Category Archives: Flores

Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Can’t beat that edition)

flores j

Hey, Father Byers, you put up too many flowers for Mary. You’re being, like, exaggerated, like you’re trying to outdo Jesus in honoring His good mom, and that’s really stupid.

Yes, well, you’re right in that it would be stupid to think that we could outdo Jesus in honoring the Immaculate Conception. He’s her little Boy. So, no matter how much I try to honor her, Jesus will always outdo me. I know that. But, hey! It’s fun trying. And, I think, it makes both Jesus and Mary laugh a good laugh. ;-)

Of course, Jesus made the flowers I give to her, and she interceded for the grace for me to do that. So, in the end, they do me a favor by enabling me to do the flower thing, and I love that. That’s how families work, at least our heavenly family.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Militant Mother Mary edition)

This trillium appears to be a hawk just a nanosecond before snatching some prey on the forest floor at the hermitage. But how could something so delicate, for our Lady, in honor of the Most Holy Trinity by name, be militant? Just ask these lady slippers at the hermitage, now about a thousand strong and on the march (this being just one view of a massive patch on top of the ridge, the flowers not yet in bloom at this elevation):

flores lady slippers

The Song of Songs puts the question this way: “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?”

In Genesis 3:15 we read that the Mother of the Redeemer is in a battle all set off from all others against the ancient dragon, Satan.

But that’s all just a spiritual battle you say? Put your sword back in your scabbard, Peter! Yes, Mary stood under the cross and Jesus stayed there until he died. Yes. I know. There was a reason for that.

And defense of the innocent is still a positive contribution to the virtue of justice. And the military and law enforcement are still necessary. John the Baptist offered advice to the military and Jesus worked miracles for those in the military, even speaking about no greater faith in Israel.

Could a soldier offer a flower to the Immaculate Conception? Could a police officer? Could a Federal agent, say, in the FBI? No? Really?

I’m still thinking of doing the FBI course for chaplains who assist law enforcement and who would make themselves available in emergency situations which are becoming more common. As I’ve mentioned before, training up in firearms of all sorts is part of that training, a sine qua non. That’s why I’ve been training up in firearms on my own, well, one of the many reasons. So far, I’ve been killing off some adhesive dots (with 15 rounds from the Glock 19 for each dot):

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Of course, I know that standing and aiming doesn’t count. No adverse conditions. Being able to aim. When does that ever happen? But I was pulling the trigger about as fast as I could go, standing, both hands. Still to the left just a bit. I had tried shooting over the car, resting my wrists on the vehicle. Total failure, that. That’s only for rifles. The same for sitting down on the ground and resting my wrists on my knees. Total failure, that. That’s only for rifles. What that resting bit does is to change everything in the muscle groups in the arms. Not good. What doesn’t do this at all is lying prone. That works best for pistols. Glad to know. So, it’s either standing or lying down for me.

I wonder how many enemies John the Baptist and Jesus made in doing good for the military of the occupation. Lots of people thought they were from hell, I bet, possessed by Satan, the ancient dragon. I wonder if Mary can still be my mother…

I think so.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (every knee edition)

flores polygonatum

These polygonata were seen at a friend’s house the other day, the name referring to “many knees” or, as I would tweak it, “every knee”, as in every knee shall bow to the name of Jesus, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. The roots, it is said, look like Hebrew letters. The nickname is Solomon’s Seal, though I would instead refer to these as the Root of Jesse. These are for our Lady, mother of uncountable souls, more than the flowers under a patch of polygonata whose boundaries stretch beyond the horizons, more than the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.

We’ve been having some discussion on imagined impressions of our spiritual experiences, so to speak, including impressions of our Lady. Of course, it matters nothing at all what our impressions are, for reality is something much greater than our weakness and blindness in being able to perceive anything spiritual whatsoever. And yet, our impressions are in our face, so to speak, all the time.

About her, some verses of Proverbs come to mind:

She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.

She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.

She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.

She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.

She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.

She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.

She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.

She extends her hand to the poor;
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.

But more than that. Two other images come to mind for me that combine together with this:

(1) The first image that comes to mind is that which one might find in any neighborhood filled with a zillion kids who are always running about. There is surely a woman in the area to whom all the kids gravitate, as she always has cookies baking, is always prompt to encourage and, what is most appreciated, is ready to reprimand in a consistent and firm way, offering direction and a way out of trouble by way of reparation and positively doing good, an advocate, a protectress, a lioness and she-bear all at once, someone who treats all the kids the same but treats you as if you were the most important person in the world for whom she had all the time in the world.

(2) Now, take that image and jack it up a bit. In any Missionary of Charity house for the sick or the dying or for AIDS patients or for the homeless geriatrics or for unwed mothers there is always a sister who is a Mother Teresa type, who makes sure the most humble bits of service are done by herself (like cleaning the toilets, which is the job Mother Teresa reserved for herself), and makes sure everyone is treated with courtesy and respect and goodness and kindness, including, if need be, with tough love (the Missionaries of Charity also being famous for the tough love bit, which is good).

Now, putting all those together, along comes yours truly, the troublemaker. She ascertains whether I need any bandages or splints, any protection from untoward violence, or need to make reparation, whether I need any encouragement, or a cookie, and then… and then I’m put to work for the others there, you know, in the field hospital, without delay, she simply pushing me in the direction of her Son: “His name is Jesus; do whatever He tells you.” Of course, that pushing me in front of her Son might be done with her eyes, drawing me to Him:

pieta

And that’s how I see Jesus, someone who, in my case, not only takes me in as a brother, but a blood brother, someone ordained to His priesthood, “This is my body given for you in Sacrifice, my blood poured out for you in sacrifice,” He wanting to teach me how to love others as He loves us. I’m a difficult case, slow to learn, awkward in providing help, glazed eyes for anything complicated, but wanting to follow Jesus’ instruction as a little brother might follow the direction of his big brother. I might then tentatively bind up this or that wound of whomever, even as Jesus binds up also my wounds. He might direct me to say whatever it is that He wants said even as He teaches me. There is nothing esoteric here, nothing gnostic, nothing out of reach. There is something of the Sacred Mysteries, yes, but because of being so very normal: He’s become a Man, a God-Man, a Divine Person, but a Man like me, a brother, a close friend, my Lord and God, my Savior, One for whom I would exclaim with the Apostle Thomas, “Let’s go with Him; let us go to die with Him!” But then I know I might just as easily run away when it all comes to Calvary. He forgives me, and tells me so, risen from the dead as He is. What a wonderful field hospital when the Doctor Himself has risen from the dead.

This morning I was struck by fire of the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, with the fatherliness of our Heavenly Father, that he dotes on me… even me… since His Son laid down His life for me. Doting. Kids delight in being doted upon by their fathers. This is what the Holy Spirit wants to do for us, to so form us into being one with Jesus that we are given, through, with and in Him as a gift to our Heavenly Father, who bounces us on His knees and then sets us back down so that we might scamper about under the watch of Mary even while trying to learn from Jesus.

O.K. So, now I’ve made myself totally vulnerable. I can hear it now: “Father George is such a simpleton, a bit schizo, not living in the real world, insane really.” Fine. But I’ll tell you this: my world is full of the blood and guts of any field hospital. I know that Marx speaks of religion as the opiate of society, pie in the sky, a distraction, but I’ve never been brought into more reality than when I’ve made myself available at the field hospital to taken care of and to take care of others all in the midst of the Holy Family. The entire drama of human existence, of sinful humanity, of suffering and anguish before God and man comes crashing home always because God Himself, Mary’s Son, has come crashing into this world. Look at His wounds…

In the end, it’s not about our perception of who we are before God and man but about God’s love that He instills within us. It’s not about a competition about any holiness anyone might enjoy as compared to someone else, but about living in the midst of the love that Jesus gives to His Mother and all who will receive it. It’s about Jesus’ love, not Mary’s love. It’s about Jesus’ love, not any love we might have. It’s about Jesus. Our Lady becomes the mother of many children of God, so to speak, because she points us to Jesus before whom every knee shall bow, much to the delight of her maternal heart.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (ragamuffin waif guttersnipe orphan street urchin adopted kid edition)

flores bright

Holy Mother Church has long presented the most glorious aspects of the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God assumed soul and body into heaven, sometimes doing this also in reaction to attacks on her Divine Son. While none of these interventions which provide magisterial teaching on Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition make Mary out to be unapproachable even though she is that woman clothed with the sun, with the stars about her and the moon under her feet, it is easy to get that unapproachable impression if we don’t collectively start also to note how these very things make her approachable, that is, even while paying attention to those things people have found somewhat uncomfortable to notice. Thus:

Let’s call to mind the whole “Mary is only the mother of Jesus and she had no other kids” drama, you know, with all the arguments that “the brothers and sisters of Jesus” are really just “cousins” because the language at the time had no word for “cousins” and simply used “brothers and sisters” blah blah blah. That’s all correct, but, I think, misguided. Yes, Mary was the birth mother of Jesus alone, and there are those who are verifiably the cousins of Jesus mentioned in the Scriptures. But remember the time Jesus was rejected in His own native place, and especially that time “the brothers and sisters of Jesus” dragged Mary to where He was so that they could prove to her that He was demon possessed because He didn’t have time even to eat in that He was so good and kind?

Cousins don’t act like that. Only those who are insecure and think they have to prove something to gain their feeling of security do that kind of thing. What I think is going on here is that when the Holy Family returned from Egypt, now speaking Arabic and most likely marginalized with their house having been stolen while they were gone, have their plight noticed by the street kids who were for whatever reason also marginalized. Those kids instantaneously gravitated to and were adopted into the Holy Family en masse when they saw just one brought in, fed and cared for. Jesus wasn’t a brat. Jesus was the only child. They were envious of Him. They had to prove something, they thought, to Mary to protect their own position in the household.

In all of this, did Mary throw them out? No. Was she always available for all waifs who were dying of neglect on the streets? Yes. For her, were they like bright flowers given to her by her Son? Yes. Did they realize how much she loved them? No. Did that stop her from loving them? No. We are so very secure in the Holy Family and we don’t even know it. Typical us. Heaven will be different. Good thing our fallen human feelings don’t dictate actual reality. Our perceptions aren’t always correct. We are loved even if we don’t feel like it. Heaven will be different.

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday. More on mercy later.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Brake Man: It’s just you edition)

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Some readers of the blog and some people in town here in Andrews are terribly appalled at the appalling “thing” next to the front steps of the rectory. Be not afraid. It’s just you.

My hermitage neighbor back in Transylvania County, a master welder and mechanic, gave me one of his creations for a house warming gift when I moved into the new rectory (65 years old).

Brake Man is made up from brakes, because of which he simply had to be situated within reach of Mary, the Immaculate Conception. Brake Man is a symbol, of course, in so many ways, of Adam and his original sin, which put the brakes on all of us, having us rust away, as it were, until we fall into the grave. But we have hope, what with redemption and the Mother of the Redeemer interceding for us.

Brake Man, who is to continue to till the garden even if he is outside of the paradise aspect of the garden in this world, often has a garden hose hooked to his shoulder, continuing to toil and labor in the garden of this world as he does. Of course, that water provides refreshment to the flowers for the Immaculate Conception. How could she not accept flowers from such as Adam?

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Irrelevance of the Pope? edition)

flores rectory

The ambiguity and contradictory messages of Pope Francis are so fast and furious that even if he came out with an ex-Cathedra statement about marriage totally faithful to Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and all major interventions of the Sacred Magisterium throughout the centuries, it seems to me that, right now, relatively few people in the world would pay attention, as most would fully expect him to come out even the same day with a statement that would call his ex-Cathedra statement into question. In other words, people are losing faith and becoming cynical, frustrated, angry.

But that’s not where I’m at. And I’ll tell you why. Along with Pope Francis, I’m not given to ultramontanism, that most ugly form of self-referential clericalism there is. For those totally gone, please remember the weak link in the long line of the bishops of Rome, Peter, who denied our Lord three times. We know he later became Saint Peter. Fast forward in the clip below to about the two minute mark, where Peter kneels before Jesus’ mother Mary, confessing his sin of denial to her…

Here’s the deal: The Pope is relevant not because he has anything whatsoever to offer to the Church (infallibility simply being a “negative” gift to the Church of protection from any error he might otherwise come up with), but because he is fallen just like the rest of us and needs redemption and salvation just like the rest of us, and because despite all that he is the father of the family of faith on this earth and therefore we must be in solidarity with him, wishing him the best for his salvation. Any cynicism and frustration and anger on our part is our failure, whatever about him. We are to pray and do as much as we can to provide the love and truth and goodness and truth and kindness and truth of our Lord.

To put it another way: the Pope is relevant because I am a sinner. If I need Jesus and Mary to be in solidarity with me I had better wish that they are in solidarity with the Bishop of Rome as well. The Pope is, because of his position in the family of faith, a kind of barometer to the state of our own souls. Inasmuch as anyone despises his very person that is how much one despises Christ Jesus and, indeed, His dear Immaculate Virgin Mother Mary.

To put it another way:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

What we pray to God for the Holy Father is the same thing we would wish for ourselves, that together we make our way by the grace of God to the Immaculate Conception and to the Most Blessed Sacrament. The seas are tumultuous. But we can all walk on water.

don bosco dream barque of peter

Mary didn’t despise Peter. She interceded for him with great love.

Thank you, dearest Mother.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (dogged timing edition)

flores dogwoods

Every once in a while as a kid I would see a Farmers Almanac which predicted weather patterns and the best planting and harvesting times for any given year. It seems much easier to me to take a look at the dogwoods wherever you happen to be. Just an hour’s drive to the South they are long gone, here in WNC they are in full bloom. Back at the hermitage they are just peaking out. Climate regions are sharply defined by mountains and elevation and weather patters. Just a few miles to the South all the weather comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Just a few miles to the North it all comes from the Pacific Northwest. Here in far Western North Carolina we are often in the eye of major storm systems, catching it from the South and the North and, when there is a big enough hurricane in the Atlantic, just a bit of fringe rain from that effort. It just depends on where you’ve been planted, as it were.

Just like the dogwoods, our Lord in His exacting providence (and permissive will) has us grow and bloom in different times in different places with all things working together for the glory of God.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”

We are called to be faithful in whatever circumstances we have at whatever time in whatever place, and in purity of heart and agility of soul our lives will in themselves be acts of intercession for the whole Church. We have different times and places and circumstances so that we can work together for the good of all the members of the entire Body of Christ. Our Lord is dogged about the timing of what happens in our lives.

And why is this a flower for the Immaculate Conception? Because she, of all women the most blessed, was also the most attuned to the providential and permissive will of God.

The dogwood flower bears the marks of the Passion of Christ, which He still bears on His risen body, enough for Thomas to put his finger into the nail wounds and his hand into His side, touching that Most Sacred Heart still pierced open still beating for us. Mary also says with her Immaculate Heart pierced with sorrow during that Good Friday: My Lord and my God. The dogged timing for her had it that her intercession for us would call upon the entirety of the graces of our redemption and salvation, of justification and glorification.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Easter edition)

flores rose bush

Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to the tomb and received an angelic reprimand which had the sharpness of a tinge of sarcasm to it, deservedly so: Why are searching among the dead for someone who is alive?

Meanwhile, Mary the Mother of Jesus was already up in Galilee, perhaps to grab a few things before moving in with the beloved disciple, John, for her remaining days on this earth. She knew Jesus would rise from the dead and so didn’t wait around at the tomb. Just as she couldn’t possibly tell Joseph about the visit of the angel 33 years previously, she could not now say to the disciples that surely Jesus will rise from the dead soon, as they would just say that she is an hysterical mother to be pitied.

She had marched on this path previously, alone, in great haste, immediately after that angelic visitation announcing that she would be the Virgin Mother of God, from Nazareth to very near Jerusalem, to assist her cousin Elizabeth. Now she was returning with a great deal to throw about in her heart and soul, remembering also the three days when Jesus had been busy in His Father’s House at the time when He had become Bar Mitzvah and they had been in such great anguish. But this time, Jesus wasn’t in His Father’s House; He had gone to hell to reprimand the fallen spirits. Every word He would speak to them would bring them spiritual and intellectual frustration for eternity. Jesus would rise as the great Victor, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Prince of the Most Profound Peace. And she would meet Him where He had grown up. Would He bring a flower to the Immaculate Conception? What a meeting!

Yes, it is good to have a great sense of the Sacred Mysteries of God’s love for us, especially the manner in which He founds His Mercy on His Justice, standing in our stead, having the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. Yes. But…

Let’s not forget that the most profound peace reaches into souls when things are as they should be, recognizing that the Lord loves us in a thousand million different ways. For instance, walking through Andrews on the way back from the Methodist church the other day (where I preached the ecumenical Good Friday service at midday), I noticed the beautiful flowering tree, which looks to be some sort of rose. I immediately thought of taking a picture for a “Flores for the Immaculate Conception” series. Jesus, methinks, would pick such a flower to give to His dear Mother, healing some of her trauma. In that trauma, under the Cross, she had become our Mother, interceding for us. Perhaps also on this Easter Sunday we can give her a flower along with Jesus.

Happy Easter! The Lord is risen! Alleluia!

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Chrism Christ Angels Angelus edition)

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Seen at the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Patrick – Charlotte NC

We had the Chrism Mass for the Diocese of Charlotte early in Holy Week. It was such a glorious day, the well over 400 mile drive, the pleasant weather, meeting up with a zillion priest friends, speaking with His Excellency (twice, really very good), renewing of priestly promises in service of Jesus and those He has redeemed and is saving. Just a really good day.

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Catholic Cathedral of Saint Patrick, Charlotte, NC

The Bishop’s sermon was perfect, as usual. He told all us priests that when we preach we are to speak about… – wait for it – JESUS! That’s the singular best admonition to priests I’ve ever heard. Brilliant. Joyful. Enthusiastic. Jesus is the Way. Jesus is the Truth. Jesus is the Life. This is all about JESUS. Wonderful. Chrism refers to anointing, to Christ, the One is especially anointed by the Holy Spirit, the Messiah (which also means the One who is anointed).

IMG_20170412_071813With plenty of daylight still left a chat with my old neighbor near the hermitage (still there!) was in order on the way back out to far far Western North Carolina.

As long time readers know, there’s a long standing arrangement I have with my guardian angel, which is that whenever I make my way up or down from the hermitage, he will smack me down so that I remember to say the Angelus prayer for the Bishop and the priests of the Diocese of Charlotte. That goes on until this day. This is always startling, however peaceful.

But this practice is starting to shift over to another place as well, the Rectory in Andrews, my new hermitage, as it were, so to speak. Whenever I’m entering or exiting, the practice is now becoming – while getting smacked down by my guardian angel – to offer the Angelus Prayer for the Bishop and the priests of the Diocese of Charlotte, in other words, for my brothers in blood in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, the Anointed One.

Please pray for priests. Hey! Maybe with three Hail Marys. Come to think of it, there are three Hail Marys in the Angelus. But now we are soon to start the Regina Caeli for Eastertide. So, three Hail Marys on their own are good. And don’t forget the Holy Souls in purgatory with the same Hail Marys, also priests who have gone for some time to purgatory, that great place of mercy that prepares us to say thank you to Jesus in heaven.

Here’s the back steps, three of them, to the Rectory, a reminder of the three Hail Marys in the Angelus for the Bishops and priests of the diocese:

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (doggy rosary edition)

flores dogwood buds

Late evening at the neighbors in Transylvania County under the canopy of one of the many dogwood trees, which, unlike everywhere else, are still in bud not yet flowering.

I’m guessing they will flower out on Good Friday with their typical “drop of blood” on each of the four ends of its cross. I’m guessing you know the story of the dogwood tree, and the typical poem that goes along with it:

flores dogwoodIn Jesus’ time, the dogwood grew
To a stately size and a lovely hue.
‘Twas strong and firm, its branches interwoven.
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.
Seeing the distress at this use of their wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
“Never again shall the dogwood grow
Large enough to be used so.
Slender and twisted, it shall be
With blossoms like the cross for all to see.
As blood stains the petals marked in brown,
The blossom’s center wears a thorny crown.
All who see it will remember Me
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.
Cherished and protected, this tree shall be
A reminder to all of My agony.

Why is this a flower for the Immaculate Conception? Because, I mean, you know, the buds of the dogwood in the top picture resemble rosary beads, no?

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (totally unexpected death edition)

flores redbud

It’s Passiontide. The flowers are scarce in churches. The next time flowers will be seen will be at the Altar of Repose on Holy Thursday eve, the beginning of the Sacred Triduum. But, outside the Church, creation simply must provide some flowers for the Immaculate Conception. Flowers are everywhere to be seen, so many in gardens, but especially on the trees, so many of them appropriately the liturgical color for penance and suffering. One might be lulled into thinking that all is well, that nothing untoward is round about. But the violence which tortured to Jesus to death is all around. Our Lady has always known, always has seen the bigger picture. But we can be so easily distracted, so that amidst all the beauty the death of our Lord is totally unexpected? How could that happen? we ask with an innocence that we don’t even know is feigned. We need only look inside to see what our Lord has done for us, what He will do for us, and then that death of His won’t be so unexpected. Then, instead of pretending we don’t know what is going on, we will stand with our Lady under the Cross.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (totally unexpected life edition)

flores pear tree miracle

My neighbors to the hermitage in Transylvania County (still haven’t moved out yet and so the hermitage is still there) have a pear tree in their front yard. It bloomed out early with the hot weather we had in late February and early March. Then all those blossoms were frozen solid as the temps dipped way below freezing, to like 3 degrees Fahrenheit at night and still below freezing during the day for a couple of weeks it seemed. This always signals a no fruit year because, hey, no blossoms, no fruit. Well, miracle of miracles, a totally unexpected resurrection has occurred. A miracle? Perhaps this happens frequently enough, but I’ve never heard of it. The tree has twice as many blossoms as it had the previous month and all of them as healthy as can be.

Impossible you say? After original sin our corruption and death and blackness of soul couldn’t have been worse, but then arose the most pure and immaculate conception who was to be the virgin Mother of God, from whom the King of Kings, the Lord of lords, Wonder Counselor, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace would arise.

The purpose of this? So that my black and beady heart and soul might rise from the dead, brought to life by the goodness and kindness of the Divine Son of God at the intercession of His dear Mother. Oh, and your black and beady heart and soul as well. Confession is good for the soul. Never ever despair of going to Confession. We can all bear fruit 30, 60 and 100 fold.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (even tinier even more hidden edition)

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In just another few days it will be the great Solemnity of the Incarnation of our Lord, the annunciation to the immaculate virgin that she will be the Mother of God. It will be another opportunity, in a consecration to Jesus through Mary as was repeated throughout the decades, to once again ask my guardian angel to smack me down in such manner that I learn just a bit of humility before the living Sacred Mystery of our Lord’s love for us.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Hurry! He’s dying! edition)

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IMG_20170314_084735Just before the Big Storm slamming through the eastern U.S. right now, these itsy bitsies (some will say they are noxious weeds) were seen spreading out low on the ground in back of the rectory. They need a tiny bitty vase. O.K. Found one. An old super tiny Mass cruet. Perfect. Here’s the result in the tiny chapel on the gradines to the right side of the tabernacle. The wooden tabernacle-esque box to the far right contains the oils, the olea sancta for the various sacraments provided in the parish. I bought that box from Sacred Heart parish in Brevard. It’s from the old church, now a museum, in another part of town.

I have a confession to make regarding these flowers for the Immaculate Conception. Many, indeed most of them are simply pictures I take in the wild with the flowers being very much alive. Some of them can’t really be picked and transported as they would wilt and die no matter what one does (such as the showy lady slippers near the hermitage) even before they could be put in a vase and be put before our Lady. Then there are those flowers behind pasture fences or in the neighbor’s yard next to the rectory. Can’t pick those. Lots of times I’m just lazy and hope that the picture and good intention and writing in honor of our Lady will suffice. It’s only on occasion that I actually pick the flowers, throw them in some water in a vase, and put them before a statue of our Lady somewhere in the rectory. I’m bad and evil. However, I would like to start anew with this earnest edge of this kind of death offering. When I can, when I push myself a bit, it’s a joy to do this.

That bit about a “death offering” of flowers in a vase is a reference to that style of art called “still life,” with life that is still being at least on the verge of death: picked flowers, picked fruit, caught fish, hunted and still bleeding wild game, etc., all useful or beautiful in their own way, but with an edge of death on all of it, that is just now about to lose its beauty, so… hurry! In Europe this is called “nature death” or natura morte. We like to think that the flowers we provide are full of life, but instead, if we’re honest, we know that death is just around the corner.

The reality is that Jesus picks us as if we were flowers to give to His dear Mother. Dying to ourselves so as to live only for God is rather traumatic. Our Lady intercedes for us: “Hurry! He’s dying!” But in dying to ourselves, letting go of the pride of life in this world, falling into the grave, has us look forward to the resurrection, when the beauty of God’s life within us will never fade, will always shine in full beauty.

We’re picked by our Lord when we go to Confession, go up to Holy Communion. He loves us, and rushes to show us to His, to our Mother.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (dumpster invisibility cloak edition)

This is the gorgeous view one has from the dumpster at the soup kitchen (now so very far from the parish), where I stopped in the other day (not inside the dumpster this time!) while doing my rounds in Western North Carolina, finally getting the vehicle back from the dealer after using a loaner car for almost five weeks (because of a catastrophic failure of the seat belt).

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been to the soup kitchen. Many of the same people were there both in the kitchen (including my old neighbors who kind of run the place on Tuesdays) and in the dining room. On the one hand, the greetings in the kitchen were raucous, and I was invited to become a regular participant on M.C.’s local radio talk show (too far!). I was quite shocked that I was totally invisible to those in the dining room. Totally. It was like I was wearing some sort of invisibility cloak.

If society in general chooses not to see certain people, those certain people can choose not to see anyone right back, right? That runs so deep inside the human psyche and that’s even more effective than an invisibility cloak.

The Immaculate Conception chooses to see us while we are in the dumpster for whatever reason. We see her beauty and she sees us, wants to see us, is always solicitous for our welfare with her maternal love, wanting us to know her dear Son all the more not only here in this vale of tears and invisibility but also in heaven.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (entrenched with dog-tags in the field hospital of the Church edition)

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Gardeners usually leave the dog tags and hospital wrist bands on their roses so that they know what they are as the years go by, so many dozens of bushes do they have. I have just one that a reader sent in just now, so, I figured removing the tags would be O.K.

After soaking the roots for a couple of days, and after Communion Calls yesterday, with just minutes left to sunset, I borrowed a shovel from a neighbor who also gave me some miracle grow soil to put under the roots. As night fell wood shavings meant for Laudie-dog were piled around the transplant-shocked rose “sticks” to protect it from frost and drying out. Someone wondered what the flowers will look like. Behold:

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The neighbors also gave me some chemical fertilizer set for a three month time release program. But here is where I always fail as a gardener. It’s either too much or too little fertilizer, burning the plant or starving it. Luckily, some Floridians with garden know-how will be coming back for the Summer after another month or two when the roots are starting to get a good hold. Some field hospital work will be necessary I’m sure.

And if you want my opinion, I’ll give it to you: One of the best ways to heal wounds of being away for a long long time from the Church is to give a flower to the Immaculate Conception. Every field hospital ought to encourage this method of healing. This is the truth. The Church is about the Holy Family. Such a simple action cannot but put one back onto the right way. It’s so easy to dismiss, isn’t it, as pious piffle, no? That’s because people are afraid of this most effective medicine, scared to death, scared that this will change their lives, scared to be healed. “Not now! We’re scared to give Mary a flower!” they scream as they run away into the psych ward of the field hospital. But, don’t be afraid. Jesus’ good mom will help you. She helped me. And I’m a most sorry case. It’s a joy to give a flower to the Immaculate Conception.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Water bucketing preparation edition)

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Two full days of waterboarding the roots of what looks to be a mere bundle of dead sticks. A dear reader sent in these sticks with a promise that all would be well. I can’t imagine. Not having a green thumb, I put them in a green bucket. That’ll make all O.K.!

It seems like the beginning of Spring here. This is next to Mary’s statue at the rectory:

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (The Jews will survive edition)

Update: This post in the Flores series was originally subtitled as (Tooth of the Lion edition), but that needed an edit for the encouragement of our soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan, who are just now reading the post. Here’s the deal: Saint Paul says that the Jews as a group will convert after all the gentiles convert just before the second coming of our Lord Jesus. This means that any attack on the Jews as a group, while doing damage, as with the Nazis, will not at all bring the Jews to and end. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, still standing, will make it so in His great love for them (for us [I’m Jewish]). But this shouldn’t embolden anyone to think that any particular place is somehow protected by that Lion, as no one said anything about exemptions of places or numbers of people for that matter. Jerusalem was leveled in the first century. That very Lion of the Tribe of Judah was put to death. But… but… He rose from the dead, always the last One still standing. That should give attackers pause, and bring them to conversion.

Original post:

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LEODandelion = dent-de-lion = Tooth of the Lion. The name seems to come not from the flower so much as the leaves, with their jagged saber tooth appearance.

I’ve had three experiences with lions (panthers) in the wild, all within 100 miles of the parish here in the mountains. Whenever I hear talk of lions, I think of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Christ Jesus, who is the only one standing after any battle. I remember someone once objected that the lion in this picture couldn’t be Jesus since he is scarred. But of course, we only have to remember that Jesus, also risen from dead bears the scars of the battle upon Himself. He won the battle by dying instead of giving up; He won the battle by then rising from the dead; He won the battle by bringing His Immaculate Virgin Mother, soul and body into Heaven; He won the battle by bringing the bloodied martyrs to Himself; He wins the battle when you and I go to Confession.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Thank you ever so very much, Immaculate Conception! edition)

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My spirit is as light as a fluffy dandelion being given to Jesus for the Immaculate Conception. Our Lady has granted me this very day a great favor, two, in fact. I feel like a little kid before her, my spirit rejoicing. I’m bursting with joy, smiling from ear to ear.

byers dance paul vi audience hallMentioned in the conversation with the Bishop, who called me up, and with the Bishop bringing up the topic, was my thesis on the Immaculate Conception and my need to make a popular version of it. This is a sign, I believe from our Lady, that NOW’s the time! This will be the little flower I give to her through Jesus, if this is made possible by the providence of her Divine Son. I again dance with joy. Do I ever stop?

But that was just one thing. The other is… well… what a gift! I’ll write about that as time goes on. I’m speechless. I too, must be loved by the Immaculate Conception, and by her Divine Son. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Mary.

Dance dance dance dance dance…

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Lourdes grotto ice-roses edition)

Re-Post: Today’s the Feast of our Lady of Lourdes!

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Back in the day, when I was a permanent chaplain in Lourdes, France, I took this picture with my el-cheapo digital camera. It was February, the first day following weeks of 24/7 sub-freezing temps with ice and snow precipitating down on the pilgrims daily. As you can see, the ice and snow are no match for the gentlest of petals when it is time to give due honor to the Immaculate Conception at the grotto. Here’s a view from above the grotto, and, yes, this is also a color picture. It was just that dark and dreary and ferociously cold for weeks:

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However icy conditions might be among the hearts of men, crucifying our Lord Jesus, the fire of ardent charity was alive with maternal warmth in the Immaculate Heart of His Virgin Mother. The clarity of her vision, the agility of her soul and her purity of heart let her know clearly what it is for men for hell to freeze over, also hellish. She was sorrowful that her Son should be treated so terribly. She was sorrowful that she herself had to be redeemed, though she was never touched even by original sin. Her sorrow was an act of perfect intercession for us, mediatrix, therefore, of all graces that she is. Saint John Paul II used the phrase “co-redemptrix” dozens of times, I think 29 times at last count. This refers simply to how appropriate it was in justice that one of us who is not divine should ask for such graces perfectly, graces coming directly from her Divine Son. Thank you, Blessed Mother, for being a good mother to us. Continue to show yourself a mother to us!

Montra te esse matrem!

GENESIS THESIS GEORGE DAVID BYERS

IVE GENESIS IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CONFERENCE 7 FEBRUARY 2013

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