Death and Redemption

mary-eve-tree-life-death-1 Remember o man that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou return.  These words we heard on Ash Wednesday, as our foreheads were signed with ashes, come back to mind today, as the Mass readings present the entrance of death into the paradise God had created.  We were made for life, and for deep communion with God and one another, but the disobedience of Adam and Eve opened up a chasm between God and man which could only be bridged by Our Lord’s Passion and Death.  We were not made for death, but when man’s rebellion brought death into the world, our merciful Father gave us a new path to life through the Blood of His Son.

the-hague-mmw-10-f-17-73rWe tend to shy away from thinking about death, our own death or that of our loved ones, but it is something none of us can escape.  Continuing the practice of the Romans, Christians in past ages made a point to consider the reality of death as part of their spiritual practices.  Memento Mori (remember death), was a common phrase, stamped on holy cards and carved on ivory skulls.  Meditating on the fact that we will one day stand before the throne of God to make an account of our lives gives us pause to consider the course we are on and where it will lead us.

Just yesterday my great-uncle, Milton, passed away at the hour of mercy, surrounded by prayer and family. (Please pray for the blessed repose of his soul, and comfort for his family.)  The grace of a happy death is a grace indeed, and one we should all pray for, but we begin that journey now, with every choice we make.  To assist and support a dying person is one of the greatest works of mercy and charity we can perform, helping them prepare for the most important moment of their entire life: the moment when they step out of time and into eternity, the moment their soul stands before God’s judgement seat.  Reading the prayers for the dying is a sobering experience.  Death often seems like such an abstract, a vague cloud hovering at the edge of our lives or in the back of our minds.  Death takes on a more definite character when I consider that I do not know the day nor the hour, but at the appointed time God, Who created me, will command my soul to His judgement seat where I will make an accounting of my life to Him.

245f0f93d70d3d8278c84bf0a0ead49b-jpgOur Lord is a just judge, but He is also merciful, and in His Church He gives us all that we need to attain eternal life – and not just eternal life, but a deep and transformative relationship with Him here and now as well.  May we take full advantage of the graces of this penitential season and re-commit ourselves to following Our Lord closely on the path of life.  We may sometimes lose our way; we may, either willfully or by mistake, take a wrong turn, but as soon as we realize that Jesus is no longer in sight we can run to confession and plunge our souls into the cleansing water of mercy and forgiveness.  Death is the fate  of all men, but it is not the end.  We make our choice now by the choices we make each day, so let us choose for God.

Light & Shadow

The symbolic interplay of light and shadows comes to life in the events of Holy Week.  Today, Spy Wednesday, we watch as Judas trades his Master for a pittance, and now looks for an opportunity to betray Jesus.  Darkness begins to swallow the Light of the World.  We must closely accompany Our Lord through these days of sorrow and glory as He teaches us, by word and deed, the true meaning of life, and love and sacrifice.

Tenebrae, Latin for shadows, is a liturgical service of ancient origin, with beginnings in the fifth century.  Celebrated in the evening on Spy Wednesday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday, it anticipates the next day.  This rich and beautiful practice has been revived in many dioceses, and we are very blessed to make it a part of our yearly Holy Week devotions. Please consider enriching your Holy Week by attending Tenebrae at Our Lady of the Atonement, beginning this evening at 7pm.  Click here for more information and times.

Help for the Journey


We each received a beautiful book for Laetare Sunday, a little Lenten gift to help us on the journey: Meditations for Lent by Bishop Bossuet.  Can’t say we’ve read much of him before, but his writings are lyrical and poetic, and it’s easy to see why he has been compared to St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom.

There’s a beautiful meditation for each day of Lent, and we just wanted to share a little bit from Sunday’s reading:

…It is with respect to the life of Christian righteousness that St. Paul says, “and your life is hidden.”  Set free from human judgment, we should count as true only what God sees in us, what he knows, and what he judges.  God does not judge as man does.  Man sees only the countenance, only the exterior.  God penetrates to the depths of our hearts.  God does not change as man does.  His judgment is in no way inconstant.  He is the only one upon whom we should rely.  How happy we are then, and how peaceful!  We are no longer dazzled by appearances, or stirred up by opinions; we are united to the truth and depend upon it alone.

I am praised, blamed, treated with indifference, disdained, ignored, or forgotten; none of this can touch me.  I will be no less than I am.  Men and women want to play at being a creator.  They want to give me existence in their opinion, but this existence that they want to give me is nothingness.  It is an illusion, a shadow, an appearance, that is, at bottom, nothingness.  What is this shadow, always following me, behind me, at my side?  Is it me, or something that belongs to me?  No.  Yet does not this shadow seem to move with me?  No matter:  it is not me.  So it is with the judgments of men:  they would follow me everywhere, paint me, sketch me, make me move according to their whim, and, in the end, give me some sort of existence.  But in the end, I know it well:  this is only a flickering light that takes me from one side or the other, that lengthens, shortens, swells, or shrinks the shadow that follows me, that makes it appear in various ways and disappear without my gaining or losing anything of my own.  And what is this image of myself that I see reflected in the flowing stream?  It blurs and erases itself; it disappears when the water is stirred up, but what have I lost?  Nothing but a useless amusement.  So it is with the opinions and judgments men form according to their lights;  Alas, not only do I amuse myself with them as with a game; I stop, and I take them for something serious and true, and this shadow, this fragile image troubles me and makes me anxious, and I believe myself to be losing something.  But I am disabused of this error.  I am content with a hidden life.  How peaceful it is!  Whether I truly live this Christian life of which St. Paul speaks, I do not know, nor can I know with certainty. But I hope that I do, and I trust in God’s goodness to help me.

Hope this little nugget helps you on your Lenten pilgrimage!


Purifying Our Spirit


Catherine of Cleves distributing almsWhat the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin

-Pope St. Leo the Great

The saints said it best, and today’s second reading from the Office of Readings fits in perfectly with what we talked about yesterday on A Good Habit.  Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are what the Church asks us to do during Lent.  Actually, we are called to do  this always, but we intensify our practice during Lent as we work to detach from sin in our lives.  Being God-centered (prayer), and other-oriented (almsgiving), as well as mortifying our appetites (fasting) helps us to detach from our vices, addictions and sinful habits and attach to our Loving Redeemer.

But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can listen to what Pope St. Leo the Great had to say about it:

Dear friends, at every moment the earth is full of the mercy of God, and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is Continue reading

Do This In Memory of Me

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1323 “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'”133

The institution of the Eucharist

1337 The Lord, having loved those who were his own, loved them to the end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love.161 In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make Continue reading

Our sins, God’s mercy

It’s Spy Wednesday, the day when Judas spied out an opportunity to betray Jesus. Each of us has something in common with him, since we have all made our own will, our own desires, into idols. But that isn’t the end of the story because we can turn to God’s Mercy and begin again.

Here’s something to think about as we prepare for the Sacred Triduum.


Revealing the Hidden God

John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_AnnunciationToday we recall a moment so incredible, so unique in the history of the world, so all-changing that we genuflect when we speak the words.

And the Word was made flesh.  And dwelt among us.

The invisible Word of God took on human flesh, though He was still hidden from our eyes, microscopically small in the womb of Our Lady.  The Son of God began His work of redemption, our redemption, without anyone, except a poor Virgin, knowing He was here among us.  This has to be one of the most painted moments in all of history, depicted by artists in every age.  And since Our Lord took His human body from only one parent, Mary of Nazareth, they must have looked very similar.  Someone told us once that the artist William Bouguereau would use the same model’s face when painting Our Lady and Jesus, for this very reason.

Both Our Lady and her Divine Son have been imagined by artists for two thousand years.  But what did they really look like?  Is there any way to know?  Today on A Good Habit we will be talking about an ancient relic, which is not without controversy, which may tell us what Jesus actually looked like: The Shroud of Turin.  We will be joined by Jose Juan Garrigo, director of the Shroud Exposition which has been touring the US and is currently in San Antonio.  Please tune in to learn more about the history of the Shroud of Turin, and how science continues to unlock the mystery behind it.  And make time to visit the Shroud Expo while it’s here in town, it’s a great preparation for Holy Week.