Current Happiness

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Happy feast of St. Polycarp, Martyr!

O God, Who dost gladden us by the annual feast of blessed Polycarp, Thy Martyr and Bishop: mercifully grant that we, who celebrate his heavenly birthday, may also rejoice in his protection. Through our Lord.

I’ve been gathering up a little collection of happy items over this past week that I’ve been wanting to post about . . . and now Friday is already arrived, so I’d better get to chronicling things!

Fr. Lasance’s Rule of Life

The newest thing comes first, as it’s naturally freshest on my mind 😉 Lena has a spiritual director and it has been a beautiful and deeply helpful experience for her over the past several years. I’ve prayed for Our Lord to direct my heart towards this possibility if it’s His Will for my spiritual life, and I’m not sure what the future years might hold in this regard.

I do know, however, that I need direction; of course the direction of the Magisterium and sacred Tradition, the wisdom of the saints, the care of my parents . . . but also a fatherly direction as I attempt to navigate the thorny path of becoming a saint with all of my weaknesses and faults in tow. This real hunger for direction has come over me in ebbing and flowing waves, especially across the past year, and I have brought it to prayer, asking God to enlighten me as I’ve been uncertain as what He wants me to do with this hunger.

Jokingly, I have sometimes termed the late Fr. Lasance as my adopted spiritual director, but it was only this morning that, rising early, I grabbed The Catholic Girl’s Guide on a whim and brought it downstairs for my morning devotions while everyone else was still asleep (except for Dad, off to work as he was) . . . and eventually opened up to his Rule of Life. Reading over it, I experienced great enlightenment and encouragement. For now, for this moment: this is wise, priestly and loving direction for my daily living!

A Rule of Life – PDF

I’ve resolved to read over this rule of life every morning, and to seek to apply it with increasing faithfulness to my day, according to my capacity and means. It’s inspired me to find a nightly Examen from Fish Eaters, as well as to purchase a copy of Butler’s Lives of the Saints.

Voces8 – Equinox

My favorite vocal ensemble of all time, Voces8, recently released a brand-new album . . . and I am in bliss!

Equinox

For “Ave Maris Stella” alone, I am overwhelmingly indebted forever . . . Lena and I both agree that it is the closest thing we have heard that even begins to approach something worthy of Our Lady. Listen to it, and pray it! A tiny sliver of her unimaginable beauty is in it!

Hail, O Star of the ocean,
God’s own Mother blest,
ever sinless Virgin,
gate of heav’nly rest.    

Taking that sweet Ave,
which from Gabriel came,
peace confirm within us,
changing Eve’s name.

Break the sinners’ fetters,
make our blindness day,
Chase all evils from us,
for all blessings pray.

Show thyself a Mother,
may the Word divine
born for us thine Infant
hear our prayers through thine.

Virgin all excelling,
mildest of the mild,
free from guilt preserve us
meek and undefiled.

Keep our life all spotless,
make our way secure
till we find in Jesus,
joy for evermore.

Praise to God the Father,
honor to the Son,
in the Holy Spirit,
be the glory one. Amen.

But all the other tracks! “Pie Jesu”! “Joseph, lieber Joseph mein”! And the stunningly difficult “The Passing of the Year” movement . . . I have been in musical heaven for the past few days.

As well as being treated to a brand-new album, I have also been listening more deeply to their Winter, which up until now I’d only given a cursory listen to. “In the Deep Midwinter” ranks very, very high.

Winter

Weekly Work

And finally, my assortment of weekly work has been going well! Tutoring on Tuesday went smoothly and fun, and my remaining week has been mostly divided up between different writing projects, which has been a lot like digging for oil . . . you hit a hundred dry spots and, at last, you strike, and the thrill of success erases the memories of all previous toil and drudgery 😉

I would write for longer, but it’s nearly time for Fribourg Mass, so I’m off to celebrate the martyrdom of good St. Polycarp. I pray you have a blessed weekend! It’s difficult to believe January is almost over!

P. S. Yes, I at last changed my signature to the correct Latin. In Corde Mariae. Sigh.

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Portrait on a December Evening

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I was sitting here only minutes ago when the reality of now struck me with a curious intensity.

So I hooked up my webcam for a moment and snapped a picture of myself, just as I am right now (and for that purpose, I grabbed my Missal since the thought of a completely-alone selfie was just too awkward. Pulling St. Joseph and the Child Jesus into the frame made it much better). Jeans, bare feet, oversized sweatshirt, minimal makeup.

Behind me is the room I share with my youngest sister. The closet door is open; you can see a snippet of a laundry hamper hanging from it. (Those hampers are incredible nifty, by the way.) Then you can see the curtained window, and the “If You Love Southern Women” kitchen towel I got for my 21st birthday this summer (which is being saved for future use . . .).

Right above my head is “The Song of the Angels,” the beautiful frame of which was custom-built by The Dash (that is currently his nickname, expertly coined by Lena) for my birthday, back before we started courting; the actual artwork came from his dear family. To my right (in the picture) comes washed-out lamplight, and a peek at my prayer altar.

In this moment, I am listening to Ola Gjeilo’s gentle piano arrangements on Spotify . . . I’m at my desk, typing hurriedly since it’s almost time to go down and bake fish for supper. I’m at the end of the first day of December. It’s been a patchwork day at home, full of little things tricky to recall and mention because they are so little . . . but now there are fragments and colorful images still drifting through my head like last snowflakes at the end of a storm.

English lessons with my brother . . . gerunds and verbals, now combine these sentences; throwing football in the living room with him . . . giggling and testing reflexes; kneeling in front of the computer for the Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart from Fribourg . . . The thoughts of His Heart are from generation to generation: carrying in groceries . . . pull out the cold, put it away; strumming guitar while my computer undergoes updates . . . remember these fingerpicking patterns?; an early Christmas package coming in the mail . . . walking down to the gate under the gray sky while the dogs leap euphorically around me; listening to a talk by Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP, on Catholic courtship . . . honor and virtue and sacrifice . . .

On and on, they come, these fragments. It’s been a good day. I can hear my dad’s voice from downstairs . . . a good and warm sound. My sister squeals, probably being tickled.

Novenas, courtship, plans for tomorrow, choir practice, numerous prayer intentions that span faces and states and whole countries, and now Advent nearly here . . . these are all flickering through my mind in sporadic but vivid fashion, as I sit here typing to the strains of piano and cello. Here I am, present in time by the design and grace of God; 21 years old, a woman at home, part of a beautiful family and courting a wonderful man.

Downstairs, my sister is now banging out a piano exercise I taught her weeks ago. I have winter laundry on my bed to sort and put away . . . my brother is whistling cheerily, having just finished a workout with dad. The thought comes to me: There’s little that’s more true and real and beautiful than life inside the home.

And now it’s time to go and cook (and also to look up the best ways to store onions and potatoes, like I promised Mom I would), so I’ll end this random reflection on the present moment and wish you all a blessed First Friday and beginning of December 🙂

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

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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.”

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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

Sig2

“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