Thanks to Webster Bull and Godspeed!

It seems like a million years ago, but it was only back in February(!) when I wrote these words,

Like the officers I served under in the Marines, some of these priests are going to be exceptional. I have some advice for you. Prepare yourself now for the day they will be re-assigned to another post.

Well, that day has come, but it isn’t at my parish. It is right here, in this space. Webster Bull, the founder of the YIMCatholic blog, has officially passed the reins on to me and Allison. He reports that he is “too busy with other writing projects at this time to give YIMC the attention it deserves.” Those of you waiting upon his posts with baited breath may now exhale, and breathe easy.

What can I say to Webster except, thanks for starting this blog! And for his future endeavors I give him a hearty Godspeed and I wish you well! Will Webster never post here again? I honestly don’t know, and I truthfully hope he can stop in from time to time. I am certain of this though; I trust Our Lord knows what He is doing with Webster Bull.

Join me in wishing him well. Bon Voyage, mon frere, and thanks for staying until I didn’t need training wheels!

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The Wonders of Space (Music for Mondays)

Friday evening, the sky was clear and my daughter and I headed over to the university in our town to look at the stars. For her science class, see, extra credit is available and this was one way to take advantage of that opportunity.

The sky was clear, the night air was crisp and the moon was waxing just past half. So my daughter and I jumped in the car and headed to college. Sort of like a father – daughter date night under the stars.

The university folks had three telescopes set up for us and we got to see the Pillars Nebula (seen here from the Hubble telescope), and up close and personal looks at the moon. We also were treated to viewing Jupiter and could clearly see her and four of her moons. And lastly, they slewed the scope over to let us look at a binary star system. We could clearly see those two little suns twinkling at us.  No sign of Tatooine though (but maybe it was there).

Anyway, that is how the theme for this weeks Music for Mondays segment came about. Space, the final frontier.

The theme to Star Trek. How’s this for a mood setter?

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But this, The Known Universe, is even better. One of the research assistants and I were talking about the new planet that was “found” recently that could possibly be supportive of life. You may have seen the story about this planet the size of Jupiter 20 light-years away where, “this planet doesn’t have days and nights. Wherever you are on this planet, the sun is in the same position all the time.” But I’ll need to sleep! The more we look, the more we learn. And the more we learn, the more it seems we already live on the Goldilocks planet, where everything is “just right.” And as it happens, everything has to be just right, as God intended it.

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Next up, David Bowie’s Space Oddity. This is from a 1970 television appearance, and before the Ziggy Stardust era. Confession time: I’ve always loved this song and I sang it to every one of my children when they were babies. Really. I even sang it to the neighbor’s boys when I would play with the kids out on the swing set. You know, for astronaut training purposes.

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The Police, Walking on the Moon. Remember this from 1979, on the leading edge of the early 80′s? The album title? Regatta de Blanc. This from a live concert in 1983.

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Well, now that the moon is on my mind, how about something apocalyptic and classic too? Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bad Moon Rising should do nicely.

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I know I played this already recently in my “To Anne Rice, with Love” segment, but this is a must for any space segment. Elton John’s Rocket Man. Sing along while you enjoy this classic footage.

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Neil Young fleeing Mother Earth? Something like that, in After the Goldrush, with silver spaceships and such.

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What better visuals for a space segment than black holes? And what better music for that subject than Pink Floyd? This from the instrumental version of Shine on You Crazy Diamond.

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Space and Pink Floyd go together like peas and carrots, wouldn’t you agree? One of These Days, is the tune. And this montage of a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Odyssey fits well too.

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It was enjoyable spending time with my daughter, admiring Our Lord’s handiwork. Afterwards, we went and had some frozen yogurt at a shop next to the campus. I blinked a little when I considered that in six short years, my 6th grader may be doing this again with an actual date. Gulp!

See ya’ll next week!

Because of Opinion Polls (Not!)

—Feast of St. Teresa of Avila  

The latest research numbers are out showing (once again) that the average Catholic in the pews in the United States, is morally sick, spiritually lame, and theologically lazy. How in the hell did I wind up surrounded by such a motley crew? How did I slip into this program? Why would I join this outfit?!

Well, I was called is all I can figure.

For forty years they wearied me, that generation. I said: their hearts are wandering, they do not know my paths. I swore in my anger: they will never enter my place of rest—(Psalm 95).

Swearing and anger? Uh-oh. And that’s God talking, through David. And no, this scripture reference wasn’t initially directed at the Vatican II generation, but does it kind of fit? Or doesn’t it fit every generation?

Dateline Palestine, the years 31—33 A.D. Our Lord Jesus Christ,

Who answering said to them: An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. (Matthew 12:39)

and again later,

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. And he left them, and went away.(Matthew 16:4)

Why would I join this Church when seemingly the vast majority of the crew doesn’t believe in Her teachings? Because here’s a news flash for you: I’m not worried about the other crew members.

I’m not concerned with what they say or what they do. I definitely don’t care one iota for what the latest research out of Georgetown University (the institution that willingly covered up all evidence of their Catholicity when President Obama gave a speech there) has to say about Catholicism at all. I’m sure they mean well, but Mark Twain said everything I need to know about these kind of studies.

“They” say you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Well, “they” shoot horses don’t they? How could I join such a Church? Because when it comes to the Roman Catholic Church, the sum is definitely greater than the parts. Squeaky wheels make a lot of noise, in the U.S. and elsewhere,  but seemingly they don’t come to Confession to get oiled.

I didn’t convert to Catholicism because of my wife, or my next door neighbor, my best buddy, or because it is the most popular place to be seen on a Sunday in town. I became a Catholic because Truth hit me like a bolt out of the blue and knocked me on my kiester, much as Webster reminded me in a post he wrote recently.

Hey Frank, how do you know it was Truth? Because I had been running away from Truth pretty much my whole life, at least since I was old enough to leave home. Maybe you believe in your own infallibility. Maybe you believe the tall-tales you tell everyone about yourself. Maybe you believe you don’t need to go to Confession because you’re sinless. Maybe you don’t believe Christ is present in the Eucharist at all, because you are all grown up. Maybe that’s why you believe it is okay to abort babies too, and…

Frankly, I don’t care what you believe. I don’t care how unpopular, or popular, the Church is. And in case you haven’t noticed, the Church doesn’t care if you don’t like the Truth either.

I take that back—the Church does care! She cares so much that she won’t change the message just to make it more palatable to you. She cares so much that she is not going to sugar-coat the Truth for you. She cares so much that She leaves the evidence all over the place: here, and here, and here, and here, and in the Communion of the Saints. But She won’t be taking account of tracking polls, and if She starts, I am out of here (unless called for by a Papal Encyclical)!

Webster’s most recent post asked our readers to pose questions and answers to the riddle of Catholicism. Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions is that the laity doesn’t have to lift a finger in order to be saved. Maybe a lot of those in the pews think that this is their priests responsibility and not there own. My buddy John Wu hit this nail right on the head when he wrote,

the average Christian has no idea of the three ways, the purgative, the illuminative, and the unitive. The spiritual education of the Christian is sadly neglected.

What did St. Paul have to say about this?

So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.—(Philippians 2:12-16)

Riddle me this: what other institution on the planet, either in the past, present, or future ever was formed for the sole purpose of saving souls? How many institutions give you so many avenues to salvation via the Sacraments, because Christ knows that you need them all? And though She won’t sugar-coat the Truth for you, She still forgives you like the most loving and merciful of mothers? Completely forgives you, in such a way that not only does it transform you, but you want to willingly change, because you know you need to. You know that you want to be a son or daughter of God, and that you need to change in order to measure up to this standard.

Reading surveys like these are as meaningful to me as the best places to retire surveys, or the most driver friendly states surveys. I’m not retiring anywhere, or moving anywhere based on these silly reasons anytime soon. And if I do have to move, I likely won’t be doing so because some survey tells me this place is heaven or that place is hell. That assumes some measure of control of my environment, a measure of control that I know I do not have.

Today is the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila, known around these parts as “Big Terry.” She knew about horses too, because her horse threw her as she was crossing a river once. Soaked to the skin she looked up to heaven and said, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!”

Evidently, she was told to get back on her horse and ride. Maybe we should do that too.

Ave Maris Stella, A Poem and a Prayer

The poem below was written by a Scot by the name of John Leyden (1775 – 1811). From what I could find, Leyden was a medical doctor by trade and a Christian. He was even a minister, and according to Wikipedia,

Though he completed his divinity course, and in 1798 was licensed to preach from the presbytery of St Andrews, it soon became clear that the pulpit was not his vocation.

But he evidently had a soft spot in his heart for Our Lady as attested to by the following apologetic words of his publisher in the introduction to these verses,


Though valuing highly the principles of the Protestant faith, we cannot withhold our approval of the many avenues of thought opened up by the Catholic creed, which afford material for beautiful poetry. These stanzes with exception of a few lines are executed in Leyden’s best manner.Many avenues of thought indeed! And material for beautiful poetry? Well, Dr. Leyden was inspired is all that I can figure.  The spray in his face and the wind at his back, set his inner Catholic yearning to breathe free, aboard the good ship ironically named the St. Anthony.  Take a look at what flowed forth from his pen,

Portuguese Hymn

To The Virgin Mary, “The Star of the Sea.”
Written At Sea, On Board The Ship Santo Antonio.Star of the wide and pathless sea,

Who lovest on mariners to shine,

These votive garments wet, to thee,

We hang within thy holy shrine.
When o’er us flash’d the surging brine,
Amid the waving waters tost,
We call’d no other name but thine,
And hoped when other hope was lost.
Ave Maris Stella!
Star of the vast and howling main!
When dark and lone is all the sky,
And mountain-waves o’er ocean’s plain
Erect their stormy heads on high;
When virgins for their true-loves sigh
They raise their weeping eyes to thee;—
The Star of ocean heeds their cry,
And saves the foundering bark at sea.
Ave Maris Stella!
Star of the dark and stormy sea!
When wrecking tempests round us rave,
Thy gentle virgin-form we see
Bright rising o’er the hoary wave;
The howling storms that seem’d to crave
Their victims, sink in music sweet;
The surging seas recede to pave
The path beneath thy glistening feet.
Ave Maris Stella!
Star of the desert waters wild,
Who pitying hears’t the seaman’s cry!
The God of mercy as a child
On that chaste bosom loves to lie;
While soft the chorus of the sky
Their hymns of tender mercy sing,
And angel voices name on high
The mother of the heavenly king.
Ave Maris Stella!
Star of the deep! at that blest name
The waves sleep silent round the keel,
The tempests wild their fury tame,
That made the deep’s foundations reel;
The soft celestial accents steal
So soothing through the realms of woe,
The newly-damn’d a respite feel
From torture in the depths below.
Ave Maris Stella!

Star of the mild and placid seas!

Whom rain-bow rays of mercy crown,
Whose name thy faithful Portuguese,
O’er all that to the depths go down,
With hymns of grateful transport own,
When clouds obscure all other light,
And heaven assumes an awful frown,
The Star of ocean glitters bright.
Ave Maris Stella!
Star of the deep! when angel lyres
To hymn thy holy name assay,
In vain a mortal harp aspires
To mingle in the mighty lay;
Mother of God! one living ray
Of hope our grateful bosoms fires—
When storms and tempests pass away,
To join the bright immortal choirs.
Ave Maris Stella!

And what, pray tell, is this Ave Maris Stella? A beautiful prayer, that’s what.  Again, I’m indebted to the anonymous authors of Wikipedia for the following citation:

“Ave Maris Stella (Latin, “Hail Star of the Sea”) is a plainsong Vespers hymn to the Virgin Mary. It is of uncertain origin and can be dated back at least as far as the eighth century. It was especially popular in the Middle Ages and has been used by many composers as the basis of other compositions. The creation of the original hymn has been attributed to several people, including Saint Venantius Fortunatus.

The melody is found in the Irish plainsong “Gabhaim Molta Bríde”, a piece in praise of St. Bridget. The popular modern hymn Hail Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star, is loosely based on this plainsong original. It finds particular prominence in the “Way of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary” by Saint Louis de Montfort.”

It is certainly a beautiful way to ask Our Lady to pray for us. Won’t you pray this with me now?

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Salsa y Merengue Cristiano Católico (Music for Mondays)

Hola! The world is a mighty big place. I read recently that Catholics in the United States make up only 6% of the world wide population of Catholics. So for this edition of Music for Mondays (Música Lunes), we’re going to venture out into the musical world of our Catholic brothers and sisters from Spain and Latin America.

The inspiration for this? Two events: a) The trapped Chilean miners are very close to being rescued(!) and b) on Saturday, in my town, my family and I went to a Latino Street festival. We had great food, heard fantastic music, and saw wonderful dances, and beautiful costumes. We saw lots of crucifixes too. Our kids got their “passports” stamped and visited Spain, Chile, Paraguy, Uraguy, Argentina, Brazil, and every other country in Central and South America.

We ate tamales from Mexico, Brazilian empanadas, Cuban toasted sandwiches, and pastries from Argentina. We drank peach and manadarin orange flavored sodas from Mexico. We were stuffed! After coming home, I wondered what kind of Christian music I could find that brings this culture to life. The problem? I took German in high school and learned a bit of Arabic in the Marines. So I’m clueless about Spanish. But I know what gets my toes tappin’ so come have a listen!

Or maybe this happened,

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Not yet amigos! First, the music…

The Artists? I have no idea. The sound and visuals? 8 minutes of Bueno!
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRSFjNS7zeA&feature=related]

The Artists are unknown again (if you know, put them in the comm box!) I like how whoever posted these first three video mixes asks everyone to head to adoration: Do not forget to visit your parish Eucharist Jesus as He is in the tabernacle waiting for you to visit and also completely live via Internet 24 / 7 at: www.radioeucaristia.com. Good advice!

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewQAgR7u2jU&feature=related]

Wow, we burned through 20 minutes already?! Here’s another 10 minute mix, merengue this time. I love this music! And the visuals? A great theme featuring our Eucharistic Lord.

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Where did the time go?! Hopefully you can stick around because I want to introduce you to Sister Hermana Glenda. Evidently Sister Hermana is bigger than Matt Maher, seeing how her clips are well over the one million views mark, according to the YouTube counters. That’s Pink Floyd territory! She’s from Chile and for more on her background, let’s check this clip (at least the first segment) from Deacon Greg Kandra’s crew at Currents in New York City,

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And now, check out her beautiful voice,

Sister Hermana Glenda, Nada es imposible para ti (Nothing is Impossible for You).
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Sister Herman Glenda, Magnificat. This is fantastic!

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Boy, this edition of MfM has my passport burning a hole in my pocket. See you next week.

Because I’m Billy Jack (Not Francis of Assisi)

A while back, I wrote a post where I said that I became a Catholic because I discovered that Christ, and His Church, wanted 100% of me. My whole heart, soul, mind and strength. The full-spectrum of Frank, warts and all. I needed to change, but I didn’t have to stop being a man.

I’m especially thankful for this, as I don’t fit the mold of modern-day milquetoast Christian guy. Namby-pamby, pacifistic, always gentle and kind. The ancients counseled “Know thyself,” and I know this about myself: I’m more like Billy Jack than I am like St. Francis of Assisi.

Remember Billy Jack? The movie character brought to life by Tom Laughlin?  He made four movies as this character. The first was Born Losers where we meet Billy and his back-story. Fresh out of the Army, Special Forces. A former Green Beret, see? Eager to turn his sword into a ploughshare. “I ain’t a gonna study war no more,” as the ditty goes.

But then some bad guys roll into town on their choppers and start terrorizing the locals. Raping, pillaging, and generally carrying on in a despicable manner, disturbing the peace with impunity. Enter Billy Jack, who moves to protect the weak with his gifts of strength and skill. Does he go over the top with his vigilantism? Of course (it’s a movie, after all)!

The next movie he made was simply titled Billy Jack, and now he is seriously trying to make himself into a pacifist Christian guy, like he believes he is supposed to do. A square peg trying to fit into a round hole. But Billy is a warrior, and though in his heart he deplores violence, sometimes he realizes that is what is called for. Like in this scene below,

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That could easily be me. I’m not saying it’s pretty, but the Marine in me, the berserker, can admit that it is pretty true. The difference between me now, and Billy Jack/former Frank, is that a) I know that standing up to bullies and hooligans is not forbidden “Christian man” behavior, and b) if my switch gets tripped and I go nuclear, as Billy Jack does in the clip above, the confessional is only a few blocks away if my conscience screams, “You went too far!”

I understand the use of deadly force. I understand that it is hard to control violence, and that lines are crossed daily, from the misapplication of force, changing lives for the worse forever. But I’m also a man, a husband, a father, and a warrior. A protector of not only my family, but of the innocent, a champion of the oppressed, a friend to the unloved. This is what I, with the help of the Church, am teaching my two boys. Teaching them what it means to be a strong Christian, a strong Catholic man. And I trust that my daughter will benefit from this too.

There has been lots of press lately about young people taking their own lives when they were bullied to the point of no return. If they weren’t physically assaulted, then they were attacked verbally. I’m left with a question to parents of children everywhere: Where are the Christian kids who aren’t afraid to back up the bullied kids? Who aren’t afraid to befriend them? Who actively rally around them and protect them?

Obviously, it takes fortitude to go against the mainstream, especially in the peer-pressure-cooker pack of the school-age set, both in public and private schools. Sometimes, it takes young men with the mindset of Billy Jack to police the halls of the world and keep the peace. Thankfully, there are Warrior Saints I can share with my children too.

We have to teach our children this fortitude, along with the rest of the Cardinal virtues of justice, temperence, and prudence. These complement and put into action the Theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Teaching our children only the latter (the Theological virtues), while neglecting the former, will leave them ill-equipped to be faithful examples of lived Christianity in our world today.

We are called to love, and to pray for peace. But we are not to turn our backs on injustice, or flee from standing up for what is right, or run away from defending the weak.

I pray that my children, and yours, will do the right thing: love and protect all of their peers—the popular, the average, and the unpopular, and that they be virtuous in this life. Amen.

YIMCatholic Book Club Poll Results

Thanks to the 44 of you who voted for our next Book Club selections! The polls have closed and here are the results:

Flannery O’Conner’s Wise Blood led the field with 15 votes. As such, this will be the first book we read to start the YIMCatholic Book Clubs fiscal (biblio?) year. Head to the book store, friends, so we can get started with the discussions, say by October 21st, which will continue for approximately once per week for four weeks.

Next, we had a tie between Silence by Endo Shusaku and Loss and Gain by John Henry Newman, both which garnered 10 votes.

I’ve decided to read Shusaku’s book first, with the first discussion around January 20, 2012. Why? Because I’d like to read it before I see the movie based on it that will be filmed by Martin Scorsese. And it would be, I believe, a striking contrast from Flannery’s Southern fried world to the setting of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Then, say around April 21, we’ll head to England for Blessed John Henry Newmans Loss and Gain. And on or about July 21, we will end the year with Father Robert Benson’s smash hit Lord of the World, which came in with 9 votes overall.

There you have it Book Clubbers, a plan of action for the next 12 months for the YIMCatholic Book Club. Novels, this time around, and volunteers to help lead the discussions are always appreciated. We might even be able to twist the arms of Webster and Allison into participating.

Get thee to a book seller, or library, and I’ll see you in the study on October 21st. Happy reading!

For I Was Blind And Could Not See

—Feast of St. Faustina

My youngest son and I went camping with the Cub Scouts last weekend. The weather was spectacular and although the leaves in the forest haven’t turned their brilliant Fall colors quite yet, the air was crisp and the sky was cloudless.

On Saturday afternoon, after a morning hike and a lunch of vienna sausages, trail mix, and other camping fare, the boys played organized games in a field next to our campsite. Several of these games included wearing blindfolds. One of them struck me particularly as an analogy for one of the reasons why I am Catholic.

The game I’m referring to is really quite simple: you simply try and walk in a straight line while blindfolded. First, you stand and face the finishing point, in this case another person about 50 feet away. You establish the mental reference point for your destination, and then you are blindfolded and told to walk to that spot.

Practically no one made it to the target. Most could not continue in a straight line. Many veered off course, some at significantly sharp angles. Walking blind will do that to you.

Aviators, who are trained to fly on their instruments alone, will tell you the perils of flying blind. They will tell you that you can’t trust your senses, but that you need to trust your instruments. I’ve heard stories of pilots feeling like all is well, completely unaware that they were flying upside down or sideways.

But let’s keep this simple and get back to the Cub Scouts trying to make it from point A to point B while blindfolded. To me, the Catholic Church is like a person who guides us along that imaginary line between point A, where we are, and point B, where we hope to arrive. That, quite simply, is back to God. And the goal, as we used to say in the Marine Corps, is to arrive “on time, and on target.”

I tried the other ways before, you know, the “no, I am not lost” route. Or the, “I can read this stuff by myself and figure it all out” route. These routes led me astray, much as the blindfold tricked these Cub Scouts, who to the best of their abilities, thinking they were walking straight ahead, veered 30 to 35 degrees to starboard (or to port, for that matter) within the first 3 steps of the walk.

The Church, is the guide, and I, well, I was walking blind for a mighty long time. The responsorial to the Psalms in today’s readings sums up my both my experience with the Church and my desires quite nicely,

Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.

Amen.

YIMC Book Club Selection Poll

It’s time for another horse race folks. The four selections in the poll (see left side-bar) are all novels written by Catholics that I would like to read over the next twelve months. So,  I’ve put them together and I would like for you to help me choose in what order we will read them. One book per quarter, or at least that is my intention.

Head on over to Amazon and run a query on these selections and then put your vote in the ballot box. The selection with the most votes will be our next read, and we will read the runner-up second, and so on down the line.

We will start reading the winning selection on or around the 3rd week of October. Thanks for your support!

A Poem And A Prayer on Michaelmas

Today is the Feast of St. Michael and the Archangels, also known as Michaelmas. I like the calendar name Michaelmas and that this day used to be a huge festival marking the beginning of Autumn. I actually hope that this day is celebrated extravagantly still somewhere on the globe. Does anyone know?

What follows is a brief hymn penned by Blessed John Henry Newman to mark the occasion. Written in 1862, this was published in 1867 in a volume entitled Verses on Various Occasions.  

Saint Michael
(A hymn)
Thou champion high
Of Heaven’s imperial Bride,
For ever waiting on her eye,
Before her onward path, and at her side,
In war her guard secure, by night her ready guide!
To thee was given,
When those false angels rose
Against the Majesty of Heaven,
To hurl them down the steep, and on them close
The prison where they roam in hopeless unrepose.
Thee, Michael, thee,
When sight and breathing fail,
The disembodied soul shall see;
The pardon’d soul with solemn joy shall hail,
When holiest rites are spent, and tears no more avail.
And thou, at last,
When Time itself must die,
Shalt sound that dread and piercing blast,
To wake the dead, and rend the vaulted sky,
And summon all to meet the Omniscient Judge on high.




Cardinal Newman wielded a mighty pen, as this volume of poems is almost 400 pages in length. I look forward to sharing more of Blessed John Henry’s poetry with you as we make our way through the liturgical calendar.

Now, this feast day would not be complete without a prayer asking St. Michael the Archangel to pray for us and for the Church. Happily, I also found this excellent video presentation of Pope Leo XIII’s original prayer to St. Michael. Composed sometime between 1884 -1898 (I couldn’t find the definitive date), the original prayer is both longer and more soul satisfying than the short version that I am used to seeing.

Pray it along with me now (and please share it with others).

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And how about some recipes for dishes traditionally served on this feast day, courtesy of the good folks at Fish Eaters? Now this is the kind of eating, praying, and loving I can get used too. May I have seconds on the goose please?


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