Tag Archives: Angels

Angels, continuous Day Off, and *The Boring Drama*

The beginning of this month was the scheduled time for the diocesan priests retreat, which didn’t happen, but the priests were to do this on their own, as I did. After that weekdays have been staycation days. That will continue through election week here in what are still these USA. Each staycation day became an epic day off, and not just for me. I’ve been more run off my feet than ever. As expected. For the nay-sayers, priests are “entitled” – I hate that word – to a month of vacation every year. I took a vacation once in my priesthood back in the Spring of 2008, invited by the Discalced Carmelites to live above the cave of Elijah on Mount Carmel for a month. Lot’s done in the background with relations between Israel and the Holy See. I never quite do vacations like other people do.

Two angels for this priest:

One of the projects at the rectory – a joy – was to make backlight boxes for the stained glass angels. Their history is the chapel of the Poor Clares in Ohio, then The Museum in Columbus, Ohio, then Holy Souls Hermitage on Holy Souls Mountain, then the picture window of the neighbors to the hermitage, and now the picture window of the rectory.

For me, these windows represent my guardian angel and the guardian angel of Holy Souls Mountain. Both are awesome – as angels reflecting God’s glory and with infused knowledge and God’s charity – and have both saved me very many times from deadly peril. A personal friendship. How are you at listening to your guardian angel? How compliant are you – a different way of putting it – to the smackdowns graciously given to you by your guardian angel?

Plotting for the good of the Church:

Besides such things, and cleaning up after the torrential rain and wind of the last hurricane, there has quite a bit of time spent with some really smart friends at the top of their game in plotting to help out Jesus’ dear Church and the world. This is what priests do when they have a bit of time to dedicate to much needed fraternity and recreation, all too rare.

It is my belief that the Living Truth, Christ our God, Jesus, desires truth pronounced for the universal Catholic Church. [[That’s technical vocabulary, is it not? ;-) ]]

Apologies for the lack of new posts for this blog: The internet in the back ridges of Appalachia is virtually non-existent. Sometimes a weak connection can be had for like three hours a day akin to 1980s long-distance-rotary-dial-up-speed with endlessly screaming modems. If you’re as old as I am, you’ll remember getting something like megabits per minute. Yes, that would be megabits not megabytes. That amounts to a few words of DOS txt per minute. For a graphic heavy blog like this… sigh

The continuous endless papal antics and ambiguity: Pope Francis has, as usual, been a distraction, but that distraction has only become an incentive to teach and preach all the more incisively about the Living Truth, Christ our God, Jesus. I’m a Catholic, not a Francesco-ite. Ambiguity and un-truth is sooooo very boring, so very dark. I love the Living Truth, Jesus, the Light.

To hell with all that is untruth, issuing as it does, from the father of lies, Satan, the ancient dragon who hates us because he hates God. That was and is Satan’s choice. That Satan roams about looking to destroy souls with all his niceness and deception, all his unity of praise of division, is all the more an incentive to me to teach and preach all the more incisively about the Living Truth, Christ our God, Jesus.

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Styx: Come Sail Away – Lyrics analysis – Angels, Holy Souls, Purgatory, Heaven

don bosco dream barque of peter

So, I’m a Catholic priest, and now, in 2020, 60 years old. When I was a senior in High School, 1978, Come Sail Away! by Styx was my favorite song. In analyzing the lyrics, I’m surely guilty of reading my own perspective into it all. Come along for the ride, or better: Come Sail Away! [My comments.]

I’m sailing away [Sorry, but I’m so very much wanting to go to heaven that this sailing away” thing instantly refers to death as described in the Funeral Preface: “Life is changed, not ended.]
Set an open course for the Virgin Sea [Because we’ve never been to that “Virgin Sea.” You recall in Luke 5:4 that Jesus commanded: “Duc in altum!” which we translate as: “Set out into the deep!”  But “in altum” refers to “into the heights” as opposed to “de profundis…” “out of the depths.” One of our fresh water lakes in the north woods of Minnesota – 120 feet deep at that point – was entirely clear as the air, so that one could easily see, in detail, the landscape, if you will, at the bottom of the lake. That would be like hovering over the edge of the roof of a short skyscraper. Fishermen on the freshwater sea of Galilee would have this experience of being in the skies over the depths, neither of which guarantees any earthly security. Even if we’re entirely with our Lord as His little flock, it’s still all very new to us going to the other side, as it were.]
‘Cause I’ve got to be free [Indeed. We have do not have the freedom not to be free of this world. We will die. We will move on. But there is more to this. In 1 Peter 2:24 we are told that to be free from sin we might live for righteousness. Saint Paul says that a dead person is absolved from sin (see Romans 6:6), you know, “‘Cause I’ve got to be free.”]
Free to face the life that’s ahead of me [Free for life. So, we’re headed in the right direction here, up to heaven, but there might be purgatory, right? We shall see. We can’t judge ourselves on such matters. We’ll see what the Lord has to say about this. But we must have the hope that we are facing life, and embrace that freely: “Free to face.”]
On board, I’m the captain [Speaking to the angels here. Our angel guardians enlighten us, guard us, rule us, guide us. Yes. But we have free will to assent to this, or not. We’re the captains in this most basic sense. If we follow the Lord we do so by grace, but He also uses our free will.]
So climb aboard
We’ll search for tomorrow
On every shore. And I’ll try – Oh Lord! I’ll try – to carry on [Speaking to the angels as he’s dying, as his entire life is flashing before his eyes. Is there any hope possible for the shores of his life? Do any growth in God’s love accompany him now? Many, many of even the greatest of saints were afflicted at the moment of death, Satan trying to make them despair, accusing them. But they cut through the mind games of Satan with the love of God, not their fallen-nothing-love for God, but God’s very love within them by grace.]
I look to the sea [this very moment of death, launching out into the depths, the heights.]
Reflections in the waves spark my memory [Do we sink like Peter upon the waves? Do we allow Jesus to catch us? See Matthew 14:30-31.]
Some happy some sad [So nostalgic! I’ve been nostalgic since I was a little, little kid. This is like an extended examination of conscience…]
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had [Yep. All that.]
We live happily forever
So the story goes [How naive we all were!]
But somehow we missed out [By saving grace…]
On that pot of gold [bypassing the “treasures” of this world so that our souls are purified like gold in fire. And this is a statement of hope. This fellow is all about what lies ahead with real life. I love that.]
But we’ll try best that we can
To carry on [The hope that comes with God’s love would have us do this as we move from this life to the next.]

A gathering of angels appeared above my head [So, right at the moment of death…]
They sang to me this song of hope, and this is what they said [“A song of hope”. I love that. The angels have helped us through life, but….]
They said come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me now
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me

Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me now
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me

I thought that they were angels, but to my surprise [Not angels! It’s the souls in Purgatory who by our prayers were freed and went on their way to heaven, eagerly awaiting the moment, as Jesus says, to welcome us into the eternal habitations, into heaven. We would think they are angels at first glance because the saints in heaven reflect the very glory of God.]
We climbed aboard their starship [the Holy Spirit], we headed for the skies [Duc in altum! This is a meditation which brings me great joy and great peace… and joy! We’re on our way to heaven!]
Singing come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me now
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me

Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away, come sail away


So, say a prayer for the souls in purgatory. They will be the ones to greet you on the other side and welcome you into the eternal habitations. Hail Mary

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Coronavirus, Communion in the hand, when I was a kid…

As the days go by and the stats on reported cases and deaths bring up a ratio which is consistent in nations which publish health data with accuracy. Sorry, but I don’t trust China. I do trust Italy and these USA.

The mortality rate for reported cases hovers between 4% to 5%. Today for these USA it stands at 4.33%. That is, around midnight between March 9 to 10, there were 26 deaths with 600 cases.

4.33%… What does that mean? It means that as of now, 1 in every 23 people you see on the street will drop dead.

1/23 is a statistic that changes quickly but it hovers around that rate, more or less. But what does it mean in real life?

The one’s who are getting especially sick with this Coronavirus are those who are already health-compromised and stuck with others who are vulnerable. Sorry to profile, but this means geriatric vacations on cruise ships. Do you know anyone elderly that goes on cruises? I know many. Do you see druggies and drug houses every single day? I do, very, very many. All druggies are ultra-super-health-compromised, are frequently visiting drug houses to get drugs and hang out, and are liable already be sharing diseases of all kinds, and – get this – really don’t have much of a conscience about avoiding sharing disease. No really. There are those who, as we know in now many news reports (just as happened with HIV-AIDS), when someone gets such a virus as Coronavirus or AIDS, they purposely go out as predators so as to spread the virus, so as to spread HIV. That’s fallen human nature.


Fr Z has been writing quite a bit about Communion on the hand vs Communion on the tongue in a time of Coronavirus. Here’s his latest: https://wdtprs.com/2020/03/ask-father-what-to-do-when-intransigent-priests-refuse-communion-on-the-tongue/. That’s helpful. Hint: Communion on the tongue is more hygienic, more reverent. The question in that post is about someone who has never received Communion in the hand, is now very elderly, and would be devastated to take Communion in the hand because of an intransigent priest.

I would like to share an analogous event when I was terribly scandalized by a knucklehead priest intent on scandalizing us kids. This is not about sex abuse, but it is quite directly analogous to that as well. This was when I was in second grade attending our parochial school. The Monsignor had our entire class marched over to his rectory, to the little chapel in the rectory. Upon entering I was devastated. I asked what the electric light on the wall was. I was told that this was because the tabernacle was there. Where? I asked. The monsignor pointed to a matchbox sized box unceremoniously stuck to the wall in the corner. I just couldn’t believe it. It was like Jesus wasn’t important, that God wasn’t important. I knelt down. He got real nervous. He had us march around the butcher block altar in the middle of the little room (which also totally scandalized me). I asked if that was really the altar as it wasn’t at all like the high altar over in the church that was then being torn down. Yes, it’s the altar, he said. My heart sank. I was scared. What’s happening? I was extremely aware of the reverence I had for the altar. And he was forcing us to touch it. I asked like three times if I had to touch the altar. He said yes, and was getting quite impatient with me. I was going into full adrenaline mode with everything graying out as I marched around the altar and touched it as did the others. I had hesitated even then at the last second. Just touch it! I was instructed. Sorry to put it this way, but I felt as if I had insulted the Lord, I felt as if I myself has been violated (raped if you will). I was empty. No heart left. My heart had been ripped out of me and stomped on and thrown out. But I did sense – mind you – that the angels had been warning me before this and were angry (so to speak) after this, not angry with me, but with this event, so very, very sad. To be precise, it’s that the very Sacred Mysteries had been stripped from my soul.

Back to Communion in the hand. My anecdote about the altar is an analogy. I would never force anyone to take Communion in the hand. And anyway, Communion on the tongue is more hygienic.

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Exorcism and Saint Michael who is like unto God because he’s humble

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With other angels or on his own, Saint Michael is mentioned throughout the Sacred Scriptures. He is successful in his battle against Satan because of his humility, which makes him, as his name indicates, one Who Is Like Unto God. Saint Michael does not get in God’s way with sin and pride and all that is demonic. Instead, Saint Michael lets God shine through himself to the greater honor and glory of God.

There is a prayer to Saint Michael which all can say, a prayer which many popes have indicated be said after Holy Mass, a short version of a longer version of a much longer version. The short version is available to all as it is stripped of direct commands to Satan, and instead directs the one praying to make a humble petition to Saint Michael:

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Great! But many are not content with that, thinking that if one does not personally and in the first person make brave to rebuke Satan, directly commanding him to depart (which is always an exorcism, not just “delivery”), then all prayers to Saint Michael and to God Himself are useless, stupid, a distraction, not permitting one to show how powerful one is oneself over against Satan. And so they command Satan though they are not exorcists and are therefore not expressly mandated by their bishops to do so in the name of Jesus. They say they have empirical proof that they are powerful over against Satan, that they are the ones who know better, who are special, who don’t have to be “limited” to humble petition because simple prayer is NOTHING! Really? Just. Wow. They say simple prayer has no effect. It’s only when they themselves do exorcisms and speciouly call those exorcisms mere private and pious prayer (how very ironic) that things happen…. Yeah, I bet that’s exactly right. Things happen. Satan plays a mind game with them, making those raising themselves up look like they have POWER! Ooooh! “Power.”

It is said that what they do is simple and not solemn, private and not public, relatively modern instead of relatively ancient, short and not long, “delivery” instead of exorcism… all false distinctions meant to say that directly commanding Satan is not an exorcism. Here’s the deal: Commanding Satan is always and in every instance an exorcism by definition. That’s precisely why they do it. But they are also those who say that 2+2=5. Pfft.

It is said that some guy at Ecclesia Dei in a response to a private person (a priest) said it was O.K. to just go ahead and recite the longer version, with the exorcisms as part of one’s private, pious prayer. But an exorcism, however quietly said in a hidden manner, is always, by definition, a public act of the Church, drawing on the merits of Christ and the saints. But it seems to me that this private suggestion by Ecclesia Dei is not legislation for the whole church, nor does it undo previous and authoritative decisions that this is not to be done except with the express mandate of the local ordinary as we see in the universal law of the Church.

When I was a kid, I remember seeing the longer versions of the Saint Michael prayer with the exorcisms, with an accompanying indication that the exorcisms were to be skipped by those who are not mandated to do exorcisms. But I digress.

Humbly following canon law and the mind of the legislator as expressed in authoritative decisions about the same and as directed to the universal Church is, it seems to me, the way to go. Humility in the midst of the Church is way to go. God does not penalize us if we act with humility. Saint Michael does not abandon us if we act with humility. Our guardian angels do not mock us if we act with humility.

Again, what Ecclesia Dei did was not only not presented for approval by the Holy Father in forma specifica, but it was also not declared that it was approved by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In my experience, it’s when laity and priests who are not exorcists just go ahead and do exorcisms that problems begin.

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CIA: “Show time!” Angels: “Show time!”

The lead picture is from actual footage out of one of the windows of Air Force 1. POTUS was being accompanied by multiple F-16s on September 11, 2001. They were there to protect him.

I can’t even count the times I’ve seen such accompaniment from my own window in a commercial jetliner. Most incidents were on the Stateside termination of transatlantic flights. I’m guessing that this accompaniment was not for the protection of anyone inside, but rather to practice being in place for the downing of a commercial airliner if it suddenly itself became weaponized. A common exercise for the fighter pilots, surely. Some examples:

  • Chicago – O’Hare International Airport: With fuel mostly depleted after such an extra-long flight, we were, instead, put in a rather weird holding pattern. The pilot was punctuating the ticking of the clock with apologies. Five minutes, fifteen, thirty, thirty five… Passengers were getting a bit agitated. The weather wasn’t good. That was the excuse. Until the pilot started expressing some distress about running out of fuel, and that the tower knew that, but would not, not, not give permission to land. I think the pilot brought the fuel thing up like three times. I love flying, so I thought it was all good, especially because of the airshow outside, F-16s to the sides of the plane. Cool! It was stunning to me – I’m so naive – that no one could care less about the cool F-16s. The other passengers were too agitated with the flight attendants who were trying to keep people calm by proffering hope for getting to any connecting flights. These were the days of “mere” highjacking instead of the blowing up of planes or running them into buildings. The F-16 on my side of the plane (the left side) pulled away. Momentarily, another took its place. Just practice, surely. We landed. My connecting flight was to the Wold–Chamberlain Field of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. We were diverted mid-flight to what looked to be a small-town airstrip somewhere in a pasture in nowheresville, Wisconsin. After a long delay, everyone was hauled out onto the tarmac. All the luggage came off. Dogs arrived with a multitude of law enforcement… Inside the plane, outside the plane, with the luggage, with us… nothing. That was a fad for some years in my experience anyway. Again and again. Then it was back on the plane. Just training, surely. Great!
  • JFK International Airport: I’ve elsewhere told the story about my involvement when terrorists threatened to blow up a transatlantic flight half way to JFK. I’ll spare you. Needless to say, this was another occasion for accompaniment of a commercial airliner with F-16s. They weren’t there for practice, however. They were waiting for a go-ahead to down the plane if need be. We did land, only to taxi out as far away from the airport as possible, almost in the water of the Atlantic, to be met by a multitude of emergency vehicles and then a storming of the plane by special operators.

I remember the details of these incidents of accompaniment more than the details of others as there were more concomitant circumstances that were… special.

Dad used to train in fighter pilots at Andrews just south of DC as they were putting him through JAG law training at Georgetown University. But how do you train in pilots to down commercial airliners full of innocent American citizens? What’s going through the pilots’ minds and hearts and souls? Unimaginable. But that’s why you train. But the question is always, immediately, Is this just an exercise? And then you hear, No. It’s not. … … … as your heart about stops and then about breaks your ribs pounding so hard.

Analogy: We’re all each of us in crazy changing circumstances every day that are permitted or provided by our Lord who is the Lord of History. He sees all. Our angels see all. We’re expected to be faithful in whatever circumstances, to do what we need to do, whether this means anything from going to heaven when called, promptly, with enthusiasm, or “to protect and serve” as is said. And all in between. Do we think, however, that maybe our circumstances aren’t quite so dramatic, and therefore our faithfulness isn’t really a big deal in those small circumstances, so that – Hey! – we can be politically correct or “get along to get along” or not witness to the goodness and kindness and truth and honesty and integrity that our Lord demands of us every second of every hour of every day?

Here’s the deal: It might be faithfulness in that tiny circumstance that will especially touch the heart and soul of someone and have them turn to the Lord and be on their way to heaven. And that epic saving of a soul is incomparably more dramatic than anything whatsoever that could possibly happen to us in this world. The salvation of souls is about eternity. It’s the small things that are going to draw people in, goodness and kindness and truth and honesty and integrity, always, always, and everywhere, everywhere.

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Exorcism law for Catholics: Instruction on Healing 2000; Inde ab aliquot annis 1985; Amorth; Ecclesia Dei dubia 2015

LOURDES-MICHAEL

This is in Saint Michael’s chapel above the grotto in Lourdes, France.

[[ This commentary has been slightly revised and updated with the addition of the Ecclesia Dei response to dubia. ]]

The four matters commented upon here:

  1. Instruction on Prayers for Healing (14 December 2000) [Feast of St John of the Cross, who hated sensationalism]
  2. Inde ab aliquot annis (29 September 1985) [Feast of St Michael the Archangel (and now Gabriel and Raphael as well)]
  3. A citation from Father Amorth
  4. Response to dubia set forth by a priest to the Commission “Ecclesia Dei” – 26 June 2015 [Feast day of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, which may indicate the provenance of the dubia ;-) ]

The Instruction of 14 December 2000 was approved by the ordinary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and shown to and approved by Saint John Paul II. This document cites Inde ab aliquot annis, which was also signed by Cardinal Ratzinger while Prefect of the CDF under Saint John Paul II.

Why you should read this post: Because we’ll be seeing lots more exorcisms taking place with all the new exorcists coming on board. This will help you keep your wits about you, knowing what the Church actually says about such things amidst all the various opinions. A couple of generations have gone by with almost no exorcists appointed in the entire Church. This means a loss of experiential wisdom, a risk of sensationalism, a risk of pride in going up against Satan. Let’s take a look at what the Church actually says. I don’t apologize for taking no prisoners. This is too important.

========================================

CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
INSTRUCTION ON PRAYERS FOR HEALING 14 December 2000

[Let’s skip right to the disciplinary norms:]

Art. 1 – It is licit for every member of the faithful to pray to God for healing. When this is organized in a church or other sacred place, it is appropriate that such prayers be led by an ordained minister. [Since the distinction is about the place in which this happens, the logic is that it would be inappropriate for those who are not ordained to lead organized prayer for healing in a church or other sacred place.]

Art. 2 – Prayers for healing are considered to be liturgical if they are part of the liturgical books approved by the Church’s competent authority; otherwise, they are non-liturgical.

Art. 3 – § 1. Liturgical prayers for healing are celebrated according to the rite prescribed in the Ordo benedictionis infirmorum of the Rituale Romanum (28) and with the proper sacred vestments indicated therein.

§ 2. In conformity with what is stated in the Praenotanda, V., De aptationibus quae Conferentiae Episcoporum competunt (29) of the same Rituale Romanum, Conferences of Bishops may introduce those adaptations to the Rite of Blessings of the Sick which are held to be pastorally useful or possibly necessary, after prior review by the Apostolic See.

Art. 4 – § 1. The Diocesan Bishop has the right to issue norms for his particular Church regarding liturgical services of healing, following can. 838 § 4.

§ 2. Those who prepare liturgical services of healing must follow these norms in the celebration of such services.

§ 3. Permission to hold such services must be explicitly given, even if they are organized by Bishops or Cardinals, or include such as participants. Given a just and proportionate reason, the Diocesan Bishop has the right to forbid even the participation of an individual Bishop. [This, of course, has historical reference to the one time Archbishop, Emmanuel Milingo, who was forbidden to participate in such things in the Archdiocese of Milan. Milingo was “laicized” / dismissed from the clerical state in 2009.]

Art. 5 – § 1. Non-liturgical prayers for healing are distinct from liturgical celebrations, as gatherings for prayer or for reading of the word of God; these also fall under the vigilance of the local Ordinary in accordance with can. 839 § 2. [All of this should be obvious, but the abundance of disobedience requires that this be reiterated. The cry “We can do whatever we want!” is frequently to be heard, just as Satan’s cry of “Non serviam!” (I will not serve!) is likewise frequently heard. When there is disobedience you can be sure Satan is nearby.]

§ 2. Confusion between such free non-liturgical prayer meetings and liturgical celebrations properly so-called is to be carefully avoided. [In fact, I’ve never even once seen anything that was not confused.]

§ 3. Anything resembling hysteria, artificiality, theatricality or sensationalism, above all on the part of those who are in charge of such gatherings, must not take place. [Jesus doesn’t like hysteria. Really, He doesn’t. Jesus wrought exorcisms with quiet authority. Hysteria is a result of faked authority.]

Art. 6 – The use of means of communication (in particular, television) in connection with prayers for healing, falls under the vigilance of the Diocesan Bishop in conformity with can. 823 and the norms established by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Instruction of March 30, 1992.(30)

Art. 7 – § 1. Without prejudice to what is established above in art. 3 or to the celebrations for the sick provided in the Church’s liturgical books, prayers for healing – whether liturgical or non-liturgical – must not be introduced into the celebration of the Holy Mass, the sacraments, or the Liturgy of the Hours. [Wow. There. They said it. Totally cool. This happened and, I think, happens all the time, especially in Confession. That’s extremely imprudent. People recall the practice of Alphonsus Liguori, but not really. There is never a citation. Anyway, this is the legislation of Church now and it must be obeyed.]

§ 2. In the celebrations referred to § 1, one may include special prayer intentions for the healing of the sick in the general intercessions or prayers of the faithful, when this is permitted.

Art. 8 – § 1. The ministry of exorcism must be exercised in strict [“strict”] dependence on the Diocesan Bishop, and in keeping with [1.] the norm of can. 1172 [which I’ll try to present in another post with a document I presented to some 150 exorcists many years ago, but the idea is that the express mandate of the local ordinary is necessitated for an imprecatory exorcism], [2.], the Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of September 29, 1985,(31) [which we will comment on further below], and [3.] the Rituale Romanum (32) [which will need its own series to comment upon].

§ 2. The prayers of exorcism contained in the Rituale Romanum must remain separate from healing services, whether liturgical or non-liturgical. [Get it? It’s not to be done. No direct commands to Satan in any kind of healing service. That ends about 99% of healing services.]

§ 3. It is absolutely forbidden to insert such prayers of exorcism into the celebration of the Holy Mass, the sacraments, or the Liturgy of the Hours. [And no matter how clear and repeatedly this is said, there will be people who will try to find loopholes. Read it: “Absolutely forbidden.” It is absolutely wrong. Nefas est! And, Fathers, to be explicit to the max: DO NOT DO THIS IN CONFESSION].

Art. 9 – Those who direct healing services, whether liturgical or non-liturgical, are to strive to maintain a climate of peaceful devotion in the assembly and to exercise the necessary prudence if healings should take place among those present; when the celebration is over, any testimony can be collected with honesty and accuracy, and submitted to the proper ecclesiastical authority. [One might find examples of the correct way of doing this in Lourdes.]

Art. 10 – Authoritative intervention by the Diocesan Bishop is proper and necessary when abuses are verified in liturgical or non-liturgical healing services, or when there is obvious scandal among the community of the faithful, or when there is a serious lack of observance of liturgical or disciplinary norms. [This is a reprimand to Bishops for not fulfilling their role of governance. In my experience, this is because those very bishops were happy to have such abuses take place, thinking that this was the nice thing to do].

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved the present Instruction, adopted in Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, September 14, 2000, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

+ Joseph Card. RATZINGER
Prefect

+ Tarcisio BERTONE, S.D.B. Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli
Secretary

============================================================

CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

Letter to Ordinaries regarding norms on Exorcism

INDE AB ALIQUOT ANNIS – 29 September 1985

Your most Reverend Excellency,

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of prayer groups in the Church aimed at seeking deliverance from the influence of demons, while not actually engaging in real exorcisms. These meetings are led by lay people, even when a priest is present.

As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been asked how one should view these facts, this Dicastery considers it necessary to inform Bishops of the following response:

1. Canon 1172 of the Code of Canon Law states that no one can legitimately perform exorcisms over the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local Ordinary (§ 1), and states that this permission should be granted by the local Ordinary only to priests who are endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence and integrity of life (§ 2). Bishops are therefore strongly advised to stipulate that these norms be observed.

2. From these prescriptions it follows that it is not even licit that the faithful use the formula of exorcism against Satan and the fallen angels, extracted from the one published by order of the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII, and even less that they use the integral text of this exorcism. Bishops should take care to warn the faithful, if necessary, of this. [“the faithful” – this speaks to individuals. The next paragraph speaks to groups. But in this paragraph 2 one sees that individuals even privately are absolutely forbidden to use the exorcism prayer from Leo XIII or anything extracted from it. That’s clear and strong. Priests generally are included, except for those who have the “special and express permission from the local Ordinary”. Disobey and you will get yourself in trouble. Disobedience is a sign of Satan’s presence. Disobedience is an open invitation to Satan to do his demonic worst.]

3. Finally, for the same reasons, Bishops are asked to be vigilant so that – even in cases that do not concern true demonic possession – those who are without the due faculty [priests included] may not conduct meetings during which invocations, to obtain release, are uttered in which demons are questioned directly and their identity sought to be known. [Priests without the due faculty still insist that because of the language in this paragraph they can still address Satan directly, so as to “bind” him, or some such thing, as if this were not an exorcism when, clearly, as a direct command to Satan, it is the very definition of an exorcism. Let’s just say it: forcing Satan with direct commands to answer questions and to reveal their identity is the very definition what is to go on in an exorcism, those direct commands being exorcisms is and of themselves in the larger exorcism or, in this case, with malicious deceit, the larger “deliverance” (which is actually an exorcism done in disobedience.]

Drawing attention to these norms, however, should in no way distance the faithful from praying that, as Jesus taught us, they may be delivered from evil (cf. Mt 6:13). [Exactly right. One may ask our Heavenly Father to rebuke Satan, as did Saint Michael himself. And this is how Jesus, the very Son of the Living God, told us all how to pray. Why is it that people think Jesus’ advice should be despised as worthless, or think themselves better than Saint Michael? I think that many have been misled, and that many think that they have to have power by way of doing exoricms, even to the point of disobeying the Church to do this. But such disobedience is to make friends with Satan.] Finally, Pastors may take this opportunity to recall what the Tradition of the Church teaches concerning the role proper to the sacraments and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the Angels and Saints in the Christian’s spiritual battle against evil spirits. [Indeed, Confession is so very important. But don’t do exorcisms in Confession.]

I take the opportunity to express my deepest respects,

Your most esteemed in Christ,

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Prefect

Alberto Bovone
Secretary

=========================

At this point, some quote Father Amorth (an old friend), in An Exorcist: More Stories, 189-90 (translated from a book going back to January 1992 in Italian, by the way…), to say that…

official exorcisms are not allowed [by non-exorcists]; they are reserved exclusively for the exorcist. The same holds true for the exorcism of Leo XIII, even though it is now part of the public domain. The private use of such exorcisms is another matter; at least, this is how I understand the above-cited document.

“At least, this is how I understand…” he says tentatively.

  • Are there “unofficial” exorcisms? Any direct command to Satan is an exorcism. Doing an exorcism needs the special and express permission of the local Ordinary.
  • He is right to mock the mere fact of something merely being published widely (“Part of the public domain”). The fact of leaflets spread about by private individuals is not the granting of a special and express permission!

But, let’s see if the much later document of “Ecclesia Dei” in 2015 has anything pertinent to say about anything private:

=================================

Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei
Pontificia Commissio “Ecclesia Dei”
Prot. N. 153/2009 – 26 June 2015*

[…] Thank you for your letter of 9 June 2015 [an instantaneous response], in which you submitted two dubia regarding the use of the Rituale Romanum of the Extraordinary Form (which is in fact the editio typica dated 1952).

In relation to the first dubium, namely “is a priest allowed to publicly and / or privately use the Exorcismus in satatam et angelos apostaticos (the so-called Exorcism of Leo XIII) found in Title XII of the 1956 Rituale Romanum without express permission of the local Ordinary”, this Pontifical Commission would respond as follows:

  • Pursuant to Can. 1172 § 1, no one may carry out an act of exorcism over persons without the special and express permission of the local Ordinary. Accordingly, any use, whether public or private, of the Exorcism of Leo XIII over persons is subject to such special and express permission of the local Ordinary.
  • As regards the public use of said Exorcism in situations other than over persons, such as over places, objects, or in other circumstances, this is also subject to the authorization of the Ordinary, in accordance with the opening rubric to be found in chapter III of Title XII of the 1952 Rituale: “Sequens exorcismus recitari potest ab Episcopis, nec non a Sacerdotibus, qui ab Ordinariis suis ad id auctoritatem habeant”. Indeed, it does not appear that any later legislation ever lifted the rule laid down by this rubric, which therefore remains in force. As for the letter Inde ab aliquot annis of the CDF of 29 September 1985, this letter deals with the question of the use of the Exorcism by laypersons, and is therefore of no consequence as to the situation of priests. It should further be noted that by “public” use of the Exorcism, one should understand any use made by a priest in the name and with the authority of the Church for the benefit of the faithful.
  • As regards the private use of the Exorcism of Leo XIII by priests, i.e. outside of any pastoral context and / or request by the faithful, and simply as a pia oratio, this Dicastery sees no grounds for which to deny this to priests on the basis of the discipline currently in force. That said, the competent authorities of the […edited out…] remain free, should they deem it appropriate, to provide its members with internal guidelines or rules [for further restriction, obviously] in this regard. [“Ecclesia Dei” rules out this exorcism of Leo XIII being used for the benefit of any member of the faithful and for any benefit whatsoever of the faithful such as over places at the request of the faithful if there is no special and express permission of the local Ordinary for a priest to do this as a duly authorized exorcist. “Ecclesia Dei” concedes a private usage that is to be unknown to anyone but the priest himself ( – over himself? or his domicile? – ) and only as a “pious prayer”. But an imprecatory (by direct command) exorcism as is had with the Exorcism of Leo XIII is not, by definition, a deprecatory (by request to Jesus or the saints) exorcism. The latter could be seen as a “pious prayer” such as the ending of “The Lord’s Prayer”. But the Leo XIII exorcism is definitely not that. It directly places monstrous, arrogant, violent Satan under the authority of Christ and the Church, drawing on the merits of Christ and the saints as an imprecatory exorcism wrought be a duly authorized priest-exorcist. Is this concession about using the Leo XIII exorcism as a “pious prayer” saying that a priest can privately go ahead and recite the Leo XIII exorcism, but just don’t mean what you say? I wonder what Satan would make of that. Does not meaning what you say make a mockery both of exorcism and of prayer? I wonder what Satan would make of that. I simply don’t know what to make of this. I’m not privately or publicly going to encourage priests to do exorcisms over themselves or anything of theirs such as private living quarters even privately even a “pious prayer” (whatever that means) based on an utterly nonsensical private answer to private dubia by a Secretary of a Commission, which answer, by the way, does not bear the public affirmation of the Cardinal Prefect of CDF of the time. Sorry + Guido Pozzo. But perhaps someone would like to explain this “pious prayer” thing to me. The comments box is open. Someone suggested that “merely addressing them” (the demons) is just fine as such an address is not mentioned. My question is: Why the hell would you be concerned with addressing demons if you are not doing an exorcism as duly authorized by the local ordinary to do that? Are the demons your good buds? ST II-II 90. ad. 2 is cited to say that it’s all good. Seriously? Muddled application, my friend. The same fellow says that none of the above restrictions are concerned with “adjuring them” (the demons). To be pedantic, “to adjure” is a direct literal translation from the Greek “exorcism” into Latin: To say “I adjure you, Satan” is exactly the same as to say “I exorcise you, Satan”. In their desire to have communication with the demons[!] people are dealing with fire. I fear for them. You should rethink this throw away concession, + Guido Pozzo.]

In relation to the second dubium, namely “can a deacon validly confect blessings which are not expresse jure permitted to him in the 1956 Rituale Romanum”, this Pontifical Commission would respond that regardless of the question of validity, it is clear from Can. 1169 § 3 that the faculty granted to a deacon to confect a blessing must be expressly conceded. Now, it does not appear that any such faculty has been granted to deacons by Church authority as regards the use of the blessing rites contained in the 1952 Rituale. Such concessions indeed exist in the 1984 De benedictionibus, but these are given on a rite-by-rite basis, and therefore only pertain to those particular rites referred to and laid out by that liturgical book, without any influence on the rights to use the blessings of the 1952 Rituale.

[…] + Guido Pozzo – Secretary

[*This 2015 letter was published years later in 2018 on the internet only in pdf form by Rorate. The transcription and interlinear commentary is mine].

Finally, just to end on a literary / film analogy, here’s a bit about power that was meant for good being corrupted into that which is evil. What do we become with fake authority? This is just a few seconds long:

Be careful, my fellow priests.

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Getting reprimanded by a professional

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“Look! A Squirrel!” Yes, the squirrels in these parts commonly lack color, so much so that there is a white squirrel festival complete with the soup kitchen guy wearing a white squirrel outfit put together by the neighbor to the hermitage.

On the “Day Off” I spent some time in town at a friend’s house, parking in the shade of a massive tree. Before going in, I sat in the car with the windows down for a few minutes checking emails and such. This girl didn’t like it one bit, parking herself on the tree just a few feet above me, scolding me continuously for minutes on end without a break. I thought I had better just go in so that she could get back to her young squirrels.

We fallen human beings thrive on being reprimanded when this is done for a good reason, is reasonably carried out, is consistent, predictable. And we learn. And we recognize that as a good thing. That’s when it’s all reasonable. But it needs to be met with reason on our part as well, a bit of humility. The Lord has given us commandments. As He said, if we love Him, we will keep those commandments of love of God and love of neighbor.

The reprimands for our lack, we have to know, will be as continuous as a mama squirrel. Our guardian angels will make sure of that. Count on it. Don’t discount it. When it happens, don’t get frustrated, upset. It’s best to thank our guardian angels for doing their job and helping us get to heaven.

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My angels flew away

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They’re now hanging in the front window of the neighbors to the hermitage.

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.

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Shadow-dog Gladiator-dog: Teaching session

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The heavy knotted short-rope, which is like, say, an enemy intruder (I have a good imagination!), is a good demonstrator tool for Shadow-dog who makes me his student in his gladiator school. In the above picture we see how one is to toss ever so calmly one’s adversary into the air with a gentle side-spin so that, in follow-up, one might put one’s entire weight and strength into viciously ripping in the opposite direction, which violent ripping could easily shred to pieces whomsoever the adversary happens to be:

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This ripping spinning motion will spin Shadow-dog himself about 180 degrees and the adversary round about some 540 degrees, and back and forth multiple times so very violently in just nanoseconds, so that I’m thinking he himself is going to be ripped in half, growling so loudly that all the neighbors either laugh with glee at the protection against home-invasion that they all have with Shadow-dog in the neighborhood, or half die of fright with the show that is put on. Meanwhile, Shadow-dog is the friendliest dog around. And the neighbors know that too. He’s so smart. Gooooood dooooggiieee!

You can always tell how good a dog is by how willing they are to teach you their tricks in their justifiable efforts to make you part of the team. Part of being more alpha than a forever alpha dog like a German Shepherd wolf is to be a good partner with him in the job that needs to be done. That’s when they’re in their element.

An absolutely inadequate and inappropriate analogy for which I beg the pardon of my guardian angel, who guards not a dog but me, nor learns from me but rather instructs as John was instructed: “I am a fellow servant of yours” (Revelation 22). But also our guardian angels are in their element, so to speak, when we are with them as fellow servants, fellow slaves, co-workers of our Lord. They teach us how to be warriors, so to speak, in this Church militant, where we fight as best we can to keep the faithfulness and hope that are given to us, the purity of heart and agility of soul that are given to us, the love of God and neighbor that is given to us. We are made into a show, of God’s goodness, really, as Saint Paul has it. Gladiators for God. Shadow-dog is a good example in his own way.

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Homily 2018 11 18 Angels & 4 last things

saint michael

Rather ferocious about the angels. Don’t be afraid.

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Last day of the retreat

This was a spectacularly good retreat. What remains is to ask our Lady to trample that crescent moon under her heel.

Your situational awareness is good enough whereby you see that sliver of a crescent moon in the picture above, right?

But who’s the most terrible enemy these days? There are enemies from outside and enemies within. There is the world, the flesh and the devil.

Saint Michael! Defend us!

Guardian angels! Protect us!

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Guardian Angels – Every day

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Gotta repost this.

  • 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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Today’s Politics of the Sistine Madonna UPDATE: What’s Raphael doing?

SISTINE MADONNA full

M.T. sent in a postcard sporting the Sistine Madonna by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael). The postcard itself arrived a bit damaged, as postcards do, so the above is a Wikipedia file.

I’m thankful for a reminder of the Sistine Madonna (with its wild history of locations both for the real painting and my mom’s copy) as it throws me fully into nostalgic mode. But that would be known from what I’ve written over the years. This was my mom’s favorite painting which always graced the “living room” of whatever house we lived in. Her copy looked like the real thing (to a kid like me) and was very elegantly framed. My mom made the frame and “antiqued” it. All very stately.

I would stand before this painting in wonder as a kid. It was my secret way to peek into heaven. There was heaven, right there, for all to see. How is it that the angels in the background allowed me to live. Even the angels are bored down front as they tolerate my presence. Did others see the treasures to be found here, in heaven? For me, these were mesmerizing sacred moments, so many, but always the same right through the years and in different houses: I would be racing about as a kid but then, in passing this painting, I would stop, instantly transported to the gates of heaven. Out of breath in my running. But absolutely still. “Look!” thought I, “There are all the angels!” straining as I was to see not so much the two angels out front, but the zillions in the background.

“Wow…” constituted the extent of my art appreciation at the time, though I imagine that that word was inscaped with more of a Hopkins’ umph than most grownup critics could ever muster with all their ulterior motives.

I remember being miffed that I didn’t know who Pope Sixtus was, or, as such a little kid, what his tiara was, and that I didn’t know who Saint Barbara was. But no matter. I happily gazed into the faces of Mary and her Son Jesus. M.T. shared his thoughts about these faces with me. I suppose I should return the favor with some of my own musings at this stage in my life.

SISTINE MADONNA detail

M.T. says he sees something “stern” in the face of Jesus. The way I myself would describe that is something of dread determination in the face of what is to come for Jesus during His life upon this earth, yet joy for what the result will finally be when He comes to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Jesus and His good mom are totally in solidarity with each other and mean to accomplish that which they set out to do for our redemption and salvation. But as with all such paintings, you have to follow the eyes, and in context. What’s said with just this detail is not wrong, but it’s all out of context. So, let’s move back to the full painting.

You’ll notice that young Saint Barbara, Virgin and Martyr, is looking down at the two angels who entered heaven, as did she, by the right choice to follow the Son of Mary. We have to remember that about angels. They, like us, had to say “Yes!” They expect us to use our free will correctly as well.

You’ll notice that Sixtus is bidding Jesus and Mary to look out from heaven to those here upon the earth. It’s as if Sixtus is saying “Look at what they are saying about me!” with “they” referring to those at whom he is indiscriminately pointing. And Jesus is looking over him – indeed over the viewer of the painting – and Mary is scanning the crowd also in back of the viewer of the painting (her eyes just a bit askance). As Sixtus makes his complaint, Jesus has already gone through His passion and death, and has risen from the dead and has ascended into heaven. But here Sixtus is addressing Jesus as a child. That surely refers to what Sixtus is complaining about.

There was a vicious gossip columnist in Rome at the time – given no credence by anyone – who wrote about Sixtus in such manner – repeating without discernment all that he heard – that you would think that gossip guy is writing in late 2018, all stuff about interfering with kids and young men.

Again, back to Jesus and Mary: there’s a certain foreboding, a certain sorrow, but also and more importantly a certain joy for those who will make it to heaven. Note as well that Sixtus himself is canonized in the painting. He’s up in the clouds of heaven. Is protected by the bored angels who would happy to do some janitorial work over against enemies if called upon, and can speak with Jesus and Mary at will, and they are right with him. But the gossip? Horrible. But the truth? That’s what Raphael is painting.

Lots to think about there. To M.T.: Again, thanks for the postcard.

UPDATE: What’s Raphael doing?

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (3 + 3 + 3 angel choirs rejoicing edition)

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As you can see, we have three sets of three here. Nine. I immediately think of nine choirs of angels, ordered into three sets of three, as pointed out by the Angelic Doctor, the Common Doctor, the great Saint Thomas Aquinas. See Question 108. The angelic degrees of hierarchies and orders. A good read, even for this most un-well-read priest.

There is no greater rejoicing of the angels in heaven than over one sinner who converts. It strikes me that they express this joy by, for instance, giving flowers of sinners like yours truly to the Immaculate Conception, Queen of Angels.

We can rejoice in their rejoicing. It’s important to rejoice. Even and especially in stormy times. Always. If we can have, by grace, some bit of purity of heart and agility of soul, then we are immediately brought to this rejoicing, for we see just how far the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception had to reach into this world to get us, which is cause for rejoicing. He had to stretch His arms in both directions on the cross, under which stood His dearest mother and ours. The angels are agape. And then they rejoice.

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Just after I bought my ticket for Rome: “Fortis fortuna adiuvat.” No! Angels!

DOJ

After my passport numbers went up on line from my favorite travel agency, these hits about my itinerary overseas above were then followed by the same from the FBI’s national research center near Fairmont / Clarksburg WV (CJIS), the largest institution of the agency for centralized info on criminal justice. This is something new, as I’ve learned to expect just a visit from the George Bush Center for Intelligence with a server named so as to be seen. Courteous. I can feel the love! But what changed so as to occasion CJIS?

FBI-Atlanta was kind enough to let me know the other week that I’m involved with the DARPA – COMPASS program. That may have replaced my original decades old perpetual interdepartmental cannot-be-unmasked-for-more-details program of tracking that Main State and later the FBI described to me with a letter and then an alternative identity (effectively a third!) without me asking for it. The COMPASS program carries a certain risk. A target of COMPASS, i.e., a person of interest, can be such because of being at risk or as constituting a risk. Since I’ve always been treated extraordinarily well, I’m guessing I’m in the at risk category, and COMPASS, as DARPA’s new toy, is the now by far the most effective mathematical analysis prediction “machine” (if you will) concerning individuals somehow in the midst of gray zone activities. It’s much easier to just throw me in the mix and forget about it along with the now small multitude of ambiguous characters. That’s what COMPASS is for: easing the burden of work, doing more with less.

In that case, I’m guessing that the tracking promised by Main State in the early 1990s has been delegated to the usual CAPPS systems which continuously updates passenger name records (PNR) for everyone on any given flight manifest. If there’s a high enough risk score attached to that PNR, an inquiry is automatically sent along to the TSA of DHS and, when they are frustrated at being locked out as to why there is a high score, they send the inquiry along. It’s imagined that CJIS can come up with a reason for the high risk score, and, pushing a bit more when that’s found to be untrue, the inquiry is simply overruled by Main State and I’m cleared for the flight, all updating in the COMPASS spreadsheets for use in their surely infallible algorithms. ;-)

So, it’s highly doubtful that there will be a pesky no-fly list notification while, ticket in hand, I attempt to get a gate and confirmed seat assignment at Hartsfield-Jackson international terminal. After all, I’m forever “accompanied”, to use Pope Francis’ terminology, on flights since as long as I can remember, back into the 1980s. I’ve never been on any SSSS or TSDB lists as far as I know, though in 1990 and then again in 2009 some entirely expected fun was to be had at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion. Smiling chutzpah always wins the day.

The last time I went through the TSA shake down in Atlanta the agents instead stepped waaaay back and let me and my carry-on stuff pass totally unchecked despite plenty of metal in the carry-on stuff and literally many pounds of surgical metal holding my leg together. When I protested their lack of concern about the carry-on stuff and all the metal I had on me they instead said that it didn’t matter, and that I could go through, that I’m good, because their checking me didn’t matter. That just left me bewildered. Less checking than for the pilot, the only other guy in line. It’s not like they were busy…

My seating is always switched out at the last second so as to place me with diplomats (with their usual retinue) or with various branches of the military or with Federal Air Marshals or of other reps of institutes and agencies, always. Or maybe these are the only people who fly these days. One memory in particular regards a most polite and well mannered diplomat who enlisted my help to get safely to the Excelsior in Rome, a kind of beyond the star system hotel next to the U.S. Embassy, reminiscent of the “Continental” of John Wick fame. Goodness!

My usual unusual accompaniment during the flight should be more interesting than the usual interestingness.

Some would wish good luck, good fortune. No. Life has nothing to do with such imagined things as hoped by the creators of the all-power-encompassing COMPASS program, which, ironically, is based entirely on chance, luck, the demon goddess “Fortuna.” What a living hell that is…

Instead, everything has come together seemingly miraculously, in the Providence of our Lord, with the ministrations of the angels, to ensure that what needs to be done is accomplished. But after that, it seems to me, I’ll be quite on my own. But that’s O.K. That’s also according to the will of the Lord. And I’m happy with that.

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Filed under Intelligence Community, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis

Angels and dangers of complacency

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I confess. This is my horrid sin: complacency.

Complacency is so horrid because it stops one from growing. It makes one overconfident, which is when mistakes are made. It’s a manifestation of pride, arrogance, self-absorbed, self-referential, self-congratulatory, Promethean, Pelagian. Yuck.

It all started when I was a kid, with escaping kidnappers and winning at fights otherwise to the death, and then with death-defying extreme sports. I figured I was indestructible because of thinking I was clever enough to get out of anything perhaps too happy to depend on guardian angels when I should not be testing them in the first place. So, how stupid was I? Answer: well, I think only my guardian angel could answer that adequately.

And then, even worse, complacency manifested itself with vehicles. In mid-teenage years, getting my first “cars”. The first I think was $50. A standard shift that was jump-started, meaning I had to park it on the downward side of a hill so that, in starting it again, I would run alongside the open door and jump in, throwing it into gear. Anyway, it took about a nano-second to go from (1) pushing the car around with the accelerator to (2) being one thing with the car so that it was like an extension of one’s body. That has one go to the limit with the car being just as immortal as I thought I was (at least acting that way much of the time).

I’m older now. I try to be somewhat self-aware. I try to be honest with complacency. This is not easy as by definition complacency militates against that honesty. Only God’s love, God’s truth can break through complacency. It’s a sign of complacency to think that we can successfully try to be somewhat self-aware, to be honest. But only God’s love and God’s truth can break through complacency. Well…

Yesterday, this “being at one” thing came up again. Not for any particular reason except my own deep-seated pride. But it just hit me that this is what just happened, a paradigmatic shift psychologically speaking. Here I am, complacent, once again.

This time, it occurred on the “day-off” at the end of shooting some courses  (FBI, Federal Air Marshal, DEVGRU, etc.). “Being at one” with one’s firearm, a step beyond “having” a gun (women, apparently, “wear” guns). The temptation with this is to be overconfident, which is when mistakes are made, such as thinking one doesn’t need to keep on edge by shooting courses (how many people do that?), keeping up on best-practices for deescalation, etc. (how many people do that?).

Mind you – and this is the stupid thing about complacency – it’s not that I had a spectacular day with shooting courses, like getting 100% on each course. Far from it. I sometimes go overtime. I sometimes miss.

An appropriate analogy might be getting the first level of a black belt, which is equivalent to what we call sophomore, a “wise-fool,” who is a know-it-all who is therefore unteachable. A first level black belt often looks for trouble. The top level guy, instead, will do everything he can to hide his skill, and then use it as little as possible so that he can just quietly walk away. A big difference, that.

Fortunately, recognizing the dangers of complacency was simultaneous to the temptation to be complacent. Credit for that goes, of course, to my guardian angel.

It would be good not to be complacent about recognizing the temptation of complacency. Psychologically, that’s basically impossible to our fallen human nature. So, I’ll ask my guardian angel about that. I’m sure he will be happy to smack me down in all charity.

When’s the last time you asked your guardian angel to smack you down with God’s love regarding otherwise unrecognizable complacency in any area of your life?

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Double reverse psychology trick

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Shadow-dog is slightly larger than Laudie-dog. But Laudie-dog is, apparently, smarter than Shadow-dog. She successfully took over Shadow-dog’s wolf-cave. She is just so laughing on the inside at her brilliant pawipulations. Shadow-dog looks bewildered that he’s been had in his own wolf-cave by someone who’s not even a wolf. Laudie-dog has the run of the whole house, so I told her to come out, and she did, happy to show me, however, that she’s definitely top dog. Shadow-dog was content that he had his own kingdom once again.

Mind you, it’s not that Laudie-dog wanted to take over Shadow-dog’s cave. It’s that she wanted to make sure that he’s jealous of his wolf-cave, so that he insists on staying there and is not tempted to cry to have run of the house as well. Hah.

Meanwhile, Shadow-dog is no fool. He plays the game, letting Laudie-dog think that she has tricked him so that she is content now to stay out of his wolf-cave, banished to life outside the wolf-cave. Double HahHah! His bewildered look above is instead a pleading with me to play along with him in his double-reverse ploy. Yes. Fine. I’m good with that.

Meanwhile, they’ve both teamed up to manipulate me… pawipulate me into thinking that I’m the true landlord of the house. At any rate, everybody’s happy.

I have to wonder how our guardian angels deal with the likes of us. Jesus says that they see the face of God right now, and then… and then… there’s us. Goodness!

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Filed under Angels, Dogs

Road danger: catching up to yourself

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Wide open on his right lane, this guy just wants to smash the other guy out of the way in his left lane even though oncoming traffic, me, had to severely swerve out of his way. I was happy enough to do so as I knew no one was next to me. Note that this battle between the blue and red (actually only the red is raging with him/herself) is happening in a turning lane to the left coming up to a traffic light.

road danger pass wrong way

He successfully shoves the blue car out of the way. But then, not wanting to turn left after all, severely swerves in front of the blue car, miraculously not smashing into a handicap transport who is turning to the left. A shot from the rear window camera as the red car squeaks in between the blue car and white transport into a normal traffic lane:

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Yawn. I had already said my guardian angel prayer. Yawn. No worries on my part. It’s a good idea to pray this prayer every time you buckle up. Also at other times!

  • Angele Dei, qui custos es mei, Me tibi commissum pietate superna, hodie (hac nocte) illumina, custodi, rege, et guberna. Amen.
  • Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom his love commits me here, ever this day (night) be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

I said a prayer for the driver of the red car. That’s always a good idea. Running from yourself is never a good idea. You’ll never win the race. You’ll only catch up to yourself.

Other clips were already automatically written over by the time I write this. Another guy, at a stop light, didn’t stop, but screamed around everyone through an adjacent parking lot and back out onto the intersection full speed in a cloud of dust. Really lucky no one was walking in the parking lot. This is just wanton disregard for human life.

I’m sure you all have similar experiences every day, and not just in traffic.

I have them one right after the other.

They say not to drive faster than your guardian angel can fly. Ha ha.

By the grace of God, we can let our guardian angels be the ones who catch up to us instead of just ourselves. The angels will introduce us more directly to Jesus in whom we find our identity. Better, we find that we are found by Him.

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Filed under Angels, Road danger

Relative perspectives…

This is at Saint Paul’s Outside the walls.

This angel above looks terribly snarky, with enthusiasm, in all good will wanting to smack you down, you know, in friendship.

Now, this other angel below looks terribly aghast, downright miserable, the moment he’s been terribly disillusioned by his protectee, like a whole human life span of time in guardian angelship just thrown away without remorse.

This is the same angel, but from an angle just two inches lower.

Honestly I think my guardian angel has pretty much both expressions going on all the time.

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Filed under Missionaries of Mercy

Conquering the world flesh and devil with the cross and Jesus

My hero Pope Sixtus V (but am I his favorite son?) put this up with the cross in top and these bits at the base:

I had a good chat with a guy who was finding a great deal of consolation in these words. That should tell you something about the suffering he was in. But a good chat. A real connection.

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Filed under Angels, Jesus