Miley Cyrus and Her Daddy’s Achy Breaky Heart

It was 1992 when country singer Billy Ray Cyrus first cradled his newborn daughter, Destiny Hope, in his arms.  She was perfect; and as he counted her tiny fingers and toes, he imagined great things for her future.

She was given the name “Destiny Hope” because her parents believed she would do great things.  She acquired the nickname “Smiley” (later shortened to “Miley”) because as an infant, she smiled so much.

It was important to Billy Ray that his new baby know about God; so he raised her in the Southern Baptist church.  As a child, Miley lived with her family on a 500-acre farm in Franklin, Tennessee, and attended Heritage Elementary School.  As a teen, she wore a purity ring—signifying her intent to remain a virgin until marriage.

But that was then, and this is now.





The former star of Disney’s Hannah Montana, who officially changed her name to Miley Ray following her grandfather’s death in 2006, ignited a firestorm of criticism on the Internet this week, with her obscene performance at the MTV Video Music Awards; but that was only the latest in a string of moral missteps which have reshaped the career of this troubled star.

At fifteen, she reportedly posed topless for a Vanity Fair photoshoot by photographer Annie Leibovitz—although the New York Times later clarified that she had actually been wrapped in a bedsheet.

In 2008, her gmail account was hacked and several provocative photographs of Miley clad only in underwear were distributed on the web.  At her 19th birthday party, she addressed fans with an obscenity-laden message that “You know you’re a stoner when your friends make you a Bob Marley-themed cake.  You know you smoke way too much f***** weed.”  And she has been an advocate for gay rights; in 2011 she got a tattoo on her finger, two stripes symbolizing her support for alternate lifestyles.

And now this:  the nude swimsuit, the tongue action, the twerking with celeb Robin Thicke, were so atrocious that even Hollywood types reacted like this:

Will Smith and his family watch the Awards

Through the controversy this week, I’ve remembered the old Miley Cyrus, wholesome role model for young girls; and I’ve wondered about her famous father’s reaction.

This is what I’ve found:  That despite his extreme disappointment at the course her life has taken, he loves his daughter and is supportive.  Some followers believed that he was holding steady in a tweet he posted, shortly after Miley’s scandalous VMA performance.  Still the steady, positive-focused father, Billy Ray wrote:

In a February 2011 interview, though, the country star spoke honestly about his fear for his celebrity daughter and about his personal regrets.  Although the website Hollywood Gossip demeaned the singer’s concerns, Billy Ray expressed his conviction that Satan was attacking his family.  Cyrus was concerned that Miley’s early stardom on Disney’s Hannah Montana had not been good for his daughter.  He said:

It’s the way it is.  There has always been a battle between good and evil.  Always will be.  You think, ‘This is a chance to make family entertainment, bring families together….’ And look what it’s turned into.   

He acknowledged that Miley had a lot of people around her who were putting her in a great deal of danger.  He wished that he could get her sheltered from the storm, could ‘stop the insanity just for a minute.’

Asked whether he regretted encouraging Miley’s career as Hannah Montana, Billy Ray was emphatic:

[It] destroyed my family….  I’d take it back in a second.  For my family to be here and just everybody to be okay, safe and sound and happy and normal, would have been fantastic.  Heck, yeah, I’d erase it all in a second if I could.

Billy Ray voiced his concern that Miley could die, and likened her rise to meteoric fame to that of drug-using rock star Kurt Cobain.  “I’m concerned about Miley,” he admitted.  “I think that Kurt Cobain’s world was just spinning so fast and he had so many people around him that didn’t help him.  Like Anna Nicole Smith—you could see that train wreck coming….  Michael Jackson.  I was trying to reach out to Michael Jackson.”

Whether the concerned father is able to reach out to his own daughter remains to be seen.  With an annual income in excess of $25 million, the 21-year-old former pop princess clearly is not financially dependent on her dad; and she apparently doesn’t turn to him for advice, either.  She seems to be on a crash course toward greater and greater degradation.

Sometimes for a parent, the only thing you can do when older children veer from their moorings is pray.  And not just the “only thing”—for indeed, prayer is the most powerful of weapons.  I’d imagine Billy Ray has offered many humble prayers for his daughter, but he has no choice now but to entrust her to her heavenly Father, who also loves her with an unabiding love.

One of the more interesting commentaries I’ve seen, following the whole Miley scandal, was from a website called Roadkill Goldfish.  There, a blogger identified only as “a mom, wife and PR pro with a major case of TCB and a little bit of OCD” penned an open letter from God, titled “Dear daughter, let Miley Cyrus be a lesson to you.”  Here is the letter; click on the link to see the original website.

To my dear daughters,

May you truly be the best you can be, without needing to compare yourself to others to make you feel better about yourself.

May your behavior be authentic and reflective of the choices you have personally made yourself. May you own your choices, not live off the back of someone else. May they be sound and healthy choices made for the right reasons. Because you respect yourself and others, and your God.

May you look to Jesus as your example, of kindness, gentleness, goodness, but most of all love.

Where ever you go in the world, may you be graceful and kind to others, especially those whose behavior is not like your own. May you love people who you don’t agree with, because relationship is more important than being right. Righteousness is not rightness, and can be undone by a bitter, unloving, ungraceful heart and a tongue that is not bridled.

There are many people, all over the world, in churches, out of churches, in shopping malls, at the zoo, in schools and colleges that think and behave differently too you. Love them any way. Love them the way you would want to be loved by them. But do so in a way that allows you to remain true to who you are and your own convictions. This is how Jesus loved. Wholly and purely, truthfully and relation-ally.

Never look at someone else to make yourself feel good about yourself. There will always be someone better or worse than you. Listen to the quiet voice in your heart and make the changes you need to make, based on who YOU are and who you are meant to be.

You are brave, you are smart, and you are courageous, each of you.

I love you, ALWAYS, in good times and in bad, when you make good choices and when you make bad. My love for you never changes, it is unending, it is not conditional upon who you are, but on who I am.

I love you always


Dear Miley, you really screwed up this time; but God loves you. 

He waits. 

Come back.

Ostia Antica: St. Augustine’s Home Town

On August 28, we celebrate the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, the North African convert who became one of Catholicism’s greatest educators after his conversion.

Our guide Fr. Joseph Fox, O.P. explains the layout of Ostia Antica.

I’ve posted several articles about St. Augustine (here and here and here).  I thought I’d round out the series with a few pics from some of his favorite hometown haunts.

Back in 2003 or 2004, I had the privilege of leading a group of pilgrims to some of the fun spots in and around Rome.   One of my favorite spots, outside of the Eternal City itself at the mouth of the River Tiber, was the ancient seaport of Ostia Antica (“Old Mouth”).

View of the city from the old Roman road

Well, actually, it isn’t really a seaport today.  Time and tide have reworked the landscape, leaving the old port city landlocked.  The sea, if you go there in 2012, is nearly two miles away.

Shops along an Ostian road

But in the fourth century, Ostia was a bustling seaport serving the city of Rome.   Merchants from the warehouse district greeted the incoming vessels, then sold their goods to people of the city.  Sailors on shore leave mingled with Roman citizens, shopping, dining in restaurants, perhaps enjoying a good stage play before setting sail once again.  So the town of Ostia needed to accommodate the crowds—and so the settlement sprawled across the Italian plains, including down its narrow streets shops and schools, administrative buildings, a theatre, public baths, small homes and apartments, public ovens, even a latrine that requires no explanation. [Read more...]

The Loreto Embroideries Inspire With Their Beauty and Their Message

An exhibit of twelve rare Marian embroideries is currently on display at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace in southwest London.  Called the “Loreto Embroideries”, the delicately crafted pictures came from a convent in Surrey and date from the early 20th century.  They are part of a larger exhibit titled “For Worship and Glory” and will be available for public viewing until November 2013.  In addition to the Loreto Embroideries, the exhibit features ecclesiastical embroidery including depictions of saints, angels and Christ using just a needle and thread in a wide range of techniques, but especially metal thread and silk shading.

The Loreto Embroideries are based on the medieval Litany of Loreto, and depict Mary, the Mother of God, under her various titles. According to a long tradition, in Loreto stands the Holy House, which is the actual house in which Mary was born, and where the Annunciation occurred.  According to the tradition, a band of angels scooped up the little house from the Holy Land and transported it, first to Tersato, Dalmatia in 1291; then to Recanati, Italy in 1294; and finally to Loreto, Italy, where it has been for centuries.  Since that time, pilgrims have visited a shrine to Mary at that spot.  In 1587, Pope Sixtus V officially recognized the Litany of Loreto, which contains 48 titles for the Virgin Mary.

Monica Wright, spokeswoman for the RSN, explained the embroideries’ origin to the Catholic Herald:

“The Litany of Loreto embroideries were given to the Royal School of Needlework in the early 1990s and are purported to have been donated by the Convent of the Holy Child in Maybury, East Sussex.”

They were then conserved, remounted and framed. The RSN says that there is “a strong sense of design to the pieces and they are worked to a very high standard” and that “they show what can be achieved with stylised design and a limited colour palette”.

To learn more about the Loreto Embroideries, or to plan a visit to the Worship and Glory exhibition, visit the Royal Needlework Society’s website.

I’m sharing a few of the photos here, for my friends who love needlework and crafts, for my friends who love Mary, and for my friends who love art.

For my friends who love to pray, the complete Litany of Loreto is below.


Litany of Loreto

V. Lord, have mercy.
R. Christ have mercy.
V. Lord have mercy. Christ hear us.
R. Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us. 
Holy Mother of God, pray for us. 
Holy Virgin of Virgins, [etc.]
Mother of Christ, 
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother most admirable,
Mother of good Counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Savior,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honor,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower of ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of families,
Queen of peace,

V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Spare us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Graciously hear us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of blessed Mary, ever Virgin, may we be freed from present sorrow, and rejoice in eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

The versicle and prayer after the litany may be varied by season. Thus, during Advent (from the fourth Sunday before Christmas to Christmas Eve):

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. O God, who hast willed that by the message of an Angel, thy Word should receive flesh from the womb of the Virgin Mary: grant unto thy suppliants, that we who believe that she is truly the Mother of God, may be assisted by her intercession before Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

From Christmas to Candlemass (the Feast of the Presentation), that is through February 1:

V. Thou gavest birth without loss of thy virginity.
R. Intercede for us, O holy Mother of God.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast offered unto the human race the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the effects of her intercession, through whom we have deserved to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. R. Amen.

From Candlemass to Easter (through Holy Week), AND from the day after Pentecost (or from Trinity Sunday, if Pentecost is celebrated with octave) to the beginning of Advent:

V. “Pray for us” and prayer “Grant unto thy servants,” as above:

During Eastertide (from Easter day through Pentecost, and throughout the octave of Pentecost if it is celebrated):

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. 
R. For the Lord is truely risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast vouchsafed to make glad the whole world, grant, we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His mother, we may attain the joys of eternal life, through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.