O Lord, for Thy holy name’s sake, to grant me at the hour of my death full consciousness and the power of speech, sincere contrition for my sins, true faith, firm hope and perfect charity, that I may be able to say unto Thee with a clean heart: Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth, who art blessed forever and ever. Amen. 

As we usually do, ironically, when I actually make it to Mass with my family, we went to the “last chance” college Mass, with a very kindly priest of the Holy Father’s generation who tends to overemphasize, as it were, “Niceness.”  He gives pleasant, uplifting homilies but never really challenges people.   He has a lot of good qualities, but I found his homily a bit lacking in the caution that should come with these themes.

“I am one of those who believe this life isn’t all there is.”
I should hope so.
He emphasized, “But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:10).

He kind of left out the conditions “if” and “because of righteousness” and went with, “Christ is in all of us, so we’re all going to be together.”  He phrased it in that “ambiguous” manner that typifies his era, but he definitely promoted presumption.
I don’t know if it was posted because of St. Vincent, or the Sunday liturgy, or just an act of Divine Inspiration, but a blogger who goes by Tantamergo at “Dallas Area Catholics” posted a great piece on praying for a Happy Death, particularly praying for the opportunity to be conscious, as St. Vincent recommends above, so we can invoke Our Lady in our dying days, with various examples from Saints to that effect.
Thus, it was dismaying coming into Mass with those things in mind to hear Father say how most of his family were dead, and they’d all died of cancer, and he hoped to be fortunate enough to die in his sleep or suddenly!
No, the best we can hope for is not to die in our sleep; it is to die fully aware so that we’re not further punished for putting off our repentance.

Reports claim that Yellowstone is getting closer to eruption, and the animals are fleeing.   Others say that the supervolcano theory hasn’t been proven, that the animals are just engaging in normal migration, etc.  I say that, obviously, if they knew it was going to happen, they wouldn’t want to trigger mass chaos by saying that a mass extinction event is coming.  Either way, whether it’s Yellowstone, cancer, a heart attack, a gang playing the “knock out game,” or the proverbial bus, we must all heed Our Lord’s warning to store up treasure in Heaven, not on Earth.  Whether we die tomorrow or 90 years from now, we’ll still face the same personal judgement and the same two options for Eternity.  We worry so much about preparing for “retirement,” or how to survive various disasters, but do we worry about what will happen if we die a sudden and unprovided death?

Daily examination of conscience
Daily devotion to Our Lady and to Our Lord’s Passion
Self-sacrifice and almsgiving
Frequent recourse to the Sacraments
and, most of all
Praying daily that we and our loved ones will experience a “Happy Death,” with complete Confession, the Anointing, Viaticum, and the Apostolic Blessing (collectively, “Last Rites”).

These must be everyone’s priorities.

Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross

I. Jesus is condemned to death.
Pontius Pilate dares to condemn the all-holy Savior to death. No, not Pilate; but my sins have condemned Jesus to be crucified. O Jesus, have mercy on me and remember Thou didst choose to die that I may have eternal life. Let me so live that when I come to die I may find Thee a most merciful Judge, an all-loving Redeemer.

II. Jesus takes up His Cross.
Most willingly Jesus accepts and patiently bears His Cross for my sake. Will I refuse to bear my cross for His sake? No, my loving Redeemer, I will no longer seek to evade my cross, but with the Help of Thy Grace I will bear it with Christian patience and resignation and follow Thee always.

III. Jesus falls the first time.
Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, Jesus falls beneath His Cross. Alas! More truly was He crushed to earth by the number and enormity of my sins! Good Master, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I love Thee, infinite Goodness! Help me to hate sin as the only real evil.

IV. Jesus meets His sorrowful Mother.
Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, meets Mary, the Queen of Martyrs. Oceans of grief deluge their Hearts as they face each other. They suffer thus for my sins. O Jesus, O Mary, bathe my sinful soul in a sea of true sorrow for my past offences. In all temptation I will say: `Jesus, Mary, help me!’

V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.
Although Jesus seems about to expire, He does not need — yet accepts — the help of Simon, since He wills to die on the Cross. Thus does He teach me charity and perseverance. O Jesus, I too will carry my cross patiently to the end and strive to lighten the cross of my fellow-men.

VI. Veronica wipes the Face of Jesus.
Jesus accepts and returns the towel to Veronica. Upon it is left the impress of His adorable Face. Alas! My sins have disfigured Thy holy Countenance. O Jesus, grant me efficacious sorrow that all sin may be erased from my soul and that Thy Grace and Thy divine Image may be stamped upon it forever.

VII. Jesus falls a second time.
My feeble resolutions, my oft-repeated sins have crushed Jesus to earth a second time. Such is the malice of habitual sin. O Jesus, grant me true repentance. Let me die a thousand times rather than have the misfortune to fall again into mortal sin! Help me to hate all sin.

VIII. Jesus meet the Women of Jerusalem.
The Savior teaches teh women not to weep for Him, but for their own sins and the sins of their children. How generous is He! O Jesus, grant that I may understand the true meaning of Thy Passion and be so inflamed with love for Thee that I may shed tears of blood over my past transgressions.

IX. Jesus falls the third time.
Consternation fills my soul when I behold the Savior fall a third time beneath the Cross. What is the cause? The incredible obstinacy of sinners who refuse to amend their lives. O Jesus, grant that I may be truly converted and suffer every evil rather than be numbered among such ungrateful sinners.

X. Jesus is stripped of His garments.
What a pitiable spectacle is this shameful stripping of Jesus! Ghastly wounds are re-opened. Blood flows afresh. What shame would be mine if the veil were torn from my soul and the world saw my hidden sins! O Jesus, help me to know all my sins and confess them with deep sorrow and true humility.

XI. Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
How can I behold the Savior shamefully nailed to the Cross and seek only comfort, wealth, and honors… and even indulge in unlawful pleasures? Jesus Crucified, help me to esteem and practice true Christian mortification that I may love only Thee and renounce the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

XII. Jesus dies on the Cross.
Jesus, my God, dies on the Cross for me. I have done nothing for Him. I too must die! O my Crucified Savior, grant that I may so live in the future that I may have no cause to fear a sudden and unprovided death. Jesus, for Thee I live. Jesus, for Thee I die!

XIII. Jesus is taken down from the Cross.
The lifeless Body of Jesus now rests in the arms of Mary. What anguish is hers as she thinks of the many souls for whom her Son shed His Precious Blood in vain! What joy to know that so many are redeemed! O my Savior, preserve me from Hell. O sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation.

XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb.
Like Jesus, I too must lie in the grave. But Jesus rises in triumph on the third day. My buried Jesus, grant eternal rest to all who sleep in death. Have mercy on me and grant me the grace to rise to a new spiritual life, that dying to myself now, I may rise gloriously with Thee on the Last Day.
Having finished the Way of the Cross, it is commendable pray for our Holy Father, the Pope.

Lenten Reminder: He comes like a thief in the night

Reminder: whatever you do, Keep in mind you could be dead tomorrow.

People say, “What would Jesus do?”

They should really ask, “What would Jesus think?”

When you make a decision, consider that “Nothing that is hidden will remain hidden” (Lk 8:17) .  It’s a scary thought that everything that has ever happened will one day be known by everyone who has ever lived.

Remember the man to whom the Lord said, “You fool!  Don’t you know this very night your life will be demanded of you?”(Lk 12:20)  People like to prepare so much for the “future” when the “future” that seems so looming is nothing compared to the true Future that awaits after “death.”  We prepare for “retirement,” and we even prepare “funeral expenses,” but do we really prepare ourselves for Death and Judgement?  Or do we presume on God’s mercy? I know I do far too much of the latter.

One of the Devil’s greatest lies is that we have plenty of time.

Yet we’re told, by the voices of advertising that taunt us to break the 9th and 10th Commandments, that we have lots of time and need to “prepare” (not to store up treasure in Heaven), or that we have no time at all.

Fukushima; ever-impending nuclear war with Russia, Iran, North Korea, China or whomever; Climate change; bee depopulation; GMOs and various -icides: the media, new and old, are constantly telling us of the things that are going to kill us all before we know it, to create panic and get us to but stuff, not to get us to get right with God.  In the meantime, every one of us is a blood pressure spike or clot away from death–some of us are just more keenly aware of that fact.

Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand!

Lenten spirituality: Gluttony and Wedding Cakes

Some quotations from saints about gluttony:

1. “Laute – eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
Nimis – eating food that is excessive in quantity
Studiose – eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared
Praepropere – eating too soon, or at an inappropriate time
Ardenter – eating too eagerly.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

2. ‘It is often thus, that when we begin with good intentions in the eyes of God, a secret tagalong yen for the praise of our fellow men comes along, taking hold of our intentions from the side of the road. We take food, for example, out of necessity, but while we are eating, a gluttonous spirit creeps in and we begin to take delight in the eating for its own sake; so often it happens that what began as nourishment to protect our health ends by becoming a pretext for our pleasures.’ ~ Pope St. Gregory the Great

3. ‘It is so natural for people to seek pleasure in eating and drinking that Saint Paul, teaching early Christians to perform all their actions for the love and glory of God, is obliged to mention eating and drinking specifically, for it is difficult to eat without offending God. Most people eat like animals to satisfy their appetite.’ ~ St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle

The debate about “wedding industry services” and “same sex marriage” has raised a very important issue: should Christians be involved in the so-called “Wedding industry” at all? Doesn’t the “wedding industry” promote inherently un-Christian values of greed and gluttony and vanity? Doesn’t the glorification of “weddings,” as Maggie Gallagher argues in _The Abolition of Marriage_, lead to an inverse de-emphasis on preparation for marriage and a false standard of “happily ever after”?

When my wife and I were preparing for our wedding, we went to Wal-Mart, rather than a baker (I know, I know, “localism,” but that’s a separate issue). We were kind of impressed with some of the sheet cake possibilities, intended for “showers.” We asked what the difference was between a $200+ wedding cake and a $20 sheet cake. “Tiers.” “Just tiers?” “Yes.” “It isn’t a different kind of frosting?” “No.” “Same cake?” “Yes.” “Does it feed more people?” “No, probably less.”

So we went with the $20 sheet cake and not only fed the wedding party but the congregation after Saturday evening Mass.

Responding to “one of those” friend requests

About once a day, I get a “friend request” and/or private message “from a young lady”. I’m sure many men get them, and some of my female Facebook friends have complained of them as well. Indeed, the usual kind is the stuff of classic “Nigerian prince” spam/phishing: “hi, I wanna be friends! Email me at [insert email address here] to see pics.” No thanks, I think, and mark as Spam.

Every now and then, a more “legitimate” looking request comes along, usually with few “friends”, some of them mutual, and almost all men. A brief viewing if the point lady’s page will indicate she is either an aspiring “model” or else looking for a boyfriend. Since I think it should be pretty clear from my own profile that I have no gold to dig, I don’t know why they bother. I am never sure whether to accept the requests and hide the person from my feed so I can witness or else delete and block to avoid giving others the wrong impression.

Coincidentally, a former student of mine who is a Facebook friend posted on Friday about how young people today seem to have no respect for marriage, how a young woman was flirting with him and, when he said he has been happily married for ten years, she said, in shock, “You mean you never fool around?”

Thus, I was bemused by a combination friend request and PM from a woman who was obviously real, and from South Carolina, saying she was a Christian who believed in being Godly in her personal relationships and felt the Holy Spirit was telling her to contact me. Taking her at her word, which seemed to conflict with her profile pic and timeline “cover photo”, I prayed and drafted the following. I offer it as a template for others facing these situations, choosing between just ignoring the request and missing an opportunity for evangelization.

Hello, I had read your profile-I normally do when evaluating friend requests. Given that you took the time to write a message and that your profile shows you’re a “real person,” I’ve been trying to figure out how best to phrase this. If I have the wrong impression, forgive me, but I was under the impression you are “looking for a [romantic] relationship,” which, if you read my profile, you would know
I am not. If you are simply seeking Christian fellowship, and I was mistaken, I wanted to make sure I replied wisely, as your profile picture and timeline banner suggest otherwise. We live in a society that has little regard for the Ninth Commandment and Our Lord’s corresponding teaching in Matthew 5:28. Perhaps the objectification of women in our culture is a side effect of the truncating of the last two commandments into one and expansion of the first into two: reducing women to property and thus into idols. In any case, modesty indicates both that you respect yourself and your Creator. If you are looking for a relationship, I suggest presenting yourself in a manner that will attract men who respect women. Likewise, if you are looking for Christian fellowship, it would be wise to present the same image. I take CS Lewis’s view that modesty is relative to context, but in this particular context, you may want to rethink your choice of public images. If you are seeking fellowship, and accept my advice in the charity with which it is intended, I will accept your friendship on Facebook.

Lenten Spirituality: Why do We Fast?

Jesus in the Desert

Jesus fasted completely for 40 Days, and we complain about fasting for 2 and giving up meat on Fridays?


Often, we hear pragmatic explanations of fasting, to try and make it more acceptable to a modern “consciousness,” such as “we fast to save money to give more to the poor.”  While that certainly has some grounding in Tradition, it is not the principle reason for fasting.  Fasting and self-denial are about recognizing that this is not our true home.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. (C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”)

It is about recognizing that we are, ultimately, immortal, and  that we must not become attached to temporary things like electric lighting and seek reward in this life.

[1] Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven. [2] Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. [3] But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. [4] That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. [5] And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:1-5, Douay-Rheims).

We deny ourselves to imitate Jesus,

[6] Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. [8] He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8, Douay-Rheims)

To imitate Jesus, we must so empty ourselves and take the form of slaves:

[21] Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me. [22] And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions. [23] Then Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. [24] And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. [25] And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered very much, saying: Who then can be saved? (Matthew 19:21-25, Douay).

This is why prayer is more effective when accompanied by fasting, as Our Lord teaches:

[19] Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.[20] But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:19-20, Douay)