Rather ferocious about the angels. Don’t be afraid.
Rather ferocious about the angels. Don’t be afraid.
This was a spectacularly good retreat. What remains is to ask our Lady to trample that crescent moon under her heel.
Your situational awareness is good enough whereby you see that sliver of a crescent moon in the picture above, right?
But who’s the most terrible enemy these days? There are enemies from outside and enemies within. There is the world, the flesh and the devil.
Saint Michael! Defend us!
Guardian angels! Protect us!
Gotta repost this.
Example One: Before beginning the Genesis project, I made brave and asked my guardian angel if it were possible to figure out the mechanism of the transmission of original sin by propagation instead of by imitation using the most ferociously pedantic scientific historical philological examination of the ancient texts to date, and thus giving honor to the Immaculate Conception, showing how she is that woman, the mother of the redeemer, in Genesis 3:15. There was no verbal answer, but I must say I did take note of the weight of the glory of God in all my darkness, feeling terribly unworthy but that it is possible, but I had better make my number one objective in the present to be the tiniest little child, following Jesus, with the rest falling into place. In other words, the answer wasn’t about the future, it was about what is happening starting now if only I would remain in reverence before Jesus.
Example Two: I’ve told this story many times before, but it is ad rem, to the point. This happened in the Summer of 2010 on Highway 65 between Lebanon and Indianapolis, Indiana, on the way back to the Josephinum from an Extraordinary Form practicum up in Mundelein. As usual, for the hundred millionth time over the space of very many years, I was asking my guardian angel to assist me in having the same reverence before God as he did, it being that he sees the face of God and I don’t. What I was asking was incorrect theologically, impossible in reality, and simply a rejection of the present economy of salvation. He answered me while I was driving. It didn’t cause an accident though I did want to drop to my knees should that have been possible in a car while wearing a seat belt. It’s not that I heard words at all, but the communication was crystal clear, full of irony, full of humility on his part, full of putting me in my place, but with the most tender solicitation for my welfare. John of the Cross may well be annoyed with such events, but they do happen, and he admits that, adding, however, that this is usually done for souls who are so weak and such asses that they need this extra help. This was his answer:
“I’m an angel. You’re not an angel. I see the face of God directly. You don’t. I’m to have the reverence before God that I am to have as an angel. You will never have this kind of reverence before God that I do. I’m an angel. You’re not. [Sounds pretty dire, right? But watch what happens now…] You’re to have the kind of reverence before God that you are supposed to have, and which I will never have, because you are a human being, but I’m not. I see the Most Holy Trinity directly, but right now, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, you are to see God the Father, but through, with and in Jesus, for you are a member of His Body of which He is the Head. He sees the Father for you, for you one with Him by grace. This is the kind of reverence you are to have before God, a reverence you can have but I cannot ever have, for you are a human being and I am not.”
As you might imagine, my response, first stunned, then full of joy, then laughing with glee, was this:
“So, O.K. Guardian Angel, therefore, help me to have the kind of reverence before God that I am to have, through, with and in Jesus, for you see the face of God in heaven right now, and I’m so weak in walking with Jesus who sees the Father for me. You are strong and I’m not. Help me to live the reverence I’m to have in humble thanksgiving.”
I’ve told that story to plenty of skeptical theologians, you know, that my guardian angel told me something, and they are eager to hear the story so as to pounce on me for being an idiot visionary. And then as they listen you can see them turn right around and finally say, “Well, yeah, that’s exactly right. That’s exactly what you should do.” What they were impressed with is that it was just so normal. Nothing esoteric, nothing gnostic, no new revelation. Just. Normal. Logical.
Remember Mary’s meeting with Gabriel. Joseph’s meeting with the angel. Zechariah’s meeting with the angel. Remember that Jesus said he could call on more than twelve legions of angels to assist Him in Gethsemane (well over 60,000 angels), but did not. And remember that just one angel can in one night take out 185,000 soldiers. Just one.
M.T. sent in a postcard sporting the Sistine Madonna by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael). The postcard itself arrived a bit damaged, as postcards do, so the above is a Wikipedia file.
I’m thankful for a reminder of the Sistine Madonna (with its wild history of locations both for the real painting and my mom’s copy) as it throws me fully into nostalgic mode. But that would be known from what I’ve written over the years. This was my mom’s favorite painting which always graced the “living room” of whatever house we lived in. Her copy looked like the real thing (to a kid like me) and was very elegantly framed. My mom made the frame and “antiqued” it. All very stately.
I would stand before this painting in wonder as a kid. It was my secret way to peek into heaven. There was heaven, right there, for all to see. How is it that the angels in the background allowed me to live. Even the angels are bored down front as they tolerate my presence. Did others see the treasures to be found here, in heaven? For me, these were mesmerizing sacred moments, so many, but always the same right through the years and in different houses: I would be racing about as a kid but then, in passing this painting, I would stop, instantly transported to the gates of heaven. Out of breath in my running. But absolutely still. “Look!” thought I, “There are all the angels!” straining as I was to see not so much the two angels out front, but the zillions in the background.
“Wow…” constituted the extent of my art appreciation at the time, though I imagine that that word was inscaped with more of a Hopkins’ umph than most grownup critics could ever muster with all their ulterior motives.
I remember being miffed that I didn’t know who Pope Sixtus was, or, as such a little kid, what his tiara was, and that I didn’t know who Saint Barbara was. But no matter. I happily gazed into the faces of Mary and her Son Jesus. M.T. shared his thoughts about these faces with me. I suppose I should return the favor with some of my own musings at this stage in my life.
M.T. says he sees something “stern” in the face of Jesus. The way I myself would describe that is something of dread determination in the face of what is to come for Jesus during His life upon this earth, yet joy for what the result will finally be when He comes to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Jesus and His good mom are totally in solidarity with each other and mean to accomplish that which they set out to do for our redemption and salvation. But as with all such paintings, you have to follow the eyes, and in context. What’s said with just this detail is not wrong, but it’s all out of context. So, let’s move back to the full painting.
You’ll notice that young Saint Barbara, Virgin and Martyr, is looking down at the two angels who entered heaven, as did she, by the right choice to follow the Son of Mary. We have to remember that about angels. They, like us, had to say “Yes!” They expect us to use our free will correctly as well.
You’ll notice that Sixtus is bidding Jesus and Mary to look out from heaven to those here upon the earth. It’s as if Sixtus is saying “Look at what they are saying about me!” with “they” referring to those at whom he is indiscriminately pointing. And Jesus is looking over him – indeed over the viewer of the painting – and Mary is scanning the crowd also in back of the viewer of the painting (her eyes just a bit askance). As Sixtus makes his complaint, Jesus has already gone through His passion and death, and has risen from the dead and has ascended into heaven. But here Sixtus is addressing Jesus as a child. That surely refers to what Sixtus is complaining about.
There was a vicious gossip columnist in Rome at the time – given no credence by anyone – who wrote about Sixtus in such manner – repeating without discernment all that he heard – that you would think that gossip guy is writing in late 2018, all stuff about interfering with kids and young men.
Again, back to Jesus and Mary: there’s a certain foreboding, a certain sorrow, but also and more importantly a certain joy for those who will make it to heaven. Note as well that Sixtus himself is canonized in the painting. He’s up in the clouds of heaven. Is protected by the bored angels who would happy to do some janitorial work over against enemies if called upon, and can speak with Jesus and Mary at will, and they are right with him. But the gossip? Horrible. But the truth? That’s what Raphael is painting.
Lots to think about there. To M.T.: Again, thanks for the postcard.
UPDATE: What’s Raphael doing?
As you can see, we have three sets of three here. Nine. I immediately think of nine choirs of angels, ordered into three sets of three, as pointed out by the Angelic Doctor, the Common Doctor, the great Saint Thomas Aquinas. See Question 108. The angelic degrees of hierarchies and orders. A good read, even for this most un-well-read priest.
There is no greater rejoicing of the angels in heaven than over one sinner who converts. It strikes me that they express this joy by, for instance, giving flowers of sinners like yours truly to the Immaculate Conception, Queen of Angels.
We can rejoice in their rejoicing. It’s important to rejoice. Even and especially in stormy times. Always. If we can have, by grace, some bit of purity of heart and agility of soul, then we are immediately brought to this rejoicing, for we see just how far the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception had to reach into this world to get us, which is cause for rejoicing. He had to stretch His arms in both directions on the cross, under which stood His dearest mother and ours. The angels are agape. And then they rejoice.
I confess. This is my horrid sin: complacency.
Complacency is so horrid because it stops one from growing. It makes one overconfident, which is when mistakes are made. It’s a manifestation of pride, arrogance, self-absorbed, self-referential, self-congratulatory, Promethean, Pelagian. Yuck.
It all started when I was a kid, with escaping kidnappers and winning at fights otherwise to the death, and then with death-defying extreme sports. I figured I was indestructible because of thinking I was clever enough to get out of anything perhaps too happy to depend on guardian angels when I should not be testing them in the first place. So, how stupid was I? Answer: well, I think only my guardian angel could answer that adequately.
And then, even worse, complacency manifested itself with vehicles. In mid-teenage years, getting my first “cars”. The first I think was $50. A standard shift that was jump-started, meaning I had to park it on the downward side of a hill so that, in starting it again, I would run alongside the open door and jump in, throwing it into gear. Anyway, it took about a nano-second to go from (1) pushing the car around with the accelerator to (2) being one thing with the car so that it was like an extension of one’s body. That has one go to the limit with the car being just as immortal as I thought I was (at least acting that way much of the time).
I’m older now. I try to be somewhat self-aware. I try to be honest with complacency. This is not easy as by definition complacency militates against that honesty. Only God’s love, God’s truth can break through complacency. It’s a sign of complacency to think that we can successfully try to be somewhat self-aware, to be honest. But only God’s love and God’s truth can break through complacency. Well…
Yesterday, this “being at one” thing came up again. Not for any particular reason except my own deep-seated pride. But it just hit me that this is what just happened, a paradigmatic shift psychologically speaking. Here I am, complacent, once again.
This time, it occurred on the “day-off” at the end of shooting some courses (FBI, Federal Air Marshal, DEVGRU, etc.). “Being at one” with one’s firearm, a step beyond “having” a gun (women, apparently, “wear” guns). The temptation with this is to be overconfident, which is when mistakes are made, such as thinking one doesn’t need to keep on edge by shooting courses (how many people do that?), keeping up on best-practices for deescalation, etc. (how many people do that?).
Mind you – and this is the stupid thing about complacency – it’s not that I had a spectacular day with shooting courses, like getting 100% on each course. Far from it. I sometimes go overtime. I sometimes miss.
An appropriate analogy might be getting the first level of a black belt, which is equivalent to what we call sophomore, a “wise-fool,” who is a know-it-all who is therefore unteachable. A first level black belt often looks for trouble. The top level guy, instead, will do everything he can to hide his skill, and then use it as little as possible so that he can just quietly walk away. A big difference, that.
Fortunately, recognizing the dangers of complacency was simultaneous to the temptation to be complacent. Credit for that goes, of course, to my guardian angel.
It would be good not to be complacent about recognizing the temptation of complacency. Psychologically, that’s basically impossible to our fallen human nature. So, I’ll ask my guardian angel about that. I’m sure he will be happy to smack me down in all charity.
When’s the last time you asked your guardian angel to smack you down with God’s love regarding otherwise unrecognizable complacency in any area of your life?
Shadow-dog is slightly larger than Laudie-dog. But Laudie-dog is, apparently, smarter than Shadow-dog. She successfully took over Shadow-dog’s wolf-cave. She is just so laughing on the inside at her brilliant pawipulations. Shadow-dog looks bewildered that he’s been had in his own wolf-cave by someone who’s not even a wolf. Laudie-dog has the run of the whole house, so I told her to come out, and she did, happy to show me, however, that she’s definitely top dog. Shadow-dog was content that he had his own kingdom once again.
Mind you, it’s not that Laudie-dog wanted to take over Shadow-dog’s cave. It’s that she wanted to make sure that he’s jealous of his wolf-cave, so that he insists on staying there and is not tempted to cry to have run of the house as well. Hah.
Meanwhile, Shadow-dog is no fool. He plays the game, letting Laudie-dog think that she has tricked him so that she is content now to stay out of his wolf-cave, banished to life outside the wolf-cave. Double HahHah! His bewildered look above is instead a pleading with me to play along with him in his double-reverse ploy. Yes. Fine. I’m good with that.
Meanwhile, they’ve both teamed up to
manipulate me… pawipulate me into thinking that I’m the true landlord of the house. At any rate, everybody’s happy.
I have to wonder how our guardian angels deal with the likes of us. Jesus says that they see the face of God right now, and then… and then… there’s us. Goodness!
Wide open on his right lane, this guy just wants to smash the other guy out of the way in his left lane even though oncoming traffic, me, had to severely swerve out of his way. I was happy enough to do so as I knew no one was next to me. Note that this battle between the blue and red (actually only the red is raging with him/herself) is happening in a turning lane to the left coming up to a traffic light.
He successfully shoves the blue car out of the way. But then, not wanting to turn left after all, severely swerves in front of the blue car, miraculously not smashing into a handicap transport who is turning to the left. A shot from the rear window camera as the red car squeaks in between the blue car and white transport into a normal traffic lane:
Yawn. I had already said my guardian angel prayer. Yawn. No worries on my part. It’s a good idea to pray this prayer every time you buckle up. Also at other times!
I said a prayer for the driver of the red car. That’s always a good idea. Running from yourself is never a good idea. You’ll never win the race. You’ll only catch up to yourself.
Other clips were already automatically written over by the time I write this. Another guy, at a stop light, didn’t stop, but screamed around everyone through an adjacent parking lot and back out onto the intersection full speed in a cloud of dust. Really lucky no one was walking in the parking lot. This is just wanton disregard for human life.
I’m sure you all have similar experiences every day, and not just in traffic.
I have them one right after the other.
They say not to drive faster than your guardian angel can fly. Ha ha.
By the grace of God, we can let our guardian angels be the ones who catch up to us instead of just ourselves. The angels will introduce us more directly to Jesus in whom we find our identity. Better, we find that we are found by Him.
My hero Pope Sixtus V (but am I his favorite son?) put this up with the cross in top and these bits at the base:
I had a good chat with a guy who was finding a great deal of consolation in these words. That should tell you something about the suffering he was in. But a good chat. A real connection.
I never said I never bait people about spiritual stuff that matters for life eternal.
When I put up this post (Ask your Guardian Angel to help you make a good confession. I did. He did.) If you haven’t read that post, you should do it now. What a fright! I knew that post would get some reaction, and I did, immediately, in email, basically with the idea that I should just go to hell just like all other priests. That’s O.K. Their guardian angels will catch up with them and explain the matter to them. And that’s a good thing.
If you think I’m mean in doing that, baiting I mean, I beg you to read the Gospels. No, really! Be prepared to be amazed. Jesus is baiting people all the time, pushing them, antagonizing them. They hated Him for it, tortured Him to death for it. He knew it would happen. He did it anyway. It’s what got and gets the most to heaven: “Truly this was the Son of God.”
Do priests go to Confession? Yes. Or they should. Is every priest guilty of all sins of all priests in the history of the world? No. But that’s what lots of people actually think. And they say it. With dark bitterness. Not fair. But it’s to be expected.
Priest penitent: “Bless me Father for I have sinned. My last confession was last week. As you know, I’m a priest, and since last week, well, it’s not that I said anything, but I let myself get a bit impatient in my own feelings with someone who said I was guilty of all sins of all priests of all time because I was also a priest as if guilt by the association made in the mind of whoever is a real thing. I’m weak, Father. I could spend my time better. I’d like to include all the sins of my past life.”
Priest Confessor: “For your penance, Father, you are say the Memorare one time for the souls in purgatory. Now, say a good act of contrition.”
Pundit: “What?! Impatience?! He should confess being a chainsaw murderer! After all, there’s a picture! And he’s surely guilty of everything anyway!”
;-) Look, we’ve all crucified the Son of the Living God with original sin and whatever of our own sin. People shouldn’t think they will be justified before the Living God – who alone will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire – justified just because they condemned everyone else of everything else.
So, here we go again. I’ll say it again about why I go to confession:
I want to go to heaven. I don’t want to go to hell. Heck, I don’t even want to go to purgatory, not even for the tiniest moment. I want to rush to heaven and thank Jesus, the Eternal Word of the Father, for being my Savior, He having become, after all, the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, His dear mama and ours.
Terrible baiting, that. I mean, after all, I do not deserve heaven, but rather hell. But Jesus is good and kind. Really, He is.
But more than this, Jesus took on the punishment for all our sins. If we condemn people for wanting to go to heaven by throwing themselves down before Jesus begging for His mercy, do we not, then, condemn Jesus Himself? God will not be mocked. Aligning oneself with Satan, the Accuser, just ain’t gonna work out at the judgment.
It was with a bike just like this that, as a kid, I left even thirty foot skid marks and longer on sidewalks in front of people’s houses, dozens, overlapping, making designs, where they would remain for a good half year or more, lowering property values, making for angry comments while I would then speed away, perhaps on one wheel, getting me reprimands from my parents. It was a bit of a thing. I was a real brat as a kid. And, come to think of it, that’s something I’m sure I never confessed in my entire life, including today when I was really trying to include everything. O.K., well, maybe next time in the confessional if I remember it.
If you ask your Guardian Angel to remind you of things you didn’t confess for whatever reason, or were ambiguous about it, or making excuses for everything, he will let you know so that you can confess well. Don’t be afraid.
Recently I asked my guardian angel to smack me down and let me know if there was any sin in my life which I had left un-confessed for whatever reason, or confessed in a bit of an ambiguous manner, or with WAY TOO MANY excuses in my own mind or even as verbalized to a confessor.
I want to go to heaven. I don’t want to go to hell. Heck, I don’t even want to go to purgatory, not even for the tiniest moment. I want to rush to heaven and thank Jesus, the Eternal Word of the Father, for being my Savior, He having become, after all, the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, His dear mama and ours.
Here’s the deal: when you ask your guardian angel something like this he will take you seriously and he will do it. Long story short: he did. Stuff came to mind from decades ago, as a kid, even as a little little kid. That I remember pretty much everything makes any of my obfuscations in the distant past and then never quite totally suppressed quite evil and bad. Having said that…
There is no greater rejoicing in heaven before the angels of the Lord than when a donkey like me runs to the mercy of our Lord.
My penance: A Memorare:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
So, have you ever asked your angel to do something like that?
I think smacking me down is an extreme sport in which my guardian angel delights.
Hint: when your guardian angel smacks you down you’re supposed to say, ever so politely, and mean it:
“Thank you, Guardian Angel.”
The mercy of the Lord is most wonderful to receive in confession.
What was it like to be smacked down by my Guardian Angel? Good question.
The revelation of whatever sin from so many decades ago was so incredibly clear, but not as a memory. It was an event, as in dying, and, in that first nanosecond after death, being confronted with that sin as a present possession, and all of eternity in hell yawning wide before me. It was like a lightning bolt. Clear as clear as clear can be. Angels are like that. All this, but still being held by my Guardian Angel. After all, the point in this kind of smacking down isn’t for the guardian angel to wipe out his charge, but to get him to confession safely and then off to heaven.
Thank you, Guardian Angel!
Dear reader, at this point you are supposed to be saying, “Hey! If that donkey priest Father George can be brave enough to ask his guardian angel something like that, then I can do that too. I want to go to heaven too. My guardian angel wants me to go to heaven too. Dear Guardian Angel, if there’s anything which I had left un-confessed for whatever reason, or confessed in a bit of an ambiguous manner, or with WAY TOO MANY excuses in my own mind or even as verbalized to a confessor, can you please smack me down and get me to confession and then, when the Lord wants, to heaven? Please!”
Hah. I tricked you into saying all that to your guardian angel.
You won’t regret it. Just say, Amen.
A dear reader once said, me-thinks, that this is a purple archangel. There are armies of them everywhere round about the rectory, finishing off Lent in grand style.
I’m not sure why that name is what it is and there are plenty of weird interpretations of any and all kinds. I feel free to give my own interpretation (colors not being quite right, but I don’t care):
Anyway, have no fear, our Lady always sees such flowers with purity of heart and agility of soul and sees flowers created by her Divine Son for what they are. Meanwhile, she also sees all the inane interpretations. It’s enough to make you want to give more flowers to the Immaculate Conception.
This State Trooper is a nice guy. He’s been helping out with some too rambunctious drivers since we don’t yet have a North Carolina certified Police Officer, just a Chief certified down in Georgia. He’ll be regularized soon.
The Trooper suddenly pulled out directly in front of me on the highway, perpendicular, as if he were going to try to cut across the median, but he changed his mind and raced to the U-Turn just a couple hundred yards up. He was frantic.
My first thought in seeing this is that he had been shot by the guy in the truck and needed to rush to the EMS station which is right nearby. There was no one behind me, so I just stopped dead right there on the highway and out-waited the guy in the truck who had been taking off at the same time as the Trooper, until he saw me. Sorry, but in these circumstances I just didn’t trust him. He finally took off.
All this happened because I guess I was invisible to the Trooper. It happens. I guess the Trooper had a long day. “Routine” traffic stops can be exasperating when people have guns, are drunk or on drugs, have warrants, are uncooperative. Who knows. Anyway, I figure this Trooper owes me one for wearing down my brakes and not T-Boning him on the driver’s side. ;-)
Perhaps I need to ask my ever invisible guardian angel to make me more visible to others. Being invisible has its benefits, but not always. The angels always see us, as does God Himself, of course, He being the One who holds us in existence.
It seems that this guy is trying his best to ditch another guy. This guy is passing on the right in a right turn lane only at about 90 miles an hour in a 45 mile an hour zone. Whatever. As expected, the other guy who is chasing him also passes on the right in the same way, except he’s not so nice, cutting me off because, hey, I’m some other guy on the road, a common condition of humanity:
You can see the guy he’s chasing up ahead. But this guy was going so fast that he crossed the solid double white lines. Not having knocked me off the road, he decides that it would be a good idea to brake-check me to a dead stop, screeching tires and all, because, well, you know, just because:
And then he squeals away. Happy day. As it happens, and it always happens, there was a slow vehicle up ahead of both of them with double yellow no-passing lines for miles and miles. Hurry up and wait! There was a long line of cars ahead and behind.
I said the “Angel of God, my guardian dear…” prayer again for good measure. Being close to one’s guardian angel is always a good idea. Our guardian angels see the face of God right now. Jesus told us this.
This is surely the only diocese in the entire world in which the Very Rev. Vicar Forane reprimands one of the pastors of his vicariate because that pastor is not keeping as frosty as possible with his concealed carry. A day off is supposed to be a day off, he says. Spend more time getting even better with your Glock on your day off, he says. I’m good with that.
So, heading off to the hermitage, I did up the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course a few times. Adding up the seven stages, there are 30 bullets fired, with 150 points to be made.
Still not 100%. A challenge even maxing out. Getting these scores hot barrel, that is, with practice drills, is one thing. Coming in cold is quite another. There are ways to make it more difficult, not by shortening the times (which are already terribly brief), nor the distance (7 yards is probably the max of most confrontations), but in other ways:
All of this tends to make the grouping smaller, making hits harder to count. The bullets are still scattered about though. This next picture shows just one of three targets used for multiple courses (I’m lazy):
A marker is used to mark already fired shots to distinguish them from subsequent stages of the course. This is legal sized paper and so represents only part even of the inner bottle. This means that 2 pointers off the sheet but which would otherwise count are not counted at all. That’s good. I have to blame the scattering on something, so I blame the difficulty of the course, such as spinning 180 degrees from concealed holster to hit three targets each three yards apart at seven yards in an extremely short amount of time. And the holster requires pressing a release button, which adds time to the response to the timer.
Spiritual analogy: Keeping frosty with worldly things is one thing, but it’s quite another in the spiritual life, in which we are instead kept frosty by our guardian angels. They are a gazillion times more persnickety with us than I am with target practice. They expect us to be pure of heart and agile of soul to follow up on their instructions. They see the face of God always. They see the One to whom we are to be aimed at all times with accuracy so precise that we are to be killed off to ourselves so as to live only for Jesus. We are to carry such a Treasure as the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity in these lowly bodies of ours. Yikes!
Being a concealed carrier requires one to be frosty and well-practiced on so very very many levels. Longtime readers know that for me, part of this involves using the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal tactical pistol course. For quite a while I would, once a week, on my “day off,” race through this course a couple of times and then chase off to do other things. I was encouraged by our new Very Rev. Vicar Forane of the Smoky Mountain Vicariate to take this a bit more seriously. Where else in the world would this be the case? I love it. He’s an extremely good shot according to his father, who’s an extremely good shot. So, yesterday, I took a chunk of time to do some drills and then go through the FAM course a bunch of times. My scores, after some drills mind you, are as follows:
That 94% is a bit stubborn. But hey! A challenge to get 95 and even 100. I like it.
A Federal Air Marshal (pre-2001) needed to pass the course every time, at any time, cold. That’s the difference, which is important. I’m sure the original FAMs could hit their own bullet holes well within the time limits for each stage every time, cold, thus gaining their wings, that is, permission to get aboard a flight that day. It’s like they could pass the course by shooting it out while walking by without breaking their pace. With me, really trying hard, practicing, doing drills, I barely pass as many times as I fail. And… and… I’m definitely not shooting all bullets through the first bullet hole. No.
If I were to think I’m a good shot, that would be dangerous, as I would be overconfident in a critical incident and that would never be good for anyone. A little humility goes a long way. It’s what really keeps you frosty. Humility, humility, humility.
Let’s do an analogy with the spiritual life. There are two ways:
Humility keeps one frosty. Humility is not one’s gift to oneself. Humility comes from Jesus, whether in regard to the spiritual life or that which is as mundane as target practice. Being without humility in either case can be deadly. In both cases, in the spiritual life and being a concealed carrier, one needs to walk in friendship with Jesus.
If you ask your guardian angel for assistance, he will arrange for the necessary. But just be warned, he will take your request seriously. Trust in Jesus.
Today saw a zillion miles put on Sassy the Subaru with Mass and Communion calls up in Graham county. Vigilant situational awareness was very useful as always, but one tends to relax a bit when right near home. In the picture above, I’m only about 150 yards away from the rectory. Yet, I was still paying attention. The second I saw this lady in her car way down her alleyway to the right, I just knew she was an accident waiting to happen with me. I could have sworn that she looked right at me before she pulled out right in front of me. Had I not immediately slammed on the brakes I would have totally T-boned her driver’s side door, leaving her as a heap of broken bones. I hope I always remember to say the “Angel of God my guardian dear…” prayer as I did every time I started the car today. Do you remember to ask for help from your guardian angel?
October 27, 2017: The first time I had my gun at the ready, brandished and all, was when I was the victim of a carjacking on highway 40 while bringing a retired cop to his major surgery appointment. Lucky for me, nine cruisers showed up just when I needed them, that very second. Thanks to the cops! I’m guessing he was an escapee on the run and they had just gotten a tip he was in the area. The timing was perfect.
The second time I had my gun kind of at the ready was today. With the neighboring priest sick to death, I was on my way to the hospital in his parish in Bryson City to give one of his parishioners the last rites, priest that I am, and I had Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with me. I was coming down the off ramp at Exit 67 on Interstate 74, clearly marked on the far side with the proper wrong way signs for any would be knucklehead drivers not paying attention, something like the picture above. It’s not a good thing to get on an interstate highway going the wrong way.
Because I was going to a hospital in North Carolina (with the law prohibiting entrance with any gun, concealed or otherwise), and since the trip was almost over, being now only a couple of miles away, I took the gun out of the Serpa Blackhawk holster and secured it otherwise in the vehicle. This is really stupid. You just never know when a critical incident is going to occur.
As I slowed up for the intersection, an ultra-sports sports car, the kind with really wide tires pulled up into the one-lane off ramp coming right at me, going the wrong way. It wasn’t a Corvette or a Lamborghini, but perhaps, if I remember rightly (looking now at some pictures), a Bugatti Veyron (one or two million for the el-cheapo version). It can go 60 mph in 119 feet, 255 mph maxed out (410 kms per hour for those across the pond).
I pulled right into him, decisively, slamming on the brakes with a bit of attitude. I didn’t hit him but my perception was that he fully intended to do what he was doing and he was pretty upset that I had totally blocked his access. It was a man driving with a woman in the passenger seat, both about 65 years old. Were they on a scenic tour of the mountains here in his new car? This was a very elegant looking man and woman. The look of big money. Was he trying to show off to her, racing up the highway the wrong way just until the next exit, perhaps running circles around cars (easy to do in a Bugatti)? My perception was that he wanted an explanation of my behavior and so put his window down halfway even as he continued to go around me in the ditch. In the ditch. I was fully aware that he could have put his window down a bit so as to shoot me. He did seem to be messing around with something in his lap. In fact, he didn’t say anything. But he was determined to get on the highway going the wrong way. He was still edging forward. It was my perception that it would almost be impossible for him to be making a mistake. Another car came down the off ramp behind me and laboriously went around this scene of mayhem. It couldn’t be clearer that this was on off-ramp, NOT an on-ramp.
I jumped out of Sassy the Subaru with my hands up, waving him off, so as to stop him. My message was unmistakable. He kept moving forward slowly, but it seemed with determination, as he was ignoring my indication to stop. I ran right in front of him and told him with calm authority (where did that come from?) that I wasn’t going to let him go any further. I stared him down like I’m sure he’s never been stared down before. His companion looked scared to death with her hands to the sides of her head while he was looking at my hip. It was my perception that he was intent on going on an adrenaline joy ride. He was still edging forward with the low front of the car getting obnoxiously close to my shins. This is reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon. Did I put myself in danger? Sure. But for every possible reason he could and should stop. And I had every reason in the world to make an attempt to stop him from mortally endangering his life, the life of his companion, and the lives of those on the highway behind me.
It happens that I wear a black and frumpy 5-11 tactical shirt (with Roman collar!) over my Glock 19 which I carry OWB but unseen on my right hip. But when I’m in the car I pull the shirt back behind the Serpa Blackhawk holster so that the gun is immediately available even with the seat belt fastened. I still remember the carjacking and I refuse to be a victim. I forgot that the shirt was still tucked behind the holster even though the gun was itself secured in the car. He saw the holster and couldn’t be sure that there was no gun in it as the shirt flopped over the top opening of the holster in it’s baggy fashion, though without concealing the rest of the holster itself. That’s O.K. North Carolina is an open-carry state also for those who have concealed carry permits but who may happen to want to open-carry on occasion.
So, I didn’t brandish. I never threatened. I wasn’t terrorizing the public with a weapon. I was formulating a plan to perhaps shoot out his tires if he continued to run into me, perhaps over me, that is, if conditions indicated this was the proper thing to do for the safety and welfare of all concerned, including the general public on the roads. I’m practiced enough now that I could shoot out tires that with the certainty of not hitting the occupants. I’ve been run over with extreme violence before, with plenty of shattered bones, so I know what that’s like. I know I can be totally calm in a storm. I know what adrenaline is. So, easy peasy, however intense. It didn’t come to that, thank God. There are plenty of videos on-line demonstrating that personal defense rounds from a 9mm will leave a big enough hole in a reinforced steel-belted extra heavy duty truck tire so as to let the air out in about 15 seconds, so, no worries there. The bullets only go through one wall and generally get stuck coming out the far side.
Anyway, however upset he was, I’m sure he just couldn’t believe what he was seeing what with me wearing the Roman collar and all. I actually think that made him all the more angry and upset, though he just couldn’t fathom what was on my hip. If he was looking to show off with dangerous driving, risking the lives of others, he finally figured out that killing a priest, especially considering what he was doing with his life, would be counterproductive in every way imaginable. He stopped, backed up, and turned his car around. Off he went getting an ear full from his friend.
I was elated as I got back in my car. I looked over to the share-ride parking that is there as I came up to the stop sign at the intersection, and some guy in a pickup, looking very much in the part of an undercover cop, gave me a big thumbs up, which I also returned. I’m sure he also had a good view of what was on my hip. He looked terribly amused to see my Roman collar as well. I was amused that he was amused. I’m sure he was happy to see civilians doing their part, even the clergy. I’m quite sure Jesus was amused as well. I think I give Jesus lots to be amused about.
I was also quite impressed with this incident that you just don’t know when bad things can happen. It can all go down in mere seconds. I gotta thank my guardian angel for arranging the timing of this and for smacking me down to make sure I did the right thing. I could have let him go. But to what end, to kill themselves and others? That’s not right. I realize that this could have all gone south very, very quickly, but that’s O.K. too, isn’t it? I mean, just because something could go wrong doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the right thing, right? I’m sure Jesus doesn’t mind if we do the right thing. I’m still elated it all went well… and I’m still thanking my guardian angel.
October 28, 2017 (early the next morning): The face of the woman in the passenger seat was burned into my mind, as she framed her head with her hands while reprimanding the driver, who I just assumed was her husband, seeming to be about the same age and all that. When I was on the phone with Father Gordon MacRae this morning (the 28th, still only hours after the incident above), we were sending a note to a lady who is perhaps by definition the most anti-Catholic, anti-priest woman in these United States. (She’s quite willing to receive the messages, by the way). Her photo came up as I started to type in her gmail address. She’s a spitting image of the lady in the car. The face, the age, the exact weird color of hair, the exact exact exact hair-do. Exact amount of lower-chin-fat. Everything. 100%. That’s her. This, I’m sure, was her worst nightmare: to be rescued from malicious death at the hands of her companion by a priest who helps Father Gordon, her biggest nemesis in the universe. Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! I love it. I just love it. Happy to provide the nightmare. Maybe she will also have, upon reflection of what happened, a better regard for priests. As I say, the angels arrange just this very kind of ironic circumstance. I love it.
December 26, 2017: While doing some editorial work for Father Gordon MacRae, it struck me that I should google-image someone for whom I never had occasion to see an updated picture. Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! I love it. I just love it. The driver of the Bugati was not her husband, but rather, someone who is, perhaps by definition the most anti-Catholic, anti-priest man in these United States. I didn’t recognize him earlier because, in fact, he’s lost some weight what with all pressure he’s suffering from all the hypocrisy and corruption being uncovered about him, and… and… he’s grown himself a goatee. It was this thinner, goateed guy that I saw. The ironies are so rife it’s hard for me to write this update. Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! O.K., I’m happy to have saved him from himself as well. I’m not laughing at him with some sort of schadenfreude. I do hope he lives long enough to repent and be on his way to heaven. The angels are more amazing than we can possibly imagine, setting up the timing of such encounters more than we know, perhaps more than we care to know.
Some of my favorite parishioners sent me this card while away for Christmas. It was chosen, I’m sure, because of the donkey, what with yours truly being the donkey-priest. I notice that the other beasts are quite a bit further away, distracted by the kings arriving from the East. Meanwhile, the donkey, with great peripheral vision, is keeping an eye on Jesus, just playing with the hay, not really eating. Moreover, that donkey is standing sideways so as to play the billboard, as it were. He’s giving the Holy Family a good view of the cross painted on his back, not that they haven’t seen it on him before. Mary rode down to Bethlehem from Nazareth, a treacherous journey, on the back of this beast, and would soon be on their way with him to Egypt, and then back. Another similar donkey would bring Jesus into Jerusalem for His crucifixion.
I really like the title: “Watching in wonderment.” This takes purity of heart and agility of soul. It takes a child. If we’re not like children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. So, that’s really important. We need to slow down. “Watching in wonderment.” I love it.
If you can see it, the angels directly behind the Holy Family are one to either side of a smaller manger. That manger is below the main altar of Saint Mary Major Basilica in Rome. Meanwhile, there is a tradition that the wood of that manger became the wood of the cross. So how is it that the wood of the manger is still in the form of a manger and the wood of the Cross is to be found on the other side of Rome in the Basilica of the Holy Cross. The artist of this card has presented a good answer, with a support structure over the manger forming a cross.
Think of it. Soldier-executioners responsible for crucifying criminals saw this and brought it back to Jerusalem from nearby Bethlehem when they were there executing all male children two years old and under on Herod’s behalf. I would if I were them. Anyway, just a spurious thought which, however, might transport us back to the day, that quiet day, in which, watching in wonderment, straining to hear the quietest peep from baby Jesus, one hears the echoes on the mountainsides and sloping hills the voices of angels singing: “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace…
Meanwhile, I hope for the day that the angels, who, it is true, as pure spirits with no bodies, have no differentiation of male/female, but are each and every one an entirely different creature (see the commentary of the Angelic Doctor), it is also nevertheless true that all angels in the Sacred Scriptures (Raphael, Michael, Gabriel…) and throughout the history of the Church (such as the Angel of Fatima) appear exclusively as male, often as warriors.
Saint Michael’s name speaks to how he wins his battles, that is, with his humility, what with his being “Like unto God.” Saint Gabriel’s name speaks to his being the military commander of Saint Michael (which is not unsupported in the Scriptures), for Gabriel refers to a war-hero, commander type special operator of God.
I digress, but I can’t help it. Even special operators, even angels, sing. Can you, straining, hear them? Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace…
Merry Christmas! Or as the Brits who are not in a drunken stupor say: Happy Christmas!
I’m such an idiot. Even though I say the Guardian Angel prayer all the time, I’ve always payed attention to the last parts but not the introduction:
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard, rule and guide. Amen.
So, up to now, I’ve always stayed with the common understanding always expressed with hesitancy (because it’s wrong) that Guardian Angels are assigned to us. Um… No!
We, instead, are assigned to Guardian Angels. When’s the last time you thanked your Guardian Angels for tolerating (with love of course) that we are assigned to them?
This paradigm shift in understanding sheds light on what I always knew, that it would be wrong and reckless and arrogant if we were to name our guardian angels like we might name a dog, something cute and fluffy to be sure, and also wrong to depict them as that which is all chiffon and wispy and cut and fluffy.
By the way, they want to do whatever it takes to get us to heaven, which doesn’t necessarily include saving us from some earthly mortal danger. Just so you know.