For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies V

This is your co-pilot once again.  It is a beautiful afternoon up here in the cockpit.  Cruising now at only 10,000 feet.  We’re safe from small arms fire, but still within range of SAM’s (Surface to Air missles). Oh I don’t want to alarm you or anything, but as we get closer to the end of Lent, the cross-country flight will draw to a close and we’ll be back to flying sorties over enemy territory. Close Air Support, etc. Ten thousand feet is getting down to where Webster and I usually live. We’ll cruise at this altitude next Friday too.

Today is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, so Webster has ordered Surf and Turf for this evening’s dinner. Yep, New York Strip grilled to order (don’t ask how we pulled that off) and grilled gumbo shrimp to boot. That will go well behind that Cheeseburger and Cherry Coke lunch we had up here in the cockpit. Caesar salad and your favorite beverages will be on the side.

And for our in-flight entertainment? Becket starring Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton in this fully restored masterpiece. Ever had a buddy who was an enabler, you know, aided and abetted your carousing, etc? If you were King of England, wouldn’t it be cool to appoint your pal the Archbishop of Canterbury? Think of the wacky stunts you could pull if your confessor was your best buddy! That’s what Henry II thought when he appointed Becket as Archbishop. A stunning story of “be careful what you wish for” from both sides of the friendship spectrum.

Enjoy the show, and thanks again for flying with us!

P.S. I Think you can watch the whole thing at You Tube.

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Because I Don’t Have to Eat Fish Today

Our esteemed guest poster Allison Salerno has a nose for news. Thanks to which, I’m having steak for dinner! What, no fish on Friday during Lent?! Not thanks to my patron saint, Joseph, whose solemnity we celebrate today. I say it’s just another good reason to cultivate a devotion to the husband of the Virgin Mary and the Custodian of our Redeemer. Thanks, St. Joe! Here’s the word from the Archdiocese of Chicago, forwarded by Allison:

FRIDAY ABSTINENCE SUSPENDED THIS FRIDAY FOR THE FEAST OF ST. JOSEPH
Since the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19th, falls on a Friday this year, the question arises regarding the requirement of  abstinence from meat. Since St. Joseph’s day holds the rank of a solemnity and the character of a solemnity is one of rejoicing, penitential practices like abstinence from meat are not required. People may choose voluntarily to abstain from meat on March 19, but it is not required. Hence, Catholics can participate in a St. Joseph’s table without worrying about breaking the penitential  discipline of Lent.

See Canon 1251: “Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Sharpen your steak knives, Catholic! And get out the A-1!

For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 9 and His Feast Day)

Two years ago today, I realized that I didn’t want to take Thomas (More) as my confirmation name, I wanted to take Joseph. Taking “A Man for All Seasons” as my patron was aiming too high, I thought: statesman, writer, martyr. Joseph was more my speed: husband, father, worker. It was a fortuitous choice. Three days later was the Easter Vigil, and my father drove up from Connecticut to witness my reception into the Catholic Church. Three months later, Dad was dying of melanoma. I did not know at the time that St. Joseph is the patron saint of a happy death.

All summer long I said prayers for my father before the statue of St. Joseph that stands at the front of our church at the head of the right aisle. That St. Joseph stands watch over this post too. Dad died six months to the day from Easter, a happy man who had a happy death, or so I like to think.

Our late great Pope John Paul II gets a final word in this series of nine posts about St. Joseph, a novena that culminates today. His Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer) was written on the hundredth anniversary of Leo XIII’s encyclical Quamquam Pluries. As I wrote yesterday, Leo’s encyclical began a process of frequent “upgrades” of St. Joseph in the eyes of the Church. Redemptoris Custos summarizes a century of Papal teaching.

It’s late and you don’t need a lecture from me about it, so I’ll just give you the link here. Read it in your spare time. Say a prayer to St. Joseph. And listen to the closing words of a homily to him by Karl Rahner, SJ:

We have a good patron, who is suitable for everyone. For he is a patron of the poor, a patron of workers, a patron of exiles, a model for worshipers, an exemplar of the pure discipline of the heart, a prototype of fathers who protect in their children the Son of the Father. Joseph, who himself experienced death, is also the patron of the dying, standing at our bedside. We have inherited from our Father a good patron. But the question put to us is whether we remain worthy of this inheritance, whether we preserve and increase the mysterious rapport between us and our heavenly intercessor.

Joseph lives. He may seem far away from us, but he is not. For the communion of saints is near and the seeming distance is only appearance. The saints may seem eclipsed by the dazzling brightness of the eternal God, into which they have entered, like those who have vanished into the distance of lost centuries. God, however, is not a God of the dead, but of the living. He is the God of those who live forever in heaven, where they reap the fruits of their life on earth, the life that only seems to be past, over and done with forever. Their earthly life bore eternal fruit, and they have planted that fruit in the true soil of life, out of which all generations live.

And so Joseph lives. He is our patron. We, however, will experience the blessing of his protection if we, with God’s grace, open our heart and our life to his spirit and the quiet power of his intercession.

Blessed St. Joseph, patron of the dying, stand by us now and at the hour of our death!

Thanks Again to CL, A Charism for Our Times

I was talking with a friend at breakfast the other day, and we were talking about Communion and Liberation (CL), the ecclesial movement in which we both take part. A thought jumped to the tip of my tongue, then out into the room. And as thoughts can do, it is still knocking around in my head. My friend was asking why the readings for CL are so obtuse. And of course he’s right. Reading the books of Father Luigi Giussani (left with JPII) is a challenge not only to the intellect but also to the compassion. I mean, why can’t he just come out and say it?!

There are mitigating circumstances. The book we are reading now is a transcript of Giussani’s meetings with students and was translated from Italian. So, in addition to the things that inevitably get lost in any translation, we’re coping with the loss of hand gestures, winks, eye rolls, changes of modulation, not to mention inside jokes and information, which are present in any improvised discourse. So our CL readings require intellectual perseverance. To understand them, I think one must study them three or four times, thoughtfully, carefully.

Representatives of CL that I have met and admired have the brain power to do this. They are not stupid. Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, the CL “Responsible” for the US has called CL “Opus Dei for bad people.” He did not say dumb people. Among my CL friends are Ph.D’s in history and music theory, graduate fellows at leading academic medical centers, computer whizzes. Albacete himself is a scientist who publishes op-ed pieces in the New York Times.

Which has led me to ask why. Why this charism for our times?

The leaders of CL (including el jefe since Don Giussani’s death, Fr. Julian Carron) are fond of quoting Dostoevsky, who said that the real question with Christianity today is, “Can an educated man of our times truly believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ?”

The Dostoevsky quote popped up again this week in a passage we are reading for our School of Community (local meeting) on Friday evening. And here’s where my mind seems to have made a connection, which instantly popped onto my tongue. I said to my friend at breakfast:

“Let’s look at the Franciscans. What is their charism? Poverty. Francis came into the world at a time of great power and corruption in the Church, and what was the antidote provided by the Holy Spirit? Poverty. ‘Francis, repair my Church, which you see is in ruins!’ Poverty was the hammer in Francis’s tool kit.

“Now we have a new charism brought by Don Giussani (and, no, I’m not canonizing him, nor would he want to be canonized, I imagine). What is the charism of CL? I’m not qualified to answer this question, but the words were already on my tongue and out onto the breakfast table: The charism of CL is reason.”

CL says that faith is anything but blind, that faith is eminently reasonable. In other words, CL meets the intellectuality of our current culture—great-grandchild of the Enlightenment—on its own terms. Don Giussani seems to have understood that he was dealing with (that the Christian message had to made convincing to) educated Western man. His charism, then, was reason, the only effective hammer for our times.

I sent one of my Italian CL friends, call him “Z,” a link to a recent post I wrote about a Nobel Prize-winner. I recounted how the Nobel laureate claimed, with Laplace, that “God is an unnecessary hypothesis.” This is what Z wrote back:

THIS IS AMAZING! BUT I NEED TO TALK YOU MORE ABOUT THIS!!!!!!
my understanding is the opposite: you cannot be a scientist without acknowledging the Mystery, God
EINSTEIN SAYS: “….HE WHO DOES NOT ADMIT TO THE UNFATHOMABLE MYSTERY CANNOT EVEN BE A SCIENTIST”
This is quite impressive, it is a matter of reason… these people unfortunately they lost their reason, it is not that they do not have a heart only, but they lost their reason,,…. why? when you give a small present to a kid he asks you why? the normal trajectory of reason is cut:
Who was it who said that God is an unnecessary hypothesis? these people may have a repulsion to the term God… because unfortunately (this is a problem of ours, the church and the believers) in the way the word God is used it means you need to forget your reason…
BUT IT IS THE OPPOSITE
if reality is not a Mystery what does science study? what do you study? just processes of nature?? if this is what really is… why is the Nobel prize for science so unbelievable great? It is great because science studies the unknown… but reality is a sign of a greater Unknown… to be human being, to be a scientist you cant escape this question, otherwise you are a dead man…. not only the heart is dead but reason is dead. ciao and talk soon…. i have so much to tell you about, ciao

Now that you’ve read Z’s e-mail, you have some idea what it is like to read Don Giussani. Which I must do again before tomorrow’s School of Community. But, I mean, one ciao is enough, isn’t it?!

FOOTNOTE: This post is the product of my own judgment and in no way represents official CL teaching brought by Don Giussani. But no worries. If I have misrepresented CL here, I expect Z will let me know.

YIMC Book Club, “Mere Christianity,” Week 9

This week we read Book IV, Chapters 9,10, and 11.

Can you hear Barry Manilow sing Looks like we made it? Are you turning cartwheels or heaving a sigh of relief? Show of hands: How many of you actually stuck it out and read the whole thing? On second thought, don’t answer that. Don’t worry about it either, because you could get away with reading just Book IV of Mere Christianity and come away with a new appreciation for the path you have chosen.

If nothing else, this last section of Jack’s book will cause you to pause and reflect on the enormity of the task that lies ahead as you walk this narrow path to salvation. In chapter 9 Jack discusses frankly the “be careful what you wish for” aspect of Christianity.

Did you think you just had a few things to work on, and then all would be well? Jack reminds us that  Our Lord says to each of us, “Be perfect.” And that means trusting in Him and enduring all manner of trials as you are undergoing the transformation to perfection. And Jack doesn’t sugar coat it for us either.  Making the change will kill you. Yes, you will become perfect and die trying. 

Tempted to throw in the towel? You can count on that temptation. Expecting consolations in this world? Don’t count on that one. Take heart, fellow sojourner—

When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected), he often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along-illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation-he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.

Do you think being a Christian is all about being nice? In Chapter 10 Jack does his level best to disavow you of that namby-pamby notion, too. I’m just a regular guy, but I don’t think you would classify me as a really, really nice guy. Ugh! I’m a Marine, for crying out loud! And I’m a Christian. I can’t speak to your experience, but I think many men have just turned off to Christianity because of the attempt to wedge their square selves into the round hole of nicety.

Jack comes up with some solid arguments to the contrary here. We are becoming new people when we become Christians. For cradle Catholics, you still have to go through this transformation just like us converts. Because as you see here, Jack acknowledges the brutal fact that the change isn’t necessarily a rapid one. And what of the conundrum of the not-so-nice Christian and the very nice non-Christian? Jack tackles that question with alacrity via an analogy a land-navigating Marine like me loves: that of the compass combined with free-will,

Will they, or will they not, turn to Him and thus fulfill the only purpose for which they were created? Their free will is trembling inside them like the needle of a compass. But this is a needle that can choose. It can point to its true North; but it need not. Will the needle swing round, and settle, and point to God? He can help it to do so.  He cannot force it.

Not that niceness, on the whole, isn’t to be encouraged. But as Jack explains, remember that Christ came to save the sick and the poor and those most in need of redemption.  The trick is, of course, that this means all of us! For,

God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.

And Jack explains that this is a transformative experience, not unlike turning a horse into a totally different creature with wings. And now to the final chapter, The New Men.

Chapter 12 begins with an idea that lays to rest any fear that science and reason are incompatible with Christianity. The Theory of Evolution? Heck, as Catholics you should know that as far as the Church is concerned, the theory has validity. Jack agrees, and what thinking person doesn’t? And as Jack reports, the next evolutionary step made its appearance over 2000 years ago. Not by evolution will the next step arrive, but by revolution—

It is not a change from brainy men to brainier men: it is a change that goes off in a totally different direction-a change from being creatures of God to being sons of God.

And daughters too.  It is almost impossible for me to comment on this last chapter because Jack weaves pretty much all of the concepts from the entire book into this final one. I like how Jack portrays the Christian world as one that is still in its infancy. 2000 years old? A mere blink of the eye. Much more work for us to do so stop focusing on the “end times” and start working on the transformation. Which brings us to this thought (and proof) that insure this book remains a timeless classic:

The present wicked and wasteful divisions between us are, let us hope, a disease of infancy: we are still teething. The outer world, no doubt, thinks just the opposite. It thinks we are dying of old age. But it has drought that so often before! Again and again it has thought Christianity was dying, dying by persecutions from without or corruptions from within, by the rise of Mohammedanism, the rise of the physical sciences, the rise of great anti-Christian revolutionary movements. But every time the world has been disappointed. Its first disappointment was over the crucifixion. The Man came to life again. In a sense-and I quite realize how frightfully unfair it must seem to them-that has been happening ever since. They keep on killing the thing that He started: and each time, just as they are patting down the earth on its grave, they suddenly hear that it is still alive and has even broken out in some new place. No wonder they hate us.

It’s hard to keep a good man down, and impossible to keep the Son of Man or His Church down. I’ll wrap this up and turn it over to you and the comment box with one last thought of Jack’s,

The more we get what we now call “ourselves” out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of “little Christs,” all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented-as an author invents characters in a novel-all the different men that you and I were intended to be.

After all, this is the message of Divine Mercy: Jesus, I Trust In You.  Lord, give me the strength to let go of the reins.

Announcement:

The YIMC Book Club will now go on hiatus. We’ll be back sometime after Easter for our next selection, Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies.

For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 8)

If you don’t believe that Church tradition develops under the influence of the Holy Spirit, listen to how St. Joseph has been almost methodically “upgraded,” along with the Holy Family, by one Pope after another since the nineteenth century. This was not just a case of Popes waking up in the middle of the night and thinking to themselves, “Gee, I’d like to do something nice for St. Joe.”

In 1870, at a difficult time in the Church’s history, Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph the Patron of the Catholic Church. “In the providence of God,” writes Michael D. Griffin, OCD, “nothing has, I believe, made the faithful so directly conscious of the special importance of Saint Joseph. From that time onwards, devotion to Joseph has grown by leaps and bounds within the Church.”

In the great encyclical Quamquam Pluries (1889), Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) established the foundation of the theology of St. Joseph, stating that Joseph is greatest of the saints after Mary and ahead of all the other saints. His encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) would sum up the teaching of the Church on the singular role of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church:

The divine household which Joseph governed as with paternal authority contained the beginnings of the new Church. The Virgin most holy is the mother of all Christians, since she is the mother of Jesus and since she gave birth to them on the Mount of Calvary amid the indescribable sufferings of the Redeemer. Jesus is, as it were, the firstborn of Christians, who are His brothers by adoption and redemption. From these considerations we conclude that the Blessed Patriarch must regard all the multitude of Christians who constitute the Church as confided to his care in a certain special manner. This is his numberless family scattered throughout all lands.

Leo instituted the Feast of the Holy Family on the Third Sunday after Epiphany. That would change twice in the next eighty years.

Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922), in his Bonum Sane (1920), stated that the only hope for nations lies in families. Benedict made the Feast of the Holy Family a day of obligation and transferred it to the First Sunday after Epiphany. Benedict XV also reestablished March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph, as a holy day of obligation.

Pope Pius XI (1922–1939) left several teachings about St. Joseph and was the first Pope to state that Joseph belongs to the order of the Hypostatic Union along with Jesus and Mary. His successor, Pius XII (1939-1958) instituted the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1, as an antidote to the Communist celebration of May Day.

Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) had a special devotion to St. Joseph and even proposed in May 1960 that the Assumption of St. Joseph into heaven “is worthy of pious belief.” This was ten years after Pius XII solemnly defined the Assumption of Mary. When John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council, he commended it to the heavenly patronage of St. Joseph. Perhaps even more important was John’s insertion of Joseph’s name in the Canon of the Mass, immediately after the name of Mary and before all other saints.

Paul VI (1963-1978) spoke often of St. Joseph in homilies, and in 1969 he moved the Feast of the Holy Family to within the Octave of Christmas. While John Paul I lived only a month as Pope in 1978, his successor, John Paul II, issued the crowning tribute to St. Joseph with his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer), on the hundredth anniversary of Quamquam Pluries. We’ll look at Redemptoris Custos tomorrow, on the final day of this novena, the Feast of St. Joseph.

Throughout this series of St. Joseph, I have been offering excerpts from a homily on the Feast of St. Joseph by Karl Rahner, SJ. Here’s the penultimate section:

[Joseph] received into his family the one who came to redeem his nation from their sin, one to whom he himself gave the name of Jesus, a name which served the eternal Word of the Father, the Word who had become a child of this world. And people called their redeemer the son of a carpenter. When the eternal Word was audible in the world in the message of the Gospels, Joseph, having quietly done his duty, went away without any notice on the part of the world.


But the life of this insignificant man did have significance; it had one meaning that, in the long run, counts in each person’s life: God and his incarnate grace. To him it could be said: “Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.” Who can doubt that this man is a good patron for us? This man of humble, everyday routine, this man of silent performance of duty, of honest righteousness and of manly piety, this man who was charged with protecting the grace of God in its embodied life?


Contemporary Christians might find their way back to what is best in them if the individuality of this man, their patron, were again producing more stature in them. Granted, a nation must have greatness of spirit and pioneers who will lead it toward new goals. Just as much, if not more so, however, a nation needs men and women of lifelong performance of duty, of clearheaded loyalty, of discipline of heart and body. A nation needs men and women who know that true greatness is achieved only in selfless service to the greater and holy duty that is imposed upon each life; human beings of genuine reverence, conquerors of themselves, who hear the word of God and carry out the inflexible decrees of conscience. It needs men and women who through their lives bear the childlike, defenseless grace of God past all those who, like Herod, attempt to kill this grace. A nation needs men and women who do not lose confidence in God’s grace, even when they have to seek it as lost, as Joseph once sought the divine child. Such individuals are urgently needed in every situation and in every class.

Blessed St. Joseph, whose clear example of dedication, righteousness, and manly piety has never been more needed than today, pray for us!

“A Prayer for My Daughter” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so we’d best pick an Irish poet for this regular feature—or else I’ll be in Dutch with my Irish wife, the erstwhile Katie McNiff. Yeats or Wilde? That was my question. Oscar Wilde, for all his flamboyance, had a deeply spiritual side. (Read his “De Profundis” some day when you feel that God is far away.) But with one daughter of mine being received into the Catholic Church at Easter and the other embarked on an exciting new career path, I have to go with William Butler Yeats (left) and his beautiful prayer for his own daughter. St. Joseph would have understood:

Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
But Gregory’s wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind,
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.

I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.

Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-leggd smith for man.
It’s certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.

In courtesy I’d have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty’s very self, has charm made wise,
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.

May she become a flourishing hidden tree
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
And have no business but dispensing round
Their magnanimities of sound,
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
O may she live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

My mind, because the minds that I have loved,
The sort of beauty that I have approved,
Prosper but little, has dried up of late,
Yet knows that to be choked with hate
May well be of all evil chances chief.
If there’s no hatred in a mind
Assault and battery of the wind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.

An intellectual hatred is the worst,
So let her think opinions are accursed.
Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
Out of the mouth of Plenty’s horn,
Because of her opinionated mind
Barter that horn and every good
By quiet natures understood
For an old bellows full of angry wind?

Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven’s will;
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.

And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all’s accustomed, ceremonious;
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 7)

This series of posts on St. Joseph has drawn few formal comments to YIM Catholic. But friends have taken me aside, both in person and on line, to say that St. Joseph has attracted their attention. At the end of our visit today, my real-life friend Joan of Beverly noted the remarkable coincidence that devotion to St. Joseph is peaking in an age when the family is under attack more than ever. On-line friends Mujerlatina and Maria have been commenting too. Maria came up with this 100-year-old volume on Devotion to St. Joseph, a treasure I haven’t dug into yet.

The increasing interest in St. Joseph over the past 800 years that I have been detailing is a fascinating case study in how the Catholic Church’s traditions evolve with the times under the influence of the Holy Spirit. If your guiding rule were Sola Scriptura (the Bible is the only authority), you would have little to say about St. Joseph since he has literally nothing to say in the Gospels. But our Church, formed by Christ himself and the first Apostles, led by Peter, takes a broader view.

One of the more interesting testimonies to St. Joseph in recent centuries is the brief account of his early life given by the German mystic and stigmatist Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774–1824). Her four-volume Life of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is an epic visionary account of Salvation History from Adam and Eve through the death, burial, and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. It influenced Mel Gibson in making The Passion of The Christ, and it is currently influencing me. I have been reading a little bit of it most days at Adoration, and I’m sure I’ll have more to write at a future date. I hasten to add that Emmerich’s visions are not considered formal dogma or doctrine, any more than St. Teresa of Avila’s visions and voices are highlighted by the Church. But they exist for the faithful to contemplate.

Here’s Emmerich’s brief bio cribbed from the Web link to her book in the preceding paragraph:

ANNE CATHERINE EMMERICH [left] was told by Our Lord that her gift of seeing the past, present, and future in mystic vision was greater than that possessed by anyone else in history. Born at Flamske in Westphalia, Germany, on September 8, 1774, she became a nun of the Augustinian Order at Dulmen. She had the use of reason from her birth and could understand liturgical Latin from her first time at Mass. During the last 12 years of her life, she could eat no food except Holy Communion, nor take any drink except water, subsisting entirely on the Holy Eucharist. From 1802 until her death, she bore the wounds of the Crown of Thorns, and from 1812, the full stigmata of Our Lord, including a cross over her heart and the wound from the lance.

Anne Catherine Emmerich possessed the gift of reading hearts, and she saw, in actual, visual detail, the facts of Catholic belief which most of us simply have to accept on faith. The basic truths of the catechism–angels, devils, Purgatory, the lives of Our Lord and the Blessed Mother, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the grace of the Sacraments–all these truths were as real to her as the material world. Her revelations make the hidden, supernatural world come alive. They lift the veil on the world of grace and enable the reader to see, through Anne Catherine’s eyes, the manifold doctrines of our Faith in all their wondrous beauty.

And here is Emmerich’s account of Joseph’s early life. The image below is based on her description of the home he grew up in:

Among many things which I saw today of the youth of St. Joseph, I remember what follows.

Joseph, whose father was called Jacob, was the third of six brothers. His parents lived in a large house outside Bethlehem, once the ancestral home of David, whose father Isai or Jesse had owned it. By Joseph’s time there was, however, little remaining of the old building except the main walls. The situation was very airy, and water was abundant there. I know my way about there better than in our own little village of Flamske.

In front of the house was an outer court (as in the houses of ancient Rome), surrounded by a covered colonnade like a cloister. I saw sculptures in this colonnade like the heads of old men. On one side of the court was a fountain under a stone canopy. The water issued from animals’ heads in stone. There were no windows to be seen in the lower story of the dwelling house itself, but high up there were circular openings. I saw one door. A broad gallery ran round the upper part of the house, with little towers at each of its four corners, like short, thick pillars, ending in big balls or domes on which little flags were fastened. Stairs led up through these little towers from below, and from openings in the domes one had a view all round without being seen oneself. There were little towers like this on David’s palace in Jerusalem, and it was from the dome of one of these that he saw Bathsheba at her bath. This gallery ran round a low upper story with a flat roof on which was another building with another little tower. Joseph and his brothers lived in the upper story, and their teacher, an aged Jew, lived in the topmost building. They all slept in a circle in one room, in the middle of the story which was surrounded by the gallery. Their sleeping places were carpets, rolled up against the wall in the daytime and separated by removable screens. I have often seen them playing up there in their rooms. They had toys in the shape of animals, like little pugs. [Catherine Emmerich uses this word indiscriminately for any creatures she does not know.] I also saw how their teacher gave them all kinds of strange lessons which I did not rightly understand. I saw him making all kinds of figures on the ground with sticks, and the boys had to walk on these figures; then I saw the boys walking on other figures and pushing the sticks apart, placing them differently and rearranging them and making various measurements at the same time. I saw their parents, too; they did not trouble much about their children and had little to do with them. They seemed to me to be neither good nor bad.

Joseph, whom I saw in this vision at about the age of eight, was very different in character from his brothers. He was very gifted and was a very good scholar, but he was simple, quiet, devout, and not at all ambitious. His brothers knocked him about and played all kinds of tricks on him. The boys had separate little gardens, at the entrance of which stood figures like babies in swaddling clothes on pillars, but sheltered a little (in niches perhaps?). I have often seen figures like these, and there were some on the curtain which hung by the praying-place of St. Anne and also of the Blessed Virgin, but on Mary’s curtain this figure held something in its arms that reminded me of a chalice with something wriggling out of it. Here in St. Joseph’s house the figures were like babies in swaddling clothes with round faces surrounded by rays. In still earlier times I noticed many figures of this kind, particularly in Jerusalem. They appeared, too, in the Temple decorations. I saw them in Egypt as well, where they sometimes had little caps on their heads. Amongst the figures which Rachel carried off from her father Laban there were some like these, but smaller, as well as other different ones. I have also seen these figures lying in little boxes or baskets in Jewish houses. I think perhaps that they represented the child Moses floating on the Nile, and that the swaddling-bands perhaps symbolized the tightly binding character of the Law. I often used to think that this little figure was for them what the Christ Child is for us.

I saw herbs, bushes, and little trees in the boys’ gardens, and I saw how Joseph’s brothers often went in secret to his garden and trampled or uprooted something in it. They made him very unhappy. I often saw him under the colonnade in the outer court kneeling down with his face to the wall, praying with outstretched arms, and I saw his brothers creep up and kick him. I once saw him kneeling like this, when one of them hit him on the back, and as he did not seem to notice it, he repeated his attack with such violence that poor Joseph fell forward onto the hard stone floor. From this I realized that he was not in a waking condition, but had been in an ecstasy of prayer. When he came to himself, he did not lose his temper or take revenge, but found a hidden corner where he continued his prayer.

I saw some small dwellings built against the outer walls of the house, inhabited by a few middle-aged women. They went about veiled, as I often saw women doing who lived near schools in the country. They seemed to form part of the household, for I often saw them going in and out of the house on various errands. They carried water in, washed and swept, closed the gratings in front of the windows, rolled up the beds against the walls and placed wickerwork screens in front of them. I saw Joseph’s brothers sometimes talking to these maid-servants or helping them with their work and joking with them, too. Joseph did not do this; he was serious and solitary. It seemed to me that there were also daughters in the house. The lower living-rooms were arranged rather like those in Anna’s house, but everything was more spacious. Joseph’s parents were not very well satisfied with him; they wanted him to use his talents in some worldly profession, but he had no inclination for that. He was too simple and unpretentious for them; his only inclination was towards prayer and quiet work at some handicraft. When he was about twelve years old, I often saw him go to the other side of Bethlehem to escape from his brothers’ perpetual teasing. Not far from the future cave of the Nativity there was a little community of pious women belonging to the Essenes, who dwelt in a series of rock-chambers in a hollowed-out part of the hill on which Bethlehem stood. They tended little gardens near their dwellings and taught the children of other Essenes. Little Joseph went to visit these women, and I often used to see him escaping from his brothers’ teasing to go to them and join in their prayers, which they read by the light of a lamp in their cave from a scroll hanging on the wall. I also saw him visiting the caves of which one was afterwards the birthplace of Our Lord. He prayed there quite alone, or made all kinds of little things out of wood; for there was an old carpenter who had his workshop near these Essenes with whom Joseph spent much of his time. He helped him with his work and so little by little learnt his craft. The art of measuring which he had practiced at home under his master’s tuition was here of great use to him.

His brothers’ hostility at last made it impossible for him to remain any longer in his parents’ house; I saw that a friend from Bethlehem (which was separated from his home by a little stream) gave him clothes in which to disguise himself. In these he left the house at night in order to earn his living in another place by his carpentry. He might have been eighteen to twenty years old at that time.

To begin with, I saw him working with a carpenter at Lebona. This was the place where he first really learnt his craft. His master had his dwelling against some ancient walls which ran from the town along a narrow ledge of hill, like a road leading up to some ruined castle. Several poor people lived in the walls. I saw Joseph making long stakes in a place between high walls with openings above to let in light. These stakes were frames for wicker-screens. His master was a poor man, and made mostly only such common things as these rough wicker-screens. Joseph was very devout, good, and simple-minded, everybody loved him. I saw him helping his master very humbly in all sorts of ways—picking up shavings, collecting wood, and carrying it back on his shoulders. In later days he passed by here with the Blessed Virgin on one of their journeys, and I think he visited his former workshop with her.

His parents thought at first that he had been carried off by robbers; but I saw that he was discovered at last by his brothers and severely taken to task, for they were ashamed of his low way of life. He was, however, too humble to give it up; though he left that place and worked afterwards at Thanath, near Megiddo, by a small river called Kishon which runs into the sea. Joseph lived here with a well-to-do master, and the carpenter’s work which they did was of a higher quality. Later still I saw him working in Tiberias for a master-carpenter. He might have been as much as thirty-three years old at that time. His parents in Bethlehem had been dead for some time. Two of his brothers still lived in Bethlehem; the others were dispersed. The parental home had passed into other hands, and the whole family had come down in the world very rapidly. Joseph was very devout and prayed fervently for the coming of the Messiah. He was just engaged in building beside his dwelling a more retired room for prayer, when an angel appeared to him and told him not to do this, for, as once the patriarch Joseph at about this time had, by God’s will, been made overseer of all the corn of Egypt, so he, the second Joseph, should now be entrusted with the care of the granary of salvation. Joseph in his humility did not understand this, and gave himself up to continual prayer, till he received the call to betake himself to Jerusalem to become by divine decree the spouse of the Blessed Virgin. I never saw that he was married before; he was very retiring and avoided women.

This vivid account perhaps has no place in this string of posts about the history of devotion to St. Joseph. But it helps me to remember a simple fact: he was a real guy with real parents, brothers, house, and so on.

O blessed St. Joseph, whose holiness becomes only more vivid the more we study and meditate on you, intercede for us!

Because We Don’t Celebrate Sin

Guest post by Allison 
I don’t have any delusions about the human race. We’ve been messing up our lives ever since Eve ate that apple. While we all keep sinning, in recent years in our popular culture a new trend has taken hold: celebrating sin.

This phenomenon allows us to label some people “bad boys and girls” and leaves the rest of us off the hook. If we are busy laughing at Octomom or Jon Gosselin, we don’t have to spend time contemplating our own failings. I am Catholic because my Church recognizes that we all sometimes fall short of God’s standards. And it offers us the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a way for us sorrowful sinners to redeem ourselves.

For some reason this week, I can’t get Rielle Hunter out of my head. The woman who committed adultery with presidential candidate John Edwards now is featured in the latest issue of GQ, scantily dressed and lying seductively in their daughter’s bed. Have we lost all our shame as a culture?

Please understand, I don’t mean to single out Ms. Hunter for judgment. She is merely one in a long line of lost souls who have gained fame by behaving in ways that, in an earlier generation, would have caused her and her family great shame. She and others have gone on to make money by celebrating their failings. GQ seems to be earning plenty of advertising dollars with this formula: unwed teen father Levi Johnston, who fathered a child with one of Sarah Palin’s daughters, appeared shirtless in their May 2009 issue, holding his baby.

I don’t want to go back to the days where we stoned adulterers. But for all the jabs we hear about  “Catholic guilt,” my Church recognizes that we do sin and offers us, through its Sacraments, an opportunity to get back into God’s sanctifying grace.

Like many parents, I worry about the world my sons will leave home for, a world that makes a mockery of the Ten Commandments, including its admonishments against adultery, and against stealing and lying. It’s a world that thinks it’s entertainment to label, often with those folks’ permission, some souls “bad boys and girls” and put them on display.

I pray that the relationships we cultivate within our parish and our wider community will help our sons understand what has lasting value. I hope they understand that their bodies are beautiful gifts from God and homes for their souls. I hope we are helping them to understand that we are to regret, not celebrate, our own sins.

The Church always offers us a chance for redemption. But we need to understand right from wrong and teach it to our children. Let us pray that our souls, and the souls of our fellow travelers, don’t lose their way to Heaven.

For Timely Passages Like These from the LOTH for Today

Its been a while since I did a post on the LOTH, our acronym for the Liturgy of the Hours.  We could have called the Prayer of the Church the DO for Divine Office, but we went with LOTH instead. And shame on me for only just now getting to praying it, but pardon me too: I work for a living.

Knowing the recent news regarding more allegations of abuse coming to light within the Church, the following passages (published how many years ago ?) are in the prayer for Lauds this morning. They couldn’t have come at a better time.

Psalm 100 (101)

The declaration of a just ruler

I will sing of kindness and justice –
to you, Lord, will I sing.
My thoughts shall follow the way of perfection:
when will you come to me, Lord?

I will walk with an innocent heart
through the halls of my palace.
I will allow no evil thing in my sight.
I will hate the man who retreats from perfection:
he may not stay near me.

The wicked of heart must leave me;
the plotter of evil I will not acknowledge.
The man who plots against his neighbour in secret:
I will suppress him.
The haughty of eye, the puffed-up and proud –
I will not support them.

I will turn my eyes to the faithful of the land:
they shall sit with me.
Whoever walks in the way of perfection –

he shall be my servant.
The haughty shall not live in my palace;
the slanderer shall not stand in my sight.
Each morning I will suppress
all the wicked of the land.
I will rid the city of the Lord
of all that do evil.

Followed by this passage I had quoted in my post on Sunday from Psalm 144,

Blessed be the Lord, my help,
who trains my hands for battle,
my fingers for war.
The Lord is kindness and strength,
my refuge and my liberator.
He is my shield, and I trust in him –
he places my people under his rule.

And further on these short passages are timely too. Or is it just me? First from the midmorning reading (Terce),

Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord! Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations.’ -Joel 2:17

then from the noon reading (Sext),

We have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our ancestors from our youth until today, and we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God. -Jeremiah 3:25

and finally from the afternoon reading (None),

Shout for all you are worth, raise your voice like a trumpet. Proclaim their faults to my people, their sins to the House of Jacob. They seek me day after day, they long to know my ways, like a nation that wants to act with integrity and not ignore the law of its God. -Isaiah 58:1-2

From the Office of Readings, we have these thoughts from a Sermon on charity (read love) given by Pope St. Leo the Great (died in 461),

In John’s gospel the Lord says: “By this love you have for one another, everyone will know you are my disciples.” In a letter by John we read: “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”

So the faithful should look into themselves and carefully examine their minds and the impulses of their hearts. If they find some of the fruits of love stored in their hearts then they must not doubt God’s presence within them, but to make themselves more and more able to receive so great a guest they should do more and more works of durable mercy and kindness. After all, if God is love, charity should know no limit, for God himself cannot be confined within limits.

Coincidence? Or the Holy Spirit at work? Mark me down for believing the latter. Please continue to pray for our Church, the victims of sexual abuse and their families, and our Pope and Church leaders as they come to grips with the mutineers.

Pax Christi


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