Friday, October 29, 2004

John Paul II - We Love You!

As October winds down, I want to call to remembrance the day that made a difference. 25 years ago in October (the 1st I believe) I went to a Mass celebrated by our Holy Father. As a high school student I had obtained a ticket to the "Youth Mass" on the Boston Common. The tickets let you have a standing spot in the roped-off area right behind the VIP seating on the Boston Common. Myself and a few friends I knew from hanging around Opus Dei centers got to the Boston Common entrance at about 6:30 AM and got in line, (they would open the 'gate' at 7:00 AM). When the gate opened we made a mad dash across the Common to claim our spot. We got our spot (and defended it) right on the front lines. There we waited................

I believe Mass was scheduled for about 4:00 PM. Due to some delays either on the flight from Ireland or on the motorcade route, Mass didn't actually start until around 6:00 PM.

It rained on and off all day. We didn't bring food or drink because we didn't want to lose our spot by having to use 'the facilities'. We prayed and sang and prayed and sang.

By the time Mass started, it was a driving rain. We didn't care. In his homily, the Holy Father ad-libbed about the rain - and brought the house down.

But mostly - he told us not to be afraid to follow Christ and to embrace His Cross.

When I think of our Holy Father now, I still picture in my mind the strong, young, and vibrant man who stood with us in the rain and brought Christ's message to 400,000 in Boston.

This man still transgresses the globe to bring the same message - but now he brings with him a real-life example of suffering for our Lord. He has embraced the suffering in his own body - which I am sure he offers for the Church.

Many do not understand Pope John Paul II and/or his pontificate. (Witness to Hope by George Weigel gives some great insight into the man and his pontificate). Those who do either love him or hate him.

His writings on the family (especially Familiaris Consortio) have guided some of my family's most difficult decisions. The Jeweler's Shop has deepened my understanding of the sacramental nature of marriage. His writings in unison with those of Pope Leo XIII (and others) have helped me change my world view from "American" to "Catholic".

From the small holding in Bethune ....

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Is he trying to lose?

UPDATE: 10/29/04: I am very surprised that I have not seen the story I refer to below on Catholic blogs or the Catholic internet news sources that I have seen. One exception is getreligion which does mention Bush's new approval of civil unions for homosexuals.

Is Bush purposely trying to alienate his base? See , this story from Fox News.

My belief is once again confirmed that the Republican Party in general and George Bush in particular have no true understanding of the problems facing America, or they are just politicians who must find some issues which will pick up a few votes and will differentiate them from the politicians in the other party. In either case, they are not "true believers" of anything but of getting reelected. And of course we Catholic and Christian conservatives try to oblige them instead of refusing to be played for fools again and again.

On the other hand, most liberal Democrats are "true believers". When Republicans control Congress, they never accomplish much and seem to be ineffectual - they don't have hard beliefs. Democrats win the propaganda wars and the issues in the long term - because they do have an agenda they are committed to, that they believe.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Protestants, Wakes, and Purgatory

Growing up in Massachusetts when someone died, they held a Wake. My understanding always was that this was called a "wake" because in the old days the body lay in the family home and people took turns staying awake with the body and praying for the soul of the deceased throughout the night. Of course family and friends would come and pray and offer condolences and eat and talk, etc. A priest (or the Knights of Columbus) would lead the rosary. Growing up I never happened to wonder what Protestants did.

Moving to South Carolina, many Catholics don't know the term "wake". They call it "the rosary" (people gather in the Church where the body lies the night before the funeral and say the rosary). Or they (and Protestants) call it "the viewing" or sometimes "the visitation", where, the deceased lies in an open casket and the family forms a reception line. Much like a wake, except people don't hang around after going through the reception line and of course there is no praying for the dead at Protestant visitations.

We went to a visitation tonight. Our neighbor's wife of 57 years died on Sunday - may she rest in peace. She will be buried from the Timrod Road Baptist Church tomorrow.

I took my eldest son Nicholas to the visitation. He has never been to one before. I told him to watch and listen (and pray) and then we would discuss on the way home. The greatest impression he had was of the lifelessness of the body of the deceased.

This lifelessness is impressed on me at every wake. It is amazing how the soul brings life to even one in a deep sleep. When the soul has departed, it is unmistakable.

In the last few years I have been to an atheist's funeral (the despair among the family of the deceased was heart-breaking), to a visitation in a rural Black Baptist Church, and to my Father's wake - may his soul rest in peace.

Nothing compares on to a Catholic wake. There is more crying and more true joy than anywhere else on earth except for maybe at a birth or a wedding. This true joy is a result of the Truth concerning God's mercy - not that the departed is automatically in Heaven because they were a daily beadsman or a "good Christian" - (this not only contradicts Holy Scripture - only the unblemished make walk in God's presence) - but because we know that God gives those of us that departed 'faithfully' a 2nd chance to become purified in Purgatory; that we on earth can help our beloved enter into Heaven sooner with our sacrifices and prayers.

The Catholic theology of Purgatory is such a consolation and philosophically makes so much sense.

If I may, a short excerpt from the Preface of Daily Prayers for the Church Suffering - a daily commitment to praying for the Holy Soul in Purgatory (Requiem Press) :

"Purgatory is truly a grace of God because it is the nature of God which demands that those approaching be unblemished, and thus without purgatory, many would never reach Heaven.

"St. Catherine of Genoa wrote that the soul, upon death, finally free of worldly attachments, is able to see itself as it really is; seeing the stains from its sins and desiring God, the soul throws itself into the fires of purgatory to be cleansed in preparation for the audience with God.

"With all this Catholic tradition, however, it seems that prayers for the holy souls in purgatory have waned as a private devotion in recent years. Funeral notices for Catholics rarely plead for Masses to be said for the departed. The Truth that God is all-merciful has been distorted to exclude the notion of purgatory – even though this exclusion distorts the true nature of God and the true nature of God’s mercy."

And a prayer:

LORD God Almighty, I beseech Thee, by the Precious Blood which Thy Divine Son shed on this day, upon the wood of the cross, from His most sacred hands and feet, deliver the souls in purgatory and especially that soul for which I am most bound to pray; that the blame rest not with me that Thou bringst it not forthwith to praise Thee in Thy glory and to bless Thee forever. Amen.

Psalm 129, "DE PROFUNDIS"

Out of the depths I have cried unto Thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If Thou, O Lord, shalt mark our iniquities: O Lord, who can abide it?
For with Thee there is mercy, and by reason of Thy Law I have waited on Thee, O Lord.
My soul hath waited on His word; my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even until night let Israel hope in the Lord.
For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plentiful redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel from all her iniquities.

Eternal rest give to them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Oremus pro invicem! - Let us pray for each other!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Perilous Living .... or No other woman like her

I have tried numerous times today to write a new blog entry. I have had several things to write about - but every time I sat down, a real or imagined crisis interrupted. Finally, after all the beloved children were bedded down - I thought "Here is my chance".

But alas, just as I started to expound poetically and intelligently on themes ranging from Catholicism in America to the positive influence of a holy priest, the call came from downstairs: "The washer is overflowing!" (It wasn't actually the washer but the plumbing of the drain pipe.)

So now, (many mops later), with a greatly diluted Jameson by my side (I am out of Guinness) I will finally write a few lines about a wonderful woman who cheerfully (mostly) puts up with this cranky old house we have committed ourselves to.

Soon I will finish building the pantry so you have a place to store the food; soon I will take a look at that toilet that rocks precariously; in just a few days I will patch and paint that section overhead where the plaster keeps falling off; and the washer drain .... sooner than you think.

In the meantime my beloved, keep your sense of humor and one of these days this cranky old husband will fix up this cranky old house.

Oremus pro invicem! - Let us pray for each other!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Random Thoughts Today

We are mostly under the weather today. My daughter came home from fall break with 'mono' - the rest of us are just fighting colds. The animals still get attended to, but the usual eagarness, care and attention is somewhat lacking. It is a lesson for the kids that even though they are sick, the animals are not toys - the dogs and chickens need to be fed exercised, etc. (maybe there will be more sympathy from them for Mom when she is sick).

In reading the presidential voting thoughts of Charles de Nunzio I am reminded how frustrating it is to be a voter with no true representation. I know many Catholics active in Republican politics in SC who have blinders on when it comes to Bush - just because the alternative of Kerry is so upsetting. But when does the compromise sell our soul? Just the latest instance: when Bush ignors the rebellion of his Vice President on the most fundamental issue facing this nation (marriage) - how can we trust him when it is obvious that he doesn't understand what the most crucial issues facing America are? I am fortunate (conscience-wise) to never have lived in a battleground state. I don't recall having voted for a major party candidate for president in some years.

In reading the excerpt from the Introduction to "The Church and the Land" by Fr. Vincent McNabb (a book I am wanting to read), posted by Jeff at el camino real, here, I wish indulgence to expound upon the whole notion of the "sole bread-winner" and economic systems for a moment.

When we speak of the "sole bread-winner" - we must realize that this whole phenomenon is an anomoly of the middle of the 20th century and is not historical. The historical fact is that both father and mother worked to put bread on the table, clothes on the children and a roof over their heads. Often it was the mother in the garden and spinning wheel and father either in the greater fields or in the shop connected to the house, but even these roles overlapped depending on individual families. The industrial revolution and its evolution to the present-day economic system first took the father from the home, and in more recent years the mother. Both (historically) always needed to work to economically sustain the family - but their work was in or close to the home.

Today, because the work is outside the home it is more destructive to families. The children don't work with their parents and learn at their knees. The husband and wife are less dependent upon each other. Further, the temptation to put career fullfillment (once the temptation only for men, but now for women also) ahead of the family has more pull when the work is done outside of the home. So the goal should not be to return to the days of the sole bread-winner, but to return to concept of both parents working at the home.

Fortunately this goal is becoming more and more a possibility for some (through the internet), especially the better educated - but unfortunately not for the majority.

The econonic system which has given us unprecedented leisure money has also broken our families. Unfortunately most are not willing to give up societal wealth in exchange for intact families (maybe via distributism?). And most Conservative (and Catholic) Republicans don't understand that the economic system they champion has been instrumental in accelerating the breakup of the family. (Although admittedly, some good things have come out of this system.)

And I think this has been the concern of our Popes from Leo XIII to John Paul II with regard to capitalism, (as well as other economic systems).

From the small holding in Bethune -

Oremus pro invicem! - Let us pray for each other!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Slaughter

Our first dog was obtained from the shelter. My friend Dennis calls him a "very Catholic choice" because my boys picked out a two year old dog who has a crippled leg. He is part hound and part ?? The crippled leg (due to bird shot embedded therein) does not slow him down any. On three legs he is a fast dog. He is a big dog - not huge, but a good size. His name is Challenger.

We also bought some day-old chicks a few weeks back. The first week we brought them into the house and kept them in the 2nd floor bathroom every night. (Apparently you are supposed to keep them at 90 F for the first week. We didn't quite manage that, but we didn't lose any either after the first two days.) We were very glad when that week was over. The aroma around the house is not quite the same as it was before.

Normally I get the boys up at 7:00 AM to take out our two pups and Challenger for a run. He usually starts barking at 6:55 for his attention. (Because he has tended to run off we have kept Challenger at night in a goat pen on the property - no goats as yet.)

However, one day a week I leave the house at 5:30 to go into the city to pray the Liturgy of the Hours with a group of men from my old parish. (I am sure I will post more on our men's group in the future). We then go to Mass and I run any errands I have in the city before returning home. Thus on this day, the dogs go out whenever the boys wake up.

Well, this past week when I returned from the city, I was met by a mourning family. My wife explained that she woke at 7:20 AM and did not hear the dog. So she got the boys up and they went out to run the dogs. But alas, Challenger was in the chicken coop. He had slaughtered approximately 30 chicks before they stopped him. He had dug a small hole under the fence and squeezed in. (We are still not sure how he fit through the hole he dug.) My family had put all the chick bodies in one bag - but had not buried them. They were shaken by this sudden exhibition of 'survival of the fittest'.

I got my shovel and dug a mass grave 4 feet deep and buried the chicks. (Apparently 4-feet is not enough because some animal dug them up a few days later.) The kids sang "Holy God we praise Thy Name" as I covered the grave.

With some 19 chicks left, I spent the next few hours heavily fortifying their coop with bricks, mortar, barbedwire, chainlink ground cover, impaling stakes, and otherprotective measures. My young (4) Thomas asked if I was going to shoot Challenger. I replied, "Not yet". (Possibly the bird shot in his leg was due to his fondness for chickens????)

I have learned a valuable lesson about dogs, chickens, finances, and chicken coop construction.

My children have learned something about the animal kingdom and the suddenness of death.

From the small holding in Bethune,

Oremus pro invicem! - Let us pray for each other.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Feast of Sts. Isaac Jogues and John de Brebeuf and Companions

This is one of my favorite feast days in recent years. Two years ago while visiting family in Massachusetts, my oldest son Nicholas (9 at the time) asked if we could visit the martyrs shrine in Auriesville, NY on the way back home in South Carolina - as he was reading "The North American Martyrs" by Lillian Fisher (Pauline Books and Media). The shrine is on the site (the Iroquois village) where Isaac Jogues was martyred (as was Rene Goupil). (It is also the birthplace of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.) While I had certainly heard of St. Isaac Jogues, I was unaware of the shrine. On the way back home we took a detour and spent the night in Auriesville, NY (about 30 minutes west of Albany as I recall).

The shrine is a simple affair and some areas could use renovation. I think in recent years they haven't had the pilgrims they've had in years past - thus a shortage of cash. The shrine is run by the Jesuits, 2-3 in residence. The Colisium is the first "in the round" Church built in the USA. It was built in 1930 and holds 6000 worshipers. (The Church is round, but there are four altars "back-to-back" in the center of the circle.) The buildings and snackbar are only open May to October - but the grounds are always open. (More info, see

And it is the grounds which are where you want to be. You want to walk down into the ravine where Rene Goupil was martyred and where Isaac Jogues secretly buried his remains. This ravine is where Isaac Jogues spent much of his captivity praying. He considered this holy ground because it contained the remains of a martyr. You want to pray on these grounds where martyrs prayed and are buried.

You want to climb the hill (which overlooks the NY State Thruway) where Isaac Jogues had to run the gauntlet. You want to pray as you walk through the village where Isaac Jogues fingers were mutilated and where he was martyred for love of God and for the conversion of these Iroquois.

This is not Europe where centuries of saints have trod. There are not many places in North American where you can walk where martyrs blood was spilt. (Pray that through their intercession, your zeal for souls may be rekindled.)

If you have the chance, go visit - and go pray.

Thank you my son Nicholas, for your prodding.

"O God, Who didst inflame the hearts of Thy sainted martyrs, Isaac and John and their companions, with an admirable zeal for the salvation of souls, grant us, we beseech Thee, what we now implore, (here make your petitions) so that the favors obtained through their intercession may make manifest before men the power and glory of Thy name. Amen."

Saint Isaac Jogues - ora pro nobis!

Saint John de Brebeuf - ora pro nobis!

Oremus pro invicem! - Let us pray for each other!

Monday, October 18, 2004

To Commence:

I am a Catholic; I am a husband; I am a father; I am an American of mostly Irish descent. I was raised in a suburb of Boston, but am raising mine in Bethune, SC - where we may not be the only Catholics, but we are close to it. We are parishioners of St. Catherine's in Lancaster, SC - pastored by Fr. John O'Holohan, author and experienced Jesuit.

My wife, Lorelei, our seven children (and I) have recently embarked on a grand experiment. We started a small business and moved from the city to a small holding in the country. In the course of one month we went from a family never having a pet to 3 dogs, 3 cats, and 53 chickens.

My eldest daughter is a sophmore at Christendom College. My wife (and I) homeschool our other children, 4 boys and 2 girls.

I plan to use this space to record my experiences and to "think aloud" about issues of Faith, history and current events.

My warmest welcome to any and all readers.

Ormeus pro invicem! - Let us pray for each other!