“For I am the Angel Raphael…” (Of prayers and courtship)

Saint_Raphael

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!

-Offertory from the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

A month and a half ago, if you had visited my little corner of the world, you would have stumbled upon me in my parish church, bent over my missal, sitting and reading this exact verse at the Offertory of the Mass.

It was a mere two days after I had entered into courtship. I was in the pew beside the wonderful man who had asked me to court him, and I was wearing “the veil” I’d kept tucked on my prayer altar near the St. Raphael holy card for months.

The Angel of the Lord . . . The words rebounded through my head, tingling with intense gratitude. The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them . . .

Today, on St. Raphael’s feast day, it’s a struggle to find words to capture the story of his guidance, protection and intercession on my behalf over the past months. It’s a challenge for me to fully absorb the reality that it is his feast day and that my current joys are due in such a special way to his prayers for me! I’m at a loss as to how to adequately honor him, apart from litanies, prayers, and praying along with the Mass of his feast earlier this morning. I have so much to thank him for but feel as though I can only give so little.

Vividly, I remember being at the beach this spring, in the middle of a jumble of vocational desire and discernment. My feet were planted in the sand, my head was bowed over the little book about him while the salty wind buffeted me and made a circus out of my hair (no exaggeration there . . .), and sensing quite strongly that I only needed to climb under the shelter of his wings in order to be lead closer towards what I was so hungry for: my vocation.

Our Lord had allowed my heart to travel a hilly road across the three years since I finished high school, and really, our family trip this spring symbolized a time of rejuvenation and reflection for me, because I had experienced and learned so much–some things through joy, others through pain. I had tucked the aforementioned book about St. Raphael into my tote bag, brought along a newly acquired holy card, and across that week, I began forming a relationship with this beautiful Archangel, thanks to the inexpressible gift that is the Communion of Saints.

For Thy counsel is not in man’s power, but this everyone is sure of that worships Thee, that his life, if it be under trial, shall be crowned: and if it be under tribulation, it shall be delivered: and if it be under correction, it shall be allowed to come to Thy mercy. For Thou art not delighted in our being lost: because after a storm Thou makest a calm, and after tears and weeping, Thou pourest in joyfulness. Be Thy name, O God of Israel, blessed forever.

-Tobias 3: 20-23 (Sara’s prayer before encountering St. Raphael and Tobias)

Across the past year, I’ve shared here about my vocational discernment, particularly in my linked article on 1P5. I’ve written about how, all my life, I experienced a real longing for marriage and children, but how it took coming into the Latin Mass for me to be able to unconditionally, spiritually surrender to God’s (unknown) will for my life and, more specifically, for my vocation: to stop being terrified that He might be calling me to something else than what I wanted.

When I finally let His grace enable me to become open to whatever it was He wanted, I was soon given the beauteous peace of interiorly knowing the rose of marriage was in Our Lord’s design for my life. He lifted me out of myself during that time and transformed my desires.

This period of discernment all happened over the summer, after I’d embarked on my devotion to St. Raphael and was praying to him twice a day, every day. The specific words of my intentions varied a little, but they were as fervent as I could make them and were very much centered on my future husband (even if the state of my discernment meant that I was including the caveat of if God desires me to marry), and that he and I would be brought together. Eventually, I got to the point where I was specifically asking St. Raphael, the same Archangel that guided Tobias to Sara, that my future husband would be inspired to pursue me as soon as God’s will permitted, so that we could do all things together for His glory.

The two prayers I was offering on a daily basis throughout this time are copied below. This first prayer (taken from the above-mentioned book) brought me, from the beginning, an indescribable sense of consolation. It instilled in me a deep trust that I and my desires for my vocation and my future husband were all being taken care of; and it became the firm foundation of my little-sisterly relationship with St. Raphael.

Dear St. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead me by the hand towards those I am waiting for, and those who are waiting for me. May all my movements, all their movements be guided by thy light and transfigured by thy joy. Angel guide of Tobias, lay the request I now address to thee at the feet of Him on Whose unveiled Face thou art privileged to gaze. (Mention your request.) Lonely and weary, deeply grieved by the separation and sorrows of earth, I feel the need of calling out to thee and of pleading for the protection of thy wings so that we may not be as strangers in the province of joy.

Remember the weak, thou who art strong, whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene and bright with the resplendent glory of God. Amen.

The second prayer was sent to me by a good friend earlier on this year in a text message, and I’m not sure of the source (I tweaked one or two words for clarity); but it struck me with its beauty and orthodoxy, and was in a way my first introduction to devotion to St. Raphael.

St. Raphael, loving patron of those seeking a spouse, assist me in this supreme decision of my life. Find for me as a helpmate in life the man whose character reflects many of the traits of Jesus and Mary. May he be upright, loyal, pure, sincere and noble, so that with united efforts and with chaste and unselfish love, we both may strive to perfect ourselves in soul and body, as well as the children entrusted to our care.

St. Raphael, angel of chaste courtship, bless our friendship and our love that sin may have no part in it. May our mutual love bind us so closely that our future home may ever be most like the home of the holy family of Nazareth.  Offer thy prayers to God for the both of us, and obtain the blessing of God upon our marriage, as thou wert the herald of blessing for the marriage of Tobais and Sara.

St. Raphael, friend of the young, be a friend to me, for I shall always be thine. I desire ever to invoke thee in my needs. To thy special care I entrust the decision I am to make as to my future husband. Direct me to the man with whom I can best cooperate in doing God’s holy will; with whom I can live in peace, charity and fidelity in this life, and attain to eternal joy in the next. Amen.

These prayers were the basis of my devotion to St. Raphael, but I also read the Book of Tobit and was blown away by the sheer beauty of St. Raphael’s instruction to Tobias and Sara in regards to their marriage. To imagine an Archangel, “one of the seven who stand before the Lord,” so mercifully intervening in the lives of Tobias and Sara and their families, bringing about healing and a holy marriage, was awe-inspiring, and it served as a confirmation that I was, indeed, praying to an advocate who had been made to care, with a special tenderness and power, for holy marriage and for potential spouses being led into one another’s lives.

A few months of this devotion went by; I received clarity as to my vocation and so then fell to praying more intensely; then came a new acquaintanceship, which grew into a friendship . . . and, in early September, I found myself sitting in the pew at Mass, belonging in a courtship: a time of purposeful, mutual discernment of marriage.

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!

Our friendship-turned-courtship is a sweet and really amazing story in its own right, but one probably better saved for another time . . . however, the building blocks of it were so beyond me in the most literal sense of the word, so beyond my expectations and my own plans and potential conniving, as to be what one can only term “a God thing.” Or, more specifically, “a St. Raphael thing.” 😉 It all happened so effortlessly and gently; I blinked, and there it all was, laid out before me, its own story, so much better and more special than anything I could have written for myself! And now I am in awe of God’s grace and so grateful for the opportunity to discern marriage with such a good man in a courtship.

And now . . . a little bit about courtship itself, because I’ve been dying to blog about it! “Courtship” is a widely used term with various applied meanings and few if any universal rules. But for us, it’s pretty simple: courtship is a more traditional means of a man and woman coming to know one another better and asking God whether it would please Him if they married. While we don’t presume immediately upon the future and are focused on God’s will, courtship is very intentional and is not meant to last long unless the Sacrament of Marriage continues showing itself as a very possible and desired end for the couple in question.

For us, courtship has so far involved many purposeful conversations about the essential issues of Catholic living, marriage and parenting, and our perspectives and experiences growing up; but it’s also involved simply spending time together and growing used to one another’s temperaments and how we think, act and express ourselves. We have always been reserving our first kisses for our wedding days, and I have consistently thought holding hands would be a fun and sweet way to celebrate an engagement, so our courtship’s physical boundaries are modest but certainly not awkward. We’ve chosen for courtship to involve our being always chaperoned (which probably distinguishes it most drastically from the typical dating scenario) as a means of safeguarding our chastity and purity; and we’ve chosen for it to be very family-oriented, with our siblings, parents, and nieces and nephews around a lot of the time, brightening things up, making us laugh, and quite honestly putting us at our ease!

In short, courtship–while being a tradition both of our families have always believed in–was very much our own personal choice, and something that has since brought joy and healthy growth to our God-given relationship. Apart from our deeper conversations, it also involves him always opening and closing the car door for me, and it involves me almost always saying yes when he offers me something to eat or drink; it incorporates ballroom dancing, football games, skits, cooking and home movies, chivalry and good-natured teasing, prayer and, best of all, Mass 🙂 In my mind, it’s a perfect way for two young people to discern marriage and I wouldn’t have it any other way; and today, St. Raphael’s feast, seems the perfect day to write about it, and all he has done for me, with heartfelt gratitude.

And Tobias said to him: Where wilt thou that we lodge?
And the angel answering, said: Here is one whose name is Raguel, a near kinsman of thy tribe, and he hath a daughter named Sara, but he hath no son nor any other daughter beside her. All his substance is due to thee, and thou must take her to wife. Ask her therefore of her father, and he will give her thee to wife.
Then Tobias answered, and said: I hear that she hath been given to seven husbands, and they all died: moreover I have heard, that a devil killed them. Now I am afraid, lest the same thing should happen to me also: and whereas I am the only child of my parents, I should bring down their old age with sorrow to hell.
Then the angel Raphael said to him: Hear me, and I will show thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail. For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power.

But thou when thou shalt take her, go into the chamber, and for three days keep thyself continent from her, and give thyself to nothing else but to prayers with her. And on that night lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and the devil shall be driven away. But the second night thou shalt be admitted into the society of the holy Patriarchs. And the third night thou shalt obtain a blessing that sound children may be born of you. And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children.
Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God to day, and to morrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock. For we are the children of the saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God.

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Who is there that would not weep? (Meditations on the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

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Weeping I have wept in the night, and my tears are on my cheeks, because the comforter, the relief of my soul, is taken from me. I have spread forth my hands, there is none to comfort me. I called for my friends and they deceived me, they have become my enemies; my priests and my ancients have rejoiced in my evil. My child is desolate and the enemy hath prevailed. O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.

-Lamentations 1 (from the Fourth Station)

* * *

I can’t remember quite how it started. Either I’d begun praying them on my own, and then discovered Lena had already been praying them, and so we joined forces: or she told me about it (that’s . . . far more likely) and we began offering the devotion together. But however it happened, however we reached this point, my sister and I kneel beside one another and honor the Seven Sorrows of Our Blessed Mother every night before bed. And I think it’s safe to say that this is the one private devotion we’d defend above all others. If the rest of our day had to be stripped of all our private prayers . . . we’d be incapable of giving this one up.

But I don’t want to paint too glamorous a picture here. Our Blessed Mother almost always receives these prayers when we’re in our pajamas; my contacts are out, my retainers are in, and as when I’m really tired I tend to reflexively itch, you’ll often find me unconsciously scratching my head. (I wouldn’t be surprised if that drives Lena insane, but if so, she’s too kind and holy to mention it.) I’m yawning, even as I methodically set the Sorrowful Heart holy card up on my nightstand, using my Catholic Girls’ Guide for a prop and a horizontally placed pen to keep it from sliding down.

So yes . . . hopefully that paints a more authentic picture.

Somehow I know we’ll still be praying this devotion when we’re old ladies with dozens of grandchildren apiece and wonderful if sometimes cranky husbands. Even when our knees have given out beyond the point of kneeling, our knobby fingers will still pull out our holy cards of the Sorrowful Heart of Mary and we’ll offer seven Aves with their accompanying meditations before we drift off, snoring, to sleep.

* * *

With what a flood of tears, with what sorrow is the grief-stricken Virgin Mother overwhelmed, while she beholds her Son lying in her arms after being taken down from the bloody Tree!

-from the Thirteenth Station

* * *

  1. The Prophecy of Simeon
  2. The Flight into Egypt
  3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
  4. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross
  5. The Crucifixion
  6. The Taking Down of the Body of Jesus From the Cross
  7. The Burial of Jesus

Today is the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This morning, Lena and I were able to pray along with some of the Missa Cantata coming out of Fribourg, and we were graced to hear a stunning rendition of the Stabat Mater sequence before the Gospel. The lone feminine voice soared and dove in pure lamentation for all the unspeakable sorrows Our Mother endured throughout her life, culminating at the foot of the Cross. It truly was the liturgical sound of the Immaculate Heart breaking and bleeding.

Ah, Mother, fount of love, make me feel the force of grief, make me weep with thee.

Stabat Mater

What is it about this devotion (apart from the honor of being able to grieve for the suffering of Our Blessed Mother) that is so compelling? For Lena and I, it was the profoundly surreal graces our Blessed Mother has attached to this devotion.

The following is excerpted from TAN’S Favorite Prayers to Our Lady:

According to St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373), the Blessed Virgin grants seven graces to those who honor her daily by saying seven Hail Marys while meditating on her tears and sorrows:

  1. “I will grant peace to their families.”
  2. “They will be enlightened about the Divine Mysteries.”
  3. “I will console them in their pains, and I will accompany them in their work.”
  4. “I will give them as much as they ask for, as long as it does not oppose the adorable Will of my Divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.”
  5. “I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy, and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”
  6. “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death–they will see the face of their mother.”
  7. “I have obtained this grace from my Divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven, and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy.”

These seven promises are brimming with earnest, maternal love. One can almost hear the tears in her voice as she begs us to help console her heart.

Full of sorrow she bathes with her tears His sweet lips, His gentle breast, His most dear side, His pierced right hand, His wounded left, and His feet red with blood.

from the Thirteenth Station

Today, in honor of the Sorrowful Mother, I felt inspired to take the time to consider these promises and meditations together and contemplate them in greater detail, more for my own sake than anyone else’s!

1.

THE PROPHECY OF SIMEON
“I will grant peace to their families.”

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I can’t begin to conceive the sorrow that wrung Our Blessed Mother’s heart when her tiny, beautiful infant Son was taken out of the warmth of her arms in His own temple, while Simeon whispered gravely, “Behold, thy Son is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign of contradiction. And thine own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.”

When I look forward to the future and imagine when my future husband and I (God-willing!) will bring each of our newborn children unto the altar of God for Baptism and consecration to the heart of Mary, I know it will be a day of deepest joy–a beginning, a seal, a mysterious outpouring of grace upon our child, our marriage, our family, and the Church.

Our Lady’s heart was fervently bound up in perfect obedience to the prescriptions of the law of God. I’m sure that, in a way, she desired this day for similar reasons, and anticipated a similar joy. Instead, her Immaculate Heart received the first sword; and, by extension, surely St. Joseph’s did as well. The Holy Family went to the temple of God to give all they had to God, and they received a sorrowful promise of the Passion of Christ.

Isn’t this the destiny of every Catholic family?

The first promise Our Lady made to those who honor her seven sorrows is,I will grant peace to their families.” The maternal love behind this promise is even more poignant when we pair it with this first sorrow, which contemplates a day of sorrow for the Holy Family. Our Lady knows that every family in the Church Militant is meant to carry the cross of Christ, just as the Holy Family did upon earth. And yet for those who honor her sorrows, Our Blessed Mother will grant them peace in the midst of their struggles, trials and sufferings. What compassion!

I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the affliction of thy tender heart at the prophecy of the holy and aged Simeon. Dear Mother, by thy heart so afflicted, obtain for me the virtue of humility and the gift of the holy Fear of God. (from Favorite Prayers)

2.

THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT
“They will be enlightened about the Divine Mysteries.”

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Until I’m blessed with motherhood, I know I won’t be able to comprehend the anguish and consternation I would feel if I knew that someone was diabolically intent on murdering my own child. My child! Let me die in his place.

Our Blessed Mother lived in so intimate a union with God all her life, it’s also hard for my imperfect heart to fathom the utter pain she must have experienced in knowing that a king could be so corrupted by sin and greed as to make a heinous desolation of innocent lives in pursuit of Innocence itself, in defiance of God, of all that is good and holy.

And then to be driven into a pagan country as a refugee along with her chaste husband; to again experience the deprivation, shunning and loneliness, no doubt, of Bethlehem; to have her Child live His earliest years in exile from His own land and people; to watch her husband struggle to provide for them when all their surroundings were so very foreign. What a trial! And yet they were sustained thanks to their incomparable faithfulness, holiness, and charity.

When I contemplate her second promise, “They will be enlightened about the Divine Mysteries,” in the light of this sorrow . . . again, I see only her compassion. The beauty of this second promise contrasts with Herod’s dark blindness. Herod, who was intentionally blind to both the heavens and earth, was the cause of her sorrow: but to us who honor this sorrow, Our Lady promises to lift our own blindness of heart so that we may grow in the Divine light.

Even should we suffer persecution and deprivation in this life on account of following Christ, Our Mother promises that, through her intercession, we will be enlightened to see the goodness and providence of God, who works all things together for the good of those who love Him.

I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the anguish of thy most affectionate heart during the flight into Egypt and thy sojourn there. Dear Mother, by thy heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of generosity, especially toward the poor, and the gift of Piety.

3.

THE LOSS OF THE CHILD JESUS IN THE TEMPLE
“I will console them in their pains, and I will accompany them in their work.”

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There are occasionally those moments of worry when we suddenly lose sight of a child in a crowd. Intensity sets in as we try to delay panic, and we begin jogging around, asking those around us to help in the search. Eventually, we find the child contentedly munching away at the snack table, free of harm.

In a profound foreshadowing of Our Lord’s death and burial. Our Lady was separated from Our Lord’s Presence for three days in Jerusalem. She had lost Him; and how desolate her Immaculate Heart must have been. The words from Lamentations apply here: Weeping I have wept in the night, and my tears are on my cheeks, because the comforter, the relief of my soul, is taken from me.

In a prayer to the Blessed Virgin for after Communion, we say to her, Behold Him Whose every glance filled thee with joy and all delight! Can we begin to imagine how dearly, how intensely Our Lady loved her Child; how captivated her heart was by His mere sleeping? He was both her Child and her God! None of us can conceive of that kind of love that Our Lord and Lady exchanged on earth, and continue to exchange in Heaven.

Every human heart learns at some point in their life that the more completely you love, the more vulnerable you are to the most grievous kind of pain that comes from losing the object of your love.

Our Lady’s love for Christ was perfect. And so was her pain for those three days. When we honor this pain of her separation, what does she promise? “I will console them in their pains, and will accompany them in their work.” She, who experienced more interior sorrow than we ever will, so maternally pours compassion on our own pain! And as, after the finding of the Child Jesus in the temple, they returned to Nazareth for thirty years of hidden holiness and labor, she promises that she will also accompany us in our work; her sweet spirit will permeate our daily labors. What amazing love!

I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in those anxieties which tried thy troubled heart at the loss of thy dear Jesus. Dear Mother, by thy heart so full of anguish, obtain for me the virtue of chastity and the gift of Knowledge.

4.

THE MEETING OF JESUS AND MARY ON THE WAY OF THE CROSS
“I will give them as much as they ask for, as long as it does not oppose the adorable Will of my Son or the sanctification of their souls.”

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It’s surely unbearable pain to be a helpless parent watching as your child fades under cancer or other unstoppable illness. But what kind of pain is it to watch your child be brutally tortured and executed, while you can do nothing for him?

Being as completely united to the will of God as she was on the day she murmured Fiat, we know Our Lady did not question the will of God or the necessity of her Son’s Passion, foretold beyond denial in the Psalms and by the Prophets, and by the words of Christ Himself.

Nevertheless, all of her human maternal instincts must have screamed to do all she could to relieve the excruciating pains and humiliations of her Most Innocent Son. And yet she submitted these incomprehensible emotions to the will of God, and endured the martyrdom of humbly accompanying Our Lord on His Passion. Tradition tells us she met her Son on the way to Calvary. Did she touch His face? Did she meet His eyes? Did they weep, or gaze in silence?

There is no beauty in Him, nor comeliness, a worm, not a man, the object of men’s contempt. We have seen him and there is no sightliness, that we should be desirous of Him. Despised, rejected, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. His visage was inglorious among men and His form among the sons of men. Whereupon we esteemed Him not.

What agony must it be to behold your child as the Prophet Isais described Him.

Now in conjunction with this most painful sorrow, Our Blessed Mother offers one of her most wonderful and merciful promises: “I will give them as much as they ask for, as long as it does not oppose the adorable Will of my Son or the sanctification of their souls.” Again, we can only marvel in awe at her compassionate love! This promise radiates her maternal desire to do all she can for our happiness and well-being in this life; and yet her most perfect desire that we should conform to God’s Will and become saints in Heaven. It is a spotless mirror of her meeting with Christ on the Via Dolorosa.

I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the consternation of thy heart at meeting Jesus as He carried His cross. Dear Mother, by thy heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of patience and the gift of Fortitude.

5.

THE CRUCIFIXION
“I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”

Crucifixion

On the summit of Calvary, Our Mother experienced true martyrdom.

I will never forget the words the agonized Blessed Virgin chokes in the film The Passion of Christ: “Flesh of my flesh; heart of my heart; my Son, let me die with Thee!”

She stood at the foot of the Cross, close to Her Son to the last of His Combat. In His dying eyes, she read the prophet’s words: My strength is dried up, My tongue hath cleaved to My jaws, and Thou hast brought Me down to the dust of death. For enemies, like a pack of dogs, have encircled Me, the council of the wicked hath besieged Me. They have pierced My hands and My feet. They have numbered all My bones.

Our Lady, in her soul, was surely suffering the same pain; she was totally united with Christ. She was and is our Co-Redemptrix.

A Mother who possessed this heroic strength, courage and burning unity to Christ at the foot of the Cross can defend us with more power and efficacy in our combat here below than all the angels and saints combined. Truly, she is glorious as an army in battle array.

And so for those who honor this, her supreme sorrow, she promises to defend us with all the power of the Queen of Heaven. Where the sword plunged deepest into Her Immaculate Heart now springs forth the richest wine of her compassionate and solicitousness towards us.

I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the martyrdom which thy generous heart endured in standing near Jesus in His agony. Dear Mother, by thy afflicted heart, obtain for me the virtue of temperance and the gift of Counsel.

6.

THE TAKING DOWN OF THE BODY OF JESUS FROM THE CROSS
“I will visible help them at the moment of their death–they will see the face of their Mother.”

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This painting conveys more than words ever could. Our Lady cradles the cold body of her dead Son. His cheek leans softly against hers. Her eyes are full of fathomless pain; her face is swollen from tears. How her head must ache from weeping. Her arms press against where the spear plunged into His side. She cradles the Victim of sin and death, and from the depths of her pain, she promises that those who honor this sorrow will visibly see her at the moment of their death, and receive her assistance.

What greater evidence can we have of her selfless, divine love for us?

I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the wounding of thy compassionate heart when the Side of Jesus was struck by the lance and His Heart was pierced before His Body was removed from the Cross. Dear Mother, by thy heart thus transfixed, obtain for me the virtue of fraternal charity and the gift of Understanding.

7.

THE BURIAL OF JESUS
“I have obtained this grace from my Divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven, and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy.”

 Tomb

At this point, I feel like the sorrow and her promise speak entirely for itself.

As I’ve traversed this road of sorrows with our most compassionate Mother on her feast day, I’ve seen with increasingly clarity the depths of her love for us. As much as she has suffered, so much does she also love us and desire our salvation. So incredibly much.

I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, for the pangs that wrenched thy most loving heart at the burial of Jesus. Dear Mother, by thy heart sunk in the bitterness of desolation, obtain for me the virtue of diligence and the gift of Wisdom.

* * *

Let intercession be made for us, we beseech Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, now and at the hour of our death, before the throne of Thy mercy, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thy Mother, whose most holy soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the hour of Thy bitter Passion. Through Thee, O Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost live and reign world without end. Amen.

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O Mother, we beseech thee by these tears, by the cruel death of thy Son, and by the purple of His wounds, plant deep in our hearts the grief of thine own heart!

from the Thirteenth Station

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“That very month was September, and as fine as you could ask.”

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Our place is well-nigh gorgeous right now. And it’s funny how being sick and couch-bound made me notice all the blue skies, wind and sunshine out there.

There’s something about being in your pajamas and surrounded by wadded tissues while sitting by a window that lets in peeks of a glorious early September that makes you feel . . . wistful. So yesterday, when I had a bout of energy, I snatched my camera and tromped outside, determined to take a few beautiful (if amateur) photos and feel better about my creative exercises overall.

Sometimes I think God must drop a cold in my lap to help me slow down, rest, and think a bit more deeply. I must say, I’ve greatly enjoyed and appreciated this particular opportunity. Having discovered my predominately sanguine temperament, I’ve been realizing with greater clarity how I can find it easy to feel earnest about doing things right, and yet feel interiorly scattered about how well, exactly, am I living my life, without precisely knowing why. (If that doesn’t make sense, I apologize.)

So enter a cold, observations on the beauty of nature . . . and books.

Over the past week of sickness, I’ve been reading a great deal (shock):

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I like to keep my lap full during weeks such as these.

The Temperament God Gave You is highlighted in the above photo because it was another of my birthday presents (the rest of which I will continue to chronicle)! And it’s been a great read. I feel pretty fortunate to be able to absorb all this insight and advice in advance of my future life (and please don’t make a snide remark about how we’re always in advance of our future lives . . . my brain is only beginning to resurrect); particularly insights about temperamental combinations in marriage, parenting, and so on. It’s highly interesting and I look forward to being able to put it into practice one day!

By the way, reading this book also inspired me to further hone my correct knowledge of my temperament combination, which upon investigating wound up being around 65% sanguine and 35% phlegmatic–a perfect fit for yours truly (agh, especially the natural weaknesses . . . thank heaven for the Church and the Sacraments!):

Strengths and natural virtues

active, affectionate, affable, animated, ardent, carefree, compassionate, cheerful, creative, docile, eager, enthusiastic, entertainer, expressive, generous, fashionable, flexible, forgiving, funny, fun-loving, high-spirited, imaginative, joyful, light-hearted, lively, open, optimistic, outgoing, popular, responsive, resilient, sensitivity, sparkling, spontaneous, story-teller, vivacious, warm-hearted

Weaknesses and natural vices

attention-seeking, changeable, chatty, distractible, disorganized, emotional, tendency to exaggerate, faddish, fickle, flighty, frivolous, forgetful, gossipy, inconstant, insincere, scattered, sensual, smart-alecky, superficial, prone to vanity, undisciplined

If you are a sanguine-phlegmatic, you are blessed with an extremely likeable personality.

You are an extraverted, optimistic, warm individual who readily connects with others and is well-liked by all. You are fun-loving, enthusiastic, friendly, and inspiring (sanguine), but somewhat cautious at times, and also highly sensitive to other people’s moods, emotions, likes and dislikes (phlegmatic). You desire harmony in relationships and deeply value your friendships. You place a high value on doing what is kind. 

You are easy-going, creative,  imaginative, caring, generous, flexible, and spontaneous. You may be considered “emotional” because of your easily aroused feelings, your attentiveness to relationships, and your tender heart.  In a relationship, you may gravitate toward a logical, organized, strong-willed and decisive partner–someone who makes decisions quickly and provides strong moral certitude and structure to your life. You can be easily influenced by others’ opinions. Many sanguine-phlegmatics are drawn to teaching, parenting, the helping professions, and volunteer works for the betterment of society. You place a high priority on your personal search for meaning and self-identity, but this search always includes your friends and family and your community.

Your weaknesses are superficiality, indecisiveness, disorganization, and procrastination. Often you find it difficult to know exactly how to state what you mean, or how to express yourself logically; this contributes to a tendency to talk more than is needed or to provide more detail than is necessary.You may find yourself blurting out something without thinking, or spending too much time seeking advice only to find yourself more confused than you started, or oversleeping every day this week — despite all the best of intentions. You may find yourself becoming overcommitted because you simply can’t say “no” and have a strong need to be liked/please people. A typical sanguine-phlegmatic trick is to spend too much money shopping or (better yet) dining out with friends, and then to put off balancing the checkbook (too much work, too many other distractions) until it is hopelessly behind. Now you are overwhelmed with everything that has piled up! You may complain half-heartedly, blame circumstances, or go shopping.  You may have a tendency to personalize things. This can lead to misunderstandings. For example, if the boss says, “We are not meeting our quotas,” the sanguine-phlegmatic thinks, “Is he angry at me?” If her best friend says, “I really can’t wear red lipstick,” the sanguine-phlegmatic will think, “She’s trying to tell me that my lipstick looks terrible!” After all, the sanguine-phlegmatic has a double-dose of feeling; twice-blessed by the tendency to prioritize relationships and harmony.

So yes . . . a lot of self-knowledge going on around here 😉

Predictably, I’ve also been re-reading endless excerpts from The Wife Desired, because that’s how I indulge myself when I’m sick. Also, Letters from Pemberley made the stack because, over Labor Day weekend, we watched the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice (which in my opinion is an absolute cinematic masterpiece . . . sigh) and Letters is such a lovely and fun sequel to the story. I should be finished re-reading it just in time to embark on a celebratory re-read of The Lord of the Rings, beginning on September 22nd (Frodo’s and Bilbo’s shared birthday, of course).

And then there’s been Amusing Ourselves to Death. Despite my masked complaints about the initial difficulties of the first few chapters (simply because the logical side of my brain is not exercised as frequently as the creative side)  . . . it has now completely absorbed me across the past week, and yesterday especially.

It’s difficult to surmise this book well; one really does just have to take the time to read it in full. It’s a stunning and inarguable exposition of the shambles of our media-defined culture (and this book was written decades ago . . .). To be clear, Postman is not even speaking of America’s moral shambles here as much as he describes what’s become a complete lack of reason, coherence, relevance and context in how the vast majority of America thinks, converses and perceives pretty much everything in daily life; how our culture has regressed from seeking to be truly informed, to simply seeking to be amused, and without realizing it. It’s . . . deep.

We all, from time to time, most likely pause and contemplate how an overindulgence in media can gradually disconnect us from the reality of our personal lives, both physical and spiritual. It can result in our living in a castle in the air, so to speak. And this is where prudence and moderation must come in, especially for the sake of our spiritual lives as well as our overall health.

While this isn’t the point of Postman’s Amusing, per se, I’ve still been pondering my own usage of media and realizing how much more alive I feel, how my interior scatteredness or lack of quiet recedes, the less I use media in general, and the more I simply live, think, reason, act, give, contemplate, speak . . . and pray.

And yes, I really did just type this up in a blog post. Oh irony of ironies.

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So yes . . . this has been my September so far. A cold, some books, and somewhat deep thoughts. And decent-ish pictures which make me feel like a decent-ish photographer. What more could one want? 🙂

*the post title is a quote from the opening chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring. Of course.

Sig

7 Rambling Takes, Monday Edition

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When trying to decide exactly how I wanted to ramble about the recent goings-on around here, I decided that the most efficient way would be join in that tantalizing blog post technique known as the “7 Quick Takes,” which you usually find on homeschooling blogs (hence my knowledge of them to begin with).

Unfortunately, that technique has always been designated for use on Fridays . . . but since I have a Monday morning at my blogging disposal, and Friday seems quite a long way away, I think I shall break convention. Oh, and I’ll also be breaking convention because–true to my style–none of these takes are going to be quick.

On second thought, I think I’ll just call it 7 Rambling Takes and make it my own.

1.

We’ve just started the third full week in our new homeschool year, but it’s our first-ever year to use Our Lady of Victory School. Beautiful, traditional Catholic books, largely from Lepanto Press. Sigh. I’ve demanded requested that Mom never get rid of any of them so I can use them in my future homeschool.

My younger brother and sister have their noses to the grindstone, and are pretty much swimming in decidedly “older,” “harder” school work. 8th and 7th grade . . . they really are getting older and, now, are are both distinctly taller than Lena and I . . . my brother is the tallest of all of us four now . . . yes, things are happening. Sniff.

I know Lena and I have both waxed lyrical about being unregretting graduated women at home, and will continue to do so to our hearts’ content, but instead of indulging in that at the moment, I’ll instead talk about tutoring English.

I haven’t really tutored in English until this point, when I decided to blithely offer my help to Mom in tutoring my brother in this particularly dazzling field of study. In fact, I haven’t sat down and read formal English in what feels like decades. The terms are a little mind-numbing, and I actually taught one concept last week which I completely, totally did not understand, and yet he got most of the answers right anyway. He’s got smarts.

Tutoring your brother or sister is surprisingly rewarding, despite the natural ups and downs you can expect to have when you’re dealing with school AND siblings. While it can occasionally be a marvelous exercise in virtue, most often, it’s a perfect opportunity to crack jokes, conjure enthusiasm, and build on your relationships. As an older sibling, you’re provided a chance to encourage diligence and real learning in your younger siblings, as well as an opportunity to realize and navigate temperamental differences (and you can bet there are major differences in our household!), and to grow in patience as well as creativity. Without hesitation, that’s what I’ve enjoyed most so far.

And, if you’re a woman at home (I hope you saw this coming), tutoring is a prime way to practice for when you’ll be schooling your own children as a wife and mother one day. So I’m personally hoping to continue helping out in our homeschool until I’m off and married, or they’re out of school (hopefully the former will occur before the latter, though! . . .)

2.

I just finished reading my favorite book on the planet.

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The Wife Desired by Fr. Leo J. Kinsella is, quite literally, my favorite book. Ever. After my missal, I would grab this if the house were on fire and I only had time for one other item. (Well, okay . . . at least one other book. I won’t pin myself down that much. I have a feeling I can grab a lot, quickly.)

Although I had first resolved to read a chapter a day, and to responsibly meditate and absorb and contemplate . . . I devoured it, and now I’m beginning my re-read.

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While it’s been re-typset (probably independently) and re-published since it’s debut, I hunted down and found a used copy from back in the day, and it’s so charming. It’s little; the pages are yellowed; but it was in good condition (and, of course, considerably cheaper, which is always a bonus).

It caters beautifully to traditional stay-at-home wives (or girls who are aspiring to be so) with both powerful insight and candid humor that makes you chuckle. It has adorable illustrations and the sagest wisdom. It is a handbook. It is amazing. I’m keeping it forever. (Don’t worry, Lena, I’ll buy you a separate copy before I leave.)

It is thoroughly, traditionally Catholic in its perspective (it’s written by a priest, after all!), and yet it almost entirely focuses on the natural gifts a wife can bring to her marriage, in contrast to focusing on the sacramental and sacred aspect of marriage, which it takes for a given. The book is divided into seven chapters. Each chapter hones in on a particular attribute of the ideal wife. (“The Wife Desired is an Inspiration to Her Husband;” “The Wife Desired Has Personality;” “The Wife Desired Has a Sense of Humor;” etc.)

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It has given me so much to ponder and to work on. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to teach me as much as confirm all my current ideas and convictions . . . well, I was in for a surprise. Of course, there was much in the way of confirmation and encouragement for me, but it also drastically illuminated my understanding of, and eagerness for, the best ways I can be a good wife in the future, should that be God’s will for me. It was marvelous.

There is so much practical advice in this book. So many little things that, in my ignorance, I had never really thought about before, at least not purposefully and intentionally. With eloquence and fun, this good priest points out the natural gifts of women, emphasizes their great worth and potential, and then encourages women to use them wholeheartedly in the service of their God-given vocation, for the good of their souls and their husband’s souls. Again, so marvelous.

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I’m planning to use this book as the inspirational basis for writing letters to my future husband, in the style of Woman in Love. Granted, it’s a little hard to get my act together for this practice of writing letters (on the other hand, my sister is almost unbelievably faithful to it), but it’s something I still want to pursue, and this book has given me so. many. thoughts that if I don’t begin writing letters I might simply explode with excitement and eagerness.

And we wouldn’t want that.

3.

Continuing on the theme of books, when I’ve been able to pull myself away from the addictive The Wife Desired, I’ve been buried in two other very good ones as well, lent to me by two different friends.

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Amusing Ourselves to Death is definitely stretching my brain. I like to consider myself intelligent (well, doesn’t everyone?) and so for humility’s sake (as well as the sake of actually learning things!) it’s always good to come across a book where I have to be incredibly intent while reading it so as to understand and process the content. It’s a difficult read for me, but at the same time, is fascinating in its premise, charting the differences and development in the mediums of discourse across the centuries, as well as the modern decline of the value of our public discourse through television.

Until I began reading this, I’d never really considered the shift that gradually occurred between some societies’ mediums of discourse; once considering the spoken word to be more trustworthy than the written word, they eventually reversed (it kind of makes me feel guilty for blogging, but oh well), to where a medium that was once believed to give evidence of wisdom and knowledge (such as the memorization of proverbs) became looked upon as childish and ineffective. Neil Postman probes at examples such as this at a deep level; he unearths why and how particular mediums of discourse resonate with different societies, or society in general.

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On the subject of mediums and metaphors in society, one particularly interesting paragraph (I thought, anyway) relates:

A person who reads a book or who watches television or who glances at his watch is not usually interested in how his mind is organized and controlled by these events, still less in what idea of the world is suggested by a book, television, or a watch. But there are men and women who have noticed these things, especially in our own times. Lewis Mumford, for example, has been one of our great noticers. He is not the sort of a man who looks at a clock merely to see what time it is. Not that he lacks interest in the content of clocks, which is of concern to everyone from moment to moment, but he is far more interested in how a clock creates the idea of “moment to moment.” He attends to the philosophy of clocks, to clocks as a metaphor, about which our education has had little to say and clock makers nothing at all. “The clock,” Mumford has concluded, “is a piece of power machinery whose ‘product’ is seconds and minutes.” In manufacturing such a product, the clock has the effect of disassociating time from human events and thus nourishes the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences. Moment to moment, it turns out, is not God’s conception, or nature’s. It is man conversing with himself about and through a piece of machinery he created.

A little mind-bending (for me) . . . but it makes sense!

4.

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And the other book! How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk. Admittedly, the title is a little misleading in tone, but it’s proven so far to be a thoughtful, thought-provoking read (what I’ve read of it, anyway; I don’t read every section of relationship books such as these, since fortunately, much of the world’s relationship problems/sinful habits aren’t, thank God, applicable to me!).

On a similar vein to The Wife Desired, I’ve thus far found it an engrossing and practical help in examining the natural, emotional, and psychological elements of how to build a healthy relationship, and to thus discern if you and your partner are naturally compatible and–from the Catholic perspective–will find it possible to lovingly and healthily cooperate together in doing God’s will in marriage. I think a book such as this can go hand-in-hand with a traditional Catholic courtship, because it has the potential to stimulate so many worthwhile conversations between partners and aid them in getting to know one another rationally, so they can then better discern if their are meant to share in the marriage vocation together.

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Again, I feel as though I have interiorly focused so much on the spiritual and sacramental aspect of marriage (the most important aspects, of course!) during discernment over the past year, that now, discovering the more natural, practical aspects of building courtship and married relationships has been deeply enlightening, and a helpful preparation should I begin needing it someday.

5.

Now to leave books behind! My family just took a weekend trip to visit my paternal grandparents, as well as my great-aunt and great-uncle on my mother’s side. We had a wonderful time, ate far too much food, talked into the night, and listened to far too much Frank Sinatra on the drive both ways.

After receiving a CD of Frank Sinatra’s as a gift, we’ve become rather addicted to it . . . it’s our “feel good” music, and since we tend to enjoy feeling good on a daily basis, it stands to reason that you will hear the strains of “Fly Me to the Moon,” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in our homeschool around lunchtime, accompanied by a good foxtrot. Ballroom dancing is our noon PE.

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6.

Posture. I’ve been focusing on improving my posture (sitting and standing, but especially standing) for approximately the past four days. I came across a blog post talking about it, and since then, I’ve been trying to stand better aligned. My knees hyper-extend, my shoulders tend to slouch, and if I give in to my habit of putting my weight slightly more on one foot than the other, it tends to give me hip and leg pain (probably remnants from the mild torture I put my body through in ballet) . . . and besides, I think good posture just looks (and feels!) far better.

I’ve been evangelizing my family members about it and they’re probably tired of it by now.

7.

Last night, my entire family took the temperament quiz at Temperamentquiz.com. It was a hilarious but nonetheless revealing hour. It turns out we have three choleric-sanguines (no surprise there; I predicted those in advance), one phlegmatic-sanguine (ahem, me), one choleric-melancholic, and one melancholic-phlegmatic.

And those are my seven rambling takes! Time for the Angelus and lunch 🙂

A blessed feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal!

Sig