Tag Archives: Saints

Homily 2018 04 30 Pius V – Lepanto

pius v

The typical painting of Saint Pius V above. Below, his tomb at Saint Mary Majors. That picture was taken on one of my day pilgrimages in Rome while on the Missionary of Mercy ad limina (so to speak).

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In this, the “Sistine” chapel at Saint Mary Majors, just opposite Pius V in location though not in faith, is Pope Sixtus V (also my hero whose repentance I strive to imitate) but I digress.

Today’s homily:

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Homily 2018 04 23 – Saint George

saint george stained glass window

Well now. That’s scary. I did a massive search for the fellow I mention in this homily and I couldn’t find one single trace of him anywhere.

Anyway, this is how Saint George was put to death by the Roman Empire:

saint george martyrdom

Anyway, Saint George lives! Saint George lives! Saint George lives!

saint george icon

SAINT GEORGE SLAYING THE DRAGON Unterlinden Museum Colmar

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Visiting prison: Tarcissius! Prayers for Father Gordon MacRae and Pornchai

In the last moments before leaving Rome I made it out to Saint Lawrence’s Outside the Walls. This is in the Blessed Sacrament chapel below the altar: Saint Tarcissius. Or am I wrong? This little boy was commissioned by the Pope (who would be forthwith martyred in the catacombs) to bring the Blessed Sacrament to prisoners at the Coliseum. He was doing this…

He was doing this when he was smashed down and beaten to death by some other boys who wanted whatever it was he was carrying. They could not wrench it from his hands, even in death.

I felt compelled to pray for Fr Gordon MacRae and Pornchai here. Will you join me with some prayers for them? It’s like taking the good example of Saint Tarcissius…

Angel of God…

Hail Mary…

Saint Michael the Archangel…

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St Lawrence’s prison: praying for Fr Gordon MacRae & Pornchai

During my last hours in Rome I made a pilgrimage to Saint Lawrence’s prison. It’s terribly, terribly tiny, and often has about an extra 18 inches of water on the floor when it rains. This

Here’s the high altar:

Some historical notes. I’m sure some of you can translate these:

And here’s the entrance to the prison. The steps down are very steep.

I felt compelled to pray for Fr Gordon MacRae and Pornchai here. Saint Lawrence was imprisoned with a non-Christian who was blind, but who miraculously received his sight at the intercession of Saint Lawrence and who then requested to be baptised there in prison. I’m sure you can draw an analogy. Will you join me with some prayers?

Angel of God…

Hail Mary…

Saint Michael the Archangel…

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Saint Paul’s chains and my good friend Fr Gordon MacRae

I made a pilgrimage to the Major Papal Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls. What you see above is the baldacchinoed central altar with the apse in the background with its mosaic of Jesus and Paul. Far below the altar, down in the “confession” a bit of archeological digging was done recently. Saint Paul’s sarcophagus was found with all manner of indication that this is him. You can see one side of this in the back of the excavation. Between this and the altar you can see the chains which he wore and which he mentioned in his letters. On the top of that box you see three figures, Saint Paul in the middle and his two companion jailors to either side.

I felt compelled to pray for Fr Gordon MacRae and Pornchai here. Will you join me?

Angel of God…

Hail Mary…

Saint Michael the Archangel…

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Young St Benedict’s living quarters in Rome

3 feet wide, 10 feet long, 15 feet high. I bet he had a loft for his senatorial studies. Some pillows?

Here’s the new church, looking like it was built by the crusaders…

John and John, both my confirmation saints[!], Pointing out the Lamb of God. Always. It’s all about Jesus.

Superb architecture. We are just so boring and unimaginative these days.

Anyway, young Benedict found Rome so corrupt that he fled to a cave for three years in remote mountains at the center of his country. Imagine that. Who else in their right mind would ever do that?

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Assassination attempt. Building the shrines.

This is the spot not far from the obelisk where Saint John Paul II was almost taken out by the Muslim KGB guy. A humble marker. JPII lived another 24 years. But still. Can’t it at least say what happened? Or is that “building the shrines of the prophets” as the hypocrites do? He drew me into the confessional, to the priesthood, unto the Eucharist. He’s John Paul the great to me.

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San Lorenzo in Damaso: when Church – State politics get hot go to Confession

Jumping off bus 46, I headed into the side entrance of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Damaso. Greeting one of the elderly security guards – one of the quiet Saint Joeph like personages one sometimes meets – I then took this picture at a side chapel where a priest might say some prayers of thanksgiving after offering Holy Mass.

The security guard, spying with perpicasity my devotion, tapped me on the shoulder and silently bid me to follow him. He never once spoke. He pointed at a side altar and then at the explanation written out for pilgrims on the altar rail.

Many relics are above the altar as you can see, including those of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I had much to do with Mother Teresa. She was a huge influence in my life. Sorry, I’m nostalgic. I just about cried.

This is the Blessed Sacrament chapel whose altar rail and floor are featured in a certain book, as is the Tabernacle.

Glancing up one sees Saint Lawrence.

A most important place in the Basilica…

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The Son-shine from within: Aquinas and donkeys in the sky

I guess I shouldn’t be seeing things in the clouds. But in the skies above I see a donkey. And, of course, I would see a donkey, right? But then I immediately recall someone who wrote words of straw (which donkeys eat) who had the Son-shine within him.

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7 — We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.

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Donkey Day. Jackass Jubilee. Jan 14. Patron: [Saint]: Alexamenos [Martyr] Gilbert Keith Chesterton to the rescue.

alexamenos crucified donkey

Yesterday was Donkey Day, or better, the Feast of “Jackasses” should we use the more technical, archaic English “jack” [for the male of the species such as Jackdaw, Jackrabbit, and so on] and the Latin scientific description asinus, short for its combined form with its high classification, equus asinus.

There is much to be said about this great feast day going back many centuries. There are videos, musical tributes, “liturgies.” But all of that has lost the plot, it seems to me. I think the origins of this ancient feast were obscured by time with the asinine (so to speak) activities of irony that abounded to such a degree that the more serious side was overshadowed.

I’m guessing that the original inspiration for this feast, inviting all the irony and carry-on to celebrate the irony that is so essential to Christianity, goes back to what I’m guessing is an incident which sparked the martyrdom of Jewish boy named Alexamenos (“Defender”) who had converted to Christianity and somehow found himself on the lower South slopes of Monte Palatino, opposite the Roman Forum and Colosseum, overlooking the Circus Maximus, in the Imperial School, studying up on how best to serve the Caesar of the day.

At the time, the chariot races and battle ship matches and such taking place in the Circus Maximus, for which he and his fellow students always had a front row seat, also afforded him a view of what was happening in the central divider island inside the “circus” itself. At regular intervals there were places where Christians were placed, and where they would be made sport of by gladiators until they died, one after the other.

It seems this was too much for little Alexamenos, so indignant, who then spoke of how wrong this was because it is another Jewish fellow, Jesus, God, who standing in our place, and crucified, was put to death for what we deserved because of sin so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. Being a Christian was, however, obviously outlawed by the Caesars of the day. It was a blood bath. The classmates of Alexamenos would first mock him, and then, I suppose, see an opportunity to be seen as being loyal to Caesar, they would betray Alexamenos and have him put to death.

The mockery involves the graffito etched into the stone walls of their classroom. That entire bit of the wall was removed when it was relatively recently discovered. A replica was made and placed into a museum just a stone’s throw from the Imperial School, the Antiquarium del Palatino. Yours truly took a picture of that, which is reproduced on the top of this post.

The graffito depicts a little boy worshiping a crucified donkey. Other nations held that the donkey was the national symbol of Israel, the Hebrews, the Jews. Jesus, the “King of the Jews” as Pontius Pilate had written, was to be depicted as a donkey.

The mockery is rather incisive. But Jesus came precisely to receive that mockery, to be that donkey, indeed, as Saint Paul says in his short hand, to become sin for us, standing in our place, the innocent for the guilty. If we have no sense of irony, we have no faith.

G.K. Chesterton, like St Augustine before him, had a great sense of irony. He has this about the greatness of donkeys.

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Or did you not know that donkeys were always with the Holy Family:

  • On the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem
  • At the manger when Jesus was born
  • On the trip from Bethlehem to Egypt
  • On the trip from Egypt all the back to Nazareth
  • On the trip into Jerusalem for Jesus to be crucified

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Seen at the soup kitchen

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My history with Thomas More

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My first experience with Sir Thomas was as a kid, rummaging through the book shelves on either side of the fireplace warming any reader during the long and cold Minnesota Winters. I ran across this small volume of Daniel Sargent with its wonderful quotation of Cardinal Pole in 1535, immediately after the decapitation of Thomas. That’s my dad’s signature when he was studying philosophy and law at Saint Thomas (Aquinas) in the Twin Cities, also thinking about being a seminarian. And then I found this gem by Robert Bolt.

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That was good, and then, wow, I saw, if once, then a thousand times, the film A Man for All Seasons. I know many priests who could spend an evening cooking a good meal while reciting the script of the film verbatim without missing a beat. Alfred Hitchcock had some great, tightly scripted films, but there is nothing like the tight script of this film, that is, because if plays off the scenes, the previous scenes, the following scenes, utterly brilliant. I guess I’m projecting a bit here, but I’m guessing that everyone knows the entire script of the film off by heart. No? For part of that, see: Being a hero by not being a hero.

Meanwhile, throughout my life as a deacon and then priest, Sir Thomas has very often come back to mind and heart and soul in damned if I do, damned if I don’t circumstances. I’ve asked his intercession quite continuously throughout the decades. I’ve learned in God’s grace simply not to compromise. I don’t congratulate myself for this, and Thomas would not glory in his non-compromise. It’s not about that. That’s idiocy. I’ve learned that if you don’t compromise, the Lord will take care of you one way or another. It’s about what our Lord wants. Love, given by the Lord, makes it reasonable. See, again: Being a hero by not being a hero.

When I got the chance in London, I went on a tour of the Tower of London and the various associated sites around the tower. The military operator guy who was our guide condemned Thomas for not compromising. Sigh.

Anyway, there are those who condemn Robert Bolt for writing a “based on a true story” script, saying that because of that talent in bringing an historical character to life for us, all is false and untrue, boldly stating that Thomas could not speak those words. But that is absurd. How can you say something never happened unless you were there yourself? Ah, I forgot:

richard rich thomas more wales

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A good Jesuit: Miguel Pro, S.J.

father miguel pro cristero

Today’s his feast day, 23 November. In the picture above he’s making his last prayer before being executed for being a Catholic priest. Just prior to this, he was kneeling in the same way over in Lourdes, France, in the grotto, but for many hours on end, immobile, in ecstasy. He was asking the Immaculate Conception for a cure for some health issues so that his superiors would allow him to make the long and dangerous trip to Mexico. Our Lady, knowing what would soon happen to him in Mexico, granted his desire. Off he went, not only to Mexico, but to heaven. No fear, because love casts out all fear. Wikipedia adds some things:

As Pro walked from his cell to the courtyard and the firing squad, he blessed the soldiers, knelt, and briefly prayed quietly. Declining a blindfold, he faced his executioners with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other and held his arms out in imitation of the crucified Christ and shouted out, “May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Before the firing squad were ordered to shoot, Pro raised his arms in imitation of Christ and shouted the defiant cry of the Cristeros, “Viva Cristo Rey!” – “Long live Christ the King!”. When the initial shots of the firing squad failed to kill him, a soldier shot him at point-blank range.

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priest gunslingers vs active shooters

saint gabriel possenti patron

The Saint Gabriel Possenti Society recalls the time when the now canonized saint saved a young lady from being raped by employing the tools he had at hand.

The need for using tools to ward off untoward violence even in Saint Podunk parish church that seats 25 people isn’t a thing of the past. Active shooter critical incidents and terrorist attacks are happening as frequently in these USA as they are anywhere in the world, whether in the podunk church or the mega-church. It’s time to harden the softest of all soft targets. ISIS is promising hits on Catholics on Christmas.

Choosing to familiarize oneself with the proper tools so as to be of service to one’s neighbor is a life decision, a life-style decision. Getting class-room training and being legal with any permits isn’t enough. One has to do drills and hopefully also scenario training with some frequency.

As I myself begin to become familiarized with my G19 (it’s only been a year and some since I fired my first shot out of a pistol), I’ve practiced with any number of target sizes and distances, moving and stationary, but have never seen anything like the pre-9-11 Air Marshal qualification put together by Tom Bullins. It was severely dumbed down after 9-11 since almost no one was able to pass even once. Few instructors in the nation were able to make the grade. So it was dumped. But the original course can still be pieced together and put into practice on a private range using the QIT-97 (the QIT-99 if you want to show off). This is the best explanation I’ve seen for the “old” Federal Air Marshall TPC Course.

On the day off the other day I tried to pass all seven stages 100% twice. But that, mind you, was just to get used to the times and what needed to be done. This wasn’t coming in cold before a flight or set of flights as was otherwise the case back in the day when Air Marshals were Air Marshals. Mind you, I bet today’s Air Marshals most likely practice on this old course on their own. For myself, there were many failures of time and accuracy in between getting familiarized with the seven stages. 1/10 second overtime failure on even one of the seven stages would disqualify an Air Marshall from flying. Wow. That’s jaw dropping. Trying out each stage was truly hilarious, what with spinning about and dropping down while changing out mags and shooting, etc. All stages are insanely difficult, but because of that, a challenge and therefore enjoyable.

A Navy vet in the parish recommended that I trade in my Glock for a Sig p320 (with the voluntary military upgrade). I’m considering that. There are many versions of the p320. I hate the idea of safeties. I really like the Glock “safe-action.” But, as I say, there are different versions. That needs investigation.

Meanwhile, there is much discussion about churches having “plans” which also include those who carry. I would like to approach this with some preparation and common sense with input from law enforcement. I understand that some law enforcement has been encouraged to provide programs for churches by the FBI. I’d like to look into that.

What I would like to see among parishioners who carry with permit is that they are well practiced, are level headed, and know what they are doing.

Or should Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows just said a Hail Mary while the girl was getting raped, you know, in case his actions with tools might otherwise escalate the situation? It is instead virtuous to contribute to the virtue of justice with the defense of the innocent when this is appropriate and prudent and possible to accomplish in appropriate and prudent and possible ways. While use of guns is a last resort, it is sometimes the only possibility.

People who deny this want to use Jesus and the Church to deny reality, and smash down anyone who gets in their way. Whatever. Jesus was and is a realist. And Saint Gabriel is still a canonized saint.

 

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Homily 2017 11 01 – All Saints

fra angelico last judgment

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John dances like a camel, I like a donkey, and what about you?

Image result for dancing camel gif

  • John leaped in the womb for joy in the womb of his mother Elizabeth at the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary, who herself gave voice to the joy of Jesus.
  • John was clothed in camel hair. Super penitential, right? Yes. Dour? Not at all. It’s called not taking oneself seriously, freeing one up to be joyful in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It’s not that John, the greatest of prophets, didn’t have to learn anything:

  • Let it be for the sake of the fulfillment of all righteousness…
  • As the Master, so the disciple: yes, you’ll have to get your head cut off… Blessed is he who is not offended by me…

And with that, John, not taking himself seriously, faced his death with joy, dancing for joy as much as he could in his chains, in a dungeon. Perhaps you dance like John?

Meanwhile, we build shrines to the saints (like this post), not to say that we wouldn’t have handed the sword to the soldier of Herod who cut off John’s head, for we would all do that given the circumstances and our own idiocy, but rather to say that, with God’s grace, of which they spoke, we can repent of our celebrations of the ways of this world and learn to rejoice, to dance for joy, to leap for joy at the presence of the Lord Jesus in our lives. Perhaps you dance like this with Jesus…

byers dance paul vi audience hall

I dance like a donkey. I admit that we might be a bit dour when we start on this epic spiritual journey, playing the part of the ass of a donkey, so to speak, still taking ourselves a bit too seriously, but then we are introduced little by little to the joy of recognizing the presence of the Lord Jesus with us, and then we also dance for joy, even helping others to do the same. A good friend saw this donkey the other day and couldn’t resist getting it for me, donkey that I am… Ha ha ha…

donkey---

Meanwhile, I’m sure that Saint John Vianney’s condemnation of the ludicrous dancing in Ars won’t come my way for me being happy to dance for joy in the Lord no matter what. The patron saint of priests, for the dedication of the Baptist’s chapel in his little parish church quipped that “John lost his head for a dance”. Sure. But there are different kinds of dancing. John was also happy to dance with abandon before the Lord, as did David. There’s a long and happy tradition of dancing in Judeo-Catholic life.

It is said by the students of the Tilma that Our Lady of Guadalupe is dancing. Perhaps you dance like Jesus’ good mom:

guadalupe-

Even Laudie-dog, Break-dance-dog, demonstrates her joy. Perhaps you dance like Laudie-dog:

laudie dog break dance

  • Hey John, they’re gonna cut your head off…
  • Oh, O.K. I guess I’ll have to dance like a chicken with my head cut off…

martyrdom of saint john the baptist

Look… Really…. JOY no matter what…

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Vatican: Handgunners’ Patron Saint is Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. Sharpening your skills is possible

target uncountable

Practiced concealed carriers will laugh with me (if they’re polite, as most CC crowd are) regarding my attempts at defending myself from stationary adhesive dots on stationary paper (that’s a full mag of 15 above), with me standing in a stationary position. I least I start holstered turned away from the target.

Always taking laughter seriously, I’ve come up with what is now a challenge, cutting a 1 inch by 1 inch by many feet long stick in half (marking the point with florescent orange spray paint) with target ammo using my Glock 19 from 15 to about 25 feet out (at the end of the arc), swinging the stick on a string that was thrown over a branch 35 feet up (this being out in the woods with a ridge as a backdrop). Here’s a three second video I made and just now uploaded to youtube to show you what this looks like in action, thought I’m not shooting while filming. Of course not.

Hey! It’s got a whole 5 views while I put up this post! I think people don’t watch youtube by principle or simply are afraid of anything to do with guns. I think it’s a cool three second video. But I’m biased ’cause I made it. Anyway, here is the result after what I think are too many attempts (but you gotta start somewhere, right?):

target stick

9mm FMJs go right through and won’t break a 1 inch by 1 inch stick in two with one shot. You have to saw across the stick at the same place. Not easy for me anyway when, after some hits, it’s only hanging together with something similar to a toothpick. I’ll be the first to admit that a bunch of shots were not on my spray-painted line. This will be a good play-time distraction on days off for quite a long time. This can always be made more difficult, with me moving either much closer (in which case it seems that the target is moving faster) or further away (in which case it seems that the already small target is smaller). Then you can add walking at the same time, and “running” (a kind of crouched fast-walk). I’m sure that won’t be easy. The more difficult in practice, the more accurate in a hoped-to-be-never-actual-incident.

saint gabriel possenti patron

Saint Gabriel Possenti, CSsR – Patron Saint of Hand-gunners as so designated by the Holy See

In my younger seminarian days I got on a bus and headed out on pilgrimage to the Passionist Monastery where Saint Gabriel had been a seminarian. The account given by all is that he saved a young lady from being raped by soldiers who were pillaging the town by demonstrating his marksmanship in killing a tiny lizard. Some people may feel sorry for the lizard, but I feel sorry for the young lady who was about to be brutalized and raped. Self defense for self or others is a positive contribution to the virtue of justice.

Those lizard loving people might want to ask what the ladies think about it, you know, those who have been raped by, say, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda or ISIS or whatever and are then gunned down in some backwater alley because they complained about it. I’d rather take out the lizard. Saint Gabriel rocks!

See the Saint Gabriel Possenti Society…

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Saint George the Dragon Slayer

saint george stained glass window

Outside of my great friend (who I am utterly unworthy to have as a friend), Saint Philomena – the veracity of whose existence as a virgin and martyr of the early Church has recently been sustained by exhaustive scientific evaluations of the evidence – outside of her… there is perhaps no saint more scorned as being no more than a figment of pious imagination than Saint George, who, however, boasts of more archaeological and historical evidence than most any other saint in the history not only of the early Church, but for some lesser known saints, right into our own day. Churches dedicated to Saint George sprang up in their dozens throughout the ancient world immediately after news of his martyrdom on 23 April 303.

Liberal warning: The most obnoxious denial of the existence of Saint George that I’ve come across comes from a super liberal professor of “ecumenism” (which I put in quotes because he had no idea what true ecumenism is). Many of my fellow priests today have had Father XXX as a professor in the various countries, seminaries and universities where he’s mislead people. He had the idea that Saint George couldn’t possibly have existed because of the iconography of him slaying a dragon. His arrogant idea was that we’re very smart today, and people of the past were so very gullible and stupid. He laughed his nervous, cowardly, mocking laugh when I tried to explain a few things about the iconography:

  • Those in the first centuries, who were suffering under the severe persecutions of the dragon of the Apocalypse, namely, the possessed-by-Satan pre-Constantinian Roman Empire, understood the dragon to be the Roman Empire. Even so, such depictions only came later, but for this very reason.
  • The white horse, similarly, is the white horse of the Apocalypse 6:2, whose rider goes out conquering and to further his conquering.
  • In the early fourth century, after George was martyred, it is interesting to note that all martyrs in the Montefiascone/Bolsano region of Tuscany, whether male or female, with no regard to how they met their deaths, were all depicted as riding on the white horse of the Apocalypse.
  • The woman who is to be saved in the background of some Renaissance paintings is, similarly, Holy Mother Church, who is represented by her saints.
  • The point of all this wonderful triumphalism in the iconography is not that Saint George or the other martyrs successfully fought their way out of being martyred, that they slew the dragon by, for instance, assassinating the Emperor of the time, but rather that they conquered the demonically controlled world by witnessing to Christ Jesus’ goodness and kindness right unto their deaths, so hated is goodness and kindness by the demonically controlled world. Saint George and the other martyrs slew the dragon by being slain themselves.
  • By the way, the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil and Satan, of Genesis 2,4-3:24, is, in the ancient usage of the word, an Oracle from God on behalf of man, a spirit, an angel, now a fallen angel. There are no talking snakes in Genesis.

None of this – or the archaeological proofs – made any impression on this super-liberal priest, for the last thing he wanted to hear was faithfulness to the Church unto death. That’s not what his own life was about. Since he couldn’t answer in any reasonable way, he merely laughed his nervous, cowardly, mocking laugh once again. I had to live with that kind of nonsense for… well… pretty much my whole priesthood. Yikes! This kind of thing can occasion an increase in friendship, in view of such a cross, with Christ Jesus and the Saints.

saint george iconThis icon was given to me by Cardinal […]. It’s from the Mount Zion crowd just outside the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. There is great devotion to Saint George in Palestine until today, with about every third boy being called after Saint George.

George’s father, Gerontius, was well known to the Emperor Diocletian as one of his very best soldiers. When Gerontius’ son George applied to Diocletian to be in the military service of the Emperor, Diocletian quickly made him part of the Imperial Guard and gave him the rank of Tribune. These positions taken together made young George, perhaps in his early twenties, almost as powerful as the Emperor himself. Very few people would have ever had such power, both military and political, and at such a young age. George was an instant phenomenon. Everyone would have known exactly who he was in the entire ancient world.

saint george martyrdomDiocletian was persuaded by the might-makes-right Galerius to have all his soldiers offer sacrifice to the Roman gods. George, with the zeal of the saints, loudly and with great reason proclaimed his worship of Christ Jesus, so that he couldn’t possibly offer sacrifice to any Roman gods. Diocletian, distraught – for he had never intended this – offered George all sorts of bribes, all of which were scorned by our Saint. Diocletian then set out to make an example of him, first attaching him to a wheel of swords and then having him decapitated.

Saint George and Saint Michael the Archangel sometimes meld into one presentation with wings being granted to Saint George on his white horse. That’s O.K. I’m sure they were great friends!

By the way, George is the Name of God the Father: ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν (John 15:1). “My Father is George.” O.K., so, a pedantic translation would be “My Father is the Farmer” or “My Father is the Tiller of the Ground.” Some translations have “Vinedresser.” Truth be told, it’s γεωργός, that is, George!

Just to be insistent about this: “Adam” means “Tiller of the Ground.” “Adam” = “George.” Jesus is the New Adam. Jesus is the New George. Yours truly is merely the old George, the old Adam. But Christ has conquered and goes out to conquer still. Thanks be to God our Father that Jesus sets about slaying me so that, dead to myself, I live for Him alone. Yikes!

keep calm and slay dragons

By the way, my parish, which takes in the most outrageously beautiful mountains of the Great Smoky Mountains, boasts, of course, of “The Dragon’s Tail”, which is an extremely dangerous curvy road that every motorcycle enthusiast in North America loves to ride. They all come here! There are hotels just for two-wheelers throughout the area. There are all sort of motorcycle fix-it shops. I invite all cyclers to to make a weekend of this, slaying the dragon by the tail, and stopping in for Mass at 8:30 Sunday morning at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Robbinsville, NC, or 11:00 Mass Sunday morning at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Andrews, N.C. If you’re not afraid of heights or gravel roads, come to Andrews from Robbinsville over Tatham Gap Road. If you’ve never once said “Yikes!” in your life, you will when ride this one. Yikes! I say that in solidarity, as most all my broken bones in life (really very many) have come from riding on two wheels with a motor. Again: Yikes!

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When Padre Pio met Saint Michael. When Father Byers knew nothing at all.

elijah judas tree

Elijah with the flaming fiery sword on Mount Carmel, Israel.

You can read things dozens of times over the years and just not “get it” at all. That’s me. But this year when I read the following letter of Padre Pio, I was mesmerized. I now know a bit more just how much I absolutely don’t know anything about the spiritual life. I have written academically about that of which he speaks, the flaming sword. I am vindicated on that academic level at least, for I am alone across the millennia in what I have written. But on a spiritual level, well, I am thrust to the ground in deep humiliation, for I obviously know nothing of the spiritual life. But at least I know that I know nothing. These days, that’s something. And it’s way more than enough to ask for this great saint’s help. Apologies are given in advance for the inadequacy of [my comments] below. You can see from my Coat of Arms (thanks to Elizdelphi! No words on the banner yet) that I am grateful to have written about the sword of which Padre Pio speaks…

GEORGE DAVID BYERS - COAT OF ARMS - revision

From the Letters of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, priest (Epist. I, 1065; 1093-1095)

I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him

“Out of obedience I am obliged to manifest to you what happened to me on the evening of the 5th of this month of August 1918 [Vigil of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus] and all day on the 6th [Feast of the Transfiguration].

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“I am quite unable to convey to you what occurred during this period of utter torment. While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [making them saints!], I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person [an angel, a cherub] who presented himself to my mind’s eye [So, not an apparition, but entirely spiritual. People think angels are all fluffy chiffon pastels and cutesy cutesy. Pio speaks of torment and terror, and this angel is from heaven!]. He had in his hand a sort of weapon [“weapon”] like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. [This is the sword mentioned in Genesis 3:24. It is the sword which “turns into its contrary by way of the fiery grace of enmity against Satan and by way of friendship with God whatever is presented to it.” This is the sword with which the Carmelites depict Elijah. This is the sword of Saint Michael. This is the sword of Saint Teresa of Avila…] At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. [Seeing that a cherub could crush the entire universe if given permission from the Most High, this is saying really a lot…] I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boys to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. [What an understatement of all time. They must have been scared for him.] This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, [“weapon”] and nothing was spared. [“nothing” – and here I try to hang on to this and that. And in doing that I am totally lacking in generosity. I’ve done nothing in my life. I’ve not laid down my life as so many have done. Pio is going through his purgatory all at once, 40 some hours for him. And what would I do, I who surely have a purgatory lasting until the end of the world?]

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Elijah’s fiery sword on the Discalced Carmelite Coat of Arms

“From that day on I have been mortally wounded. [And this is no longer his wound, but that of humanity, with Pio now being in solidarity with Jesus on the Cross even as Jesus is in solidarity with us, loving us while we are yet sinners, drawing all to Himself as He is lifted up on the Cross. And we watch with Him…] I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony. What can I tell you in answer to your questions regarding my crucifixion? My God! What embarrassment and humiliation I suffer by being obliged to explain what you have done to this wretched creature! [For we do nothing to save ourselves. Jesus is our Savior. We come to realize this. We are nothing. He is all. He shows us what He has saved us from, and not just us, me, but we see how He has saved all of us as we gain some heightened perspective on the cross.]

padre-pio-stigmata

“On the morning of the 20th of last month [two weeks later], in the choir [making the traditional thanksgiving prayers after Mass], after I had celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. All the internal and external senses and even the very faculties of my soul were immersed in indescribable stillness. Absolute silence surrounded and invaded me. I was suddenly filled with great peace and abandonment which effaced everything else and caused a lull in the turmoil. All this happened in a flash. While this was taking place I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of August 5th. [We entertain angels and even the Son of Man and do not know it. How much the angels reflect the Son of Man! And the fiery love of God, issuing from the throne of the Most High, from the Heart of Him who loves us so much, is just that fierce on that sword which transforms us utterly in God’s love.] The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should die and really should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. [We are utterly weak. It is all Jesus.] The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. [He speaks also and especially of his embarrassment, for he, as all of us from Adam until the last man is conceived, caused those wounds in our Lord. How is it that he, Pio, or any of us could share such wounds of love for all those Jesus has redeemed and wills to save?] The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday.

PADRE PIO SEAL OF CONFESSION

Padre Pio reprimanding the Bishop about the Seal of Confession.

“Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I feel deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will he at least free me from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? [The embarrassment, mind you, is more than enough to end his life on this earth.] I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation. The person of whom I spoke in a previous letter is none other than the one I mentioned having seen on August 5th. He continues his work incessantly, causing me extreme spiritual agony. There is a continual rumbling within me like the gushing of blood. [This Hebrew description of this sword in Genesis 3:24 (which I think I am the very first to translate pedantically, as it really is just that difficult), the sword which the angel is mashing around inside Pio is variously and wrongly translated as the twirling sword, the sword which moves about this way and that, etc., is, instead, “the sword which causes that which is presented to it to be transformed into its contrary.” Thus, we don’t take from the Tree of the Living Ones, though we can humbly receive its fruit (the Eucharist from the Cross).] My God! Your punishment is just and your judgment right, but grant me your mercy. Lord, with your Prophet I shall continue to repeat: O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger; do not punish me in your rage! Dear Father, now that my whole interior state is known to you, do not refuse to send me a word of comfort in the midst of such severe and harsh suffering.” [If it were I who had to respond to him, knowing I know nothing, but despite that, I would say that in our very reception of mercy we must show mercy to the rest of the members of the Body of Christ, those whom Jesus has redeemed and wills to save. Our suffering is occasioned by the lack of others, lack of faith, etc., but it is not their cross we carry, but instead we come to know what we would be like if we ourselves were to be without the grace of our Lord in therefore our lack of faith, etc…. and our remaining in friendship by the grace of God in such horrific circumstances acts as an intercession for those who are truly without faith, etc. This is drawing all to Christ on the cross in solidarity with Jesus, who does this by His grace. He, the Head of the Body does this, but we are members of that Body and we are with Him. If we only knew! If we only knew! Now Pio had his eyes opened, his soul torn open, his hands and feet and heart torn open. But it’s all Jesus. Jesus’ love taking on our lack. Embarrassing to us? Yes. And we run away. Pio couldn’t run any more. The angel presented himself, and, fiercely raising his weapon of God’s love… I know nothing. Saint Pio: help this donkey-priest to come to know Jesus! Help all of us priests!]

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Padre Pio’s letter to Pope Paul VI on Humanae Vitae just before he died

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Your Holiness:

Availing myself of Your Holiness’ meeting with the Capitular Fathers, I unite myself in spirit with my Brothers, and in a spirit of faith, love and obedience to the greatness of Him whom you represent on earth, offer my respectful homage to Your August Person, humbly kneeling at Your feet.

The Capuchin Order has always been among the first in their love, fidelity and reverence for the Holy See. I pray the Lord that its members remain ever thus, continuing their tradition of seriousness and religious asceticism evangelical poverty, faithful observance of the Rule and Constitutions, renewing themselves in vigorous living and deep interior spirit—always ready, at the least gesture from Your Holiness, to go forward at once to assist the Church in her needs.

I know that Your heart suffers much these days on account of the happenings in the Church: for peace in the world, for the great needs of its peoples; but above all, for the lack of obedience of some, even Catholics, to the lofty teachings which You, assisted by the Holy Spirit and in the name of God, have given us. I offer Your Holiness my daily prayers and sufferings, the insignificant but sincere offering of the least of your sons, asking the Lord to comfort you with His grace to continue along the direct yet often burdensome way—in defense of those eternal truths which can never change with the times.

In the name of my spiritual sons and of the “Praying Groups” I thank Your Holiness for the clear and decisive words You have spoken in the recent encyclical, “Humanae Vitae”, and I reaffirm my own faith and my unconditional obedience to Your inspired directives.

May God grant truth to triumph, and, may peace be given to His Church, tranquility to the people of the earth, and health and prosperity to Your Holiness, so that when these disturbing clouds pass over, the Reign of God may triumph in all hearts, through the Apostolic Works of the Supreme Shepherd of all Christians.

Prostrate at Your feet, I beg you to bless me, my Brothers in religion, my spiritual sons, the “Praying Groups”, all the sick—that we may faithfully fulfill the good works done in the Name of Jesus and under your protection.

Your Holiness’ most humble servant,

PADRE PIO, Capuchin

San Giovanni Rotondo, 12th September, 1968.

l’Osservatore Romano – Weekly Edition in English – 10 October 1968

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