Tag Archives: Spiritual life

Preventing suicide 45 years later

I came across someone the other day with whom I attended a certain highfalutin but compromised in so many ways Catholic Prep School many decades ago.

Back in the day, if I remember correctly, he was thrown into a tizzy by an IQ test we had to take. He had a most rare super-intelligence. He hated that for the reason that he knew enough to know that he had no idea about the most basic questions of human existence, about God, about our fallen human nature, about those who ought to know better being so freakishly corrupt. He wasn’t one to escape this realization like everyone else. His inability to escape and the overeagerness of others to escape both quite destroyed him. He was at a low point. He was scared. He had some suicidal ideation, which he found repulsive.

Mind you, he wasn’t exactly a loner. He was very, how to say, plugged in, situationally aware of people’s motivations. He didn’t know how to interact much because every situation would bring up innumerable questions. He was ruthlessly direct, so you couldn’t mistake any meaning, although entirely polite. But so many of the students, faculty, admin were so shallow, so self-referential. He himself was anything but self-absorbed. He was just terribly hungry for the truth. Who was going to provide answers for him?

I remember the scene. Of all inept people in the universe, he had targeted me, waiting for me near my locker in the corridor outside “The Seniors Room”, at the window, before the tunnel (circled in red above). There was no escape for me. He locked me into a conversation eyeball to eyeball where I had to count on my guardian angel for guidance. This was all about the spiritual life, theology, the meaning of life, every “why?”. He opened up about his struggles. He was superb at spilling his guts in mere minutes, with precise logic, with impossible conundrums, with interruptions from me. All between classes.

I’m quite sure he didn’t approach me because I was anything special or had anything figured out. It’s just that I wasn’t suicidal, and that, I think, amazed him. That’s what he wanted to know about.

Fuller picture: Some rumors about me that had spread throughout the school at the speed of light. I only know about those because of very many students asking me how I was doing, and that they were praying for me. They were all trying to be super tactful, all with great concern, some adding that they had heard about “it”, but that they really weren’t supposed to talk about “it.” I don’t know how “it” got out, whatever “it” was. I had been shot at almost uncountable times, bullets whizzing by my head, but I was never hit… so, whatever. Could that be “it”? Whatever… But that attitude of “Whatever…” was what this smart student wanted to know about. Instead of sympathizing with me about something for which I wasn’t seeking sympathy, he wanted to benefit from whatever was going on with me that provided a strength he wanted.

Now that I think about it, I’ve had discussions with uncountable suiciders over the decades, who didn’t go through with it, thanks be to God, or, years later, a couple of them did so. So sad.

This guy, I’m happy to report, is a world-class good-guy, as I think he always was. For years he’s been helping in his own way to reach into the darkest of the dark side and do lots of what ends up being suicide prevention because of preventing so very much evil from being perpetrated in the first place.

I’m not going to claim that I was able to help this guy back in the day, even as a mere sounding board. Dunno. But, whatever my ‘arguments’ were at the time, surely that’s not what he sought from me. I think he was just looking for someone who was willing to go on in life because of faith in the midst of adversity: someone is doing that… so why not me too? Something like that. Hope might seem elusive, the ol’ hoping against hope, or a thread of hope, but the thing about hope is that it’s actually a harness that’s really difficult to escape.

I think that kind of witnessing is something all of us can do, and I bet we do that much more than we might think. Guardian angels are good friends, helping to set up just such encounters in the first place. We don’t have to be smart. And however weak we might otherwise be, we just have to be faithful.


Filed under Spiritual life, Suicide

Sign of the Son of Man in Heaven: The Woman?

The Sign of the Son of Man in Heaven is The Woman?

“But Father George! Father George! Do you always have to be such a contrarian?!”

I dunno. This kind of thing just happens to me. I was reading along in the apocalyptic chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew:

  • καὶ τότε φανήσεται τὸ σημεῖον τοῦ Υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ τότε κόψονται πᾶσαι αἱ φυλαὶ τῆς γῆς.
  • And then the Sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven and then all the tribes of the earth will be cut [to the quick].

We might well assume that the Sign of the Son of Man is the Cross. Maybe. We speak of “The Sign of the Cross,” right?

Speaking of that which is apocalyptic, people speak of “the warning” or “the illumination of conscience,” etc. Whatever you might think about that, Matthew 24:30 is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is Sacred Scripture. There are two parts, the first causative of the second: (1) seeing the Sign of the Son of Man, and (2) all the tribes of the earth being cut [to the quick].

Consider this:

  • Revelation 12:1 – “And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”

She’s with Child, the Son of Man, specifically, He is the Son of Man because He is the Son of Mary. A cross is a cross, and the Romans crucified multitudes of peoples on crosses. Sure, Jesus’ cross is well known. But are we talking about a sign merely pointing to Jesus, like a cross, or the Son of Man’s own sign for us about Him, which would, of course, be His Mother, with Child.

That the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God would be the Sign of the Son of Man simply makes sense to me, not only academically – and many passages fill my mind – but also in my heart and soul. This came to mind with a wave of filial devotion, like even bad and evil me understood a glimmer of the most tender devotion Jesus has for His dearest, dear Mother. It’s like, of course it’s her, with Child. It will be clear that the victory belongs to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

I dunno. Maybe. Let’s see:

Other references of seeing Him coming on the clouds with great power and glory, such as the second half of Matthew 24:30, or the Apocalypse 1:7, seem to refer to the second coming of Christ. Diversely, the first half of Matthew 24:30 discussed above and the Great Sign in heaven cited from the Apocalypse 12:1, seem to refer specifically to a period of great trial sometime during the history of the Church.

Lastly, about that word “cut” in Matthew 24:30; it’s to be taken as being cut to the quick, to the point of death. The verb in Greek refers to a very violent kind of cutting, as in hacking, chopping, you know, that kind of grieving, of contrition, of examination of conscience.

My suggestion is to be prepared for this by going to confession, and to prepare for such a confession by asking your guardian angel to just out and out tell you what you need to confess, something that was perhaps ambiguously confessed decades ago, something you forgot to confess. I asked my guardian angel for help, and did he ever! He didn’t use words, but he slammed things into my mind. Yikes! Yes, cut up, hacked up, chopped up is what happened to me with that fiery sword wielded by the angels back in Genesis. Great! I went to Confession. Thank you, Jesus!

If we are to see ourselves as we stand before God, don’t wait to be horrified with any burden of sin. Instead, rejoice in seeing what it’s like to be a soul who bears the presence of the Most Holy Trinity in sanctifying grace, what it means to be a Tabernacle of the Holy Spirit.


Filed under Spiritual life

Unity all alone, but then…

The Chrism Mass, and then the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday service… the Sacred Triduum so far… for me, this year…

  • … is enthrallingly all about the unity in the Mystical Body of Christ which comes about as He is lifted up on the Cross and draws all to Himself right across Calvary where all hell is broken out…
  • … and also is frighteningly all about that aloneness (not loneliness) which is to be experienced in some manner when one is at least in the smallest way in solidarity with Jesus when He cries out: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me!”

The two could not be more different nor more simultaneous, one tied into the other.

Some Scripture verses come to mind:

  • “My people has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow. If I go into the country, I see those slain by the sword; if I go into the city, I see the ravages of famine. Both prophet and priest have gone to a land they know not.” (Jeremiah 14:17-18)
  • “We are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader…” (Daniel 3:37-38)

My experience so far this Holy Week is a distant and mere shadow of the intensity of the experience of Saint John when he, of all the apostles who ran away when Jesus was arrested, returned quite alone, all hell broken out, all friends vanished, but to accompany Mary who was in perfect solidarity with Jesus there on Calvary.

The aloneness acts as an invitation to prayer for those still running away in whatever manner even as we are bidden by Jesus to behold Mary as our dear Mother. But with that, for me, ever the spiritual newbie and knowing nothing of anything, such unity with Jesus, standing with Him in His trials, standing as His vicar with His Mother, brings all the more aloneness: Who are we, amongst all the others, to do such a thing? And yet, where are they? Jesus entrusts her to us and vice versa even while He then precipitates to preach to the fallen spirits. He goes to do His Father’s will. We are left with great responsibility in His place. We are so inept. The most inept. If only those who had run away would have stayed they would be so much better right here, right now. Everyone else has run away.

And then our eyes are opened at least a bit, and we see that so many of our brothers not only have been standing there with us the whole time, but were there before us, have been praying for us, with Mary. Wretches that we are, we’re there. In the aloneness of the full number of the brothers who are to witness to the Lord Jesus not yet fulfilled, we pray for that to happen even as Jesus draws all to Himself as He is lifted up, yet crying out: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

For me, something like that, but from a distance, and yet… right there…


Filed under Jesus, Spiritual life

Fire-dog the Mirror-dog

Fire-dog is looking rather stern for just a second, but then figures out what a mirror is.

Then there’s a glance back at me, a glare, really, reprimanding me for having tricked her to being inside the mirror.

And then, with a heart-stopping “I’ll show you, you wise guy, you” kind of look, she totally jumps into the mirror and stares at me from inside the mirror itself, making me interact with the Fire-dog in the mirror as revenge. Heart stopping intelligence.

You recall Saint Paul’s thoughts:

  • “For now we see through a mirror [ἔσοπτρον], enigmatically” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

A mirror provides a reflection, does it not? And NOT necessarily of oneself if one knows how to use a mirror in other ways, such as is the case with the last picture of Fire-dog above, using the mirror to look at me.

Elsewhere we read about this reflection of God in His good creation, unless people do not want to see that reflection:

  • “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

That verse from 1 Corinthians 13:12 about now seeing God through a mirror enigmatically continues:

  • “…but then [we will see] face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

In heaven, there are no tricks with mirrors. The beatific vision is most direct. God is love. I love that.


Filed under Dogs, Spiritual life

Long dead Laudie-dog lives again?

Background: Laudie-dog died a while back. Shadow-dog saw me bury her.

Yesterday after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, “Tiny” (he IS Sasquatch) and I had a long discussion about dogs, something like pet dogs, protection dogs, service dogs, bite dogs, drug dogs, IED dogs, cadaver dogs, disease dogs, you know, man’s best friends, you know, Laudie-dog, Shadow-dog…

As we went outside we discovered Laudie-dog apparently redivivus. I’m naming this fiery orange Ridgeback Rhodesian Lion Dog Fire-dog for obvious reasons. Fire-dog was stubbornly lying on a carpet next to the church entrance, directly in front of our vehicles, right in front of the entrance of the social hall, strategically positioned, impossible to miss. This Fire-dog wanted to be noticed, possibly in trouble health wise.

This is the most quiet, most friendly, most humble, most unassuming fire-dog ever. Really sad, that, for the reason that I think this fire-dog was desperate to look cute, to be instant life-long friends with whomever it was that came along. Sorry, but I suspected that there must be some dark history of terrible suffering behind all that.

Tiny provided some treats that he always has on hand in his V.A. provided Jeep, though he has no dog himself, not yet anyway. It didn’t take any coaxing at all to get Fire-dog into the passenger seat of Sassy the Subaru. We went to the Veterinary clinic straightaway. No chips. No tattoos. And no collar, by the way. The one in the picture was picked up at the house, having belonged to Laudie-dog, fitting this Fire-dog perfectly. We then went to the animal shelter to see if they recognized such a creature. Nope. We asked people in town in the know about all the dogs on the streets. No one had seen Fire-dog previously.

The absolute earliest appointment with the vets is March 2nd. I’m thinking Fire-dog might not live until then. And that’s not because Shadow-dog would overpower and kill Fire-dog. No. They were instant lifelong friends. Never seen anything like it. Shadow-dog was entirely calm and respectful of Fire-dog. I think Shadow-dog knew that Fire-dog was terribly sick and that I wanted to do something for this Fire-dog. All good. Stunningly amazing though because of how instantly they were forever friends.

The reason I think Fire-dog may not make it is because of having suffered a possible act of domestic violence or a traffic accident. All the signs are there. Cowering. Nightmares. Timid. Taking, like, over an hour, maybe two hours, to circle about, ad nauseam, before laying down on a carpet for the remainder of the night, after waking up from a nightmare, having awakened by shrieking a shriek to bring down the house. It made Shadow-dog wake up, having him almost go through the ceiling in fright.

Also, this Fire-dog is not eating much. Only a few kibbles that I hand feed one at a time, just to please me. Maybe just shy, maybe sick. But the vets visit is a week out. I remember when Laudie-dog wasn’t eating because of a liver infection that finally took her out.

This was all on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which is to be about friendship with Jesus, spiritual exercises of almsgiving, prayer, fasting, providing for the widow and orphan. Yes. But I also think that being respectful of such creatures as are put in our paths quite literally surely by our guardian angels is consistent with all that which is more exalted, with love of God and neighbor.

As with Laudie-dog, Fire-dog is no rescue dog. I didn’t adopt Fire-dog. Fire-dog adopted me. Just like Laudie-dog. They own me, not vice versa. Shadow-dog is a rescue-dog, but that’s also a badge of honor, right? He’s still that Alpha when it comes to protecting me from attacking pit-bulls and such, and rightly so.

The stats point to this correlation of treatment of animals and humans. Abuse of animals indicates that abuse of human beings has already taken place or is about to take place, the stats climbing towards 100%. And while taking that from the other direction, that respect for animals necessarily means respect for human beings isn’t always true, that respect for animals is nevertheless good training for our fallen human nature to respect human beings. Well, that’s true if there’s just one more thing: humble thanksgiving for Jesus for having taken us deadly seriously, we who were such vicious dogs ripping Him to shreds on Calvary by our sin.

  • “For dogs have compassed me about, the assembly of the wicked have closed me in; they pierced my hands and my feet” (Psalm 22:16).

With Jesus forgiving us, we become instant lifelong, eternal friends with the Son of the Living God. He makes it so. “I call you friends,” He says.

Jesus took us on while we were smacked down by our sins, sick from our sins.

Thank you, Jesus.


Filed under Dogs, Spiritual life

Divine Justice Chaplet with Mary Immaculate

You have heard that it was said: “The Divine Mercy chaplet is all fake sweetness and quite demonically an insult to Divine Justice.” I’ve heard priests say horrible things about that video above, starting them off on how heretical the Divine Mercy is. It’s like their faces change and demons appear so bitter hateful are they. They’ll do anything to make sure that Divine Mercy devotions on the Sunday after Easter do NOT take place. Confessions? “Pfft!” they say.

And here I recite this chaplet thrice daily. I call it the Divine Justice chaplet. Then it’s said that I’m just a contrarian.

But – hey! – this is important enough for all the big name icons of orthodoxy to attack, so it’s best we take a look:

  1. The Sign of the Cross: This is the summary of the entire Athanasian Creed, so ‘in-your-face’ in Trinitarian orthodoxy that it is commonly used in major exorcisms. We are marked with the Sign of the Son of Man, recalling the facts of sin, of redemption, of forgiveness from sin, of salvation. We recall that we are pick up and carry the cross daily, that instrument of torture and death. The demons shriek against the Sign of the Cross. Is this fake sweetness, an insult to Divine Justice?
  2. The Pater Noster: Jesus taught us this seven-fold prayer. In it’s fifth petition we self-condemn ourselves to hell if we do not fulfill justice. It concludes with a deprecatory exorcism against the Evil One. The demons shriek against it. Is this fake sweetness, an insult to Divine Justice?
  3. The Ave Maria: The first half of the prayer is lifted from the Gospel of Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit. The second half has us beseech as little children of the Holy Family the maternal solicitude of Mary, the very Mother of God, now and at the hour of our death, when the demons come to attack us, when we need the graced gift of final perseverance. Look at that: the just effect of original sin to which we submit so a to be on our way to heaven, the hope for which is necessary, a matter of justice. The Ave Maria acts like an exorcism and is very much recommended during an exorcism. The demons shriek against it. Is this fake sweetness, an insult to Divine Justice?
  4. The Creed: In these days of attack against doctrine, to recite any of the ancient creeds with an active statement of faith – “I believe” – is a matter of justice if we are going to ask for mercy, and is, therefore, an affront to Satan and makes the demons shriek against it. Is this fake sweetness, an insult to Divine Justice?
  5. The Mercy ‘decade’ prayer: “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity or your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” This prayer clearly unites one with the Most Blessed Sacrament at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, voicing an appreciation for the ‘atonement for our sins and those of the whole world,’ and thus is an affirmation of belief in Transubstantiation in an age when even majorities of Catholic parishes no longer believe that there is a Sacrifice of the Mass nor believe that anything special happens on the Altar. Making a statement of belief in the Most Blessed Sacrament against an unbelieving hierarch, against unbelieving parishioners, while declaring that mercy is founded on God’s justice in Christ Jesus our Lord is a witness worthy of the great martyrs, and makes the demons shriek in terror. Is this fake sweetness, an insult to Divine Justice?
  6. The Mercy prayer: “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” “For the sake of…” is all about justice, so much so that the mercy only comes about as founded on this justice. Aquinas agrees in his Commentary on the Sentences, noting that mercy is a potential part of the virtue of justice. Such in-your-face clarity about the place of mercy depending entirely upon justice makes the demons shriek. Is this fake sweetness, an insult to Divine Justice?
  7. The Trisagion: “(1) Holy God, (2) Holy Mighty One, (3) Holy Immortal One – have mercy on us and on the whole world.” This is a direct reference to the ultra ancient prayer used in the Eastern Churches and is antiphonally repeated during the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday during the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified in the West. In the midst of all hell broken out on Calvary, the demons shriek in horror when Christ’s faithful cry out that God is Holy, that Holy God is Mighty, that Holy God is Immortal while He reigns supreme on the Cross. Is this, I ask you, fake sweetness, an insult to Divine Justice?

There simply is no prayer offered by the faithful that drips with the Blood of Christ more than the Divine Mercy Chaplet, no prayer which better expresses that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to take our place, the Innocent for the guilty, taking on the death we deserve because of sin, so that He might have the right IN HIS OWN JUSTICE to have mercy on us.

The Divine Mercy chaplet is an antidote to the poison imbibed by those who insist upon mercy without justice so that they might mock God, neighbor and themselves, remaining in their sin. Justice demands repentance from sin, a firm purpose of amendment of live from sin, with that justice opening the path to the fruitful reception of mercy. Is that fake sweetness, and insult to Divine Justice?

And now it’s time to blow up the whole “it’s too sweet” idiocy. Try this: Be John, standing next to Immaculate Mary below the Cross, the Precious Blood showering down upon you. Now… Listen… Do you hear her? It’s our Immaculate Mother praying for us to the Father as she watches her Divine Son being tortured to death in front of her: “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Such a warrior in maternal solicitude for us against the demons broken out on Calvary! Now, go ahead, I dare the blasphemers, tell her that’s she’s just too sweet in her honoring of the Divine Justice – “for the sake of…” – and I think you’ll find yourselves rightfully smacked down by John protecting the honor of dearest Mary. Go ahead. Get up again. He’ll smack you down hard. Don’t get up. Stay on your knees. Figure it out. Mercy is founded on justice. Forget cynicism. Thank Jesus humbly. Humbly thank Mary for praying for you. Thank John for smacking you down.

Now you’re on your way to heaven, and that’s very sweet indeed. It’s all good.

I’m gonna stay with Mary and John before Jesus’ wounds this Lent. Would you join me there, below the cross, this Lent?

By the way, some literary notes:

  • Mercy = misericordia = a heart of misery. Get that.
  • The misery is that of another you’ve taken into your own heart and then fulfilled the need as if it were your own.
  • A word for mercy used exclusively for Jesus in the Gospels means to have His own Heart sacrificed for us.

All too sweet, right? I think those who reject mercy founded on justice are just a bunch of politically correct cowards and that they had better repent of their hypocritical cynicism that turns people away from receiving mercy founded on the justice of the wounds. I mean, just think how demonic that is: taking away the key of knowledge, the very Sacred Heart of our Lord. We pray for ourselves, unworthy that we are, for the blasphemers of Divine Mercy founded on Divine Justice, and for the whole world.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion…

Oh you who pass by the way, is there any sorrow like my sorrow?


Filed under Prayer, Spiritual life

Back-sides of the beyonds: peripheries! exile!

The main parish church is bottom center at the base of that hill in front of the mountains. My parish church as a kid was the basement chapel of a monastery in the middle of nowhere. So, I’m entirely at home in tiny parishes. Very much the family of faith. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone works together. We’re all about Jesus, getting on our way to heaven, no foolishness, lots of devotions, loving the Sacraments, all the doctrine, all the morals.

Isn’t that the way it should be everywhere? We can’t be “backwardists”. When you’re as far away as you can get, there’s not even one more step into the peripheries you can take. We love that. The next step is up, and that’s heaven. We’re in exile here upon earth, but heaven is home, forever.

Speaking of the spiritual life in this world but aimed at heaven, here’s some good advice from waaaaay back in the day:

letter to diognetus

“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

“And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

“They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

“To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

“Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.” [From a letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)]


Filed under Spiritual life

Dealing with distractions in prayer. Crash course taught by Shadow-dog

Number one, above, you notice you’re distracted. That’s important. Now you can do something about it.

Number two, below, without suppressing or denying the distraction – because when did that ever work? – you continue with what’s most important.

By the way, that was one bite, chomping off that tyrannosaurus rex hip socket, before proceeding to get the marrow out of the bone itself. Goooood daaaaawg!


Filed under Dogs, Spiritual life

Epic Day Off: Painting the spikenard woman’s soul

A couple of days ago, on a whim, I took off to a parish not my own and spoke with the priest there, whom I know well, for six hours, quite a bit of which conversation was about his paintings, he being an artist. However, before that, he gave me a fairly extensive tour of the church, in which I had never been previously. Very peaceful. There are lots of spectacularly clever methods of securing the premises. His parish is in the epicenter for crime in his area. I’m gonna have to go back and take notes.

Anyway, having offered me a coffee, we went over to the rectory and got into the essence of artistry and church architecture and lifting hearts and souls to the Lord, both art and how it is presented and how architecture can teach and guide souls. You’re never too old to learn, I say, with me getting old altogether.

Some of his paintings are practice for this or that method, technique, an imitation of another artist to broaden one’s own logistical wherewithal. Such is the case with the painting above. Consider that copyrighted 2022 by myself for future publication in a book on women in Sacred Scripture. I asked him about this and he agreed when he listened of my instantaneous reaction to this particular painting of a simple flask.

Mine was a spiritual experience. I knew I was looking at the very soul of the “spikenard woman” in the Gospels the second before she poured out her spikenard over Jesus. Let’s recall that incident (Mt 26:6-12):

  • Now when Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and said, “Why this waste? It could have been sold for much, and the money given to the poor.” Since Jesus knew this, he said to them, “Why do you make trouble for the woman? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me. In pouring this perfumed oil upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Amen, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be spoken of, in memory of her.”

What she saw is the Messiah, Jesus, God Incarnate, our Redeemer, our Savior, the Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, the Suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah She beheld Jesus as the One is who is so good and kind, leading us to know the truth, for He is Truth Incarnate.

She also saw the disciples, and Judas, and knew they didn’t get it. They were too obtuse, oblivious, even malicious. They would all run away, Peter denying Jesus, Judas betraying Him. And it was going to happen now. It’s happening NOW. They’re going to do their part in having Jesus tortured to death right NOW. And, indeed, it is at this moment that Judas left to betray Jesus.

What can she do? She had to do something! NOW! She had spikenard. She had to pour it over Jesus NOW, for He is so dead, already a corpse. He will be buried with that spikenard upon Him.

Whatever her past was… [controversies rage!], right now she was spectacularly pure of heart, agile of soul, clear in her spiritual sight, profound in her understanding. Might I add fortitude? In pouring this spikenard over Jesus with alacrity in the face of the murderous greed round about, at least for thirty pieces of silver, she was endangering herself. If they are going to do away with Jesus, what could they, would they do to her. She didn’t care. She had to take care of Jesus. If He’s laying down His life for her, the least she can do is honor Him in His burial.

Back to the painting. As I say, for me, instantaneously, this was not an empty still life, a lack of flowers and such, merely a flask on a boring background. No, no. This is a snapshot of her soul the second before she poured the spikenard contents of this alabaster jar upon Jesus. The vibrant green color represents her faith, evergreen, living. The spikenard inside is very love of God that Jesus had already established in her soul, as it were, sanctifying grace. The background is, for me, the sepulcher in which Jesus was about to be placed, the slab on which His body anointed with the spikenard would lay, and the back wall of the dark tomb hewn out of the rock a stone’s throw from Calvary, where He would be tortured to death, and which was in the same quarry.

One second later after she realized Jesus was a dead Man already, she had just that quickly poured out the contents over Jesus.

When I see that painting, I’m seeing the soul of a saint, one of our great intercessors in heaven, right now, cheering us on that we might make it to heaven, finally being brought as well into humble thanksgiving to Jesus. What she did is a reprimand to us that we might be like those disciples who couldn’t care about Jesus, but who congratulate ourselves about our following of Jesus. She shows us how it’s done.

Thank you, spikenard woman, you who risked everything to honor Jesus, also giving witness to us. Thank you.

I was very taken that I was gifted this painting. He gave me instructions on what not to do in cleaning it, but what can be done.

By the way, the frame is exquisite. Black and gold, darkness and light, the light radiating through into the darkness, dispelling the darkness. Simple. Effective. Take a look at the back:

Professionally made to endure. And what this woman did to honor Jesus will be spoken about will be proclaimed to the whole world with the Good News, the Gospel. The good news is that Jesus can make it so that we also have purity of heart, agility of soul, clarity of vision, profundity of understanding, and we can hope that He will bring us through death to life in heaven, giving us as a gift to our heavenly Father.

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Our diocesan priests retreat 2022

We had our canonical retreat this past week. This was the best attended retreat in all my years. The retreat director was a believer. He wasn’t afraid to speak of Jesus. Great priestly fraternity.

But the best part of the retreat was the rearranging of the schedule diversely from previous years. This time the Holy Hour was a bit more coerced, if you will. Previously it was on it’s own in the schedule. Maybe half or less of the priests showed up. Now there is also the Rosary and Vespers and a conference during the Holy Hour. Everyone came. Ha! There was less time for quiet adoration, but we were before the Most Blessed Sacrament nonetheless. All good.

This new schedule was especially helpful on Wednesday when, immediately after the Holy Hour, well, adoration instead continued while Confessions took place. My station for hearing confessions was right next to Jesus. He’s the One. He’s the only One. Non sum dignus.

Confession for priests? Here’s a blast from the past:

Thanks for that, Father.

Speaking of dearest Mary… surprise, surprise. Our Lady of Mount Carmel (discalced!), had been repainted and was without a title. However, she was presented during the retreat as Mary, Mother of God. I had a good few minutes in front of these two.

More in future posts, but here’s a gem from the retreat:

  • The less one prays, the less one wants to pray. The more one prays, the more one wants to pray.


Filed under Adoration, Confession, Priesthood, Spiritual life, Vocations