Archive for July, 2014

Over at Dominicana there is a short piece concerning St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure. More specifically, on the meaning of the respective titles, angelic doctor and seraphic doctor, and why they received them. It is thought provoking, enjoyable, and definitely worth the read.

Bonaventure shows Thomas crucifix


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Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Though the psalms today for lauds are for Wednesday of the fifteenth week of Ordinary time, today’s feast gives them a new context in which to be read. I was particularly struck by the opening of Psalm 86:

Turn your ear, O Lord, and give answer

for I am poor and needy.

Preserve my life, for I am faithful:

save the servant who trusts in you.

Usually, when we think of the Virgin Mary, we think of a woman robed in the splendor and glory of heaven, surrounded by clouds and angels with a brilliance of light all around her. The images are otherworldly for they depict events that are themselves otherworldly. Other images depict her with her Son, and often someone else is with them such as her mother, Anne, or her cousin, John the Baptist. Her earthly depictions usually array her with beautiful clothes and, of course, her heavenly depictions array her with the clothes and crown appropriate for the Queen that she is. Even though it is not difficult to find images of our Lady in states of fear or distress, most people do not reflect on those times in our Mother’s life. Due to this lack of reflection most people do not see the relevance of Mary in our life today or see her as a mirror for our own difficult situations.

The above psalm, however, brought to mind Mary’s state when she was a young woman (barely a woman) and pregnant with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her pregnancy was a scandal and it couldn’t remain hidden for too long. Her parents would find out, her peers would find out, the people of Nazareth would find out, and worst of all Joseph would find out. The fear of having to confront this type of humiliation is enough in and of itself to make one tremble terribly. But for Mary there were other concerns. Joseph could leave her. Should that happen as far as the people of Nazareth are concerned she would be ruined. At best she lives quietly with her parents, never marrying, and her son would be one of the bastards of the town. At worst she is stoned to death. Mary in a deeply personal way knew the intense fear of a young, unmarried, pregnant woman. But her fear is not the whole story; she had confidence and trust in God. She passed through Job’s dark night and like Job received immense blessing at the dawn of day.

In my own life I turn to my Mother not because she is immaculate and perfect. I turn to her because she did what I am apparently incapable of doing: Rather than falling away, she remained immaculate and was perfected through the anxieties, fears, terrors, disillusionment, dread, perplexities, loneliness, rages, dejection, sorrows, and humiliations of life. She experienced greater pain and inconsolability than I can ever know and passed through it all. She wants me to pass through mine. And she doesn’t just root for me; she pleads for me, intercedes for me, gives me grace and loving assistance, and walks with me. So I pray: Queen and Beauty of Carmel by your Immaculate Heart unite my heart with the most Sacred Heart of your Son, our Lord and our God, Jesus Christ.

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Matt Walsh chimed in on the eruption of outrage concerning the photo that went viral of Kendall Jones, a young beautiful Texas cheerleader, holding up the head of a lion in Africa that she killed. Overall I agree with him, but I think there is a deeper point that he is missing, and I think it is the answer to the seeming contradiction of how one can  happily and vehemently support a woman’s so-called-right to butcher the child in her womb (including recording it and posting  the video on the internet) but be utterly outraged and devastated by a young woman  killing a lion and posting a picture of it. The answer is beauty. We all have an inherent desire for beauty. We are born with it and we cannot escape it. Those who attack what is beautiful will inevitably hold to other forms and things of beauty to compensate for the beauty they destroy. The more they destroy, the greater the destruction the more skewed and unhealthy their attachment  to something else becomes. This applies equally to the “suicidal nihilists” and the “pro-life zealots” to which Mr. Walsh reduces us.

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Growing up Roman Catholic I did not understand Ordinary time. To be fair though, I never really thought about it until some time in college. As a child this is how the Church’s liturgical year broke down: Advent – Christmas time celebrating gifts, caroling, good cheer, etc. etc. until Christmas day inclusive; Christmas – ordinary time beginning the day after Christmas and ending on Easter Sunday (with a little interruption by Ash Wednesday); Lent – ordinary time; Easter Sunday – candy and bunnies; Easter season – ordinary time until Advent; Ordinary Time – indistinguishable from Christmas season, Lent, and Easter season. The only real change to this understanding in high school concerned the season of Lent. Lent was a time to give something up to prepare for Easter. I embraced the seriousness of giving something up, but the penitential aspect was lost on me. My deepest understanding of Lent was that it was spending time with Jesus in the desert so that meant I had to give something up. At university I began to have a proper understanding of Advent. It is not Christmas; it is a preparation for Christmas. In addition it is also a penitential time of year which is why the liturgical color for Advent is purple just like Lent. (I was also beginning to learn about liturgical colors). The cool thing about learning this about Advent was that I also learned something about Christmas – it was definitely longer than one day (awesome) and this brought great relief because now the “12 Days of Christmas” wasn’t so mysterious. I also entered deeper into the mystery of the season of Lent and the accompanying joy of the Easter season. In grad school I learned that Fridays outside of Lent are still penitential days, which in America means you either don’t eat meat or you choose to do another penance in place of not eating meat. This was a major revelation to me. I had never heard this before and dutifully began to observe all Fridays as a day of penance. This led to something else that was really cool: learning about octaves, more specifically, the Octave of Easter. Very simply put, an octave is an eight day period beginning on a major feast in which that feast is continued to be celebrated. The Octave of Easter is by far the coolest. Every day from Easter Sunday to the Second Sunday of Easter is a solemnity. That means on Easter Friday you can eat meat and not do any penance. It’s not a penitential day; it’s a solemnity like Christmas and Easter Sunday. Some such as myself like to call it Meat Friday. As I learned more about the Church’s penitential seasons and practices, I learned more about the Church’s celebration and living of Christian joy. However, I, a graduate theology student at the time, still did not know anything of real substance concerning Ordinary time. It was still an ordinary time  merely distinguished by the color green. And why green? I get white, purple, and red. I get blue (if you’re in certain parts of Spain). But why is green the liturgical color of Ordinary Time?

It was at this point that I encountered the Ruthenian rite of the Catholic Church and learned that there is much more to the Catholic Church than just the Roman rite. Byzantine calendars do not count Sundays in Ordinary time as the 1st, 2nd, etc. Sunday of Ordinary Time. Instead it was the 1st, 2nd, etc. Sunday after Pentecost. I later found out that the Roman calendar prior to the liturgical reforms after Vatican II also referred to these Sundays as “after Pentecost.” This was quite the revelation to me; I finally had a context for Ordinary time – it was the time of Pentecost, a pentecostal season. But this was not the revelation that would truly blow me out of the water. There was still confusion over the color green; after all, the color for Pentecost is red. So I was still left with the question: Why green? Once again it was in the Byzantine rite that I found my answer. There is only one day in the entire liturgical year that Byzantines use the color green – the feast of Pentecost. Green is not only the color of the vestments and the various linens used in the sanctuary; the church on Pentecost is decorated with a lot of green foliage such as ferns. It is quite striking and beautiful when you spend the entire year only seeing white, purple, red, and occasionally blue. So why do Byzantines use the color green on Pentecost Sunday? The Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of Life and green is the color of life. This is the same reason that green is the color of Ordinary time in the Roman rite; and this is not a Byzantine interpretation on my part of the Roman rite. It is only recently that the name of Sundays in Ordinary time stopped referring explicitly to Pentecost in the Roman rite. The Catholic Encyclopdia from the early 20th century also states that green being “the hue of plants and trees, bespeaks the hope of eternal life,” that life which is given by the Holy Spirit, which imbues the Church and has been handed on by Her since the day of Pentecost. Ordinary time has a very strong and specific dimension. It is missionary. It is the time of planting, watering, nourishing, sinking our roots deep and spreading our limbs far. It drives us to the triumph of the Cross and the heavenly universal kingship of Jesus Christ, a triumph and kingship in which we participate. It is the time to “be not afraid,” to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and our salvation, to go forth and baptize all nations, to sanctify the world in which we live in all its aspects; it is the time to live as Christians, those anointed by the Holy Spirit, and  bring the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life to all people through His Body, the Church, of Whom we are members.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.
O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord.


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