Blessed Thanksgiving

  

The gracious gifts of the most high God… should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and voice as by the whole American people.
-Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1863

Praying for you with grateful hearts on this day of Thanksgiving! May Our Lord supply your every need and fill your hearts with joy.

The Woman & the Dragon, Life & Death

guadelupeAnd a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:  And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.

And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems:  And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. (Rev 12:1-4)

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live  and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deut 30: 19-20)

Recently we’ve been talking about spiritual warfare – the war between satan and Saint Michael, the war between the prince of this world and the Kingdom of God.  It becomes even more tangible when you see the occult connection between a party’s platform and their personal life, as we saw in recently released emails regarding “spirit cooking” (if you don’t know what that is, look it up, it’s not just “performance art”).

I think sometimes we hear phrases like “culture of life” and “culture of death” and we can grow deaf to their full meaning.  When the Church speaks of the life vs death culture war we are engaged in, this is actually what She is talking about, this battle between the dragon, who wants to devour the Child, and the Woman, who represents both Our Lady and the Church, who gives birth to the King of kings and so defeats the dragon.  When you hear the Church say that we must put the life principles above all other issues, and at the top of that is the right to life of the unborn, She knows what She’s talking about. One political party has been called the Party of Death by many Catholics and Christians because of their unwavering commitment to abortion on demand and their alignment with anti-life principles. This naturally moves into attacks on religious liberty, two obvious examples are the court cases filed by EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor in response to the HHS Mandate. They, and many, many other Catholic and religious groups, want to continue operating without violating their deeply held religious convictions (convictions which one candidate stated publicly “have to be changed”)  by being forced to provide contraceptive coverage to employees.

St. Ignatius urges us to “wake up”, to be aware of evil within and without, in our own hearts and in the world around us.  We do ourselves, our country, and countless innocent children, born and unborn, a great disservice if we shut our eyes to the evil which is being revealed.  We might feel discouraged, we might feel hopeless but we actually have so many reasons to hope.  Jesus Christ is our first hope; He has defeated death and the kingdom of death, and we are united with Him in our baptism, and can be united to Him daily in Holy Communion.

jesus2He has given Our Lady to us as a mother and protector, and it’s her job to crush the serpent’s head.  She is working, and it may be that her time of triumph is quite close.  Remember the vision of Pope Leo XIII? On October 13, 1884, he was standing at the foot of the altar after Mass when he overheard two voices in conversation, that seemed to come from near the tabernacle.  A harsh voice said “I can destroy your Church.” A gentle voice replied, “You can? Then go ahead and do so.” The wicked voice said it needed more time, 75-100 years, and more power over those who would give themselves to his service. The gentle voice acceded saying, “You have the time, you have the power.  Do with them what you will.”  After hearing this conversation the Holy Father immediately went and composed the prayer to St. Michael which he requested  be recited after every low Mass.  Exactly 33 years later, on October 13, 1917, Our Lady’s final apparition to the three children in Fatima took place and the miracle of the sun was witnessed by tens of thousands of people.  Our Lady called for prayer and sacrifice for peace, for the conversion of Russia.  She foretold suffering and war if her message was not heeded, but that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph.

Perhaps the 100 year reign of satan is in its final stage, and that is why he reveals himself so blatantly now – he knows the end is near and he’s pulling out all the stops.  We don’t know what will happen this week, but we can be sure of a few things.  Firstly, that we must pray, pray, pray and fast for God’s Will to be done, for hearts to be converted, and for evil to be expelled from our nation.  We must vote according to the Church’s teachings on the non-negotiable issues: the dignity of human life from conception to natural death; the dignity of marriage and the family, the building block of every society; and religious freedom, including the rights of parents to educate their children. We must trust in God and speak the Truth – it is a weapon, a sword, Our Lord tells us, and a powerful weapon it is.  Truth is not just an opinion or a thought, it’s actually a Person:  Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  When we speak in truth we are united to Him.  In prayer, especially through meditating on His life in the Rosary, we come  to know Him more deeply, and to be conformed more and more into His image.  Our Lady can teach us so much about her Son, and we need to stay close to her through the Rosary.

It’s become commonplace in our culture for people to deny God, but also to deny the reality of evil.  It’s even tempting for those of us who believe in God to deny evil at times because it is so frightening.  But seeing evil so starkly presented can be an occasion for souls to turn to good, to turn to God.  Our Lady will triumph, we can be certain of that, and she is already working in the hearts and minds of many who don’t yet know her or her Son.  Continue to pray for the protection of all the truth-tellers who are putting their life and work on the line, we are so grateful to God for their courage.

I love listening to the Rosary with Fr. Groeschel which airs on EWTN.  In his meditations for the sorrowful mysteries we hear that whenever good confronts evil there is suffering.  Right now this confrontation is happening on a grand scale in our country.  And there will be suffering.  We don’t really know what that might look like, but we must keep in mind that we worship a Crucified Savior.  He saved us through the Cross, and we are called to follow in His footsteps.  Suffering, even dying, is not the worst thing that can happen to us.  Sin and spending eternity without God are what we should fear.  Put on the armor of God, pray, support all those who fight with the sword of Truth by your prayers and sacrifices – I’m sure many of them aren’t familiar with spiritual warfare, but they are committed to truth and transparency.  We can aid them in the fight by intercessory prayer.

When Our Lady of America spoke to Sr. Mildred Neuzil she said that America was called to be a beacon of purity for the entire world.

“I wish it to be the country dedicated to my purity. The wonders I will work will be the wonders of the soul. They must have faith and believe firmly in my love for them. I desire that they be the children of my Pure Heart. I desire, through my children in America, to further the cause of faith and purity among peoples and nations…I do not promise miracles of the body, but of the soul.” … “Pray and do penance, my sweet child, that this may come to pass.” (Diary, Pgs. 10-15.)

America is consecrated to the Immaculate Conception, she who was conceived free from original sin, the Purissima.  May she intercede for our nation and make it pure, God-fearing, and committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.  May she build in each of our hearts a culture of life.

“My Daughter, I Want to Teach You About Spiritual Warfare”

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My daughter, I want to teach you about spiritual warfare…

Our Lord spoke these words to St. Faustina in 1938, directing her for three days while she was on retreat (full text at the end of this post).  Each of us is engaged, here on earth, with the spiritual battle which rages unseen all around us between satan and his demons, and us, the people of God, and His angels.  It’s an overwhelming thought, that all hell is waging war against us, against Christ’s Church, against the Kingdom of God, but it is true, and we must be aware and well-prepared.  Perhaps it’s not so hard to imagine spiritual warfare, when we can look around and see the wars and tensions Continue reading

Bring Truth or Bring Destruction

Constitution and Declaration of Independence on Grungy Betsy RosFour years ago we began this blog because we saw the need to add another authentically Catholic voice to the pre-election discourse, when the Catholic voice that dominated the mainstream media was coming from religious women who minimized the value of unborn life and aligned themselves with a very anti-life and anti-Catholic party.  That anti-Catholicism has become even more obvious with the recent WikiLeaks email releases documenting the unrelenting efforts to undermine Catholic teaching and practice by creating subversive groups within the Church.

All Catholics, both laity and religious, have a duty to bring Truth to the public square, to let the 2000 year tradition and teachings of the Church founded by Christ permeate every area of their lives.  But if we bring half-truths and distortions of the Church into the world, we bring nothing but destruction.  We are living in a culture of death, and leaving no one unscathed, it has become firmly entrenched even among Christians.  Pope Benedict XVI has called it “a schizophrenic situation”, this divided existence which so many Christians are living.  He says that being Christian can’t become something we live alongside modernity; since Christianity itself is alive and ever-new, it can embrace modernity:

It is important for us to try to live Christianity and to think as Christians in such a way that it incorporates what is good and right about modernity —and at the same time separates and distinguishes itself from what is becoming a counter-religion.”  

Msgr. Charles Pope, of the Archdiocese of Washington, recently blogged about this, inspired by an animated short film called The Clocktower:  “The Church is a central part of the functioning of our times, our culture. But her role is not to become the same as the culture, but to inspire and to be a conduit of blessing that lights up the culture and helps it to move in productive directions. Instead, too many in the Church have joined the culture, becoming indistinguishable from it. In so doing we stop being a conduit of God’s grace; things grind to a halt and become bland, colorless, and dysfunctional.”

Here is his whole post:

This week I have been writing about the problems of our culture. Today I continue in that vein with a short reflection on the Church’s role, based on the animated short below. For indeed, the darkness and dysfunction of our times cannot be simply blamed on the world, the Church, too, bears a large share of the responsibility.

The video features a woman in a clock tower; it is she who keeps the clock running. As the video progresses, we see that the clock itself plays a pivotal role in keeping the world around it alive and colorful. Consider the woman as an image for the Church, and the clock as an image for our culture (note that “culture” also refers to the times in which we live).

The woman grows bored with sustaining the clock, longing to go out and see the world outside—and so she leaves the clock tower. But because she is the central cog of the entire clock, it grinds to a halt without her. As she emerges into the world, suddenly all goes gray and comes to a stop. Through her attempt to become part of the world she so desires, that very world loses its beauty and is no longer desirable.

This is the tale of the Church these past hundred years. The Church is a central part of the functioning of our times, our culture. But her role is not to become the same as the culture, but to inspire and to be a conduit of blessing that lights up the culture and helps it to move in productive directions. Instead, too many in the Church have joined the culture, becoming indistinguishable from it. In so doing we stop being a conduit of God’s grace; things grind to a halt and become bland, colorless, and dysfunctional.

For the culture to be truly what it is called to be, the Church must be what she is called to be. She is called to love the people of the world, to love the culture (but not be enamored of it). The Church must in a sense be above the culture and beneath the authority of God; she must be the conduit of God’s graces and act as a bridge between God and man.

When the Church leaves her place and shirks her role, the culture winds down and loses its color and life. When the Church is the Church, through her preaching and sacramental life, the culture is so much more alive with goodness, beauty, and truth.

Enjoy this beautiful video and consider its message for us.

 

The Power of the Rosary

Our Lady of the Rosary with Saints, artist unknown, Brooklyn Museum

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, formerly known as the feast of Our Lady of Lepanto, commemorating the decisive and miraculous victory of the Christian fleet over the large Turkish force.  Many of you have been participating in the 54 day Rosary Novena for our nation which concludes today.  We take hope from the many miracles Our Lady has wrought throughout history through the power of the rosary.  Here is another miracle story, which we originally posted a couple years ago:

In this month dedicated to the Holy Rosary we wanted to draw your attention to the power this prayer has in the most dire situations.  The rosary is one of the greatest weapons we have in the Catholic arsenal and stories of its power abound.  In fact, the reason we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Rosary on the seventh of this month is because the miraculous victory of the Christian fleet over the Turks at Lepanto is credited to the intercession of Our Lady through the rosary, which the whole Church was praying.

Last month we had the privilege of hearing Immaculee Illibagiza speak about her experience during the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s.  If you aren’t familiar with her story you need to read her book, Left to Tell, which has made a deep impact on each of us Continue reading

On the Feast of Our Holy Father Francis

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Let us all, brothers, consider the Good Shepherd who to save His sheep bore the suffering of the Cross. The sheep of the Lord followed Him in tribulation and persecution and shame, in hunger and thirst, in infirmity and temptations and in all other ways; and for these things they have received everlasting life from the Lord. Wherefore it is a great shame for us, the servants of God, that, whereas the Saints have practised works, we should expect to receive honor and glory for reading and preaching the same.

-From the Admonitions of Our Holy Father St. Francis, Of the Imitation of the Lord

A blessed Feast of Our Holy Father Saint Francis to everyone!  This solemnity of our founder has crept up on us this year, we have been so busy with unexpected travel, on img_4963top of the regular things that keep us busy. One of the mortifications of religious life is that you never get to finish anything – no matter what you are doing, when the bell rings calling you to the next duty, whether to prayer or recreation or meals, you must stop what you’re doing and go. This is always hard to adjust to.  And of course sometimes God rings a different kind of bell in our lives and we are forced to drop everything and go.  This happened to us recently and we found ourselves traveling out-of-state due to the unexpected passing of Sr. Mary Peter’s father, Jules.  Please pray for the blessed repose of his soul, and for the comfort and consolation of his family.

God brought many surprise blessings from this sorrow, one of them being this beautiful painting of St. Francis blessing his friars and sending them out two by two.  We don’t know the provenance of this work, but we are so thrilled to have it img_4971grace our little “monastery”.  We can’t wait for the day when it is it can adorn the wall in our permanent home.  As mentioned in our last blog, we have also obtained an incredible set of Stations of the Cross, all hand-carved a hundred years ago. They are stunning, and we can’t wait to share pictures of them with you.  It’s exciting to think that one day they will be installed in our chapel and the faithful can pray and meditate with them.  We spent yesterday cleaning a decade’s worth of dust off of them (they have been in storage for that long), which was kind of a fitting way to spend the vigil of Our Holy Father Francis, since the history of this devotion is closely linked to the Franciscans.

Looking for a hymn to include with this blog we came across an interesting article about the Franciscan chant in the medieval liturgy.  If you are musically inclined you might want to img_4966check it out.  There is also a beautiful hymn, though not well-known, to St. Francis, which focuses on his stigmata.  We were going to post Nos Autem, which would have been a fitting chant for today, but were excited to find a beautiful mp3 of Corda  Pia Inflammantum which we could share with you.  It might have been more appropriate for September 17, the Feast of the Stigmata of Our Holy Father Francis, but since this painting portrays his stigmata so well, we thought it would be great today, and that way we don’t wait to have to wait another year to share it with you.

Click here for a PDF of notation and words.

Tonight we will enjoy a special Mass celebrated in our chapel by our priest friend, Fr. Matthew, and a good dinner (Italian, of course, like our holy founder) – a small reflection on earth of the feasting and communion St. Francis and all the blessed now enjoy in the eternal light of the Blessed Trinity.

We’ll leave you with a couple verses from Corda Pia:

Fac ut nos in regno lucis Perfru ́amur fructu Crucis, Quo læt ́emur cæ ́litus.
Collaud ́etur Crucif ́ıxus, Franc ́ıscus prorsus inn ́ıxus Super mundi fœ ́dera.

Make us benefit from the fruit of the Cross in the kingdom of light where we may rejoice with the heavenly one.
Let the Crucified One be praised with Francis who is resting above the plottings of the world.

Michaelmas

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Thus we praise with veneration
All the armies of the sky;
Chiefly him, the warrior primate,
Of celestial chivalry,
Michael, who in princely virtue
Cast Abaddon from on high.

By whose watchful care repelling –
King of everlasting grace –
Every ghostly adversary,
All things evil, all things base,
Grant us of Thine only goodness,
In Thy paradise a place.

-From Tibi Christe, Splendor Patris, by Rabanus Maurus (776-856)

Today is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and since our monastery is dedicated to St. Michael, we tend to give him the spotlight.  After all, he is the Prince of the Heavenly Host.  Hopefully the other archangels understand our bias.

Seriously, though, whenever we meet someone and tell them our future monastery will be dedicated to St. Michael, they always say how much they love him, and how needed he is today.  So Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 4.11.01 PM.pngmany people we encounter are devoted to him, and so many saints have been close to him, too.  St. Francis’ devotion was well known, and it was during his fast leading up to the feast of St. Michael that the Poverello received the stigmata.  St. Michael being the patron of soldiers and police, we pray to him daily for the protection of all our police, firemen and armed forces.

There are all kinds of interesting traditions associated with his feast day.  In England tradition held that you should eat a goose on Michaelmas to ensure prosperity throughout the year.  This could have derived from the fact that September 29th was also one of the four “Quarter Days” of the year (the others are March 25th, June 24th, and December 25th – did you notice they’re all important feasts), when rents were due, new leases begun and servants hired.  Tenants would bring a stubble goose (a goose that had been fattened on the stubble leftover after harvest) to their landlord when paying their dues, in the hopes of making him more lenient.  This may be how the goose and prosperity came to be associated.

Michaelmas used to fall on October 11 (or 10th according to some) and the tradition was that you shouldn’t pick any blackberries after this date, since it was the day St. Michael cast Lucifer out of heaven, throwing him to earth where he landed in a blackberry bush.  The devil cursed the blackberry bush and its sharp brambles (or spat on it, depending on which region we’re talking about – or even worse, if you’re in Cornwall).  img_3121Although we’ve never encountered wild blackberries here in south central Texas, we did have the chance to pick some last year when on retreat in Washington state.  Don’t worry, it was before Michaelmas.

This feast of St. Michael, our friend and patron, is an auspicious day, because as you read this, an incredibly beautiful set of antique stations of the cross are on their way to us!  They are hand carved and quite large, and we can’t wait for the day when we can install them in a beautiful church.  Thanks to St. Michael, St. Anthony and some very generous benefactors, we were able to purchase these one-of-a-kind works of art.  And with our heavenly helpers’ continued assistance, we hope to keep collecting beautiful church antiques to adorn God’s house, so that when it is built it will be bursting with beauty everywhere you look.  Pray for that endeavor, and pray to St. Michael daily, if you don’t already, that he will guard and protect you, your loved ones, the Church and our nation from the snares of the enemy.  He has already won the war, but we’re still in the fight.

Here are the words from the poem in honor of St. Michael, which you heard sung so ethereally (see top of post) by the Ensemble Cosmedin.

Tibi Christe, splendor Patris by Rabanus Maurus (776-856)

Latin original

Tibi, Christe, splendor Patris
vita, virtus cordium
in conspectu Angelorum.
Votis, vocis psalimus
alternantes concrepando
melos damus vocibus.

Collaudamus venerantes
omnes coeli milites
sed praecipue primatem.
Coelestis exercitus
Michaelem in virtute
conterentem Zabulum.

Quo custode procul pelle
rex Christe piissime
omne nefas inimici.
Mundos corde et corpore
paradiso redde tuo
nos sola clementia.

Gloriam Patri melodis
personemus vocibus;
Gloriam Christo canamus,
Gloriam Paraclito,
Qui trinus et unus Deus
Extat ante saecula. Amen.

English translation

Thee, O Christ, the Father’s splendour,
Life and virtue of the heart,
In the presence of the angels
Sing we now with tuneful art,
Meetly in alternate chorus,
Bearing our responsive part.

Thus we praise with veneration
All the armies of the sky;
Chiefly him, the warrior primate,
Of celestial chivalry,
Michael, who in princely virtue
Cast Abaddon from on high.

By whose watchful care repelling –
King of everlasting grace –
Every ghostly adversary,
All things evil, all things base,
Grant us of Thine only goodness,
In Thy paradise a place.

Laud and honour to the Father,
Laud and honour to the Son,
Laud and honour to the Spirit,
Ever Three, and ever One,
Consubstantial, co-eternal,
While unending ages run.
Translation by John Mason Neale