Category Archives: Lent

Catholics suddenly realize they should boycott anti-Catholic beer company

This is old news by now, but Guinness and several other beer companies boycotted this year’s New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade over the longstanding fight about allowing “GLBTQ” people to march in the parade *as GLBTQ* proponents, and as if they don’t have enough events and parades to participate in.

This debate, especially with the addition of the beer controversy gets to the heart of “St. Patrick’s Day.”  As I say every year, half-serious/half-joking, “I oppose the secularization of St. Patrick’s Day.”

The problem is that St. Patrick’s Day has become a festival of “Irishness” and nothing at all about sanctity.  We celebrate a Saint who is credited with driving the “snakes” (demons, and while many point out that snakes are not indigenous to Ireland, snake-worship was part of the Druidic religion) out of Ireland by promoting leprechauns.  We celebrate a Saint who taught the trinity using the example of a three-leaf shamrocks by promoting four-leaf clovers.  We use the “luck of the Irish,” a term originally meant ironically like “Murphy’s Law” as actual “luck.”

Leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day should be like “Krampuses” and similar European traditions on St. Nicholas Day: reminders that demons are slaves to Jesus and the Saints, and they only have power over us if we let them.

Now we have Guinness Beer, a company long associated with St. Patrick’s Day because it’s Irish, a company that started the eponymous Book of World Records to provide trivia for guys to argue about in bars, and a company that was founded by a bloody Protestant!!!

We rarely buy beer, usually only for visiting in-laws or for cooking, and before she found out she was allergic to wheat, the only beer my wife ever drank was Killian’s.  A year ago, before we left for my surgery in Charleston, I bought a box of Killian’s for my father-in-law, and it’s still sitting in our laundry room unopened.  However, we refused to ever buy anything from Guinness about 10 years ago when we saw an ad on TV where they depicted St. Patrick getting drunk in a bar and flirting with scantily-clad women on his knee.

Then there was the year in Columbia when we were trying to go to St. Joseph’s Day Mass at St. Joseph’s Church but were late for Mass because traffic was diverted for a city St. Patrick’s Parade, and parade-goers were using the church’s parking lot! People complain about children’s candy on Easter and All Saint’s Eve (“Halloween”), or candy and presents on Christmas.  But the debauchery associated with St. Patrick’s Day, especially as it usually falls in the middle of Great Fast, has long been a scandal to me.  Feasting and celebrating is one thing.  Getting drunk and acting lewd (or worse) is another.

Things would improve in our culture if Catholics went back to celebrating Feasts with actual Eucharistic Processions and gave up on these secular parades altogether.  Maybe if we gave half the attention to praying the Office and attending Mass that we do to planning and fighting over secular parades, Christmas trees, etc., we would both have a more fulfilling celebration of holidays and see genuine improvement in society.

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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)

Lenten spirituality tip: Offering it up

It should be kindergarten level spirituality, but we all bear reminding now and then to offer *everything* up.  I’ve been making an extra effort the past day or so to do it, and it has been rather amazing, at least for my own piece of mind.  Every time something comes up that’s worrisome, or I think of someone (at all, for any reason), I try to say a quick prayer for that person or intention: a simple “St. [Insert patron here], pray for us,” or “Jesus, I trust in You!”  will do.  I find “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!” and “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a Fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You!”  to be particularly effective.
Of course, there are always the Pater, the Ave, the Creed, the St. Michael Prayer or the Guardian Angel Prayer, but the simple “one liners” are both more practical for praying about *everything*, and also better about helping us to surrender.  lvfatima

Know where You Are on the Liturgical Calendar

It can be confusing keeping track of saints and feast days, particularly in regard to the General Calendar, Local Calendars, and if you are at all involved with an Order.  I’ve been asked from time to time to provide guidance for people trying to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and I’m always looking for convenient “One stop Shop” options for my own prayer life.

Well, I’ve spent most of the past day and night working on a Spreadsheet that gets that process started.  It is ready for beta-testing.  Right now, all it does is calculate what day of what Season it is, and what the celebrations are, if any.

If you want to try it out, download the following attachment: Collects.

Here’s how it works (I’ve only uploaded it in Excel 2007+ format):

1.  The first page of the Spreadsheet, currently simply “Sheet1”, announces the date, the day of the liturgical week, and what if any special feasts or memorials are designated for today according to your preferences (see below).  If you are following along with the Office, then you’ll know to turn to the Proper of Saints and the appropriate Common for the kind of Saint.  Eventually, I hope to add features where it will automatically provide the pages, and maybe even the collects, antiphons and reading references.  Right now, though, it just tells you what’s going on in the most general sense.

2.  Here’s the fun part.  The second tab is called “Preferences.”  I give you a list of religious orders (Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan, Benedictine and even Anglican Ordinariate).  If you wish to use the calendar of one of those Orders, enter its number at the top of the list (as I am a Carmelite, the default option is 1).

Next, it asks for Nationality.  I’ve done the major English-speaking countries: US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malta and Ireland.  Again, each has a number.  Enter the number that corresponds to your homeland.

4.  The Third tab on the Spreadsheet is called “Saints” and is the calendar of saints.  I have a special column there for “Patrons.”  If you want to highlight a patron saint of you or your family, or else you want to add a special patron saint or celebration that’s not already listed, enter it in that column.   You could put in anniversaries, birthdays or parish dedication days if you want to include those in your Office.

5.  The next tab is called “Liturgical Seasons.”  Don’t mess with this, as it’s carefully programmed, and some columns are hidden, but based upon the dates of Easter and Christmas for the year, it calculates the entire liturgical year, from last Advent through next Christmas.

The calendar year’s Christmas will always be under “next,” and the Calendar year’s Christmas season and epiphany will always be under “Last.”

But I put a lot of work into looking up the algorithms for calculating Easter and Ordinary Time.

The last sheet is called Calculations–don’t even go there; a lot of the background formulae are there.

Hope this helps a bit.  As I add features, I’ll repost it.

Lenten Poetry Series: Kathleen Raine’s “Sorrow’

“Sorrow is true for everyone–a word
That illiterate men may read
By divining in the heat
God’s human name, and natural shroud.

Sorrow is deep and vast–we travel on
As far as pain can penetrate, to the end
Of power and possibility; to find
The contours of the world, with heaven aligned
Upon infinity; the shape of man!”

Lenten Poetry Series: St. John of the Cross’s “Living Flame of Love”

1. O living flame of love
That tenderly wounds my soul
In its deepest center! Since
Now you are not oppressive,
Now consummate! if it be your will:
Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

2. O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
That tastes of eternal life
And pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.

3. O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
The deep caverns of feeling,
Once obscure and blind,
Now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
Both warmth and light to their Beloved.

4. How gently and lovingly
You wake in my heart,
Where in secret you dwell alone;
And in your sweet breathing,
Filled with good and glory,
How tenderly You swell my heart with love.

Lenten Poetry Series: Edwin Muir’s “The Killing”

That was the day they killed the Son of God
On a squat hill-top by Jerusalem.
Zion was bare, her children from their maze
Sucked by the dream of curiosity
Clean through the gates. The very halt and blind
Had somehow got themselves up to the hill.
After the ceremonial preparation,
The scourging, nailing, nailing against the wood,
Erection of the main-trees with their burden,
While from the hill rose an orchestral wailing,
They were there at last, high up in the soft spring day.
We watched the writhings, heard the moanings, saw
The three heads turning on their separate axles
Like broken wheels left spinning. Round his head
Was loosely bound a crown of plaited thorn
That hurt at random, stinging temple and brow
As the pain swung into its envious circle.
In front the wreath was gathered in a knot
That as he gazed looked like the last stump left
Of a death-wounded deer’s great antlers. Some
Who came to stare grew silent as they looked,
Indignant or sorry. But the hardened old
And the hard-hearted young, although at odds
From the first morning, cursed him with one curse,
Having prayed for a Rabbi or an armed Messiah
And found the Son of God. What use to them
Was a God or a Son of God? Of what avail
For purposes such as theirs? Beside the cross-foot,
Alone, four women stood and did not move
All day. The sun revolved, the shadows wheeled,
The evening fell. His head lay on his breast,
But in his breast they watched his heart move on
By itself alone, accomplishing its journey.
Their taunts grew louder, sharpened by the knowledge
That he was walking in the park of death,
Far from their rage. Yet all grew stale at last,
Spite, curiosity, envy, hate itself.
They waited only for death and death was slow
And came so quietly they scarce could mark it.
They were angry then with death and death’s deceit.

I was a stranger, could not read these people
Or this outlandish deity. Did a God
Indeed in dying cross my life that day
By chance, he on his road and I on mine?