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.
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.
Andrews, NC, hasn’t had an airshow for very many years. Sept 24 it finally returned. But I was doing priest stuff. On my way back on the highway I saw that, unless you were there from way before it started, there was no way to get anywhere near the airport. What I wanted to see up close was the F4U Corsair, a fighter-attack gull-wing. No chance of that. However, Guardian Angel at work, a Corsair was banking high above the highway as I passed under. Then, pulling off into a parking lot in town, that same corsair was turning back to the airport just overhead. That’s it in the picture above, right on top of me.
This reminds me of dad razing the roof of the house on a number of occasions in the early 1960s. I felt as if I could almost touch the plane if I reached high enough. I waved. The wings of the plane waved back. Not knowing aerodynamics as a little kid, I thought the air under the wings would push down on me as the plane passed above. Pictured is the early version, with a smaller, three-blade propeller. Later, there would be a four-blade propeller sixteen feet in diameter with a series of gatling guns in both wings, a kind of precursor to the A-10 Warthog. Here’s dad, with his back to you, to your right at the inside folded elbow of the wing:
This was, perhaps, the most impossible plane to land on an aircraft carrier. I had heard of the left-wing-drop previously, but this guy gives some real clarity on it. It’s faults in design like this that the best of the best know how to use in combat to their advantage.
In that aircraft carrier picture and in the thumbnail of the video above, you can see the checkerboard pattern. Dad was commander of the Checkerboarders. Sorry, but this put me in nostalgia mode.
By the way, speaking of using weaknesses to one’s advantage, have you never heard that the effects of original sin, and whatever of our own rubbish sin, weakness of mind and will, fallen emotions being tempted not to follow upon but to wildly highjack what is, then, no longer reason, all of this having us be open to being the victims of violence and aggression of all kinds, sickness and death…. have you never heard of all this described as the cross by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and that we are not to suppress such a cross, but we are rather to recognize it, pick it up, carry it daily until we die, but all the while following Him, all to the end of knowing more clearly, literally excruciatingly, why it is that He came to save us, and that only He can save us, taking our place, Innocent for the guilty, so that He has the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, so that, in that grace, we die to ourselves to live for Him, all the while being assisted in growth in sanctity by this cross which we all carry? That cross, which we learn to embrace, makes for blazing clarity. Yikes! But all things work for the good of those who, by the grace of God, love God.
In summary: if you think there’s a weakness in your plane, use it to your advantage, and fly to the heavens.
Elijah with the flaming fiery sword on Mount Carmel, Israel.
[[It’s 2022. This was written now thirteen years ago. It’s Padre Pio’s feast day. /// BTW, today marks 28 years in prison of Father Gordon MacRae. Hail Mary… Saint Michael the Archangel… ]
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 wielded by the angels at the end of Genesis 3. The suffering I went through to accomplish the academic feat on a level of historical philology, involving many, many years of library rat-ness, not REsearch but rather original hard work, agony, really, is nothing at all compared to what Padre Pio understood in an instant by experiencing personally this fiery sword which I have only come to know academically. I am, to date, the only one to have accomplished this academic feat through the centuries, through the millennia. I’m pretty proud of it – and that’s a sin – and I am trying to get over it. It helps to have come to know someone who was alive in my lifetime who experienced precisely, personally, exactly what I described on a merely academic level.
I am vindicated by Padre Pio’s experience. At the same time, 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…
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 [obviously, his religious superior] 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].
“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] who presented himself to my mind’s eye [So, not an apparition, but entirely spiritual. People think angels are all fluffy chiffon pastels and cute. 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. My academic, pedantic translation of this three-fold double-reverse verb is this in context: 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.” Thus, if we were to try to grasp at the fruit of the Tree of the Living Ones, the work of this sword, of this grace, wielded by the angels, would turn that, with our assent, into humbly receiving the Fruit of the Tree of the Living Ones, that is, the Eucharist. This is also the sword with which the Carmelites depict Elijah. See their fiery coat of arms below. This is also the sword mentioned by Teresa of Avila. This is pre-eminently the sword of Saint Michael…] 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 such an angel 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 much more than any purgatory: he is bringing souls to heaven by his life becoming an intercession for all of us. What would I do, I who surely have a purgatory lasting until the end of time?]
Elijah’s fiery sword on the Discalced Carmelite Coat of Arms
“From that day on I have been mortally wounded. [“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.]
“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 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, again, “the sword which causes that which is presented to it to be transformed into its contrary.” Again, we are not to grasp arrogantly for the Fruit 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 such a religious superior, 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 and therefore our own 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. Jesus said that He would draw all to Himself when He is lifted up (on the Cross). 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! Help all whom Jesus wants to transform in His love!]
In that picture above the background you see is boxes of cold cases, murders, piled high in the United States Territory of Guam. The label that’s visible says “HOMICIDE: WANNEE L BAILEY”. She’s the one who was murdered. That’s her on the left in the picture at 19 years old, when she was pregnant with her son, Pornchai Moontri, who is to the right in the picture at 12 years of age.
From Father Gordon J MacRae:
“It has not escaped my notice that this is being posted on the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross. That is most fitting. This is an unusual post for us, but a necessary one. It tells a story that has deeply impacted our lives and it has been a long time in the making. Please note that portions of this account may be disturbing. I have done all I can to minimize such content without minimizing the story itself. This post is longer than most, but it is a mesmerizing account with no part that I could justly omit. If you have never shared a post of mine on social media or with others, please share this one.”
Just to be clear: share that post on BeyondTheseStoneWalls, over there. Here’s the link:
τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν – He who knew no sin was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In Saint Paul’s shorthand speech, Jesus became sin for us. Ooo! That sounds scandalous! Heretical! Bad and evil! But Jesus stood in our place, Innocent for the guilty, so that He could have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. And Mary Immaculate stood in perfect solidarity with Jesus. Mary became sin for us with Jesus. Ooo! That sounds scandalous! Heretical! Bad and evil. But I say that this is Mary Immaculate’s glory. To those who cannot bear such reality, I say, grow up and see the suffering, witness Mary’s maternal intercession, the sword of sorrow piercing her soul that our thoughts may be laid bare. Grow up and lay aside all cowardice. Rejoice that we have such a good Mother, such a Holy Redeemer in her Son.
Rumors fly as they do, even across oceans do they fly. It seems that I have been denounced to the highest of ecclesiastical tribunals in an attempt to destroy my priesthood. It seems that I am a blasphemer when it comes to praising the perfect condescension of Jesus and His dearest Mother, that κατάβασις (katabasis = going down) of mercy founded on justice. It seems that I have been labeled as a blasphemer. Will I be put under some kind of interdict, suspended in some way, perhaps dismissed from the clerical state, or – hey! – even excommunicated?
Long time readers may remember when a top canonist of the Roman Rota, a friend, wrote up an interdict against me on behalf of co-conspirators at the Pontifical Seminary at which I was teaching and at which I was very active on the formation team for both philosophers and theologians. But that was humor.
My crime then was to be chaplain for the philosophers and not the theologians in the 2010 Mud Bowl extravaganza.
But the present denunciation against me is deadly serious, enough to rip me out of the priesthood.
What’s the kerfuffle about, really? Surely it’s about my praise of Jesus and Mary. But I am also a thorn in the side of some members of the Church for a number of reasons. Any and all of these, take your pick:
I think the Traditional Latin Mass is a valid and licit expression of the Roman Rite
I think the Hegelian-Rahnerian methodology of the Synod on Synodality is itself heretical
I think the encouragement of same-sex unchastity and any unchastity leads souls to hell
I think that the idol worship of demon idols such as Pachamama (Francis) or Nian (Cupich) or Ganesh (spreading in India with impunity) et alii is a direct violation of the first Commandment
I think Sacred Tradition is univocal and provided supernaturally by the Holy Spirit to each sanctified soul and is not passed on by hand, but only quasi per manus, almost as if by hand (Trent). Sacred Tradition is not a tree or the roots of a tree, dynamic, growing. No. Tradition is absolute. Truth is absolute. God is Truth. God is absolute. Sacred Tradition is not something dictated by freakoids in the Roman Curia, not even by the Pope, not even in ex-Cathedra pronouncements. No. Sacred Tradition (traditiones) is the living faith provided in sanctifying grace and the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity. Idiot human beings don’t do that. Infallibility is not equal to Sacred Tradition.
I think contraception, abortifacients, procured abortion, infanticide, euthanasia are all intrinsically dishonest, and, as with Ad tuendam fidem, with Ratzinger and JPII, I hold these to be definitive, infallible teachings of the ordinary magisterium of the Church.
I think murdering babies in the womb for research, development, testing of “vaccines” is the utilitarian murder of the least of the brethren, of Jesus.
I think that the money laundering and, therefore, the consequent financing of international terrorism is directly opposed to the mission of the Church. I agree with Jesus: you cannot serve God and mammon. I am working to bring the criminals down, hard.
I am Catholic and love being a priest of Jesus Christ and a son of Mary, Mother of priests. I know she suffered a hell of a lot for me, and I thank her for that and I praise her for that. That’s the problem.
My being denounced came about just days before my surgery, and, now starting my recovery, this is my new distraction. It’s about the wonderful statue of Mary with infant Jesus that is making its way to all of the parishes of the diocese.
I mean, that face of Mary. She sees the problems at hand. Finally, someone does. Great! And Jesus entirely exudes confidence that whatever it is she wants in her maternal solicitude for us, she’s going to get it.
But here’s what I said in the original post which I took down so that I would have to time to put up this response before being smacked down hard, it being that I was busy getting cut wide open and am now recovering. This is what was so very offensive:
“This is the Pilgrim Virgin Mary of Charlotte Diocese making her way throughout the parishes during the 50th anniversary of this relatively young diocese. She’s now at Holy Redeemer in Andrews, NC. Another priest gave her the title: “Our Lady Most Patient with Father Byers.” Hmmm. I think I like “Our Lady Most Snarky” better. Whatever it is that she’s plotting, it’s Jesus who will make it happen. Totally.”
Our Lady is most patient with yours truly, but her patience extends to many more souls than just myself. This is why I mentioned the snarkiness of her expression, you know, like she’s plotting something, of course for our good, and Jesus will make it happen.
I’m guessing the problem people had, why they think I’m a blasphemer, is my usage of the word snarky.
Sigh… You try to speak in the now enculturated language of fairy tales, on the level of little children, and this is what you get. Gunned down. So, fine. Some explanations are in order.
It all starts with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland) penned in 1865 by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. Lewis was a devout lifelong stratospherically high-church Anglican, a believer. His protagonist, Alice, is the original one to “go down the rabbit hole”. She meets up with all sorts of allegorical, anthropomorphic creatures, human adults if truth be known, who express their opinions (also by way of the manner in which they live) about the philosophies and political idiocies of the day. Alice struggles to stay herself even as she meets up with adults who have become all too self-absorbed in the myriad ways fallen human nature goes about this in unrepeatable circumstances.
Then, eleven years later, in 1876, Carroll writes The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits. This is about a bunch of seasoned guys from all types of professions who get together to traverse the waves to an island where their hunting of the Snark might well be successful. The chapters of poetic verse are called fits appropriately enough. The Snark isn’t much described other than that it is seems to be a dark figure, mysterious in a most sinister sort of way.
While they hunt, it seems that a Snark is spotted, and one of the crew dies in his attempt to get close. He had seen the Snark falling from the heights. The crew member dies a most calm and peaceful death. He simply disappears. All gone. The end.
People asked Carroll who or what the Snark is, and he would never let on. Well, to me, sorry, but this is obvious, and if you have to be told you won’t understand it anyway, but I will tell you, since it is too painful for this mystery to go on. Fallen society has made it quite impossible to crack the mystery today.
The Snark, par excellence, is Jesus Christ, and, of course, His blessed Mother with Him. Yes, the monstrous Snark, so evil in every way, in fact, a projection, in our perception, of the evil within ourselves, which we try to kill, pretending to be our own saviors. We spend our lives doing this, going inside ourselves, travelling the world, hunting, hunting, hunting the dreadful Snark, Jesus Christ, who takes upon Himself all the punishment of our sin – He was made sin for us – and we mock Him as the criminal, the One who enslaved all in sin from Adam until the last man is conceived. And when we finally meet up with Him, like that crew member who dies, He falls from the heights to the depths, and it is there, far below the Cross, that we behold His Mother looking upon us, and we understand: He is God and she is His Mother. Both bloodied, both looking like criminals, monstrous. But then we understand a smidgeon of such love.
We die to ourselves and we ourselves gently just disappear as Snark hunters. We take our place with Mary and John and are now also in solidarity with Jesus. In our own way, we become just a little bit of The Snark. But Jesus and Mary are the epitome of being the Snark. Only they can bear the weight of all our darkness, all our sin which we project unto them. They are so good to us, so kind.
As a clincher, I should mention that the epic poem, The Hunting of the Snark, was published far and wide with multiple printings, all by itself. But that was not at all the case when this poem on The Snark was to be given to children, specifically “to those who love Alice” (of Alice in Wonderland fame). When The Hunting of the Snark was given “to those who love Alice” those children were also given a lengthy Easter Greeting also penned by Lewis Carroll. It was all about the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who triumphed over sin and evil, He having forgiven us our sin wrought in all our idiocy.
People dismiss Carroll’s writings as mere fantastical nonsense literature. That is because they don’t see the irony, the humor which Chesterton would later say is so necessary for Christianity itself. Irony is not nonsense. It is essential to life and breath. Irony is our hope. It is justice and mercy meeting upon the Cross. It is Christ being made to be sin. And Mary with Him. It slams us to our knees.
I believe that Lewis Carroll opened the floodgates of this kind of literature for those to come, say, C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia, or J.R.R. Tolkien and his works on Hobbits and Rings and Middle Earth. I say the same for the more outlandishly wonderful works of G.K. Chesterton such as The Ball and the Cross. But most of all, most of all, it is the summary of irony by Hilaire Belloc which most rings absolutely true with The Hunting of the Snark. You are reading about Jesus Christ on the Cross:
“To the young, the pure, and the ingenuous, irony must always appear to have a quality of something evil, and so it has, for […] it is a sword to wound. It is so directly the product or reflex of evil that, though it can never be used – nay, can hardly exist – save in the chastisement of evil, yet irony always carries with it some reflections of the bad spirit against which it was directed. […] It suggests most powerfully the evil against which it is directed, and those innocent of evil shun so terrible an instrument. […] The mere truth is vivid with ironical power […] when the mere utterance of a plain truth labouriously concealed by hypocrisy, denied by contemporary falsehood, and forgotten in the moral lethargy of the populace, takes upon itself an ironical quality more powerful than any elaboration of special ironies could have taken in the past. […] No man possessed of irony and using it has lived happily; nor has any man possessing it and using it died without having done great good to his fellows and secured a singular advantage to his own soul.” [Hilaire Belloc, “On Irony” (pages 124-127; Penguin books 1325. Selected Essays (2/6), edited by J.B. Morton; Harmondsworth – Baltimore – Mitcham 1958).]
/// That last bit about no man possessing irony and using it ever living happily? Yep. But mere happiness is one thing. Joy is another, in the Holy Spirit. It would be a great privilege to be penalized even by Holy Mother Church because of thanking Jesus and Mary for their sufferings for us. But my priesthood? That can never be taken away. It is a sacrament lasting forever. I have no fear. The Great Snark, and the Mother of snarky priests watch over me, having me die to my wretched self, but living for them.
The denouncement of blasphemy against me is so dark that I have to do this:
And if I’ve been beating down the wolves in this post, it is only so that they will turn into the sheep of the Lord’s Little Flock. It would be a joy to go to heaven together. Amen.
Amidst all the wars and floods and earthquakes and persecutions right around the world, causing so many to be murdered, displaced, and amidst all the weirdness of the complications of world-politics and church-politics, that weirdness being an occasion by which people can lose their souls, I’ve nevertheless allowed myself to be distracted, self-absorbed, as Pope Francis says, in my own tiny little world.
I’ve been doing some preps for a medical intervention at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, a teaching hospital, recommended precisely because it is a teaching hospital by my own doctor and a specialist surgeon, both outside of that health care system. There are complications. Two hospitals were fighting for me to be their patient. I’m grateful.
It’s a super-easy, super-common, merely outpatient intervention. A generous parishioner is driving me there and back. But medicine is a practice, right? If there is a rather catastrophic complication, some logistics will have to be confronted. Since as a priest I’m quite continuously in hospitals, I’ve personally seen that complication. Alas, it’s best to be prepared.
It’s one of those situations whereby… “You have to confront the trees when going through a forest.” This is our lot in life, attempting to be a steward for the entire forest, but, in trying to have oversight of the panorama, we can walk right into individual trees. Bonk. Thus, the distraction.
The upside of any such would-be complication in my little world is that it might well save me from another possible intervention, which I’ve been warned by specialists would necessarily be catastrophic. So, one regrettable complication saving me from another. That would be really cool. I love that. I’m patient. But chances are there will not necessarily be another complication.
Anyway, that’s why I’ve not been posting much. Busy with preps. Chances are chances. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Lots of people don’t have that opportunity. I’m grateful to be able to get psyched, as they say. Still doing the usual sprinting from Holy Hours to Confessions to Holy Mass to Communion calls, to Last Rites… and feeding Shadow-dog… all those things that I have hopes of continuing to do regardless of any complications one way or the other. It’s complicated, but obstacles are not insurmountable. For the record: “Not insurmountable.” Sometimes it has to be said.
P.S. That picture up top of John Paul II, who, like that young man, would then himself be transferred into a wheelchair…
I put that poignant photo there because my memory is jogged regarding what a certain papabile said to me about that sainted pontiff, that he, JPII, is an embarrassment to the Church in front of the world. What a shame, he insisted, a pope in a wheelchair. He added: We’re trying to figure out a way to have him removed. Get that? But I’m sure it wasn’t because of physical infirmity that there was a desire to discard JPII like trash. JPII’s crime was that he was Catholic while being pope. This same papabile said that Jesus was a “kind of failure”, you know, a loser, for having been crucified.
I recall a priest saying of me already decades ago now that I myself was an embarrassment to the Church in front of the world, you know, because at the time I was in a wheelchair. I was just as much of an embarrassment to the Church in front of the world as was another priest in a wheelchair in his diocese. He was an out-and-out Marxist, so, for him, rusty cogs in the machine are to be discarded like trash. I’m sure it wasn’t because of my physical infirmity at the time that there was a desire to get rid of me. My crime was that I was being Catholic while being a priest. It would only be a year or two and I would wheel myself in my wheelchair a couple of miles away to the Missionaries of Charity, giving them the wheelchair, making brave to walk away on crutches, and then, later, walk miles on those crutches to Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and place my crutches, as a kind of statement of thanksgiving, behind the altar-rails at the side-altar of St Pius X, making brave to walk away, and I did.
Years later, I recall a seminarian asking about a limp of mine which at some times is more pronounced. I told him what had happened. While spinning about and walking away quickly, dismissively, he called out, “What a loser!” you know, with an attitude, as in, “What a f***ing loser!” — Like… wait… what? If I’m a loser for having a limp, is Jesus a loser for having been crucified?
Anyway, the present intervention for which I’m distracted with many preps has nothing to do with any lifetime quasimodo ambulation. Chances are there will be no complication, which might be complicating, a veritable forest of trees:
Meanwhile, that’s just my own little world. Boring.
It’s Jesus who is the One. The only One.
I get that. I can’t even count how many times JPII traced the cross on my forehead.
Whilst writing a series of posts on the Church Militant documentary “Den of Thieves” I have once again been stunned by the memories it has brought up. Connecting the dots after all these years is quite the experience. It’s like finding a lost piece of an upside-down jigsaw puzzle which will finally permit one to load up the back of the puzzle with masking tape and gently flip it over to reveal the picture for the first time. Un-cooking the books is my life story.
But that’s all on the level of gray matter.
Then there’s reality… into which Sacred Heart one is drawn by the Most High, the Almighty. I myself am a big puzzle needing to be set right. Jesus is a Master puzzle-solver, having learned from His dear Mother, Mary, undoer of knots. :-)
Jesus said about Himself (in our perspective) Psalm 22: 6-7…
“But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me. They hurl insults, shaking their heads.”
Yep. That’s us, in our fallen human nature, if we are without grace. With grace, we already know that that’s who we are on our own, total idiots who don’t see God right in front of us.
If we don’t recognize that that’s who we are if we are without grace, we have zero integrity, zero honesty, zero humility. We are full of ourselves, and we’re full of **** as pictured above. That’s not the kind of person who goes to heaven. I wanna go to heaven. The way to go to heaven is not to congratulate ourselves that we are holy, having saved ourselves because we’re the ones, the only ones; the way to go to heaven is to recognize that Jesus is our Savior because He’s the One, the only One.
Oh, and we are to be happy to stand with Jesus in His trials.
That means that if we are with Jesus, we are also considered to be worms by the rest of the fallen world. Ready for that?
Just be to persnickety: It’s not so much “worm” in the biblical text, but rather more specifically, “maggot.” Baalzebul, however you wanna spell it, means “Lord of the Flies”, that is, The Lord of Death, so, rotting corpses, so, maggots, hence, flies. Satan is the murderer from the beginning. Jesus says, “I am a maggot and no man” (in our perspective). How far we have fallen.
Jesus is considered a maggot because we are fallen and that’s how we roll in self-protection: Jesus is bad and evil, not me.
Again, the cure to this, in Jesus’ grace, is a bit of humility, honesty, integrity, so that, redeemed and saved by Jesus, being in His grace, standing in solidarity with Him, we are also then considered to be maggots, the worst of the worst. And moreover, we’re happy about this.
A priest is blessed if he does what he has to do, called by our Lord Jesus to preach about His preaching, to instruct about His instruction, to exhort about His exhortation, to provide His goodness, His kindness, His truth. Likewise, a priest is cursed if does his own thing.
Yet, it seems like a blasphemy to teach about the Lord’s Prayer since Jesus already taught us how to pray. There is no bettering, one-upping the Lord.
But this speaks to just how weak we all are and to why our Lord called men to be priests even though Jesus is the One, the only One, the One High Priest.
Meanwhile, all the time: through, with and in Jesus, by the Holy Spirit: “Abba, Father.”
Meanwhile, if anything happens like this, and it does, a lot (though not with words, just extremely strong inspirations), I always blame my guardian angel. I think it’s our guardian angels who do everything to set up such encounters. With a zillion “coincidences,” and timing to the second a hundred times in a row for things to get done for the Lord Jesus, I cannot but thank my guardian angel and end up repeating to our Lord, “But I only did what I had to do, you know, because my guardian angel made me do your will.”
Here’s the deal: when it comes to paying attention to and obeying guardian angels, we had better follow their lead, or else. If they need to get something done, they’ll do whatever it takes.
Such a scene is to be seen anytime I’m doing Communion Calls such as last evening, or going anywhere throughout the forested mountains in this paradise which is my parish. Defensive driving techniques here have been all about edginess in knowing that there will be an accident unless you’re instantly ready to brake while avoiding. A good sense of situational awareness, actively looking for deer hidden by their camouflage and a bit of grass or mountain laurel.
While any typical jaunt will witness, say, a half-dozen small herds of a few deer to ten or twenty, not to mention elk and bear and boar and bobcats and lynx and mountain lions and panthers and cats and dogs and coyotes and red wolves and now gray wolves and box turtles and snapping turtles and snakes and ravens and turkeys and turkey buzzards and road pizza possums and road pizza woodchucks, even a beaver or two… well, none of them are much of a hazard. They are simply a joy. And having learned a bit of situational awareness for their sake and your own, one will get be trained up right quick for the real danger, which comes from other drivers “owning” the road, so that nobody belongs on the road but them. And they drive accordingly. Oh deer! And oh dear!
Appreciation of the fact that all of creation proclaims the glories of our good Creator makes one not overly situationally aware, so that one is worn out with hyperawareness, but instead has one in tune, as it were, a sintonia, a precision in being aware of one’s environment. I’m not quite getting across what’s happening… Let’s try again…
While I’m out and about on Communion calls, it is the very Creator of all things who is with me in the Most Blessed Sacrament. How humble He is to allow Himself to be dragged all over His own creation in Sassy the Subaru. And in seeing Jesus’ good creation I cannot but proclaim to Him that He did a good job of it, all befitting the needs of His Immaculate Mother in taking care of us who have adopted into the Holy Family. And as we bounce along a single-lane gravel mountain road with washouts here and fallen trees there, one is never so distracted as not being able to say: Look! A bald eagle! Be careful! A donkey!
Galatians 2:11 — “When Cephas [=Rock=Peter] came to Antioch, I [Paul] opposed him to his face [yep, that’s literal, “to his face”], because he was being perfectly condemned.”
That Paul uses the Aramaic translation of Peter’s name, Cephas – Rock – is an incisive and well deserved emphasis of mockery against Peter, as being a “Rock” is exactly what he was not being. Peter allowed himself to be reduced to the shifting sands of relativism. That description, κατεγνωσμένος, a perfect passive participle – refers to Peter perfectly continuing to be perfectly condemned. This refers to Peter’s blasphemy of our redemption in Christ Jesus with Peter insisting that that redemption is useless, to be discarded, thrown away, spit on, because we should all instead just follow the old pedagogical punishments of circumcision, you know, for the sake of passing political correctness (like that‘s going to save us). Peter was a bullshit artist, and Paul called him out on it.
In fact, etymologically, to be pedantic about it, κατεγνωσμένος, comes from κατά (against) and γνῶσις (knowledge), so: knowledge that is held against someone. Paul’s judgment against Peter was consonant with God’s Living Truth. Thus, Peter stands condemned, perfectly.
Paul made the correction and thus became a saint.
Peter took the correction and thus became a saint.
That’s so very Catholic. We are to correct and admonish one another, helping each other be humble before Christ Jesus. We gotta get to heaven. We depend also on such admonishments. And it was not Paul who was bullying Peter. Peter was abusing his authority.
Not to correct someone is to be condemned to hell, and to assist others in being condemned to hell.
To correct someone is a great act of charity. One risks being smacked down by the one being corrected.
The ugliest thing in the world is when the one being corrected attacks the one correcting. That’s ingratitude that cries out to heaven for vengeance. God is The Authority. God hates abuse of authority.
Remember that in all this Paul is, in his own words, like an abortion compared to the super-apostles. Peter is “powerful”, the one on whom the Church is founded by the Son of the Living God. Peter could have thrown a self-entitled “Karen” tantrum embarrassing himself all the more, and the entire Church. Can you imagine that cataclysmic disturbance this would have caused in the early Church. The Church would continue, but wounded. Thank God Peter converted once again.
But now there’s a law in the Code of Canon Law which can illegitimately but very possibly be used by the powers that be to hurt with brutal hypocrisy those who would correct ecclesiastical superiors:
Canon 1373. A person who publicly incites hatred or animosity against the Apostolic See or the Ordinary because of some act of ecclesiastical office or duty, or who provokes disobedience against them, is to be punished by interdict or other just penalties.
For a bishop, even the bishop of Rome, to use such a law over against someone who is doing them the charitable courtesy of correcting them for evil behavior or the corruption of doctrine and morals is, to repeat, a supreme abuse of authority, for which, all the more, they need to be called out.
Is it easy for the upper echelon to kick those below them in the teeth, sending them into a coma, disallowing them to preach, to hear Confessions, to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? This is so very, very cruel. Demonic, really.
Pope Francis once gave good advice about this; “Humility, humility, humility.” Yep.
If one offers a necessary correction, this is, in and of itself, a justified attack on all that which is self-absorbed, promethean, neo-pelagianistic,, neo-gnostic, casuistic, “Karen”-self-entitled entrenchment into rigidity that betrays deeper psychological and spiritual problems… Whew!
The answer by the cowardly hissy-fit crowd is, of course, to say such things about those who instead are just doing their best to be charitable and courteous, whatever the cost.
Those who charitably correct their brothers are not hurt in the least by those who would smack them down. Instead, they are filled all the more with joy at having the opportunity to suffer for the Holy Name of Jesus.
And given all those who are necessarily correcting the powers that be these because of all that needs to be corrected, I’d like to suggest to the powers that be that need correcting not to be so arrogant in slamming those who risk all to make that correction. They are vulnerable, not powerful, and it is an almost inescapable temptation to simply lash out against them. Don’t do it. Just take the correction, and convert. That Christ Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire is no joke. You should, instead, be thankful, first of all to Jesus who redeemed us all and wants that “the many” be saved.
It is forbidden on this day in the TLM to make any commemoration whatsoever. We’ve emphasizing the equality of the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, the fullness of the faith, the Living Truth, One God.
But of course we begin this feast day with Adoration. No distraction, this. The Holy Spirit so forms us to be members of the Body of Christ, as Saint Paul has it, that we are brought by the Holy Spirit through, with and in Jesus to God the Father. Jesus presents us as a gift to the Father through, with and in Himself, now by grace, then, in heaven, please God, by glory.
[[[That Catholic creed attributed to Saint Athanasius is used in Tridentine exorcisms. Not an exorcism in and of itself, it does have an in-your-face clarity that makes demons and all their ambiguity flee. It’s prep-work for the beatific vision. It’s like the writer, with triumphalistic enthusiasm, describes to an unbelieving world how it is that believing is to be rendered, with joy, with trust, in the Truth. This is a missionary creed, an occasion of “graces and mercy.” I lay this out in one block of text since paragraph breaks would break the flow of the exuberance. It’s one exclamation:]]]
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man. God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world. Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved. Amen. Alleluia.
[[[This recital is, year by year, part of the sermon on this feast of the Most Holy Trinity. And if there are any demons round about (though we’ve exorcised the church campuses a number of time) they will want to be fleeing even before this recital takes place. :-) ]]]
Ashes to ashes? Kind of dark? Kind of depressing? Remember, man — you who purposely forget because you are just so inept at the spiritual life — remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. Remember!!!
I mean, I kinda feel bad… except…
There’s a draw for people to come to church on a weekday… But people do come. Why’s that? Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation. But people come. No one shows up so as to get beaten down, get depressed, and despair, be hopeless. No. So…
Ash Wednesday is about the reality of hope: Here we are, with all of us weakened by original sin, even falling into sin, and we’re all going to die in punishment for original sin and whatever of our own rubbish, and, without redemption, without grace, we would all of us be going to hell, forever and ever and ever, never getting out. We are now just a heap of organized ashes.
What we’re doing in having ashes mashed into our heads, absolutely recognizing just how bad things are, is this: despite how bad things are we have hope in Jesus who underwent much more how bad things are, Himself taking our place, Innocent for the guilty, to have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. Apparently dark and hopeless?
There was a total solar eclipse (the first night and day of the Sacred Triduum)
Judas betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide
Peter denied Jesus three times
All eleven remaining Apostles ran away, John returning, but…
The very Son of the Living God being tortured to death in front of His dear Mother
The point is this at the beginning of Lent: Despite the absolute worst going on, Jesus brings life and light, bringing us to great friendship with Himself so that, being formed to be members of the Body of Christ by the fiery Holy Spirit, Jesus might then have the great, great joy in presenting us as a gift to our Heavenly Father.
After the Resurrection, Jesus calls us friends, a creative act on His part. And so we are. And Lent is a preparation for this flourishing of this friendship. We have Confession, Adoration, Holy Mass, Stations of the Cross, Rosary…
Saint Paul uses violent language about this preparation:
“Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always consigned to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11)
Our very ineptitude with fasting, almsgiving, prayer, with all the frustration, temptations, distractions… all that helps us to turn to Jesus to depend not on ourselves but on Him, so that’s it’s His grace, His goodness and kindness, His Truth. And all that learning to depend on Jesus is a joyful experience, a time of growing in friendship with Him, thus becoming the littlest children of our Heavenly Father.