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St. Philip Neri, Be Careful What You Pray For

neriSt. Philip Neri is perhaps best known for his profound sense of humor and his ability to hone it in observance of the awkwardnes of man’s pursuit of sanctity. But in the spirit of Saints Peter, Jerome and the like whose hot heads God refined in formation of remarkably zealous leaders, Neri also had a reputation as an irascible man whose temper often got the best of him. 

 Below is my summary of a funny story about this fellow son of thunder to which I can relate:

Philip Neri once fell to his knees before a statue of Our Lord and begged Him to free him from his anger. He then departed the sanctuary feeling hopeful and soon encountered a brother who was usually peaceful and not likely to trigger Philip’s anger. But for some reason, that would not be the case on this day.
The man tested Philip’s patience, causing him to easily enrage. “What was that all about?” He wondered before returning to the crucifix and falling to his knees once more. “Um Jesus, did I not just ask you to free me from this anger that enslaves me?” To which the voice of Our Lord responded, “Yes, Philip, you did… which is why I am giving you plenty more opportunities to learn.”
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Good Friday and the Virtue of Courage (G.K. Chesterton)

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Lastly, this truth is yet again true in the case of the common modern attempts to diminish or to explain away the divinity of Christ. The thing may be true or not; that I shall deal with before I end. But if the divinity is true it is certainly terribly revolutionary. That a good man may have his back to the wall is no more than we knew already; but that God could have his back to the wall is a boast for all insurgents for ever. Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete. Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point—and does not break. In this indeed I approach a matter more dark and awful than it is easy to discuss; and I apologise in advance if any of my phrases fall wrong or seem irreverent touching a matter which the greatest saints and thinkers have justly feared to approach. But in that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

– G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

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The Convert (Chesterton)

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The Convert by G.K. Chesterton

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

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“The Quickening of St. John the Baptist” by Thomas Merton

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Why do you fly from the drowned sea of Galilee,
Grimsby the sands and the water?
Why do you leave the ordinary world, Virgin of Nazareth,
The yellow fishing boats, the farms,
The winesmelling yards and low cellars
Or the oilpress, and the women by the well?
Why do you fly those markets,
Those suburban gardens,
The trumpets of the jealous lilies,
Leaving them all, lovely among the lemon trees?

You have trusted no town
With the news behind your eyes.
You have drowned Gabriel’s word in thoughts like seas
And turned toward the stone mountain
To the treeless places.
Virgin of God, why are your clothes like sails?

The day Our Lady, full of Christ,
Entered the dooryard of her relative
Did not her steps, light steps, lay on the paving leaves
like gold?
Did not her eyes as grey as doves
Alight like the peace of a new world upon that house, upon
miraculous Elizabeth?

Her salutation
Sings in the stone valley like a Charterhouse bell:
And the unborn saint John
Wakes in his mother’s body,
Bounds with the echoes of discovery.

Sing in your cell, small anchorite!
How did you see her in the eyeless dark?
What secret syllable
Woke your young faith to the mad truth
That an unborn baby could be washed in the Spirit of God?
Oh burning joy!

What seas of life were planted
by that voice!
With what new sense
Did your wise heart receive her Sacrament,
And know her cloistered Christ?

You need no eloquence, wild bairn,
Exulting in your hermitage.
Your ecstasy is your apostolate,
For whom to kick is contemplata tradere.
Your joy is the vocation of Mother Church’s hidden children –
Those who by vow lie buried in the cloister or the hermitage;
The speechless Trappist, or the grey, granite Carthusian,
The quiet Carmelite, the barefoot Clare, Planted in the night of
contemplation, Sealed in the dark and waiting to be born.

Night is our diocese and silence is our ministry
Poverty our charity and helplessness our tongue-tied
sermon.
Beyond the scope of sight or sound we dwell upon the air
Seeking the world’s gain in an unthinkable experience.
We are exiles in the far end of solitude, living as listeners
With hearts attending to the skies we cannot understand:
Waiting upon the first far drums of Christ the Conqueror,
Planted like sentinels upon the world’s frontier.

But in the days, rare days, when our Theotokos
Flying the prosperous world
Appears upon our mountain
with her clothes like sails,
Then, like the wise, wild baby,
The unborn John who could not see a thing
We wake and know the Virgin Presence
Receive her Christ into our night
With stabs of an intelligence as white as lightning.

Cooled in the flame of God’s dark fire
Washed in His gladness like a vesture of new flame
We burn like eagles in His invincible awareness
And bound and bounce with happiness,
Leap in the womb, our cloud, our faith, our element,
Our contemplation, our anticipated heaven
Till Mother Church sings like an Evangelist.

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Ashes to Ashes: Here Marks Lent

Ash-Wednesday

“And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” – Genesis 2:7 KJV

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” – Genesis 3:19

“All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” – Ecclesiastes 3:20

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” – Job 42:5,6

Fear not, for your fasting and penance is not done in vain. God calls us to repent for our greater good. Yeah, you may look silly with that dirty cross on your forehead. Probably even a little pharisaic to outsiders. Perhaps you’re not ready to defend the Faith when someone asks you about it. So what? Do what you can and let God handle the rest. Never forget that we walk by faith – faith which will ultimately be confirmed in you!

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” – Isaiah 61:1-3

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Here’s a word of encouragement from St. Paul as we begin Ash Wednesday and enter into the mystery of the lenten season (2 Thessalonians 1):

“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. 11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

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“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” – 2 Thess. 2:15

lentguide-2Throwback: Lenten Reflections

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Saint Valentine of Rome

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We know of at least a few Catholic Saints by the name of Valentine (or Valentinus, derivative of the word valor), but tradition primarily celebrates a certain St. Valentine of Rome – patron saint of young people, engaged and married couples and bee keepers (huh). His intercession is also sought against epilepsy, fainting and plague (oh my!). And finally, Valentine is the patron saint of – you guessed it – greeting card manufacturers! One might say this is his hallmark patronage. *Ba dum tss*

St. Valentine is perhaps best known for marrying Roman soldiers against the will of the Empire. You see, Claudius II desired celibacy for the sake of unhindered devotion to his beastly war machine. Could you imagine trying to blast a Goth with an infant climbing all over your catapult? The young military candidates’ wives and kids were holding them back. These guys knew as well as we do that man cannot serve two masters, so it was either lay down your life for your bride or for the emperor. Actually, the latter was officially mandated leaving the poor lovestruck saps without much of a choice.

But of course this wasn’t effective in keeping people from falling in love for very long. In fact, it caused many to turn to the Church and her holy ministers like our beloved Valentine here for succor. Being far more fruitful than war, love always prevails. As does truth.

After a good fight and countless conversions, Emperor Claudius summoned Saint Valentine for interrogation and had him clubbed, stoned and beheaded after he attempted to convert him. Legend holds that the Saint left a note to his jailor’s daughter which he signed, “Your Valentine”.

How’s that for a love story in the tradition of our Founder? I’ll take a good romance over “Fifty Shades of Grey” any day.

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See Also:

http://percalamus.com/2014/02/14/chocolate-and-chesterton-on-st-valentines-day/

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St. Thomas Aquinas: Verbum Supernum (poem)

thomas-aquinas

Verbum Supernum

The heavenly Word proceeding forth,
Yet leaving not his Father’s side,
And going to His work on Earth,
Has reached at length life’s eventide.

By false disciple to be given
To foemen for His blood athirst,
Himself, the living bread from Heaven,
He gave to his disciples first.

In twofold form of sacrament,
He gave His flesh, He gave His blood,
That man, of soul and body blent,
Might wholly feed on mystic food.

In birth man’s fellow-man was He,
His meat while sitting at the board;
He died, our ransomer to be,
He reigns to be our great reward.

O saving Victim, opening wide
The gates of heaven to man below;
Our foes press hard on every side,
Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow.

All praise and thanks to thee ascend
For evermore, blessed One in Three;
O grant us life that shall not end,
In our true native land with Thee.

Happy Feast Day! St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

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