To Give Thanks to the Life of My Aunt Dora

Guest Post by Dee Sparacio

102 years and 9 months. That is how long my Aunt Dora Minnefor lived on this great earth. Early yesterday morning, she passed into the loving arms of God. She was an incredible woman. She was independent yet was always there at any time to help others. She was my father’s sister . When my mother passed away when I was five years old my dad didn’t even ask her, Aunt Dora just moved in. She took wonderful care of my sisters, Melabee and Roberta, and me.

A few years ago, Aunt Dora went through the stage where she told everyone not to buy her gifts for anything. Not birthday gifts, no Mother’s Day gifts, no Easter gifts and no Christmas gifts. As we were looking through her address book yesterday I came across something I wrote to Aunt Dora for her birthday when she didn’t want a gift. I had forgotten about it until I opened the paper. It holds true today.

Dear Aunt Dora,
I promised not to buy you a gift but I wanted to share these thoughts with you.

Your Gift To Me
While making gravy,
Working outside the home,
Or taking care of those you love,
You showed how all these things are done
With never a complaint.
Gladly sharing stories of how things used to be
And using them to show us how to be
The best that we could be.
I only hope that I can share with others
What you have shared with me-
Simple acts, yet precious gifts
Forever in my heart.
Happy Birthday.
Love, Dorinda

Every day is a blessing. For the past 55 years, I have been blessed by the guiding hand and love of my Aunt Dora.

We beseech Thee, O Lord, in Thy mercy to have pity on the soul of Thy handmaid; do Thou, who hast freed her from the perils of this mortal life, restore to her the portion of everlasting salvation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies IV

It’s roughly the midpoint of Lent. Unlike last Friday, when we were celebrating a Solemnity, we are back to abstaining from meat today. But no worries. I’ve always been fond of fish tacos, so that is what’s on the menu at Casa del Weathers tonight. And there is beer to go with them, for the adults anyway, so all is well.

Tonight’s feature presentation is Lilies of the Field starring Sidney Poitier. Poitier won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for this film in 1964. I never saw it though because I was a baby in swaddling clothes around that time.

But I’ve always liked Poitier’s work. For example:  Blackboard Jungle, The Bedford Incident, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. I also liked him in To Sir with Love and They Call Me MISTER Tibbs. Come to think of it, I don’t think there is a single movie I’ve seen him in that I did not like.

So what is this film about? Based on a true story that was fictionalized as a novel by William Edmund Barret, the story is about one Homer Smith and a group of nuns he stumbles upon.  Out of luck, and out of work, he stops to put some water in his radiator at a farm in Arizona while heading westward to find construction work. The farm just happens to be run by a gaggle of transplanted East German nuns from the Sisters of Walburga.

As it turns out, this is a match made in heaven and brought together on earth. Homer isn’t to sure about all this, bun the nuns are. Have a look at the trailer (and prepare to be sucked in for the whole enchilada).

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Are you humming the tune “Amen” yet? Head to your usual video outlets, or watch this on You Tube or over at Gloria.tv in its entirety.


Because the Disciples Were Just Like You (Friday Funnies)

Let me start this post with a hat-tip to Brandon Vogt, convert and Catholic blogger over at The Thin Veil. You may recall that Brandon hosted one of our book club meetings once.

He posted a link on his Facebook page today to a blog of a fellow named Don Miller who, you guessed it, I had never heard of before today. This is reason #1367 for why I didn’t give up Facebook for Lent.

Is Don Miller a Catholic? I don’t think so, but as I’ve explained here before I don’t hold that against anybody, especially when they are as funny as what I will be sharing with you here. See, he put together a wee list of traits of true disciplines of Christ. Guess what? You’ll make the cut. Take a look,

Here are some actual characteristics of the disciples I think we can safely trust. If you resonate with any of these, you’re in a good spot and likely following Jesus:

1. You think Jesus wants to take over the government so you cut off a soldiers ear in order to get the fighting started. (The neo cons are definitely disciples!)

2. You keep pestering Jesus about who he will give more power to in heaven.

3. You have no theological training but own a small fishing business which somehow makes you qualified because you “get it.”

4. The Holy Spirit crashes into one of your mini sermons so everybody can speak different languages and outsiders think you’re drunk.

5. People ask you if you know Jesus and you freak out and say no and run away.

6. You hear they killed Jesus on a cross and you figure the whole thing was a wash and you got duped.

7. You choose other disciples by playing rock, paper scissors.

8. You teach bad theology and have to have somebody else come over and correct you.

See? You’ll do just fine too. Trivia Question Bonus Round: Can you identify which disciples met these particular characteristics? Put them in the combox below by number. The answers may surprise you. Then head on over and read the whole post at Don’s blog.

Update: The Horror!

For Must See TV Like This

Who needs the TV Guide when I have New Advent to keep me informed about what is coming on the television? It’s a rare night in Casa del Weathers, when something isn’t going on to interfere with watching something on TV.

But tonight, we will be free to watch the following special that airs on the History Channel at 9PM (Eastern).

I visited the Vatican once, and all I got was a lousy t-shirt. But that was before I was a Catholic, see. I’m much more interested now. Here is what the folks at the History Channel have to say,

Secret Access: The Vatican provides a revealing look at the inner workings of the Vatican, from the secret archives to the Swiss guards, as well as some of the treasures locked inside. See what is housed under the 110-acre site as an ongoing excavation of an ancient cemetery that the Vatican was built upon uncovers priceless artifacts, including the bones of St. Peter himself. Go inside the Vatican Secret Archives – a collection of rooms and libraries containing some of history’s priceless documents. And get to know Vatican security: the top-of-the-line procedures and practices utilized by a combination of Swiss Guards (elite guards to the Pope), Vatican police, and Italian police that keep the Pope and Vatican safe.

And I hear they even speak to the Vatican’s astronomer? I’m in!

Here is a video clip for you about tonights program. Check your local listings and tune in.

For Napoleon’s Answer to the Question “Who Is Jesus Christ?”

Back in January, I reviewed Eric Sammon’s book, Who Is Jesus Christ? It is a great book and I highly recommend it to you. Many have asked themselves the same question about the identity of the obscure Jewish carpenter from Galilee.

Last week I shared with you the knowledge that Napoleon Bonaparte died a good Catholic death. Today, as I was reading a selection available on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, I stumbled across Napoleon’s answer to this very question.

I was happily just reading along in Cardinal James Gibbon’s book, Our Christian Heritage when the following thoughts of Napoleon’s leapt off the page in the concluding paragraphs to chapter XV,

From The Divinity of Christ Attested by Himself and His Disciples

Cardinal Gibbons writes,

The first Napoleon was not a theologian; but he was a great man, and a profound observer, whose vast experience had enabled him to judge what forces were necessary to produce a lasting effect on mankind. When chained to the rock of St. Helena, he had ample leisure to measure the greatness of men and to estimate them according to their true value.

One day in a conversation with Montholon, he put this question to him: “Who was Jesus Christ?” Montholon having declined to answer, Napoleon proceeded:

“I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded great empires. But our empires were founded on force. Jesus alone founded His empire on love, and to this day millions would die for Him. I think I understand something of human nature, and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man. Jesus Christ was more than man.”

“I have inspired multitudes with a devotion so enthusiastic that they would have died for me. But to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, my voice. Who cares for me now removed as I am from the active scenes of life, and from the presence of men? Who would now die for me?”

“Christ alone across the chasm of eighteen centuries makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy. He asks more than a father can demand of his child, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart. He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally, and forthwith His demand is granted.”

“Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man with all its powers and faculties becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers.”

“Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame. This is what strikes me most. This is what proves to me quite convincingly that Jesus Christ is God.”

You may enjoy the entire chapter of Cardinal Gibbon’s book here.

It’s Time For Winter To Go!(Music for Mondays)

Remember this picture? That’s Dr. Van Helsing putting a stake through the heart of Dracula’s lady friend, Lucy. Pretend it’s me putting a stake through the heart of Winter. Enough already!

Sure, our readers who live in the tropics are wondering what the fuss is all about, but for us in the Northern Hemisphere? Let’s just say that this has been a long, cold winter. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to bid it adieu.

Since I have no control over the planets’ climate, here are a few songs that make me think of warmer places. Maybe you’ll feel the same way.

Everclear, Santa Monica. I don’t need it to be endless summer, but hangin’ in Santa Monica would do wonders for my mindset right now. I wouldn’t even think the water is cold.

Sheryl Crow, All I Wanna Do. Speaking of Santa Monica…Los Angeles on my mind? Something like that! Sun would equal fun right about now. Besides, I hear the Dodgers are playing the Angels today…Go Dodgers!

Van Halen, Panama. Sounds like Van Helsing! I don’t know much, but I know it’s warm in Panama. Gimme us some heat! Oh, and I hear David Lee Roth is joining the band again…

Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughn, Pipeline. Somehow I found a way to squeeze some SRV in here. A guitar duel with Dick Dale, who wrote this tune and made it famous. From the movie soundtrack of Back to the Beach. Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, etc. Warmth!

Depeche Mode, Route 66. I don’t care how much gas costs, or how long it would take. Because this road winds through all kinds of warm places, especially compared to Chicago (where it starts).

Jimmy Buffet, Cheeseburger in Paradise. Remember when you could use your grill? You’ll be able to soon. Have faith!

Bob Marley, Jammin’. Back when I was stationed in Malaysia, where it’s warm all the time (unless you go to the Highlands), we played this song a lot. Nothing like reggae to help you leave wintertime behind.

There, that’s a little better, isn’t it? Hopefully it will be Spring where you live next week.

For Bernard of Clairvaux’s Bible Reading Program to Make Sense of the World

Back in October of last year, I shared thoughts written by a Doctor of the Church with you. It was from a homily St. Bernard of Clairvaux had written and preached to the brothers in his order about one of the books in the Old Testament. As I was re-reading the homily today, these words of truth leapt off the screen,

there are two evils that comprise the only, or at least the main, enemies of the soul: a misguided love of the world and an excessive love of self…

I named the post where these words can be found For Solid Food Like This (Hold the Milk). As posts of mine go, it was unread for the most part. Last week I suggested that we all could spend an extra hour a week reading the Bible. But Frank, you may be thinking, where do we start? I think St. Bernard might have an idea or two.

In that homily, which is on the title of The Song of Songs, he recommends two of my favorite books from the Old Testament to tackle: The Book of Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.

Comparing these two books to loaves of rich bread, here is what he says to us about them in regard to his quote above,

These are two loaves of which it has been your pleasure to taste, loaves you have welcomed as coming from the cupboard of a friend.

Of course, he is addressing the brothers in the Cistercian order. As such, he is no longer talking to mere babes in Christ, but to soldiers of Christ. No longer folks who believe, but folks who have committed their whole life to Christ and His Church. And today, he is speaking then to Christians who are ready to take the training wheels off their bicycles and really begin to ride. But why these two particular books? Here’s what Doctor Mellifluus has to say,

The Book of Proverbs: Uproots pernicious habits of mind and body with the hoe of self-control.

Have we thrown self-control and self-discipline to the wayside? It appears that St. Bernard is describing the merits of this book as the first phase of recruit training to me. The process where we scrub off our old, worldly selves and become immersed in the culture of our new family. More than just a thought, where in our minds the light-bulb comes “on”, this book deals in concrete actions that teach us how to become practicing Christians and children of God. The military analogy that pops in my mind? Marines aren’t born, they’re made. The same is true for Christians. And what of the second book?

Ecclesiastes: by the use of enlightened reason, quickly perceives a delusive tinge in all that the world holds glorious, truly distinguishing between it and deeper truth. Moreover, it causes the fear of God and the observance of his commandments to be preferred to all human pursuits and worldly desires.

To me this is St. Bernard’s “know your enemy” book recommendation, comparable to Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The shocker to many is that the Church doesn’t discard the use of reason, but she embraces it. Many have thought, “Why is Ecclesiastes even in the Canon of Scriptures?” Because the Church Fathers deemed this inspired book’s merits far outweighed its demerits, and for the very reasons that St. Bernard cites above.

Qohelth describes the world as we know it. Writing as if he is King Solomon, “the Teacher” profiles all of the paths that people take in the world, and describes in pithy phrases the stark truth: all of these ways lead to dead-ends except one. Which is why the good Doctor can say this without batting an eye about these two books,

the former is the beginning of wisdom, the latter its culmination, for there is no true and consummate wisdom other than the avoidance of evil and the doing of good, no one can successfully shun evil without the fear of God, and no work is good without the observance of the commandments.

Tempted to skip these two books and head straight to the Song of Songs? I wouldn’t recommend it and neither does St. Bernard.

Taking it then these two evils have been warded off by the reading of choice books, we may suitably proceed with this holy and contemplative discourse which, as the fruit of the other two, may be delivered only to well prepared ears and minds.

In other words, don’t put the cart before the horse. Learn the fundamentals, and practice them constantly until they become second nature. No, I don’t have this completely “wired” yet and probably never will. But we have to start somewhere and practice, practice, practice.

The Book of Proverbs is pretty straight forward, and the notes in your Catholic Bible should have all the resources you need to understand it. Ecclesiastes may be a little more challenging, but there is a lot of information available to help you along with the writer’s, and thus the Holy Spirit’s, reasoning. As Our Lord says,

but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Come to the well.

For Stuff My Abba Macarius Says

I’ve mentioned in the past that my patron is St. Macarius the Great. He was a Desert Father who lived between the years 300 – 390 AD. He went into the desert when he was thirty years old, became a priest when he was 40 years old, was accused of adultery, and when he was proved innocent, he fled and headed to a place in the Egyptian desert called Scetis.

I probably went right by Scetis once or twice and never even knew it when I took a trip up to the battlefield at El Alamein when I was stationed in Cairo.

I also made a trip up to Alexandria too, and may have passed it by again in my ignorance. I was young and more interested in the human history of the battlefields in North Africa at the time. If I only knew then what I know now.

How did I choose Abba Macarius’s name for my confirmation name? I’ve written about that before, but I left out one little thing. It’s silly actually because it makes no sense at all. I confess that selfishness is one of the reasons. I figured that when I needed a little help from my patron, if I chose one of the well known saints, the line for my prayers to wait in would be long and winding. My solution? Choose a saint no one has heard of and the prayer line will be short! See? I’m always thinking.

A more serious reason why I chose Abba Macarius was because of the homilies attributed to him. I found out he wrote twenty-two homilies, but it turns out it’s more like fifty. Did he really write them? Or did someone else write them and use his name (much as the writer of Ecclesiastes leads us to believe he was King Solomon)? I don’t know, and I really don’t care. But having them available accomplished several things for me. First, they give a viewpoint of early Christianity that is very Catholic. Secondly, they help me by giving me access to my patrons’ wise council whenever I need it (which is often!).

The saints point us to Christ and His ways. These homilies do just that. They are powerful and I’d like to share a couple of them with you,

Homily 7: How the soul ought to demean herself in
holiness and purity, towards her Bridegroom Jesus Christ.

If a glorious prince should take a liking to a poor woman that has nothing, and have her brought home to him for his spouse, she ought ever after to show all good will to this husband, and retain a constant love for him. But if she transgresses the bounds of decency and duty, then she is turned out of doors with disgrace and reproach, and is full of sorrow; reflecting from how great wealth she is fallen, and what glory she has lost. Thus also the soul, which Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, shall espouse to himself, ought to please Christ, her lover; carrying herself in the house of this heavenly Spouse with a fair deportment, and a grateful sense of the grace bestowed upon her. Lo! such a soul is actually invested with the full command of all her Lord’s goods, and her body becomes the glorious tabernacle of his Godhead.

But if she does not the things that are pleasing to him, and is not perfectly observant of his will, then with reproach and disgrace is she disrobed of all her honor, as no way proper for the communion of the heavenly King. And after that, there commences an universal grief and lamentation over that soul among all the saints and intellectual spirits: angels, powers, apostles, prophets,and martyrs, mourn for her. For as “there is joy in heaven,” as the Lord has said, “over one sinner that repenteth,” so is there great grief and mourning in heaven over one soul that falls from eternal life.

We must therefore strive, and with the utmost prudence take care to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Whosoever therefore you are, that have been made partakers of the Spirit of Christ, look upon yourselves in no case whatever, whether small, or great, to be above advice; neither do any despite to the Spirit of grace, that you may be never excluded from the life which you have been made to partake of.

Let us therefore beg of God, that we, as many as have been partakers of his grace, may minister acceptably in the service of the Spirit, according to his will; that thus serving him according to his will with a spiritual service, we may inherit eternal life.

But can a man fall that has the gift of grace? Answer: If he grow careless, he certainly falls. For his enemies are never idle, or backward in the war. How ought you then never to desist from seeking after God? For the damage which you sustain by your neglect is exceedingly great, though you may seem to be even established in the mystery of grace.

Are the perfect liable to affliction or war, or are they entirely free from care? Answer: An enemy never respites any from the war. And Satan is perfectly void of mercy: wherefore neither is he backward to set upon any man whatever, though he does not attack all in the same measure and degree.

But there is need of much pains and labor, that a man may seek and lay the foundations, till such a time as the fire shall come into the hearts of men, and purge away the thorns. And thus do they begin to be sanctified, giving glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, for ever. Amen.

Homily 8: That spiritual men are liable to temptations and fictions.

As the experienced husbandmen, in a year of plenty, expect a time of dearth; and on the other hand, when dearth and difficulties overtake them, they are not dejected; as knowing there will come a change. So in the spiritual state, when the soul falls into divers temptations, it is not surprised as at a strange or unusual thing, neither does it despond, because it knows that they come by permission, that it may be tried and disciplined by the evil that befalls it. Neither again, when it abounds in wealth and ease, is it free from apprehension, but expects a change.

For when a man is rich in grace, there is yet a remnant of corruption with him: he has one however that takes his part, and that comes to his assistance. Whenever therefore any one is in afflictions, and the storm of corrupt affections thickens upon him, yet ought he not to quit his hope. For then sin gains ground. But when a man retains his hope in God, sin crumbles as it were, arid, and dries away.

As a well that runs, and has all about it nothing but moist grounds, when the heat comes on, both itself and its adjacent bogs are dried up; thus it is with the servants of God, in whom grace abounds; that dries up the concupiscence, not only that which is from the wicked one, but that also which is natural; because (of) that, now the men of God are greater than the first Adam.

Christians therefore belong to another world, are the sons of the heavenly Adam, a new generation, the children of the Holy Spirit, the bright and glorious brethren of Christ, perfectly like their Father, the spiritual and glorified Adam, of that very city, of the same kind, and of the self-same power. He himself says, “Ye are not of this world, even as I am not of this world.”

Yet a fear they still have upon them, not indeed that of novices, that live in a dread of wicked spirits; but a fear and concern how they may best employ the spiritual gifts they are entrusted with. And such a one as this looks upon himself to be despicable beyond all sinners. This reflection is as deeply rooted in him, as if it were his very nature. The more he advances in the knowledge of God, so much the less is he in his own eyes. And though he learns never so much; he is still as one that knows nothing. But these things are wrought in the soul by the ministration of grace.

The case is not unlike that of an infant in the arms of a young man; the bearer carries it about whithersoever he pleases: so does grace also carry the mind about, and bear it upwards into the very heavens, to the perfect world, and eternal rest.

****
As the Holy Spirit says in the Epistle to the Hebrews,

Continue to have confidence, since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.—Hebrews 10:35-36

Abba Macarius, pray for us.


For Your Lenten Friday Night at The Movies III

Today is a Feast Day (and all that this implies)! What better way to celebrate than with burgers and hotdogs on the grill followed by a movie about the greatest game ever invented? Is this heaven?

If it’s still too cold to think of grilling where you live, than live vicariously through me and my family. We’ve been playing baseball since March 14th (my sons team is 5-1 so far) and enjoying every minute of it. Except it was a bit chilly yesterday (shiver me timbers!).

But no matter. Did you guys see my friend Pat McNamara’s post on Catholics making better athletes? Who cares if it’s true or not. But it was dripping with baseball and I’m a sucker for that game ever since my oldest got interested.

So here is the movie for this week: The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid. Based on the true story of a high school baseball coach, who against all odds tried out for his dream job and actually makes it to the Show. Oh, and he’s a husband, daddy, estranged son, and a teacher too.

It ain’t easy street, by any stretch of the imagination. But that is part of the appeal! Everything matters, and like a famous saying about baseball coined by Yogi Berra, it ain’t over till it’s over. This is the best “G” rated movie, that isn’t animated, that I have ever seen. Check out the trailer,

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98 miles an hour?! He should see Blaise Pascal’s cut-fastball. You all know where to go to pick up your videos. Go forth and enjoy.

Next week? Sidney Poitier in Lillies of the Field.

Because Mary Said “May It Be Done to Me”

Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord. Before I was a Catholic, I wouldn’t have even known what that all means. Just another one of those big ol’ words linked to Jesus’s mom that everyone knew Catholics worshiped.

Mary, schmerry, I thought, God can do anything. If Mary would have said no, big damn deal.

Sort of like asking a girl to dance at a party and you get rejected.”Sorry God, looks like she said No. Let me buy you a beer to help you put the flames out.” Next candidate please. There’s a lot of fish in the sea. [Read more...]


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