In the middle of Winter, after snow and ice, tough in all fragility. Awesome. How very appropriate to give to the Immaculate Conception, via Jesus, of course:
In the middle of Winter, after snow and ice, tough in all fragility. Awesome. How very appropriate to give to the Immaculate Conception, via Jesus, of course:
Dunno what these are, but it doesn’t seem the birds eat them, ’cause otherwise they would be gone long ago what with the snow and ice and freezing freezing temps we’ve been getting. So there they remain. Ornaments of flowers gone by. Our Lord thought of everything for giving flowers to the Immaculate Conception.
One of our parishioners planted some grass around the church before taking off for Florida for the Winter. Methinks it will also do for some pretty fantastic flowers for the Immaculate Conception. I am always amazed at what Jesus provides, or what Jesus inspires others to provide. Very cool, indeed. It’s good to be amazed. Just be tiny. Be in humble thanksgiving. It’s the small things.
Found in back of Prince of Peace Mission Church in Robbinsville, up in Graham County, part of our parish. Kind of like holly. Kind of like grapes. Pretty rare in these mountains. I went searching for this bush on a hunch that there might be something there for our Lady. And there it is. If you want to find something, you can. Even in the dead of Winter.
This outrageously delicate and yet strong flower, surviving snow and ice and many days of freezing temps, was outside the door of my oldest “shut-in” way up in Northwest Graham County. Just as there is a huge difference between merely North Carolina and Western North Carolina, just so is there a difference between merely Graham County and Western Graham County. Yikes!
Not having the photo-app set on “save”, only the image could be saved to screen, as it were, so that I had to take a picture of the picture, hence the “screen waves.” It’s like the original picture, but not quite, enhanced or less so depending on whatever you think.
Meanwhile, the next homily I would give, yesterday, would see me having problems with the recorder once again. So, just one point needs to be brought up.
Sometimes we see things in Scripture we think we’ve seen before. There are the synoptic Gospels; there are the Chronicles, and on it goes. The later citation is either an enhancement or less so depending on whatever you think. Although – hah! – it doesn’t work that was with Sacred Scripture. Everything is most extraordinary. This needs to be stated in these dark times of cynics among biblical “scholars”. A striking example is the “Magnificat” of Mary when she greets Elizabeth recalling Hanna’s declaration in the books of Samuel. Let’s take a look, firstly at Luke 1:46-55:
And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luk 1:46-55 NAB)
Now let’s take a look at what Mary is recalling with Hanna and little Samuel of “Here I am Lord! Send me!” fame. This is from 1 Samuel 2:1-10:
And as she worshiped the LORD, she said: “My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted in my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory. There is no Holy One like the LORD; there is no Rock like our God. “Speak boastfully no longer, nor let arrogance issue from your mouths. For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who judges deeds. The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength. The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry batten on spoil. The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes. “The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again. The LORD makes poor and makes rich, he humbles, he also exalts. He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, To seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage. He gives to the vower his vow, and blesses the sleep of the just. “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he has set the world upon them. He will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness. For not by strength does man prevail; the LORD’S foes shall be shattered. The Most High in heaven thunders; The LORD judges the ends of the earth, Now may he give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!”
What Mary is doing is “up-dating” Hannah’s comments, not that the comments of Hannah about the infant prophet Samuel of “Here I am, Lord! Send me!” fame are irrelevant because they are in the past, but because they are super intensely relevant because they are being utterly fulfilled with Jesus and the little tiny Jesus in the womb of Mary.
Samuel single-handedly up-ended the entire and by now very corrupt system of temple sacrifice and brought about all the circumstances for the future Son of David, that is, Jesus, with Samuel witnessing the smashing down of Eli, Hophni, Phinehas and then Saul, finally setting up David as priest, prophet and king in his own right.
But, instead, what did I always hear in my biblical studies in Rome in my seminary days and then at the Pontifical Biblical Institute? That probably Mary was an ignorant and illiterate and simple girl who knew nothing about anything and couldn’t possibly have cited Hannah in relation to her own circumstances as this was surely done by a “school” of Jewish and now Catholic scribes in the first century. It’s too brilliant for stupid Mary, they say. “They say.” Sorry for the language, but I think it is appropriate: Who the hell are they?
In a more polite form that is the question I never forgot since the first time I heard it listening to everything that the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen ever preached at least as recorded and reproduced by the at the time “Keep the Faith” ministry. Yes, that’s right. Who are “THEY”? And who do “THEY” think they are.
This dissing of Mary tells me that “THEY” have never understood what intellectual anything is about. They’ve never had the experience, for instance, of noting the good simplicity, as simple as the light, of an Aquinas, or a Catherine of Sienna. It is a wisdom of walking with God, who is truth, now Incarnate. It is the love which judges all things, understands all things, quite instantly. Love is like that. Truth is like that.
Purity of heart. Agility of soul. That’s Mary. That’s the Immaculate Conception.
What do you think the Immaculate Conception sees in us, with her purity of heart and agility of soul and clear vision, I mean, you know, when she’s holding her Divine Son whom we all killed off with our participation in original sin and whatever rubbish we’ve come up with in our lives?
Here’s the deal: she sees that Jesus has redeemed all of us and wants that we also be saved; she sees with all hope and goodness and kindness that her Son is literally deadly serious about getting us to heaven and she wants that we be as deadly serious about following Him to heaven, carrying our crosses, the effects of original sin and our own.
The Immaculate Conception doesn’t dwell on how bad we have been, are, or could be, but rather is in solidarity with her dear Son, and works with Him. And the angels are ready with ultra-prompt-obedience to help us along the Way.
As for me, I just assume (correctly) that everyone is straight out of hell, and then rejoice either that they have learned to become friends with Jesus or are on the way, knowing that Jesus is working on them. Why’s that? Because that’s the way it is with me. I was straight out of hell with my own participation in original sin and whatever other rubbish I’ve come up with on my own. But Jesus has always been working on me and is now.
But, in thanksgiving, what if we have no flowers on hand where we happen to be on any given day to give to the Immaculate Conception? I mean, when I was a little kid, I would make bouquets of anything that happened to be around. So, O.K., on my day off the other day, amidst all the argumentation and guns and FBI, I noted all the elements for just such a bouquet. :-) If you put some of these together it can be quite spectacular. My own mom loved these kind of bouquets altogether. That’s a joy to remember. You have to know that Mary understands are meager attempts to thank her as well:
Oh, and, by the way, does that mean that we shouldn’t reprimand, even severely, those who need reprimanding? Not at all. Just look at the words of John the Baptist and then again Jesus over against the leaders and elders of the people. Shaking people up is sometimes necessary. That’s not mean, or angry, blah blah blah. It’s an expression of goodness and kindness, perhaps not nice, but it is charity.
Even in the dead of Winter one can find flowers for the Immaculate Conception. I can just look at my Papal Flag (thanks to a kind reader) and see, in the distance, “flowers” for the Immaculate Conception. Wonderful. Our Lady loves Pope Francis and intercedes for him. You know how I know? Because she does the same for this wretched sinner, yours truly. So, in view of that, and our of respect for the Papacy and the very person of Pope Francis, I also pray for him and love him to pieces.
Does that mean that either I or Mary are sycophants favoring Pope Francis? No. Does that mean that I’m an ultramontanist? Absolutely not. Heck, I’ve even publicly stated my hope that Pope Francis would reinstate Father Weinandy. Why not? As it is, I think Father Weinandy is also an unstoappable Papist. I think the same of the “Dubia Cardinals.” Why shouldn’t I?
I also think that Pope Francis has an unstoppable devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots. Do you? Does that make Pope Francis evil, or you evil? No.
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):
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! ;-)
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
And, of course, there were flowers for Our Lady of the Rosary, of Fatima, the Immaculate Conception, all around:
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.
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.