Friday, December 29, 2006

Becket


I read once where he would never have been a saint if he hadn't been martyred. Which reminds me of of Amy Welborn's comment on her home page, "She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." (This quote is what endeared Amy to me - one has to love such humility.)
I think Becket was Richard Burton's best role. St. Thomas was very worldly, athletic, finely educated, and possessed exquisite taste. Amidst all the temptations of court it is said he remained virtuous and chaste. Always a just man, even though the king's best friend.
He died opposing the State, murdered in his Cathedral at vespers. After his death his piety and asceticism were soon found out, he had worn a hairshirt, and privately lived a penitential life with minimal comforts. Actually, I think he would have been a saint regardless of the martyrdom.
Henry VIII dismantled his shrine and his relics were lost, undergoing a posthumous martyrdom of sorts at the hands of another king I'd say.
Catholic Online has a good biography on the saint while Fr. Nicholas has an interesting post on the feastday as observed in the UK.
St. Thomas Becket brings to mind a similar martyr - I wonder if Archbishop Oscar Romero will ever be canonized? He does have the title, "Servant of God".

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Jeffrey Mylett


I'm stunned. I met this guy when I lived in Assisi - we shared a room at the Atonement Sisters, just up from the Basilica Santa Chiara. I had a photo of myself with him - that I sent to David and Stephanie - they were supposed to send it back! David! I want it back!

Jeff was in Assisi because he loved St. Francis and was spiritually seeking after acting in "Godspell". He was very humble - he told me he was in "Godspell" but I hadn't realized he had a starring role in it. We became friends in that short time. We went to the Carceri together, I stayed for a few days, when I returned, he was gone.

Tonight, as I was looking for a good looking character to post for my profile photo, I came upon Jeff. I was so sad to learn he had died. I know we all die, but it's stunning to find out, no matter when. I'm absolutely stunned.
We were the same age...I'm jealous...and deeply saddened. He died in 1986.
Wow! I'm just so saddened. I didn't know.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Oh Tannenbaum! At The Met Museum NYC


I'm still trying to take a better photo of my Christmas tree - until then, this is the very best Christmas tree in the world, with a lovely Neapolitan presepio at the base.

We really have the Germans to thank for the continuity of the Christmas tree. I read where the Holy Father has two trees in his apartment. (I hope his kitty cat is with him.) He also has all of his Bavarian delicacies to eat, and Kloster beer. I wonder if he will have marzipan? It would be fun to spend Christmas with him.





One should read Athanasius Contra Mundum for a fine history of the Christmas Tree and it's Christian significance.
This is the best close up I could find of the Presepio, from the collection of Loretta Hines Howard. In addition to this donation to the Met, she also donated a lovely presepio to Regina Laudes, the Abbey in Bethlehem Connecticut, where Mother Delores Hart resides.

The Word became flesh...



"One Word the Father spoke (Which is His Son) and this Word He speaks in eternal silence, and It is in silence It is heard by the soul." - St. John of the Cross

The Grace of God Has Appeared...


And the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light...
For today a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord!
A blessed and holy Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve...


A painting by Michael Sowa. (See, the guy has his computer!)
"Alone on Christmas"
(Actually, I'm not alone, a friend is here. But I love quiet Christmas eves.)
Being alone on Christmas is rather nice if one is religious - especially so when one is a Catholic.
As one ages, especially when one is single, Christmas changes. The emphasis, in my experience, is less upon self, gifts and parties, and becomes decidedly more spiritual, concentrated upon the mystery of Christ's birth, while focused upon others and their needs. (Even when one is a hermit of sorts.)
Being alone is not as frightful as others think. Men and women enter cloistered monasteries and never see their families or share in worldly celebrations, just as hermits have done for centuries. The urban hermit does likewise.
Christmas is completely different for the mature person, since the celebration has long evolved to acclimate the person to relishing the solitude.
Those who need compassion, our thoughts and prayers - as well as our presence, are those abandoned in nursing homes, or those who have recently lost a loved one, thus radically changing their experience and perception of Christmas.
Others in need are the soldiers, whether in combat or stationed away from family and loved ones, many away from home for the first time.
The men and women in prison - even if it is a psychological prison of some illness or disorder, along with the homeless of course, and the indigent.
There are families trapped in abuse, battered wives and children. The sexually exploited of all ages, as well as those entangled in the drug culture, or a life of crime and violence of any sort.
Neither can we forget those who refuse to believe in Jesus, or those who may not understand Him, or even know of Him.
These are the people who are really alone on Christmas, and not always by choice.
Let us remember them when we visit the creche to adore the Divine Infant Jesus.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Devotion to the Nino Jesus in Carmel


Pictured, "The Nino of St. John of the Cross."
The Carmelite nuns of Lake Elmo first introduced me to devotion to the Child Jesus as a young adult at the time of my conversion and return to the Church in 1972.
As a child I never felt attracted to the devotion of the Infant Jesus, mostly represented as the Infant of Prague, as I pretty much thought it sissified and only for little girls. I was more attracted to the mature Jesus, especially His Sacred Heart, probably because I needed a strong masculine model in my childhood, since my father was often absent.
It wasn't until my second conversion in 1978 that I was able to embrace the devotion completely. In the early 1970's, after returning from a rather sinful life, my focus was upon the passion of Christ, particularly His Holy Wounds, and Holy Face, devotions that are the balm of penitents.
Later, the Carmel of Our Lady of Divine Providence at Lake Elmo, Minnesota, finally published their novena booklet to the Infant Jesus. Mother Paula sent me a copy practically each time we corresponded. The nuns made public their custom of the monthly novena to the Infant Jesus from the 16th to the 25th of each month. I adopted the practice in union with them.
This happened at a time of awakening in my second conversion, wherein I understood the roots of my sin went all of the way back to childhood, hence the Divine Child Jesus became my companion and counsellor in the process. In the beginning I could only bring myself to venerate Him as the Bambino in the poverty of Bethlehem. Gradually, as He took me through His Childhood while mirroring my own, I was able to embrace every aspect of His Childhood, delighting in nearly every representation, albeit the Bambino remains dearest to me.
The monthly novena is an efficacious spiritual practice. It focuses the soul upon the mystery of the Incarnation, the Nativity, and the early years of Our Lord's life. The nuns recommend that one not limit the Divine Child by asking for particular favors, since He already knows our needs. I pray the novena to draw close to the Divine Child with the confidence that I shall want for nothing. However, He is a little Child and He knows how little children are, hence he is never put off by our particular requests, indeed, He enjoys listening to them.
The chief effect of devotion to the Infant Jesus is He becomes our constant companion, and increases our capacity to love. In some cases He heals the wounds inflicted upon us in our childhood, tracing our sins to these roots, helping us to overcome them, or at least humbly repent, with greater self knowledge each time we fall. The Infant Jesus instills humility, confidence and love, as He traces out the way of Spiritual Childhood for us.
The Divine Child is vulnerable and open to all, especially sinners. He teaches us to refrain from judging another, or condemning another, and if we do, He quickly reminds us of our own sins to gently reprimand us. With him the soul is able to see the Divine spark within even the most hardened and offensive person, often indicating to us that person's pain, loneliness, and isolation. The Divine Child teaches us to love and have compassion, even upon ourselves - He rejects no one who comes to him. He elicits such a love from our hearts that we quickly find ourselves loving without desire for sensual gratification or self-seeking, rather loving for Love's sake alone.
The monthly novena also prepares us for the Solemnity of Christmas, since we are already disposed to the true meaning of the feast. Devotion to the Divine Infancy prepares the heart, as a farmer has plowed and planted his field. waiting for the heavenly dew of this mystical night, when the grace of God has appeared. Although, this night, even the least prepared soul, upon gazing at the Divine Infant cannot help but be impressed with His merciful love...it is not just the many He invites and welcomes, but all.
Tonight, in Carmel, the nuns, with lighted candles, will process with the Infant Jesus, from cell to cell, looking for room at the Inn. Each nun, will arise to meet her Bridegroom until all the community has joined the procession. Finally they will arrive in chapel and place the Little Jesus in the manger, and midnight Mass will commence. During the Octave of Christmas, the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague will be exposed in the extern chapel for the veneration of the faithful.
The Infant Jesus once revealed to the venerable Fr. Cyril, "The more you honor me, the more I will bless you." Indeed, He has certainly blessed our Carmel with many fervent and holy vocations in response to their devotion. He has blessed me as well.
Merry Christmas!
















Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Passion and the Child Jesus...


This morning at vigils, I read the account of the martyrdom of St. Joseph Cho Yun-Ho, a Korean martyr from 1866. He died, after great torture, following his father St. Peter Cho Hwa-So, beaten to death in front of his mother on this date, December 23, 1866.


Immediately after Christmas we celebrate the feast of the blessed Stephen, martyr. On the 28th we celebrate the massacre of the Holy Innocents.


Never be surprised at suffering and death amidst the wonderful celebrations of Christmas, the Divine Child, carrying His cross in this painting, indicates the way that leads to eternal life.


Pray the Divine Infant Jesu will succour those condemned to death in these days celebrating His sacred Nativity...especially those who will be murdered or commit suicide, and our men and women involved in combat or defense...ah! And most especially our dear brothers and sisters and children in the military!


Pray the Infant Jesus to manifest Himself to these - He simply must do it if we ask Him. (The little Jesus is always most obedient and in His humility, He does what He is asked to do. Have great confidence in the Infant Jesus!)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Ecstasy of Christmas...


The mystery of the Bambino Jesu.
Pictured, "St Francis receiving the stigmata", El Greco
I looked everywhere for a painting of St. John of the Cross dancing in ecstasy with the Infant Jesus - I could find nothing. Perhaps I should paint something - I did so once and sold it without documenting it, therefore it is lost forever.
At Christmas I often meditate upon the birth of Christ in company with St. Francis of Assisi and St. John of the Cross...both saints who easily became enraptured with the Divine Infant in the arms of the Immaculate Virgin Mother. This painting of Francis somehow conveys to me the mystical grace of such an ecstatic meeting with the Bambino.
Today there remains the charming custom to wait until Christmas eve to place the Bambino in the manger, this is good for liturgical situations, or families who wish to bring the mystery of the night alive for their children - yet I never wait, in fact I always have the Bambino displayed in a little nicho, or shrine, all year - at Christmas he comes out in a special display.
Reflecting on the spirituality of John and Francis, I find it interesting that modern taste deems Francis light of heart, all sort of warm and fuzzy, while John is considered dark, and forbidding, too ascetic and severe for ordinary taste. That is silly. Francis may have been more severe than John in many respects. Nonetheless, both were balanced, spiritual men, passionately in love with the Divine Infant Jesus.
By the way, St. Francis did not invent the creche, he popularized it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas - A Marian Feast


I once read where the celebration of the Nativity was largely a Marian feast in the early centuries.
In fact, Candlemas, once known simply as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, was also understood to be primarily a Marian feast, albeit, never losing the focus upon Our Lord's presentation in the temple.
After the Second Vatican Council, the emphasis was changed and the feast was designated as "The Presentation of the Lord". The reform dictated that every liturgical celebration be Christological in focus, as if it hadn't been before? In retrospect, some of the reforms emanating from the Council seem an attempt to take away from devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
Most likely to satisfy the 'separated brethren' of the protestant reform, as if the Catholic Church had previously exaggerated devotion to the Blessed Virgin. How strange, since the Orthodox esteem and honor Our Lady far more eloquently and devoutly than anyone else, except for the Latin rite - up until Vatican II.
I wish someone more learned than I would discuss this subject - if they have not done so already, say Don Marco, or Fr. Zuhlsdorf, yet maybe Athanasius should do it.
I've always been disappointed that some of the feasts of Our Lady have been downgraded - or suppressed, while others have had the focused changed. On December 18 there once was a commemoration of "The Parturition of the Blessed Virgin Mary" a feast in anticipation of the Nativity, now obviously supressed.
At least the Church continues to refer to the Marian character of Advent - perhaps only the Hispanics really understand it, with the devotion of Posadas.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Carol - Part III


The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come!

"The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

'I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?' said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

'You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,' Scrooge pursued. 'Is that so, Spirit?'

The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.

Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it. The Spirit pauses a moment, as observing his condition, and giving him time to recover.

But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black.

'Ghost of the Future!' he exclaimed, 'I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?'

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.

'Lead on!' said Scrooge. 'Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!'" - Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
(I could see who it was - it was Billy Crystal dressed up (see picture) at the 1998 Oscars! I so wasn't scared!)
Since the Spirit doesn't talk - I'll quickly relate what transpired...
So I could hear all of this canned laughter coming from an auditorium. Someone was giving a speech or something - and he was reading from my writings - yes - even this blog!
"And here," the speaker dryly reads, "he states that he doesn't believe in Global Warming and he goes on to poke fun at The NCCB!" (Roars of canned laughter.)
Someone from the press shouts out, "He claimed he knew who would be the next Archbishop!"
(More Canned laughter - in stereo this time.)
"Then this guy, with his tattered old Polo shirts and corduroys, claims to be the arbiter of taste and fashion!" (Rolls of canned laughter in surround sound.) The speaker then presents a photo of an old, fat, balding man with a W.C. Fields nose, up on the screen behind him - the studio looked like Oprah's set at Harpo - it was really, really nice.
"Here he is ladies and gentleman, Mr Terry Nelson!" (Real laughter this time!)
OMIGOSH! It was me! They were making fun of my writing and blogging and, and, the way I look and dress.
"How does it feel, Mr. Nelson?" said the phantom - looking straight into my face with that horrid Billy Crystal drag visage! Then he pointed that horrible hand, it wasn't bony, as in the story, it was a chubby, well manicured hand with a huge diamond pinkie ring. (Billy is getting to look kinda Jewish. I hate pinkie rings!)
There we were, in front of a gallery, gone out of business because they had an exhibition of my art. The gallery owner was using my paintings to heat his loft upstairs - burning them in his fireplace - throwing vodka on them to make them explode in delightful multi-colored flares!
"How could I be so stupid as to show these paintings? They are all so derivative, mediocre, and just plain stupid!" The gallery owner told his wife - who looked remarkably like Roseanne Barr - still quite fat even after surgery.
Re-runs of Hollywood Squares was on the TV his wife was watching, while casually munching on nachos, and Jim J. Bullock was doing an impression of me - he even used my name. Was the entire world mocking me? Couldn't I stop it?
The Spectre of death pointed to a morgue wherein doctors were examining a body, which looked a lot like Harrison Ford to me. I heard the one pathologist, who bore an unmistakable resemblance to George Clooney, state emphatically, "OMIGOSH! I guess he wasn't a hypochondriac after all! Look at this kidney damage, and the cancerous stomach - what is this prostate - it looks like a rotten orange! Oh my gosh! These lungs are are like tar pits."
"Look at the heart, it's all whithered like a rotten old shoe, hard as a rock!" Proclaimed another pathologist - he was definitely Dr. Drake Ramore! (Joey from "Friends" for the pop-culture impaired.)
"The brain is as small as a peanut!" Declared the nurse - who so was Nurse Diesel from "High Anxiety". (Sorry - I'm casting this as I write.)
"All righty then!" I said to the Ghost, "I am so out of here."
And the Spectre laid his chubby little hand on my shoulder, the diamond in his pinkie illuminating a headstone in a cemetery. I had to move forward, discovering it was just a resin headstone, patinated to look like stone. (How cheap and tacky is that?)
I collapsed in laughter when I read the inscription, "Terry Nelson - 1978-2007: He was No Damn Good" (That's what my mom and dad always told me, I thought that was sweet.) Beneath was a quote, "See, I told you I was sick!" With one of those dreadful smiley faces.
I looked at Billy Crystal in disbelief, recalling the Dickens story wherein Scrooge uttered these lines:
'Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,' said Scrooge. 'But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!' - A Christmas Carol
And finally I awakened to white noise on my TV, within my darkened chamber, the wind howling outside, the shutters banging. The clock radio suddenly burst forth with Burl Ives', "Holly Jolly Christmas" - I covered my head with the pillow and wished I was dead. This next week, the last before Christmas, is just going to be a bitch if you're in retail! Kching!
Happy Holidays to all! God bless us everyone! Remember, life is just one big sitcom!

Blessed Angela of Foligno


Franciscan tertiary and penitent.
One of the best things about the article in the Catholic Spirit regarding blogs and sins against the 8th Commandment, was the fact that they mentioned Blessed Angela of Foligno.
The book, "Saints Behaving Badly" may have been their source for details of her life. The writer, Thomas Craughwell does an excellent job presenting various saints who were sinners - these are my favorite kinds of saints. It gives us all hope, knowing that "Saints are sinners who keep trying."
Before Craughwell's book, and the focus in the Spirit's piece concerning Angela as a gossip, I had never heard of that before as being one of her chief faults. Although in reading her book, "The Divine Consolations" I do recall a moment she relates how after a certain homily she was highly critical of a priest, for which the Holy Spirit chastised her for that sin of the tongue. (I cannot find the passage at present however.)
That anecdote always stayed with me though - and I know I have sinned in like manner over the years. However Angela's life of sin, prior to her conversion involved much more than gossip. She was very vain, self indulgent, and of course a sensualist, or hedonist. There was a mysterious sin she could not bring herself to confess, while continuing to receive the sacraments. Most speculate she had an affair, while I wonder, having grown up in an Italian neighborhood, which had a local 'strega' or witch who performed abortions, maybe Bl. Angela had committed a sin related to that? (After all, she had a few children already - who subsequently died, along with her husband and mother, one after another in quick succession. That was during her conversion process that the Lord took her family away.) We will never know, since she and her confessor, as well as the Holy Spirit has never revealed to us what the sin was. Rightly so, since it is none of our business.
Regardless, Angela considered her sins so grave she did "penance as long and as hard as life itself". She lived in poverty after having given away her great wealth, performing her penance publicly whenever she could, until her confessor inclined her to greater discretion. She also was elevated to great mysticism and devotion - hence the only book we have of her, "The Divine Consolations of the Blessed Angela of Foligno". What we know of her life is more or less contained in this volume. I esteem it next to the works of St. John and St. Teresa, and have read and re-read it for a couple of decades now. I have three volumes of the same book, one in Italian, and two different versions in English. I'll have to go back and find where her chief fault was gossiping.
Thanks to the Catholic Spirit for calling attention to both the Blessed Angela, and the vice of gossip and detraction. The article will certainly help me to be a better man and writer - I hope.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Part II: A Christmas Carol....


The Ghost of Christmas present...
" The moment Scrooge's hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.

It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge's time, or Marley's, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages,
mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat
Holly Golightly, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike a long cigarette holder, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

'Come in!' exclaimed the Ghost. 'Come in! and know me better, man.'"
Holly Golightly: "Dahling! Don't be frightened! It's Christmas! Oooooo! I love the new picture on your profile, much more dreamy than George Peppard ever was." (Peppard starred with Audrey in the classic film, "Breakfast At Tiffany's".) "You do so look like Harrison Ford tonight!" Cooed the phantom who looked remarkably like Audrey Hepburn from "Breakfast at Tiffany's". In fact I couldn't find one flaw - except I think today her blonde streaks would look much more natural. hairdressers blend everything so well today.
TN: "Is this another interview? Because I was so tricked in the the recent interviews I've done and I don't want to be taken advantage of again!" I warned, quickly adding, "Aren't you, Audre...."
HG: "Yes dahling it is me, or rather Holly...who'd you expect, Roz Russell? She's much too old - all those diamonds - they're tacky before forty ya know!" She said exhaling a large puff of smoke into my face. "Your interview days are over - we are so going to celebrate Christmas my angel!"
TN: "But you're...er...dead...and you are so over 40!" I protested.
HG: "Not tonite Harry!" (She sounded so much like Kalista Flockhart, obviously referring to me as Harrison Ford! I looked in the mirror - oh my gosh! I look exactly like the picture on my profile - this is a magical night!) "Dahling - I'm Holly - Holly can never die - she most definitely is the ghost of Christmas present...now c'mon - let's get going - I don't have much time..." And she jumped down calling for Cat and we were off!
We found ourselves outside a club downtown - the Village in NYC - not Minneapolis; we could feel the music pounding, resonating in my bones. Walking into the club, the dance floor was filled - just like the old Studio 54 - everyone dancing with lite-sticks, the women all dressed up in lame and with glitter everywhere, twinkling in the strobe lights. Playing was the remix version of one of Janet Jackson's songs, "Escapade" I think - switching suddenly to Toni Braxton's "C'mon Over Here", and then old stuff from Donna Summer - "Rumor has It" - on and on! Holly and I danced and everyone was watching us - I so forgot I was looking like my profile picture - with HER - in her "Tiffany's" Givenchy dress! I never felt so hot! (Forgive me that lapse into vanity!)
HG: "Now, Mr. Nelson - I'll give you exactly 15 minutes to stop being so fabulous!" She said laughing, throwing her hands in the air like she just don't care!
Moments later we were in the back bar, and there was my dear friend Kelly with my other 'club' friends, laughing, reminiscing about when I used to be out and about with them and all the strange things I used to do...
TN: "Holly, they thought I was fun! They actually miss me." Doing my Sally Fields Oscar acceptance speech imitation, I exclaimed, "They love me! They really, really love me!" Gaining my composure, I continued on a more sober vein insisting, " But I can no longer be out partying like this. The stuff I used to do wasn't very good....I drank too much, smoked too much...did 'lines' in the bathroom...it was fun - but I went home alone....and very, very sad. Sin isn't really fun you know."
HG: "Oh, dahling! Not when you're doing it...but, my heavens, you're absolutely right - what was I thinking - this isn't the life for you any longer!" She said laughing and quickly adding, "I think you went to confession about 12 times a week at the time your friends are referring to - this isn't the Christmas present we want for you." She winked mischieviously, adding, "Although it was fun!"
Suddenly I found myself at my sister's house, all aglow with my nephew Rob's lights. All of my nieces and nephews were there. Instead of the horrible Elvis Christmas music I always heard at Beth's house, they had lovely old Motown Christmas music playing, interspersed with medieval Christmas recordings, as well as Gregorian chant - with just a little bit of dance-trance stuff mixed in.
Everyone was laughing and watching old videos of myself doing and saying silly things. My sister Beth got tears in her eyes and said, "He's such a jerk, but I love him!"
While my loving nephew Todd, who looks exactly like Kevin Kostner, with his wife Carey, who looks exactly like Heather - you don't know who she is - but she looks like Catherine Zeta Jones - they lean over and hug Beth saying;
"Oh mom - don't be sad - uncle Terry has a lot of issues - it's not us! We know he loves you and misses you."
I looked at Holly, tears in my eyes, "That's my sweet nephew!"
Holly was drinking champagne and stroking Cat, looking up suddenly she said, "What?"
Instantly we were at the Lexington in St. Paul for the Company party - and I was being toasted! "To Mr. Scrooge!"
"'It's your Uncle Scrooge!'

Which it certainly was. Admiration was the universal sentiment, though some objected that the reply to 'Is it a bear?' ought to have been 'Yes;' inasmuch as an answer in the negative was sufficient to have diverted their thoughts from Mr Scrooge, supposing they had ever had any tendency that way.

'He has given us plenty of merriment, I am sure,' said Keevin, 'and it would be ungrateful not to drink his health. Here is a glass of mulled wine ready to our hand at the moment; and I say,"Uncle Scrooge!" '

'Well. Uncle Scrooge!' they cried.

'A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old man, whatever he is.' said Scrooge's friend Keevin. 'He wouldn't take it from me, but may he have it, nevertheless. Uncle Scrooge!'

Uncle Scrooge had imperceptibly become so gay and light of heart, that he would have pledged the unconscious company in return, and thanked them in an inaudible speech, if the Ghost had given him time. But the whole scene passed off in the breath of the last word spoken by his nephew; and he and the Spirit were again upon their travels."
TN: "Holly! They were toasting me! And they called me 'uncle' - I think Paul said that - or was it Ann?" I said in complete astonishment.
HG: "Honey - they just said you're 'gay and light of heart!" Holly said laughing hysterically, still smoking her long cigarette holder - which was no longer lighted.
TN: "Pay no attention to any of that - they meant funny, Holly - not gay! Geesh! This is so not KQ!" (A local radio station that accuses everyone of being gay.)!"
HG: Laughing, "Oh! Harry! You remind me a bit of Doc - you know - Loula Mae's husband who tried to get me to go back with him from New York." Getting all dreamy, Holly's eyes filled with tears, remembering her good-bye to Doc in the film, that wrenching scene in the bus depot.
Then Holly pointed towards Linda's house, my dearest friend in the world. It was a loveless marriage she was in, Fred was in his room, while Linda sat alone in the living room, smoking - I have always told her that is why she has so many bags and lines in her face - oops - that's Christmas future - sorry Linda...
TN: I shouted, "What is this? Why is she so sad?"
Linda sat gazing upon the Christmas tree with all of the ornaments I had painted for her and her mother, mesmerized by our Christmases past...
HG: "She's never been happy without...er...y..."
TN: "But Holly - I entered the monastery and she agreed to let me go - then she got married - or, after a long time she got married. But she always understood I could never marry. Just as she understood I will always love her." When I turned suddenly, albeit sadly, Holly was gone...And then...
"The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him." - Dickens, "A Christmas Carol"
To be continued...when...I don't know...the night is so long...

A Christmas Carol, part I


The Ghost of Christmas Past...
"'Ding, dong!'


'The hour itself,' said Scrooge triumphantly, 'and nothing else!'


He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did
with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy One. Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.


The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand. Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his back, but those to which his face was addressed. The curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them: as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow"
...enter, the Ghost of Christmas Past!
This is exactly how my interview started with Roesannadanna!
Roseannadanna: "So Mr. Feder, you been writing ta me for a long, long time! And now we're doin' this interview..."
TN: "I'm not Mr. Feder! I have never written to you! What are you doing in my bedroom?"
RD: "I'm doin' an interview - Boy, Mr. Feder, you sure do ask a lot of stupid questions for a guy from Minnesota!"
TN: "I'm not Mr. Feder - my name is Terry."
Roseannadanna wrinkles her nose, squinting, looks straight into my face, wreaking of garlic. Looking at her notes she realizes she has the wrong scrip!
RD: "I don't know what the heck is goin' on - I was supposed to visit Feder and George Baily - you're not even on my list! Okay Mr. Nelson, let's step back in time. Remember the Christmas you were on the toilet and you were singing "Here Comes Santa Clause" and your mom and dad were listening and you could hear them laughing and then you stopped singing because you were embarrassed. I mean pooping and singing - yuck! What are ya tryin' to do? Make me sick?"
TN: "Yeah, that's right, I was about 3 or 4 years old and I had a toy in my hand, thinking about Santa, singing my favorite Christmas song. I heard my parents say something, laughing - I thought my mom and dad were laughing at me. From that day on I never liked singing and never would sing in front of people ever again."
RD: "You cried too - but you wouldn't make a sound or come out because you never wanted people to see you cry. And then you pretended it wasn't you doin' the singin'. Whatz wrong with you?"
TN: "What's wrong with you? What is with that hair anyway?"
RD: Ignoring my remark, "So you liked that movie then, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"?
I was transported to Downtown St. Paul late one snowy Christmas Eve afternoon, going to the theater with my sister Beth and my brother Skip. Beth wanted to see "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" with Jane Russell and Marylin Monroe. We were the only people in the theater. None of us were happy, Skip was mean to me, but I can't remember how, Beth wasn't happy about babysitting. We left the film and it was cold and dark, still snowy...
RD: "Why did you go to the corner bar after you kids got off the bus near your house?"
TN: "We had to meet my mom and dad there. Then we went home to see if Santa came. We went upstairs with my mom and we heard someone in the living room and I could hear packages rustling! I was so excited and my mother peeked around the door, holding me back with Beth grasping my shoulders. I was shaking with excitement as mom whispered it was Santa putting our presents under the tree. she described everything so vividly - years later, I was convinced that I had actually seen him myself.
Gently pushing me back, I heard the outside door close and my mother finally let me tear into the room - the tree was all lighted with the presents under the tree and I even saw the wet spots on the floor from the melted snow! Santa had been to our house! I was ecstatic - it made the sadness of the movie and the bar disappear! And my mom and dad had their cocktails until it was time for midnight Mass, when they headed back to the corner bar."
RD: "Ahwwwwww! That's so sweet! See! You had nice Christmasses when you were little!"
"The Spirit gazed upon Scrooge mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man's sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten.

'Your lip is trembling,' said the Ghost. 'And what is that upon your cheek?'

Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice, that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him where she would.

'You recollect the way?' inquired the Spirit.

'Remember it!' he cried with fervour; ' I could walk it blindfold.'

'Strange to have forgotten it for so many years!' observed the Ghost. 'Let us go on.' "
Suddenly we were in a bar, it was Christmas Eve...I was drinking with friends from work, it was crowded. I was supposed to be at my parent's house, my little brother Tim hadn't seen me all year, Skip and his wife were going to be there, they hadn't seen me for an even longer time. They were hoping I'd be there to save them from being alone with my parents, who would be drinking heavily. They were waiting for me to get there so we could open presents...
RD: "Whaaa - ya were drunk too! Just like the family! It's disgustin' - ya pig! Whatya tryin' to do? Make me sick?"
TN: "I was only 20 years old - I was just doing what I saw growing up. I thought Christmass meant drinking and partying!"
I witnessed how a year or so later, I came to repentance and returned to the Catholic faith...while the Spirit showed me how my little brother, growing up with alcohol problems and depression, would continue to have difficulties with Christmas as well. And then she showed me my brother Skip, dying of alcohol related illness, alone, with blood coming out of his pores, his stomach bloated, his skin all jaundiced, not living long enough to see his last Christmas on earth...
"'Spirit!' said Scrooge in a broken voice, 'remove me from this place.'

'I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,' said the Ghost. 'That they are what they are, do not blame me!'

'Remove me!' Scrooge exclaimed, 'I cannot bear it!'

He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that it looked upon him with a face, in which in some strange way there were fragments of all the faces it had shown him, wrestled with it.

'Leave me! Take me back! Haunt me no longer!'"
- A Christmas Carol, The Ghost of Christmas Past - Dickens
It seemed I awakened suddenly, and Roseannadanna was featured on an ad for the best of SNL...I didn't know if I had been dreaming or I had truly seen her ghost. I turned off the television and tried to go back to sleep...wondering if I might have kept Christmas better in the past...I finally fell asleep, wrestling with that thought, imagining more faces than those that had been shown me.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bambino Jesu!


The 'real' novena for Christmas begins tomorrow - December 16th, or 'posada' as the Spanish practice it.
I'll post about this on the "company blog" while doing more later here - maybe Sunday.
Thank God for the immigrants, legal or not, who bring to the American Catholic Church their rich tradition and devotion - let it be assimilated into our culture - into our hearts - and welcome the exile, the stranger.
If you "do" the novena for Christmas - don't make a big deal out of it, use the prayers of the liturgy, or any other devotion, but meditate upon the posada of Blessed Virgin Mary and the most pure Joseph to Bethlehem, make your heart, your soul, the little cave of Bethlehem, wherein the little Jesus may rest and be sheltered. Because He is born, He is God incarnate- don't try to re-enact - allow the act to enfold you into the mystery of the reality - ever present to the Father.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Our Lady of Arabia...


A Carmelite story for the feast of St. John of the Cross.

Pope Pius XII with the statue of Our Lady of Arabia.

Who knew the statue is Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, copied from the image on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel?


Crazy thoughts here - I always return the apparitions at Fatima...try to follow me. The apparitions seem to me to have a great deal to do with our times, times of conflict with Islam - in other words, it's not just an event in the past. Fatima was the name of Mohamed's daughter. In the last apparition at Fatima Our Lady appeared as Mt. Carmel. And Our Lady of Arabia is Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.


Okay - so I'm getting like Michael Brown. I don't know - it could mean something. Here is a close-up photo of the Virgin, along with the story:

"To represent Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Arabia, Fr. Stella wanted to have a special Statue made in her honour. He decided to use a replica of the Statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, venerated in her basilica on Mount Carmel - the birthplace of the entire Carmelite Order. An Italian firm in Rome, "Rosa and Zanzio Ditta" was requisitioned to make the replica, carved out of a solid block of cedar from Lebanon.


It was not long before the supreme sanction was granted. The Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, himself gave a grand lead to this devotion to Our Lady of Arabia, and on 17th December 1949, on the eve of the Great Jubilee Year, in the Vatican Palace, he personally blessed the new Statue of Our Lady of Arabia, and consented to be photographed in prayer before it.


The Statue was received in Kuwait and formally enthroned on 6th January 1950, amidst triumphal rejoicing at her Shrine in Ahmadi. It is with great nostalgia that the first parishioners might recall the sunny, Friday afternoon, the Statue was transported in a jubilant procession from the Shuwaikh Port to reside in the 'mini' Chapel, and to be venerated as Patroness and Protector of the Oilman." - Our Lady of Arabia



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

S. Juan de la Cruz


The lover of the Beloved, St. John of the Cross.
This image is one of my favorites of the saint - it's a poor reproduction however, the original is much richer in color and somewhat darker. Yet I love how he is portrayed, as well as his physical countenance - much as I imagine him. So many painters today like to portray him rather dark complected or even Moorish. He was a Spaniard. Spaniards are European - he looked like this I believe.
Why do I love him so much?
(He was a little guy - you maybe could have picked him up and hugged him. Holy Mother made fun of him and called him "half a friar". Therefore I was always pleased that Fray Juan de la Miserie painted her as he did, eliciting her comment, "You made me ugly". Holy Mother had some issues with vanity and status - she admits that.)
His writings are so accessible, yet lofty and learned, his mystical insights into biblical passages are ever so enlightening - even enthralling.
He was so full of charity and deeply humble. As Novice Master, he always made a noise with his rosary to forewarn the novices of his approach.
Imprisoned for the reform of Carmel, he was the model of patience and charity, and mercy.
This painting depicts the moment Our Lord invited him to ask for any grace, and John made his request, "To suffer and be despised". At the end of his life this was fulfilled even then. When he was dying, he lived at a house wherein the Prior disliked him and was a source of great suffering. Although at the end, the Prior was reconciled to the saint.
St. John plumbed the depths of suffering in his lived experience. So many people mistake him for a sort of mystical sado-masochist - nothing is further from the truth. St John of the Cross and his doctrine are all radiance and light, charity and love. Love is his doctrine, love of Jesus crucified - not suffering for suffering sake - that is a perversion. Nevertheless suffering is the lot of all mankind in this vale of tears, love alone transforms it into that which is redemptive and unifying with the Divine. This is his secret.
He was a practical mystic, fully engaged in the everyday duties of life, employing himself in the most mundane duties of the monastery, with special solicitation for the ill and infirm.
Never ever be intimidated by this saint, nor his writings. His writings were food for the soul of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the saint of "The Little Way", which I always maintain is the pure doctrine of St. John made palatable for little, as well as lofty souls in modern times.
For Advent, consider this tender poem of his:
"The Virgin, weighed
With the Word of God
Comes down the road:
If only you will shelter her." -S. John of the Cross
This is from the man who danced in ecstasy as he placed the Divine Infant Jesus in the creche, after the monastery posada, one Christmas eve.
Love him and read him - don't try to be him, just let his doctrine ruminate in your soul, let him teach you how to follow Jesus upon that narrow way that leads to life. He is the gentlest of guides.
St. John of the Cross, pray for me that I might be converted and begin to follow Jesus. Pray for all souls who seek salvation in Jesus Crucified, yet are tempted to despair of the rugged road, and their own weakness and failings. Never has it been known that you rejected the sinner who turns to you for help in this dark night of faith!
(I never understood why Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus turned to Gratian rather than St. John - although they were compatriots and co-reformers, and she esteemed him greatly. Something to ask when we get to heaven I guess. I didn't like Gratian myself, and always attributed her fondness for him to Teresa's vanity - Oh! my! gosh! How presumptuous of me! Nevertheless, I always found her a bit "over the top" in her esteem for Gratian.)

St. John Eve


On this the longest night of the year, the Church has long celebrated the feast of St. Lucy. How providential is it that it is also the vigil of the feast of St. John of the Cross, the mystic of the Dark Night?
An Advent meditation from "The Spiritual Canticle":
" Where have You hidden Yourself,
And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?
You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying;
but You were gone.
O shepherds, you who go
Through the sheepcots up the hill,
If you shall see Him
Whom I love the most,
Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die." The Spiritual Canticle

Hear, and let it penetrate your heart...


-amidst the rush before Christmas.
From today's Gospel:
'Jesus said to the crowds: (Not just to 'the many' but to all.)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest."' - Matthew 11:28

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ghost of Christmas Future...

Wasn't the production of "Scrooge" a masterpiece?
Scary for managers though, albeit a good spectre to keep before one - it is the monastic maxim, "keep death always before your eyes".
Amidst the joy and celebrations of the holidays, it is always good to remain sober and vigilant in spirit.

"It's A Wonderful Life"


Unless you're depressed like George Bailey was.
Didn't you just want to beat up Uncle Billy? Losing the deposit like that?
This is the best film ever to capture the stress of Christmas.
In the end, it turns out well - it's heartwarming and touching - but before you get there, it's depressing and dark. All stories do not always end so brightly.
Remember those who have lost fortunes or just basic jobs at this time of year. Remember the mentally ill, the depressed, those thinking of taking their own lives, or those suffering from terminal illness.
It's not such a wonderful life for them.

Motu Proprio


Pictured, "The Mass of Pope Gregory" - available now at Peyton Wright Gallery in Santa Fe, NM. A superb gallery of fine art, specializing in Spanish Colonial antiquities, Russian Icons, and contemporary art.
The blogs are humming that the "Motu proprio" will soon be released. What is that? You'll have to ask the experts, but as I understand it, it is a general permission or liberalization for the Tridentine Mass to be offered anywhere by any priest without an indult - in other words, the old Mass is more or less restored and is on equal footing with the Novus Ordo - not that it needs restoration, but some progressive Church people wanted it suppressed and would not permit it in their diocese, and so on - it's a big deal. Especially if you are a trad, or an SSPX kind of guy.
What is of interest to me is that I would not have to travel across town if I chose to attend, with the same priests celebrating all of the time. I may be able to assist at a Tridentine Mass in the very same parish I now attend.
That fine blog, "Rorate Caeli" has some of the best updates available on the subject.
The entire matter should never have come to this - the Traditional Liturgy should always have had this privilege, if not preeminence. I find it hard to believe that traditionalists, some of whom may dispute the validity of the Novus Ordo, will ever be satisfied until the Novus Ordo is suppressed. It's just a feeling I have. Whatever the case, it will be good for Missal sales.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas in a monastery...


New Melleray Abbey, sanctuary.
(sorry it is so pix-elated!)
A reader of this blog thought I should post more about monastic things, and I don't want to get yelled at for my silly posts - but there is not much to say - Trappists don't talk much.
Anyway, I remember several of Dom David's homilies during Advent, focusing upon the liturgy and Our Lady. (He was very much like Jane Hathaway's brother - she was the bank secretary in the "Beverly Hillbillies" - Fr. David was rather dry and a bit formal, although very friendly, and he really did have a sense of humor.) He is a hermit now I believe.
Nevertheless, after so many years, I can only recall there were no decorations in the Church - Trappists don't do that. Midnight Mass was solemn and very simple, in keeping with Cistercian tradition. After Mass we could go to the refectory for cookies and treats in silence. There was a sort of Charlie Brown tree in there, with lights. Nothing lavish. It was very quiet and nice. (No booze. For most - I do believe we had a couple of closet tipplers however.)
I quickly went to my cell to pray and go back to sleep.
Christmas day there may have been music in the refectory - for sure there was no work. I think the novices got together. I seem to remember Br. DJ got a butt-load of goodies from his parents - and we ate most of it. (He stashed more in his cell. Correction - DJ contacted me and told me he had long left the monastery at that point - so I guess someone else got the care package from mums and dadums - but DJ did have a stash of stuff in his cell - I know because I moved into it after he left! :) I was like Harry Potter at Hogwarts - I got nothing - and I wouldn't have wanted it otherwise.
I really liked it that way. I wanted to be so poor like the Infant Jesus, and I felt He granted my prayer. It was a special first Christmas in the monastery. It was there where I learned to love the silence and solitude of that Holy Night with all of it's simplicity. Later, as a pilgrim, poor and alone on Beacon Hill, passing the lighted and decorated houses of the gentry on my way to St. Anthony's on Arch Street for midnight Mass, I rejoiced in the same poverty and loneliness - so filled with the joy of the Nativity of Our Lord. I still prefer a quiet, contemplative Christmas.
It's a good thing.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Santa Casa



Today is the feast of Our Lady of Loreto.
(Pictured, the Translation of the Holy House. It can happen! )

Commemorating the miraculous translation - by angels - of the Holy Family's house in Nazareth, this feast honors the transfer, first to Croatia and then to the hilltop of what is now known as Loreto, Italy.

Since a little boy, I have never had the least problem with this story. In fact, I went to live as a pilgrim in Italy, in imitation of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, with the intent of visiting Loreto, where I stayed for a while.

I stood praying within the Holy House, which is enclosed within the basilica, ornamented by marble architecture, as a sort of tabernacle or aedicule. I stood at the back of the interior, in a corner, so as not to be disturbed by pilgrims. I would only step out to pray Our Lady's office from time to time, seated on a bench outside the House, since the light was easier to read by. My experience there, convinced me the Holy House is authentic. (I also thought it would be a beautiful place for newlyweds to honeymoon - not the House, but the beautiful hill town of Loreto.)

My friends, Alberto Marvelli (pictured), and Pina Suriano were beatified there by John Paul II shortly before he died.

It was there I prayed most especially for my family. Years later, my brother Skip died on this day, a personal tragedy far worse than the loss of my parents.

It was the year when the feast of the Immaculate Conception was observed on the 9th of December. I stayed by his bedside, hoping Our Lady would come for him on the 8th. On the 9th, the observance of the solemnity, I asked Skip, who was in a coma, "When is Our Lady coming?"

He lifted his head from his pillow and opening his eyes, looking directly at me, responded clearly like a little boy, "I don't know?" Then he fell back into his coma.
The next day, on my way to see him, I was at the first Mass of the day. After communion, I understood he had just died. When I got to his house, his nurse told me he had died about 20 minutes earlier, and I said "I know." When I got to him he was still warm.

Skip had had a vision of Our Lady several years before his death. She just suddenly appeared as Our Lady of Grace - for a few seconds - it was just a glimpse. He began to pray again, wondering what it meant. I always believed it was Our Lady, that was why I asked him when she was coming for him as he lay in that coma.

Towards the end, he struggled with alcoholism and depression. His marriage had failed in divorce, and he was haunted by his own sense of failure - something our parents predicted for us, as a sort of curse. Skip had already been in and out of treatment. Being the little brother, I tried to help him, but couldn't. He got mad at me when I would send black-humor greeting cards, or serious notes - intervention style - to try and coerce him into going back into treatment. He finally asked me to stay out of his life.
When I finally backed off, some "holy people", those I like to call "Job's friends" had much advice for me. One piece was their fraternal correction that I was comitting a grave sin and risking my salvation by not doing more for my brother..."How can you just let him die like this?!" (Gee! I don't know - maybe because he won't answer the phone or his door and when you get the police to go over to his house he tells them I am a trouble maker and he doesn't want me near his house? Or that, after his doctor told me his prognosis and that I should encourage him to get some help, my brother told everyone else that I made it up and I was lying? Maybe that is why I let him die. Watch out for those "holy people".)
Thanksgiving the year he died I went to be with him in the hospital - waiting at first while the nurse asked his permisson for me to enter. He had already made his confession and we talked. He expressed his fear of purgatory - I promised him I'd take care of that with prayer and many Masses for him. I told him it wasn't as bad as everyone believes - because the soul knows for certain one is saved and the soul accepts whatever comes with peace. Then I told him all about St. Catherine of Genoa's treatise on purgatory - careful not to be like Job's friends. (Not long after his death, his daughter Gioia had a dream wherein she opened a door and Skip was standing within a blast furnace, all aflame. She worried it was hell, and I said it was more likely purgatory. But then I began to worry - what if I fooled him? However, Our Lady consoled me a few years later by letting me know he was saved. Although I don't know if he is in heaven yet. Skip was very fond of money.)

So that's my Loreto story - Our Lady finally came to get my brother on this feast. It's pretty sappy, but "Wind Beneath My Wings" always makes me think of him, especially the lines, "Did you ever know that you were my hero? You're everything I wished I could be?" He never knew that. Sometimes brothers compete, and fight, and hide their true feelings. If he was still alive, I doubt I'd let him know how I truly felt - now that he is dead, it's okay - he can't turn on me any longer.

Here is a brief history on the Holy House.

"According to Catholic tradition, the Holy House came under threat during the turmoil of the Crusades, so in 1291, angels miraculously translated the house from its original location to a site in modern-day Croatia. An empty space was left in Nazareth, while a small house suddenly appeared in a field. The bewildered parish priest, brought to the scene by shepherds who discovered it, had a vision in which the Virgin Mary revealed it was her former house.

On December 10, 1294, the house was again moved by angels because of the Muslim invasion of Albania. It landed first in Recanti, Italy, but was shortly thereafter moved for a third time to its present location in Loreto.

The Holy House of Loreto, or Santa Casa di Loreto in Italian, has been venerated by pilgrims great and small, including many popes and saints, and numerous miracles and healings have been reported. Scientists are said to have confirmed the materials to be the same as those found in Nazareth and the house lacks any foundations."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I so don't care! I believe in Santa Claus!


Pictured, St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra. (Our St. Nick did not have a beard either, although he had a white moustache.)
I am so tired! St. Nicholaus visited our Store today! He was only supposed to stay until 2PM, but he insisted upon staying until 4PM. He hugged the little kids and told them all about his life, miracles, and history - and gave them gifts and candy, gold wrapped chocolate coins in lovely little bags with gold ties. The kids loved him and had their pictures taken and adults were thrilled as well! I know of at least one old crabby guy who got tears in his eyes. I think he really believed it was the real St. Nick...yeah, that would be me - I almost hugged him.

We had a real saint this year. Deacon Tom Stiles from the Church of St. Columba in St. Paul played St. Nick. (He is a big guy - yet so gentle and kind, and almost shy - he looked exactly like Bishop Campbell - another nice bishop. It was funny, many customers really thought it was Bishop Campbell.) Being a Deacon, he was able to bless the religious articles people purchased. We had a stipend for him - which he refused - although was forced to take - insisting he will give it to our Franciscan brothers! And then, when he left he thanked me for letting him do this. (Another tear! It really, really was St. Nick who was with us!)

So parents! DO NOT lie to your kids! There really is a Santa - he is St. Nicholaus of Myra! Santa not only brings gifts, but obtains many, many graces - pouring out charity into our hearts! When he was in the Store he hugged a little girl and told her how important she is! And she hugged him! She was a chubby little black girl, and she really experienced the love of this big white Bishop - and she hugged him back, thrilled to be so close to him. I don't think she will ever forget such an affirming gesture. I wish I would have hugged him too! (A tear!)
I love you Santi 'Claus!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Conceived With Out Sin



"I am the Immaculate Conception."


That is how Our Lady identified herself to St. Bernadette at Lourdes. It always makes my hair stand on end - on my arms - not my head.


All the "Fathers" who blog will have profound, wonderful teaching on this mystery of Our Lady, so I wouldn't dare discuss her prerogatives or what this feast day means. I'll just blabber on here.


For me, Our Lady is a paradise upon earth, a refuge for sinners, a consolation in this vale of tears. For the Church to make this feast a day of obligation is a delight. The joy of the Immaculate Conception overflows into our souls, preparing us for the wonderful feast of the Nativity. The Madonna is our Mommie, and she is the Immaculata!


I looked for a painting, but could find nothing to adequately represent Our Lady, so I chose this one by default - although it thrills me. I purchased a fine oil painting reproduction of Murillo's Immaculada, quite large, for my study where I pray. All of her images disappoint me now. No one can capture this mystery in art, it must be contemplated in spirit. (I'm so sad images no longer work for me - we cannot possess grace through images - they are so much better to glance at and allow the spirit to be raised, as opposed to attempting to somehow capture the spirit of the one portrayed by owning the image. Or something like that.)


I cannot explain the Immaculate Conception, nor can I explain the Trinity. Yet it seems to me I can experience Her...She encompasses the whole of humanity, my humanity and soul. "I am the Immaculate Conception". God is "I am" she is His "Immaculate Conception". What is that? I mean, what is that?


A favorite prayer of mine from St. Francis is his "My God! Who are you? And what am I?" Our Lady identified and revealed her name, when she told Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception" - doesn't that thrill you? She causes the soul to go into ecstasy - if you simply wonder, allowing the awe-some to envelope your soul.


It is wonderful to know as the Doctors and Fathers know, the truths of our faith, dogma and definitions, yet it is so much more wonderful to be suspended in awe-some unknowing before the majesty and mystery of the Immaculate Conception. The little ones know this.


I wish I had words, that no one ever has heard, to express this wondrous mystery, this perfect love, this purest being, this paradise wherein sinners find refuge, consolation and healing. If ever I felt like I had the gift of tongues, I could let loose now, in a holy babble of praise.
O Mary, Conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee! Repeat that over and over and over.
Or pray, "Thou art all fair O Mary, and the original stain is not in Thee! O Mary! O Mary, conceived without sin! Pray for us who have recourse to Thee!" Over and over and over.
(For her feast, I cannot blog or do email or surf the net, until after vespers tomorrow. May Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception enrapture your souls and enflame your hearts with the Holy Spirit of love! Ah! How I love the Blessed Virgin!)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Feast of St. Nicholas


I woke up excited!
Anyway - a question left out of Cathy's Christmas meme;
21. What is your favorite Christmas Movie?
It's a list:
-"Miracle On 34th St." Best Santa award.
-"It's A Wonderful Life." When I was younger I thought it depressing - now I love it.
-"National Lampoons Christmas Vacation." Because the characters are nuts.
-Almost every production of "A Christmas Carol."
-"Home Alone." I like the scary old man next door.
Happy St. Nicholas day!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Eve of St. Nicholas...


Or- I believe in Santa!
Tomorrow is St. Nicholas day. Even when I was away from the Church I celebrated this day - I had a party or gave someone I was in love with an ornament and European candies, expensive liquor, or perfume - but something sweet. I introduced a lot of people to St. Nick - and most still celebrate his feastday.
In this picture he is rescuing children I believe. I often think of him as a perfect intercessor for abused or abandoned children. St. Nicholas introduces them to the Infant Jesus, who is their remedy and companion. (St. Nick still rescues kids - look tomorrow for a news item of some child being found or rescued - I usually see something to that effect on the news on or around his feastday - or so it seems to me.)
My family never celebrated St. Nicholas day, but my cousins did. When I grew up, I did too - still do...but it's more like 'secret Santa' now, and much more fun. For sure, Christmas season begins on St. Nicholas day.
I can't help but feel like a kid every St. Nicholas day. It is a day full of joy, followed soon by the most joyous, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - which is a day of ecstacy!
Go here for a fun St. Nicholas site! And visit my Store, Leaflet Missal for a visit with St. Nick on Saturday December 9th!

Transgender stuff


"I am Changin'!" - Another Jennifer Holiday song.

Pictured, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, transgender nun of the Episcopal Church - someplace in the U.S.

Gerald of The Cafeteria Is Closed has a post on an Anglican priest who became a woman priest. What is so interesting in the post isn't the novelty of the transition, but what the Catholic Church has to say about such things. In short, they do not recognize sex change.


From Closed Cafeteria:


"After years of study, the Vatican's doctrinal congregation has sent church leaders a confidential document concluding that "sex-change" procedures do not change a person's gender in the eyes of the church.


Pictured, the British priest who is the subject of Gerald's post. I apologize that I think it's funny to see a man dressed as a woman. I realize such people have serious issues and I ought to be more compassionate.

Consequently, the document instructs bishops never to alter the sex listed in parish baptismal records and says Catholics who have undergone "sex-change" procedures are not eligible to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life, according to a source familiar with the text....

"The key point is that the (transsexual) surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female," said the source.

"The altered condition of a member of the faithful under civil law does not change one's canonical condition, which is male or female as determined at the moment of birth," Bishop Gregory wrote.

The Vatican text defines transsexualism as a psychic disorder of those whose genetic makeup and physical characteristics are unambiguously of one sex but who feel that they belong to the opposite sex. In some cases, the urge is so strong that the person undergoes a "sex-change" operation to acquire the opposite sex's external sexual organs. The new organs have no reproductive function." - Closed Cafeteria - "Sex Change and Clergy"



Not at all related -Pictured, Minneapolis' embattled lesbian Fire Chief - she's not a sex change, believe it or not.

What is interesting to me is that there has actually been a policy in place for Bishops to deal with this sort of thing. While it is somewhat well known locally that a Bishop, now the head of a large Archdiocese in the mid-west permitted a transgender person to become a nun in Wisconsin a few years back.

When members of the faithful discovered this, they wrote to the Vatican and got the transgender nun removed. No penalties were imposed upon the Bishop however, nor was any explanation forthcoming as to why he permitted this.

I expect there is a pastoral loophole for just about everything though. Bishops can make mistakes too.

[Interesting side note, looking for transgender photos I came across a German do it yourself nip and tuck procedure - the site is called "Tucking" - view it at your own risk - contains clinical nudity, and don't go there if you have problems with chastity - I don't want mean comments. It is so not titillating however - no pun intended.]

Monday, December 04, 2006

Priestly celibacy


Pictured, Cardinal Hummes.
Go here for an excellent comment.

That "New Catholic" guy really has a good take on stuff!
"Cardinal against Cardinal" - Something Our Lady of Akita mentioned.

The Divine Liturgy


Reports are that the SSPX is infiltrating the Ukraine, and drawing people away - or attempting to do so - from the Byzantine rite. (I don't know for certain if this is really the intention of the SSPX however.) Although it seems to be the fear, Gerald covers this on The Cafeteria Is Closed.

It seems as if the SSPX may be more sinister than imagined - if it is true. One ought not to fool around with the Byzantine rite, which has equal status with the Roman rite - then and now. This is a point of contention the separated Orthodox have misgivings about, that Rome could impose Vatican II type "renewal" in their liturgies as has been done in the Roman rite - if they ever consent to union, that is. Of course, the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholics are in union with Rome, and autonomous as far as liturgical rites, nevertheless, the insurgence of SSPX and the Traditional Roman rite poses some serious problems.
The SSPX are not the Roman Catholic Church, they are in schism with the true Church - people have to realize and understand that. If they are attempting to usurp the venerable and ancient Byzantine rite, they are no better than protestants or Jehovah Witnesses. Oy! The hutzpah! Talk about being more Catholic than the Pope all they want, it seems to me they are trying to be more holy than the Church.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Holy Father's First Vespers of Advent

Read all about it here:
Ist Vespers In St. Peters

It reads like a review of an opera or a play. Critical analysis, checking out who was there and what they wore, etc. (That's what I don't like about St. Agnes sometimes. I often think many people are there just for the music and the liturgical costumes.)

How prayerful.


(Sorry, still no ability to upload photos.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Worst Christmas Ad - so far...

"Peace, Love and Gap"
Way too ghetto.

Nevertheless, and I mean less, it's telling as to what kids want. Isn't rap over yet? Could the Marketing Director for Gap get fired or something? It misses - the ad just misses.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Pope in Turkey


Benedict is fairing very well in Turkey, praise God. Aside from the prayer of the faithful, I wonder if his friend Bl. John XXIII is not offering special protection, since the Holy Father entrusted this trip to his intercession. Perhaps to reward John XXIII, the Holy Father will canonize him soon.
The media hypes this trip as something done to make peace with Islam after the uproar over the Holy Father's remarks at an address at Regensburg in Germany awhile back.
The point of the pilgrimage, or Apostolic Visit is to meet with the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the "First Among Equals" of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church. It is an effort to restore union to the Church. His courage in going to a land where his life has been threatened, must demonstrate dramatically to the Orthodox the Pope's sincerity and love for The Eastern Churches, as well as his hope for unity. I think the entire world must also be impressed by his courageous actions.
May St. Andrew, the Apostle of the Eastern Churches, whose feast we celebrate tomorrow, hasten this union and continue to protect our Holy Father, Benedict XVI.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Feast of the Miraculous Medal


Today is the commemoration of the apparition of the Immaculate Conception to St. Catherine Laboure at Rue d' Bac, Paris in 1830.
Pictured is the image of the Blessed Virgin as she appeared to Alphonse Ratisbonne, an agnostic Jew, effecting in him an instantaneous conversion to the Roman Catholic Church. (The Church is in Rome and is called S. Andrea della Fratte.) Ratisbonne had been persuaded by a friend to wear the Miraculous Medal, or as it was first known, the medal of the Immaculate Conception.
As a result of his conversion, the devotion of the medal swept Europe, thus gaining recognition as the Miraculous Medal, due to countless graces generated through the devotion.
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourseto thee.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The man with the Blackamoor on his coat.



Coat of arms that is.

That would be Pope Benedict XVI of course and he is getting ready to visit Turkey.

A fine priest said I shouldn't even discuss such things as the possibility of as@%*^nation. Yet there is that novel written about it, and lots of protest in Turkey over his impending visit, as well as 'unprecedented security' - as they always say - covering the visit. In the land of intrigue known for cloak and dagger politics, populated by radical Islamics, I'm not comfortable with this visit. Today the Holy Father asked for our prayers to accompany him on his pilgrimage of reconciliation. He has mine.

I like his coat of arms. (I like bears.) Who is the Moor however?

He is the Moor of Freising:

"The Moor's head is an heraldic charge associated with Freising, Germany. The origins of the Moor's head or caput ethiopicum in Freising is not entirely known. Typically facing left it appeared on the coat of arms of the old principality of Freising as early as 1316. Some theories of its reference include:

Balthasar, one of the Magi, by some legends a Moor
Saint Maurice, a Roman-Egyptian martyr
Saint Zeno, frequently shown as a Moor
Saint Sigismund, often confused historically with Saint Maurice
Saint Corbinian, founder of the Diocese of Freising, mistakenly thought to have been a Moor
" - Wikipedia - I like that place.

A recent book has been published about the third secret of Fatima, (and Rocky says, "Again"?) claiming the entire secret has not been revealed, just the visuals - sans text. Fatima conspiracy theorists love this stuff. Here is a snip from Catholic World News:

"A new book entitled The Fourth Secret of Fatima, by Italian writer Antonio Socci, questions whether a part of the message delivered by the Virgin Mary to the children at Fatima have been hidden by Church leaders for diplomatic reasons.

Socci claims that the famous "third secret," which was revealed in 1995 to describe an attack on a “bishop dressed in white,” is only a fragment of the full message. Socci bases his claim primarily on an analysis of the books Faith Report by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and Crossing the Threshold of Hope, by Pope John Paul II. To a lesser extent he analyzes homilies, discourses, and public documents by the two Pontiffs.

Rumors and theories about the "third secret" had circulated for years, until in May 2000 the content of the secret was disclosed by Pope John Paul II. The secret detailed a vision of the "bishop dressed in white" who was caught up in a battle against an atheistic system that oppresses the Church. That bishop "falls to the ground, as if dead, after a volley of gunfire." The vision apparently predicted the assassination attempt against John Paul II. Sister Lucia, who at the time was the sole surviving Fatima seer, confirmed in 2000 that the "bishop dressed in white" was the Pope. (Sister Lucia died in February 2005.)" - Catholic World News

I personally believe we have gotten enough of the third secret, and it was interpreted quite well by Cardinal Ratzinger, who admittedly said, "It seems as if these events may have been in the past" - which leaves open the question, was JPII really "the bishop in white who collapsed as if dead amidst a hail of bullets"? Or could it be another future pope? See, visions and prophecies are hard to figure out, and if there is a missing text of Our Lady's words, we probably just don't fit the description of those having "a need to know".

But what if the blackamoor is a prophetic symbol and there really is a missing text to the third secret? Now that's the stuff I shouldn't even mention.

Regardless, the Holy Father is snugly in the hand of God, albeit he is embarking on a very dangerous journey. He asked for our prayers, and like I said, he has mine.

Viva il papa!

The Knights of Columbus are urging Catholics to accompany the Holy Father with prayer as a spiritual pilgrimage as he visits Turkey. Here is the prayer:

Prayer for the Pope

"Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain, inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey – a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence.


We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen." - Knights of Columbus