Ranch Walk

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As the sun by its rays adorns the leaves and branches of plants with colors and keeps each vigorous in its proper species, so the grace of God by its illumination adorns man with virtues, enkindles in him the fire of love, makes him beautiful in God’s sight and brings his nature to perfection without inflicting any injury.  

                                                                                             -St Joseph of Cupertino

Today was the perfect day for a long walk on the ranch!  On our calendar it was the feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino, an extraordinary saint known for mystical experiences which caused him to levitate often, but even more than this, he was deeply humble and joyful despite much suffering.

A compilation of some of his thoughts and sayings, which we read during the Office of Readings, yields some real gems.  Providentially, he mentions plants, fruit and birds – all of which I found on my walk.  In addition to the pomegranate I also cut a small bunch of mustang grapes – they’re pretty tart but it’s kind of exciting to nibble on “wild” food.  Still have to find out the names of all these lovely plants and flowers that populated my walk today.FullSizeRender-1

A reading from the thoughts and saying of Saint Joseph of Cupertino
(G. Pariscianti: S. Giuseppe da Cupertino alla luce dei nuovi documenti, Osimo 1963)

      The three most important things for a religious are: to love God with all his heart, to praise him continually, to be a light to others by his good example. No one intent on living a spiritual or religious life can ever reach perfection without the love of God. He who has love is rich even though he may be unaware of his riches, and he who does not have love is indeed very unfortunate. As the sun by its rays adorns the leaves and branches of plants with colors and keeps each vigorous in its proper species, so the grace of God by its illumination adorns man with virtues, enkindles in him the fire of love, makes him beautiful in God’s sight and brings his nature to perfection without inflicting any injury.

     Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own. When a man trains himself to acts of virtue it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this. The will is what man has as his unique possession. God is therefore most pleased if man renounces his own will and places himself completely in God’s hand.

     As a fruit tree bears most fruit when it is carefully tended, so man proceeding along the way of God must always grow and advance in virtue so that he can bear the choicest fruits of sanctity, give an example of virtue to draw others and lead them safely to the way of the Lord. To bear sufferings and misfortunes patiently for the love of God must be considered a special grace which God grants to those who love him.

     As our Lord Jesus Christ endured so many bitter sufferings for our sake so God wants us also to share in his sufferings. Surely, if you are gold, tribulation will purify you of dross; if you are iron, your rust will be scoured off.

     Consider the birds of the air; they come down to the ground to get food but swiftly fly back into the air. Similarly the servants of God must stay on the earth only as long as is necessary and soar up quickly again to heaven in spirit to praise and glorify God. Note too how careful birds are not to land in muddy places and how they avoid tumbling into the dirt. In like manner men must not involve themselves in things that defile the soul but soar aloft again in spirit to glorify the Most High God by their holy deeds.

Prayer
O God, Who didst purpose to draw all things unto Thy Son when He was lifted up from the earth: mercifully grant that we, by the merits and example of Thy seraphic Confessor, Joseph, being lifted above all earthly desires, may be worthy to come unto Him: Who with Thee livest and reignest world without end.  Amen.

Whosoever Will Be Saved

Each year on Trinity Sunday our community follows two traditions: Firstly, we recite the Athanasian Creed after our conventual Mass, and secondly, we all renew our religious vows.  The Athanasian Creed, which has been recited by Christians since the sixth century, is a beautiful exposition of our belief in the Holy Trinity.  It was composed in response to the heresy of the Arians, who believed the Son was created, and therefore subordinate to the Father.  In medieval times the creed was set often set to music, and though we looked, we haven’t found any examples to share with you.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be Godand Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world. Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Detail of Russian icon depicting bishops at Second Council of Nicea.

God’s Grandeur

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

During this morning’s thunderstorm we lost power – right in the middle of breakfast the lights flickered and went out, and so we finished our meal by candlelight.  The rain stopped soon after, but the power stayed off for a couple more hours, so the best solution was to go outside, where there was plenty of light that required no batteries or matches.  I love to go outside after a rain – everything about the world seems more vibrant.  When the hum of our electric-centric lives gets disrupted I go outside and find that everything is still running on course.  Below are some pictures from after the rain.  I took them with a very inexpensive and simple macro lens but they offer a peek into the complex and tiny world we often overlook.  God’s grandeur indeed, reflected in the smallest things.

I was so pleased to get this on video – I wonder how heavy that water drop must seem to this little fly?

If you appreciate dewy insects, too, you might enjoy these professional pictures which are much more detailed than mine.

The Devil’s Sneeze

In case you missed it:Cedar Fever

When the numbers are so high you can’t tell whether it’s the Powerball Jackpot or the pollen count, you know it’s cedar time in Texas.  Even as the rest of the country is getting a respite from allergies, we are deep in the misery that is cedar pollen.  And yes, if you’re wondering why we’ve been so quiet these last few weeks, it’s because of allergies. 

By the way, that tree in the photo is not smoking, it’s releasing pollen.  Or as I like to call it, the Devil’s Sneeze.

Up close each once of those millions of pollen grains look like this, with lots of little points to latch onto everything in their path – mostly you, your clothes, your hair, they’ll take whatever they can get to make you miserable.

juniper-sem Magnified even more, each one of those microscopic bumps looks like this:

Which is why we all feel so wretched when cedar season hits.  Not just runny noses and itchy, watery eyes, (not to mention the ensuing sinus infections) but exhausted and achy, too, like getting repeatedly run over by a Mack truck.  Driven by Jaws.

So if you’re enjoying an allergy free winter somewhere nice (by nice, I mean anywhere that doesn’t have cedar pollen, which means even the inside of a volcano counts as nice), please take pity on us Texans and offer a prayer for our shark ravaged sinuses.

First posted January 21, 2013

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.

A Flight to Remember

Mother Teresa and PCPAs

Left to right: Sr. Grace Marie, Mother Angelica, Mother Teresa, Sr. Raphael, Sr. Margaret Mary

It was an October evening in the late 1980’s.  Mother Angelica, Bill Steltemeier, Sr Margaret Mary, Sr Raphael and myself were standing in JFK Airport in New York, waiting to board a Pan Am flight to Rome.  Seeing two Missionaries of Charity also waiting ahead of us, I pointed them out to Rev. Mother,  “Oh, look Mother they’ll be on the same flight as us!”  No sooner had I made the observation, then a PR person for Pan Am came up to Mother and said, “Aren’t you Mother Angelica?”  As soon as she answered in the affirmative the woman said excitedly “Wonderful! We also have Mother Teresa on this flight, and we would like to upgrade you and your group to first class, as we have done with Mother.  Mother doesn’t like it, but we don’t give her a choice.”  The lady spoke with a smile that said we didn’t have a choice either.

Before anything else could be discussed we found ourselves being ushered onto a fairly empty aircraft, and there sitting near the entrance of the plane was Mother Teresa of Calcutta!  She immediately got up and greeted Mother Angelica and the rest of us.  I couldn’t believe that these two amazing women were together on the same flight, one who attended to the corporal works of mercy, and the other the spiritual works and…that I was on the flight with them!  Needless to say, this was possibly the only journey in my life that I felt absolutely no fear of any mishap!

I assumed that after the introduction that would be pretty much that for the rest of the trip, with perhaps these two spiritual giants speaking alone to each other.  Mother Angelica and Mother Teresa did sit together and speak for some time, but then, to my joy, in her kindness she sat with Sr Margaret Mary and myself and spoke to us. Her words, as always, were simple yet powerful, some things we had heard a hundred times before, but somehow, out of her lips, the words took on a new and greater meaning because of her great holiness.  She took her time and spoke to each one of us with a thoughtful attentiveness that made one feel regarded and loved.

During the remainder of the trip as she sat with her sisters ( and a brother), one felt her immense prayerfulness of heart, it was a great sense of the cloister that she carried with her. It was clear how she managed to accomplish so much: by her constant attention to and deep union with her Lord.  The Reverend Billy Graham once said of Mother Teresa, “When she walked into the room to greet me I felt that I was indeed meeting a saint.” He was of course right!

We arrived in Rome and said our good-byes. How grateful I was for the opportunity to have met this wonderful woman, a true daughter of the Church, who stopped at nothing to do God’s Will, bringing the light of Jesus to so many dark and hopeless places, just as He asked her, “Bring me into the dark holes of the poor. Come, carry me, I cannot go alone.

There is little doubt in my mind that she will be no less tireless in interceding in heaven for those who ask for her help than she was whilst on earth, for as she once said, “I’m not going to sleep in heaven, but I’m going to work harder in another form.”  She is another member of that great crowd of witnesses whom St Paul speaks about in Hebrews 12, praying for us and urging us ever forward. We join the Church and the world in thanking God for the canonization of this great intercessor for us.  St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Our Lady of Unity

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Shine on us, dear Lady, with thy bright countenance, like the sun in his strength, O stella matutina, O harbinger of peace, till our year is one perpetual May. From thy sweet eyes, from thy pure smile, from thy majestic brow, let ten thousand influences rain down, not to confound or overwhelm, but to persuade, to win over thine enemies. O Mary, my hope, O Mother undefiled, fulfil to us the promise of this Spring.

-Bl. John Henry Newman

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It was 20 years ago that I became a Catholic, and a couple years after that, when I first began attending the parish named after her, that I first came to know the Mother of God as Our Lady of the Atonement.  But even then, it wasn’t until I entered the monastery in Alabama that I actually began to take a greater interest in her.  I think it started with homesickness, and a longing for everything I was missing from Texas.  But then I came to know her story in much greater depth when I stumbled upon a book called Our Lady and Reunion, in the cloister library.  Imagine my surprise when I opened it up to find Our Lady of the Atonement herself, looking up at me from the title page!IMG_6982

It’s been almost 15 years since I’ve read the book, but one thing that that’s always stuck with me is something that Cardinal Newman wrote about Our Lady’s role in the return of England to the Catholic faith.  Our Lady of the Atonement is the Mother of Unity – this is what her title denotes the At-One-Ment of man with God, and with all men in the Church founded by Christ.  It’s all there, even in the beginning of devotion to her under this new Continue reading