Archive for April, 2017

Good Friday…

Posted: April 14, 2017 in World On The Edge

mary-at-the-cross (2)“From the earliest days of Christianity, no Mass has been celebrated on Good Friday; instead, the Church celebrates a special liturgy in which the account of the Passion according to the Gospel of John is read, a series of intercessory prayers (prayers for special intentions) are offered, and the faithful venerate the Cross by coming forward and kissing it. The Good Friday liturgy concludes with the distribution of Holy Communion. Since there was no Mass, Hosts that were reserved from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday are distributed instead.

The service is particularly solemn; the organ is not played, and all vestments are red or (in the Traditional Latin Mass) black.

Since the date of Good Friday is dependent on the date of Easter, it changes from year to year.

Fasting and Abstinence:

Good Friday is a day of strict fasting and abstinence. Catholics over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 are required to fast, which means that they can eat only one complete meal and two smaller ones during the day, with no food in between. Catholics who are over the age of 14 are required to refrain from eating any meat, or any food made with meat, on Good Friday.” –Catholicism,

When we think about what God allowed to happen to his son, we have to think about Mary, Jesus’s mother.

Her entire life was a journey of faith in her son from birth to death. A life of surrender and total unwavering commitment. But this did not mean her sorrows were slight. On the contrary, they were profound. As mothers, we know the agony we feel when our children are hurt or in danger. Mary was a mother. Her agony was real. And yet, in faith, she never turned from it. She was there.


Posted: April 13, 2017 in World On The Edge

file1081253168589“For Catholics, HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances, saving only the Easter Vigil. It celebrates both the institution by Christ himself of the Eucharist and of the institution of the sacerdotal priesthood (as distinct from the ‘priesthood of all believers’) for in this, His last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover, He is the self-offered Passover Victim, and every ordained priest to this day presents this same sacrifice, by Christ’s authority and command, in exactly the same way. The Last Supper was also Christ’s farewell to His assembled disciples, some of whom would betray, desert or deny him before the sun rose again.

On Holy Thursday there is a special Mass in Cathedral Churches, attended by as many priests of the diocese as can attend, because it is a solemn observance of Christ’s institution of the priesthood. At this ‘Chrism Mass’ the bishop blesses the Oil of Chrism used for Baptism and Confirmation. The bishop may wash the feet of twelve of the priests, to symbolize Christ’s washing the feet of his Apostles, the first priests.

The Holy Thursday liturgy, celebrated in the evening because Passover began at sundown, also shows both the worth God ascribes to the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water (a symbol of baptism) in the Mandatum, or washing in Jesus’ washing the feet of His disciples, and in the priest’s stripping and washing of the altar. Cleansing, in fact, gave this day of Holy Week the name Maundy Thursday.

The action of the Church on this night also witnesses to the Church’s esteem for Christ’s Body present in the consecrated Host in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, carried in solemn procession to the flower-bedecked Altar of Repose, where it will remain ‘entombed’ until the communion service on Good Friday. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.

And finally, there is the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the people during the night, just as the disciples stayed with the Lord during His agony on the Mount of Olives before the betrayal by Judas.

There is such an abundance of symbolism in the solemn celebration of the events of Holy Thursday layer upon layer, in fact that we can no more than hint at it in these few words. For many centuries, the Last Supper of Our Lord has inspired great works of art and literature, such as the glorious stained glass window in Chartres cathedral and Leonardo’s ever popular (and much imitated) Last Supper in the 16th century.” Catholic Online

It is time for Americans, politicians and the public, to grow up. It is time for those men and women to stop acting like six-year old children without the capability to see or understand deeper issues. Because today—right now–there are very deep issues to deal with. Yet some of those in the discussion have heads of granite, choosing to malign and even destroy reputations to have their own selfish needs met.

We can disagree on needs, but we cannot be too hard-headed to listen and to consider what is at stake for America.

And what is at stake? Our humanity as a people. Our decency. Not our politics!

For decades America has been losing more and more of its historical culture, principles, and integrity.
One might say that what is being fought for on both sides are opposing political doctrines. But it is more than just a political fight. It is also a fight between retrieving the lost morality of America, and preventing that morality from being retrieved.

America has always had a moral sense, but now, topics that have long been considered part of morality have become political questions.

No one likes that word—morality. Why? Because it makes a behavioral judgment?

No one wants to admit that there are absolute truths handed down by God. No one wants to admit that true morality is not a choice, not something that can be picked up from a smorgasbord of lame ideas, and then twisted into a selfish relativity. We cannot make our own personal ‘beliefs’ true if they are errant to begin with.

Some of us believe in God, in a higher authority. Why are we believers?

The answer is that we accept the complete essence of that God as an all-powerful creator who has divine love for each of us. No matter who or what we are her on earth, we are still part of  that divine love. A love that will show us the way back to God and to Eternity.

If we are not believers in God, then do we follow a path of believing that we made ourselves, the world, the universe? If so, we follow a path that leads us back to ourselves–our finite selves. But we are not meant to be finite. We are meant to be infinite. We are meant to return to God at some undetermined time, with a resume of the love we showed in our personal life.

Each human life on earth has love as its underpinning–real love, not just the word, love, with its meaning selfishly contorted.  Do we honestly love, or do we bastardize the word and simply call it love?

It’s our choice, and it is a serious one.

file0001191597629“In the novelist’s case, prophecy is a matter of seeing near things with their extensions of meaning and thus of seeing far things close up. The prophet is a realist of distances, and it is this kind of realism that you find in the best modern instances of the grotesque. Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.” Flannery O’Connor

What are the “far things” O’Connor is talking about?—the connection between close-up realism on Earth and a higher spiritual Truth. God and our relationship with Him, however weak or strong or strange; this is what O’Connor writes about. This is what I strive to write about, too.

To show God’s presence in the world, a writer who wants to bring far things close up often uses the strange or the outlandish. O’Connor called it the ‘grotesque.’ She was an author who wrote fifty years ago, when not only the South, but most other areas recognized the outlandish as just that.

Today, the rules concerning what is strange have changed. Oddity has become almost normal. Yet God hasn’t changed. He is just as apparent in our world, maybe even more so. And to present Him in fiction, a writer cannot use quietly sentimental fluff to show His action through people. Because God’s action– His grace–coming to fruition in people who want to be restored is sometimes harsh. A writer concerned with presenting the chance of salvation has to come to grips with this noisy, often nasty and distracted world.

Many of us yearn for a chance of restoration. And most readers have a desire for some redemptive act in a novel or story that offers the chance of restoration as well. We long for that moment of grace that will turn us, or better us, or lift us up to higher place in the eyes of those we love. Yet we often forget that the price of restoration sometimes takes the grotesqueness of a crucifixion.

I’ve sometimes felt my writing is a lost cause. Does it affect anyone the way I’d like it to? Will I ever find a publisher large enough to actually market my work? I’ve had to “dance on tables” –as one of my writer friends puts it when those of us published by small publishers (and gratefully so!) have to do most of our own marketing. We wonder who is reading our books, or if we’ve made any difference at all by using our God-given talents? We wonder if we should give up?

Except we don’t. Always believing, we’re one step away.

When I was a student at Spring Hill College in Mobile Alabama, I was taught by many wonderful Jesuits. One that I will always remember was Father Alfred Lambeau, who taught French.

He was small and wiry, had a glass eye, and a unique, sometimes biting, sense of humor. But he never thought any of his students were “lost causes.”  Father Lambeau’s method of grading papers proved that. It began at the bottom with a failing grade, “Egad!” Next up from that was “Close But No Cigar” and upwards again was “So-So,” and finally, “Lollipop!”

Each those inscriptions held hope. Each one  meant that we were at least on the right track, and with a little more effort, might finally get to “Lollipop!”

To put it into context for this blog–Life is surely like Father Lambeau’s grading system, isn’t it? Life is hard, but something–some spark–within us keeps us going, and trying, and sometimes succeeding.

What is that spark?

In one word–HOPE.

Hope makes us more human than anything else. It shows us the stars, so to speak. It draws us closer to who we are created to be. This is not to say we will achieve material success because we’re hopeful, but if we’re not, we will surely go nowhere.

Without hope, we’re spiritually dead. Hopelessness is the cause of an enormous amount of personal misery, and our hopelessness affects others. How many criminals act from a sense of hopelessness? Hopelessness often makes us feel alone and alienated from those we love. We may feel powerless, or have the sense that we are in a losing situation.

But we can get back on track, no matter what we’ve done in the past. Hope is there to grab. Just a commitment to hold to. In the words of Emily Dickinson:

Hope’ is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops—at all. 

How many people in today’s world would you call ‘damaged?’ Or does life itself just pre-conclude that by the time you leave it you’ll have been damaged in some way?

Life is difficult. For many, it is sometimes dangerous. It doesn’t seem like a gift, but something to get through. Of course, that’s a depressing view–but many people, especially some children, hold it.

Countless children are born into circumstances they did not create, and under circumstances that cause them great pain. Others have been taught to have no faith in anything except themselves, a ‘self’ that is blemished and marred: Trust no one. Somebody’s always out to get you. Take what you can before it’s taken from you. Grab. Steal. Even kill.

None of us choose the circumstances of our birth, but some appear to be luckier than others—I’m not talking about the amenities money can provide–I’m talking about strong families who support their children. Yes they make mistakes, but they confirm their children as being valuable, and patiently direct them onto non-destructive paths.

I’m talking about one father per family, not a father of ten by ten different women. Appalling? Yes. Yet those young lives are no less valuable in the eyes of God than are the more fortunate children. But how can they know this when their parents slap God in the face with their own selfishly stupid behavior?
There is no all-encompassing solution to changing this. More parental responsibility would go a long way, with fathers who not only see life as a gift, but their child and his mother as a gift, rather than a notch on his belt of so-called, ‘baby mamas.’

Every parent is human and often makes poor decisions. There’s no getting around that fact. And sometimes it takes tragedy to see what our mistakes as parents have been. When that happens, we can either fall apart or try to rectify it however we can.

Because life IS a difficult journey for each and every one of us; no matter our parents, no matter our circumstances.

Maybe we don’t honor our children. Maybe they don’t honor us. In the frustrations of life, we say things we don’t mean. Sometimes we even forget HOW to love them.

But we can get that back –in little steps, one foot in front of the other without giving up–and all the while thinking of ourselves and our children not as victims, but as victors, the way God wants us to be.

In order to do this, we have to know exactly what it means to love someone. Not how it feels–that will come later but the actions we have to take.

Loving someone means losing ourselves enough to put our self in the hands of another, and give ourselves away for them. And that means sacrifice and certain suffering. The hardest things in the world to do. Except we have been shown how to do it, through the victory of the Cross.



There are some people who think they know everything. They are the constant interrupters, the ones who will hear nothing but a parroting of their own beliefs. They are the ones who want to talk, but not to listen. The my way or the highway kind of people. And at one time or another, we have all been one of them.

We talk through our mouths, and listen through our ears, but the essence of what goes out of us, or comes into us, is ruled by selfish personal belief.

Personal beliefs can be WRONG.

They are enclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly. –Psalm 17:10

Today, we’re all into Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression, as if we have a license to make up our own Truth. We do not.

Ideally, what we say and how we hear what someone else says ought to be first passed through an absolute Truth which we have at least considered. But this isn’t happening. Again: My Way or the Highway.

There are too many people too absorbed in themselves to think about anyone else. It’s a product of our times–a time that promotes ‘safe places’ for the squeamish, trophies for the unskilled, platforms for the immoral. And worse, there is a general demeaning of those with courage enough to actually speak up, and speak out. Are we one of those who demean the virtuous? Are we one of those who will not listen, not consider that our culture is disrespecting, and even destroying, human life itself.

We need to look in the mirror, our own mirror, to see what our reflection looks like. In it, we may indeed see an outwardly pleasing face. But is the content behind that face, the content in our heart and soul, pleasing as well?

The fact is–the absolute Truth is–we are made by God, in His image. Every one of us. Except we don’t act as if we are. We don’t listen. We talk our own talk. We forget that very important fact, that we are here to love and respect not only ourselves, but each other.