Category Archives: Angels

Road danger: lefting rights brakecheck

road danger pass on right 1

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:

road danger pass on right 2

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:

road danger brake check

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.

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Gunslinger priest’s day off at the hermitage: winged it four times

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Winchester ammo sometimes doesn’t work at all, is sometimes shredded on the side of the casing, and, for the first time, I find some actual tarmacadam stuck to the cartridge itself. Amazing. Otherwise, it’s cleaner than most el cheapo ammo. I’m guessing that Winchester ammo is simply misfired military ammo, or ammo which has exceeded its shelf life. Dunno.

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.

  • 5 points for hit entirely within small bottle
  • 2 points if on the line or just outside

The damage:

  • 135 points = 90%
  • 141 points = 94%
  • 147 points = 98%
  • 141 points = 94% (getting tired)

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:

  • Footing on the forest floor is extremely uneven and slippery because when are conditions ever perfect?
  • There are three trees on either side of the central of three active course targets, requiring greater trigger control
  • The ridge is uneven, so the height of the targets vary, meaning that shooting while spinning also requires moving one’s aim vertically; three aggressors are not going to be the same height, are they? Probably not.

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):

target fbi fam tpc

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!

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When getting wings can invite danger (Jesus & day-off target practicing)

dove pope francis 2

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:

  • 79.3% – fail
  • 86.6% – fail
  • 88% – fail
  • 94% – pass
  • 94% – pass (but really fail because I was a bit over-time on one stage)
  • 94% -pass

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:

  • The way of humility, as a child, in humble thanksgiving for our salvation in Christ Jesus, depending on His strength, walking in His friendship, His goodness and kindness.
  • The way of thinking one has come into one’s own, you know, staying away from any serious sin for a long time, being virtuous, even “balanced”, courteous, nice, and that therefore one doesn’t need Jesus, because now one is self-referential, self-congratulatory, self-absorbed, neo-Pelagian, even Promethean. And then, with all that overconfidence, there is the fall as it is already a fall in and of itself. One may as well just have one’s liver eaten out every day:

PROMETHEUS

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.

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Road danger: Most accidents happen next to home. Angels to the rescue.

road danger t-bone avoided

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?

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This gunslinger priest: It is to laugh! More updates on the ironies. Ha ha!

wrong way off ramp

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.

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Merry Christmas to donkeys and all!

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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!

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Guardian angel assigned to me, or not!

guardian angel

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.

saint michael police officer down

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.

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Guardian Angels and our ineptitude. Gotta repost this.

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  • Guardian angels see the face of God. Quite a perspective, that. They also see us, and in comparison to seeing the face of God, you have to know that they are amazed at the love of Jesus for us, letting Himself be tortured to death for us as He takes on what we deserve so as to have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
  • The angels cannot forgive us as they have not become incarnate and cannot stand in our place to have the right in justice to forgive us, but they can rejoice in the Lord’s forgiveness of us. There is no greater joy for the angels than this.
  • But when we are not interested in such forgiveness, any angel is at the ready to end our lives at the command of the Most High. Just one angel – one, mind you – took on the Assyrians and, in one night, killed 185,000 soldiers. We might wonder about our access to them, amazing the angels who have plenty of access to us.
  • To have some awareness, so to speak, of the angels is not about being a tender snowflake who thinks he is entitled to being some sort of gnostic new-age guru channeler of self-importance.
  • Being aware of the inspirations of the angels, who see the face of God and who want us to have the reverence before the Most Holy Trinity we as members of the body of Christ are to have while we are given as a gift to our heavenly Father through, with and in Jesus by the fiery Holy Spirit, being aware of the inspirations of the angels isn’t about us trying to control the mechanism by which we are aware of the angels but about following their lead in humble thanksgiving, the reverence of a creature before His Creator, of a friend before the One who makes us His friends.
  • When we talk to our guardian angels making this request — 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, to rule and guide —  when we make that request, are we not asking to be inspired, that is, to be enlightened (to wit: “to light”), thus admitting we are not inspired, not enlightened, in need of their assistance but that we can nevertheless receive that help?
  • Are we not asking to be guarded (to wit: “to guard”) because we know we are so ridiculously unguarded in every way, so that we are even asking to be smacked down – whatever it takes – so that our souls are first of all protected, admitting in this way that we can, in fact, allow ourselves to be guarded?
  • In asking to be ruled (to wit: “to rule”) are we not saying that we can recognize that and allow that, unruly as we might otherwise be, so that we have some sort of capacity to follow up on that being ruled?
  • And if we are asking to be guided (to wit: “to guide”) are we not admitting, finally, that we are out of control without their guidance, and that we can nevertheless recognize and benefit from such guidance?
  • To put it Thomistically, the angels can use the same mechanism to inspire us that is used by supernatural faith which our natural brains cannot otherwise grasp, that is, that which the conscience founds itself upon in order to make judgments that we can either go along with or not. This can be recognized readily by any soul in the state of grace who therefore has some purity of heart, some agility of soul. This is not gnosticism, not anything special, just the normal state of affairs in the family of God.
  • Guardian angels can also use other means to help us along. They can intervene to manipulate the physical universe in whatever way according to the will of God. They can make an impression of an apparition upon us even as we are very aware of their presence, even to just about bring about our deaths, crushed by the weight of the glory of God that they reflect (this being the experience of Daniel and John…).
  • Having said all that, is one to reject what seems to be an extraordinary intervention? Discernment is a good thing as John of the Cross points out. If it is something that makes perfect sense in view of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Sacred Magisterium of the Church, and if it is not something about spooky future events, about anything that would push the self-importance of the human subject, or is about otherwise unknowable things about times and places and people and the thoughts and motivations of others, if it is that which would have one recognize oneself for the fool one knows oneself to be but at the same time if it is that which places one in profound humble reverence and thanksgiving in all friendship before Jesus, if it is that which makes one all the more want to regularly participate in the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion, if it is that which smacks one down for the sake of the Kingdom of the Heavens, one might go ahead and take it for what it’s worth. Thus, John of the Cross didn’t have himself or Teresa of Avila excommunicated by the Inquisition.

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.

palestinian donkeyExample 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.

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Homily 2017 09 29 – Archangels!

You’ll have to excuse me. I didn’t actually talk to much about the angels or archangels today, but rather followed the Gospel, which is always a good idea. I talk about figs, of all things. But you’ll be surprised that this is the key to being open to work of the holy angels in our lives. This is the key to understanding the exclamation of Nathaniel about Jesus and the exclamation of Jesus about Nathaniel. Humility brings us purity of heart and agility of soul. Both are necessary when dealing with the holy angels.

 

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The Angel of Peace and the Lady who appeared in Iria, i.e., Peace, in Fatima

angel of fatima

[Lucia writes:] We began to see, in the distance, above the trees that stretched to the east, a light whiter than snow in the form of a young man, quite transparent, and as brilliant as crystal in the rays of the sun. As he came near we were able to see his features. We were astonished and absorbed and we said nothing to one another. And then he said:

Do not be afraid. I am the angel of peace. Pray with me.

He knelt, bending his forehead to the ground. With a supernatural impulse we did the same, repeating the words we heard him say:

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.

After repeating this prayer three times the angel rose and said to us:

Pray in this way. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you.

[Later that year:] The angel calling himself the Angel of Peace held a chalice over which was suspended a Host. Drops of the Precious Blood fell from the Host into the chalice. The angel prostrated himself on the ground before the Host and Chalice, and repeated the act of reparation three times. He then administered Holy Communion to the children saying,

“Eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console Our Lord.”

[Then there is this:] An Act of Reparation From the Angel of of Peace at Fatima:

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I adore You profoundly and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.

[So, Fatima is very much about Eucharistic Reparation. On 13 May 1917, Our Lady of Fatima, who is “Our Lady of the Rosary” had this conversation with the children:]

“Will you offer yourselves to God, and bear all the sufferings He sends you? In atonement for all the sins that offend Him? And for the conversion of sinners?” “Oh, we will, we will!” “Then you will have a great deal to suffer, but the grace of God will be with you and will strengthen you.”

Lucia relates that as the Lady pronounced these words, she opened her hands, and we were bathed in a heavenly light that appeared to come directly from her hands. The light’s reality cut into our hearts and our souls, and we knew somehow that this light was God, and we could see ourselves embraced in it. By an interior impulse of grace we fell to our knees, repeating in our hearts:

“Oh, Holy Trinity, we adore You. My God, my God, I love You in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Then the Lady said:

“Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.”

[The Angel of Peace prepared the children well for the apparitions of Our Lady who appeared in the Cova of Iria, that is, of Peace. The messages are consistent, profound, drawing one in reverence before, through our Eucharistic Lord.]

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Humiliating training just like the angels

target political

This is not a political statement, just a junked post-election political sign that is apparently being used as a target at an undisclosed location in Western North Carolina.

Anyway, ignoring that, I continued on my way to a parishioner’s house. He had set up a typical law enforcement qualification renewal course, which is wonderfully humiliating, showing me how much I don’t know. That’s the only way to learn. I love it. So, with three tiny targets vertically placed on a wooden stake, with preferably timed stations drawing on a suddenly provided scenario with the necessity of barking commands depending on the situation, providing one’s own perception to onlookers, e.g.: “Drop the gun!” “Drop the knife!” “Show me your hands!” but never “Drop to the ground!” as the first command (obviously) and never using untoward language which will come back to bite you. Such exercises may seem silly to some, surreal even, but here’s the deal, in a real scenario, you have only muscle memory the mechanics and your mouth is only going to say what you’ve previously practiced. Period.

  • At 10 feet — 2 hits 2 hits 2 hits with a gun scenario
  • At 20 feet — 1 hit 1 hit 1 hit with a knife scenario
  • At 25 feet — 1 hit 1 hit 1 hit with a hands/knife scenario
  • At 35 feet — 2 hits 2 hits 2 hits 2 hits with a gun scenario with available cover going low and high and low and high on either side with mag change and purposed jams placed arbitrarily in the replacement mag.

We did this cycle three times, he once, me twice, with me getting 100% better the second time through (lots of room for improvement). Now I know what to work on, which is great. The hit/miss ratio is very high on the hit side, so that, in preparing for this, one had better get 100% a hundred percent of the time if one hopes to re-qualify when under pressure. The reason for this level of perfection is that, in an actual scenario, the hit/miss ratio can again be very high, but this time in favor of the miss side.

Homework is holster work and mirror work (no bullets in the gun!). I’ve heard this many times before including at the North Carolina CCW course (CCH in North Carolina). Again, people can think this is silly and surreal. But, here’s the deal, you either do it right or you don’t do it at all. As I say, I would like to prepare for the FBI training course for those who assist LEOs such as chaplains, the only way to assist as a chaplain in some parts of the Diocese.

Analogy with the spiritual life: our guardian angels surely inspire us to turn positively to the Lord, yes, but it seems to me that they also want to be trained up in difficult situations of distraction in whatever way that that comes about. We can either get nervous and frustrated and upset and then sigh and sigh and sigh again, or we can be enthusiastic and thank our guardian angels for the super cool training that they put us through all the time with the scenario and that.

Saint Teresa of Avila says that she would be scared to death not to have such scenarios as she can’t imagine how we could possibly grow without being trained in this way. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that someone without this opportunity of being trained up is either an angel or a beast. Yikes!

The important this is not to think we’re so important that we waste time getting depressed over our failures while we are being trained, but instead always turn to the Lord who is the only One who is important. Our angels see God in the face, and they want more than anything that we walk with God.

The difference in the training is that one is planned and the other, with the angels, cannot be planned, as they want to take us where we cannot begin to imagine where we will be when we arrive, as the love of God is infinitely beyond our poor imaginations. Our training consists in learning to assent to this love with the lead of the angels.

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O Angel of God, I’m such a coward!

guardian angel

Some quick points:

chiffon-angel

We get nervous about angels and rush to be dismissive about them, you know, with the fluffy chiffon pastel crafty thingies you see around Christmas time, or the fat-faced cherubim with wings coming out of the back of their heads in baroque architecture, or with naked infants in Renaissance paintings, or as demon-like transformer-like monsters in children’s computer games.

jeannieWe can even go out of our way to be cute about the presentation of angels in such monstrosities as we see with the Islamic presentation of jinn, who can be good or truly evil (such a perversion of the Judeo-Catholic Scriptures!) and which the West presents ever so weirdly as “I Dream of Jeannie.” Up to date silliness includes angels as dolphins, and on and on and on, pretty much anything but anything like what they may be like. Although there are representations which are a bit more respectful, such as that in the Annunciation by Fra Angelico.

annunciation-fra-angelico

  • You’ll remember when the angel visited the Fatima children, how Lucia later described this (I paraphrase) as the weight of the glory of God, an experience of glorious manifestation of justice.
  • We do have angel guardians. Does Jesus not say that they see the face of God in heaven?
  • Just because they have the beatific vision does not mean that they do not see us. How could they guard us if they do not see us?
  • Angels, who have not become incarnate as has the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, cannot forgive us (as we read in Exodus, which warns us therefore not to offend them), for they cannot have the right in justice to forgive us as they cannot take our place for the punishment of sin as did Jesus on the Cross.
  • Angels respect the forgiveness Jesus commands of His Heavenly Father after having obeyed the Father to stand in our place, having become incarnate: “Father, forgive them!”
  • Angels rejoice in heaven over the conversion of a sinner with very great rejoicing indeed; they are in awe of Divine Mercy.
  • Angels want us to be in humble thanksgiving before Jesus, walking in His presence, and do all they can to assist us to that end, whatever it takes, their guardianship not necessarily to protect us from physical or emotional harm unless that would also be to our benefit or that of others.
  • You’ll remember when the angel visited Daniel in the Hebrew Scriptures and John in the Apocalypse; Daniel and John both face-planted, prostrate, as if dead. The presence of angels is powerful indeed.
  • Angels are well capable of smacking us down or in letting us be smacked down if that’s what it takes for us to get pointed to heaven. They know how to work with us afterward. They’ve been doing this a long time. And they’re really smart. Yet, of course, we still pray: “Ever this day be at my side to […] guard […]”
  • We can ask our guardian angels to assist us in coming to have proper reverence before Jesus. If we ask this of them, they will make it happen if we follow their inspirations. They may have to go way out of their way to make us pay attention. Just be aware of that. Don’t run away if you make that prayer. They will take it seriously. You will be brought to your knees one way or the other. And that’s a good thing, right? Just remember this: respect your guardian angel! Here’s the prayer:

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, to rule and guide. Amen.

  • I’ve had lots of seminarians over the decades tell me ever so stupidly that that is an insipidly saccharine prayer. I fear for them. They will be smacked down hard. Will they run away as the cowards they were at the time they said such a thing? If we are asking such majestic persons to be at our side, they who see the face of God in heaven, a presence which would crush us, we are asking a great deal, no? If we are asking to be enlightened by them who see Truth in the Face, are we not asking to see ourselves as we are before God, we whose sins crucified the Son of the Living God, and will so much truth not crush us if our guardian angels do not take account of our weakness and cowardice? Are we not asking primarily that our souls be guarded so that our angels do “whatever it takes” to make sure that we are on the right path, and is that saccharine, knowing that that kind of guarding could well have us horrifically smacked down? And if we are asking to be guided, is this not admitting, finally, that we are out of control without their guidance, and that such is the speaking of truth as we never have before? And these were seminarians, mind you, some few, but they were in fact in the seminary. What about us? Do we also run away from such a frightful prayer by being arrogantly dismissive of it, you know, because we’re ever so sophisticated and up-to-date? Let’s try it again, and mean it:

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, to rule and guide.

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I’m extra work for guardian angels

seatbelt-failureToday will be rather interesting. The vehicle is scheduled for an oil-change at the dealership on the East side of Asheville. But now there is one more thing for them to do: the driver side seat belt needs replacing. After early Mass in Graham county at Prince of Peace this past Sunday morning it was fine. But then, having returned to Andrews, starting from the Rectory to go over to Holy Redeemer, I couldn’t get the clip to latch into the receiver. I don’t like that one bit. After all, this particular seat belt assembly is only as old as mid-April 2016. This particular vehicle is rather infamous for its seat belt failures. It is rather misleading to say that the seat belts have a “lifetime” warranty if you don’t live very long because of the failures.

switchblade

There weren’t always seat belt laws, and I was rather annoyed as a teenager when the law came in requiring them in cars and then again requiring them to be worn. This particular seat belt failure is an anomaly as it is usually the case that once you’re in this particular vehicle you can never get out, necessitating bringing a pocket knife with you to cut your way out.

I will be saying a particular prayer, perhaps more than once. As usual, I will ask my guardian angel about some extra help using the traditional request:

“Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light, to guard, to rule, to guide.”

After all, I am otherwise so in the dark, unguarded, unruly and generally misguided. For those of you sharpening up your Latin skills:

Angele Dei, qui custos es mei, me tibi commissum pietate superna hodie illumina, custodi, rege et guberna. Amen.

Update: They’re giving me a temp replacement… 

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Angels, the weight of the glory of God, final perseverance, death and donkeys

saint michael police officer down

I’ve been posting only rarely. I’ve been screamingly busy these past number of weeks and it’s only picking up steam. I entirely blame guardian angels for this. And thank them. In my experience, the angels like arranging things and doing stuff when they know this will do good both for others and even for me. Let me give you an example.

The other day I got a call from a wonderful 191 million year old lady who is on my weekly Communion Call list. She’s way up in the backsides of the beyonds in Northwest Graham County. It’s hard to get more remote than that. Her nephew, the exact same age as me, was dying of cancer, with only hours to live at the hospice on the far side of Asheville. “Could you say a prayer for him?” she asked. “Yes. And I will go see him,” said I.

Meanwhile, right away, like clock work, as soon as one emergency was over, another one came up, things which could not be delayed with others that I had to take care of. I’m thinking the whole time about the nephew. Finally, about 8:00 PM I was able to get on my way to the hospice, stopping halfway, an hour into the journey, for the Breviary, but starting up again immediately.

I got to the main medical campus at about 10:30 PM but couldn’t find the hospice for the life of me. The campus takes up an entire mountain top and has, it seems, dozens of clinics for every ailment under the sun. No hospice. I’m now despairing, as it is now 11:00 PM. Finally, I headed down a tiny alley that seemed to go off campus straight down the mountain. There were still more clinics. Finally, the last building in the most unusual place with a most unusual name seemed like it might possibly be the hospice and it was. It’s open 24/7, of course.

No one was on duty out front. “Go to the nurses station down the hall” was the sign up on the desk. So, off I went. My friend was in the room adjacent to the nurses desk and they were happy to send me in. I’ll just relate to you a few of the events that went on in the next 20 minutes or so with this man who was filled to the brim with cancer.

His eyes were closed and he was in the death rattle which I’ve witnessed it seems a thousand times, head way back, throat way out in bulbous fashion, having difficulty breathing. I took his hand in mine and rocked it back and forth, arm wrestling fashion, but ever so gentle and reassuring. He gave plenty of squeezes, happy someone was there. Finally, I said, “This is Father George.” He opened his eyes with some effort and confirmed that that was the case and gave a little smile, closing his eyes once again, squeezing my hand in appreciation. After a few minutes, I said a long prayer for him, a prayer which is sure to set the soul on a straight path to Jesus, and looking forward to a heavenly meeting. To this prayer he added the most peaceful, all encompassing, affirmational, assenting to everything that is the will of God “Amen” I think I ever did hear. And that was through the death rattle breathing.

Saint Thomas Aquinas says that such agreement with the faith is consonant with the gift of sanctifying grace, but that the grace of final perseverance is a special gift that kicks in right at the time of death for the person either to accept or reject.

After more minutes of rocking his hand in mine I offered him something else, a joke, of sorts. If you tell a joke when someone is actively and immediately dying, it had better be pretty good. I think I had told him about this bit of humor previously, but now was the time to repeat it. I told him that I had a request of him, that I wanted to give him a message to deliver to Jesus, saying that if he was too embarrassed to say it, the whole heavenly court would say it for him, or even Jesus Himself, so he may as well go ahead and repeat my request. I told him that I had made this request, by now, to I think some dozens if not hundreds of dying people in my priesthood. By this time, he was all ears.

I said that I wanted him to tell Jesus that there’s a donkey-priest still down on earth who especially needs His watchful protection and guidance. That, of course, made him laugh, death rattle or not, as it has for everyone else. This is something that sets those who are dying totally at ease with what they are about to do, with where they are about to go, with whom they are going to meet. They are happy and peaceful, in a good place, aimed at the heavens, able to rest with no fear in the prayers that had been said, like little kids about to jump into the arms of Jesus. It is then that he died.

But there is more. A couple of things. The first is that this was all impossible without the direct intervention of the angels since early that morning and more. I had been delayed and delayed and delayed and, I must say, almost gave up and turned around fifty miles into the trip already, thinking I would never be let in at that hour of the night, and who would blame me for avoiding a further one hundred and fifty miles in the middle of the night when maybe I could see him the next day? None of these delays or my perseverance were coincidences. As soon as one thing would finish, the phone would ring. And on it went until I arrived at that precise time of his dying with those exact of amount of minutes before he actually expired. This had to be the angels, right? Well… there’s also this:

The second thing is that the angels made themselves evident, not by appearing, but – how to say it? – almost appearing. I think they were so very happy and let this be known. You have to know that the angels are part of the family and are always with us. Jesus says they behold the very face of God in heaven, and yet are with us, and that they rejoice over us being with Jesus and that we not to offend them. We must not ignore them! After this gentleman’s “Amen!” to the prayer and until he died there was a – what? – I don’t know what to call it… perhaps a visitation of sorts.

While I had his hand in mine, with me looking up to heaven (only seeing the ceiling, mind you), I received a very strong impression, very personal, very immediate, that the heavens had opened up right then and there and that the heavenly court was looking down at this spectacle of a Catholic priest and a Presbyterian layman in a hospice room in the middle of the night more than a hundred miles away from the priest’s parish. Very peaceful, though with much rejoicing, as if to say that my petition for his soul was granted by the Most High and the angels were now eager to bring him on his way. They didn’t have to wait long at all. The weight of the glory of God was upon us. His final perseverance, it seemed to me, was assured. I felt very self-conscious, thinking I was just a bit of a donkey-priest, doing only what I absolutely had to do. And not that this had anything to do with my weak prayers. The prayers of his 191 million year old aunt were always before the throne of God.

I experienced what Lewis and Short secondarily define for admīrātĭo , ōnis, f. admiror, that is, II. Wonder, surprise, astonishment. I must say that I rejoice in all this as a tiny little child.

There is a danger in writing about such things. Some might think I’m special. I’m not. Some might think the nephew who died is special. No, not really, though he did make it a campaign to let it be known that “God belongs in Graham County.” Some might think it is improper for me to write that showing love to a fellow Christian is good since they think that this offends against ecumenism because they say you can only be kind to someone who is Catholic because otherwise non-Catholics won’t become Catholic, or some other absurdity like that. Some might think that writing such things is offensive to those who are not Christian. Why? Some might think it’s simply improper to write about such things because it causes them to think about the end of their own lives and they don’t like it one bit. Ahhh…. Yes, the ol’ takin’ offense at the proclamation of the Gospel tantrum. O.K. Whatever. I just think that Jesus and His mom and the angels are all pretty cool and that we can love them and share the greatest love of our lives with others. I think that that’s not a bad thing, is it?

Having said all that, let’s all of us go to Confession and be at the ready!

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Update: Father George’s head on collisions day (with guardian angels)

I had two incidents which by all means should have been head on collisions with everyone dead. I was prepared by my driving advisor guardian angel with another almost catastrophic accident some hours previous to those incidents:

(1) The first was on the ramp between State Highway 74 and Interstate 40. One lady driver seemed to be ambulance chasing from ahead. She finally pulled over to let the ambulance pass her while she passed me on the one lane wide ramp. Problem: no room for three vehicles in the same place at the same time, since time is greater than space, except where they intersect. Someone had to put it in the ditch. Hey! I know how to do that! I slammed on my brakes and severely steered into the ditch and then back so as to create a double-fishtail effect spinning the car into the ditch even while leaving one tire on the pavement with the other three smashing sideways through along the ditch spitting up turf and rubbish, all at a zillion miles an hour, even while the nice lady cut me off as the ambulance passed her. Then, of course, we were next to each other in a traffic jam because of the accident to which the ambulance was rushing. Hey hey hey. Thanks guardian angel!

(2) Later in the day, very high up in the mountains, a double-cab truck loaded up with teenage boys came around a blind curve with a tire over the double yellow. It’s not that they didn’t see me; they purposely sharply swerved fully into my lane when they saw me. A game of chicken was underway, with only a few seconds to be a chicken. Not that I’m a chicken, it’s just that I didn’t want to wreck my vehicle, so away to the ditch I went, using another double-fishtail manuever to spin the car away from the oncoming truck at the same rate as its approach, spinning away even while it passed, just getting missed by inches from the front to the back. Kind of like the coriolis effect worked with steering, so that the outside spin is reversed.

Whatever. Back in the day I suppose I would have given chase, and it wouldn’t have been pretty. But now I just don’t care. One tire on the pavement going straight ahead and three spinning sideways in the ditch spitting up turf and rubbish, all at a zillion miles an hour. I had good practice that morning. Thanks guardian angel! Anyway…

(3) The exact same incident as (2) happened again only another mile or two along the road, another double-cab truck full of teenage boys coming around a blind curve with a wheel already over the double yellow line. Whatever with that. You get used to that in the mountains. But when they saw me they purposely sharply swerved fully into my lane. I did the same double-fishtail manuever spinning away even while they passed within inches, just missing my vehicle, one tire on the pavement going straight ahead and three spinning sideways in the ditch spitting up turf and rubbish, all at a zillion miles an hour. Thanks guardian angel.

I was now fully prepared for a fourth incident. Being on the lookout for such things is useful, but boring, as boring as sin. The only thing absolutely enthralling is Jesus Christ, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. Of course, the reflection of the Most Holy Trinity in guardian angels is pretty cool too! Thanks guardian angel! (Not that I see him, but, you get a sense of this.)

I’m guessing that the last two incidents were a kind of a suicide pact GoPro film your own death type of idiocy that teenagers can get into. Had I not avoided them it would have happened as I don’t think they could have steered their cumbersome trucks so easily out of the way. So, it wasn’t really a game of chicken. They fully intended to end it. I hope they live to grow out of this and come to know Jesus. The idiocy of youth. I’m glad I learned to fishtail at a zillion miles an hour when I was into extreme sports as a kid. I’m glad I have a super cool guardian angel. And if there are those who think that the following prayer is mere pious piffle, let them know my guardian angel spits on them!

Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
to whom His love commits me here,
ever this day (or night) be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

And to put it another way:

“If you do away with religion, you can’t hire enough police.”

A 90 second video well worth everyone’s time, because not everyone knows how to drive defensively and not everyone pays attention to their guardian angels:

Update: I mentioned these three stories to my EMT/Fireman friend, and he reprimanded me pretty severely. He thought it was just terrible that I didn’t turn around and follow them and at least get the tag number. O.K. Fair enough. I should have done that. But here’s the scenario:

There are two trucks, twelve youngsters total, all of them surely with guns. There is no cell phone signal for a full thirty miles, and when you do get it, you are still a full twenty minutes driving from any police in one direction, or a full forty five minutes driving from any police in the other direction. I could easily out-drive the trucks on the curves, but when it got to the straightaways, they would easily catch up and simply shove me off the road at a hundred thirty miles an hour. Of course, they could also just shoot me while I tried to escape.

What should I have done? Simply drive away like I did and it’s over? What should I do when that happens again? And it will, for sure. Should I attempt to make a contribution to society by reporting jerks like these and just get told that since there was no damage to the vehicle no harm was done and it’s my word against theirs, etc? And then what: will I ever be able to drive on that road again, or in that region of Western North Carolina? Do I get front and also rear facing GoPro for such purposes? That’s an expensive idea and only takes care of one vehicle and perhaps one driver for a time. But what about after that? If you become a persona non grata in a region here, you’re simply done for.

The ragamuffin crowd in these parts are only used to local shoot-m-up tit-for-tat cage fighting till the death don’t ever bother me or I might just kill you “justice.” One kid I know (kid means 34 years old), scrawny but who grew up cage fighting and therefore knows how to fight, cold-cocked two deputies (both ex-Marines), leaving them on the pavement next to one of the cruisers. To get away, he rammed the other cruiser into the ditch. When the sheriff asked him why he hit his deputies, he said they pulled him over for no reason. The sheriff didn’t press charges, asking just enough money to fix the cruiser up again. That kid was the law in that part of that county. So, do you report that kid or someone like him. Anyway, I’m a good friend of his and could ask him to get the word out that I’m not to be bothered. But, somehow that doesn’t seem quite right. Is that the society we want? And then I would owe him. It’s a mafia thing. So, just no.

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Scraps falling from the Master’s table (Questions of unworthiness edition)

chapel saint michael

My neighbor in Transylvania County likes to talk to Jesus during Adoration, not out loud, mind you. But he likes to ask Jesus questions, because, as He said, Jesus answers the questions. Mind you again, my friend asks the questions our Lord is happy to answer. If you’re not getting answers, perhaps you’re not asking the right questions. He asked Jesus the following question this past Tuesday during Adoration at Sacred Heart Church in Brevard:

“Jesus, what’s it like for you to be received in Holy Communion by someone who is not worthy?”

So, when’s the last time you asked Jesus something like that? My neighbor reports that the answer from Jesus was immediate:

Imagine a bathtub which a huge crowd of people use as a toilet, defecating and urinating and filling it right to the brim and overflowing with all sort of diarrhea and disease, emanating a stench just about knocking you unconscious. And then imagine taking a bath in that horror. That’s something of what it’s like to be next to the heart and soul of one who is in sin.

Yikes! When I first arrived in these mountains of WNC, the very first day, I went on a long trip to the Sylva hospital to anoint Father Bill Evans. He’s dead many years now. He had the same question for Jesus, and received the exact same answer, verbatim, as my neighbor: “Imagine a bathtub…” You know the rest of the story. Double-Yikes!

padre pio high massThis all reminded me of the time that Saint Padre Pio stopped dead in his tracks going out the sacristy door into the sanctuary of the church to offer Holy Mass. He turned white as a ghost and was dropping to the floor, having to be caught by his deacon and subdeacon. They asked him what happened. He said that the Lord revealed to him in that instant all the priests who at that very moment were offering Mass unworthily, nearly bringing him to his death.

As I drove the 2 ½ hours back to Andrews that Tuesday evening, I talked to Jesus about this, telling Him of my fear to be in solidarity with Him just as He is in solidarity with us, for I am very weak and surely couldn’t support knowing even the tiniest smidgen about what it’s like for Him when a priest unworthily recites the Consecrations at Holy Mass, Jesus’ wedding vows with His Bride, the Church, His body and blood sacrificed for that Bride. I asked my guardian angel that if I should make such a request of Jesus, that he, my guardian angel, would please have to have pity on me. I complained to him too of my weakness. Of course, you know what happened next…

I got back to the rectory, made a bee line straight into the tiny chapel, right to the altar, right before the tabernacle, and asked Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament that if He thinks it’s O.K. that then He might let me know the tiniest smidgen of what it is for Him when a priest unworthily offers His Holy Mass, and this, so that I might in my own little way be in solidarity with Him in His solidarity with us, I myself knowing just a little how unworthy I am, or thinking I do, but not really, because…

That was Tuesday night. Nothing. Nothing Wednesday. Nothing all day Thursday. But then, the vigil of the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the answer to my request started to be given. Great! But there was a problem. I had forgotten about the request I had put before Jesus. What was to happen was, for me, now devoid of the context which brought it about. This is stupid of me, and Jesus was going to let me fall to teach me a lesson. I had said I had wanted to be in solidarity with Him being in solidarity with us, and then I forgot my request. I guess I wasn’t very serious in my request, was I? I was just spouting off words however sincere I thought I was. But Jesus ALWAYS takes such requests seriously, and I know this both from the accounts of others told to me and by my own personal experience, which damns me all the more. This forgetting is just how self-referential I am. But Jesus knows that, and I think He purposely waited until I forgot, not to be cruel, but to let what was going to happen to me have its full effect. I deserved everything I got. Moreover, what I was to experience wasn’t at all what it’s like for Jesus when a priest offers Mass unworthily. Instead, I was to know what the spiritual reality would be if I myself were to offer Mass unworthily. After all, priests say the Consecrations in the first person singular: this is my body and blood given in sacrifice and poured out... But remember, in my mindlessness this was all experienced devoid of the context of my request to Jesus:

I started to feel entirely, fatally, helplessly alone in front of real evil, of living, marauding, predatory death – how to say it? – an oxymoronic purposely conscienceless malice… a personal evil meaning harm not just to me, but to the entire Church, to humanity, to God, but I myself was in its sights right now. I was immobilized. The darkness was crushing. I felt a deep and immediate fear personally riveting me before this monstrous and ever so personal, diabolical evil. I was cringing in my spirit. Cowering is really the word, though there was no escape, no retreat. Throw into this mix an acute sense of all the grotesque self-referential church politics there are by which Satan mocks God. There I was, in the midst of all of it, in chaos, in fear, helpless, alone.

Fear is key to understanding this. Fear before Satan is the very definition of impiety, giving honor to one to whom no honor at all is due. Such fear is a betrayal of Jesus, abandoning Him to all of the hell which was broken out on Calvary. Such fear is playing politics with Satan, a most violent darkness. That’s easy to say with one’s brain, but it doesn’t mean that one can extract oneself at will from the grip of him who is the most damned of all.

Meanwhile, I was nevertheless entirely able to pray and was asking Jesus and my guardian angel about all this hell all of a sudden in my life. Why? I just didn’t understand. They didn’t want to tell me quite yet that this is what it is for a priest to offer Mass unworthily, and therefore what it would be for me to offer Mass unworthily, however much I might want to congratulate myself as being, you know, O.K., good enough.

Since there was no answer from them, my own answer to these and lesser problems is always to go to sleep. It was now late, so, lights out. At whatever time I would awaken during the night, however, I noted that it hadn’t stopped in the least. I was continuously captivated in the worst way by all this darkness. The next morning, Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was just from hell. I had hoped for better, given the great feast day. But waking up for the day brought all this to a greater intensity. And this was terribly frustrating, making me angry. And yet I would praise the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation. It’s not like I wasn’t with Jesus. I was entirely with Him, close to Him, heart to Heart with Him, and yet, all this hell was captivating me and grabbing my attention and letting me know a bit more just how weak I am. This was exhausting. I went before Him, begging to understand. Nothing.

cooking lessonsI did some office work, offered the Noon Mass, and then took care of more office work, and then I was away to Huntersville for the diaconate ordinations which would take place on Saturday. I stopped on the way to speak with a priest and have a wonderful dinner (He’s giving me cooking lessons; I have a mental block about that…). We, of course, solved all the problems in the Church and the world. I let him know many times in that conversation about the darkness I was suffering, the sense of abandonment, the purposely conscienceless evil before which I had such a deep fear, but not knowing the reason for this experience in the least.

cooking lessons2As the meal continued, and as the conversation turned to some topics which I meet with particular dismay, in my weakness I gave vent to cynical and terribly ironic and uncharitable judgments that were ever so incredibly very easy for me to make being in such a terrible state of non-stop darkness, a kind of imposed oppression it seemed to me.

That was that, unfortunately, and I was on my way again to Huntersville to stay the night at a house owned by the parish where the ordinations were taking place. I got there past midnight and crashed in the basement, going to sleep in darkness of every kind. Every time I awoke, there it was, mocking me. When I awoke for the day, I lay in bed, begging my guardian angel to let me know what was going on. I have never in my life had such a terrible terrifying experience. I was trying to be polite with him, maybe even humble, but I must say that I begged and I begged for understanding from him.

And then, on that morning, on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, he told me in four words what the explanation was for all this: “You asked for it.”

He said this almost like an accusation, for I had not been up to the task of solidarity at hand. Surely he had wished better things for me. Yes, I remembered my request to Jesus. Yes, the oppression was instantaneously lifted. But my guardian angel was not happy with me. I had said some silly things the evening before, things which I fear might have brought me into some unworthiness in regard to offering the Holy Sacrifice. How ironic.

But, it was now time for the ordination Mass. While vesting for Mass, I told this story to those who would listen. The effect was that many confessions were going on before Mass. I also went to confession, confessing my conversation the night before, along with my lack of trust in the Lord. Guardian angels also set up such things as Confession, thanks be to God. There is no greater joy for the angels than that a sinner repents.

The ordination Mass was absolutely beautiful, everything it should be. I was entirely happy, though sobered by my experience. I had a great time meeting a gazillion friends, and had a peaceful time on the way home, though, again, taken aback by the experience I had had. The drive home, taking many hours, put me before Jesus. I apologized for my weakness in not having been able to bear up under the weight of the truth of what it is like for Jesus when a priest offers Holy Mass unworthily. In speaking with cynicism the night before, I had run away from Calvary. Our Lord always works with irony. Repentance and conversion is good for the soul. It’s a coming back to life. This is a joy.

I spoke of all this in my homilies this weekend. And if anyone should think speaking of all this is scandalous, let me just say that while, yes, some of the older parishioners said that the moral of the story is “Be careful what you ask for!” there was nevertheless a number of teenage boys afterward who said that they wanted to go on the priestly vocations discernment retreat to be put on later this month (June 2016) at Belmont Abbey.

No one is interested in the priesthood if it is about priests saying how good they are. They are interested in the priesthood if it is all about learning to be with Jesus, to love Jesus, to serve Jesus and serve those for whom He laid down His life. As it should be.

Whatever the questions there are about unworthiness, Jesus and our angels are great teachers. They want us in heaven. That’s what we need to know and want to hear. If it takes telling people what a knucklehead I am to get some interest in vocations to the priesthood, then I’m at the ready! Praise to the Divine Heart which wrought our Salvation!

P.S. All that stuff about fear and darkness, that’s all a hypothetical, not the way I am: all of that is what Jesus was saying a priest would be susceptible to if he were to offer Mass unworthily, because that’s the situation he would actually be placing himself in whether he realized it or not. I mean, that was really my request to Him, to know a smidgen of that in order to be in solidarity with Him.

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Tattletale angels: Did you hear what little George David is doing now?

img_20160520_090315.jpgThis is, of course, the best monochrome of Our Lady of Angels ever produced. I mean, the expressions of the angels and of our Lady are entirely appropriate to plotting the undoing of my silly ways (and yours?) are they not? The angels are looking for some direction, what with me being an especially hard case, and Mary is looking rather impressed with the kind of mischief I can get into, and yet is concerned of course, to figure out some way to break me of my infantile instead of childlike ways. It seems Mary is plotting some humorous ways, mischievous even, for the angels to deal with me, at least from what is indicated in the painting here. Perhaps I am entirely misguided, but I just think that the extended Holy Family in heaven is entirely capable of the most hilarious scenarios of irony that would ever set one in awe inspired contemplation and rejoicing in God’s love for us. “Try this with little George David,” says our Lady, whispering some directions to the angels. Yikes!

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Leo rugiens… cui resistite fortes in fide

LEO

Jesus of the scars, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the only one left standing after Satan, the pretend lion, is smacked down.

“Your adversary, the devil, is prowling about like a roaring lion searching for someone to devour: resist him, strong in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

The other night I had a visit from one of Satan’s minions. I woke with a start instantly to recognize the most evil presence truly like a lion, not visible, though I didn’t even look in that direction, though having my eyes wide open. I quietly said my prayers with trembling voice:

  • Jesus! Help me!
  • Mary! Help me!
  • Guardian Angel! Help me!

That’s all it took for such a minion to be thoroughly disgusted with me and leave forthwith. Just like that. Just that quick. I went right back to sleep.

I can describe the disgust… It’s like he was certain that it would be a matter of course to come into this little rectory, and, just like he did with Judas, take possession of me as he might do to anyone else in this world. My little prayers, I must say, were said with the most eager childlike trust I could muster in my trepidation. That’s what disgusted him. And the disgust increased with every invocation until fear forced him away. Asking one’s guardian angel to smack down one of Satan’s minions is like asking an invincible warrior to go into battle. They need only make a move and the enemy runs away.

But note that I didn’t even have to use an exorcism, not imprecatory, not deprecatory. I just asked Jesus, Mary and my Guardian Angel for help. That’s something all of us can do at any time, anywhere. You don’t have to be an exorcist to ask for help. Remember that even when an Exorcist takes up an exorcism in an imprecatory or deprecatory manner, he is nevertheless throughout this exercise calling on Jesus and Mary and hopefully also his guardian angel.

And this is what it means to be fortes in fide, strong in faith: a childlike trust in Jesus, in His Immaculate Mother, in our guardian angels, not trusting in ourselves, but in them. Simplicity. Not being in control, but looking for security to the Holy Family. That doesn’t mean that I am not otherwise a knucklehead! All praise to the Lord.

I could tell many stories like this, one more frightening than the other, going way back to when I was just a few years old. At that time my brother and myself had common experiences, that is, both in frequency and together, verifying that I wasn’t just making it all up about Satan’s machinations.

Satan hates us because he hates Jesus. Jesus loves us. Satan attacks us to offend Jesus. Otherwise, Satan couldn’t care less about us. Imagine hell: Satan beating on us continuously in order to manifest his hatred of God. Don’t be afraid of Satan. Just turn to Jesus and Mary and your guardian angel.

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Fatima @100 years: annihilation angel

angel of fatima

“The Apparition of Our Lady plunged us once more into the atmosphere of the supernatural, but this time more gently. Instead of annihilation in the Divine Presence, which exhausted us even physically, it left us filled with peace and expansive joy.” (In her own words [pdf]).

The annihilation spoken about here is wonderfully positive, recalling Saint Paul: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This is an annihilation because of the very Author of Life is present, He who is love. This is the weight of the glory – βάρος δόξης – spoken of by Saint Paul, following up on the Hebrew Scriptures: the weight/glory of the Lord: כבוד־יהוה. This weight of the glory of the Lord pushes us to our knees in humble reverence, in thanksgiving before the Most High. Mary is such a good mother.

In trepidation, I just might ask my guardian angel for a bit more of a smidgen of a sense of this annihilation. Trepidation, mind you. After all, who am I if not already a nobody asking to know just that before the presence of the Most High? This would be so that I might more adequately thank Him who is to come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire, thank Him for coming into this world, standing in our stead, being annihilated for us that we in turn might be brought to life in Him.

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A visit to Jesus’ rectory…

image

The priest’s house, you know, the rectory, you know, the presbytery for the pre-Edwardian crowd, or parsonages to those presently of other persuasions, is one of those institutions undergoing a paradigmatic shift, in this case a movement right off the public church campus to a non-office, non-meeting place location. That’s a great idea. The practice of the Charlotte Diocese (started with the previous bishop) is becoming ever more important for the spiritual lives of priests, namely, to allow chapels in those residences of the priests, so that it’s also the High Priest’s house.

Since we have a small parish, I try to do the Communion Calls myself, and the rectory having a chapel has the added benefit of convenience regarding the Most Blessed Sacrament. And not only for that reason, but also, of course, for prayer, and not just liturgical prayer, the occasional Holy Mass and the breviary, but in view of our Lord’s insistence that we pray always. The rectory is a place of peace, truly a sanctuary. It’s not “Father George’s rectory.” It’s the rectory of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace. He’s here. This is an occasion of humble thanksgiving for the goodness and kindness of Jesus, which is always a source of amazement to me. There is always, always more for us to know about God being Love. Deus est Caritas.

Above is a picture of the Gospel-side of the gradines of the altar of Jesus’ little rectory. My neighbor in the days of yore, of hermitage times, is a bit of a seamstress, and, having an old humeral veil, torn in many places, she made up some regal vestments for the Divine Infant of Prague. I’ve had a devotion to Him since I myself was an infant. He has an angel, prompt and eager in service, to do His bidding. Regarding me, that also means whooping me upside the head.

The angels, you have to know, are always in the presence of the Most High and see the face of our Heavenly Father. Therefore, do not offend them! They teach us reverence and humility before the Most Holy Trinity. They rejoice to see us filled with sanctifying grace. I’m happy to be in Jesus’ rectory.

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