Category Archives: Flores

Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Construction & suggestions edition)

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Our Latino community is re-doing the Guadalupe Shrine. The steps and their walls are all fresh cement. The lighting will all be replaced and much added. The cross at the top will be a bit bigger. There will be flowering bushes and flowers at the sides. This is the new statue that will be going up, blessed just the other day (always lots of flowers, of course):

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Suggestions are welcome. They would like nine extremely brief biblical citations to be painted on the faces of the steps going up. Perhaps a few citations from the apparitions could also be interspersed. Ideas? Very, very brief. Almost cryptic! ;-)

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (deader than dead, but… edition)

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Yesterday, at a friend’s house in Brevard, NC.

You know the drill. Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies it remains just a seed, but if it dies it bears fruit thirty, sixty and a hundred fold. But, I mean, what’s the analogy to the spiritual life with that?

If we take up our crosses daily, dying to ourselves so as to live for Christ Jesus, following Him, it means we are going against the consequences of original sin and whatever of our own rubbish (that being the daily cross of weakness of mind, weakness of will, emotions all over the place, sickness and physical dying), going against these by not caving into any untowardness, any weakness, any sin, not living by way of our make-pretend love, our make-pretend respect for others, but following Jesus and living by His love, His truth, His goodness and kindness.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean doing anything, for we might not be able to do anything if our circumstances are such that we can’t do much of anything. But we will bear fruit thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. If we are living in the state of grace, in friendship with Mary’s Son, Jesus, our very lives in and of themselves are acts of intercession for all the members of the Body of Christ.

Precious in the eyes of God is the death of His faithful ones. Precious.

Speaking of death, and I know this is terribly presumptuous, and puts people laughing at me, but really, the truth of the matter is that I just so very much want to go to heaven. I know I’m not ready. I know I could never by truly ready. Jesus is truly good and kind, and I trust in Him. After all, He’s Mary’s Son. Right?

On the one hand, all the saints said that they could do ever so much more for all of us from heaven, when, freed from this body of sin and death, they could intercede for us with all freedom from heaven. Yes, I suppose. But, on the other hand, if we, burdened down with weakness, are living in the state of grace, that’s already very very much indeed.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (whole greater than the parts edition)

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When you give a flower to the Immaculate Conception you don’t just give her one petal or maybe one leaf or perhaps just one seed. No, no. You give her the whole thing because the parts make for a whole greater than the parts.

The same is true of the Body of Christ as Saint Paul called it, the Mystical Body of Christ as Pius XII called it, with the Christ Jesus the Head of the Body and we the members of that Body of Christ. He presents us through, with and in himself to our Heavenly Father.

We belong to that which is greater than us. We are not the be all and end all. Christ Jesus is the One. He’s the only One. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being. It is in Him that we rejoice.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (not flowers but… edition)

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As a little kid, whenever I would collect any “flowers” – depending on the time of year – so as to give them to my mom, there would have to be some background stuff, which could be simple sticks, or Pussy Willows, Cattails, Milkweed husks… whatever. All of that might even make up the entire “bouquet”, more like a conglomeration of whatever.

Pictured above is the Pear Tree at the entrance to the property on which the hermitage still stands, at least temporarily. So, I picked these Autumn glories for Jesus’ good mom with all the enthusiasm of a little kid. A legitimate joy upon this earth I should think, that is available to any of us, if only we know how to look for the “flowers.”

Jesus’ good mom is very forgiving, and, methinks, very much likes a well placed clump of grass rather than a much too staid presentation. Kind of like our spiritual lives. What think you?

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (berry berry quite contrary edition)

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Holly! Four of them out back of the rectory so as to put down roots so as to protect the bank of the stream after someone removed a number of rosebud trees on the rectory property just in that place while I was away on retreat back in October. Behold the four of them:

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The stream can become a raging torrent during a hard rain.

I gotta say, I like the brand name of the Holly trees. They’re called “Patriot.” They put out flowers much like the rosebuds, often right on the branches, like the rosebuds. A good development from a bad situation. I like it.

Meanwhile, it being after the November elections, the two gentlemen who were helping out, both heavy into local politics, enlightened me as to what the situation of various volunteer organizations in town was like. I mean, I knew that. It had been told to me before. But every time I hear it my reaction is like hearing it for the first time. It’s outrageous the conditions under which some of our volunteers risk their lives in the service of others. But, maybe, once again, we can make a bad situation better, even at the risk of being perceived as being contrary.

Doing the right thing is often considered to be just being contrary in a fallen world. Our Lady didn’t mind being in solidarity with Him who is Himself a Sign of Contradiction in this fallen world. She knows all about it. She knows her Son, Jesus.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (overflow flowers and candles edition)

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Our tiniest of all churches literally has no room for flowers in front of the image of Our Lady, and so we use an old credence table to solve the problem, adding pillars when necessary. I’m really happy that we go through so very many candles lit in honor of Our Lady. This transports me back to when I was a little kid. Does your church have a place to leave buckets or vases of flowers, or have to have an overflow area?

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Natura Morta Ma Vivente, Frozen edition)

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We’ve been having a bit of a cold wave with near or freezing temps and some snow flakes here and there. This day lily, with its six petals, next to “Brake Man” out front of the rectory by the statue of the Immaculate Conception, was frozen open last night, trying its best, no matter what, to give honor to the Immaculate Conception, who said “Yes” no matter that the “Brake Man”, the First Adam, said “No.” The Son of David, her own Divine Son, has perfected the sixth day on which Adam fell into the Seventh day, with Mary being the perfectly redeemed at the moment of her conception. The effects of original sin, what happened on the sixth day, are frozen in place for the rest of us while we are in this world. Like this day lily, we’re frozen for a moment in the weakness of original sin before we drop to the ground. And yet, we can give glory to God by depending on His strength in the midst of that weakness, retaining purity of heart and agility of soul regardless of the weakness. We are kept for a moment on this earth, in suspended animation, as it were, in exile, hardly knowing what we are doing until we get to heaven, but even here being able to give glory and honor to God. He makes it happen. Jesus’ good mom has put in a word for us with her Son.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (It takes a village edition)

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Flowers grow up immersed in ecosystems the beauty of whose complexity can be appreciated only by a childlike openness to rejoicing in God’s presence with us intact because of the grace provided by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And it’s with that prompt eagerness to all that is good that one runs with a flower to the Immaculate Conception.

Nature is happy to do what it’s supposed to do. Some who have made the phrase “It takes a village” infamous put all this into a diabolical reversal, not for life but for bullying manipulation of others unto a culture of death.

But God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). And this truth is also wonderful and glorious and, for those who have been provided through no merit of their own with a certain purity of heart and agility of soul – childlike – know this truth that “God will not be mocked” to be a manifestation of the goodness and kindness of Jesus. This truth, ferocious as it is, is love, and love casts out all fear, and let’s one be have the childlike enthusiasm which is necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

And there’s more than just a village in heaven. It’s called the City of God, the very Kingdom of the Most High. And Jesus’ good mom is the Immaculate Queen of angels and all of us.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (opportunity after the redbuds were murdered edition)

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All you see here is a bunch of stumps for the redbud trees that graced the back of the rectory property, along the stream, well within the boundaries of the property, something like a dozen feet inside the boundaries. When I was on retreat, someone had come in and hacked them down. Just a wee bit of cowardly aggression there. Why wait until I’m gone? Here’s a closeup picture of those redbuds in all their glory from a past post on flowers for the Immaculate Conception:

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There are obvious motives to rip out trees along a creek, such as to have the roots rot so that the stream is redirected. But, whatever. I’m not worried about it. It’s an opportunity. One of our parishioners has recommended another tree that’s fast growing, puts down a massive root system, is really beautiful with it’s own bits of red, and is really annoying to prowlers with all its needles on its leaves: Holly. I’ll have to find out the best time to plant such trees. They grow around here naturally. There are plenty around the hermitage.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (not a flower but it’ll do edition)

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When I was a kid, even such as this would count as a bouquet of flowers for my mom, who, with ingenuity, would take this out on the deck behind the sliding glass doors where we hung the bird feeders, and tie it to the railing, put festive bows on it, and let it act as a windscreen for the birds, who, even though they would puff up their feathers when it was really cold (like the common two weeks in February of 52 degrees below zero warming up to 17 degrees below zero at the hottest part of the day) would look pretty cold when the it was also very windy.

When we give flowers to the Immaculate Conception, well, they might not be flowers all the time — what do we know about trees and bushes and weeds and such? — but she’s not going to scold us and send us away with our offerings in our hands, rejecting us in our attempt, but will graciously take what we have and will know just how to put it to good use so that we’re even tempted to congratulate ourselves on our ingenuity such as the birds not freezing to death even though that was not our idea at all.

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Flowers for… Our Lady of Fatima! (Hundredth Anniversary edition)

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In honor of the 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Fatima the other day, the parish had a well-participated Rosary rally in the “central park” of Andrews, at the gazebo across from the Post Office. This statue normally is to be found in the confessional in back of the church of Holy Redeemer. More artwork from the 1950s was enshrined in the gazebo as well:

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And, of course, there were flowers for Our Lady of the Rosary, of Fatima, the Immaculate Conception, all around:

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Memories from my Fatima century ed.)

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Superabundant Guadalupe roses are still blooming into mid-October with more buds on the way on this day of 13th October in honor of Our Lady of Fatima.

I first found out about Fatima in the mid-1960s when the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima (as directly opposed to the Red Army specifically in Russia) was still called the Blue Army. I loved that as a little kid, going up against the Red Army with prayer, counting on heaven, being a prayer warrior here upon earth. I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world at my five years of age or however old I was at the time.

About ten years later I found myself writing a belated essay on Fatima for Father Robert J Fox of Alexandria, South Dakota. I would end up reading quite a lot of his books. My half-sister was having me go on a two week pilgrimage to Fatima with Father Fox as a Fatima Cadet (there’s that military language again!) along with all the other Fatima Cadets that year (1976 – sixteen years old).

I had gathered my birth certificate, my driver’s licence, the original certificate for my social security number, acquired my first passport, and, finally, my ticket on TAP (Transportes Aéreos Portugueses). This, of course, made it easier for my “Shadow” to then steal my identity, using my clean record to allow him to move even internationally with impunity.

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In Fatima we were brought to all the special places near and far. But then came one of the greatest honors of my life, on the night of July 12, with some 2.2 million pilgrims present (almost twice as many as were foreseen, the most ever). I was invited to be one of the litter bearers. So heavy! I was afraid I couldn’t do it if anyone else carrying with me were to take a misstep. The others kept being replaced pretty quickly to give as many as possible a chance to carry our Lady. Somehow they let me continue to carry. Perhaps they saw how radiant was my face even in the dark of night, happy as can be.

We later would go to visit Sister Lucia in Coimbra. I would return there again as well as to Fatima in 2008 with the other permanent chaplains of Lourdes, France. The chaplains would take a vacation together every year to one of the Marian shrines around the world, comparing notes with the other chaplains of the other shrines. I was happy to return to Fatima once again.

Time to put up the Holy Souls Hermitage series on the Rosary Mysteries once again.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Born to be wild edition)

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These, in their millions, are behind the church and social hall of Holy Redeemer, on the steep ridge on which the campus is built. These are, of course, born to be wild, it being that being wild is a good thing, that is, ironically, a predictable and therefore not at all wild way of going about life. Indeed, you’ll notice just how much they are all the same and yet unrepeatable individuals all with their own histories and difficulties and strong points connected however, mind you, with the unrepeatable circumstances in which they live, ever so wildly, or maybe not so wildly. Nature is going to be what it is created to be.

We on the other hand, have free will. We have unrepeatable circumstances in life with all the diverse histories and difficulties and strong points, but we are not absolutely determined in our choices with the free will we do have. Determinism is an all too easy excuse. Young people, generally speaking, and there are notable exceptions of course, but just to say, young people in the usual rebellion and individuality are the most conformist beings anywhere to be found. And, actually, people struggle with that ironic political correctness their whole lives unless they allow themselves to be found by the Creator once again. It’s not that He lost us; it’s that we ran away. But His love and truth stabilizes us in friendship with Him, unable to be ripped in this way or that because of whatever unrepeatable histories and difficulties and strong points. His love and truth aren’t demanding dead conformism killing the soul, stifling free will, but bring the soul to flower out to be what it is. Love and truth are good. They have us live as one with the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. That’s really cool, totally wild, as it were. Born to be wild, born again to be wild.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (all the best flowers are… edition)

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These are to be found at the house of one of those on my “shut-ins” list. As it is, all the best flowers I can get for the Immaculate Conception happen to be at the houses of those on my “shut ins” list. Now, why is that?

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Rosary edition)

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It used to be when I was a seminarian and a young priest that I would come up with wildly academic ever so cerebral meditations on the mysteries of the Rosary, reading the relative Scripture passages in Greek and Hebrew and letting all this race through my mind as the Hail Mary prayers were playing, as it were, as it is sometimes said, a symphony in the background.

But that’s a lot of work, and, by the way, not a prayer, just a recitation of the facts, all true, mind you, all awesome, all mightily traditional and in line with the Fathers of the Church. But, sorry, it was all a bit frustrating. I was forgetting one thing: prayer. Since then I’ve discovered a secret to saying the Rosary: prayer. So…

Why not put the facts of the mysteries together with the recitation of the Hail Mary into the background just a bit, the mysteries still visible, as it were, the words of each Hail Mary still recognized, but putting an emphasis on Jesus and Mary right here, right now, as they are in heaven and as they are with us, thanking them for what they did for us back in the day whilst upon this earth, but, mind you, thanking them right here, right now. Prayer once again. And the Rosary flies by. Goodness! What happened? Reality. Much better, that.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Spirit of giving her a flower edition)

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That spirit is something akin to this:

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (pitchfork army edition)

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This is Paul who was out early this morning fighting the good pitchfork fight for awesome flowers for the Immaculate Conception out front of the rectory. You gotta love the branch handle of the pitchfork. Another parishioner put in the flowers yesterday when I was gone. Note the vines in the hanging pot in the upper right. Here’s another perspective of that:

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You can see the white flowers right in front of statue of the Immaculate Conception. The same lady who put up the vines also placed those white flowers. Let’s take a look:

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I gotta thank this small but very effective pitchfork army who do their best to honor the Immaculate Conception with flowers made by her Son for her.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Ziggurat Donkey Pope Bridge edition)

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This flowery bridge picture was taken the other day out near the hermitage where I often go on my day off for a bit of quiet time (after all, it’s a hermitage) and not so quiet time (Seals and FBI qualification courses for fun).

We hear quite a bit about bridge building, consensus building, not being divisory, and that the Roman Pontiff is, by name, a bridge-builder (pontiff…). The SECOND bridge we read about in the Scriptures is a ziggurat, a kind of ladder for the angels, for the gods of Mesopotamia, Jacob’s ladder (from his famous dream). There are exemplars throughout Mesopotamia, including through rarely, those of the circular type:

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There are remains in Babylon and Basra, for instance:

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At the top, the god might pitch his tent among us, as it were. It was around such structures that the people had to gather yearly to hear the Enuma Elish read from beginning to end, which is no small feat when you’re reading from cuneiform tablets, when you are reciting the most nuanced presentation of philosophical and theological and anthropological and metaphysical theories of day, including the latest impositions of the political and sociological and economical and military theories of the day.

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This was the bridge between heaven and earth, a two way bridge.

Meanwhile, the FIRST bridge mentioned in the Scriptures is actually the Tree of the Living Ones (the Tree of Life). That tree, that bridge came back with Jesus, we not going to Him (we’re blocked by the Cherubim), but Jesus coming to us. You’ll remember His chat with Philip under the fig tree, you know, the bit about the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man, who is Himself the Tree of Life, who gives us the Fruit of that Tree, the Holy Eucharist. You’ll remember the Cherubim protecting the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant, where one would find the presence of God pitching His tent among us. But Jesus is only a little while lower than the angels, as we read, and then He’s back up to heaven, where He draws us into His goodness and kindness and living Truth.

Following up on original sin, the supreme arrogance and divisory spirit of the Babylonians in building these ziggurat, a kind of control of the angels, of the gods, which is pure insanity of self-serving power, brought about the multiplication of languages and lack of cooperation as we read way back in Genesis.

We do have a bridge in Jesus. We do have a bridge in the Roman Pontiff particularly in his infallibility on matters of faith and morals pronounced to the Universal Church as the Successor of Peter. But such a bridge is one way. There’s no democracy involved, no voting that controls an outcome. Jesus is our Savior. We don’t save ourselves. Jesus protects the truth in His Church. Peter is not left on his own. We are not abandoned to our fickleness. We would jump off the bridge or be thrown off it much like the donkey in the fables of the days of yore. I recall the thanksgiving at the beginning of my ecclesiastical thriller novel called rather irreverently: “Jackass for the Hour.”

It is with gratitude that I dedicate this book to the many men and women who have generously read the manuscript, making many suggestions. They represent a dozen countries and almost as many language groups. They have the most diverse backgrounds, cultures and levels of education that I could find among those with whom I could entrust the work. Their patience and humour have, I hope, stripped the manuscript of at least some of my ineptitude. Yet, I apologise for still managing to make what is easy into something difficult, a defect of one who has little understanding. Seeing how assiduous I was in taking suggestions, the comment was made that the book shouldn’t become like the jackass who trotted into a spurious collection of Aesop’s Fables – you remember the one – who, depending on the suggestions of passers-by to his owners, carried nobody, or did carry the little boy, or the old man, or both, or was carried by them, ending up being drowned in the river which flowed, appropriately, under Market Bridge. What a jackass does is not acceptable to everyone. It makes life interesting for the one who insists on being a… Jackass for the Hour.

Anyway, our Lady was the bridge by which Jesus came to us. She doesn’t take Him back. She instead intercedes for us that we might also become one with her Son, she becoming our Mother. Then, by grace, we already have one foot in heaven. Ha! The angels also ascend and descend upon us, they see the face of God even while they help us to be one with the Son of the Living God, our Holy Redeemer, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace. Amen.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Miraculous Medal Black Madonna ed.)

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A parishioner brought this to me the other day. The flowers are on the medal, twelve roses, rather significant. It reminds me, for obvious reasons, of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa. More flowers for the Immaculate Conception:

Black Madonna of Częstochowa

We read about the love of God for the soul in the Book of the Song of Songs 1:5-6:

“I am black and beautiful. […] Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, because the sun has regarded me.”

Even more, recall the analogy of Saint John of the Cross about the soul looking into brilliance of the Most Holy Trinity, with that vision being dark just as one who looks into the sun will be blind. The sun is still there with warmth and light, God is still there with fiery ardent love.

In these days of non-sense attention given to pigmentation, this Jewish “white boy” Catholic priest says about his own soul — “I am black but beautiful” — which is what anyone whomsoever can say who follows the admonition of Saint Peter (1 Peter 3:15):

“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

The Immaculate Conception was always free from both original sin and personal sin, and yet no one knew more deeply and with more gratitude that she herself was redeemed by our Lord Jesus, her Son, so that that would be the case for her. The fiery ardent brightness of God shone upon her and she bears the effect of fiery grace upon her soul, standing transformed in grace from the first instant of her conception.

But we can be humbly thankful as well. Yes. Amen.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Our Lady of Sorrows edition)

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Today we remember in a special way the tremendous sorrow known to Jesus’ good mom on so many occasions, but especially when that prophesied “sword of sorrow” pierced her Immaculate Heart as she stood under the Cross, as she held her very dead Divine Son in her arms as He was taken down from the Cross.

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When I was a little little boy, just 2 and 3 and 4 years old, my mom would take me with her absolutely everywhere. One of those places, my favorite, was in the dark and empty (but not at all empty, instead mysterious, holy, enthralling, secure for a tiny boy going before God Himself and so full of freedom to rejoice as little me before God who knew that I was there place) crypt church of Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Saint Cloud, Minnesota (now totally wreckovated, but then, wonderful).

In the darkness, she would light a big votive candle (the kind in bottles in those days) at the Pietà shrine (an entire side chapel in those days), and then kneel down for the longest time, sometimes bidding me to kneel down with her, which I was happy to do, even though I might have been investigating wherever in that very large crypt church.

Grief comes from love. Sorrow comes from love. Don’t be afraid of grief or sorrow. We go through things on this earth because of the consequences of original sin, but going through grief and sorrow doesn’t mean we are being punished. It means there is love abounding. No need to be bitter about it. Let your heart be stolen away to heaven. That might leave a hole in your chest, but hey! We can follow our heart.

As I grew older and learned how to read, I read that verse from the Book of Lamentations of Jeremiah carved in large lettering at the base of that Pietà: Look and see you who pass by the way, if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

And that means: Look and see, you who pass by the way, if there is any love like my love.

Thank you, blessed Mother, for looking upon Jesus, always your little boy, and me too, with your maternal love. Thank you.

P.S. If anyone in Saint Cloud, MN would make a pilgrimage to the crypt church of Saint Mary’s Cathedral and take a picture of the hand-carved wood Pietà (which has a Native American motif) and send it to me I would be most appreciative.

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