Monday, September 29, 2014

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

“O Glorious Prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the terrible warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come to the aid of man, whom Almighty God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.

“Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.

“These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be.

“Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly find mercy in the sight of the Lord; and vanquishing the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
V. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered the root of David.
V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
R. As we have hoped in Thee.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Let us pray.

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as supplicants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious St. Michael the Archangel, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.”

Pope Leo XIII
Roman Raccolta, July 23, 1898, supplement approved July 31, 1902,
London: Burnes, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1935, 12th edition.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

So That's What You Think? GOD IS A KILLJOY?

(St. Teresa of Avila wrote the Interior Castle, referring to the interior life of man. The Beloved is at the heart of the Castle. Those souls who have moved into the Castle can hear His Voice. Those outside are deaf to the Beloved. It explains how two people can be arguing religion out of two totally different perceptions and states of being. The atheist, running away from the Castle, will never perceive what the Christian profoundly experiences -- unless he turns around.)

by Susan Fox

You have walled yourself inside glass
and you cannot hear Him.
You live outside the Castle
with brute beasts and tumultuous passion.
But I live within.

On the outside
you see a useless housewife,
with four degrees
waiting in pain to see a doctor.

You cannot imagine
the ambrosia within.
This Water is welling up pure and sweet
in a dry desert -- in a husk of an old housewife.
Like at Meribah and Massah,
Water gushing from the Rock.
Drink, brother, drink.
It is gift for us both!

My God, my God,
this Life is so sweet
I cannot even bear it. 

But the skeptic is deaf to thunder,
blind to lightening from the throne of God.
I wear his unhappiness like a disheveled glove
trading tweet for tweet in short Twitter speak.
The Voice is sweet and clear
If only he could hear!
I used to look for Him everywhere.
I wandered many alleys and byways,
absently rambling through English hedgerows,
happily dancing around the stranger's grave,

I played intricate jokes on my friends,
read T. S. Eliot to my mother walking backwards on the beach, 
I hitchhiked in foreign countries.

I did find Him in these pleasures,
but to my surprise, when I completely stopped walking
and stopped talking...
He was waiting within.

Dear skeptic,
will you not hear?
His voice is sweet like nectar from a flower --
such subtle flavor, exotic.
He tastes of everything I ever longed for
like manna from the desert
containing all delight.
And it is here within me --
the Water, the Bread so sweet
I cannot bear it.

Inside my heart
an ocean swells.
Its beauty is indescribable.
I live on a tranquil island in a tropical paradise.
I am never alone.

Everything you ever longed for is right here:
Food for the poor – “meat to eat you know not of;” 
Living Water shared with the woman by the well;

Justice as you have not understood it;
such thirst for justice as you cannot even describe it;
Peace in the heart
where now you ride the stormy waves of anguish.  

We were not raised together.
We are from different families,
but we are related.
I call you brother
and this disturbs you.
You call me a crazy housewife --
useless by anyone’s measure in life.

But I have a little hammer.
And I am patiently tapping those glass walls
entombing your heart.
The hammer’s name is “Prayer.” 
  The climb to Sacré Cœur de Paris*
rises out of the writhing guts of the Red Light District known as “Pig Alley.”
At the top of Montmartre,  
the Beloved’s heart beats for 120 years.
Do not walk away, brother.
Let us go together to defend the Castle of the Sacred Heart!
You have more right to Him than I.
You have more right to His Mercy.

Together, we will cuddle with Jesus crowned by thorns.
We will all be mocked together.

The climb up to the Castle of the Sacred Heart
Montmartre, Paris

Paris night skyline:
Sacré Cœur de Paris at the top of Montmartre
Eiffel Tower on the left. 

(*The Basilica of the Sacred Heart sits on top of the hill in Paris called Montmartre. Around the base of the hill is the famous seedy neighborhood of Pigalle, dubbed “Pig Alley” by American servicemen in World War II. Often simply called Sacré-Cœur, the Basilica has constantly held the Real Presence of Jesus Christ displayed in a huge monstrance since 1885. It is amazing for this and the large number of first class relics of martyrs contained in the Church.) 

Sacré Cœur de Paris by day


Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows Chaplet

Our Father and seven Hail Marys after each:

The Prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34–35) or the Circumcision of Christ
The Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13)
The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple. (Luke 2:43–45)
Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary.
Jesus dies on the cross. (John 19:25)
The piercing of the side of Jesus, and Mary's receiving the body of Jesus in her arms. (Matthew 27:57–59)
The body of Jesus is placed in the tomb. (John 19:40–42)
These Seven Sorrows should not be confused with the five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

THE MYSTERIOUS WORM OF MATTHEW PIKE: Discovering the Image of God Within

(editor’s note: This piece is dedicated to the owners and patrons of Kuma’s Corner, Purveyors of fine BOVINE GENOCIDE, Chicago, Illinois, in honor of their November 2013 “Sleep” burger with turkey and cranberry jelly. Yum)

“As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone ...But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him. (Psalm 103)

by Susan Fox

American rock musician Matthew Pike has found a mysterious part of himself – something that was missing during the years he was blacked out from alcohol and dope.

Doom Metal Guitarist Matt Pike
“I’m starting to find out who I really am, what I’m worth and the value of my being,” said the 41-year-old Denver native in a 2012 interview with Vincent Duke for “That’s an important thing for a person to realize.”

And surprisingly, it appears that the guitarist for the doom metal band, Sleep, is finding out that being human and being alive is actually something wonderful.

“I’ve been writing in this journal… some of it is very Hunter S. Thompson. It’s realism. It has comedy, and it’s kind of depressing, too, because of the way my life has been,” said Pike, who admits he is still struggling with alcohol addiction. “It kinda makes me sad that I blacked myself out for half of it.” 

“I just feel like I’m starting to get grounded where I was lost for a really long time.” His face beaming with happiness, Pike added, “I asked my girl to marry me in Rome. She said, ‘Yes.’  So it will be the first time I’ve ever been married. ”

His partner on this pilgrimage to the heart of his humanity is a mysterious worm, the subject of his latest song creation, De Vermis Mysteriis. “That’s what that record is – it’s the Book of the Worm or the mysteries of the worm. It’s about digging under the earth or underneath the groundation of your soul and finding something. It’s not about how rock star I am. Being human is finding what you really are.”

I wonder if he would be surprised to know that a number of other people have courageously ridden the worm into their own soul and found something beautiful there.

Harking back to Psalm 103 where man is compared to the flower of the field, which lasts only so long as the wind passes over it, St. Theresa -- known as The Little Flower -- said, “If a little flower could speak, it would say, simply, what the good God has done for her.” Indeed the French saint lived only 24 years in an obscure Carmelite convent in Lisieux in the late 1800s. Yet she is known and loved worldwide.

Her life inspired a Vietnamese Redemptorist brother, Marcel Van, to follow the same vocation of hidden love. He died at the age of 31 in a North Vietnamese re-education camp after he voluntarily returned to the dangerous Communist Zone in 1954.  If anyone asked why he wanted to return to North Viet Nam, he answered, “I am going so that there is someone who loves God in the middle of the Communists.”
Brother Marcel Van

He described his life using the same imagery Theresa did, saying that if the flower could speak, “she would frankly admit that she is a fragile creature, quick to fade but she would also be proud of her beauty, of the crispness of her colors, of her delicate scent and of all the other qualities that nature has adorned her with.”

Isn’t Pike’s mysterious worm showing him this same reality? Under the soil of his heart, is he not finding something truly beautiful?

Van continued, “I tell myself that my soul is also like one of God’s flowers. It is God himself who has preordained all that I possess and all the events of my life. I can also therefore recount all the graces with which the good God has embellished my soul, so that together … we can sing a canticle of praise to the infinite mercy of God.”

Pike added, “I can’t summon angels or demons. I can’t do a lot of these things that you think you can when you are in that state.  I found a (different) part of myself. I want to be able to express myself through my instrument. And I’m going to strap that guitar on every day and I’m going to work hard to make a life for my children and my wife.”

“I’m going to make a lot of people, who are sad, feel something. I’m going to make a lot of people, who are angry, feel something. I’m going to make a lot of people, who are happy, feel something,” he concluded.

Is that a strange ambition for a guitarist for a group called “Sleep?”  Sleep after all is part of the doom metal scene where the smog of pot fills the room.  Its lyrics speak repeatedly about escape. “Drop out of life with bong in hand. Follow the smoke to-uh the riff-filled land.” (Refrain for Sleep’s Dopesmoker lyrics)

No, even sleep is full of emotion.  Doom metal enthusiasts are seeking to experience the same emotions every human being longs for. That’s why they go to concerts.

“Life is always a good.  This is an instinctive perception and a fact of experience, and man is called to grasp the profound reason why this is so,” said Pope John Paul II in the Gospel of Life published in 1995. He also lived through great tribulation, the Nazi and Communist occupation of Poland, the death of his parents, and the Nazi Holocaust which robbed him of personal friends.

“The life which God gives man is quite different from the life of all other living creatures, inasmuch as man, although formed from the dust of the earth, is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory,” the pope said, adding the famous quote from St. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Man, living man, is the glory of God… in man there shines forth a reflection of God himself.”

Addressing God, the author of Psalm 8 says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established; (I think) What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor.”
The Good Shepherd

How does God regard the human flower? Jesus Himself answered this question in the parable of the lost sheep. If a man has 100 sheep, and one goes astray, does he care? Jesus said, “Yes, he leaves the 99 and goes to look for the one that was lost.” And if he finds it, he rejoices over it more than the 99 who never went astray.

But that is God’s thinking, not ours. If a man is a modern commercial sheepherder, he will be indifferent to one sheep out of 100. He would probably use a mathematical formula to figure out that his profit only went down marginally. Then he’d forget about the sheep and go to bed. That’s how modern man thinks.  But not the Good Shepherd. He would go out and search.

"You don't have the right to despise yourself. You don't have the right," said Fr. Felicien Mbala at Mass Nov. 8, 2013 in Denver. He referred to the fact that God Himself has paid the price for us in His own Blood. "For God so loved the world He gave His only Son. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."

This happened in 1957, but I remember it like it happened yesterday: I was four years old sitting in the back seat of the car, moments before the accident that took my father's life. I looked up from reading a comic book. My father was giving my mother one long look of love, and she returned that look with her whole heart. In that instant, my parents taught me this important lesson: Life is good. Life is beautiful. Make every moment count. Share it with the ones that you love because in a moment, life (as we know it) is over.

 “Long live traveler
Winds now die
Dark place creature
Destined night.”

(Matt Pike in De Vermis Mysteriis)


Friday, September 5, 2014

Prayer to Blessed Mother Teresa

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for me this day.  Help me to see Jesus in everyone that I encounter today. Teach me how to bring the sweet fragrance of Christ to everyone and how to service those in need, especially the poorest of the poor.  Secure for me the graces to minister to others and face disappointments and criticism with patience just as you had while on Earth.  You suffered doubts and other trials as you grew in the spiritual life.  Help me to endure my own trials and not give in to despair or doubt.  Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for me.  Amen

Monday, September 1, 2014

LAMENT OF THE ATHEIST: Standing Idle in the Marketplace

by Susan Fox
Editor's Note: Religion News Service  reported on Dec. 19, 2013, that it is a growing trend to rebuff contributions and volunteer labor from atheists' groups. I am a Christian, and I don't agree with that policy because every man and woman needs to be able to participate in the act of giving. Atheists may not know God, but in their love and generosity they are able to reveal His Face to the world and intimately share in His work. So the act of giving can actually be a conduit to a change of heart. 
Ever step on a hornet’s nest?

That’s what happens when you meet a group of atheists on Twitter. 

Suddenly Noah’s ark is an object of ridicule, and God killed 3 million babies in Africa, while evolution is established scientific fact. Some atheist groups are even playing grinch and stealing Christ out of Christmas. 
Atheists billboards are "small evil baby steps"
to another holocaust,
warns NY State Senator Andrew Lanza. 
I tweeted back, “If (you think) little cells suddenly decided to walk, then YOU have more faith than I do!”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with evolution as a theory of the means by which God created the world. I live in Colorado, and we have more dinosaur footprints than anywhere else in the world.  I don’t think the world is only 6,000 years old, and I don’t think the Grand Canyon is carved from faux rock made to look old.

The Book of Genesis is a beautiful work of poetry, which explains that we were made by God in His image and put into the family of man. God is love, so the image we reflect is that of Eternal Love.  Our own choice knocked us out of Paradise, and brought suffering into the world. Now all creation groans for redemption. But Genesis is not a science textbook. I know this is a surprise to some Protestants as I met one on Twitter arguing vehemently with the atheists on that very issue.

I thank God one Christian was talking to them. There was also a brave Muslim taking on one hornet at a time.  

But really if you are an atheist, how do you cope with suffering? How do you overcome your bitterness at a God Who either doesn’t care or doesn’t exist? Both thoughts seemed to cause enormous pain to my little hornets, who flashed pictures of dying African babies with a vulture nearby ready to eat them.

Atheist argument for God's non-existance
These pictures infuriated me as well. How dare someone photograph a dying baby and do nothing to help the child!

It reminded me of Pope Francis’ economy of indifference, the “economy that kills.“ My friend, Mary, survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans on top of her roof. She said CNN‘s helicopter flew over many times, and filmed her. (Long before I met Mary I had seen the television images of her struggling to stay on her roof with floodwaters all around) But she said CNN never offered her a single bottle of water -- even as days went by. Meanwhile all the news media complained about President George Bush.

CNN reminded me of my little hornets, complaining about the world’s ills, blaming the president or blaming God, while they had it in their power to relieve at least some of the sufferings of their fellow man.  I wasn’t nice. I reminded my little hornets of this option.

But my hornets also reminded me of the story of the kingdom of God in in Matthew 20:1-16. The householder went out in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard, which He did. But going out again in the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place, and he hired them. He did the same in the sixth and the ninth hour. But at the end of the day all received the same wage. This is a welcome reminder to Christians that the last will be first and the first will be last. In the end, even those who convert on their deathbed will receive the same wage – eternal life. And we all rejoice in our brothers’ return to the home of Our Father.

Spiritually, this is the place where my little hornets rest: idle in the market place. They wait for the householder to come and hire them. In the parable, he does. But in the Twitter Feed, in real life, either the householder is awfully slow in coming or his offer of employment was rejected. Pope Benedict wrote about this condition in “Fides et Ratio: On the Relationship between Faith and Reason.”

“Happy the man who meditates on wisdom and reasons intelligently, who reflects in his heart on her ways and ponders her secrets. He pursues her like a hunter and lies in wait on her paths.” (Sir 14:20-21)

But what is distinctive in the Bible is the “conviction that there is a profound and indissoluble unity between the knowledge of reason and knowledge of faith,” Pope Benedict wrote.

 “The world and all that happens within it, including history and the fate of peoples, are realities to be observed, analyzed and assessed with all the resources of reason, but without faith ever being foreign to the process. Faith intervenes not to abolish reason’s autonomy nor to reduce its scope for action, but solely to bring the human being to understand that in these events it is the God of Israel who acts. “

The pope is saying by faith, we can see history unfold in an entirely new light without abandoning our reason. We can see God actually present in history, and we can marvel at His works. If it rained in our evergreen woods, my mother would say, "Isn't God good?" The atheist would assume He didn't exist or else that He wanted to ruin his day.

 “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

But if man abandons fear of God, he runs the risk of “ending up in the condition of the fool,” the pope added. What a nice way to put it!

“The fool thinks that he knows many things, but really he is incapable of fixing his gaze on the things that truly matter. Therefore, he can neither order his mind (Prov 1:7) nor assume a correct attitude to himself or the world around him. And so when he claims that ‘God does not exist,’ he shows with absolute clarity just how deficient his knowledge is and just how far he is from the full truth of things, their origin and their destiny.”

So we see photo-shopped pictures of dying African babies with a vulture standing nearby and laborers standing idle in the marketplace.

Perhaps American memoirist Emily Rapp was one of those laborers waiting in the marketplace for the householder to hire her.

The daughter of a Lutheran pastor, Rapp was married and had a nine-month old son, Ronan, when he was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, a death sentence for a baby before the age of three. Perhaps in Emily’s life, this was the moment that her idleness ended. The householder had indeed made his appearance.  
Emily Rapp & son Ronan

"I was definitely not identifying as a Christian long before Ronan was born. I think having that kind of a diagnosis, which really feels straight out of the biblical Job — I mean, it really does — it's like you feel cursed, and what Job does in the Bible is wander around asking everyone why this is happening because he doesn't understand, and I think that's a little bit how I felt,” Emily said in an interview with  Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. Tay-Sachs disease is a genetic and degenerative condition that is always fatal before a child’s third year.

In her own words, Emily said, “Ronan’s body lacks hexosaminidase A, an enzyme critical for brain development, and his brain is, as they say in the neurology world, “devastated.” Nerve damage progresses quickly, leading to dementia, decreased interaction with the environment, seizures, spasticity and eventually death. Before he dies, Ronan will become paralyzed, lose his sight, his hearing and his sense of touch.”

She and her husband watched their beloved baby grow up a little and then become a baby again. “We no longer wonder, “What if he starts talking today?” but, “What if he stops smiling, cooing?”
They watched, put away his more advanced toys and brought out ones he played with earlier in his development. Ronan died on Feb. 15, 2013 just before his third birthday.

In her book published this year, “The Still Point of the Turning World,” Emily ponders, “How do you parent without a future? What is it possible to learn from a dying baby? Rick and I spend each day with Ronan, trying to enjoy him, loving him, taking him for walks, to the zoo and the aquarium. We’re not worried about what college he’ll attend, or what he’ll do with his life. We are not living for him, or through him; we are living with him.”
To be present to her son, and not to plan his future, represented quite a transformation in her life. A Harvard graduate, she freely admits she had made plans for her son’s future. In fact, she had planned out every aspect of the pregnancy including a test for the likelihood of the very disease that her son died from.  He died from a very rare form of Tay-Sachs for which there is no test.
“I read all the parenting magazines. My husband and I thought about a lot of questions they raised: will breast-feeding enhance his brain function? Will music class improve his cognitive skills? Will the right preschool help him get into the right college? I made lists. I planned and plotted and hoped. Future, future, future,” She wrote.
“We never thought about how we might parent a child for whom there is no future. Our parenting plans, our lists, the advice I read before Ronan’s birth make little sense now.  No matter what we do for Ronan — choose organic or non-organic food; cloth diapers or disposable; attachment parenting or sleep training — he will die. All the decisions that once mattered so much, don’t.”
Her blog bleeds with a newfound understanding that life’s true treasure is simply being with the ones we love. “Love is spilling out without apology,” she wrote in a November 2012 post on “What If This Thanksgiving Was Your Last?”
A writing teacher as well as a writer, she said she used to assign her students the task of creating a Thanksgiving scene, bringing in conflict: the rude uncle, someone falls asleep in the potatoes, or a teenage vegetarian gives an angry speech about the turkey.
But because of her experience, “I’d change the writing exercise I give to students,” she said, “I’d ask them instead to write a holiday dinner scene with all the people they loved best, but with the added knowledge that it will be the last time everyone sat around the table together and passed around crystal bowls full of cranberry sauce and relish dishes. Write the scene knowing that everything, always, can be fractured, broken, dissolved. Write it knowing that the only conflict worth worrying about is this one: When faced with the choice between shutting down your emotion, at the fear of risking pain, or opening up to everything and trusting that you’ll survive it, which will you chose?”
And in that understanding, unbeliever Emily Rapp has uncovered the secret to happiness.  
Love someone. 
Love someone passionately.  
And you will tenderly uncover the Face of God.

For as we Christians know, God is Love.

And man is made in His image.
Did you enjoy this piece by Susan Fox? Maybe you'd enjoy another piece at her blog Christ's Faithful Witness CRADLE FOR ATHEISM: Life without Father

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